Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chrism Mass at St George's Cathedral

For the first time Southwark had its Chrism Mass on a day other than Maundy Thursday, i.e. today. Being the year of priesthood, a special sit-down lunch was organised for the priests after Mass in the newly refurbished Amigo Hall.

Bishop John Hine, our Diocesan Administrator, asked the congregation to forgive him for turning his back on them as he wanted to speak to the priests gathered behind and to the sides of the altar. As it happens, from where I and a number of other priests were, we couldn't see him or anything of the Mass, but what we heard was most encouraging.

Bishop John placed his comments in the context of the current crisis of scandals affecting the Church that might have left priests feeling confused, undermined, lost. He affirmed us in the sacrificial nature of the priesthood. We must acknowledge and embrace the life of sacrifice that priesthood entails. As it is the daily celebration of the Eucharist that identifies us as who we are and gives true meaning to our lives, how can we not see sacrifice as an essential aspect of our lives since we daily commemorate and make present sacramentaly the Sacrfice of Christ on the Cross?

I do not know if Bishop John was speaking from a script, from notes, or without these and he said other things which were very much worth hearing at this time. If the homily is published it will no doubt be on the diocesan website.

UPDATE: Bishop John's homily here.

The Chrism Mass was also an occasion to thank Archbishop-emeritus Kevin McDonald for his service to the diocese. A small envelope with a large cheque was presented to him and he reminisced over his 6 years at the helm of Southwark. We continue to keep him in our prayers as he continues to undergo treatment.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sisters of the Gospel of Life Blog

Thanks to a comment left on a previous post, it has come to my notice that I have not linked to the Sisters of Gospel of Life. Well, I have now! It is well worth reading regularly as the Sisters have plenty of experience of dealing with women who might be considering abortion, and also those who are suffering after one. Here they are seen in a more light hearted mood.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Henryk Gorecki and Arvo Part

Have just taken a bit of time out to watch this most beautiful programme from the BBC's Sacred Music series. To hear two men from a modern yet past era speak about their faith in God and the inner dialogue that produces such beautiful music was truly moving, as is the music they composed.

There is much to learn for the Church. Part says words to the effect that: "I don't want to offend my listeners but I have nothing to say to them. My music is a fruit of a dialogue I have with myself." I would like to think that what he means is that he is listening to the inspiration of God within him. And the sacred music he produces is something transcendent, that is outwith this world, draws you out of this world and to a higher plane.

This is what the Sacred Liturgy should do too, and what our preaching must be the fruit of. The Church has tried for too long to be 'relevant.' The more it stays true to its timeless nature, the more it will respond to the yearning of modern man who despairs if he places his trust in this world but who soars if he places his hope in the transcendent, i.e. the Divine.

The progamme makes clear the link between religion, culture and the freedom that Poland and Estonia won from the Soviet Union.

The programme is available to watch on the BBC iplayer until 9.29pm Friday 9th April or you can download it to watch it later.

Caption Competition

Remember I promised some photos of me in boxing gloves following the Baptism of Carris Clarke? So here's one. Submit your captions!

Petition Against Government-Led Sex Education in Schools Permanent Website

The organisers of this petition, Amanda and Mark Lewin, have created a website to house permanently the over 2,000 signatories to this petition which closed on 25th March, Solemnity of the Annunication.

Here's a reminder of what it said:
We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service to fulfil their duty as guardians of our Catholic Faith and unequivocally reject recent Government measures forcing Catholic schools to teach what is explicitly condemned by the Church, viz: presenting active homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, and providing information on the nature - and provision - of contraception and abortion services. Compliance on the part of the Bishops and the CES in such measures would effectively render our schools no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense, and would place the faith and moral life of our children in jeopardy. As Catholic parents, teachers and pastors, we earnestly beg of you, our Shepherds in Christ, that you do not allow this to happen.
The plan now is to send a letter, briefing and result of the petition to Rome, and to all the Bishops of England and Wales.

Amanda and Mark write:
Please keep this in your prayers as even if this evil Bill is not passed we still have Catholic schools teaching abhorrent and blatant sex education to our children.

May the Holy Family and St Margaret Clitherow continue to pray for us all.

Sunday Telegraph letter calls for rejection of Children, Schools and Families Bill

I am grateful to two priest friends of mine, Fathers Marcus Holden and Mark Swires, for bringing this news to my attention. Here is what they tell us.

In today's Sunday Telegraph there is an amazing letter calling for the rejection of the CFS bill and it is signed by three English Catholic bishops. It seems the silence has been broken. Dozens of leading Catholics have also attacked government plans to restrict the role of parents in education and to introduce invasive sex education into schools throughout England and Wales. More than 2000 signatories have called for parliament to reject the proposed Children, Schools and Families Bill. Three bishops, several leaders of monasteries and religious congregations, philosophers and theologians, over 100 Catholic headteachers and governors and more than 200 priests and deacons have signed a letter written to the editor of the Telegraph by Mr Norman Wells, director of Family Education Trust. They join a long list of prominent non-Catholic signatories including a huge number of distressed heads, governors and teachers, ministers from many different Christian denominations, Muslim leaders and even concerned atheists. Their concern is specifically for the common good of the country which they believe will be undermined if the bill becomes law. The proposed legislation they say, 'seeks to impose a particular ideology' on children, families and schools and unjustly denies parents and guardians the right to raise children according to their own culture and values.

