Friday, October 28, 2011

The Monarchy becomes "inclusive" - should we be glad?

It has been announced today that the "discrimination" against women and Catholics in the Royal Family will be brought to an end. The Monarch's first born will be first in line to the throne, regardless of sex. And a member of the Royal Family will be able to marry a Catholic without losing his/her right to succession.

The Archbishop of Westminster issued the following statement:

“I welcome the decision of Her Majesty's Government to give heirs to the throne the freedom to marry a Catholic without being removed from the line of succession. This will eliminate a point of unjust discrimination against Catholics and will be welcomed not only by Catholics but far more widely.”

“At the same time I fully recognise the importance of the position of the Established Church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today.”

On the face of it this seems like progress. But I'm not so sure.

The Archbishop's statement contains within it the problem: can a monarch marry a Catholic and still take an oath to uphold the Protestant religion? Will the Catholic consort be dispensed by the Catholic Church from the obligations required by Canon Law under normal circumstances in a mixed marriage:

Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind [i.e. for a Catholic to marry a baptised non-Catholic] if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;

3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

It is obvious that any children would have to be brought up in the Church of England since they would have a place in the line of succession and would be potential monarchs who would have to pledge to uphold the Protestant Religion. The establishment of the Church of England depends on this.

Any member of the Royal Family who converted to Catholicism would still have to renounce his/her right to the throne.

I happen to have a high regard for the Royal Family but I wonder if this attempt to make the Royal Family "relevant" will actually result in them becoming irrelevant and, eventually, to the disestablishment of the Church of England.

From the BBC:
On scrapping the ban on future monarchs marrying Roman Catholics, Mr Cameron said: "Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church. But it is simply wrong they should be denied the chance to marry a Catholic if they wish to do so. After all, they are already quite free to marry someone of any other faith."

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the elimination of the "unjust discrimination" against Catholics would be widely welcomed.

"At the same time I fully recognise the importance of the position of the established church [the Church of England] in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today," he said.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond also welcomed the lifting of the ban but said it was "deeply disappointing" that Roman Catholics were still unable to ascend to the throne.

"It surely would have been possible to find a mechanism which would have protected the status of the Church of England without keeping in place an unjustifiable barrier on the grounds of religion in terms of the monarchy," he said.

"It is a missed opportunity not to ensure equality of all faiths when it comes to the issue of who can be head of state."

Mr Salmond's observation also has its problems: if every Act passed by Parliament requires the monarch's signature to become law, would a Catholic monarch refuse to sign into law Acts that are contrary to the moral law? Or would they do a Juan Carlos?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A large family just got larger

Way back in August, I received an email from Tania, then a mother of nine expecting twins. As I recall, I picked up her email at Marquette International Airport as I was waiting for a flight to Chicago which would connect me to a flight to Burlington, Vermont, for my vacation in Stowe with my English priest friend Father Benedict Kiely, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church.
Well, the email stayed in my inbox in spite of my assurance that I would give publicity to Tania's book entitled Larger Family Life - Living life the large family way. Now I have received an email about the birth of the twin daughters pictured above. Read more at Tania's blog.

Tania and her family attend Holy Family Catholic Church in Hoo, Kent, which is a satellite church of English Martyrs, Strood, which happens to be where my brother served as curate (assistant priest/parochial vicar/associate pastor) for a number of years before becoming parish priest (pastor) at Good Shepherd Church, New Addington.

So, congratulations to Tania and her husband on their beautiful babies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"All are welcome" - a Bishop begs to differ

Bishop Morlino of the Diocese of Madison has written a column on beauty and the liturgy which Fr Z has posted and commented on. Hopefully we will get more episcopal statements like this. Bishop Sample recently gave his opinion on "Gather us in".

Bishop Alexander Sample on the Orientation of the Sacred Liturgy

Bishop Sample preached this homily during the celebration of the Extraordinary Form Mass at St Peter Cathedral Marquette on September 4th.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pope Benedict Announces a Year of Faith

Pope Benedict processing into this morning's Mass on the mobile platform
that the media seem to be making so much fuss over.
At Mass today (which may be watched in its entirety here) Pope Benedict announced a year of Faith to commence on October 11th 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It will end on November 24th 2013, Solemnity of Christ the King.

