Monday 30 June 2008

Young People gathered around the Eucharistic Lord

One of the things I pray every day in Eucharistic Adoration is the invocation "Lord Jesus, draw more young people to adore you in the Eucharist". I think this prayer has been a tremendous strength in my ministry here and has been behind many of the good things happening in the Catholic Chaplaincy at Birmingham University. It was a great joy, then, to join the young people who were at the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, for a night vigil of prayer before the Eucharistic Lord. The organised part of the evening was not bad, but was rather 'Quebec'. You'd have to experience it to know what I mean by that. But the homily given by Cardinal Tomko, and then the message from the Holy Father, the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the arena where we were gathered, and then the led meditative adoration were absolutely tremendous and powerful. Here is the text of the Holy Father's message to young people:

I invite you to ceaselessly meditate on "this great mystery of faith", as we proclaim it in every Mass after the Consecration. First of all, in the Eucharist we relive the Lord's Sacrifice at the end of his life, through which he saves all men. In this way we remain close to him and receive in abundance the graces we need for our daily life and our salvation. The Eucharist is par excellence God's act of love for us. What could be greater than giving one's life out of love? In this, Jesus is the model of the total gift of self, the path on which we too must walk in his footsteps.

The Eucharist is also a model of the Christian journey which must shape our existence. It is Christ who convokes us to gather together, to constitute the Church, his Body, in the midst of the world.
To be admitted to the twofold table of the Word and the Bread, we must first receive God's forgiveness, the gift which sustains us on our daily journey, restores the divine image within us and shows us the point to which we are loved. Then, just as in Luke's Gospel he addressed Simon the Pharisee, Jesus continuously addresses us through Scripture: "I have something to say to you" (7: 40). Indeed, every word of Scripture is a word of life for us that we must listen to with great attention. In a particular way, the Gospel constitutes the heart of the Christian message, the total revelation of the divine mysteries. In his Son, the Word made flesh, God has told us everything. In his Son, God has revealed his Face to us as Father, a Face of love, a Face of hope. He has shown us the way to happiness and joy. During the consecration, an especially important moment of the Eucharist because in it we commemorate Christ's sacrifice, you are called to contemplate the Lord Jesus, like St Thomas: "My Lord and my God" (Jn 20: 28). After receiving the Word of God, after having been nourished by his Body, let yourselves be inwardly transformed and receive your mission from him. Indeed, he sends you into the world to be messengers of his peace and witnesses of his message of love. Do not be afraid to proclaim Christ to the young people of your age. Show them that Christ does not hamper your life or your freedom; show them that, on the contrary, he gives you true life, that he sets you free to fight evil and to make something beautiful of your life.

Do not forget that the Sunday Eucharist is a loving encounter with the Lord that we cannot do without. When you recognize him "at the breaking of bread", like the disciples at Emmaus, you will become his companions. He will help you to grow and to give the best of yourselves. Remember that in the Bread of the Eucharist, Christ is really, totally and substantially present. It is therefore in the mystery of the Eucharist, at Mass and during silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, that you will meet him in a privileged way. By opening your very being and your whole life under the gaze of Christ, you will not be crushed - quite the contrary: you will discover that you are infinitely loved. You will receive the power that you need in order to build your lives and to make the choices that present themselves to you every day. Before the Lord, in the silence of your hearts, some of you may feel called to follow him in a more radical way in the priesthood or the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to listen to this call and to respond with joy. As I said at the inauguration of my Pontificate, God takes nothing away from those who give themselves to him. On the contrary, he gives them everything. He comes to draw out the best that is in each one of us, so that our lives can truly flourish.

The Pope on the Eucharist

It was a real privilege to concelebrate the Statio Orbis Mass which was the summit of the week long 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec city. The Statio Orbis is the Station Mass of the whole world. The Station Mass in a Diocese is a Mass celebrated by the Bishop, usually with priests concelebrating and the participation of the faithful. It is a wonderful sacramental demonstration of the nature of the local Church, revealing it to be the Catholic Church present in a particular place and time. It is revealed most fully because the celebration of the Eucharist is that which at the same time reveals and renews the Church. The Statio Orbis is therefore a Station Mass of the whole world, as it reveals the whole universal Catholic Church. This is why it is always celebrated by the Pope, either in person or, as in this case, by his personal Legate. The Legate for the 49th IEC, like the 48th IEC which took place in Guadalajara, Mexico, is the tremendous Cardinal Jozef Tomko. So the Statio Orbis Mass is a celebration of the Mass which reveals the whole Catholic Church, presided over by the Pope, with the Bishops in communion with him, and in turn the priests and people. It is the Eucharist alone which can reveal in such an excellent way the whole Catholic Church.