This is the letter which can be found together with another letter in the Comment section of The Telegraph website under the heading "The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect":
Parents and guardians have the primary responsibility for bringing up their children in accordance with their own values and culture. They may entrust the task of formal education to a school of their choice, but the overall responsibility for the upbringing of their children remains theirs.
The Children, Schools and Families Bill undermines this principle and seeks to impose a particular ideology by means of statutory sex and relationships education. We would therefore urge members of the House of Lords decisively to oppose it.
A state which seeks to centralise responsibilities which are properly fulfilled by families is acting in an unjust manner and undermines the basis of a free society.
Here is a list of some of the Catholics who have signed:

Bishop Brian Noble – Shrewsbury Diocese
Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue
Bishop Mark Davies (Co-Adjutor of Shrewsbury)
Fr Aidan Nichols OP Theologian Blackfriars Cambridge
Rt Rev Francis Baird OSB – Abbot Prinknash Abbey
Rev Dr Louis Caruana SJ - Philosopher Heathrop College
Rev Matthew Burns Parish Priest Ampleforth Abbey
Fr Leo Chamberlain – Former Headmaster of Ampleforth Abbey
Monsignor G M Dasey – Vicar General Middlesborough
Rev P Dillon OMI Director of Missionary Association of Mary
Fr Tom Finigan – Chairmen of APGL
Rev John Fordham – Vice Provost of the London Oratory
Mgr. Timothy Galligan (formerly of the Council for Christian Unity at the Vatican)
Canon Jeremy Garrett – Rector of St John’s Seminary Wonersh
Canon A T Hayes – Diocesan Safeguarding Officer
Maureen Hurst – School Governor/President of Union of Mothers – Salford Diocese
Neville Kyrke-Smith - National Director Aid to the Church in Need
Tim Matthews - Editor National Association of Catholic Families
Canon T A McBride Episcopal Vicar for Formation and Cathedral Dean – Salford Diocese
Professor David Paton – Governor and Professor of Industrial Economics - Nottingham University Business School
Dr Andrew Pinsent Senior Research Fellow, Theology Faculty, Oxford University
Fr John Saward - Theologian Oxford University
Rev Dom Antony Sutch (former headmaster of Downside)
Fr Luis Tomas Superior Consolata Fathers
Dr Petroc Willey Dean of Graduate Research Maryvale Institute (Deputy Director of Institute)

Another article in today's Sunday Telegraph, entitled 'Senior bishops call for end to persecution of Christians in Britain' by Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs correspondent, which as well as mentioning objections to general anti-Christian feeling, refers to the letter by Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, on the CFS bill:
Christians are also increasingly concerned that the Government is ignoring their views on issues such as sex education and homosexuality when introducing new legislation.
A group of 640 head teachers, school governors and faith leaders have signed a separate letter to this newspaper warning that compulsory sex education in primary schools will erode moral standards and encourage sexual experimentation.
They call for the dropping of legislation that will see children as young as seven taught about sex and relationships.
Today's Sunday Telegraph also carries an excellent article on page 2 which does not appear to be available on the Telegraph website:

and a further article on the same page about school outings to sexual health clinics aimed at "demystifying" the consequences of unprotected sex and preparing children!!! for visits later in life (so we anticipate that the children of this generation will need these services - of course, because they are being groomed for promiscuity):

(Just click on these articles and then magnify them in your picture viewer. Both pictures supplied to me by Father Mark Swires.)

Let's hope people take note of this weekend's publicity and that this horrible tide of corruption of our young people be stemmed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Palm Sunday Syro-Malabar Style

It being the last Saturday of the month, the Syro Malabar community have their monthly Holy Qurbana (Mass) in the Syro Malabar Rite. The Mass included the traditional Palm Sunday procession with children singing 'Hosanna'.

The children prepare for the procession.

Clearly enjoying themselves...

As in the pre-1962 Latin rite Mass, the priest knocks three times on the church door.

The door is opened.

The congregation waiting to follow the priest into the Church.

Mass continues with the Offertory.

Our Lady of Sorrows in Malta

Thereza, my secretary, who is Maltese drew this to my attention. How wonderful it would be to be in a country where such external manifestations of piety were normative. See the Times of Malta. In the old calendar the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady is commemorated on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In many countries, even if it may not now be commemorated liturgically the tradition is kept.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oxford Pro-Life Witness

From Amanda Lewin:

Saturday 27th March, 3pm-4pm

Pro-life witness in reparation for all unborn babies and their families, and all the Drs and nurses involved in the evil of abortion.

