Friday 29 February 2008

The Bridegroom

One of the talks from our Ars Retreat focussed on Christ's intention as He gave himself in the Passion. St John prefaces the Passion with the scene of the Washing of the Disciples Feet in order to show us His intention: Christ is desiring a spousal union with His Church. His death is not a death for corruption but for Resurrection.
Mary was already at the Cross, upholding her relationship with her Son. Her hour has come. She is present as the New Creation takes place. Christ speaks first to His Mother. And she performs the greatest act of self-abnegation ever made in human history, in order to bring about the Redemption. A virginal couple are the creators of the New Life.
Christ dies an extatic death; death overcome by love. And as He dies he gives up the Holy Spirit.
In St Luke's Gospel especially, this giving is made to the Father, but in St John's Gospel there is a horizontal movement in the giving of the Spirit. Where was the Spousal Church when Christ died? She was present as Christ's Mother who, as a virgin, was all given over to the Trinity. Mary, uniquely, at that moment was fully accessible to the relationship that Jesus wanted to establish. She was the one place where the Holy Spirit could dwell perfectly. So, She holds the Church in being while Christ lies in the tomb.
The soldier pierced the right side of Jesus so as to pierce His heart. It is in his Blood that Christ gives His love. Sr Faustina in her diary speaks of the Blood and Water as though they are Persons. They are the gift of Christ's love - which Christ was so prodigal with during His Passion; they are the given in Baptism - Water, and in the Eucharist - Blood.
This Mystery of the Blood and Water is central to the life of the Priest, for Christ instituted the Priesthood so as make present these gifts to the Church.

Thursday 28 February 2008

A moronic culture produces the HFE Bill

The Contraceptive Generation - the generation which welcomed and embraced the whole mentality and practice of contraception, thereby separating sexuality from procreation - is really leading us, as a society, deeply into the culture of death. And now that this generation is in control of the management of our society at all levels - Goverment, media, education, law, medicine and commerce - they have created a social Movement to change the focus of our society and of our culture in favour of a new ethics which rests upon the classical outlines of the culture of death, and they have done this, in a regular totalitarian way, by reducing the mentality and the culture of the people to a moronic level. This has enabled the leaders of this Movement to engender a massive social change without anyone really noticing. The UK may as well have been hijacked by a group of sinister Freemasons who have taken control of the major organs of our society and its communications services.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, something which is irrational in itself, is the most leveling attempt yet by this Movement to wrench our society away from God.
With such leaders as these where can we look for hope; where, for instance, can young people look for goodness and truth? The Catholic Church used visibly to be a place of freedom. But the Catholic Church in the UK seems to be deeply infected by this Movement also. Well, we must change this situation. We must seek to build a culture and a society upon the basis of the Gospel and Christ, who is truth. In fact, we need Catholics now who will seek to form themselves, in the light of the Gospel, in education, media, law, medicine and commerce, and to form themselves also in the new sciences. But we must look to the places where this can genuinely be undertaken. For instance, young people can take a year out to spend with the St Patrick's Evangelisation School in London - a real eye-opener to the Mission of the Church today. Others could undertake studies at the Franciscan University of Stuebenville in the States or at Campion College, Sydney. For those who want to form themselves here in the UK, we need a real package; and that still needs putting together. Can we do this? Will we actually get our act together this time? Will we together take the next good step forward?

Tuesday 26 February 2008

An anniversary event

Contraception: Why not? A lecture by Prof Janet Smith. Thursday 6th March, Westminster Cathedral Hall, 7.00 - 9.00pm. £5 admission - places are limited - register at Prof Smith offers a stimulating opportunity to seriously reconsider the modern enthusiasm for contraception. Her message has captivated audiences all round the world, particularly married couples, those considering marriage, catechists, counsellors, doctors, priests and seminarians.

Sunday 24 February 2008

Youth 2000 in Harrogate

Over the weekend about 160 young people have been taking part in the winter Prayer Festival in Harrogate. St John Fisher College chapel provided a very fine setting for the spiritual events of the retreat.
In the photo Fr Luke from the Friars in New York is addressing the young people and speaking about the Life of Grace. It is a great privilage for us priests and religious to see young people actively seeking Christ - to see them hearing the message and to witness them endeavouring to embrace the Life of Christ for themselves and for the Church today. I met and spoke with young people who are filled with enthusiasm for the Gospel and for the Culture which it creates, and which they are seeking to be a part of. Thanks especially to the Youth 2000 Leadership Team and the Music Ministry Team who spent themselves this weekend offering an opportunity of grace.
The rebel-Cardinal's Coat of Arms hung above the main entrance to the school and we passed beneath it each time we went to and fro from the school; surely with so great a Patron, the conversion and evangelisation of England can be conceived anew by this generation.

