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.