Meet at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way, Oxford. (Car parking available), where there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament inside the Church for the hour that we witness.

We then stand in front of the Church at the entrance to the JOHN RADCLIFFE HOSPITAL, Headley Way, Oxford.

The Rosary is led by Fr John Saward and then we end with a short Benediction inside the Church.

Refreshments are available afterwards in the Church hall.

For anymore information please contact Amanda Lewin 01869 600638

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pope Benedict's Letter to the Irish

Pope Bendict is not a man of grand gestures like his predecessor. So this letter has to be read very carefully. It has taken me some time to understand and appreciate it. He wants to get to the roots, to develop a process of sanatio in radice to use a marriage related canonical term.

He openly acknowledges the often inadequate response on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities of Ireland to the grave offences of child abuse. He is disturbed and dismayed and shares the sense of betrayal of those who have suffered. The damage inflicted upon individuals and upon the Church will not be repaired quickly. This letter does not set out the solutions to the problem but points to a way forward on the path of renewal.

I think he implies that a lot has gone wrong in the Church since the years of the Second Vatican Council. Even though the faith of many in Ireland is still strong, there was a tendency, even among priests and religious, to adopt ways and thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel.  Clifford Longley, in this morning's Sunday programme, said that the Pope is almost telling the Church in Ireland, particularly the hierarchy, that they need to re-learn their Catholic faith and study the Scriptures once again. Irregular situations of the clergy were not attended to in accordance with the penal processes set out in the Code of Canon Law.

The Pope is truly sorry for the abuse suffered by victims and their families. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. The Holy Father openly (expresses) the shame and remorse that we all (in the Church) feel.

The Pope speaks clearly to those who perpetrated abuse:
You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes Himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God's forgiveness and the grace of true amendment.

By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ's redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God's justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy.

He says that some of the bishops have clearly failed,
at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognise how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to co-operate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should do likewise. They too have taken part in recent discussions here in Rome with a view to establishing a clear and consistent approach to these matters. It is imperative that the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland be continually revised and updated and that they be applied fully and impartially in conformity with canon law.
The Pope is not without a sense of sympathy for the bishops who perhaps were like rabbtis caught in the glare of a car's headlamps. But there is no excuse from now on. Canonical and civil law must be followed, with due regard to the safeguarding of the good name of any who might be falsely accused and subsequently found to be innocent.

The Pope's initiatives to address the situation are surprising in their apparent lack of action, but on reflection one can see what the Holy Father is trying to achieve: the renewal of the Church in Ireland with a call to penance and a new discovery of the Sacrament of Confession. He is calling the faithful to prayer through Eucharistic Adoration.

Certain dioceses, as well as seminaries and religious congregations, will be the subject of an Apostolic Visitation. Bishops, priests and religious (not the lay faithful) will have to be on the receiving end of a nationwide Mission. It is the clergy and religious that need to be renewed, to go on retreat, to listen to solid preaching, to study anew the documents of the Second Vatican Council (according to the hermeneutic of continuity???) and the rites of ordination and religious profession to be reminded of what it was they were consecrated to and for.

So, no, the Holy Father has not called for resignations, punishments, etc. He has called for a renewal and a renewed fidelity to Canon Law and the authentic spirit of the Second Vatican Council. The Bishops have lost a good deal of credibility. They must now seek to regain it.

As a son of Irish parents who has visited Ireland on numerous occasions, the faith of the laity in Ireland has impressed me. But the standard of liturgy and the resort to New Age teachings has disturbed me. The way I have seen (some, by no means all) priests celebrate Mass in a hurried manner, with carelessness, indicated a kind of superiority complex that implied: I'm in charge and it doesn't matter about the people. I was disturbed to read in the Catholic Herald recently that an early morning 15 minute Mass was being welcomed. What sort of manner is this to effect renewal? How can the Most Holy Sacrifice be reduced to less time than it takes to say the Rosary?

Bishops and priests are servants. May we grow in humility in our attitude before God and before His Holy People.

There is nothing to rejoice over in this letter, nothing to gloat over, nothing to take comfort in - except that we must turn to the Lord and humbly acknowledge our sins and beg for the grace to be faithful in the future.

The Church in Ireland is not finished. Satan can operate even within the Chruch, but he will not prevail against it.

NB: The fact that this letter is available in a number of different languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish)  indicates that its significance goes far beyond the Irish Church.

Baptism of Aaron Michael and Molly Jeanette Yacoubian

Congratulations to Dominic and Gaye, parents of Aaron Michael (the one with his hands in mum's) and Molly Jeanette (in the arms of his father) who were baptised this afternoon. The Baptism was celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as is now my custom. There were many children present at the ceremony, all watching carefully the various elements of the rite.

Dominic's father (pictured on the far right) is Armenian Evangelical and he remarked on how lovely it was to hear the Latin and to have the baptism celebrated in this form. So, once again, I find that the older liturgy facilitates true ecumenism. He explained to me that his surname, Yacoubian, means 'Son of Jacob'. Well, you can't go back much further to the foundation of our religion. (His late wife, Jeanette, was the Catholic.)

