Thursday 18 November 2010

Blog-gap starting up

It will be some months before I am able to post again; I will be giving a retreat and then spending some time in the UK, and I wont have computer access during this time.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

A crucifix for Rome

The crucifix from the seminary chapel in Sydney is going to Rome; it will have a home in the new Domus Australia which is being established for Australian pilgrims to the Eternal City. We will miss this quite imposing and life-size crucifix from our chapel; the Cardinal is however, commissioning a new crucifix for his seminary.
It was in August of this year that I came on staff at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, the seminary of the Sydney Archdiocese, in order to contribute to the formation of priests in Australia. This is the most unexpected and exciting appointment which I have been given during twenty two years of priesthood. The priesthood is at the very heart of the Church and it has received so much renewal during the past two decades, especially from JPII and B16. What an immense grace and a joy it is to witness today's vocations advancing towards ordination, opening up their lives to the Good Shepherd, to be fashioned in His image. Please pray for us, that we might all become priests after the heart of Christ.

Thursday 11 November 2010

At the centre of it all

The contemporary debate concerning the relationship of the Catholic Church to the State, and the question of the Unity of Christians usually leaves out the basic truth that everyone is related to the Catholic Church anyway. Attempts to place or categorise the Church always fall way short of the mark and leave people in all sorts of weird postures. There is no getting away from the fact that what we call the Catholic Church is something which has been revealed by God and that it is the pillar and ground of truth in the world.
The division within Christianity in the UK is sadly responsible for this state of affairs in no small way. Where once there was unity of faith and practice, there is now a plethura of idea, opinion and posture, leaving a gaping vacuum at the centre - so evocatively expressed by the wide open space at the architectural climax of Canterbury Cathedral where once Becket's shrine stood (photo above).
The lack of unity has lead Christians down so many paths, many of them obscure, indivdualistic and unhelpfull, so that today we have the rationalists, the fundamentals, the neo-arians, the neo-pelagians, the congregationalists and the sectarianists, to name but a few. Where in all this mix of people doing their own thing does the Catholic Church fit? It is a bewildered age and it is not easy to see the essential nature of the Church; that there is such an entity as the Church, which is the pole and centre of gravity for everyone.
Thank goodness for the Martyrs, who pointed to the Church, and who the Church depended on so much in their day. But the Church does exist, and so the question of the Unity of Christians is a real question, one which will not go away. We are called to unity, and there is an authority in the Church which has the power to govern all of us. So, beyond all the opinions and all the clever ideas about the Christian life held by so many, there nonetheless remains the Mystery of the Church, revealed and given by God, an entity which is the foundational agent of the Christian Life for everyone who is baptised, and the herald of that Life to all those who are not. Without the Church no one would be Christian. What is this Church? It is the Catholic Church, and she uniquely has the responsibility and authority, from Christ, for governing and pastoring all the Churches, which means all the Baptised.
And secondly, that there is such a reality as the Mystery of Faith. We didn't invent it, procure it, or even ask for it. It was revealed and given. This Mystery is the Eucharist; the Mystery of Faith cannot be truthfully described by anyone in any other fashion. So those who say that the Eucharist is only symbolic, or simply a ritual, or "it doesn't matter how you celebrate the Eucharist", or even if you need to celebrate it at all, or that there is no Mystery of Faith, or that it has some other meaning; all these Christians (Catholics included) have a long way to go. The Mystery of Faith is the very core of our being - or at least, it is what everyone is called to have at the core of their being. That God has given Himself to us, and we are called to give ourselves to HIm. This is the Mystery of Faith; it is the very heart of human life.
So, as the Anglican Ordinariate comes into being and opinions are expressed, we need to have the authentic vision of the Christian Life before us - that it is a mystery of grace which God has given us. There are indeed many ways to live the life of Christ, but the Mystery of the Church and Mystery of the Eucharist are realities which we cannot change or set aside.
Let us, with homage and gratitude, be open to a fuller vision of these Mysteries which God has given to the world for the salvation of all men and women.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Embracing the Anglican Church

Today's openness of the Catholic Church towards the Anglicans in offering, with the Ordinariate, an extraordinary path by which they can have full communion in the Catholic Church, is an expression of a long-held deep desire to enable the unity of the Church in the UK. At the Canonisation Mass of the Forty Martyrs in 1970, Pope Paul VI, at the end of his homily spoke these words - which in the light of recent events, seem quite prophetic:
May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one - these Martyrs say to us - the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when - God willing - the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England. There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church when the Roman Catholic Church - this humble “Servant of the Servants of God” - is able to embrace her ever beloved Sister in the one authentic communion of the family of Christ: a communion of origin and of faith, a communion of priesthood and of rule, a communion of the Saints in the freedom and love of the Spirit of Jesus. Perhaps We shall have to go on, waiting and watching in prayer, in order to deserve that blessed day. But already We are strengthened in this hope by the heavenly friendship of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who are canonized today.

Monday 8 November 2010

The 'hidden' antiphon

I am pleased to see on Fr Finegan's and Fr Blake's respective Blogs, posts about the Offertory antiphon. In the Mass there are three Antiphons, not two - Entrance, Offertory and Communion. The Offertory Antiphon is at the moment 'hidden', as it does not appear in the Ordinary of the Mass in the Altar Missal. However, its place and nature are described in the GIRM (paras. 37b and 48), and it is included in the Revised Roman Gradual. Without wanting to talk about the importance of this Antiphon, other than to say that it proclaims the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and expresses Christ's intentions as the Offertory of the Mass begins, we should be looking to build the reform of the reform by including the Offertory Antiphon in the Mass. The above mentioned Blog authors are right in calling upon those who are appropriately involved in the Liturgy to produce and insert these antiphon texts and accompanying chant tones.
I understand that the Revised Roman Gradual includes Offertory Antiphons taken from the Tridentine Missal but reorganised for the Novus Ordo. Whereas the new Altar Missal contains Entrance and Communion Antiphons which were newly written for the Missal. Also, I understand that there is an Anglican Gradual book, in Englsih, which also contains the three Antiphons organised for the Novus Ordo.
So, I add my voice those already calling for the Offertory Antiphons to be prepared and made available to be said or sung at the Mass - something which, clearly, we should already be doing.

