Sunday 30 September 2007

The identity card

"It will not suffice to declare that we are 'friends' of Christ, boasting of our false merits: "We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets".
True friendship with Jesus is expressed in the way of life: it is expressed with goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love for justice and truth, a sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation.
We might say that this is the 'identity card' that qualifies us as his real 'friends'; this is the passport that will give us access to eternal life." (26.8.07)

Keep the fire burning

Many thanks go to Chiara and Giovanna who yesterday offered a Day of Prayer and Evangelisation to all the young Catholics of Crewe and its environs at the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Crewe.
This event, inspired by the Youth 2000 Festival at Walsingham this summer, was a courageous and very sucessful initiative to engage young people in the local area in the New Evangelisation.
The Day ran from 9am till 6pm and is a sign of what we can do in our own areas to kindle and re-kindle the faith in young people. Please do this again in Crewe, and let's have Days like this all over the country!

Thursday 27 September 2007

An immediate hit!

After only a few day in the charts, my precis of the "Letter to Families" has gone straight to the top! It now appears on - a website of the Bishops' Conference. What a result!

Monday 24 September 2007

A good leaven

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, has been cleared of contempt of parliament for comments he made on the Human Cloning Bill he made earlier this year. In a statement he said:

"My comments on the Human Cloning Bill were derived from the conviction that Parliamentarians who legislate for the destruction of human life (in any circumstances and especially in this case where no cures from human embryos have been effected during many years of research) are acting in a way that departs from the principles of both the natural law known through human reason alone and Christian teaching. The natural law principles and the teaching in question are that human life should be accorded the full protection of the law without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, condition of dependency or stage of development. I put forward this moral argument as a contribution to the public debate because it is rational, an argument open to acceptance by all people of no religion and any religion. I was not asserting some supernatural dogma beyond human reason and seeking to impose it on the general community. It would be a sad day for Australia if only members of the Christian majority accepted the unique dignity of the human person. But this is not the case. Defenders of human life -- from conception to natural birth -- come from every section of the Australian population.As a Catholic archbishop I am also charged with ensuring that Catholics know the moral teaching of the Church. The Church's teaching on cloning states that the cloning of a human being is wrong and cannot be justified by any known or imagined effects. The Church also teaches that destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings -- cloned or otherwise -- is an intrinsically evil act, because experimentation involves their dismemberment and therefore mutilation and death."

In taking this position Cardinal Pell has thrown much light on the relationship of the Church and society - if only we had had such a reasonable King and Queen and Parliament in the UK in the 1500's! Nonetheless, Cardinal Pell has done a great work in expressing the vocations of a Catholic Bishop and of a Catholic in today's world. He has challenged, correctly and courageously, Australian society, represented by its Parliament, and he has thrown essential light upon the Cloning issue - light which otherwise would have been missing from the debate. All can see more clearly now. What a great leader he is!

Sunday 23 September 2007

New homes

My new placement finds me in Leeds again, or rather just outside the city to the south. This photo shows the church of St Brigid with my house just to the left. Yesterday I named the presbytery "John Paul II House". A whole series of events recently have led me to use the Prayer invoking the help of John Paul II - it seemed that the next step was to place myself and new inititatives, including my presbytery, under his patronage. Fr Julian has already visited my new parish and we held a very fruitful fraternal of the John Vianney Society.

A little to the north in Ilkley, the Elizabethan hunting lodge "Myddleton Lodge" is for sale again. This house, which dates from 1560, and which was the property of the Myddleton's, Yorkshire Catholics during the reformation and later, has been in Catholic hands until 2000. The house has been substantially restored and is for sale at £2.85 million. This house too could be a very good "John Paul II House" for the formation and evangelisation of young people. Any offers?