Although no doubt it gave the 'liturgists' kittens that the homily should be preached by someone who was 'absent' from the celebration, the Pope preached a tremendous homily during the Station Orbis. (Of course the Pope was physically absent from the celebration, but he was actually present because this is the Statio Orbis and he was present through his Legate.) I just thought I'd share some of the important points that the Pope made, in that he gives us a real programme of work to take away from the Congress:

1. The first point that stands out to me is the way in which the Pope teaches that the Eucharist should shape the way in which we view the lives of others. The Eucharist is what makes us sensitive to the reality of the dignity of the human person.

"Participation in the Eucharist does not distance our contemporaries. On the contrary, since it is the expression par excellence of God's love, it calls us to join forces with all our brothers and sisters to confront today's challenges and make the earth a place that is pleasant to live in. This requires that we constantly fight to ensure that everyone is respected, from conception until natural death, that our rich societies welcome the poorest and restore dignity to all, that everyone has food and can enable his family to survive and that peace and justice shine out on all the continents."
I think that this is really important. We can often make a sort of distinction between doing the right thing in the Mass, and get very caught up over liturgical correctness - in indeed we should seek to celebrate the Mass as the Church desires - but it is easy to forget that this then impinges on the way we live our lives, and demands that we live in a radical way. This radical way is firstly to recognise the way in which our dignity is celebrated in the Eucharist, so we should live the risen life of freedom from sin. This radical way also means that we should recognise the absolute dignity of the other person too, even when this is most inconvenient. There can be no easy moralism of loving the poor, but disregarding the unborn - nor vice versa. The Eucharist proclaims the dignity of every single human person from the first to the last moment of their life, and beyond.

2. The Pope wants us to study the Liturgy in order to celebrate it better. The whole liturgy reveals, in its words and in its gestures, the meaning of the Christian mystery. The celebration in the vernacular (especially the impoverished vernacular of 1974 ICEL texts), and the flowering of experimentation with liturgy, has rather obscured this vital link between the words and actions of the Liturgy and the Mystery of Faith. Too often we think of liturgy as something we do, and therefore we have to make it as expressive as possible of ourselves. Instead, the Mass has an innate sense which can be obscured when it is overlaid with rituals and words of our own. I believe the reason that the Pope has returned the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to the mainstream is that he desires that there grow an organic unity between the two forms of the Mass, in order that there grow one single Roman Rite once again. Not by rescript of men in offices in Rome, but by the organic growth which comes from the prayer of the faithful. This can only come about if there is a study, and a dedication to praying the liturgy. This is why the Pope in this homily is asking us to return to the texts of the Second Vatican Council. We need to reread Sacrosanctum Concilium in order to understand what the Council actually said, and not what we have so long heard that it was meant to say by those who have a rather different understanding of the liturgy.

3. The importance of Sunday Mass. In a way it ought to go without saying, but how many people claim to be 'Catholic' while never darkening the door of a Church on a Sunday. The Sunday Mass is the hallmark of a Catholic. It is what gives us identity. It is where we experience the Incarnation, the Sacrifice of Calvary, the Resurrection and Pentecost. We were reminded during the Congress of the martyrs of the early centuries who said 'We cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist'. For many Catholics today, the Sunday Eucharist is the exception not the rule, the reserve of the old or pious, a high and remote ideal. This needs to change. And we need to be honest and recognise that those who call themselves 'Catholics' and not being part of the assembly of the People of God on Sunday, are actually practical pagans.

4. The Pope wants us to prepare better for receiving Holy Communion. Certainly more regular confession of sin is necessary. Even among those Catholics who continue to go to Mass every Sunday, there are very few who really take the Sacrament of Reconciliation very seriously. Once or twice a year before the major feasts is not even really a minimum if Penance is going to be a real lived part of our Christian lives. Monthly confession should be the rule for all Catholics. Not as a law, but so as to open the floodgates of grace. As the Pope says in the homily, "Sin in fact, especially serious sin, impedes the action of Eucharistic grace within us."

5. The last thing the Pope desires is that we prepare for the next Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012. This should, for us in Britain, be a real focus to be renewed in our living, celebrating and adoring the Eucharist.

There is quite an agenda of work there in such a tremendous short and succinct homily. Let's get to work.

