Monday, March 31, 2014

Some thoughts on Francis and the Synod on the Family

For me Pope Francis is still a "puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma", is he a conservative or a liberal, incredibly subtle or just crass, is he going to lead the Church into deep waters or onto the rocks? A year on from his election and there are still no clear answers.

He is certainly a new style of Pope, the machinery of the Ultramontane Papacy we have known and taken for granted for over a century has been dismantled by his predecessor, leaving it impossible for Francis to be merely a Conservative following the models set by his immediate predecessors. Liberalism too, as it is commonly understood in the the Church, as an imposed, top down series of innovations, obsessed by structures, again doesn't seem to be a possible route for Francis, though one might presume that would be his personal inclination, it is not his inclination as Pope. The only real route for him seems to be to delve into the depths of the riches of the Church's Tradition.

The reports of the last Consistory are fascinating, if 75% of Cardinals really were against the 'Kasper theorem' for resolving the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics. A friend suggested this was a way of showing to the German bishops they were way out on a very thin limb, they were after all a pain for his predecessors, and have, because of their wealth, punched well over their weight to the annoyance of many other Episcopal Conferences. Having only one speaker, a German Cardinal, who was then rounded on by his fellows, is humiliating for the German faction. And even if reports on the numbers were over blown, they show the difficulty Francis would have if this truly is his intended reform, of carrying a consensus of the world's bishops. Synods are after all about consensus.

However, every sign from Francis, given by Mueller, is that reform of the anullment process is more likely than a simple admission of those in a state of sin -defined not by the Church but by the Lord- is probably the course of action he favours. The solution will be Canonical not theological, which might account for Cardinal Burke still being in place and for Cardinal Piacenza, now recovering from his illness, being sent as Prefect to the Apostolic Penitentiary. Interestingly, the writers of the Chutch's law are convinced Ratzingerians.

Again, the public face of Francis, would seem to suggest that his major concern for the Synod might focus on the economic structures that oppress the family; in the West making children unwelcome and being seen as an economic burden, in the South leading to emigration and poor health, that disrupt and destroy the family but we have had not a word of this. Nor has he touched on the interference of the State in the family, the redefinition of fundamental relationships that constitute the family, the promotion of 'gay rights' in some parts of the world whilst heavy strictures are placed on them in Africa and the Orthodox and Islamic spheres of influence.

The family and the ecology that supports it: population growth, emigration, unemployment, education, sexual relationships, the ethics of reproduction and trafficking should be the big question of the next century, if Francis and the Synod play their cards right the Church could structure the debate rather merely reacting to it.

Our problem, and Francis' skill has been that we still only have a two dimensional superficial understanding of him, rather like his  two dimensional superficial presentation of God 'the Merciful'  which ignores everything else we know about God through his Son.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Man born blind: sermon

Icons of the healing of the blind manLast week the airwaves buzzed with the first moments a woman born deaf heard for the first time in her life, her story helps us understand something of the extraordinary excitement, delight and confusion of the man in today's Gospel who was born blind and brought by Jesus into a new world of sight. Imagine being able to see the shape and colour and form of objects one had only touched and felt.
In the icon he comes out of some dark place, Plato's cave perhaps, the world of shadows and illusions, the world in which phantasms are mistaken for realities and realities for phantasms. He comes out of the dark place, he turns his back on his past, he must do that because he faces Christ the light, he turns a way from death to the Way, the Truth and the Life. He turns to the Lord, he is reorientated, his life is given a new orientation, he becomes with Christ a creature of Light, no longer overcome by darkness, because darkness cannot overcome Christ nor those united to Christ, nor his Church.

We Christians are called to be salt that gives savour, leaven in the lump above all light in darkness. Down the centuries we have been persecuted for that. The more clearly the Church teaches, the more she shines in the darkness the stronger the persecution against her and her members.

The Graeco-Roman world was not dissimilar to our world, the attitudes to life and death, to sex and pleasure, to pleasure, to wealth and poverty, yes even to religion were not unlike ours. When I read S Paul's letters to the Corinthians and few decades later Pope Clement's letter I imagine he is writing to another seaside: Brighton. Corinth was like our city, a seaside town 'much given to pleasure'. Neither the ancient world where the Gospel was first preached, nor its inhabitants were much different from our world.