Friday 21 September 2007

The St Joseph Community

While I was in Ars way back in February, I was thinking about how we were going to provide a warden for Newman House, the Catholic Chaplaincy where I, together with 12 student residents, live. It was just the mention, made by Fr Richard, that Patrick Morton was looking for some project for this coming academic year which made me think. In fact, it often happens at Ars. Maybe it's something to do with the intercession of the holy Curé. I had already spoken to Chris Wojtulewicz, one of the students here at the University, about the possibilities of coming to live at Newman House. Anyway the inspiration was to have a small community of men, living with me here at Newman House, for two purposes: personal discernment and helping in the Catholic mission to the University. I soon identified a third member, who in the long run was unable to join us. However, over the summer I got in contact with Chris Owens, from North Carolina, who was looking for a place to live in Birmingham, having accepted to start part time work and part time study at Maryvale Institute. Hey presto. There's a community. At the time of writing Patrick and Chris Owens have already moved in, and we eagerly await the arrival of Chris W next week, so community life can start in earnest.

Our life together is based on a pattern of prayer, as you would expect. Morning Gosepl meditation and Lauds; daily Mass; daily Adoration; Rosary. We also have a Monday evening community night when we will have a time of sharing the Gospel for the following Sunday, a good meal and an hour of adoration and night prayer. The rest of the time will involve each of us doing our own work, and also getting involved in the activities of the Chaplaincy. A particular part of that will be - for Patrick, Chris and Chris - running an apologetics session called 'Catholic Answers' before the Sunday evening Mass each week, when they will be able to help students to be equipped to answer questions thrown at Catholics by atheists, agnostics, evangelical Christians, liberal Christians, etc.

One thing that is notable in the Church, at least in England these days, is how devotion to St Joseph has all but disappeared. It may be because the figure of St Joseph seems easy to relegate to a tea towel headed member of the cast of the annual children's nativity play, and to ignore the rest of the time. After all, he does not have a direct role in salvation history. All he seems to do is to look after the central characters of the divine drama - Jesus and Mary. And yet St Joseph is vital in that history of salvation. Without Joseph, Jesus may never have come to be born, in that a woman caught committing adultery - which is what would have been presumed to be Mary's disposition - could be stoned to death. Joseph being a just man was going to quietly put Mary away and divorce her, presuming the same thing. But once he knew God's plan, he silently assented (we never hear him speak in the Gospels) to that plan, and, under the Jewish Law, became the father of Jesus in the eyes of the Law. Thus Jesus became the son of David, descended from the royal line. St Joseph is also fundamental as a role model for Christian men. He was strong, quiet, faithful, reliable and pure. Maybe the crisis in fatherhood, and the depreciation of purity, have a lot to do with the demise of devotion to this great saint. Maybe through our community we will be able to help revive among at least a few people devotion to this great saint, the patron of the Universal Church, and to live a true manly spirituality.

Please pray then for Patrick, Chris, Chris and myself as we begin this community life together for the next year.

O glorious St. Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary ever Virgin, and the head of the holy family. You have been chosen by Christ's Vicar as the heavenly patron and protector of the Church founded by Christ. Therefore it is with great confidence that I implore your powerful assistance for the whole Church on earth. Protect in a special manner, with true fatherly love, the Pope and all bishops and priests in communion with the See of Peter. Be the protector of all who labor for souls amid the trials and tribulations of this life, and grant that all peoples of the world may follow Christ and the Church He founded.

Dear St. Joseph, accept the offering of myself which I now make to you. I dedicate myself to your service, that you may ever be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love for the spiritual life. May all my actions, after your example, be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the divine Heart of Jesus, the immaculate heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart. Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death.

I'm back

It's a particularly stupidly long time since I've posted anything, and I've been leaving all the work to poor Fr Richard. It's been an exciting summer, so I may take a few posts to get up to date.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

The Letter to Families

Pope John Paul II wrote this Letter in 1994 to help guide the family in a tempestuous world according to its genuine light. It is actually quite a difficult read, so I have made a precis of it - which you can find here, then click on "Resources", then click on "Family".
The Letter expresses how the family is the hinge of the Civilisation of Love, and calls upon them to take part in God's plan. John Paul exposes the "other" plan for families for what it really is: an "anti-civilisation" based on the loss of truth and promoting an agenda which threatens the family to the core of its being. At the heart of the family is the mystery of the presence of the person of Christ. The Eucharist is the greatest expression of love in the family - for in Christ the family is redeemed.
This Letter is essential reading for spouses and parents, for your great task is to enable your family to be a part of the New Evangelisation.

