Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Virgin Catherine, and Peacockery!

St Catherine of Sienna was a splendid women, daring to demand the Pope return from Avignon, rebuking princes, reconciling sinners, writing to practically everyone of significance in her age and being a stigmatic, but (in order to avoid peacockery?) it being invisible.

None of this seems to touch the Office for her feast. What the Church wants us to concentrate on is her virginity. It is virginity that is seen as her glory, and it supposed to be the glory of the Church too. She is no fainting virgin but a true soul united to Christ.

I know that we consecrate virginity, still. and indeed after VII it was extended to women living in the world, but I get the impression we are rather embarrassed not so much by the idea of 'consecration' but by 'virginity'. It is a sign of the time. No wonder with eleven year olds reportedly addicted to to pornography. And no wonder with a reported significant 'gay lobby' within a celibate priesthood, at least in some parts of the world.

Virginity is about bodily integrity, it is also about spiritual integrity, purposely consecrating one's mind and every thought to Jesus Christ, striving day by day for ever closer union with him. There is a heroic degree of self denial that is involved, something which demands constant serious mortification of the mind. It is certainly made much easier by strong habits of prayer, and if one is of that kind disposition, not everyone is so graced, by deep a personal affection for the person of Jesus. Everything that Catherine writes and does comes from her union with Christ, her betrothal to him, this is why the Church honours her.

Today there seems to be a tendency within the Church, even at the highest levels to question the value of virginity and celibacy, in do reality I suspect we are questioning whether it is possible to live united to Christ.

Much today that is discussed in the Church seems to be about concentrating on human weakness, rather than what Grace can achieve. I am sure one of Catherine's contemporariness illustrated a sermon by comparing the plumage of the peahen  with our natural fallen state whilst the peacock shows the nature of a peahen graced by Christ. Catherine because of her union with Christ shone with Grace

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Apparently there are only four students for the priesthood for our diocese, whilst our parish has two students in the seminary, who used to come here to Mass. In fact both of these young men were instrumental in setting up the Old Rite in our parish, and there is apparently a third who lives a little further away but comes here most weeks to the Sunday Old Mass and often on Fridays too, he has applied to a certain religious order.

Say a prayer for our three young men.
I admit my parish is a bit strange, but before my time and during my time here it has produced priests. It might be that they might have found their way to their vocation without us but it is good we helped them on their way.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A BBC Must See

Image result for "kill the Christians" bbc
I've been away for a few days, and trying to catch up. Some of my parishioners who still own a television told me about a BBC documentary on persecuted Christians, 'Kill the Christians', I have seen a few minutes of it, it seems pretty good, you can see it too on-line.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Between Communion and Schism

Quite a few silly articles, even from normally sensible journalists are appearing speaking about schism at the the Synod, I am glad Fr Z bashes them.
I agree with Fr Z, the should always bashed and bashed hard, Schism is the ultimate extreme, the breakdown of Catholicism and the destruction of Communion. Bishop Campbell in his wise discourse against ACTA calls them to the radical alternative, which is communion, a communion of mind and heart with him as the Bishop, and therefore successor of the apostles in the local Church.

The Bishop should be the voice of Christ in his Church. He is the centre of Communion.
Vatican II, often called the 'Council of the Bishops', reiterates all the ancient titles of a Bishop, and even adds a few. He is the High Priest, the first evangelist, catechist and teacher, the supreme and ultimate judge, the centre of unity, the Father of his clergy. The description of a bishop is terrifying, because what is really being described is 'the alter Christus". A bishop is supposed to Christ.

The Council, in its stilted legalistic language really gives a description of a bishop who is actually a perfect bishop, a saint. It presumes he is perfect in his fulfilment of his role in his diocese but also in his relationship to to the Universal Church. It is after all by communion with him, that we are in communion with the Pope, and consequently with all the bishops of the Catholic Church throughout the world. If we have a 'high' (Catholic) theology of the episcopacy then on our communion with him depends our communion the Church, and consequently with Christ, in that sense salvation comes through the Bishop!
Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna
So much is demanded of Bishops, some of the Fathers doubted any bishop could get to heaven, and urged any man chosen for the Episcopate to flee and hide in the cleft of the rocks.

The great problem today of course is that many of us are only in partial communion with our bishops and our bishops only in partial communion with the Church, far from 'smelling of the sheep', to use our beloved Pope's words, many of our bishops smell of everything but, of money, of heresy, of scandal. I am sure there is a Father who speaks of the 'smell of the sheep' as: the sweet smell of incense, the evening sacrifice offered to the Father. Bishops are above all men of the peripheries, going to the edges to find lost or wandering sheep to bring them home, home is the centre. Like St Paul's description of a good father they are not supposed to provoke their children to resentment (Col 3:21). Communion is a mutual thing depending on the bishop's ability to gather and the people's desire to be gathered.

flagsBishop Campbell is so right to issue his call to Communion, it is a bishops first task, it is the opposite of schism. The glorious image of Vatican II is one of an effective Church in which we all are united heart and soul for the effective proclamation of the Gospel. Rightly does the Council condemn division which 'openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature'. A Church divided cannot effectively preach Christ. Lobby groups of any kind stress division.