The aim of the year is to give a renewed impulse to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves towards the place of life and friendship with Christ who gives us life in its fullness. The year will be, the Holy Father said, a moment of grace and of commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in Him and to announce Him with joy to today's humanity.

The month of October is traditionally dedicated to prayer for the missionary activity of the Church. Now, however, the Church turns its attention to those lands which once were Christian but have lost the initial joy of faith in Christ. The New Evangelisation is directed to those lands and peoples that, having been evangelised in the past, now need to be re-evangelised.

The Holy Father will introduce the year with an Apostolic Letter.

See The Vatican Today and the Holy Father's homily (currently only in Italian).
If I'm not mistaken, the bishop on the right with hands joined in the traditional
manner is Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I would ask for prayer for Bishop Finn at this time

As everyone knows - it has made the news worldwide - Bishop Finn of the diocese of Kansas City - St Joseph and the diocese have been indicted on charges of failing to report child abuse. You can read about it here, for instance.

As Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said:
“This has nothing — nothing — to do with the Catholic faith. This is about the facts"
It is a matter of law, not the Catholic faith, and it appears to me that Bishop Finn is anxious to do all he can to co-operate with law enforcement authorities.

The diocese's statement is here.

53 year old father of 14 battling with cancer

Lifesite News always carries wonderfully edifying stories. This one is too even as it calls us to pray for Jim Littleton and his family. Not only are there the fourteen children in the picture above but they lost five others due to miscarriages.
“[T]hanks to God, we have been consoled by the reality of our crosses having a redemptive value,” they say. “In and of itself the cross would be worthless, a great loss, but the crosses and difficulties, crises, and disasters of our lives all have the capacity to bear much fruit, and culminate in our own growth and purification as well as in the overall redemption of mankind.”

The greatest cross the Littleton’s are now bearing is Jim’s illness, which has affected his ability to work and provide for his family. The extensive demands of his medical treatment as well as 6 hospitalizations have consumed his family’s resources.

Read their story at Lifesite News. There is also the opportunity to contribute to a benefit fund to help the family pay for Jim's continuing treatment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Church renovations at Crystal Falls, MI

Father Jeffrey Kurtz, pastor of Guardian Angels Church, Crystal Falls, MI in the diocese of Marquette has sent me these photos of the renovations currently underway at his parish church and has said he is happy for them to be published. A sign of the times...

 More pictures will be available on completion of the work. Father Kurtz has received

a bit of exciting news today. The parish is to receive a substantial bequest and the man's family has asked that part of the money be used to construct the "shrines" to the Sacred Heart and Blessed Virgin. Plan to go with the same company for the marbles and will consult with Affiliated Artists for the design of the decorative painting in those areas. We are truly blessed.

Father, you are! And may God bless you in your work of restoring beauty to your church and to the liturgy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bishop Sample shares his Vision and Program for the New Evangelisation

At the final session of the Convocation of Priests serving in the Diocese of Marquette, Bishop Alexander Sample spoke about his vision or program for the New Evangelisation. He summed it up by saying: It's the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

This is very much in line with Pope John Paul II's view: that there is no need for any new program. However, Bishop Sample highlighted two central themes that are, as it were, coming over the horizon:
  • the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
  • the work of the New Evangelisation.

The Sacred Liturgy
Bishop Sample suggested that the new English translation of the Mass was an opportune time for the Church, for us, to set about the work of renewal and reform of the Sacred Liturgy, and that this is central to the work of the New Evangelisation.

The bishop placed himself clearly in the camp of Pope Benedict who spoke of the need for a reform of the reform long before becoming Pope. Some might say that the bishop just wants to take us back to the way things were before? The fact that he celebrates the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at the Cathedral every month has apparently created some waves. And the positioning of the Crucifix on the altar facing the celebrant has also provoked some comment. But there could be nothing further from the truth. Pope Benedict allowed a greater flourishing of the Extraordinary Form so that it would stand side by side with the Novus Ordo, that both forms might enrich one another.

It is a good time to take a step back and to examine: what has been good, what has been lost, what can we recover. "I'm following, I'm listening to Benedict XVI. I trust that the Holy Spirit guides our shepherd" Bishop Sample said.
Priests pray silently before Mass.