Thanks to the King

While the Pope dedicated the church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, outside a congress of homosexual men engaged in kissing one another. However, in saying farewell to the Pope before he left Barcelona, the King of Spain Don Juan Carlos expressed, on behalf of many, his thanks to the Holy Father. He said, "in both cities [Santiago and Barcelona] you have blessed us with words of peace and solidarity, of fraternity and spirituality, full of hope for a better world." The gesture of the King was in total contrast to that of those men who so inapproriately expressed their manhood outside the Sagrada Familia church.

The truth about mature manhood is that men are called to take some form of concrete responsibility for the Gospel. Men have the mission to be heralds or bearers of the Gospel. Not all men are called to be priests but the fullness of masculine identity is revealed when men embrace, internalise and express the Gospel. This is true for husbands and fathers, for single men, for working men, for young men who are dating, each in their own way, they become real men when they are advocates of the Gospel. What a great photo (above) of the King of Spain and the Pope, two men each in his own way revealing his responsibility for the Gospel and worthy of the world's gaze. Outside the church, the very opposite of masculine identity was taking place - a refusal to take responsibility, before the world, for the Gospel.

Sunday 7 November 2010

What a magnificent shrine to the Holy Family

The dedication yesterday of the new Basilica in Barcelona (which is a church and not a Cathedral, as is often stated) honours the Holy Family in such a way that all Christian families are honoured by this act of the Church in down-town Barcelona. I visited the church in 1999 and was absolutely amazed by the beauty of its unique architecture. The Holy Father commenting on this yesterday, said that "Gaudí [the architect] desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy. In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God, but at the same time he brought the sacred images outside so as to place before people the mystery of God revealed in the birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this way, he brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ. In this he accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty."
How wonderful it is that the Church is such a clear sign of God in the world, and that the Family should have such a beautiful Shrine in the midst of secular Europe, that "all who enter here and all who in word or deed, in silence and prayer, have made this possible this marvel of architecture. May Our Lady present to her divine Son the joys and tribulations of all who come in the future to this sacred place so that here, as the Church prays when dedicating religious buildings, the poor may find mercy, the oppressed true freedom and all men may take on the dignity of the children of God."

"My fellow bishops ... "

I recommend an article on the web by Scott Hahn, "The Paternal Order of Priests", inspired by the comment St Augustine once famously made to fathers in his congregation, in which called them his 'fellow bishops'. Scott Hahn develops the analogy in terms of the charism of fatherhood in priests. An important article for both husbands and priests.

Saturday 6 November 2010

A Church condemned to death

I have just finished reading Fr Peter Joseph's new edition of the "Simpson" biography of St Edmund Campion; and how much I have learned about Campion that I never knew! What a great English saint he is; how grateful to God we should be that when England was overtaken with such frenzy against the Church, there should be so many of our countrymen willing to stand with Christ for Truth. It was no passing thing that caused me to ask for Edmund Campion's name to be added to the Litany of Saints at my Ordination to the priesthood.
What I write now is not by way of a book review, but rather thoughts that were stirred in me by reading this magnificent book.
I have long thought that the fact of the English State going into schism in the sixteenth century has never been so well understood by anyone as by English Catholics themselves who lived through the Penal Days. The English Reformation is quite different to that which occured in other European States at that time. In England, it was not a question of a religious divide - such as happened in many countries - but of a citizenry who were first blugeoned and cajeoled into conforming to a new religion, and then bound, compromising the faith of an entire people. Against this culture, it became clear who those were who wished to remain Catholic, and then what steps the English State needed to take in order to persecute the Catholic Church out of existence. Whether or not 'seminary priests' who had trained abroad came back to England is of little import, the English Government was determined to totally eradicate the Church. Even so, the extensive activity of these priests witnesses to the huge numbers of ordianry English folk who wished to remain Catholic, inspite of the prejudical circumstances. Nowhere else in Europe was the Catholic Church condemned to death during the Reformation. No where else was a new religion forced upon people, not by Religious leaders, but by the State. I think that this singular state of affairs is not well understood today by many.
The new Campion biography describes the widespead incarceration of Catholics in the 1570s and 1580s by the State in specially chosen castles, notably York and Wisbech (the photo above is of the recently excavated undercroft of the site of Wisbech Castle in the Fens). Here Catholics were herded unconditionally behind bars and left to rot in hideous conditions. There is no avoiding a comparison here with the German Concentration Camps of the 1940s. Indeed, Elizabethan England was in the hands of a clique of nasty totalitarian thugs. The new biography includes many documents from the era including a letter from Fr William Allen to an Italian Cardinal, in which he says: "It is made clear to all that the question and struggle now are not about religion - of which our enemies have none - but about the stability of the empire, and about worldly prosperity." (p249) What took place in the English Reformation was first and foremost the sudden rise of old-fashioned paganism, which demanded the death of the Church, and secondly the fabrication of a new State religion, in which context the State manipulated religious controversy. In the midst of this, the ordinary citizens of England had to get on with their normal lives; only now, the very heart of life had been scoured out. Full participation in the Mystery of Christ was no longer available; life had been changed. Apart from the fact that today the Catholic Church is allowed to be present in England, for the rest, the change which the 'Elizabethan Settlement' exacted is normal life.
Today, Christian Unity, the union of the Anglican Communion with the Church, is symbolic of the call to a much deeper reconciliation. The extraordinary witness of St Edmund Campion and the other martyrs is a sign of the profound reconciliation to Christ himself which England is called to. In other words, the Catholic Church does not look for an apology for the way Catholics were treated in the sixteenth century, nor does the Catholic Church seek to be embraced by today's English Establishment. No, the very culture of England today shows us all what is needed - the whole country needs to be reconciled to Christ and to know His embrace.
Having said this, the visit and message of the Holy Father to the UK last month, not only contrasts with England's history, but makes clear her true goal - full participation in the Mystery of Christ.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