Friday 22 February 2008

How does a priest enter into Jesus' prayer?

Continuing the reflections from last Autumn's Priests' retreat in Ars, Fr Frost focussed on the Priestly Prayer of Christ in John's Gospel (chapter 17). In this segment of the Gospel we encounter Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, praying to the first Person and drawing human nature into this relationship through the ministry of His apostles and through them, all those who will be ordained.
The next day Christ will draw human nature into this relationship as he suffers and dies on the cross - the greatest outpouring of love will be given to humanity from the cross and it will continue being given through time through the ministry of priests. But on the eve of his Passion, Christ first draws His priests into this new intimacy as He prays. What John 17 tells us is that Christ is plunging human nature fully into the life of the Trinity through His Paschal Mystery.
Today we still encounter attempts to secularise the Priesthood - we should get married, we shopuld be able to have 'fun' like everyone else, we shouldn't 'cut ourselves off'. But Christ, in His prayer, is not taking us out of the world, rather He is sending us into the world in order to pastor souls. Priest are included in the Prayer of Christ, the Priesthood is specific in this way - this is why they are ministers of Christ, unlike lay-people who are not ministers. Priests have a ritual and a sacramental role, not becuase these jobs need doing, but because priests have been given an ontological relationship by Christ.
Those who say that the New Testament does not speak about the Priesthood are speaking nonsense. In John 17 we see the way in which the Priesthood has been established. And it is good to note how JPII in Christifideles Laici, 23 taught that lay-people cannot be understood as ministers. What is proper to priests is not proper to lay-people; what is proper to them is the apostolate.

Saturday 16 February 2008

A screening in Leeds.

Last night twenty three of us sat down to watch the film "Therese - ordinary girl, extraordinary soul" in my parish. We were grateful to Alanna for making the DVD available to us. The film presented all the significant events in the life of St Therese of Lisieux and was a worthy attempt in portraying the making of a saint. If you have watched the film then you will be aware of how sensitively the film-makers handled her life.
I was particularly struck by the portrayal of Louis Martin, Therese's father, and the way in which events challenged his powers of discernment. In the film, as in his life, Louis Martin was faced to make decisions as a father that would affect his family, individual members of the family and himself. He approached these decisions as a real servant of grace.
Also for me, the film managed to express the enormous generosity of soul of Therese herself, in the way in which she responded to God in the real events of life. In this Lenten setting, this screening offered us a concrete vision for our own lives. Watching the film together was a grace in itself.
How extraordinary it is that The Little Way has become a great movement of grace in the Church since Therese entered Heaven.

Friday 15 February 2008

Teaching in Soho

This week I visited the St Patrick's Evangelisation School in Soho in order to do a little teaching on my favourite subject: The New Evangelisation. It was very good to meet this year's student group who are taking part in this project of formation, community life and evangelisation in the heart of London.
SPES is virtually unique in this country in offering young people the opportunity to spend a year in a School of Evangelisation.
There are links to their site and their Blog on this site.

Monday 11 February 2008

Entering into the Prayer of Jesus

Last November I was with a group of priests who were lead in Retreat by Mgr Francis Frost in Ars. His talks to us were utterly engaging for he spoke with us about the heart of the Priesthood. I would like to share some of the ideas with you that I took from the retreat.
How should we live out our priesthood? The answer lies in our relationship with Christ in the Eucharist: being faithful in solitude to Christ present as the Eucharist will lead us to become aware of what Christ has given to us. This solitude with Christ will sustain us in a world which doesn't regard such things.
How does Jesus pray? Jesus, in the Gospels, is aware that when his disciples see him pray they are confronted with the Mystery of his person. The Jewish scribes used to teach methods of prayer, but when his disciples come and ask him to teach them how to pray he gave them the words of the "Our Father" - with these words you have everything that I want to say to my Father - he gave them the example of his own prayer. They saw him pray and he told them what he said to his Father. Christ confronts his disciples with the fact that they had to "catch" the filial relationship which he had with his Father, and which they had seen him have. This is something for us to be aware of during times of Adoration.
It is the Holy Spirit that would bring the the apostles into the fullness of this relationship. (Indeed, it was on the Cross that Jesus fully reveals that the Kingdom of God is his person - it is, above all, by looking at Christ on the Cross that we begin to understand Jesus' parables and his teachings. This is no "method" of prayer, here we see God's Kingdom being fashioned. This is a theme which B16 refers to time and time again in his book "Jesus of Nazareth".)