A forthcoming Pastoral Letter
Bishop Sample referred to a letter concerning the liturgy that he - with the help of others -  is working on. In this letter he will examine:
  • The Essence of the Liturgy
    What is the Holy Mass? We do not create Liturgy. It is what it is. It has an objective and intrinsic meaning as both
    - Sacrifice
    - Sacred Banquet (as per St Thomas Aquinas - Sacrum Convivium).
  • The Cosmic nature of the Liturgy
    Pope Benedict discussed this in his book "The Spirit of the Liturgy". The Mass has an eschatological orientation. In the Mass we celebrate and commemorate what already is but await what is to come.
The offertory
A clear understanding of these points informs the celebration of the Mass. In Pope Benedict's book "The Light of the World" the Holy Father reminds his readers that the liturgy is not the expression of the community. It is not to be tinkered with.
  • Ars celebrandi
    The Mass is the Sacramentum Caritatis.There is an art - ars - to its celebration. It should be beautiful, reflecting the beauty and greatness of God. We should appreciate the purpose and meaning of the words, gestures, vessels, the Cross on the altar, the orientation of prayer. The East is connected very much with the Cross. Our gaze - especially in the Eucharistic Prayer - must be fixed on Christ glorified on the Cross as we await his coming.

  • Sacred Music
    The renewal of the Sacred Liturgy is intimately connected with the renewal of Sacred Music and Bishop Sample will address this in his letter.

Also to be addressed are some practical points:
  • some do's and don'ts;
  • some things that need correcting;
  • not to invent options.

The bishop advised us all to re-read the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and the rubrics. He quoted Fr Z's blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say, and Fr Z's motto: "do the red, say the black." Chances are that if we re-read the GIRM and the rubrics, we will probably notice something that we either had not known, had forgotten or had overlooked.

We must celebrate the liturgy well. Then it will be the Church's liturgy, celebrated with beauty, prayerfully, reverently. "If we don't have the Liturgy, what do we have?"
Bishop sample offering the chalice
The New Evangelisation
Bishop Sample referred the priests to his Holy Thursday Letter.

The letter of Pope John Paul II Novo Millennio Ineunte reminded us that the program for the New Evangelisation is contained in the Gospels. But there were seven pastoral priorities:
  1. the call to holiness
  2. prayer in the Church
  3. Sunday Mass
  4. Penance/Confession
  5. the primacy of grace (not just our own efforts)
  6. listening to the Word
  7. proclaiming the Word.
As regards the call to holiness: Are we serious about prayer in our own lives? We must live what we proclaim. When he was elected bishop one of the priests of the diocese presented Bishop Sample with a poster of the movie "The Lord of the Rings" with the quotation of Frodo saying: "I wish the ring had never come to me." The bishop recalled Gandalf's reply: "So do all who live to see such times. That is not ours to decide, but ours is to do the best with the time that has been given to us."

Concerning prayer, the bishop commended the practice of the Holy Hour. "I beg you," he said, "to be men of prayer."

  1. go!
  2. preach about it.
  3. be available.
On the primacy of grace, it is less about numbers and more about fidelity. The Church is His Church. Novo Millennion Ineunte refers to the discouragement that can result with the instigation of yet another new program following on the heels of others that have either fizzled out or that have not produced results. It's not us. In other words, it's not a question of dreaming up new programs. The Lord does not want us to be successful but faithful.

Pope Benedict has established a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation and there is an upcoming Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation. Whilst we await guidance from these ecclesiastical organs, for us it is time to stop talking about the New Evangelisation and rather make it happen.

Whilts it is not about a new program we do need a strategic plan, and we need to develop it together. So perhaps there might be established a task force to focus on a diocesan plan, a strategy for the New Evangelisation, focussed on the 7 headings of NMI.

Our personal holiness really matters as priests. It makes all the difference in the Body of Christ. In the year of priests we were reminded that the effectiveness of the priestly ministry relies on the holiness of priests. If the priest is holy, the people are good. If the priest is good, the people are ok. If the priest is mediocre, God help the people!

We must be serious in our life of prayer, in our sacrifice, etc. The bishop confided to the priests that he prays and offers sacrifice for each priest in the diocese. His Friday Mass, fast, prayer, abstinence are all offered for the priests of the diocese. He asks Our Lady to pour out the Precious Blood and Water that flowed from her Son's side upon all the priests and that she would hold us close to her Immaculate Heart.