The Chanel Chapel

Thanks to Martin Cooke for this photo of the tiny cemetery chapel when it stood in the grounds of the of the Marist College (now Campion College), and before it was moved to Hunters Hill. The photo was taken in 1977, I understand. The large tree in the foreground is still there, as are some of the smaller ones behind the chapel.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

New South Yorkshire

Why not rename the first State in Australia? It's getting to look more like Yorkshire every day. I was down at Darling Harbour recently and espied the replica of Cook's ship Endeavour which sailed from Whitby in Yorkshire to Sydney in 2002. Well here she is, down under, battling the elements which she knew so well on the Yorkshire coast.

Monday 1 November 2010

Warm rain

The seemingly a-typical spring rains are making Sydney appeare so English. No more those monsoon-like downpours, but rather day-long drizzle falling out of lowering grey skies. I'm sure that the land and its farmers will be appreciating the rising water table. And, of course, the streets are so much nicer after a good washing. Even so, the sun, when it does come out, has real power; Sydney in the sun is a glorious sight.

A few weeks ago I managed to find, on a little reconoitering of Hunter's Hill, the tiny cemetery chapel which used to stand in the grounds of Campion College. It was in this chapel that the body of St Peter Chanel was briefly held in 1977 on its journey from the Island of Fortuna to Rome after his martyrdom in 1841. The chapel was dismantled a few decades ago and reassembled in the grounds of the Marist Fathers in Hunter's Hill.

Sunday 31 October 2010

Unique for a reason

The Bishops of the United States have produced a new website to defend and promote marriage. You can find the link here.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Virtue today, part 3.

How extraordinary must the virtue of faith seem in our secular age; that of all possibilities, it is this virtue which has the capacity of establishing human beings in reality, and how great that reality is discovered to be - the love of the Living God. Today, the virtue of faith appears like a flower in a desert. The welcoming and the integration of this gift into life takes place in the person through an authetic experience of freedom: freedom in the face of all that life offers, and above all, freedom of will in being able to make decisions on the basis of Light - the light of Christ - and to give oneself for the building up of God's Kingdom.
Faith then, is not about self-improvement, it is about the exercise of all the virtues, that the whole person might be perfected by grace. Do we want to live the virtues? Then we must look beyond the secular vision which we have unleashed upon ourselves to He who comes to us, the Christ of God.
This call has a particular urgency for the Church, for in his new Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper, the Holy Father quotes JPII's Christifideles Laici: "Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is first to remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations."
Yes, the world needs to convert, but it needs us to convert first so that we can be the instruments of grace that God is looking for. Will we be the first today to listen to the words of the Messiah and to take them as the basis of life?

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Virtue today, part 2.

That which virtue seeks is truth; truth that you can reach out for and take into your life. It is by virtue that human beings are moulded as persons; it is virtue that makes us more genuinely human.

Now, for those who are not content with the secular vision and who are motivated to look beyond its confines, the human virtues are already quietly in play. Thuse of us who are doing this have simply not accepted the secular dynamic, which says that we are all emerging from an era of repression into an era in which we wil all be able to live life to the full, but instead have simply discerned that the secular vision is insufficient.

For Christians, virtue has another, greater, power - virtue is the way that they seek conformity with Christ. For them, the Kingdom of God is their explicit goal, and a more 'human' humanity means a grace-filled humanity, one that is enriched by grace-filled virtues.

The starting point for Christians is not that there is something lacking in the culture which they must seek to put right, but rather that there is something lacking inside them and that it is they who must change. Even so, self-motivation will take a person only so far, and thus Christians seek to open themselves to the gift of grace which is a greater calling still. It is by welcoming the truth of grace, by applying it in their lives, and by struggling with challenges to faith, that they live by a new dynamic. Hearing the invitation to Eternal life, being received into the companionship of Jesus Christ and deciding to live in His light, is the route to a totally different life, a life which engages all the virtues.
And so the Holy Father in Ubicumque et Semper declares that the Church "has never tired of making known to the whole world the beauty of the Gospel as she preaches Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the same 'yesterday, today and forever', who by His death and Resurrection, brought us salvation and fulfilled the promise made of old. Hence the mission of evangelisation, a continuation of the work desired by the Lord Jesus, is necessary for the Church: it cannot be overlooked; it is an expression of her very nature."
How imporatnt then, is the clear proclamation of the Gospel in today's anodine climate, in enabling a humanity worthy of the name, a humanity that finds its full flourishing in Jesus Christ.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Where is virtue today?

Today's culture of moral relativism and scientific determinism does not lead us to engage the virtues. In such a context, one either sees a wonderful opportunity to live the virtues, especially the theological virtues and be a light in the darkness, or one can't see virtue. But we are living (in the West) in a culture which sees itself as emerging from a hierarchic, oppresive and impoverished past, into an era of economic and social freedom, free from the moral structures of the past and its traditional values. Our culture sees itself as a victim of the past, at last recovering its true life through new-found freedoms. For a few, there are designer lives or training schemes based on notions of success, wealth and beauty. And for these newly conceieved life-styles one needs character traits, not virtues, traits such as efficiency, self-confidence and credibility. For the rest of us, these same goals are presented in a virtual way by the mass media. Where in such a vision of life does virtue belong?