Thursday 13 September 2007

Last night LIFE launched a new Group in West Yorkshire. Martin Foley, the chief Executive of LIFE spoke to the assembly, which was held in the Novotel in central Leeds. He outlined the policies and work of the organisation and the plans to set up a central Yorkshire Committee which will co-ordinate the work of members and sub-groups spread throughout Yorkshire.
As I listened to Martin Foley I was reminded of how well-structured is the deeply pagan agenda of our society. Far from diminshing, abortion statistics continue to rise. It is now seventeen years since Parliament debated abortion; and any future debate will be more dangerously anti-life and less of an opportunity for pro-life. LIFE has had to remove the "Message Board" from its website because of the deluge of foul language. Contemporary culture has made the abortion issue a feminine preserve; men no longer see a role for themselves in abortion culture - LIFE speakers frequently experience boys "switching off" during school education visits and the whole issue is seen as a woman's preserve.
All this tells me how little light there is in our culture for people to be guided by, and that the organisation LIFE is operating mainly in a punitive way - offering help to those who "falll out" of the grip of pagan culture, but hardly being able to respond to causes of this culture.
The other side of this is that LIFE, operating in a way which "is consistent with Catholic principles", is only offering help and guidance at a pragmatic level. In fact, the full work which is to be done is EVANGELISATION - bringing people into the New Life of Christ and helping them to live from the Mystery of Faith. We Catholics cannot set our goal below this. However, LIFE is certainly stepping into the fray with great courage and deliberation. Martin Foley, its Chief Executive, is a man who is visibly filled with light and hope - and he received a great salute from West Yorkshire last night.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

An ex-gangster in the north

John Pridmore, the ex-gangster, and the St Patrick's Mission Community, supported by the Friars of the Renewal, are in Bradford this week giving a parish mission in St Joseph's. Last night John spoke about how the Father's love had sought him out and changed his life, he gave an electrifying witness to the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Penance and in the Eucharist, and he called on St Joseph's parishioners to draw close to Christ and to disregard the other voices around us that make us forget the presence of God.
A great number of people had come to the first evening service of the mission and filled the beautiful church of St Joseph near the city centre.

Twice John referred to the strength of faith of Catholics in Yorkshire in times past, idicating what fertile ground Yorkshire is for Christ and the Gospel. If you can come, the Mission Service is at 7.00pm each evening this week.
St Margaret Clitherow pray for us and for the conversion of many.

Saturday 8 September 2007

"BB" revisited

The last greatness of rural England - England before motorways or trunk-roads, before the "commercialisation" of the countryside, and before its emasculation by modernity and political correctness - was encapsulated by the personality and writings of Denys Watkins-Pitchford or "BB".
As young children we were read to in the evening by our mother and our imaginations were fed by some of "BB"'s most inspiring and rewarding stories: the "Bill Badger" series, "The Whopper", "Brendan Chase". It was such stories as these that gave me a love of the countryside and led me to explore the outdoors from a very early age. Long before a television arrived in our house I had already explored the parks, the ponds and brooks and the fields on the outskirts of Leeds. What a great joy it was then to venture off the M1 last week, accompanied by Declan who is more a fan of "BB" than I am, into deepest Northamptonshire in order to visit some of the places connected with "BB".
We stopped first in the village of Lamport and found the Old Rectory where "BB" had been born and where he grew up. The rolling countryside was idyllic and we saw images there which had come straight from his drawings and prints.

We visited the graveyard at Cranford St John where he is buried with his wife and son - a graveyard which is in the most beautiful rural setting you could imagine. We prayed for him and his family there - that his Christian soul which was large enough to appreciate the work of God in the fields and the woods and in Christ, would be made even larger by the fulfilling grace.

Finally, we visited "The Round House" where lived he lived during the last decades of his life. Declan was overjoyed to find "Big Pond" still there after so many years - but we couldn't see "Big Boy" the carp.

Visiting these places for the first time has renewed my thoughts about "BB"'s books, especially his books for children. In an age of technology and information we do need to keep in touch with a more preliminary experience of life, and of the relationship between God and Creation. "BB"'s books are accesible, beautiful and hugely engaging - there is a lot to be rediscovered here.