Tuesday, 21 December 2021
The relationship between the Church and the world has always been a dynamic and a variable reality. Often the Church has had to adapt the ways in which she relates with the world. We saw this take place, for instance, during the English Reformation, when the Church was refined in a most remarkable way. Then, throughout the Modern era, we saw the Church seeking to enable the Christian life in decisive ways. Today, the world (at least in the West) is trying to emancipate itself entirely from the legacy of the Gospel. Not surprisingly then, the Church should not today seek to follow the way of the world, but rather has sought to embrace a new evangelisation. What has also happened is that the world's current struggle has entered into the Church in ways that we have not seen since the Reformation. Within the Church there is a now a polarisation, between being an un-Enlightened Church and being an Enlightened Church, together with the whole range of accommodations that exist between these two poles.
For me, the Second Vatican Council was a intentional endeavour by the Church to re-embrace and to witness to the light that she has received from God - she sought to enable a new evangelising and formative relationship with the world. "Gaudium et Spes", which was the central Decree of the Council about the relationship, is very understandable from the perspective of the Council Fathers, the vast majority of whom were firmly grounded in the Tradition. It was from that perspective that they called the Church to act, rather than to act from a correspondence with the world, in which the Church adopts the attitude of the world.
However, the principal movement which took place following the Council, was the movement of an Enlightened attitude, which sprang from latent and somewhat hidden ranks of the Church, and which took hold of many executive positions within the Church. This attitude then sought to take hold of catechetics and also of new an un-mandated forms of liturgy. In this way, a Modernist agenda appears again in the Church.
Saturday, 18 December 2021
In Sandro Magister's magnificent post about the virus that has infected the Church, the virus that he is speaking of is the attitude of the Enlightenment, and the vaccine that the Church needs to counter this is to reclaim the Christian life.
To better understand what is taking place in the Church today, it is good to understand what flowed out of the Kulturkampf in Germany between 1872 and 1878. Essentially this Kulturkampf created two wings to the Church in Germany: a Church which corresponded with the values and attitude of the Enlightenment, and a Church which, rather than do that, sought to reclaim its native identity and vision.
This division was present in the background at the Second Vatican Council, and is apparent today in the Church Universal. This is the issue at stake today. The Enlightenment has been allowed to enter into the Church and now we have a full-scale dichotomy on our hands:
1. For the Church to approach the world, as the Council intended, from a renewed understanding of her Faith.
2. For the Church to approach the world from a shared position of Enlightenment, where we all agree the Ts and Cs.
This all takes some time and understanding to see. The more time, reflective reading, and conversation that we give to this, the more we will see it. We need to step back and see the big picture.
Today, it is becoming clearer to me, that the two attitudes or projects which flowed out of the Kulturkampf in Germany, are now present in the Church:
There is an un-Enlightened Church, which seeks to claim anew her Faith and Teaching, and so build up her life and mission. In other words, a Church who wants to allow God to act.
And there is an Enlightened Church, which seeks to appropriate much of the world's criteria and self-understanding, and to accommodate herself to its ways. In other words, a Church which is a human endeavour, based on human resourcefulness.
To be continued.
Thursday, 16 December 2021
A recent post on Sandro Magister's blog was entitled, "There is a vaccine for the virus that infects the Church." This post is so good that I had to read it three times, back to back, and then made my own summary notes of what he is saying. Here goes.
The secular movement in the world is advancing while the Church diminishes. This is happening in tandem with the eclipse of the conservative paradigm in the West (which promotes duties before rights.)
This eclipse has also entered into the life of the Church. But whereas conservatives has sought to reinvigorate this paradigm, the pandemic has revealed that it is not simply the form of Christianity that is at stake, but much more fundamental issues.
Looking back to the time of the Second Vatican Council, we saw the secularising agenda imposing itself on the Church through all its issues, contraception, divorce, homosexual union, feminism etc. In other words, secular values and issues took centre stage in the life of the Church and pushed the Christian life to the margins.
JPII and B16 tried to save the key issues of the Council (Revelation, the Church, Xt in the Liturgy, and seeking an adequate anthropology) and also of the Enlightenment (human dignity and freedom.)
B16 was aware of how Christendom (9th to 15th Centuries) provided the best context for the Enlightenment. That the organic unity of faith and life enabled Christian values to flower. What then happened was that the culture took those values and re-established them on the basis of reason, and left the Christian life behind. This was the Enlightenment.