The Holy Father in his Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper declares that today we have seen a loss of "a common understanding of basic human experiences: ie, birth, death, life in a family, and reference to a natural moral law. Even though some consider these things a kind of liberation, there soon follows an awareness that an interior desert results whenever the human being, wishing to be the sole archtect of his nature and destiny, finds himself deprived of that which is the very foundation of all things."

Prophectic words indeed. Yet the secular vision of a humanity transformed through new opportunities, at last within our reach, has captured the gaze of the world. And even the concurrent realities of disillusionment, failure, depression and loneliness, do not moderate the sheer power of this secular dynamic. In such a culture, Christiuans and others whose seeking has not been overwhelmed by contemporary culture, tend to live their lives cautiously, not wanting to appear naive about the truth of human nature. In such a context as this, the New Evangelisation is being engendered - in this culture, at once so full of overweening attitudes of self-affirmation and yet empty of, or insufficiently possessing of meaning, and which leaves others defeated or resigned to passivity, where do we begin to locate virtue?

I pose the question here and will return to this theme in the next post.

The new Motu Proprio

I can't say how glad this makes me; the Holy Father's Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper in which he establishes the Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evanglisation - a small thing perhaps, but like Martin who cut his cloak into two pieces in order to share it with a beggar, there were huge consequences. You can read the whole Motu Proprio here. In it the Holy Father declares:

"Making my own the concerns of my venerable Predecessors, I consider it opportune to offer appropriate responses so that the entire Church, allowing herself to be regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, may present herself to the contemporary world with a missionary impulse in order to promote the new evangelization. Above all, this pertains to Churches of ancient origin, which live in different situations and have different needs, and therefore require different types of motivation for evangelization: in certain territories, in fact, despite the spread of secularization, Christian practice still thrives and shows itself deeply rooted in the soul of entire populations; in other regions, however, there is a clearly a distancing of society from the faith in every respect, together with a weaker ecclesial fabric, even if not without elements of liveliness that the Spirit never fails to awaken; we also sadly know of some areas that have almost completely abandoned the Christian religion, where the light of the faith is entrusted to the witness of small communities: these lands, which need a renewed first proclamation of the Gospel, seem particularly resistant to many aspects of the Christian message.
This variety of situations demands careful discernment; to speak of a “new evangelization” does not in fact mean that a single formula should be developed that would hold the same for all circumstances. And yet it is not difficult to see that what all the Churches living in traditionally Christian territories need is a renewed missionary impulse, an expression of a new, generous openness to the gift of grace. Indeed we cannot forget that the first task will always be to make ourselves docile to the freely given action of the Spirit of the Risen One who accompanies all who are heralds of the Gospel and opens the hearts of those who listen. To proclaim fruitfully the Word of the Gospel one is first asked to have a profound experience of God."

How can we not harken to such a call!

Wednesday 20 October 2010

A new presence in the Church

During the two and a half years that I have been in Sydney, Bishop Porteous, one of the auxiliary bishops, has published three books; quite an undertaking. His latest book published recently, called "New wine and fresh skins", is a presentation of the new communities and ecclesial movements which have appeared in the Church largely since the late 1960s. The presence in the Church of the new movements is something which most of us do not really understand, precisely because they break the mould of convention and do not readily submit themselves to categorisation. Nonetheless, there is something providential about their appearence in the Church, and successive Popes from Paul VI have reached out to embrace and guide their growth.
Bishop Porteous' book is like a snap-shot of the Church today, making explicit the experience of the Christian life which many baptised people presently rejoice in.
I hope that this book, the only one of its kind that I am aware of, will be read widely, because it is such a thorough presentation of the contemporary phenomenon of the new movements, many of which are becoming very robust expressions of Catholic faith and life, life-giving to many.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Holiness for Australia

Holiness is Australia's first call and greatest challenge. Today Mary of the Cross is proclaimed a Saint of the Universal Church; she who made the Gospel visible in Australia is Australia's first saint. Her name tells us much - St Mary of the Cross exchanging "MacKillop" for "the Cross" - has claimed Australia for Christ. Who could have expected that this humble, but very real woman, would in this very secular age stand at the very forefront of Australian civilisation and reveal its true calling. Australia will not be the same from this day; the character of holiness is subject to no earthly forum. The Church, for all ages, will now give thanks to God for having raised up such a noble woman, such a beautiful saint in this Southern Land.
Some weeks ago the seminary community made a pilgrimage to her tomb in the Josephite church in North Sydney. The very dignified tomb of St Mary MacKillop has been drawing huge numbers of pilgrims, both the baptised and the non-baptised. Indeed, St Mary of the Cross is the pioneer of the movement of holiness in Australia, and she is already the friend of a multitude.

Last week the Catholic University of Notre Dame in Sydney held a day of Festival in her honour. The photo below was taken in the University courtyard just before the afternoon Mass. How wonderful that a whole generation of students are having their young lives impacted by the joy, sensibility and holiness of the grace of Australia's saint - this will have a greater effect on the life of this country than whole empire of modern secularism in all its pathetic emptiness.

Friday 15 October 2010

Hot off the press

How small the world is: a mile from the seminary in Sydney is the parish of St Dominic, where its Parish Priest, Fr Peter Joseph, has spent the last few years working on a new and enlarged edition of Richard Simpson's 1867 biography of St Edmund Campion. What an extraordinary work this 650 page volume is; Cardinal Pell in his forward to the book says that his prayer is "that this biography of St Edmund may help Catholics to appreciate the grit and heroism of our Saints, and inspire and challenge other Christians to understand more fully the reasons for the turmoil that led to their separation from the Catholic Church."