Where abortion and infanticide where regularly practiced Catholic Christians upheld the sanctity of life from the moment of conception, even going to search for exposed children on city rubbish dumps to bring them up as their own. Where there was sexual license, in the Graeco-Roman world pederasty, homosexuality and prostitution seem to have been rife, Christians proclaimed restraint and marital fidelity.

Christians understood they were called to offer an alternative way of seeing the world, that they were light in darkness, as our world slips into encroaching darkness, more and more it needs clear Christian light.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Who is Chris Grady?

I recently received a letter from one of the local leading lights of the dissident group ACTA questioning my judgement for asking whether Deacon Donelly or Bishop Campbell was the first to make public the bishops request for the deacon to have a period of prayer and reflection, and in effect to close his blog down. My correspondent sent me a copy of the statement from Deacon Nick's bog where it clearly stated, that the original statement was actually released by Bishop Campbell's diocesan press office, so really it was a 'no-brainer', his Lordship did it. Letters from such people who try to create a sense of fear in the Church fill me with a certain dread because they normally have a certain malicious intent, you have ask, what are they up to?

Well, I am afraid I am going to do be a little injudicious now, by asking another question, as has been asked elsewhere, who was the interlocutor of Robert Mickens, the now suspended Rome correspondent of the perfidious Tablet, the 'International Catholic Weekly' is. Apparently on Twitter he is a certain 'Chris Grady'.  Who is Chris Grady?

Now, I and other clergy who blog have received comments in the past from somebody who identifies themselves as 'Chris Grady'. The ones which I have received I have not published, they are normally malicious and revolve around sexual themes or were simply abusive about Pope Benedict, sometimes both, their content would seem to suggest that the writer was a member of a certain 'lobby' group. On one occasion I had cleric here, he was and is in good standing with the Church and his diocese and because he was also involved in education had been through the whole plethora of safeguarding procedures, Mr Grady apparently wrote making a series of unsubstantiated allegations to my diocese, which caused more than a little distress to me and the other cleric, and set up an uncomfortable situation in my diocese; none of us want to be the cause problems with the 'Safeguarding Office' or even be thought of as being lax in any sense in our parish procedures.

Now it is probably true there are a number of Chris Gradies and the one who hopes for Pope Benedict's death is not the same who leaves hate messages on blogs about him, and this is merely a coincidence but then maybe not. Mischief, innuendo, creating an air of suspicion; all those sins which St Paul speaks of tend to abound where there is an absence of charity, sin is a contagious leprosy that consumes everyone around it, even, maybe especially the innocent, it is worth remembering the Fathers identified charity with orthodoxy and malice with heterodoxy. As Chrysostom says: when one touches a serpent, even with a stick, it rises and tries to strike you, or as we might say today: you can tell a lot about a man (or even a magazine?) by the friends he keeps.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I have no objection to censorship, IF ...

I was rather struck by this:
I have no objection to censorship, if it is done within a settled legal framework; that is, by a qualified Censor librorum who, if he withholds a Nihil obstat, gives and is required to give precise reasons for doing so. I would have no criticism if the system were not only restored, but extended to the blogosphere, and, of course, to clerics and laics who write columns and editorials in 'catholic' journals! But it has fallen into disuse. My apprehension is that a public and canonical process might have been replaced by something furtive; that a bishop (or whatever) might act resentfully but covertly because of views which are doctrinally orthodox but which don't suit his personal agenda. Or that censorship might function as an informal, unminuted, understanding within an Inner Circle that X is 'off-message'; with subsequent disadvantages for X. In other words, I fear that what, at first sight, looks like a libertarian advance (the disappearance of formal Censorship), might in reality be simply a Bullies' Charter. As I have written before, I regard Dogma and Law as the safeguard of ordinary Catholics, both lay and clerical, against Arbitrary Power.
It is from the wise old mutually enriching Fr Hunwicke. 
You see Holy Church is the Glorious Bride of Christ but because she is made of sinners like you and me - isn't Lent a wonderful time to discover you are a real intractable sinner? - she can behave and act like a harlot. In fact she can become pretty corrupt, especially in her leadership, fish rot from the head. We clergy, how rightly our beloved Holy Father castigates us for our poor leadership, can easily turn Christ's domain into our fiefdom, when we are king Christ is in exile.

