Sunday, 31 December 2006
Friday, 29 December 2006
What a liberty that the liturgical terrorists (whoever they are...Bishops, Liturgical Commission) have downgraded St Thomas of Canterbury to a commemoration when it had been a feast since the liturgical reform. St Thomas is the patron saint of the pastoral clergy of England. At a time when we need priests with courage and certainly of their identity, surely we need the prayers of this great saint. Maybe we should have a show of people power and petition the Holy See to make it a feast in England again.
Just reading in the office of readings today the reading from St Thomas' letter shows that he is also a great intercessor and example for the New Evangelisation in this country: 'Many are needed to plant the word, and many to water it.The spead of the faith, the increase in population demand this. God's people of old, who had but one altar, still needed many teachers. How much greater now are the needs of this rich gathering of the nations... But whoever waters or plants, God gives no increase except to him who has planted in Peter's faith, and who has assented to his teaching.'
St Thomas represents the true English fidelity to the Church of Rome, which the English Church exemplified before the cruelty of the Reformation: 'Who can doubt that the Church of Rome is the head of all the churches, the source of Catholic teaching? Who does not know that the keys of the Kingdom were given to Peter? Is not the whole structure of the Church built up on Peter's faith and teaching, so to grow until we all meet Christ as one perfect man, united in faith and in our recognition of him as Son of God?'
Sometimes we think the Protestant evangelicals are so much more successful at evangelising. And it is true that they have many people who they draw to themselves. But often their faith is planted in shallow soil of 'sola Scriptura' - Scripture alone without Tradition. There are many who, for example, are drawn to faith by Christian Unions, in University and by the time they get to their late twenties, life has outgrown this form of faith. We need to be more courageous, and less inward looking. We need to be upfront about spreading the Faith, and bearing witness to it. For the Catholic faith is the rich soil in which the individual faith can grown abundantly. So, the message of the day: Have courage, you have a great message.
PS Don't forget that the Youth 2000 Balham retreat starts this evening at the Holy Ghost Parish in Balham. Do come along if you're in the area. The big evening will be on 31st with the Eucharistic healing service and late night Mass for the new year.
Tuesday, 26 December 2006
But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.
People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?
Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?
Sunday, 24 December 2006
Saturday, 23 December 2006
I really like this as a wallpaper for my desktop, and thought I'd share it with you:
If you want to use it just right click it and save it, and then go to control panel on the start menu, choose display and set it as your wallpaper.
It originates from the website of the Centro de Espiritualidad of the Archdiocese of Valladolid. The centre there is a great centre of the New Evangelisation in that city. When I was a seminarian I used to go for spiritual direction, courses, retreats etc there. Loads of young people went and still go. The priest who directs it is Fr Francisco (Paco) Cerro Chaves and is a great priest - he seems to have time to do so much work! There is a lay community of women there who are great and who help to run the retreat house. The highlight of the week there is the Thursday evening Holy Hour in the Basilica next door, dedicated to the Sacred Heart. It is full of young people from the University who go there after lectures. The spirituality of the Centre is centred on discovering the Heart of Jesus, and entering into friendship with Christ. It is where I learnt alot of what I put into practice now, and was the first place I ever heard of such great things as the Theology of the Body.
Maybe we need somewhere like that in the centre of one of our large cities in England.
Friday, 22 December 2006
Are you aware about the controversy over the use of condoms to counter the Aids epidemic or about the Church's teaching regarding contraception? There is obviously confusion here and the Cardinal has inserted the light of truth into this increasingly political issue.
However, the charity CAFOD is also a cause of confusion in this matter. The CAFOD website publicly esposes the use of condoms in the fight against Aids saying that this "reconciles solid science and good community development practices with established and evolving moral theology and Catholic social teaching." This approach seems to be an entirely contrived one, since the Bishops of African countries have made it clear that condom use is directly linked to promiscuity and, consequently, to the spread of the Aids virus. Whatever the effect is that the condom has on preventing the transmission of the virus during sexual intercourse, it does not change people's behaviour, but actually promotes promiscuity.
That is not all. CAFOD's website publicly dissents from the teaching of the Church concerning the use of contraception within marriage: " ... the prohibition of Humanae Vitae on the use of artificial contraceptives as disrupting the intrinisic connection between the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marriage act does not seem to apply. In these practices there is no truly unitive act to disrupt."
Humanae Vitae is an Encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI, written in 1968, which declares that the use of artificial contraception within marriage is an intrinsic evil. It also teaches about the nature of human love and responsible parenthood. You should read it.
With such confusion it is not surprising that the Holy Father has convoked a Commission to look into the matter of condom use between spouses where one spouse is infected. However, the position which the charity CAFOD has taken is wrong.