Remains of Aughton

Last week my mother and I called in at the East Yorkshire village of Aughton on the banks of the river Derwent. Here is the site of Aughton Manor, the home of Robert Aske the great Captain of the Pilgrimage of Grace. It was on his return to Aughton from London in 1535 that Robert Aske encountered the armies mustering during the Lincolnshire Rising in response to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. After the failure of this rebellion, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Westmorland rose to challenge Henry VIII over his policy of dissolution, and in this "Pilgrimage of Grace" Robert Aske became Captain of almost 50,000 men.
Today, not one stone of the Aske's former fortified Manor stands. I should be very happy if someone knew of the history of Aughton Manor after Tudor times. The photo above shows the present approach to Aughton church, itself posssibly the original causeway. On the right you can make out part of the original moat, and the bush-clad mound is all that now remains of the original motte.
There is a veiled memorial to the Pilgrimage carved on the church tower. In 1535 the tower fell down and was rebuilt in 1536 by Robert's brother Christopher. The inscription reads: "I, Christopher, should remember this year, 1536".

The view east from the church looks towards the river Derwent and beyond, towards York. All is peaceful now and somewhat remote from the great cause that was entered upon in 1536/37 by Robert Aske. After the failure of the Pilgrimage its leaders were executed by Henry VIII. Robert was the last to be executed; he was hung in in chains York in 1537. Perhaps the Manor was deserted by the rest of the family, perhaps it was sold off or dismantled being regarded as the house of a traitor. Reading about Robert Aske's part in the Pilgrimage of Grace leads me to think that he was a good man fighting for a very difficult cause in a noble way. After all, Thomas Percy, who lead the Northern Rising in 1569 and was executed in York in 1572, is named amongst the Blessed.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Tuesday 24 June 2008

New SJMV website

The Societé Jean-Marie Vianney, the association for Diocesan priests which both Fr Richard and I belong to, has a new website. At the moment only in French (I wonder who'll get the task of translating it into English!), but it's better than what went before. The Seminary of the Society in Ars has ordinations this week, so please pray for those young men who are being ordained priest or deacon there, as well as for those ordained deacon at Oscott College on Saturday last, and those to be ordained priest in the coming weeks.

The Eucharist - Christ in us

Certainly the best of the catecheses in English at last week's International Eucharistic Congress was given by the Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, Bishop of Imus in the Philippines, on the theme of the Eucharist as our connection to the Paschal Mystery. He speaks on the nature of true adoration. Worth watching when you have a spare 50 minutes!

Eucharistic Unity and Ritual Diversity

The 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec is notable for being the first International Congress at which the eastern Catholic Church has been not only represented, but also celebrated the Divine Liturgy. On Wednesday last week, the Byzantine Metropolitan of Winnipeg (yes, there is such a person) concelebrating with other Byzantine rite Catholic bishops, including my friend Bishop George, the Melchite Bishop of Tyre in Lebanon, celebrated the Byzantine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Because of the environment, this look quite different to a celebration of the Divine Liturgy in a church, however, it was good to remember that the Catholic Church is a communion of diverse ancient rites. What this celebration did for the Eucharistic Congress was to remind us that the liturgy is not something we do, and it certainly not entertainment. It is an entry into the mystery of Christ. Through the words and actions of the liturgy we enter profoundly into the mystery of the Trinity (represented by the three branch candlestick which the Bishop carries) and the mystery of Christ (represented by the two branch candlestick, being the two natures of Christ). This is something which the Holy Father reminded us of in the homily at the close of the Congress - more about that later.

Here are a few videos of the celebration. Firstly, the preparation for the Gospel:

Here is the homily by Mgr Lawrence Huculak:

And the cherubic hymn:

A new start in Hammersmith

Vocations Discernment Community for Men.
The purpose is to give young men, aged 20-36, a year (September – July) where they can learn about priesthood and the various forms of religious life, and come to some conclusion about where God may be calling them. It is for men who are aware of God’s calling but are not sure how specifically to respond, or who need some time for personal or academic development.
Pattern of life: During their year in community they can be working full-time in normal jobs or doing voluntary work or in studies. Meals and prayer (morning and evening) will be in common. We will try to have Mass together also. In the evenings there will be talks, prayer and discussion groups. Weekend activities will include retreats (both giving and receiving), trips, and experience of actual religious life.
Social activities will be part of the mix, as will free time.Types of input: We will have members of different religious orders and diocesan priests come and give talks. There will be input and discussion on the various forms of calling. The members will individually spend two or three weekends in religious or diocesan households. We will participate in and collaborate with other vocation-related initiatives.
Personal development: We will encourage pastoral development through having the members run prayer and discussion groups, weekend retreats, and social activities. Some might need to catch up on A-levels or learn about basic Christianity (e.g. Maryvale Catechism course). Others might need help with personal issues. We can supply some psychological counselling. We would encourage spiritual direction. There will be talks and discussion on sexuality, celibacy and other relevant areas. The main intent is that at the end of the year the members will be enabled to move in the direction they have discerned.
Location and start: Hammersmith, London on 28 September.
Cost: £90 per week (negotiable) to cover food, utilities, occasional trips, speakers’ expenses and resources. Depending on circumstances we could partially subsidise the year.
Contact: Fr. Stefan Park OSA. Mobile: 07789 872715