Sunday 10 February 2008

A pilgrimage of grace

Yesterday I had the privilage of taking a group of young people to the very ancient shrine of Our Lady in North Yorkshire at Mount Grace. The Lady Chapel at Osmotherly has roots which date back to the ninth century.
It is quite remarkable that this shrine still persists today and it is a great place of pilgrimage, set on the top of the escarpment of the North Yorkshire Moors overlooking the vale of York.
The prayers and the lives of these young people are now in the very best care.

Friday 8 February 2008

A bright flame in Europe.

Last week Fr Julian and myself were in Ars with the other members of the John Vianney Society for its winter session. It was a week of grace! We took part in so many prayer-times and conversations with priests and seminarians which were full of the power of grace.

The Bishop of Belley-Ars was also with us throughout the session. Mgr Guy-Marie Bagnard is the founder of the Priestly Foyer and Seminary at Ars and the founder of the John Vianney Society. As Bishop he is now the guardian of the Charism of the Society: to seek the renewal of priestly interiority and spirituality through fraternity. One evening he wished to see both Fr Julian and myself, he shared his joy with us that we had become members of his society and he addressed us as brothers wanting to know both of us as persons. We were left in no doubt that the Bishop of Belley-Ars has the charism and gift of fatherhood in great measure - he is a real father to his priests and his seminarians.

One evening the whole house took part in a Holy Hour of silent adoration in the seminary chapel. The bishop was in a front bench, bowed in prayer throughout. Suddenly, it became obvious to us how this beautiful house for priests and seminarians has come about, and how the Society has come about - Mgr Bagnard has prayed them into existence. His prayer for us, for priests and for the Church was tangible in that Holy Hour. Not only was Christ feeding us in his presence, but the Bishop too was a channel of grace. This bishop is a light in the Church in Europe; he is a bishop of the New Evangelisation. His priestly frienship is very active - he is a brother, a father and a spouse. St John Vianney's prayers and the Bishop's prayers are bringing priests alive! Let us ask that their prayers and their lives will continue to bear much fruit for the Church in Europe.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Is an immoral Government fit to rule?

Now that anti-life legislation is coursing through the British Parliament again - currently the matters at hand are the creation of huge numbers of human embryos for death, so that their stem cells can be harvested, and also the creation of human/animal hybrids - we should ask ourselves: Is an immoral Government fit to rule? I am slowly waking up to the realisation that our Government at its Parliament are not worthy of the Office which they hold.
Nearly a hundred years ago millions of men gave their lives in the First World War for values which we now deem as irrelevant. What was the point of their deaths? Did they make this sacrifice in order that we should have a licentious society governed by the rule of immorality? What if we had lost the war? Would fewer men have died in the trenches? Would we then have been in a position to create a society and a Government which diregards the value of the Gospel, human life, marriage, the family, age, work, character, wisdom and virtue? Would we have been better off had we lost the First World War? The men who died in it did not die for the kind of society which now exists in the UK. We are in huge debt to the bravery of that generation - but we have let them down. Recent Governments in the UK have lead us awry and the path we are now following is a path which no society should follow. Who will lead us now? Nearly a hundred years ago we fought to stave off a Dark Age, but when the fighting stopped we failed and entered willingly into a Dark Age. Who will point us back towards the light? Who today is even looking for the light?