B16 spoke of how "Gaudium et Spes" was the Council looking specifically at the correspondence between Christianity and the Enlightenment, revisiting the Enlightenment to seek a new relationship with the world (presumably for an evangelising and formative purpose.)
B16 also spoke of how, in putting God into the purely subjective realm, the Enlightenment actually wounded human reason - reason eventually gave up on itself - in spite of the historical fact that the search for God is the foundation of any good culture.
So, in ancient Greece God was unknown, yet people searched for him. Today, following the impact of Christian revelation on humanity, much of it has given up on God and itself!
Pope Francis, on the other hand, has set aside both Christianity and the Enlightenment; we are all the same, without God or Christian values. All we need to do is be brothers to one another.
Even so, Francis supports the subjectivisation or impoverishment of reason, by promoting the Church's focus on issues (rather than the Christian life.)
Magister notes that the conservative wing of the Church is actually in tune with the Enlightenment, through its support of individual freedoms.
The result of all this is that Christians are again a small minority, as they were in the first centuries.
He specifies that today's Christian minority has the same options as those in early centuries:
1. To conform to the dominant culture.
2. To close yourself off from it.
3. To escape to a new homeland.
4. To enter into a strongly critical relationship with the world and exercise a cultural influence on it.
The 4th approach is the one that the Church took in the early centuries.
In history, he says, we can see 'metaphysical mutations' (radical transformations of the collective vision of the world):
1. Christianity asserting itself in the strongly pagan Roman Empire.
2. The dissolution of Christendom in favour of a secular and materialist culture.
How, he asks, will today's dominant culture proceed? We don't know.
What we do know is that we need to keep the Christian heritage intact, so that we can re-propose it in the modern empire and regenerate it from the teaching of the first Christians and the Fathers of the Church. End.
This article is so extraordinary that I will post my own comments on it next.
Friday, 3 December 2021
1st December is the feast of St Edmund Campion and companions, who were captured at Lyford Grange in July 1581. Edmund was executed at Tyburn, London on 1st December 1581.
What an immense privilege and joy to be part of a pilgrimage in his honour at Lyford Grange on Wednesday of this week, and to have celebrated the Mass there in one of the medieval barns.
Particular thanks to the proprietor of Lyford Grange for graciously allowing us to celebrate Mass on his premises, and to all the pilgrims who took part in the day. St Edmund Campion is one of our great saints and he continues to inspire and to draw the crowds. He was a great leader for us then; he is a great leader for us now.
Tuesday, 30 November 2021
"Sixteen years, sixteen banners united over the field."
This week is the sixteenth anniversary of the launch of this Blog. I can hardly believe that it is still going!
Let's see where it can go from here.
(Oh, and the quote above is from Dylan's song, "Changing of the guard".)
Friday, 15 October 2021
Having recently finished reading the third part of Michael Davies trilogy on the Liturgical reform - Pope Paul's new Mass - here are a few thoughts.
First, this book is a masterpiece. It is also a long read at 650 pages. But for anyone who wants to better understand what took place in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church in the 1960s, this book is essential reading. Michael Davies documents the whole process that surrounded those changes in that era. He was able to do this because of the depth of his understanding of the Liturgy, of Liturgical development, of the key documents of the Church, and of the strategies that were in play during the 1960s. The importance of this book cannot be underestimated. I imagine that book will have increasing importance as time goes on, when new generations will want to know what really took place when the Liturgy was changed.
Secondly, the author gives a concrete and detailed account of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the Council, when all the bishops had gone home. The author narrates the history of an agenda that took hold of the Liturgical reform after the closing of the Council, and of how that agenda became the driving force for unprecedented changes to the Liturgy of the Catholic Church. The author rightly notes that, although the Council had asked for reform, the changes that subsequently took place had been asked for by no one. Changes such as the eradication of Latin, the celebration versus populo etc, were expressions of a new form of clericalism that was on the ascendency, but without the vast majority of the faithful being aware of it.
Thirdly, this book shows how the new Liturgy of the Church was conceived in a rushed and somewhat botched way. So, alongside some genuine developments, such as the addition of new Prefaces, we also had the inadequacy of the 1st Edition of the new Altar Missal, which was withdrawn, the omission of the Rogation and Ember days, the sporadic incoherence of texts between the Missal and the Gradual, the absence of the Offertory Antiphon in the Missal etc. The new Liturgy then, appears somewhat as an interim Liturgy, a Liturgy that still requires attention. And there remains the unanswered question, why did we get a new Liturgy when the Council asked for a reform of the Liturgy?