Damage to Communion rarely comes from below it is more likely the fruit of ineffective leadership; a failure to gather, either through leadership which favours one group or another, or fails to give clear direction because it itself is confused, or merely self referential. The images of the Church from the New Testament have hard edges like Temple of the Spirit or the Body of Christ, one knows who is inside and who is outside or else they are by way of a contrast: light and dark, the leaven in the lump, lost and found. The Church is supposed to built on rock, or firmly united to vine or planted in good soil, instability is not good for either its growth or its stability. I can't help noticing a change in Bishops appointed in the last decade, some might be time servers but most are pretty solid, there might be exceptions but the age of the Worlock and Hume men in Britain seems to be coming to an end, in the same way the Bernardin, Mahoney and |Weakland disciples are disappearing from the US. It is as if Rome is no longer choosing factionalists but Christians as bishops, or maybe those who are indeed members of factions are trying to express themselves in terms that build up the body of Christ rather than damage it. Perhaps Bishops realise they are servants of Communion rather than masters of it, that they simply cannot rely on blind obedience of either clergy or the laity.

In the spectrum between what the Church has always understood by Communion and Schism, there are a numerous degrees, unlike pregnancy we can be in degrees of Communion or Schism. Bishops have a duty of making Communion with them easy, to the point of it being desired, I think this is what Pope Francis means by 'attraction', when he speaks of evangelism. A bad bishop causes the faithful all sorts of problems of conscience and obedience, a good bishop, transparently showing Christ has an attraction which rarely needs demonstrations of power.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Christ has Won the Victory

I have had a long acquaintance with the devil, I have known him all my life, in a way longer than I have known Jesus Christ, He is frightening and he loves to frighten, he gives the impression of invincible power, to the point where even the strong are often overcome by him.

Those who know him well, know that much of his power is illusion. He works on our imagination, reminding us of the past, of sins we have long been forgiven for, he loves to remind us of his past victories and of our past failures. He delights in destroying hope and imprisoning us in the past, reminding us of the impossibility of escape from the circle of weakness, he likes to tell us we are what we are, and can never escape being his.

Christ the mighty One has set forth with the triumphal banner of the Cross, through humanity, through death he has descended, he has broken down the gates of hell, trampled underfoot the manacles and chains of Satan. He has lead our first parents out of their dark prison into the wonderful light of his victory. Satan is bound, hell is overcome, Satan's illusionary pomp is destroyed by the reality of Christ's victory.

Until the end of time Satan is bound and imprisoned, he dwells in our imagination, creating his palaces and castles out of smoke, out of our fear. Rightly is he called the Father of Lies, his power is in everything that this false and untruthful, as with Eve and Adam he uses our imagination against us. But truth has overcome falsehood, Life has destroyed Death, Light has swallowed up darkness, Hope has replaced despair.

Christ is the future, Satan is the past. The battleground is the present, for those with faith they already see the victory is won and live in hope and triumph in charity.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Who killed Jesus?

Who killed Jesus? They did!
So, being more nuanced Politicians did it.

The Gospels are careful to note the interplay of power and fear, of popularity and rabble raising, threats and the machinations of disciple, principally Judas but also Peter, the 'Jews' and Romans,
The two crowds; the Galileans who wave palm branches in victory and greet Jesus with cries of 'Hosanna' in expectation of the Kingdom are not the same as the metropolitan elite who cry 'Crucify him'. The former support Christ the latter the anti-Chist, supporters Bar-Abbas, the other 'Son of the Father'. To prevent a clash between these two parties is why Pilate and his force is in Jerusalem, they are on high alert and expect trouble.

The Jerusalem clergy are politicised, intent on holding onto power, trying to score points off the local Roman governor, Pilate, Josephus tells of their complaints to Rome, so their words about Pilate not being a friend of Caesar's are full of menace. The High Priest's words, "It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed" are rich in theology but Caiaphas is more concerned for himself and his priestly or courtly faction than for the salvation of the nation.

St. Augustine Quote The Truth Is like A Lion you don't have to defend it let it loose it will defend itselfIt is on this altar that the Jesus the Lamb is sacrificed. St John whose major theme in his Gospel is 'Truth' has Pilate ask Jesus, Truth himself, 'What is truth?', and then almost immediately wash his hands of truth, preferring expediency and realpolitik to truth. Yet Pilate really seems to be a victim along with Jesus, though he is willing to sacrifice his integrity, he like Herod, who killed the Baptist, has a fascination with the truth, he seeks the truth in the abstract, though he, ultimately like Herod, destroys what fascinates him.

The real villains of the Crucifixion are the clergy, who manipulate the Sanhedrin and the politicians, they have  lost sight of their true vocation, they cling to power and influence and are concerned about their own faction's advancement, God simply does not figure in their thinking, except as another weapon in their armoury.

I spoke recently to a priest who was ordained a decade or so ago. He discerned his vocation in the full maelstrom of the abuse crisis, many of his family and friends thought him either mad or a pederast, they couldn't understand why a decent lad like him would feel a vocation to an organisation which was being daily exposed as a source of corruption and depravity, with leaders who were themselves either corrupt or facilitated and covered-up the wickedness of others. 'In those days being a young practicing Catholic was bad enough', he said, 'wanting to be a priest was for many of friends incomprehensible'.

Older clergy and even younger clergy from the non-English speaking world perhaps do not realise how much the Church has moved on from the post Concillior period. One serious danger is that senior bishops still think of themselves in terms of guarding the polis of the Church by trying to 'tame' the truth or manipulate it rather than letting it loose and allowing it to defend itself. We saw this in the child abuse crisis, we see it repeated again in the antics of those involved in the Synod.

I know the Holy Father says about prayer being preferable to gossip about the Synod. I presume he is not suggesting that there should be no  talk about Cardinals intercepting books sent to Synod delegates or Archbishops 'pre-writing' the Relatio or trying to rig the voting or manipulate discussion, to me some 'gossip', if it is that, seems very healthy: 'sunlight being the best disinfectant', comes to mind. The Truth is like a Lion,.. let it loose and it will defend itself.

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...