The Pelagian Herald

Will Gore, writer for the "Catholic Herald", gave us last week his take on John Pridmore's new book "A Gangster's Guide to God". Gore gives away his kind of faith when he says of the former gangster, John Pridmore, that "he turned around his life through faith." The rest of Gore's review of Pridmore's book is a rough scetch of how inadequately John did this. I'm sure John Pridmore would agree with him on that, but not on the abscence, in Gore's review, of any reference to Grace.
Indeed, Gore in this short piece presents faith as a human project - the classical Pelagian position. And with Pelagians discussing the faith in the public Catholic forum we are not going to get very far - not unless you spot them first and then re-focus your attention on Grace. Which is what John Pridmore did and continues to do. It isn't that John turned his life around, but that God turned John's life around.
You can't be a Catholic journalist unless you can "see" Grace first, and then speak about it in way which enables others to see what God is doing. Journalism is a God-given skill; we need journalists. It is a great shame that there are so few real journalists today, Catholic or otherwise. This is a project we need to foster.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

A parish which is not missionary has no future.

This article was recently published by Zenit; here a priest of the Emmanuel Community speaks frankly about parish life today. I was so pleased to read this for what he says parrallels my own experience. However, I think that even though what he says might be the experience of many priests and people, they are still not ready to start engaging with the New Evangelisation. And as a consequence we see parishes visibly dying, and priests and people living like shadows. What is good is that this Movement is responding in a good way to the situation of parishes and is waking the Church up with regard to parishes.
If a Parish Priest in a parish today wishes to have souls to care for, he needs to go looking for them, says the leader of the priests of the Emmanuel Community. Father Yves le Saux, general delegate for ordained ministry of the Emmanuel Community, spoke during a conference under way in Rome on "The Parish and the New Evangelization. "The congress is organized by the Emmanuel Community and the Pontifical Institute Redemptor Hominis. Priests in the Emmanuel Community are diocesan priests under the authority of their respective bishops who allow them to be members of the group.
Is there a future for parishes? Today, in different regions of the world, some are wondering about the future of parishes. I think that the parish is and will continue being the principal and privileged space of the life of the Church. By nature, the parish is the place where the Christian community meets. It has the vocation of welcoming all Christians around the Eucharist, around Christ, also through the ministry of the parish priest. The parish is the place where every Christian, every baptized, independently of his sensitivity, his personal charism, can live and be integrated into ecclesial life.That said, the model of the parish in which the pastor is there, in the midst of its community, available for all the people to go to, is no longer sufficient today. If a pastor wishes to still have sheep, he should go to find them. Today, the parish should be understood as "mission territory." It seems to me that perhaps the term "mission territory" has to be added to the term parish so that the priest and Christians who live in a determined place can enter into a dynamic of announcing the Gospel. Said in another way, does the parish have a future? Yes, on the condition that it is missionary.
What advice could you give to a pastor who has a deep consciousness of the evangelizing role of his parish but who feels alone facing this challenge? It is clear that the responsibility for the mission should not fall on only one man. I think that today the parochial function should not be entrusted to only one man, but to a team of priests who have a demanding community life and who are prepared for working together in the mission.But this is insufficient. Today a parish priest has to be surrounded by the baptized who share with him the same missionary drive. The priest who feels alone should, in principle, have the objective of surrounding himself with people who not only evangelize with him, but who also pray with him, reflect with him, have a Christian life with him. That being said, I think that there is also a responsibility of the bishops themselves, who should be on guard to not leave a priest alone. A man alone, even with a lot of help and talents, remains limited in his fruitfulness. Today the world needs witnesses, not only individuals, but also groups. This restlessness corresponds not just to the priest but also to the baptized, who should accompany their priest and also their bishops, who should be preoccupied about not leaving their priests alone.

Sunday 3 February 2008

A letter from a father.

The new Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, is a letter from a father. Indeed, you might say that it is the letter from a grandfather. It is written for a universal readership and it is written with enormous gentleness and compassion. Quite unlike almost anything that is written today, Spe Salvi is given to a world in doubt and it reassuringly points the way.
Spe Salvi is a biography of the Church. It is written for both Christians and non-Christians alike. For Christians it opens up, in a serene and simple way, the whole Mystery of the Christian Life. For non-Christians, it comes as a gentle reminder of the fact of God and His plan for the world. This Letter does not speak harshly, but seeks to engage all people in the real project of life.
I think that the heart of the Holy Father's message is to show us again the human person in his dignity before God. So much of humanity has been eclipsed in modern culture that, without knowing it, we have needed a compassionate Father to show us again the meaning of life. And, in a most brilliant way, the Holy Father has expressed in this short letter the central call which was made by the Second Vatican Council - for the Church to enter into an evangelising dialogue with the world.
However, if I were asked to say why the Holy Father has written this Encyclical then I would say that it was to bring together the many, sometimes disperate, sometimes weak, sometimes wandering strands of the Christian people, and to focus again on the great movement in history and its Mission: the Church - the Community of Salvation.
I'll post more on this soon.