My opinion is that the current status of the Liturgy needs to take on board the following:
1. The Church needs to come to terms with Pope Pius V's Bull "Quo primum tempore" and what this actually meant and means for the Church. Presently, this Bull has been shelved. But this Bull is essential because it denotes how the Liturgy has developed, and specifically, it embraces the 'lex orandi' as a possession of the Church, rather than as a possession of the Pope, which it is not. "Quo primum tempore" cannot be simply ignored or forgotten - only totalitarians would want to do that! This Bull is not merely a Canonical document; it is what it represents that must be newly acknowledged.
2. We need to revisit "Sacrosanctum Concilium", the Liturgical Decree of the Second Vatican Council, and appreciate what it actually taught. Essentially, it proposed the reform of the Liturgy - the old Mass. But the old Mass was manifestly not reformed, but relegated and dismissed, while a committee worked to invent a new form of the Mass and to impose it on the Church. Extraordinary! This is something that had never happened before. "Sacrosanctum Concilium" was given by the Church to enable a genuine and objective appreciation of, and reform of, the Liturgy of the Church. Michael Davies for one, argued that this never really took place, but that this Decree was cleverly used to disguise changes that the Church had never intended. So, as Pope Benedict asked us to do (on a number of occasions), we need to engage with this Decree.
3. We need to come to an honest understanding of the difference between what the Council asked for, and what took place, being able to appraise this in the light of the Tradition and of the 'lex orandi' of the Church. After all, this is something that used to happen up until 1969, and it is something that should freely happen again.
It is clear that the time to do this is not now. The present senior executive of the Church has no desire to review the Liturgical changes of the 1960s, which seem to be set in stone in a way that was never the case until the 1960s. Rather, a clericalist mindset of imposition and control is still proposed. The time for such an honest appraisal and review is around fifty years hence. That time will come, and with it a more Catholic appreciation of the Liturgy will flow, one in which the Catholic Faith will be better embraced and expressed.
Wednesday, 25 August 2021
What a wonderful month August has been for me, a month of accompanying families.
At the start of the month, I was part of a young family camp in north Devon, where we even started each day with the celebration of the old Mass.
Following this, I was part of a different and larger group of young families, doing a camp in Keswick. The above photo was taken on Walla Crag, with Derwent Water down below. This camp brought together families from all over the UK and established some truly apostolic connections.
Following this, I accompanied another group of young families on a part of the St Edmund's Way in Suffolk, where again we were able to start the day with the old Mass.
Finally last week, I led a group of young families on a pilgrimage day to the shrines of Our Lady and St Joseph in the Goyt Valley.
I would never want to miss these irreplaceable opportunities!
Thursday, 15 July 2021
In the second chapter of Michael Davies' "Pope Paul's New Mass", the author speaks about the 'Ottaviani Intervention'. This was a letter accompanying a document, written by a number of theologians critiquing the New Missal. Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci presented this to Pope Paul in 1969, just before the New Missal was promulgated. Having never read this critical study before, I found it on the internet - there are a number of sites with the full text - and I was amazed to discover in it a most marvellous presentation of the Theology of the Mass. Anyone who desires a fuller appreciation of the Mass should read it.
This "Critical Study of the New Order of Mass", although clearly not a Magisterial Document, goes to the very root of 'Sacrosanctum Concilium'. In other words, if we are looking for a greater participation in the Mass, then the fuller our understanding of the Mass, the greater our participation will be.
In Chapter 3 of Michael Davies book, 'Reform or Revolution', the author expresses how the immediate aftermath of the promulgation of the New Missal in Advent 1969, was a state of incredulity on the part of ordinary Catholics. Neither priests nor people knew the rationale for the radical change in the Liturgy. Even the very meaning of the Mass appeared to be in question!
Having lived through the 1970s, and now looking back, it is very hard to reconcile 'Sacrosanctum Concilium' with state of the Church and its Liturgy in that decade. The Council Document appears venerable, lucid, directive. What took place was horrible. I don't like to remember it.
Stepping back from the Liturgical changes makes one think of how those very changes took the Church away from her mission and manipulated her into a bureaucracy, and led her into a sort of 'limbo'. A place where things are not really sorted out and where there is no real opportunity for development or reconciliation.