First, as a Catholic Charity it should not dissent from the Church's teaching nor pre-empt clarification about this matter which the Church will provide in due course.
Secondly, CAFOD's position lends credence to the International project to impose condom culture on African countries.
Thirdly, CAFOD teaches illogically that there can be a form of sexual intercourse between spouses which is non-marital! It is strange that after 8,000 years of recorded human history, that CAFOD has just discovered this form of behaviour. No, the use of condoms in marriage makes sexual intercourse between spouses non-marital.
The Christ the Healer Project is a great venture of taking truth into human lives. Perhaps there are many others with the pedigree of truth. The influence that our Government and CAFOD will have upon the lives of many in the world is that of taking truth out of human lives. Courage in the storm!
The Church in our country seems to have ditched talking about sexual issues publically - what one might call 'from the pulpit' if our churches actually had pulpits any more - just at the time when sex has become the one thing everyone else talks about. The lack of teaching in the public forum means that many people think that, although they know that there is official Church teaching on these moral issues, they can make up their own version to live by. And having made up their own version to live by, they then keep to it dogmatically, and impose it on everyone else. So, a young Catholic might think it's OK to use contraception, and so not only is it right for him or her to use it but it is wrong for anyone to try and say that it's wrong.
The issue which has been coming up in my conversations recently is the matter of condoms and AIDS, with the focus generally being on Africa. I have come across Catholics who think it's an absolute necessity to promote the Church's teaching on peace and justice, but who think that we can't possibly proclaim the teaching of the Church on the use of condoms. Without going into a complete diatribe, I'd just like to bring up two things. First, was an 'Any Questions' recently on Radio 4, where the question was put "Do you think Tony Blair has the right to tell religious leaders to change their teaching on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS in Africa?" The target of that comment by Tony Blair was obviously the Pope. The first person to respond on the panel was the commentator, Matthew Parris. Now, he being gay and either atheist or agnostic didn't bode well for an answer that I was going to like. But hats off to him! He put his finger right on the button. He said that Tony Blair had no right at all to make any comment. The Pope, for example, does not proclaim what he proclaims because it is good world health policy - said Parris - but rather because he believes that what he proclaims is in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and that he is proclaiming virtue.
Just to put more flesh on the bones, I also recently read an article by Michael Cook, entitled "Was Karol Wojtyla the Greatest Mass Murderer of the 20th Century?" I recommend it - it's a good read.
Before coming to Birmingham University as chaplain, I was over in Erdington as Parish Priest, and chaplain at St Edmund Campion School. I had the great privilege of working alongside Jim Meehan, who taught RE at the school, but has now retired. He introduced me to the work of Fr Matthias Nsamba, the youth chaplain in the Aliwal Diocese in Eastern Cape of South Africa. Fr Matthias has put together a programme called 'Youth Alive' for the young people of his Diocese, with workshops which help them to gain self-respect, to give each other support, and to change their behaviour as the only sure way to avoid HIV/AIDS. The programme is growing. In this country Jim Meehan has founded an organisation called 'Christ the Healer Project' to raise funds for Fr Matthias. I recommend it to you.
Thursday, 21 December 2006
Monday, 18 December 2006
Sunday, 17 December 2006
'"The hour has come for a new Evangelisation" writes Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici: "Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism." All this is weakening the vigour of Christian life, reducing it to mere practices, empty traditions or cultural manifestations, even for many who call themselves believers, but who have not experienced personal relationship with Christ and are not able to feel admiration for the newness of the Gospel, and so are, as it were, vaccinated against conversion and entering the Kingdom. So the Pope insists: "Only a new Evangelisation can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom."(ChL 34)
'This is what the Pope said to the young people at Santiago de Compostela: "The hour has come to begin a new Evangelisation; and you cannot fail to respond to this urgent call. In this place, dedicated to St James, the first of the apostles to give witness of faith in martyrdom, let us commit ourselves to welcoming the command of Christ: 'You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1.8). What does it mean to give witness to Christ? It simply means living in accordance with the Gospel: 'Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind... Love your neighbour as yourself' (Mt 22.37-39). The Christian is called to serve his brothers and society, to promote and support the dignity of every human being, to respect, defend or favour the rights of the person, to be builders of a lasting and authentic peace, based on fraternity, in liberty, in justice and in truth."
'This has to be done from the conviction of being loved by God, in that this is the new and simple message of the Good News for all men. "God loves you, Christ came for you, Christ is for you 'the way, the truth and the life!' (Jn 14.6). This new Evangelisation is directed not only individual persons but also to entire portions of populations in the variety of their situations, surroundings and cultures. Its purpose is the formation of mature ecclesial communities, in which the faith might radiate and fulfill the basic meaning of adherence to the person of Christ and his Gospel, of an encounter and sacramental communion with him, and of an existence lived in charity and in service."(ChL 34)
'Afterwards the Pope refers to the necessity of a systematic catechesis for the new generations and for adults...'