Rightly the good Fr H says, 'I regard Dogma and Law as the safeguard of ordinary Catholics': the alternative is that we up ruled by shadows and fears, the Church becomes a place of factions, ruled by secret committees and lobbies, it becomes the abode of whispers, innuendo and rumour. In it nepotism runs riot and injustice becomes a way of life. In short we become a robber barony, the type of system the Holy Father grew up in, that has been so much part of South American government in recent history, and seems to be still the case in his native Argentina.

For the Church it becomes lethal because it destroys the transparency of Truth, replacing it with the opaquism of opinion and that is not what Jesus Christ is!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is it Springtime yet?

Is there a trend in our newly appointed Bishops.  The last two are both members of religious orders and Bishop O'Toole was a seminary Rector, as more and more secular priests live alone I can't help wondering if new Bishops are expected to be 'community people', rather like the Pope to enjoy the chatter of others around them. I suppose most priests like that, but the particular feature of these three latest appointments seem to indicate they actually like priests in particular, absolutely necessary but not always easy for a Bishop to do. The last two appointments had chosen to live their in a community with priests. Archbishop Mennini seems to have a preference for Religious, which as a secular priest I thing is probably a good thing.

The other thing that seems important is that Bishop McMahon and Fr Byrne both have good records of encouraging vocations, as does, in a different way, the former Rector of Allen Hall Bishop O'Toole of course.

Others have commented on both Bishop McMahon and Fr Byrne have been friendly towards the Traditional Mass, and personally it gives me joy, but it is deeper than that, it is about being at ease with the history and Tradition of the Church. The fourth Commandment tells us that if we honour our father and mother we will live long in the land. It is about rootedness. I don't know too much about Bishop O'Toole but friends in the Ordinariate speak incredibly highly of him embracing this initiative of Pope Benedict, and them.

Though Bishop O'Toole might well be described as following the traditional career path to the Episcopate: Cardinals Secretary, Seminary Rector, everyone seems to agree he is exceptionally capable, both Bishop McMahon and Fr Byrne are relative outsiders.

The other encouraging thing is that we seem to have put behind us the promotion of men with little education over an STL collected on passing through Venerable English College.

Do three swallows, make a Spring? I hope so, I am hopeful.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

St Mary Magdalen's New Website

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
We have a new parish website up and going, check it out!
Many thanks to those good parish priests like Fr Tim who allowed us loot, plunder and pillage their own sites.
I just love the pictures, like most priests and servers their back is their best feature.
Oh, and there is a facebook page too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Democracy, Controlling Social Media and the Church

  Recep Tayyip Erdogan talking to a crowd
Turkey restricted access to Twitter hours after its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened to "root out" the social media network where wiretapped recordings have been leaked, damaging the government's reputation ahead of local elections.
I not sure I would describe Turkey as undemocratic, in the accepted sense of democracy, but it certainly seems to be a heavy handed state. For the Prime Minister there are presumably fears that social media users who were protesting in Taksim Square might return and trigger an Arab Spring in Turkey. Twitter, texting, blogging seem to to be sparks that can destabilise states. Social media gives a voice to the voiceless, that which was repressed is given substance. Important we would say in repressive regimes but important elsewhere. Often when there is no effective opposition or no-one to reveal abuses of power the social media fills that void, the voiceless are heard. Not only that but the voiceless find community, no longer are they a single voice crying alone in the wilderness.

I had a Sudanese nomadic camel herder staying in my basement for a while, he only spoke his local dialect but he he could communicate with his mother every night, in the past he would have sent a letter to a mosque that his family might possibly have passed once a year, the 'new media' meant he couldn't communicate with his family at home. Social media is revolutionary, it puts people in touch with one another. A parishioner was telling me about a friend who spends most of his time in touch with gay friends in Los Angeles but seems to know practically no-one in his immediate environment. Social media creates 'community' but it is a new kind of community, sometimes it is a community without responsibility and as we have seen amongst the young it can be a particularly cruel community.