The reality is that much needs to be sorted out in the Liturgy, but the present generation, who lived through the changes, have no desire for more change. In this state of 'limbo' the real understanding of the Mass is no longer truly alive. Many Catholics refer to the Mass as a 'service'. And active and interior participation is replaced with mere ritual and conformity.
The renewal of the Liturgy will take place, 50 to 100 years from now. Those in their 20s, maybe even their 30s, will see it and they will rejoice.
Thursday, 24 June 2021
My notes on the second chapter of Michael Davies book, "Pope Paul's New Mass".
This chapter details many of the documents from a bewildering assortment that came out of the Vatican in the 1960s concerning liturgical changes.
Reading through this chapter gives one a sense of how the Church in the 1960s changed from being Mission to being a bureaucracy. I was a boy in the 1960s and even then I had a strong sense of how strange and unreasonable were the many changes in the Mass and the number of missals that we got through in a few years. As we know, what took place in the Church during the late 1960s was a Public Relations disaster.
What took place during these years was anything but that which the Second Vatican Council had asked for. As Davies says in this chapter, "the Council did not order a new Order of Mass but a revision of the old." (p57)
The reform of the Church's Liturgy requires, as Pope Benedict said, a care study of "Sacrosanctum Concilium", the Council's Document on the Liturgy. The Council did not ask for a butchering job!
Reading through this chapter makes one aware of just how much in a rush was the Committee which Pope Paul VI established to implement the Council's wishes. As a result, the "contrast between the theory and the reality of liturgical reform" (p40) could not have been greater.
Davies puts his finger on the essential thread running through these documents; that what really matters "is not what they authorise that was not authorised before, but what they forbid that was not forbidden before." (p37) And that their authors secured papal endorsement for their revolution. (p42)
Davies again keenly sees another key principle - that in Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution "Missale Romanum" of 1969, the Pope derogates (modifies) from Quo Primum in ending the prohibition to use any other Rite than the Missal of Pius V. (cf,53) But he does not at the same time abrogate that Rite.
This, together with what Davies set out in Chapter 1, enables us to see the Missal of Pius V as a Rite that belongs to the Church, a Rite that belongs to the very reality of the Church and to all the baptised. And that what took place in the late 1960s amounts to an unprecedented act, one of imposing on the baptised a Rite that it had neither possessed before, nor had asked for. What took place in 1969 had never happened before in the life of the Church. What took place in the late 1960s could be seen as an act of clericalism - an executive committee of clergy demanding something of the whole Church. Whereas, what Quo Primum did, was to secure the Missal of Pius V - which already belonged to the faithful, as properly their possession. Quo Primum and Missale Romanum are two very different acts, neither is excluded by the other, but they are so different in their approach that, I don't think, we have even begun to reconcile what the second act did, and therefore, how these two acts relate with one another. The reality is that the Missal of Pius V belongs to the Church, as it always did. The Missal of Paul VI has come, seemingly, out of nowhere. Where does that leave us?
Now, I do realise that the right to use the Missal of Pius V is a complex issue. Various Indults, together with Summorum Pontificem, have brought this issue forward. But there remains the implicit reality that anyone in the Church has the moral right to either celebrate or participate in the celebration of Mass according to the Missal of Pius V.
Pope Benedict's call, that the Church should study Sacrosanctum Concilium goes to the heart of what needs to done - to bring into focus the status of Quo Primum and Missale Romanum, and of how they are actually related, and of what that means for the Liturgical Reform to date.
Sunday, 20 June 2021
At the end of the year I will post on the books that I have read during 2021. However, the book that I am presently reading is so good that it deserves its own comments.
I'm reading Michael Davies' "Pope Paul's New Mass". I bought and read this book in 1980 and have picked it up again. What a fantastic read! A thorough-going appreciation of the changes to the celebration of the Mass that took place in the 1960s. I have been making some salient notes as I read and will post these here. For purposes of reference, the edition that I am reading is:
Michael Davies, Pope Paul's New Mass, Angelus Press, 1980. And the references that I will make refer to the pages in this edition.
Chapter One. The development of the Roman Rite.
This chapter contains three elements:
1. The best concise description, that I have ever read, of what the Liturgy is.
2. The best concise description of the historical development of the Liturgy that I have read to date. On page 5 the author notes that the Second Century reference to the priest as 'celebrant' was due to the word 'priest' having pagan connotations. In fact, by the Second Century, the three-fold division of 'bishop', 'priest' and 'deacon' was already established. Substituting the word 'celebrant' for 'priest' today is much more anomalous.