A Father speaks ...

After last Sunday's midday Angelus, the Holy Father spoke to school administrators, teachers, parents and pupils. He encouraged them, despite difficulties, to continue their work "which has the Gospel as its focus, following an educational syllabus that aims at the integral formation of the human person. He noted that education today "seems to be becoming ever more difficult. [...] Hence there is talk of an 'educational emergency,' confirmed by the failures that too often crown our efforts to form well-rounded individuals, capable of collaborating with others and of giving meaning to their lives. There is also talk of a 'break between the generations,' which certainly exists and is a burden, but is the effect rather than the cause of the failure to transmit certainties and values."The Holy Father said parents and teachers may feel the "temptation to give up" on education, and even run the risk "of not understanding what their role is." He identified "a mentality and a form of culture that lead people to doubt the value of the human person, the meaning of truth and of good and, in the final analysis, the goodness of life itself." Faced with such difficulties, "which are not insurmountable," the Pope said: "Do not be afraid! [...] Event the greatest values of the past cannot simply be inherited, we must make them our own and renew them through often-difficult personal choices." "However," he added, "when the foundations are shaken and essential certainties disappear, the need for those values returns to make itself imposingly felt. Thus we see today an increasing demand for real education." It is demanded by parents, by teachers, "by society as a whole, [...] and by the young people themselves who do not want to be left to face the challenges of life alone." He spoke of the need "to identify certain common requirements for authentic education," noting that "it requires, above all, the nearness and trust that are born of love." "It would, then, be a poor education that limited itself to imparting notions and information while ignoring the great question of truth, above all of that truth which can be a guide to life". The Pope contended that "the most delicate aspect of education" is that of "finding the right balance between freedom and discipline." However, he affirmed, "the educational relationship is above all an encounter between two freedoms, and successful education is formation in the correct use of freedom. [...] We must, then, accept the risk of freedom, remaining ever attentive to helping it and to correcting mistaken ideas and choices." "Education cannot forgo that authoritative prestige which makes the exercise of authority credible" the Holy Father wrote. He added that this is "acquired above all by the coherence of one's own life." He also highlighted the decisive importance of a sense of responsibility: "Responsibility is first of all personal but there also exists a responsibility we share together." In this context, Benedict XVI observed that "the overall trends of the society in which we live, and the image it gives of itself through the communications media, exercise a great influence on the formation of new generations, for good but also often for evil. Society is not an abstract concept; in the final analysis it is we ourselves."The Holy Father then referred to hope as the "soul of education," citing "Spe Salvi" and saying that "our hope today is threatened from many sides and we too, like the ancient pagans, risk becoming men without 'hope and without God in the world.'""At the root of the crisis of education lies a crisis of trust in life," he concluded. "Hope directed toward God is never hope for me alone, it is always also hope for others. It does not isolate us but unites us in goodness, stimulating us to educate one another in truth and in love."

Which sect does he represent?

I lived in Barry Sheerman MP's Constituency of Huddersfield for three years - long enough to witness a population visibly labouring under the culture of death (endemic alcohol poisening, petty drug wars and endemic prostitution were the most obvious indicators). I wrote to him once about this, voicing my concern that whilst his own political ideas were against life, his constituency was showing clear signs of his influence. He replied saying that was sending a copy of my letter to my bishop with a complaint note attached. I heard no more.
More recently Mr Sheerman MP has been speaking out against Catholic schools: “My experience is that there is a move away from joint faith and multi-faith co-operation in the Catholic education sector, which is disappointing.”
He has commented on a report by the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Patrick O’Donoghue, ordering Catholic schools in the North-West to teach children that contraception was wrong and that sex should only take place within marriage.
He has also criticised the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, saying he had been “very difficult to engage with” on the future of All Saints Catholic College at Bradley Bar.
Why is he so concerned to catch the media's attention for his criticism of our schooling system? What sinister organisation is he speaking on behalf of, or belong to? Just because he is an MP does not mean that he does not have other, less public, links. Huddersfield, beware who you vote for!