For clerical bloggers there seems to be a continuation of 17/18th century pamphleteering, S Edmund Campion today would have a laptop rather than than printing press and Campion's pamphlets were like Newman's Tracts an extension of his pulpit, at times as we see with Newman they can have a certain waspishness and controversial tone and at times not be too welcome by the bishops.

I find it interesting that Catholic blogs seem to raise a particular ire in some quarters whilst other clergy are quite free to write in the secular or religious press any letter of dissent they choose, even to the point of regular press columns,  or even letters that seem to encourage outright rebellion to the bishops and pope.
A priest and deacon is ordained to preach, to speak out, to denounce sin and wrong doing, to proclaim the Truth. We are more comfortable with him speaking to few dozen rather than hundreds or a few thousand on social media. I can understand the fear some bishops might have with clergy, or even lay Catholics having a voice in a public forum.

I would hope it is not the same fears as Mr Erdoğan, there was certainly a stronger media buzz during the time of Pope Benedict than Pope Francis, I am not quite sure why I and other clergy had more to say during the previous pontificate than I have during this one, perhaps it is something about the change in attitude towards intellectual freedom that one senses in the air, or just the positive encouragement Pope Benedict gave to clergy blogging, tweeting etc. or maybe just a sense that Benedict needed protecting.

Mr Erdoğan recognises the dangers of social media, the overthrow of the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who of course was a legitimate and democratically elected, seems like many other leaders to have have had his flaw disclosed and opposition mounted against him through social media and new technology. Social media introduces a new dimension to democracy which presumably will have to evolve to account for the new voice people have. It seems remarkably odd that our own coalition government was elected by a minority of our citizens on a raft of policies which the majority rejected, some of which were abandoned as soon as they took their seats, whilst others were introduced with no mandate whatsoever. It is possible nowadays for everyone to vote on every bill before Parliament, whereas fewer and fewer want to actually vote for a Member of Parliament and even less for an MEP, mainly I suspect because most people just feel having been elected they will simply do their own thing. We no longer trust our leaders.

The Church is not a democracy but it is a community, and at the moment there is much talk about 'consultation' and 'dialogue' as well as 'new ways of decision making'. I can't help feeling that our present understanding of democracy belongs to a former age, especially in a fast moving society were 'traditional values' are overthrown; the government stepping in to redefining such fundamentals as marriage, life and death. The ancient model in the Church seems to have been acclamation by the people and a paternalistic dictatorship by the Bishop, who needed personal skills to hold the congregation together, it seems a model that tradition societies in Africa, Asia, the Arab world seem quite comfortable with, more so than what we in Europe call democracy, but really is an elected oligarchy or more often an elected dictatorship that often changes every few years. That is certainly not the model of governance for the Church but then neither is what we have had in recent years (centuries?) in the West at least. Liberals seem to want to turn the Church into a democracy, along Western lines whilst Conservatives seem to want a Presidential or Dictatorial model,

I wonder whether the model for the Church could be something like Afganistan's Loya Jirga? Whatever, Pope Francis, and many others from different strata in the Church, seems to recognise the old models simply don't work. For all the desire to paper over the cracks, there seems to be a new model to ensure cohesion in the Church, but also in society - the centre cannot hold.

   Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Silverstream in danger

The monks of Silverstream Priory, Fr Mark Kirby's monastery are in need of money. The prayed they received a 100,000 euros but they still need another 500,000 to buy the property they are living in. They also have vocations but as their hold on the property uncertain so is their future.

As Fr Mark says
“Promising young vocations are knocking at our door, but the door does not belong to us, nor does the house, nor the land. The future of Silverstream Priory is at stake. Please do something to re–establish monastic life in County Meath, not far from the Hill of Slane where Saint Patrick, long ago, kindled his Paschal Fire.”
If you can help go here 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Congratulations to Bishop Robert Byrne

Bishop-elect Robert Byrne (Mazur/
I was quite sure what Pope Francis was saying about the appointment of new Bishops, he wants them to be pastors and evangelists, to go out to the peripheries, to care for the poor, to be sons of the Church etc. etc. etc.