3. An analysis of what the Bull Quo Primum Tempore is. This is the Bull with which Pope Pius V published the Roman Missal of 1570.
This Bull established the Roman Missal as an act of the Council of Trent. This was the very first time that a Council or a Pope had legislated on the Liturgy. Up until 1570 the development of the Liturgy had taken place in an entirely organic way, and it had come under "Customary Law" (how general practice is accepted and protected.) Quo Primum adds Positive Law (which specifies or prescribes a particular practice) to this. Specifically, Quo Primum established that no one, other than the Pope, could make changes to the Missal on his own initiative. (Cf, p14)
In looking at how the Liturgy could develop after Quo Primum, the author speaks of an important distinction that must be made. Namely, the legal right of a Pope, and his moral right. The Pope can legally change the Liturgy, but would it be morally right for him to do so. (Cf, p14) Under this distinction, a change to the Liturgy must represent a continuation, but not a contradiction of what has gone before. (Cf, p15)
Thus, a future Pope could legally abrogate (abolish) the Missal of Pius V, but would he have the moral right to do so?
Quo Primum possesses three characteristics that would affect the moral right of a Pope:
1. Its aim is that one Missal should express the faith of the Universal Church.
2. It sought not to establish a new form of Liturgy, but rather to restore the ancient Roman Missal. In other words, it codified the organic development of the Liturgy, rather than enacted an artificially procured form of the Mass.
3. It is the act of a Pope expressed with the full force of Apostolic authority, in conformity with uninterrupted tradition.
This is wonderful stuff!
Thursday, 17 June 2021
My notes on Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 9. The Spirituality of marriage and the family.
The Pope speaks of the “spirituality of the bond”, of how spouses can depend upon one another. Yet he is clear that they can depend upon Christ even more.
This chapter does not present the spirituality of marriage and the family in the hierarchic way that we have inherited; that for Christian people who marry, Christ is mediated to them in a new way through their marriage, and that they mediate Christ to one another. The call within Christian marriage is for spouses to form their mutual relationship on the pattern of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
There is a strong sense then, in this chapter that the Christian family is the same as the natural family, but with a Christian gloss. But there is no indication from Pope Francis about the Christian identity. In other words, if a person does not know Christ, he or she is not going to find him through marriage and family life. The foundation for every person is to find Christ, and whoever you are, once you have found him, you will find how he is mediated to you. Amoris Laetitia gives no indication of how a person, who has not found Christ in life, might find him marriage.
Summary of my notes.
There is a natural goodness to marriage and family life, but in Amoris Laetitia, the natural and supernatural goodness of marriage are blurred. The consequence of this is that Pope Francis presents marriage and the family through rose-tinted spectacles. He robs them of their ideal, but does not present them for what they really are. Amoris Laetitia can easily come across as a form of Clericalism – the clergy taking down to families. What the Magisterium should be doing is to give a vision of marriage and the family that flows from people who have given their lives to Christ. But if spouses don’t know Christ, how will they find him in their marriage and family?
Reflecting on Amoris Laetitia puts me in mind of the chicken and egg syndrome. Which comes first, the Church or marriage and the family? It is clear that Christian marriage and the family flow out of the Church. But this is not at all apparent in Amoris Laetitia, and so today’s pastoral problems remain, all stacked up, with no clear route forward. The Pope’s Letter reads as though it precedes John Paul II, rather than follows him.
I hope that some good will come out of Amoris Laetitia, particularly as a help to young spouses and those who will prepare for marriage. I often think of St Bernadette of Lourdes who, when asked by the Blessed Mother to drink the water, found that she had first to dig and clear away the mud, before she could discover the clear water. The problems of our age are many, but the path to travel on is Christ. Christian spouses who have submitted their lives to Him are truly great lights in the Church and in the world.
Monday, 7 June 2021
My notes on Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8. Accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness.
This chapter reads as though it is the purpose of the whole Letter. At the beginning of para 292 Pope Francis acknowledges the ideal of marriage in a particularly good and full way, but he doesn’t then go on to propose or ask that this should be expressed pastorally by the Church. Rather, we should simply try to make better, whatever our situation is.