And how important it is, especially for Catholics in Britain, that they might be lead to rediscover their roots, and be better motivated and guided to live the Christian life in today's context and be channels of grace to others. St Edmund Campion is a leading figure and saint of the English Reformation; he was a real Christian leader in England in his day. Through his priestly life and preaching, through his witness under trial, and by his martyrs death, numerous conversions occured. How did this happen? Because he allowed the light of Christ to shine even in the most difficult and complex of circumstances.

I look forward to getting into this new biography. Thank you, Fr Peter, for renewing the legacy of this great saint in our day.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

A new statue of the great martyr

On entering the grounds of Campion College in Sydney, the visitor is now welcomed by two statues; to the left, the older statue of St Peter Chanel whose mortal remains were once held on the site, and to the right, a newly made statue of St Edmund Campion. This striking image of the saint now holds a worthy position in the College grounds.
What a great model he is for us today, and especially for the people of Great Britain. Campion stands out precisely because he did not simply follow the prevailing culture of his day, but rather, from the midst of a so much change and confusion, he looked to build his life upon the genuine foundation of Christ, even at great cost to himself. He sought a formation that would really build him as a Christian man, a man who was surrendered to God. And this seeking lead him to become a priest, and ultimately to give his whole life in service of the Gospel, even at great cost to himself. Ultimately he gave his life in service to Christ.
What great inspiration he offers us today, pointing us to Christ who live in today's context of change and confusion, to seek our true greatness in Christ. He shows that we can step beyond today's bewildered culture to take hold of the life of grace. How timely and how valuable are his story and his witness for us today, especially in England, that many may aspire to and embrace a genuine vision for buidling up the Christian life there, where once Christ was so loved and welcomed.

Monday 11 October 2010

A recurring theme

Hardly a week goes by when the Holy Father does not speak about friendship with Christ. In his General Audience on 6th October he said that the "school of Christian life, of the straight path, which shows us that the center of a happy life, of a true life, is friendship with Jesus the Lord."
This friendship, the Holy Father said, "is learned in love for sacred Scripture, in love for the liturgy, in profound faith, in love for Mary, so that one will increasingly really know God himself and thus true happiness, the goal of our life."

Thursday 7 October 2010

The Friars new mission in the Sudan

Fr Sylvester CFR who I worked with in Yorkshire has just been appointed to the new Friary in the Sudan where Fr Herald Brock has already begun their mission. Fr Herald was the very first friar of the Renewal who I met. He and I joined forces with the Youth 2000 group for Paris World Youth Day in 1997. You can follow their mission on a new Blog: I am glad that these friars have been able to establish this Blog because they really are at the 'cutting edge' and it is good for us to have some idea about where the mission is in today's world.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

A silent terror

Yes, the Salt Water Crocodile at large! The day after visiting the Reef, John and myself hired a self-drive boat for a few hours and, crossing the estuary from Cairns - some 200 mtrs - we encountered our very first wild croc.
It was lying still and silent waiting for some unsuspecting visitor to come within range. It was about 7 ft in length. Shortly after we spotted another one amongst the mangroves. Then suddenly, our engine packed up and we were drifting back towards our first croc! Fortunately, help was only a mobile phone call away and we were soon on our way again, eventually sighting a third croc further up the Trinity Inlet. We thoroughly enjoyed these our first sightings ever of this deadly predator. On average there is one fatal attack each year in Australia. Trinity Inlet then remained quiet and undisturbing for its two passing visitors in a light craft.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Plunging into the Coral Sea

Of all the things that one can see and do in Australia, the one experience that so many Australians have said is top of the list is seeing the Great Barrier Reef. So, with a few days break from work I set off with John Pridmore, who is currently on a speaking tour in Australia, to the tropical north of Queensland in search of the Great Barrier Reef. We flew to Cairns and caught our first sight, from the plane, of parts of the Reef; turquoise and coral patterns glistening in the azure blue sea. We had three day trip and, on the first day, we booked on a catamaran to go out the next morning to the Reef. We left at 8.00am and had a journey of one and a half hours to the first location where we stopped to explore. It was at a part of the reef which is called Flynn Reef. The photo below shows some of our company preparing to snorkel.
A part of the reef if visible in the photo, just below the surface and reflecting back the light of the sun. Onboard I was loaned some prescription goggles and a snorkel. We entered the sea, which was an immensely pleasant 27C and set off to explore. Well, even now I find it hard to describe the experience or to describe what I saw. What I saw under the ocean's surface was beyond all expectations, and I found myself thanking God for the wonder which He had brought us to. We snorkelled for about an hour and a half before coming back onboard for lunch. The boat at this time took us to another location - Tetford Reef, where again we doned our snorkels and explored for an hour. There were sharks, three of them, maybe two metres in legth and maybe twelve meters away; we had been told not to worry about them so we didn't. I have been swimming with sharks! The second photo, below, I didn't take. Eventually we set of back to Cairns arriving about 4.30pm.
I first heard about the Reef way back in the early 70s on 'Blue Peter', but I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would visit it. The Reef is so beautiful that it is hard to take it in. And to be snorkelling in and around the various coral formations, with fish of all kinds going about their business, is a sheer wonder. I have to say that this visit to the Barrier Reef and seeing it in the way that we did, is the most wonderful experience that I have had. If I have the opportunity, I would certainly return.