Well, I didn't expect the appointment of  Fr Robert but actually he is precisely what the Holy Father has been calling for.
I remember going for the first time to St Aloysius, Oxford, what is now to Oxford Oratory 25 years ago, it was in the hands of the Jesuits, it was unloved and was obviously failing. The congregation was quite tiny, then a year later Fr Byrne arrived from Birmingham with a few Oratorians and gradually, well actually rather quickly the Oratory became an important player in the life of the city of Oxford. The Oratory was unapologetically Catholic, the liturgy was careful and precise, the preaching clear and demanding, Oratorians in their habits were seen on the streets of Oxford, not only that there were processions in the streets, the church filled, people came.
The Oratory itself grew like topsy and vocations came and the big headache became space for more Oratorians. Oxford Oratory is a success, now it has a daughter, York Oratory.
I am pleased the new Bishop has had lots of parish experience and has spent time as prison chaplain, as well as hours in the Confessional and celebrates happily both forms of the Roman Rite.

Fr Robert Byrne - Auxiliary Bishop-elect for the Archdiocese of Birmingham from Catholic Church (England/Wales) on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sons and Brothers

Several people have asked me about the silencing of 'Protect the Pope'. I have no inside knowledge and I must confess that I haven't kept up with all Deacon Nick's posts of late.

However, what does concern me greatly is that an issue between a deacon and his bishop is placed in the public forum. Again, I don't know who is to blame for this, but it seems unfortunate and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. The relationship between any cleric and his bishop should be that of father and son, it is certainly not one of employer and employee or master and servant, and what goes on in that relationship should not appear in the gossip columns of the Tablet which appears to have inside information.

All relationships within the Church are based on charity, it is the bond that holds the Church together, it is the bond that unites the bishop and his clergy under Christ. Pope Francis has spoken of a priest smelling of his sheep, well a bishop should positively reek of his priests and deacons.

This year I hope Pope Francis rather than being photographed washing the feet of those 'on the peripheries' gets down on his hands and knees to wash the feet of the priests and deacons of the diocese of Rome who should be at the very centre of his pastoral concern. It is an important sign for the world's bishops, it is sign not of a renaissance prince, who were much given to public footwashing, replete with rosewater and nosegays, but of a servant-father.

The Bishop is above all the 'Father in God' of his clergy, it is a great scandal if he cannot find time to spend visiting and caring for them, not just because he has a function to perform in the parish but because he actually has a deep love for his priests and deacons. It is obviously a scandal if he does not show love for the elderly, the tired, the mad and the plain bad or even the irritating. If they are sick or dying, or in trouble, yes even in prison, above all clergy in trouble, even those who make trouble for their bishop, should be his chief pastoral concern.

I really do welcome Pope Francis' demand that bishops should above all be Pastors. The Pope is an excellent example of a caring Pastor, who as Archbishop took into his apartment an elderly priest to cook for, care for and eventually nurse, apparently he would do the same in parishes of his diocese for other sick priests. The Vatican Council reminds us of the Bishop's role as the exemplary pastor, and no-one needs more pastoring than the 'co-workers' of the Bishop, his priests and deacons.

I am sure that one of the fall outs of the clerical abuse scandals is that Bishops started to see their clergy, not as sons, but as liabilities, who can cost their dioceses a great deal of money and do their own reputations a great deal of damage. It is easy for a bishop to retreat from them, to put a wall between them and himself but the model we are confronted with is the easy relationship of Jesus and his apostles.

When a bishop complains publicly about members of his clergy, especially in the religious or even secular media, he is behaving in a way that would be unacceptable amongst secular employers, their employees have legislation, unions and tribunals to look after them, the clergy do not. There are many things which clergy endure that would be unacceptable 'in the world' but seem quite acceptable in the Church. The feudal relationship between a Bishop and his clergy means that a priest is entirely in the Bishop's hands, if he is petty enough  he can send a young priest to a curate-breaker or move an older priest away from a place where he has put down roots and is surrounded by friends, if he likes a priest he can appoint him to a wealthy comfortable parish or if he dislikes him or disagrees with him he can do the opposite, or else he can brief against him or deal harshly and cruelly with him or just ignore him.