Altar Servers Day at Addiscombe

Yesterday four young parishioners of mine attended an altar servers youth day at the parish of Our Lady of the Annunication, Addiscombe. Thanks for Father Joe O'Connor for being our host. The usual mix of ice breaking games, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Rosary and Confessions and Benediction, games (on a somewhat wet afternoon in a nearby park), superb pizza and drinks provided by the parish, talk on 'Reasons to be Catholic', discussion groups and Mass. As you can see, everyone was in a happy (and some in a silly) mood.

The talk, given by my brother Father Stephen, concluded with this excellent film:

Auntie Joanna Feast and Seasons Talk

Joanna Bogle was very keen to come and talk to our First Communion parents about ways of celebrating feasts and seasons in the family in tune with the Church's liturgical cycle. Many positive reviews from parents afterwards! Thanks Joanna! The Polish parents were particularly keen to share their tradition of the blessing of food on Holy Saturday. These customs and traditions are very much part of our identity as Catholics and we should do all we can to preserve them or reintroduce them. Her book "A Book of Feasts and Seasons" is available at Amazon (do feel free to link via the sidebar).

Nice family photo - good Catholic blog

Thanks to Clare for leaving a comment on a previous post, I have discovered another good blog entitled Battlements of Rubies. Am not quite sure of the significance of the blog title. The author, being Irish, has written a significant appraisal of Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish Church.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oona Stannard on 'leave of absence'

Not that that was the main point of the story that has been brought to my attention. Who is heading up the CES meanwhile?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A new British bishop

It has been announced today that the Holy Father has appointed Father Ralph Heskett CSsR as Bishop of Gibraltar. This from the Southwark diocesan website:

Our congratulations and best wishes to Father Ralph Heskett CSsR who has been appointed as the new Bishop of Gibraltar, following the retirement of Bishop Charles Caruana.

Bishop-elect Ralph was born in Sunderland in 1953. He made his religious profession in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1971 and was ordained priest in 1976.

He has worked in Scotland and England and has undertaken vocation and mission work as well as his parochial responsibilities.

He has had a close association with the Southwark diocese having been the Redemptorist Master of Novices at Canterbury from 1997 until 1999 and Parish Priest of St Mary's, Clapham, from 1999 until 2008.

We keep him in our prayers as he undertakes his new responsibilities.

Pro-life campaigns in schools: The best of times and the worst of times.

Yesterday I went to St Bede's Clapham Park to join other priests at an excellent talk by Antonia Tully (pictured here with parish priest Father Christopher Basden and yours truly), SPUC's co-ordinator of its "Safe at School" campaign. Antonia is herself a mother of six children so she knows a thing or two about the pervasive advance of sex-education in schools.

The talk was followed by Benediction and a nice meal. (It was, after all, St Patrick's Day.)

Beginning with the bad news, she gave an overview of the sorts of things that are going on in schools up and down the land and how the State seeks to embed contraceptive and abortion advice in every sphere of a child's life. She instanced erroneous RE resources, problematic resources in the science curriculum as well as those used in SRE

Connexions is a particular problem. Secondary schools are legally obliged to involve a Connexions advisor. Although ostensibly a careers advice agency, it is actually quite an intrusive organisation. Secondary schools pass on all the contact details of their pupils to Connexions so that an advisor can contact the pupils directly. Antonia related how she was surprised when an advisor phoned asking for one of her children at home. As well as providing careers advice, Connexions is more than ready to offer pupils confidential advice on sexual health matters, as you will see from its home page.

On the good news side, Antonia said that since things were so bad, good things were also occuring and she referred to the "This is my body" resource for primary schools. The programme is published by Philos Educational Publishing and was developed in association with the Education Service of the Diocese of Lancaster and it is now the official programme of that diocese.It is proving immensely successful and popular with both children and teachers. Whereas the State wishes primary school children to receive 'sex education', children at that age are not normally concerned with sex but with the wonder of who they are and where they came from. The fetal models particularly capture the imagination of the young child and lead pupils to an understanding of the existence of life in the womb. They are made of a soft material which mimics human flesh very effectively. The resource also comes with rulers, a teachers resource book, a pupil's resource and a copy of Angel in the Waters. It would be marvellous this were widely disseminated in our schools.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lifesite News Fundraising Campaign

Lifesite News is one of my home pages and is an excellent source of up to date news on the battle for Life and life-related issues. They are raising funds and you might like to donate.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another new Catholic blogger

Entitled A Year with the Church.

Pope Benedict's Visit to the UK Confirmed

Pope Benedict will visit Britain from 16th to 19th September. Breaking with the norms that he personally issued soon after becoming Pope, Benedict will himself beatify John Henry Newman in Coventry.