Monday 23 June 2008

A real Eucharistic festival

I'm just back from the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City, Canada. It has been a real festival of Catholic faith in the Eucharist. I can't say it any more simply than that. It was a tremendous week, despite my forebodings, based upon my experience last year. The liturgy was very much shaped by the Holy Father's desire for the reform of the reform. It is the first international Catholic gathering that I have been to where Mass each day included Latin in the Canon and plain chant ordinary (and not just Missa de Angelis either), for example. For an event taking place in such a secular environment, it was quite impressive, and can only have a beneficial effect on the Church in Quebec. I will post more stuff in the next few days about the content of the catecheses, etc. Just for now I'll share a video of the procession of the Blessed Sacrament leaving the opening Mass to be taken to the place of adoration. The monstrance is slightly strange in shape and material (wood was used), but once you get beyond that the experience of being at this tremendous event comes back to me. The applause is for the Eucharist - you can't stop the Latin Americans showing that sort of appreciation for the Eucharistic Lord. And it was infectious.

Sunday 22 June 2008

A great day

This image of the rebel Cardinal, St John Fisher, hangs in the cell in the Bell Tower which he vacated this day, 1535, being executed on Tower Hill at about 9.00am. He was then the only Bishop in the realm to stand up for the truth of the Gospel. What a singular act he undertook - making of himself an outcast in the sight of society and having his head struck off in public view. Although his head was placed on a pole upon London Bridge, the King was so incensed by the witness of this one bishop that he ordered his naked body be left to the public view upon the scaffold throughout the day.
But this was the way in which the Church was called to become visible on that day, and through the life and death of Bishop John Fisher the mission of the Church has been renewed in this island.
We are indebted to St John Fisher for his life and witness; we are full of wonder at the greatness of God's plan for us, and on this feast day we seek to embrace God's plan for the Church in this age. St John Fisher, pray for us.

Saturday 21 June 2008

A matter also for study

Now that the Roman Rite of Mass has two forms side by side it is important, I think, not only that these forms be celebrated but that they be studied.
A classic text which should be central to this is Jungman's The Mass of the Roman Rite. This great book, perhaps more than any other like it, speaks about how the classical liturgy developed and the significance of its elements.
Other necessary texts are Sacramentum Caritatis the recent Apostolic Letter of Benedict XVI which is a magnificent and over-arching presentation of the Liturgy to date, and which seeks to direct organic liturgical development.
Redemptionis Sacramentum is also a necessary document as it defines the reformed Rite of Paul VI, distinguishing clearly its genuine elements from false appropriations.
There are two other essential documents for today's study of the Liturgy: the Council's text Sacrosanctum Concilium which tells us how the Church wishes to embrace the Litugical Movement, and Pius XII's Mediator Dei which originally gave focus to the Liturgical Movement.
These are the texts we should be looking at and discussing today as we endeavour to enter into the Liturgy of the Church in this age. When you've got through this lot, get in touch and I'll give you another reading list!

Quebec Eucharistic Congress

Fr Julian has been taking part in the Congress as the Delegate of our Bishops' Conference and we look forward to him posting about it on his return. In view of this short video we hope he will return safely:

Thursday 19 June 2008

English College annual reunion

On Monday and Tuesday of this week the Valladolid Association held its annual meeting in Bromsgrove. On the Monday evening we had the pleasant company of Ann Widdecombe MP who spoke to us, after dinner, about the role of Christians in Parliament. This shrewd and right-thinking lady was a delight to be with, entertaining us and teaching us much about the political culture of our times.
The following day we celebrated Mass together. The Silver Jubilarians were those who had been deacons when I first came to the College in 1982 - of these five only Alan, Greg and Frank had been able to come to this year's meeting. But it was a real joy to see them again; they had been very influencial in my year group - looking after us with particular care during our first year in the seminary.

As usual we celabrated the Mass of St Alban, patron of the English College, Valladoild, in the beautiful Church of the Sacred Heart in Droitwich.