Thursday 23 September 2010

A new dialogue

Who among us expected that heart would speak to heart in the way which we have just witnessed. The Holy Father has spoken to Britain and Britain has engaged in a new dialogue. The Holy Father's encounters with the British people at large, with representatives of the State as well as with its Head of State, with the leaders of many Christian communities, with representatives of many religions, and with the Church in Britain; an encounter which, at each step, was thrown into relief by the mass media - yes, the Pope has spoken to Great Britain. Perhaps not since the time of Gregory the Great has such a thing taken place! And this dialogue has been illumined in the most providential way by the Beatification of Cardinal Newman. The Cardinal now stands as a grace-filled advocate for a New Evangelisation of Britain, and everyone who has been a part of the dialogue which the Holy Father has initiated is now placed to be a part of that Spirit-led movement which we call the New Evangelisation.

No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the futue of our society. ... But each of us in accordance with his or her state in life, is called to work for the advancement of God's Kingdom by imbuing temporal life with the values of the Gospel. (Holy Father's address at the Vigil in Hyde Park.)
Yes, the Holy Father has spoken to Britain (the very place that proclaims the value of dialogue), initiating a new dialogue of faith and reason, and Britain has already begun to respond. A New Evangelisation is underway at last - and who among us could have imagined it. Only God could do this, and the Holy Father has been His intrument of grace. I can hardly believe what I have witnessed!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

A new springtime of grace

The Holy Father's visit was a grace beyond all expectations; and how long this nation has waited for such a great grace. Perhaps the anti-Papal frenzy of the media helped to set the Visit in relief, or perhaps it was a deep and ancient longing of the British people, somewhat hidden, but suddenly released by the presence of the Holy Father. One thing was certain: the immense and spontaneous joy on the faces and in the hearts of a multitude, from Her Majesty to the casual tourist, caught up in this grace-filled encounter. I remember so well, a joy and an excitement that was hard to contain when John Paul II visited the UK in 1982; I was then twenty one.
Frankly, I am overwhelmed by the nature and content of this State Visit. I imagine that that is also the case for many back home in the UK. It will take me some time to re-visit the tremendous website and to contemplate the Holy Father's discourses on video. As for the Church in the UK, and for its society as a whole, I can only state the obvious; that nothing will be the same from now on. Even the 'neo-pelagian congress of Twickenham' was not unaffected by the presence and message of the Holy Father.
Before beginning to digest the the huge number of wide-ranging addresses of the Holy Father, I have to say that one address really stands out for me - the address in Westminster Hall. Again, it is hard to begin to appreciate the meaning of this event - the Holy Father, in the heart of the capital, speaking to the British establishment. And not only that, but he places before the citizenry of the UK the person of St Thomas More as a model of Britishness! And he invites us all to ponder the values of his witness to faith and reason, his witness to Christ; timeless values that anyone in any age can espouse to the betterment of the common good. How wonderful that this great Martyr of the English Reformation should be taken out from the devotional niche which has become his present-day place of honour, and has been placed again right of the heart of the public forum as a genuine point of reference for all the people of the UK.
I will, in due course, post again on the Visit, and I offer my own thanks to God for the extraordinary channel of grace that we have been given in the person of Benedict XVI. Thank you, Holy Father, for coming to the UK.

Friday 17 September 2010

Ode to the United Kingdom

This, could I paint my inward sight, this were Our Lady of the Night; she bears on her forehead's lunacy the starlight of her purity: For as the white rays of that star the union of all colours are, she sums all virtues that may be in her sweet light of purity. The mantle which she holds on high is the great mantle of the sky. Think, O sick toiler, when the night comes on thee, sad and infinite. Think, sometimes 'tis our own Lady spreads her blue mantle over thee, and folds the earth, a wearied thing, beneath its gentle shadowing; then rest a little; and in sleep forget to weep, forget to weep!
(Our Lady of the Night by Francis Thompson)
No, weep not, for "the Kingdom of God is very near to you." With these words, Benedict XVI began his homily in Glasgow!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

The two civilisations

It was in his Letter to Families that John Paul II contrasted the two civilisations which live side by side in the world today. The expression the "civilisation of love", he said, comes from the Second Vatican Council; that "Christ fully reveals man to himself and makes known his sublime calling." The Church is the herald and the promoter of this civilisation, and the family lies at its heart.

Another civilisation exists today, one which is linked to scientific and technological progress. It is agnostic in theory and utilitarian in practice. It is a civilisation of production, use and things, not of persons. In this civilisation, persons are objects for other persons, children and parents are a hindrance to each other. In this civilisation, the loss of truth about one's own self and about the family, leads to a loss of freedom, which leads to a loss of love.
The civilisation of use and things is embraced with particular vigour within the UK; excluding God and seeking success in whatever it decides to achieve. As Benedict XVI prepares to visit this island, I think of the visit of Gandalf to the Hall of Theoden in The Lord of the Rings; in the story Gandalf frees Theoden from the spell. May England be free to embrace the message of God's love which he brings, may England be free to embrace the Gospel.

Monday 13 September 2010

Protecting the human embryo in Ireland

Thanks to Fr Sylvester CFR for this video. I first met Fr Sylvester at WYD 2002 in Toronto; subsequently he came to the Friary in Bradford where we did quite a bit of evangelisation together. He and the other friars are real trojans for the Gospel of Life.