The following Press Release was today issued jointly by HM Government of the United Kingdom and the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland, England and Wales
The UK Government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland, England and Wales today welcomed the forthcoming visit to the United Kingdom of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. At a joint press conference, they said that the Papal Visit represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on global initiatives, as well as the important role of faith in creating strong communities.

Her Majesty The Queen announced earlier today that the visit will take place from 16-19 September. It will be the first ever official Papal Visit to the UK – the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982 was a pastoral visit only.

The Pope will be received at the Palace of Holyroodhouse by Her Majesty The Queen. His Holiness will give a major speech to British civil society at Westminster Hall. He will also visit the West Midlands to beatify the nineteenth century theologian and educationalist Cardinal John Henry Newman at a public mass in Coventry.

Other key elements of the visit will include a public mass in Glasgow, a prayer vigil in London and an event focusing on education. Relations between the Christian Churches will be a theme of the visit as will the relations between the major faiths. The Pope will visit the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and pray with other Church leaders at Westminster Abbey.

Full details of the Pope’s itinerary will be announced nearer the time.

Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, is the Government Minister leading the preparations for the visit. He said:

“This is an historic visit at an important time. The Pope will receive a very warm welcome from Catholics and people of all faiths.

“As well as providing spiritual leadership to over a billion Catholics around the world, including six million in the UK, the Pope and the Holy See have great influence on global policy in areas such as international development, sustainability and the relationships between religions.

“The Papal visit represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on action to tackle poverty and climate change as well as the important role of faith in creating strong and cohesive communities. We aim to build further on the positive relationship we have developed in recent years.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said:

"I am thrilled that the Pope has accepted the UK Government's gracious invitation and I am sure he will receive a heartfelt welcome from Catholics as well as members of other faiths and people of goodwill.

“A defining feature of Pope Benedict's teaching has been to remind Europe of its Christian roots and culture and to give us guidance on the great moral issues of our day and it is my hope that we all open our hearts to his words.”

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholics Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said:

“As Catholics we are delighted to welcome Pope Benedict. We thank Her Majesty The Queen and her government for extending this historic invitation to His Holiness.

“We are confident that the presence and message of Pope Benedict will encourage everyone to aspire again to a vision of life in our society marked by mutual trust, compassion and truth. The great Christian tradition of faith and life, which has so shaped our culture, has so much more to offer. This gentle yet profound teacher of his faith will encourage and strengthen all who receive his words.”
There is an official Papal Visit website.

See also the announcement from the British Monarchy website.

Monday, March 15, 2010

If you haven't signed yet...

Go and sign the petition Against Government Led Sex Education in Catholic Schools that I have blogged about previously (here, here, and here).

Just to remind you, it reads as follows and I gather from Fr Tim Finigan that it closes this Friday, 19th March, Solemnity of St Joseph:

UPDATE FROM THE PETITION ORGANISERS: The petition will be kept open until 25th March, then sent to the Bishops and to Rome.
To:  Bishops of England and Wales
We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service to fulfil their duty as guardians of our Catholic Faith and unequivocally reject recent Government measures forcing Catholic schools to teach what is explicitly condemned by the Church, viz: presenting active homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, and providing information on the nature - and provision - of contraception and abortion services. Compliance on the part of the Bishops and the CES in such measures would effectively render our schools no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense, and would place the faith and moral life of our children in jeopardy. As Catholic parents, teachers and pastors, we earnestly beg of you, our Shepherds in Christ, that you do not allow this to happen.
Currently there are 1,830 signatures.

If you love Sacred Music...

... you have got to watch this series.

Many of my parishioners are experiencing a sense of grief just now. I am going through an emotional roller coaster. Watching this programme about Brahms and Bruckner (available until 9th April on the BBC iplayer) harmonised with all that is happening just now. Watch it and listen to it and see how these two men, one with not much faith in God but with faith in his music, the other a devout Catholic who hoped that God would consider his music and treat him with mercy, have composed music that touches the human heart and raises us to God.

It was just right for me at present.

Oh, and please pray for my dearly beloved parishioners.

As I have said before, I believe that no organisation does this sort of thing better than the BBC.

Canadian Traditional Anglicans request Ordinariate

Picked this up at Fr Z. See the letter from the "Anglican Catholic Church of Canada" to Cardinal Levada.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The hermeneutic of priestly continuity.

Pope Benedict has given a very significant address to participants in a congress on the priesthoold organised by the Congregation for the Clergy.

The subject of priestly identity is, according to the Holy Father, determinant for the exercise of the ministerial priesthood in the present and in the future. It is undeniable, is it not, that the identity of the priesthood has gone and is going through something of a crisis because of erroneous models of priesthood as "social agents", and not least because of the seemingly never-ending allegations of improper behaviour of priests.

