Monday 28 June 2010

Real evangelisation

The relegation of the place of virtue by secular culture is, arguably, one of secularisms triumphs. Secularism coincides with a diminishing of humanity, whose essential hinge is the nurturing and exercise of virtue - the inner power of genuine humanity. Secularism has changed the goals which humanity set for itself and allowed itself to be formed by. Celebrity, life-style and conformism are some of the popular aspirations. In such a context, it is well to remember humanity's ultimate goal - adoration of God.
Here, let us recall the essential mission of parents (and education) in forming, first children and then young people, to be able to adore God. It would be valuable here, time permitting, to look at the virtues involved in this genuine human project. However, let me just note that those who are today the principal recipients of formation, the hinge of culture and civilisation are today's parents themselves. Young people who are considering the married vocation, or those who are recently married are they who should allow themselves to acquire the very best formation for the life and the task which they undertake today in a bewildered age.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

The sublime to the ridiculous

Remember the bizarre film "Elizabeth - the golden years" and how Westminster Cathedral became the set for Philip II's "El Escorial". The secular world just doesn't know how to relate with Catholic churches.
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart while Cardinal Pell was ordaining six new priests in his cathedral, the City Lights Projector was making pretty pictures on its west facade (photo above). While inside the Cathedral a real enlightenment was taking place, outside images of another kind were being projected!

Tuesday 15 June 2010

A visit

A visitation aims to accomplish something. It is symbolic of a greater encounter which it seeks to be the conduit for. The visit by the Holy Father to the UK in September will be a grace given by God to the UK, so that an encounter between the country and God might take place.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, is himself a grace; he is a part of Christ, a gift from Christ, because Christ has willed and desired both the Petrine Office and the bishop who he calls to receive this Office. His visit to the UK will take place in the order of grace; in other words, God wishes to express something of Himself to the country. Many - led by the Press - will endeavour to pervert this intention.
What is it that makes the UK so pretentious and intractable in its closedness to God? A psychologising of faith hasn't taken place until recently (I am referring to the Blair faith Foundation). The UK has never drunk deeply from German rationalism which infected so much of continental Christianity. Furthermore, the UK has the cultural legacy of conservatism and phelgmatism. Yet in Britain today, the only person to mention God on the TV on Christmas Day is Her Majesty the Queen. I have lived in the UK for most of my life and I am still at a loss in understanding why its culture and its people are so closed to God!
The Beatification of Newman - like lighting a candle in the darkness - is a humble gesture of hope and faith given by God to a people who are labouring in darkness. Newman himself showed that it is faith which brings us before the Mystery of God, opening our lives to His beauty and His love for us.
The coming Beatification is a clear indication of God's patient and gentle manner of handling the UK, and of His desire that all its people should know how much He loves them and wishes to draw them to Himself. In the midst of this Benedict XVI is the figure of beauty and truth whom He sends to the UK. What great gifts of grace are Cardinal Newman and Benedict XVI for the UK!
We should join in praying grace into the whole nation at this time, that its people might open up their souls to the Mystery of Christ.

Saturday 12 June 2010

A year of grace.

In the evening of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Cardinal Pell ordained six men to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. What a wonderful way to bring to a close the Year for Priests, and what a wonderful feast on which to be ordained a priest. The photo above was taken at the beginning of the Ordination Rite; the Cardinal is sitting on a faldstool in front of the altar. A huge number of priests took part in the Mass, filling both the Choir and the Chancel. The photo below was taken as the Cardinal blessed incense at the Offertory.

This Year has been an unexpected grace for the Church and especially for priests - a Year of renewal, confirming us in our configuration to Christ. How beautiful was the Holy Father's sermon at St Peter's yesterday for the Mass of the Sacred Heart, in which he emphasised the movements, affections and desires of Christ's heart, the source of grace and experienced in the Mass. Out of this heart has flowed the vocation and mission of all priests. Priests are a gift of grace to the Church and to the world because Christ has willed them; they are a part of Him, He has fashioned us in His heart.

He speaks about Mass as a doorway into Christ's heart. I love this; there is a whole spirituality, a whole life to be discovered and lived here when we approach the Mass in this way:

We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus’ heart was indeed opened for us and before us – and thus God’s own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus’ heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus’ priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point.
For me, the Year for Priests has coincided with my unexpected move to Sydney where I have really felt my priestly ministry being embraced and draw out out of me by the Church here. The high point of the Year for me was in February this year when I gave an eight day Retreat to the Seminarians. I hope that this Retreat powerfully influenced them, because it has powerfully influenced me in my priestly life and spirituality. The fact that I do not live on my own in Sydney but with other priests - priests who are really seeking to live their priesthood at the heart of the Church - has also been a huge grace for me.

What a wonderful grace it is to be a priest. What a wonderful thing it is that the Church ordains men to the Priesthood. How wonderful it is that Christ's heart has been opened up and that the riches of His love and His desires for mankind can be experienced in the Eucharist. How wonderful it is that He wishes to share His Priesthood with so many men. How wonderful it is that the priest is a gift of grace to the Church and to the world!

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Leaders in our times

When the Industrial Revolution was at its very height in the second half of the nineteenth century, and when so much of what was genuinely human was obscured in the pursuit of industrial and imperial progress, in this dark time, one man steps out as a leader and guide for many. John Henry Newman, recognising how submission to truth had been replaced by rationalism, joins the despised, little Catholic Church in England. In an age of impressionable darkness, he followed the kindly light that had led him, and stood for God's truth. What a great guide for our times, and how wonderful that he should be Beatified now, at this time when England is so cavalier about the truth, mocking both the Gospel and the Pope. Newman gave up all that, going against all the trends of the culture and society of his day, in order to embrace the unique light of truth.
About one hundred years later, just after the Second World War, an obscure nun decides to leave her teaching Order and to go and work with the poorest of the poor. This decision was one of the most important decisions of the Twentieth century, for entering into the physical and spiritual darkness which is the lot of so much of humanity in our cavalier world; but not just entering into it in folly, but entering into it with the light of Christ, Mother Teresa, perhaps more than anyone today, has secured a place for God's truth in the world.
We can speak also of John Paul II's witness to truth - these three are towering lights for our age.