What Mons Delicado (and Pope John Paul II) picks up on here that I like as a basis for thinking about the New Evangelisation is this:
- The emptiness of the outward forms of religion where there is no real conversion to the person of Christ.
- The aim of the new Evangelisation is 'personal relationship with Christ' ie friendship with Christ.
- The call to young people to be at the front of this new Evangelisation.
- Personal faith in Christ has to be backed up by action.
Saturday, 16 December 2006
Friday, 15 December 2006
Thursday, 14 December 2006
I was just re-reading the address of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to the priests of the Diocese of Rome in the Papal Basilica of St John Lateran shortly after his election to the Chair of Peter. It's very interesting that the Holy Father sums up the life of the priest as friendship with Christ, on the basis that that is what Christ called his apostles. That friendship that Christ has particularly for his priests is so filled with confidence in the gifts of grace that he gives to them that he even entrusts his Body - the Church - and his Body and Blood - the Eucharist - to their care. What a responsibility! It's more than some superficial 'pally' friendship - it's a deep trust that leads our Lord to place into feeble human hands the care of the Ecclesial Body, composed of souls precious to him, and the Eucharistic Body, where he continues his action of humbling himself to come among us. I was always impressed by the words of that great old Eucharistic hymn "Ah, see within a creature's hands the vast Creator deigns to be, reposing infantlike as though on Joseph's arm or Mary's knee."
Being entrusted with such a friendship, with such a grace, with such a responsibility it means that the priest needs to do everything to stay close to Christ, and to develop that friendship with Him:
"Dear priests ... the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he entrusts himself to us, he entrusts to us his Body in the Eucharist, he entrusts to us his Church. Therefore, we must be true friends to him, we must have the same perception as he has, we must want what he wants and not what he does not want. Jesus himself tells us: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15:14). Let this be our common resolution: all of us together, to do his holy will, in which lies our freedom and our joy."This friendship requires an intimate knowledge of Christ, not just to know 'about' Him, but to know him Heart to heart. But the Pope warns that the friendship of the priest is not just a personal friendship, but is a relationship for the Church. It's a bit like in a family. The father and mother have a relationship, but it's not just a private love affair, it involves the whole family - children, wider family, local parish, local community. It is a relationship for others as well as for self. So the priest doesn't just have a friendship with Christ which is personal and subjective, but it is a friendship with Christ for, on behalf of, and including the Church. This is especially so as the priesthood brings about both the Eucharist, and the building up of the Church.
"Since the priesthood is rooted in Christ, it is by its nature in the Church and for the Church. Indeed, the Christian faith is not something purely spiritual and internal, nor is our relationship with Christ itself exclusively subjective and private. Rather, it is a completely concrete and ecclesial relationship. At times, the ministerial priesthood has a constitutive relationship with the Body of Christ in his dual and inseparable dimensions as Eucharist and as Church, as Eucharistic body and Ecclesial body."
For the priest, this friendship which is both personal and on behalf of the Church, finds its consummation in the celebration of the Mass. And, as the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II said of himself, "The Holy Mass is the absolute centre of my life and of every day of my life." This is the text that Pope Benedict repeats, and says that every priest should make his own. If a priest is to live this friendship even if only for himself he would want to celebrate the Mass. But even if a priest does not "want" to celebrate Mass every day for his own personal friendship with Christ, then he still should on behalf of the Church, because his friendship with Christ is within and for the Church.
It always pains me to hear priests referring to celebration of Mass as though it's a job which is tiresome. Celebrating three Masses on one day, and no Mass on a day off. Or "slaving over a hot altar" in the parish, but having a couple of weeks off celebrating Mass on holiday, or just going to Mass like a lay person. It is a completely mechanical and utilitarian understanding of the Mass and the priesthood which leads to this. Rather than being a task to be thrown off for relaxation, the Mass should be the centre of the priest's life every day, just like breathing, or eating, or drinking. You don't take a day off having friends - in fact you spend more time with friends - on a day off. So, as I remember my spiritual director say to me when in seminary, the day off is an opportunity to celebrate the Mass in a more recollected way and with more time.
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
Saturday, 9 December 2006
"Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?...No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation....When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life." Pope Benedict XVI, April 2005
Friday, 8 December 2006
Thursday, 7 December 2006
Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Tuesday, 5 December 2006
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Here's a new Blog on the net. We have got lots to do!