He speaks about the “law of gradualness”, which JPII had spoken of in his Letter Familiaris Consortio. Using this principle, JPII looked at the concrete situation, but then led people towards where they should be. But Pope Francis is really saying that the ideal of marriage is unattainable, so we should lower our view of the ideal. That since there is some goodness in whatever situation people are in, we should now re-envision marriage. This is very suggestive of Hegelian idealism rather than the Gospel; that we make up our experience of life rather than be Christians, recipients of a transforming gift of life.
He seems to be promoting human effort with a good slice of moralism added to the mix. However, human effort doesn’t make something Christian!
In speaking about the accompaniment of concrete marriage situations, and their discernment, by pastors is hardly practicable. And what makes pastors the arbiters of marriages? God created marriage – why should anyone put them under a microscope?
In para 305 the Pope seems to say, quoting himself, that if anyone is trying to live the Christian ideal of marriage, they are living only an outward show. So, the Pope makes it clear that, if there is no ideal for marriage, all we can speak about is people’s experience of marriage.
Since this chapter reads as an apologia for those who don’t want to have an ideal for marriage, the question arises, is this a Magisterial Document or it is simply a discussion document?
My notes on Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 7. Towards a better education of children.
The chapter is a summary of what the Church teaches and, whilst teaching nothing new, the Pope does enunciate some key elements; what freedom is, the formation of the will. But because this Letter is addressed to the many and varied contexts that exist in the world, this chapter is actually very bland. The Pope doesn’t here offer a vision, or a strategy, or tools for responding to today’s needs.
Today’s needs call for a concrete response. Recognising the superficiality of today’s culture should lead the Church to respond with a concrete strategy and engage people where they are at. The heart of this situation is indeed the family, which should be the source of culture. In reality, since the 1960s we have seen the compartmentalisation of the family; we have separated ourselves from the family and looked to new sources of culture. These are principally the media, technology and “youth culture”. “Youth culture has developed in such a way that parents are now excluded from what is going on in the lives of their children.
This chapter raises very urgent questions, how can we help to nurture the family and to help parents in their educational task? How can we nurture the lives of young people so that they can distance themselves from the pressures of the media? This chapter does not answer these questions.
Wednesday, 26 May 2021
My notes on Chapter 5, Love made fruitful.
A very readable chapter, yet one that does not shed light on today's questions. Questions like, how do we attract people to Christian marriage? How do we enable an understanding of the unity of the person, and of the unity of persons in marriage? How do we speak about the unity of the ends of marriage? How can we even speak about the ends of marriage today?
Although this chapter speaks well about the fruitfulness of married love, the reality is that many people today do not live this. The culture does not offer a good environment to live marriage. Nonetheless, the problem lies not with marriage and the family, the problem lies with individuals such as us, who have a fallen human nature. The proclamation of the Gospel and the call to encounter Christ is the keystone.
Marriage today is not necessarily seen as a source of unity for the person, nor necessarily as the place of procreation. Today there is a new normality, and indeed, today's remedy for concupiscence is to indulge in it!
Perhaps the Pope is here trying to re-interpret the ends of marriage (the good of the spouses, children, and a remedy for concupiscence) in a new vocabulary. However, the lived reality today is very different from faith and life in Christ. The cultural context affects the message of the Church about marriage and the family. Before the values of the Enlightenment became the lived culture, the family was seen as the basis of society. Marriage was the 'inner sanctum' of society, the preserve of spouses where humanity was engendered and nurtured, and whose inner unity was the place from which the human project sprung. Following the Enlightenment, the individual became the basis for society. The 'inner sanctum' has gone and now the state and social currents are the basis of society. Marriage and the family and now adapted for today's purposes.
At the recent Council the Church set aside the remedy for concupiscence as the third end of marriage. Perhaps this was done out of a sense of optimism. Human resourcefulness takes the place of the former, more realistic view. However, marriage as a remedy for concupiscence is still there, though hidden. We don't know how to speak about it today. Perhaps we do need a new vocabulary here.
Marriage is best seen in the light of grace, yet trying to speak about it in this way can seem very foreign. This is the problem. Yes, there is a great goodness in marriage, which Pope Francis highlights, but he does so without leading it into the life of grace. This is a shame, because the people who are not trying to life the life of grace, do not easily see the natural goodness either.
Christ Jesus is the centre. When people have him in their lives they are filled with faith-filled hope. This hope is the presence of Christ Jesus in them. He incarnates hope in marriage. Actually, we need a vision of how the theological virtues, given in baptism, are active within marriage.