What makes the priest different, or even "strange" to today's world?
The priest often seems "strange" to common opinion precisely because of the more fundamental aspects of his ministry such as being a man of the sacred, removed from the world to intercede in favour of the world, constituted in that mission by God and not by men.
I remember towards the beginning of my ministry in this parish, when introducing changes that I felt were necessary to bring the celebration of the Liturgy more in line with the mind of the Church (such as the use of incense, some Latin chant, etc.) someone asked me: do you feel like one of us? I had to reply that I am not one of you. I have been sent to you.
Just as the hermeneutic of continuity is increasingly revealed as urgent to understand in an appropriate way the texts of the Second Vatican Council, similarly a hermeneutic seems necessary that we could desribe "of priestly continuity" which, starting from Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, and going through the 2000 years of the history of grandeur and holiness, of culture and piety, which the priesthood has written in the world, arrives at our days.
Could this be a suggestion that the manifestation of priestly ministry in the liturgy should return to a more majestic form in terms of chant, vestments, i.e. a celebration of the liturgy more rooted in tradition? Could it also imply the need for priests to be more aware, in all humility, of their vocation to teach magisterially and with authority? Not their own authority but that received from Jesus Christ?

On that charism of teaching:
At this time in which we live it is especially important that the call to participate in the one priesthood of Christ in the ordained ministry flower in the "charism of prophecy": There is a great need of priests that speak of God to the world and that present God to the world; men not subject to ephemeral cultural ways, but capable of living in an authentic way that liberty that only the certainty of belonging to God is in conditions to give... Today the most necessary prophecy is that of fidelity, which, starting from the fidelity of Christ to humanity, will lead through the Church and the ministerial priesthood to live one's priesthood in total adherence to Christ and to the Church. In fact, the priest no longer belongs to himself but, because of the sacramental seal received is "property" of God. This "being of Another" must be made recognizable by all, through a clear witness.
The priest's whole life must be consumed by or subsumed into his priestly identity:
In the way of thinking, of speaking, of judging the events of the world, of serving and loving, in relating to persons, also in the habit [clerical attire], the priest must draw prophetic strength from his sacramental belonging, from his profound being. Consequently, he must have every care to subtract himself from the prevailing mentality, which tends to associate the value of the minister not to his being, but only to his function, thus not appreciating the work of God, who influences the profound identity of the person of the priest, configuring him to himself in a definitive way.
I can only presume that the Holy Father is acknowledging that this prevailing mentality is prevalent within the Church. Confer his comments to the Bishops of England and Wales concering dissent.

The great charism of celibacy:
The horizon of the ontological belonging to God constitutes, moreover, the appropriate framework to understand and reaffirm, also in our days, the value of sacred celibacy, which in the Latin Church is a charism required for Holy Orders and is held in very great consideration in the Eastern Churches. That is authentic prophecy of the Kingdom, sign of consecration to the Lord and to the "things of the Lord" with an undivided heart, expression of the gift of self to God and to others.

Pope Benedict reminds priests that their vocation is sublime and that the laity seek three things in/from a priest:
  • that the Word of God be always on his lips;
  • the mercy of the Father which is lavished abundantly and free in the sacrament of Reconciliation;
  • the Bread of New Life, "true nourishment given to men."
I think this address is a great charter for the renewal of the priesthood in these difficult times. We priests need to be ever more rooted in the Sacrament of Holy Orders by which we, though unworthy, have been conformed to Christ the Head and High Priest. As our Holy Father concludes:
Let us pray to God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint John Mary Vianney, to be able to thank him every day for the great gift of the vocation and to live our priesthood with full and joyful fidelity.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Britain a 'top priority' for boy-size condoms

This from this week's edition of 'The Week':
Extra small condoms for boys as young as 12 are going on sale in Switzerland - and manufacturers are eyeing up Britain as their next potential target. The condoms, called Hotshot, were produced by Lamprecht AG, after studies showed that a growing number of 12 to 14-year olds were sexually active, but that a quarter of boys aged 13 to 20 found standard condoms too large. The firm says Britain will be a "top priority" if it expands abroad.
The sexualisation of our youngsters is big money. It will of course lead to more abortions for more young girls.

I see that this has already been widely reported. (Daily Mail, NY Daily News)

This is of course entirely in line with the Government's Every Child Matters "programme of change to improve outcomes for all children and young people... (taking) forward the Government's vision of radical reform for children, young people and families." and which is a key programme that all schools (Catholic schools included) in the UK are assessed on.

Father Jay Scott Newman joins the blogosphere

See his blog Ecclesia Semper Reformanda.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Any Firefox wizards out there?

After visiting another website on another tab, on returning to my blog tab I find the screen is blank, very awkward if one is in the middle of editing a post or a comment. This only seems to happen with my blog and I think it has only started happening afer I installed a Real Player update. If anyone can tell me why this is happening I'd be grateful. It doesn't happen with Internet Explorer.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Marie Stopes poll on abortion in Ireland

Marie Stopes Reproductive Choices Ireland says:
Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe where abortion is still illegal. Every year thousands of Irish women who have made the decision that they are unable to continue with their pregnancy have to travel overseas, mainly to England, to get help with abortion. This can be stressful and expensive. Woman may need to hide the fact that they are pregnant and going to have an abortion from family and friends.