Friday 10 September 2010

A very reduced vision

Why is that there should be such anger shown towards the Holy Father from England? Leaving aside the question of whether this is a Media campaign or a widely held attitude from the people of the country, or both; the intensity of the invective against the Pope is quite surprising. Why?
I have been pondering this question from the other side of the globe as I have read some of the views which the Media has been disseminating. Now, I recall that John Paul II in speaking about contemporary secularism, once said that it arose from, what he called, a rationalist prejudice against the supernatural. In other words, rationalism has taken hold of so many people in this age, that they cannot admit even an enquiring mind, a mind that seeks to know, to love, to contemplate, to adore. In such a climate as this, the vision of what life is, is immensly reduced; rationalism and atheistic secularism have so reduced, clipped, trimmed, dulled and oppressed the soul of England, that it now lives in fear of its tiny world being shown up for what it is, and blown open by a greater vision of what human life is about. Today's anger springs from this fear.
What do I mean by the tiny vision of life which England has created for itself? Well, we see this in its extreme use of abortion and contraception, in its excessive focus on shopping culture, in the uncritical embracing of the media and media culture, in the un-thought-out rejection of the Christian life in favour of harsh and violent life-styles and moralities, and in its self-imposed individualism and culture of loneliness. How can human beings live in this culture? No wonder there is terrible anger and fear, now that a herald of the Kingdom of God is approaching.
What a tremendous grace then, the Holy Father's visit is; that in such an era of closedness and darkness, a light should shine. England's fear and anger arises, not from the Holy Father, but from its own inadequacy, its own self-imposed darkness. This is in no way a bad starting point - it's the real story of the human race - and this is why Christ came to us. The gentle herald of the Gospel who approaches will help England as best he can, to see a much greater horizon. England, step out from the darkness, see, hear, breathe and flourish!

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Truth proclaimed

John Paul II, embracing the vision of the Council, taught the world how Christ saves man by enabling him to comprehend his true dignity and to live according to that dignity. This is what lies at the heart of all his teaching.

His first Encyclical Letter in 1979, Redemptor Hominis, was a proclamation of this vision. He taught that the central truth of man's life is the Redemption. In the Redemption God shares His life with man, and man is revealed for who he truly is.

The Church is the herald of this truth, and humanity, wherever it is found, and in whatever condition it is in, this same humanity is the place where the Church is called to go as a herald of the Gospel.

The New Evangelisation then, consists in embracing man's hopes and his anxieties and showing that they find their full response in Jesus Christ. Today's Christians are called to a 'Kingly' mission: service to Christ who uniquely reveals the full truth about man, and service to humanity which, although wounded by sin, is called to receive the healing love of God.

This in a nutshell is the message of grace of John Paul II in the midst of a world bewildered by secularism. Yet, alongside, there is a new generation which has received this message and welcomed it; the fruits are already beginning to ripen.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Receiving the gift

Whatever happened to the Rogation and Ember Days? They were simply left aside by the Liturgical reform and still wait to be included into the celebration of the Christian life. This is the case in the UK, and in consequence, how impoverished and lacking in appreciation is our culture. In Australia however, one Ember Day is kept at the start of Spring and another at the start of Autumn.
Most of the world has seen a radical change in terms of life and progress. The preparation of the land and the sowing of crops, consigning ourselves to God's Providence, then the gathering in of the harvest and giving thanks to God for His munificence; these are now feint images from the past. Today, through the rise in prosperity for many nations and the acquisition of goods and utensils never before imagined, we are replete with material things of all kinds. But with our materialism has come an almost total lack of responsiveness to God; we neither depend upon Him, nor return to thank him.
All the good things we have today; not just food and drink, but our mobile 'phones, our broadband, our 'on suite' showers, our four-liter four-wheel drives and our airports of convenenience - these things are given to us, not for us to lose ourselves in, but in order to develop and perfect our humanity and that of our neighbour. We are all bound to the earth; the Church is bound to the earth, but this bond needs to be purified. It is purified and perfected precisely by not allowing ourselves to get lost in things, but to offer all the bounty of the earth to God.
How important were the Rogation and Ember Days, and how important in our material and profligate age that we reform our lives upon the basis of the gifts which the Creator bestows upon us, appreciating anew our part in preparing creation for its ultimate transformation. And by preparing ourselves for our ultimate transformation.
The old Liturgies of the Rogation and Ember Days can be found in the Liber Usualis. We need a renewed Liturgy for these today together with the development of a genuine human culture, recognising the Creator and the true meaning of His gifts to us. He gives us material and spiritual riches that we might become perfect in our humanity.

Friday 3 September 2010

An icon of the realm

Congratulations to Edmund Adamus, Pastoral Director of the Westminster Archdiocese, for a very representative evaluation of many aspects of England today, as it awaits the visit of the Holy Father. His important discourse has been made available by Zenit; you can find it here. In the interview, he comments on the mosaic which stands above the entrance to the Cathedral; an image coming from the realm of faith, which expresses, symbolically, much of the truth about England which has been occluded in modern times.

Thanks also to Zenit for publishing this interview.

Thursday 2 September 2010

What's up with men?

Jonathon Doyle has just launched a new blog which focusses on the essentials about men and masculinity; their identity and their mission. Jonathon is a leading agent in this field having already coverered much ground with his . He and his wife, Karen, are very well known in Oz through their seminars and publications.

Sunday 29 August 2010

A radical work in progress

During the past fortnight I gave a series of two talks to a group in Sydney on the legacy of Pope John Paul II. The first talk was an overview of his pontificate, and the second an overview of his thirteen Encyclicals. While preparing for the talks I was moved by the sense that, at the time that John Paul II had been giving the most extraordinary message of life and salvation to a bewildered world, I at that time was not amongst those who were hearing this message, but remember all sorts of very poltry considerations which I had been concerned with during many of those years.

The group I was addressing in Sydney these past two weeks numbered about sixty people and many of them confessed to me afterwards that they too had never really heard John Paul II's teaching - a teaching which was delivered in the most public, clear and straightforward way, across the globe, during a Pontificate which lasted twenty six years.

Now, there will be many reasons why Catholics have not yet heard the message that John Paul II gave us, some admissible, others very concerning. However, it is also the case that the world, in large part, either has not heard his message, or hearing it, did not heed it. States, nations, societies and cultures, are caught up today in the spell of secularism.