Monday, 24 May 2021
Chapter 4, Love in Marriage, gives a basic human and moral framework, not a theological one. It reads as a 'vademecum' for spouses, to help them to keep their love on an even keel. Or as a guide for couples preparing for marriage, helping them to discern what they want their marriage to look like.
This chapter does not give a vision for married life. It is not prophetic about how marriage needs to be in the world today. It is merely descriptive, whilst being morally optimistic about what love should look like in marriage.
Today, we live in an idealistic age, but find practically that our love can't live up to the ideal. Our culture has seen a sharp move away from the supernatural aspect of marriage to the natural aspect. The primary concern today is the love of the spouses, not of the family. Today, marriage is more about having a wedding - a celebration of 'us' - and not about marriage.
Amoris Laetitia seems to play up to this, rather than to challenge it, presenting an idealised and human-centred marriage. The big question remains, how do we evangelise marriage?
JPII's way was to hold before couples a Christ-inspired vision of marriage. He placed an ideal before us, whose starting point was Christ Jesus. Pope Francis' way is to place before couples the human aspect of marriage and suggest that this can come alongside Christ. His starting point is the here and now.
Neither of these ways appears to be a key for today. In fact, the key is evangelisation. That is, couples encountering Christ and being changed by him before they marry. Christian marriage is not a human symbol with a Christian veneer. We should first announce Christ to the couple who are preparing for marriage. And we need to be speaking about marriage, not a wedding.
Friday, 14 May 2021
Chapter 3. Looking to Jesus: the vocation of the family.
Here the Pope speaks about the imperfection of the sign of marriage. He's caught up with human imperfection, so he can't speak about the ideal, and as a consequence, he doesn't teach the perfection of marriage. This is somewhat Lutheran.
But if we don't have the vision of perfection, what is it that people are being called to?
Practically speaking, we need to look at how Christ is mediated in marriage; what is special and attractive about Christian marriage?
Perhaps the most important question to arise from this chapter is, how do we present Christian marriage to young people today?
First of all, what do young people today think that marriage is? Unless we know where they are, how do we know how to guide them towards where they need to be?
Secondly, what do we teach them? Many young people today are looking at a wedding, an event, and not at marriage, a communion of life.
Marriage is also a secular reality, whereas the other sacraments are not. So, how do we proclaim the qualitative difference between Christian marriage and a wedding or a relationship? What does Christian marriage add to life?
Amoris Laetitia has nice words to say, but remains quite distant from where people are.
For people of faith, the Pope's message no doubt inspires. But what about people of no faith? Today, the Church continues to provide services for people, as it used to do during the era of Christendom, but the times have changed. Today we need to evangelise.
The big question is, how do we inspire young people for Christ?
Thursday, 6 May 2021
My notes of Chapter 2, "The experiences and challenges of families."
Pope Francis appears to be saying that the way in which Pope John Paul II presented the ideal of marriage and the family has become remote to how people live. That way of looking at marriage and the family is no longer seen as an ideal, but as a judgement on people. Marriage and the family is an unattainable goal, according to Pope Francis. And so we need to look again at all the things that actually affect marriage and family life.
Pope Francis is calling the Church to stop putting the Christian vision before people, and instead, he is calling the Church to help people to live the nitty-gritty of marriage and family in a better way.
But what is lacking in his presentation is the foundation of marriage; that marriage is symbolic of the relationship between God and man. It seems to me then, that there is a Protestant anthropology within "Amoris Laetitia". Instead of applying the Gospel directly to people’s lives and calling them to allow grace to change us, there is a real sense of a negative anthropology – that we are in fact set in a fallen mode and must put up with that lot.
For priests, how do we experience marriage today?
1. We see the disintegration of marriage and family at large.
2. We observe that people no longer express the capacity for self-gift, and therefore, in some way, lack the capacity for marriage.
3. That people rarely, if ever, consult with us about these issues, but rather decide upon their own resolutions.
4. That today, the traditional cultural conformity - that everyone gets married - has gone, and that the sexual revolution has been integrated into people’s lives. The result is that people today want a relationship, but not marriage; this is the new cultural conformity. So, today conformity has moved away from what it used to be, and that which the Church gave her accord to. And there is now a new situation, which the Church cannot accord herself to.
5. Just as before, today also, a small minority actaullyget married with a sense of vocation.
What has caused this situation? This is very difficult to pin-point, but a loss of faith and the sexual revolution have played their part.
