Tuesday 29 October 2013

Sawston again.

Readers of this blog will know that Sawston Hall, the Tudor Catholic house, just south of Cambridge, has been posted on before. Well, it is on the market again for £4,750,000.
I would be interested to learn if there is a project afoot to purchase and maintain the house as a Catholic site, and one to which we could contribute.
There are so few remaining Catholic houses of that era; this one remains entirely as it was, and it contains the 'finest priest-hole in the land'.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Night of Light.

We are holding a children's celebration of the eve of All Saints at St Ignatius parish, Ossett, WF5 0DQ. It will take place next Thursday, 31st October, at 6.30pm. For school-age children only, with proper adult supervision. Activities, treats and ending with a candlelit procession.
Parents can drop off or stay. There is no cost attached. Please don't dress your children up as this is already in hand.
Let's reclaim Halloween for Christ and let our children see the light in the call to be saints.

Friday 25 October 2013

Live at the Oratory.

On Wednesday of this week the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy held its Annual Colloquium at the Oratory in Oxford.
I took the above photo towards the end of the day, outside the church, capturing only some of the participants. 
I took part in the Colloquium last year for the first time and was again warmed by the experience of meeting priests from up and down the country; so seldom do we get together. The various speakers helped to give form and content to the day, and I was glad to meet Bishop Jarrett again from Australia.
Thanks go to the Fathers of the Oratory for welcoming us for the day; yesterday the first group of Fathers arrived in York to begin establishing an Oratory at St Wilfred's in York. May both these priestly movements be a source of light today. 

Friday 18 October 2013

A Western approach.

This is an aerial view of Bunbury, a Cathedral See in Western Australia. The bishop of this Diocese, Mgr Gerard Holohan, has written a tremendous Pastoral Letter on the subject of internet pornography addiction. This letter, he says, is a response to the growing problem of pornography in his province of Australia.
The Letter is extensive in length so I won't paste it here; but it well worth opening this link in order to read it in full.
Addiction to internet pornography is endemic, not just in Western Australia but in the Western world, if not the whole world, yet it is rarely spoken of. Bishop Holohan's Letter then, is extraordinary in the way that it approaches this matter so publicly, so thoroughly, but above all, because it is such a wonderful proclamation of Christ.
The Letter begins by speaking about Jesus Christ as Saviour. It then speaks about the nature of addiction to pornography - once something that was little understood yet now something whose biological and chemical consequences are becoming well understood.
The Letter then returns to speak about the person of Christ, and how by entering into, or seeking to renew a relationship with Him, He is able to transform the woundedness of human personality and psychology.
This is a Letter which should be brought into our culture in a public and unself-conscious way, enabling the subject of internet pornography to come out from the shadows, and to be brought into contact with Christ - Saviour, Healer, the one who, uniquely, can transform human life, in all its interior division, and make a person whole.
God bless Bishop Holohan for his courageous and apostolic attitude in the face of this cultural tsunami. 

Thursday 17 October 2013

Spare a thought for NSW.

Many in New South Wales are praying urgently for rain. You will have seen on the news that bushfires are raging on the Central Coast some hundred miles north of Sydney. The fires are so extensive that the Sydney skyline is now overwhelmed with smoke and ash. 
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and there has possibly been a death.
During my years in Sydney I did not experience a bushfire, but I feel for those whose homes have been lost and for all those who are anxious and frightened as the unpredictable fires rage around, and as these fearsome skies envelope the city. Rorate caeli ...

Monday 14 October 2013

A woman at the centre.

Pope Francis has entrusted the whole world to one woman. But she is a person who has surrendered her whole self to God's plan in Christ Jesus. So, if there is one human being that you can trust the whole world with - then it is her.
This is the prayer of Consecration. The certainty and the simplicity which is expressed in this prayer and the act that it accompanies stand in sharp contrast to the secular attitude  of self-reliance and independence:
Holy Mary Virgin of Fatima,
with renewed gratitude for your maternal presence
we join our voice to that of all the generations
who call you blessed.
We celebrate in you the works of God,
who never tires of looking down with mercy
upon humanity, afflicted with the wound of sin,
to heal it and save it.
Accept with the benevolence of a Mother
the act of consecration that we perform today with confidence,
before this image of you that is so dear to us.
We are certain that each of us is precious in your eyes
and that nothing of all that lives in our hearts is unknown to you.
We let ourselves be touched by your most sweet regard
and we welcome the consoling caress of your smile.
Hold our life in your arms:
bless and strengthen every desire for good;
revive and nourish faith;
sustain and enlighten hope;
awaken and animate charity;
guide all of us along the path of holiness.
Teach us your own preferential love
for the little and the poor,
for the excluded and the suffering,
for sinners and the downhearted:
bring everyone under your protection
and entrust everyone to your beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus.

Saturday 12 October 2013

"Mulieris Dignitatem" revisited.

