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.