What is the response of the Church to this situation? This is also very difficult to answer. We know that we can’t shore up a shifting culture, still less a land-slide. Part of the answer lies, I believe, with Rod Dreher's "The Benedict Option", which implies new and small Christian communities who actually live Christian marriage and family, and who build themselves up in the Christian life, so that they can become a new leaven for the future.
Friday, 30 April 2021
My notes on this chapter, "In the light of the world".
This chapter reads as though it could apply equally to the natural family as to the Christian family; the sacrament of marriage makes no difference. It feels as though the Pope is looking here at the family as a human reality, and not as a Christ-centred one. The title of the chapter itself seems strange.
However, there are indications to the contrary. In paragraph 11 he says, “fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life.” Indeed, human beings are nothing without God.
Later in paragraph 11 the Pope mentions the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church. But this is the centre and foundation of marriage!
Again in paragraphs 27-30, the family is spoken of as a natural reality, but with a semi-Pelagian possibility – that we can make our families better if we try. That if we try to live well, God will bless our family.
No, the key to marriage and the family is the Nuptial Union between God and humanity and not mere human virtue. Living with God creates virtue and blessing!
The Pope seems to be telling people how they can make their families better on their own when I would expect him to proclaim the truth about marriage and the family.
Thursday, 29 April 2021
The recent winter lockdown was, in my estimation, much harder to live through than that of this time last year. The shorter days and dark evenings, the inclement weather and the reduced possibility for social contact hit us all hard. Nevertheless, since January till now, 2021 has been a very productive time. A few months ago I listed here all the things that I had done during lockdown 2020, and now, as we begin to open up again, I'm updating that list.
So, since new year 2021 I have:
I signed up for the Divine Renovation "Kick Start" seminars. These took place over four months, January to April, and were given by Matt Regitz. I'm still absorbing what we went through. Excellent, excellent!
I wrote four texts form parents on educating for love. These were a response to the new RHSE curriculum for schools. I sent them to my families as PDFs.
I began trialing the "Flocknote" parish software in the parish.
Certain books stand out in those that I have read since new year. "Sensing your hidden presence" by Fr Ignacio Larranaga - a prophet of our time. And "Pope John's Council" by Michael Davies - what a compendium of understanding of the recent Council and the currents that surrounded it. This is a thoroughbred book for anyone who wants to revisit the Second Vatican Council. Excellent!
I began live-streaming Masses, just one each week.
I had a new flat screen installed in the church, in place of the projector and screen. The new screen is so versatile and will be so useful for so many things.
I began producing a professionally printed monthly newsletter for the parish.
I led a Novena to St Joseph via Zoom and am now giving a three-week workshop on fatherhood in light of St Joseph, again via Zoom.
In late January I led a 10 week prayer workshop via Zoom.
Together with the other priests of the SJMV, we are continuing our chapter by chapter reading of Amoris Laetitia.
I don't intend to give further updates on my activities during lockdown. We are gradually opening up and I hope that 'normal service' will in due course return. Of course, things will be different, and it will be interesting to note, in the future, just how the virus has permanently changed our lives.
Sunday, 25 April 2021
Since last September, I have joined with all the other priests of the St John Vianney Society in making a study of Pope Francis' Letter, Amoris Laetitia. One of the priests of the Society, a priest from Burgundy, set out for us a study itinerary, with accompanying texts and helpful questions to guide us. We have been reading a chapter a month and have now just completed chapter seven of the Letter.
I have made my own brief notes as we have gone through the chapters and will publish these notes here, chapter by chapter, beginning with an introduction. I read Amoris Laetitia when it was first published but have found our common study of the text more helpful. I now have a much greater perspective on this Letter than previously.
In Pope Francis discourse to open the (first) Extraordinary Synod, and in his discourse to close the (second) Ordinary Synod, I note:
1. That he is intentionally placing all aspects on the table as equals (magisterial teaching, opinions, issues, arguments etc).
2. That he wants marriage and family to be looked at from the perspective of today’s issues, rather than from the perspective of foundational truths.
There is a sense in the Introduction to Amoris Laetitia that Pope Francis is avoiding the ideal of the family. There is also a sense from the Pope that we can’t attain the ideal which God wants us to be, so let's set the ideal aside. However, if there is no ideal to the family, then grace can seem to be something that is extrinsic to the family, something that is added to who we are. It feels as though he is speaking of the family with a Christian veneer! However, the reality is that grace is intrinsic to the family.
As an introduction to the text, these two addresses did not inspire me. Chapter 1 to follow.