Woman travelling overseas for abortion, include pregnant teenagers, women who have been raped or in a violent relationship, women whose life would be at risk if they continued with their pregnancy or women whose pregnancy has a foetal abnormality.

At Marie Stopes Reproductive Choices we believe that the law needs to change and modernise to meet the needs of women in Ireland who request abortion help.

What do you think? Take part in the poll. (At present: 6% in favour of legalising abortion in Ireland, 94% against.)

Father Ray Blake has signed that petition.

His signature is no.1608.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What has Britain come to?

This, frankly, pornographic DVD being shown to kids in school (I won't post the pictures - you can see them for your self and watch an excerpt from the video on youtube.) Sex is for grownups who 'find someone they like a lot'! That's what 7 years olds are taught.

Note: this film is being shown in primary schools to 7 year olds. To watch it on youtube, you must declare you are over 18 and log on as it is considered adult material. At least youtube have standards!

Pharmacist refuses to give contraceptive pills to patient

An important matter of principle was aired on the news today and covered in today's Daily Mail. As one who preaches when appropriate about the Church's teaching on contraception and that doctors and pharmacists should not co-operate in this evil, I instinctively rush to the defence of someone like this pharmacist who has acted in accordance with her religious principles. The patient in the report claims that she was prescribed the pill for period pains, yet she goes on to claim the right of her young daughter to contraception to avoid pregnancy. So the pharmacist was, I think, right. Go and support her - the Daily Mail is running a poll: "Should pharmacists have the right to refuse to give out contraceptive pills?" At the moment it's 10% yes, 90% no.

Message from Jackie Parkes

At her request I publish this message:
In order to concentrate on Almighty God & my family & friends more I have decided to cease blogging for at least Lent. I received wise counsel & guidance from spiritual directors & trusted friends & family in making this decision. Thankyou so much sharing my blogging journey & God bless you all. Please pray for me as I pray for you. Mrs Jackie Parkes
Her blog is no longer. Prayers assured.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How could he do it?

To preserve the monarchy King Juan Carlos has signed the death warrants of untold numbers of innocent babies. The vote in favour of this liberal abortion law was too close (132 to 126) to even grant any kind of 'legitimacy' to such a holocaust.

What was His Majesty thinking of? Afraid of a constitutional crisis? I suspect the Spaniards love the monarchy too much to have supported any government attempts to overthrow him.

This is quite a body-blow to the morale of pro-life Spaniards and pro-life people from throughout Europe and the world.

As for the possiblity of the King having incurred the latae sententiae excommunication that applies to those who actually procure an abortion, this is something that is doubtful and therefore cannot be presumed. Only the Roman Pontiff has the right to judge heads of state on ecclesiastical matters(Canon 1405 #1,1). So it is up to Pope Benedict to rule on this one. (Of course, there is a Higher Court...)

Lifesitenews covers the subject here. See also the Archbishop of Valencia.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another saintly priest to support with prayer

Father Ray has come in for some stick following an article in the Brighton Argus. He gives a very moving reaction. Clarity and compassion are generally found together, just like truth and love, veritas et caritas.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why Catholic Schools cannot teach pupils about accessing abortion etc.

Father Hugh MacKenzie, parish priest of St Mary Magdalen's, Willesden Green, has written about this on his parish blog.
1. On 23rd February last Ed Balls, the Minister for Children Schools and Families, said that from September 2011 Catholic schools will by law need to teach pupils “how to access contraception, [and] how to use contraception. [...] they must explain how to access an abortion". Also, incredibly, Mr Balls implied that the Catholic Church was supporting such measures.

2. Actually it is impossible for Catholic schools to do this without contradicting their very nature as Catholic. This is because it would be “formal” cooperation with a very wrong act, e.g. ending the life of an unborn baby. It’s wrong to give boxing gloves to bullies or to inform an intent robber about quick lock-picking, in the (forlorn) hope that they’d do less damage. This is because you become an accomplice. It is a principle basic to the Catholic moral tradition and, therefore, enshrined in western legal traditions under "aiding, abetting and encouraging crime". It flows from Christ's revelation and right reason.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Elderly

Amidst all the battles and campaigning that one seems called to fight and participate in, I found a few hours of great peace today visiting the elderly in local residential care homes. Many of them are living in an unreal world, their minds having become detached from reality. Yet they welcomed me as a priest and praised the Lord in their own way as they received Him in the Holy Eucharist.

People find suffering and old age difficult to cope with. I find it a great privilege to be with these people who have returned to a childhood innocence, blissfully unaware of the evils of the world in which they live, already at the threshold of eternal life. For some, the time they remain on that threshold is short, for others it is longer. Many of their families perhaps do not share our Catholic faith and do not understand the dignity of old age. But for me they radiate and dispense love. I see Christ in them.

I am very grateful to our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion without whom it would be impossible to ensure these beloved sons and daughters of God receive Holy Communion and the love of the Christian community each week. But it is important for us priests to ensure we visit our elderly and sick parishioners regularly. I think they are truly the treasure of the parish.