The three-day conference which has just taken place in the Vatican on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Letter on Women is a very important element in the formation of our culture. Woman stands at the centre of human life and at the centre of Salvation. It is when woman is truly herself that men know how to respond. It is Blessed Mother who enabled the renewal of humanity to take place in Jesus Christ.
The secular vision of woman, whilst giving woman a sense of her personhood, has at the same time, done much to take her dignity away. The secular vision moreover, implies that the Church is responsible for denying women their dignity. The fact remains however, that it was the Church who gave women their dignity in the past, and it will be so again today.
An important development is that a renewed vision of both masculinity and femininity is emerging from a re-reading of the Theology of the Body; what the Theology of the Body says about men and what it says about women. This now has to enter into culture through the lives of men and women who will allow their identity and their lives to be fashioned by this genuine vision, rather than by secular culture.
I took the above photo in the main hall of Notre Dame University in Sydney. There in 2009 one of the Dominican Sisters from Nashville led an eight-week study on the Letter "Mulieris Dignitatem". Participation by young people in this study was very edifying, and has borne much fruit. I know that the number of young Catholics who are marrying in Church in Sydney has risen, and that a significant number of young women from Sydney are presently testing a vocation to religious life.
Another significant element which took place during this eight-week study was the presence of young men. The majority of the participants were women, but these young men came in order that their vision of women might be renewed. And during the weekly recess for questions and discussion, the men came away from the women's group in order to reflect, from a masculine perspective, on the Pope's teaching. The whole event took place in a most thoughtful way and we would do well enable such reflection to take place wherever there is an opportunity.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Jubilee reading.

In March I posted on the books which I had read since returning from Australia. Well, I have kept up a good pace with reading since then, in this my Silver Jubilee year. These are the titles which I have read since the end of March:
"The Heritage of Catholic York", by John Rayne-Davis, which I found to be a very poor book.
"Evangelical Catholicism", by George Weigel, which, in spite of its journalistic style, is a very important book for our era. This is one which I will read again.
"The quest for the true Cross", by Carsten Theide and Matthew D'Ancona, which I found to be a very poor attempt to chronicle this topic. I almost reached the end of the book, but had to give up.
"Voices of Morbath", by Eamonn Duffy; the presentation of a tremendous history of an English village during the reformation by a genuine historian.
"Prayer: Living with God", by Simon Tugwell OP. This is my second read of this masterpiece on the Spiritual life.
"New Rules", by Daniel Yankelovich. I only very occasionally dip into psycho-babble books, but with hindsight, this 1981 study reveals much about what has been taking place in our society in recent decades.
"The autobiography of an Elizabethan", by John Gerard. Again, a second reading of this tremendous account of Catholic life in England under Elizabeth I. 
"Cardinal Heenan", by James Hagerty. An easy synopsis of the life of this good English bishop, but I didn't learn anything new.
"A Crown of Thorns", by John Cardinal Heenan. An excellent piece of history by the bishop himself. This book will remain an important reference point as our Catholic history develops. 
And I'm presently in the middle of reading two books:
"A man on a donkey", by H. Prescott, which is an old-fashioned and very slow novel about the Pilgrimage of Grace. I'm about a quarter of the way into it and not much has happened yet.
"The fulfilment of all desire", by Ralph Martin. Again, I read this masterpiece a couple of years ago, but it is so good that I am savouring every page.
Oh, and my slow reading of the Summa is still continuing (very slowly).
While I was at seminary I kept a list of all the books which I read, and I have obviously started doing this again. It is quite interesting to look back on what one has read, and of course, to make room for books that one still wants to read.
I took the above photo at the end of August. It shows the site (the green field bordered by trees) of the Carthusian Monastery of Axeholme (Low Melwood Priory), near Epworth in Lincolnshire. It was here that Augustine Webster was Prior. I made a small detour when returning to Yorkshire after the Youth 2000 Festival at Walsingham in order to see this site. Nothing, apart from stretches of the original moat, now remains of this Charterhouse and the site is now farm land. However, a group from my new parish in Ossett go there on pilgrimage each May.

Monday 7 October 2013

50 years later.

Last month, as a way of acknowledging the Year of Faith, I started reading Fr Ralph Wiltgen's first-hand history of the Second Vatican Council, "The Rhine Flows into the Tiber". I first read this account of the Council when I was at seminary in 1983. It is a very interesting and worthy historical document, written by a priest-observer of the Council, as it took place. He titled his book thus in order to emphasise the influence which the German-French bishops had on the Council, an influence which overtook that of the Roman Curia as the Council sessions were held.
Two things have struck me during this reading. First, the scale and complexity of the organisational and administrative background to the Council's proceedings. With over 2400 Council Fathers taking part, representing the entire Church, to undertake such a Synod as this was quite a feat. Secondly, the number of differing viewpoints and theological movements which were present during the Council, expressed by a multitude of different groupings of bishops, made an already complex situation look untenable. In fact the different voices and opinions which are present today in the Church are, in many ways, a continuation of the discussions and arguments which took place during the Council, both inside and outside the Council chamber.
It is a wonder that, in spite of the human complexity of the Council's deliberations, the voice of the holy Spirit could be heard at all. And that, since today, so many arguments rage on, that the directives of the Council Fathers in the Sixteen Decrees, can be heard above the clamour of voices which claim to speak in the name of the Council.
So too, with the teaching of the present Holy Father, whose words are being dissected both inside and outside the Church, and all sorts of positions being proposed as their genuine interpretation. The Holy Spirit obviously wants to give the Church something through Pope Francis; that is the voice to listen out for and to obey. 

Saturday 5 October 2013

Just plain busy.

Apologies for this last recent gap in my posts, but I have just been plain busy. Moving into a new parish appointment is quite bewildering as there are so many new people to get to know, and so much to learn. Moreover, for three days of last week I was in Bayswater giving some inaugural formation to the new Spes Team. Although there is so much for me to do and learn in my new post these three days with the new Spes Team members were especially uplifting and rewarding. Do remember these young people in your prayers, for God can use their commitment very powerfully.