There is a story about Archbishop Amigo, the legendary Archbishop of Southwark, sending a troublesome priest off to be a military chaplain during one of the World Wars, with the words, '... and I hope you get shot', but then I have heard stories from Liverpool priests of being visited by the dying Archbishop Worlock, too weak even to get out of the back of his car but concerned enough to visit his sons. In a age when priests often complain their letters go unanswered by their bishops, I remember being told at the beginning of his ministry in Westminster that Cardinal Hume told his clergy they were his principle concern and giving his personal telephone out to them, telling them to ring him night or day if the needed to talk. When he was my Bishop, I was always touched by Corrmac Murphy O'Connor's kindness, he always found time for his sick and dying clergy. When, with his agreement, I went off to try my vocation as a monk he simply came to make a retreat and spend time with me, it was a deeply appreciated gesture by a concerned father, who in the diocese of Arundel and Brighton was a kind and caring pastor.

Pray for Bishops who find fatherhood difficult.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St Patrick's Day

I have never been too comfortable with the shamrock as a way of teaching the Trinity, I suspect it is not really from St Patrick but is an illustration of his desire to teach true dogma.

Happy St Patrick's Day

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Revealing bones and sinews

Those of you 'traddies' following a traddie Lent have probably already got boils, mouth ulcers, headaches, possibly migraine, at the very least have a constant sense of giddiness are maybe having difficulty focussing whilst saying the office or Mass, and all the time there is that constant sense of hunger, you are tired all the time and your limbs are heavy and you tend to pick up any illness that is going the rounds. You become tetchy and irritable.

Fr Z had a fascinating post presenting the regulations for Lent from an American diocese of 1873, it is severe but several things are mitigations (was quite normal in the pre-Concilliar Church), dairy products are allowed and meat is permitted not just on Sundays but Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In some places Lent was even more severe, without the mitigations. The severity ended generally in the Church with the Second World War, when no food was available for feasts, fasting made little sense. I remember an Italian women telling me of children going on a wartime hunt for cats for the Easter breakfast but all the cats in the village had already been eaten! Severe fasting made soldiers useless for fighting and labourers useless for heavy labour.

Patristic and medieval writers speak of 'subduing the flesh' with fasting, suggesting that fasting was severe enough that that it lowered the libido. Therefore Dante places certain sexual sinners in the same circle of hell as gluttons.

Coptic friends boast of their 210 fast days a year and I am told that McDonalds in Athens faced financial disaster in Lent until they came up with the McLent Bean Burger.

Fasting and corporal penance were very much part of 'the Tradition', it was seen as offering great spiritual advantages not only for the individual Christian but for the Church as a whole. Fasting lays bare the bones and sinews of the soul.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

God is Not a Public Meeting


Gladstone and Victoria. Of all the modern relationships of a sovereign and their first minister, none was perhaps as difficult as that of Queen Victoria and William Gladstone. While Gladstone and the Queen enjoyed good relations while Prince Albert was alive, this declined following his death. The Queen found Gladstone laborious and once complained that he; “always addresses me as if I were a public meeting.” Her disdain for Gladstone was only matched by her love for his great rival Disraeli. Of course you’re bound to like someone who makes you Empress of India! When Gladstone died in 1898 the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) acted as a pallbearer at his funeral in Westminster Abbey. Victoria telegraphed her son asking what advice he had taken in performing this action. He responded by telling her he had not sought any advice and did not know of any precedent. One can ponder if perhaps annoying his mother crossed the Princes mind. Victoria grudgingly referred to Gladstone as “one of the most distinguished statesman of my reign” in a letter to Catherine Gladstone. The very inclusion of the word ‘one’ showed how she had failed to see he was indeed the quintessential Victorian statesman. 
I don't do flowery words when I pray, a simple plea. "Have Mercy!", "Give him her/strength", "Forgive me", "Heal them", "Be with them", I think it is enough, the Lord knows better than me what I want, or better still what I or anyone else needs. Perfect prayer is saying and meaning,"Into your hands ...", "Thy will be done ...", "Be it done to me according thy word", that is 'holiness', perfect 'communion'.