Videos on the Priesthood

Thanks to Fr Tim who has posted about these wonderful videos about the priest Alter Christus.

Heroic priest Father Luc Buyens: "I, as a priest, am willing to suffer for the sign I stand for."

I think we have much to be grateful for to this gentle priest who faithfully upheld Catholic discipline as regards admission to the Eucharist. Father Luc Buyens refused to give Communion to a notorious homosexual before the traditional Carnival celebrations. His refusal sparked quite a controversy, culminating in a demonstration by hundreds of homosexual activists during Mass at St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch). His homily of the First Sunday of Lent in which he refers to his actions can be read at In Caelo et in Terra. (Notice a Benedictine arrangement on the altar.)

Heroic Priests: witnesses of faith in the 21st century

Aid to the Church in Need has published a booklet about priests who have given heroic witness to the Christian faith so far in the 21st century. Such witnesses as Ragheed Ganni (pictured right), the Iraqi priest who died in a gun attack in Mosul; Andrea Santoro, the Italian Fidei Donum priest shot dead in Turkey and others whom we may not have heard of who have not lost their lives yet who give heroic witness to selfless and dedicated priestly ministry.

Details at Aid to the Church in Need's shop. Such has been the demand that they are temporarily out of stock - new supplies expected 12th March. Short extracts can be read here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It is not disloyal to sign this petition

My learned and esteemed colleague and friend Father Ray Blake raises objections to the petition I referred to in a previous post. I respectfully disagree with him.

The rights and obligations of the Christian Faithful are dealt with in the Code of Canon Law.
Can. 211 - All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land.
This clearly acknowledges the right of the faithful to use the modern means of mass communications, such as blogs, to propagate the Gospel.

But more significantly for the current matter:
Can. 212#1. - Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
When the Bishops declare on a matter as teachers of the faith, we must give our assent and obey. However:
Can. 212 #2. - The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
Sometimes the faithful will approach their pastors as needy children and plead for what they consider to be their needs and desires. If these needs and desires are something they have a right to then there is a complementary obligation on the part of the pastors not only to listen to the faithful but to ensure that those needs and desires are satisfied. I think the petition in question is a fine example of filial pleading with our Fathers in God. There is no insubordination in the wording of the petition, but rather a request for succour and assistance. It might be argued that the faithful who sign the petition should approach the pastors individually. But Can. 212 #2 does not stipulate how the faithful are to make their needs know to the pastors. The use of modern communications is by no means excluded. It is also possible that many people feel that they have got nowhere in the past and so they have chosen to take recourse to this more public form of manifestation. This web-based petition also enables many more people to more easily exercise the right referred to in Can. 212 #2.
#3. - According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.
It is clear that in the petition there is nothing which threatens the integrity of faith or morals. The Church's teaching is clear on homosexuality, contraception and abortion, which are the matters referred to in the petition. Furthermore, those who have proposed the petition and many of those signing it will be:
  • parents who are experts and experienced in the education and bringing up of their children in the ways of God;
  • teachers who are faced with the dilemma of introducing this objectionable material into the classroom;
  • priests who are experts in morals and who, on a daily basis, engage pastorally with their parishioners - parents, children, young, old - and who often deal with the hurt caused by lost innocence, the abuse of sex through the use of contraception, the healing needed by the post-abortion victim;
  • lay faithful who pray outside abortion clinics and witness the ever-increasing destruction of human life and the coarsening of consciences of those involved in abortion or who are victims of it
and others, all of whom have the knowledge and competence, if not the prestige, referred to in the above Canon. There are also many experts who work in pro-life organisations and who work on a daily basis in the battle to save lives in the face of a hugely powerful and efficiently financed abortion industry and whose voices perhaps appear not have been heeded by the pastors.

The petition pays ample respect to the pastors and is therefore 'attentive to ... the dignity of persons'. It refers to the Bishops as 'our Shepherds in Christ'. It would appear that the 'common advantage' is obvious: that to repulse this Government legislation will be for the good of souls, whereas to acquiesce in it and, worse, to actually support it, would cause great harm to souls and to society. The 'advantage' of our Catholic schools is also at stake.

Here is one comment which has been left on the petition which should make us all think:
Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith taught the girls in my daughters' PSHE class to put a condom on a life-size model of a penis. How is this compatible with Catholic doctrine? (Signature no. 395)
If nothing else would convince you to sign, I think this comment should.

So, read it again and, if convinced, sign.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service to fulfil their duty as guardians of our Catholic Faith and unequivocally reject recent Government measures forcing Catholic schools to teach what is explicitly condemned by the Church, viz: presenting active homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, and providing information on the nature - and provision - of contraception and abortion services. Compliance on the part of the Bishops and the CES in such measures would effectively render our schools no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense, and would place the faith and moral life of our children in jeopardy. As Catholic parents, teachers and pastors, we earnestly beg of you, our Shepherds in Christ, that you do not allow this to happen.


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