Our cultures today have emerged from that short era of rebuilding which engaged most of the world after the unimaginable devastation of two world wars. During, and immediately after, the second war, there was a hope that the West would have been rebuilt upon the foundation of the Gospel. But, as we are all now aware, once the 1950s was underway the movement of secularism was embraced with great eagerness. That movement is now in such full speight that the clarity and illumination of John Paul II's teaching, which makes available such a transforming power for individuals, communities, nations and the whole planet, appears now like a tiny glowing ember on an ice-flow.

Well, now is not the time to 'drop the ball'. It may be the case that the mass media is in the hands of a tiny but dangerous minority who skillfully direct, from hidden boardrooms, the various currents of secularism; that politicians, many of whom are self-styled atheists, find themselves on the front faces of unstable glaciers; that Market forces, having been unleashed, are now unworthy mentors, but the day is young. Yes, it may also be the case that many have never picked up this ball, but the legacy of John Paul II is very much with us. So, we should pick it up, run with it and hand it on. If you have never enquired into his teaching, then enquire. If you have heard or read some of it, read it again. Open it up, break into it, break it down and make it more and more accesible. Apply it. Teach it. Witness to it. John Paul II was immensely powerful in life; his power is greater now. Turn to him, enquire of him and ask for his intercession:
O holy Trinity, we thank you for having given to the Church Pope John Paul II, and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness, the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love. He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has show himself in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has pointed out to us holiness as the path to reach eternal communion with you. Grant us, through his intercession, according to your will, the grace that we implore, in the hope that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

The road to Walsingham

The twelfth Youth 2000 International Prayer Festival at Walsingham, a four-day evangelisation event, under canvas, will begin this evening at Walsingham. The ancient Shrine of Our Lady, England's Nazareth, in Norfolk, is the venue for this annual event. It is presently the largest Catholic youth event in the UK bringing together over a thousand young people from all over the British Isles. The focus of the entire event is Christ's Eucharistic presence. If I weren't in the Antipodes I would be there. The above photo was taken at the event in 2005 showing the great body of priests who regularly take part in the festival. (Both the deacons in this photo are now priests.) May God bless this year's festival and cause a new flourishing of the Christian life in many.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Discovering the Council as the vision for the New Evangelisation

The two great documents of the Council are Lumen Gentium, which addresses the question, what is the Church?, and Gaudium et Spes, which addresses the question, who is man? In Lumen Gentium, it is the Mission of the Redeemer which is extended through history - to announce Eternal Life to the whole world. In Gaudium et Spes, the way in which the Church can address humanity is presented. It is not that the Church has the answer to all problems, but that the Church knows where truth can be found. The Council offers to the world the wisdom about man revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
What is the world's view of the Church? First, the world believes that there is only an accidental collaboration between itself and the Church becuase the two have different goals. For the world, human work has no transcendental value and one's relationship with God takes place only in a private 'religious' ambit. Secondly, the world regards human development as the 'coming of the kingdom', and thinks that the Church should (keep quiet, or) put all its efforts into constructing the 'kingdom of man' on earth. The Church however, sees herself right at the heart of the world, but holds a radically different attitude. For the Church, all human actions will be fulfilled in Heaven, and the Kingdom of God is transcendent in history.
How does the Church see human development? By the acquisition of a way of living which is proper to man, in both temporal and spiritual dimensions. Human development does not happen automatically, but by the way in which we contribute to the betterment of this way of living. Not all development can be called good, but must be judged according to the truth about man.

Monday 23 August 2010

The great movement in the world today

The Church today senses that the Gospel has not reached modern humanity and the new structures of modern society. The Faith seems to have lost its vigour and what is needed is a new systhesis of faith and culture. The Gospel needs to enter into dialogue with culture in order to evangelise it. This is what the Second Vatican Council speaks of, laying out the broad brush strokes for the New Evangelisation.
The Council taught that dialogue between faith and culture takes place first of all in the hearts and minds of Christians, who are citizens of both the spiritual and temporal cities. But, this dialogue does not happen when Christians either do not understand the culture or do not have a sufficiently formed Christian faith. The problem today is that Western culture has been de-Christianised so much that Christians are not sufficiently evangelised themselves to be able to engage in real dialogue and to form a culture which is inspired by the Faith.
Nevertheless, the Mission of the Church is to all people, forming a communion which is a reflection of the perfect society that will exist in Heaven. The Redemption restores man's unity with God and therefore so too, the communion of the human race. Thus, catholicism declares that there is nothing in the world which is set outside the saving Mission of the Church.

Thursday 19 August 2010

An unexpected party

In 1989, the year after I was ordained, I received an invitation from the Lord Chamberlain at Buckingham Palace to attend her Majesty's Garden Party that July. For the occasion I borrowed a top hat and frock coat. The photo above was taken in the evening of that day in Feltham; sadly it is not a good photo, but it is the only photo that I have dressed in the said garb. It's not often you see a Catholic priest dressed like that, but I do have photos of my uncle who was a Jesuit walking on procession through the streets of Manchester and Preston in the 1950s wearing top hat and morning coat.

As for the Garden Party, it was tremendous; the Queen and Lady Diana were there. At one point I was quite close to the Queen, she looked my way and smiled. I doft my hat and bowed to her. She is exsquisite.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

16th July 1988

As soon as I was given a date for ordination to the Priesthood, I realised that the day was a feast of Our Lady, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I was very happy that I would be ordained on one of Our Lady's feasts. I was ordained priest in St Anne's Cathedral, Leeds, and this photo, taken a couple of days later shows something of the immense joy of the Priesthood which I was given. The photo was taken in the grounds of the Sacred Heart School in Kirkstall which I had attended as a child. But how much more marvellous it has been for me to have been brought close to, and conformed with, the Priestly Heart of the Redeemer. I am so glad that this photo was taken; it says so much about my identity and the identity of every priest.