Monday 16 June 2008

Cooking for 80

Last Thursday, Birmingham University CathSoc held its annual dinner at Newman House and again invited me to cook the meal. The members of CathSoc and the wider chaplaincy are a very fine body of students, and it was a great joy and privilage for me to be involved with their end-of-year dinner for the second time. Making such a meal for so many is indeed a part of the Culture of Life. Fr Julian is to be commended for the tremendous sense of the Church which he has helped to fashion among the students at the University.

We dined on Gazpacho, Roast Salmon with Tarragon Pesto, Fruit Salad with ice cream and rataffia biscuits. Special thanks to David who worked with me in the kitchen throughout the day.

Saturday 14 June 2008

A worthy memorial

Fr Tim Finegan has posted recently on the site of the Tyburn in London near Marble Arch. The memorial, in a traffic island, is very simple and not at all evident to passers by. The traffic island is presently being refashioned and we wait to see how the new site will appear. In York, however, the site of the Tyburn at the side of the Knavesmire has long since had a worthy memorial. It was here that I offered Mass on Pentecost Sunday for good of our country in the face of the HFE Bill.

There are, of course, many other Tyburns throughout the country where the Martyrs were executed, and most are without memorial - Chester, Wrexham, Lancaster, Derby, Norwich and others. Perhaps we should do something about this, including offering Masses on these sites for the overturning of all Laws which are against life.

Pam in Leeds

Apologies for the short blog-gap; this past week has been an apostolic one - doing caetchist training in London, holding a culture of life film night with the Friars in Canning Town, and then cheffing for 80 at the Brum Uni CathSoc annual dinner.
However, during the previous week Pam Stenzel gave the "Sex has a price tag" talk at Trinity and All Saints Colleges" in Leeds. The talk, which was essentially giving the truth about the consequences of sexual intercourse outside marriage - facts which our culture witholds from us, was a real breakthrough into a culture where there is a silent monopolisation by falsehood. This was the first public talk concerning the subject of sex education, in its widest sense, that has taken place in the Leeds Diocese during my lifetime. It was interesting to note that Pam also gave her talk in two High Schools in the city of Leeds during her visit - both of them State schools.
The sixty or so people who came from across the north for her "Trinity and All Saints" talk were very enthused; it is hoped that Pam will return to speak in Catholic High Schools in the Diocese too!
Special thanks to Christine who was at the heart of organising Pam's visit to Leeds.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

A year of Mission and Grace

Young people who are looking for a challenge - I invite you to consider giving nine months of your life to being a part of the St Patrick's Evangelisation School which is based in Soho.
You may be sensing that inner call of the Gospel; you may be thinking that you would like to do something special for God; you may be aware that you need a greater experience of Christ and His way of living.
St patrick's Evangelisation School will enable you to grow in your call to evangelise, to live in community, to grow in your spiritual life, to deepen your understanding of the Mystery of Christ.
The Church in the UK has already benefitted from this School; this may be the moment for you to say "yes" to such a venture:

Monday 2 June 2008

Royal HFE Bill Petition

I would like to draw your attention to a Petition to the Queen asking her to withdraw her assent from the proposed HFE Bill. You can add you signiture by visiting this link:

Sunday 1 June 2008

The workshop

What is it that brings about true progess in human affairs? It is the encounter between the Gospel and culture. I came across an address given by JPII on 15.2.04 where he spoke about this encounter as a "workshop" which bears fruit in "important and lasting values".
In my experience, the place where the encounter between the Gospel and culture first takes place is Adoration. This is the extraordinary workshop becuase it is the place where the New Evangelisation is beginning. We should not underestimate the value of those periods which we spend in Adoration. This is the place where the secular vision begins to be transformed into the great Movement of grace in our age, the New Evangelisation. The more of us who take part in this workshop, the stronger will be this Movement of grace.

One who has been through the persecution ...

... and who can help us to appreciate the meaning of the struggles for Christ which we experience today in western culture.
Josyp Terelya spent 20 years in a Soviet Gulag camp for his faith, during which time he experienced various apparitions of Our Lady the Blessed Mother as well as the Archangel Michael.
You can find a wealth of material about his life on the internet and in Michael Brown's book "The Final Hour".

Keep a close guard ...

"The Beautiful Side of Evil" by Johanna Michaelsen. Are all miracles from God, or is there a beautiful side of evil? The blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. Is God always behind such miracles, or can there be another source?
This is a true account of a young woman who, while in search of spiritual truth, became a personal assistant to a psychic surgeon in Mexico for 14 months. Then, in answer to her prayers, God revealed the true source behind the miraculous healings she witnessed. Lifting the veil of deception, He allowed her to see the evil behind the outward appearance of beauty and holiness. Johanna Michaelsen reveals how this deadly deception is not isolated to her unusual experience but rather is invading our everyday lives.