I hate praying with Protestant clergy or Catholic charismatics who go on for hours as if God needs a lecture. God is not daft, yes sometimes it is necessary to reason through our prayers, sometimes to actually remind oneself of what has already done. Repetition in prayer is good but God actually hears the first time, the repetition, is any words are about us touching base with God, not the like the priests of Baal trying to attract God's attention.
If I am talking to God to there is reason why anyone else should overhear, unless one is in a sense trying to teach through one's prayer as Jesus does in S John's Gospel. What we call prayer is above all about placing ourselves in God's. It is worth asking why S Paul can identify the number of times he has prayed to be delivered from his 'thorn in the flesh'. I am always struck that in the Divine Office there are a whole series of Collects but psalms, canticles and hymns which praise God reminding us of his goodness followed by the Pater and then a single collect. The life of a monk or nun is not spent in endless cries of "God help Mabel ..." but simple an attempt to dwell in God's presence and to contemplate his beauty. Actual prayer in the Catholic Tradition is short and to the point.

Joe Shaw has an interesting post on the silent Canon, I must say I ask myself what purpose is there in its being said aloud has, except to turn the most sacred prayer of the Mass into a time to edify the the people who are for the most part not edified but distracted or bored by it and to turn the priest into someone responsible for engaging the faithful with not very exciting material, when he should be engaged with God, (if prayers real function is about God and communion with him). In the Canon I speak to God on behalf of the whole Church, not to edify anyone.

I really am at a loss to know why we do it aloud, when it is said silently the people can get on with their chief function as a holy, priestly people, and intercede, bringing the world to the altar, joining Christ his great work of atonement and communion.

Queen Victoria complained Gladstone addressed her as though she were a public meeting, the relationship of the priest with God at Mass is the intimate relationship of Son with the Father, whispering an eternal "Abba".

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Lent in a mug

 This Lent I shall be drinking my black coffee, or even sipping my gruel from a mug like this, courtesy of Richard Collins.
Thank you Richard a very welcome pre-Lent gift.

Gruel recipe from an 19th Century Workhouse
1lb of oatmeal
1 gallon of water
a little salt

Mix the oatmeal with a little cold water to make a paste
Put the rest of the water in a pan
Add the mixture and boil for 10 minutes
Add the salt 
Ideal for Lenten parish parties. On feast days a chopped carrot, turnip or even both maybe added but be careful of undue luxury and self indulgence! The unmortified have been known to even add an onion; such wanton extravagance!

Ashes and Annointings

I have been having inter-net problems! Sorry for not being in touch recently.

Yesterday I burnt last years palms for this years ashes. The symbolism is about triumph turned into tragedy, or outward vanities salted by fire. It is worth meditating on the ashes of the palms. They are are imprecise symbol as all good symbols should be. What is turned to ashes? Is it the popular understanding of the Kingdom, the one the disciples had, the one that solicited the cries of 'Hosanna' that would soon be replaced by 'Crucify him'.
We begin Lent with ashes but the Paschal Mystery actually ends with the coming of the fire of Pentecost, is the ash of Lent supposed to remind us of how we reduce his Divine gifts of the Spirit. It is what we are without Christ.

The name 'Christ' means anointed, when left to us the 'new man' made by God becomes primal dust and ash: which is really what man is without the breath of God. Ash is the symbol of non-Christ or even 'anti-Christ. A symbol of coldness and the dead, of mourners.

It is significant that the place where we were Chrismated is the place where we are 'ashed'. There is that statue of a presumably pagan soldier with a cross branded or cut into his forehead as a sign of his imperial 'sacramentum' or oath to to the Emperor, if the ashes are applied in that 'traddie' form of a cross on the forehead, it reminds us of how we have transformed the graces we received at Confirmation when we were anointed there is turned into the emptiness of dust and ashes, which when left to us, is what happens to the sacred anointing.
In Christian coronation rites, the crown is only important in so far as it demonstrates the outward sign of the quasi-sacramental act of the anointing of the head, it is an anointing similar to that given at baptism, which symbolises our becoming priest, prophet and king, without grace even that becomes ash, the burnt out vestige of Divine Grace.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...