Bishop Sample also encouraged us to reach out to one another, to foster priestly friendships, to reach out to one whom we notice to be isolated, reclusive, etc. He encouraged support groups, and exhorted us to do all we can to be present at ordinations, the Chrism Mass, the funerals of our brother priests and of their parents.
Bishop Sample preaching on the feast of St Bruno
In his homily at the Mass that followed the final session, Bishop Sample, commenting on the gospel appointed for the Mass of St Bruno, encouraged us to serve the Lord with undivided hearts, to be men of hope. We are blest because we hope in the Lord, that we should teach our people to place all their hope in him.

On the previous day, Bishop Sample invited all the priests to make the following Act of Consecration after the homily:

Mary, Mother of Jesus and Queen of Peace
since Jesus from the Cross
gave you to me,
I take you as my own.

And since Jesus gave me to you,
take me as your own.
Make me docile like Jesus on the Cross,
obedient to the Father,
trusting in humility and love.

Mary, my Mother,
in imitation of the Father,
who gave His Son to you,
I too give myself to you;
to you I entrust all that I am,
all that I have
and all that I do.

Help me to surrender ever more fully to the Spirit.
Lead me deeper into the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection
and the fullness of the Church.

As you formed the heart of Jesus by the Spirit,
form my heart to be the throne of Jesus
in His glorious coming.
As a final thought, perhaps it is worth recalling Bishop Sample's coat of arms:

You can read about it at the Bishop's Page of the Marquette diocesan website. Concerning his motto, we read the following:
For his motto, Bishop Sample uses the Latin phrase, “VULTUM CHRISTI CONTEMPLARI” (“to contemplate the face of Christ”). This theme is taken from the writings of Pope John Paul II (Novo Millennio Ineunte and Ecclesia de Eucharistia), in which the Holy Father reminded us that it is the task of the Church to make the face of Christ shine before the generations of the new millennium. The Holy Father further reflected: “Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.” 
So the New Evangelisation has been at the heart of Bishop Sample's vision: that all may be led to the contemplation of the face of Christ.

I need lots of these cards

Does anyone know where I can buy them?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Priests of Marquette Diocese gather for convocation on New Evangelisation

Father Alfred Bradley with Bishop Alexander Sample after Mass on our final morning.
From Monday 3rd to Thursday 6th October over 50 priests attended the Marquette Diocese Priests Convocation at the Four Seasons Island Resort in Pembine, Wisconsin.

The guest speaker was Redemptorist Father Alfred Bradley C.Ss.R, Director and Pastor of the Shrine of St John Neumann in Philadelphia.

The theme of the New Evangelisation is very dear to the heart of the Bishop of Marquette, the Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample. Father Bradley covered key areas of the priest's role in the New Evangelisation:

On the New Evangelisation, Father Bradley described it as
  • showing others the face of Christ (after John Paul II)
  • witnessing by our lives that God exists (after Benedict XVI)
  • showing people "the art of living" (after Benedict XVI)

Referring to the writings and sayings Pope Benedict (for whom he expressed the highest regard and admiration), he described the true problem of our times as a "Crisis of God", the absence of God which is disguised as an empty religiosity. Unfortunately, we Christians can also behave as if God does not exist.

We need to proclaim God as
  • Creator
  • Sanctifier
  • Judge (not a very popular notion).

Unltimately our work of evangelisation must be Theocentric, i.e. the basic thrust is that GOD EXISTS, and all that follows from this.

Key documents that Father Bradley referred to:

Father Bradley quoted the well-known phrase from Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi n.41:
"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."
Pope Paul VI elaborated on the importance of the witness of Christians in the midst of the world:
Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization. (EN n.21)
On Confession: Father Bradley said that the goal of any parish mission that Redemptorists carry out is to get people to go to Confession. He quoted extensively from Pope Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia and the priest's role as pontifex (bridge builder), describing the Church's mission as reconciling people with God, neighbour, themselves and creation. Father Bradley reminded us of the Pontiff's comment that, from seeing sin everywhere we appear to have passed to seeing it nowhere, and that the modern notion of respect for consciences appears to exclude the duty to tell others the truth, and that priests too can fall into this trap. Father Bradley reminded the priests that it is not possible to bear witness to Christ unless they reflect his image. Therefore priests themselves must celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, i.e. they must also go to Confession.

Father Bradley also spoke powerfully about the Eucharist and the sacrifices that have been and are made by men and women with real faith in the Eucharist. (For example the priests in Priest Block 25487 in Dachau, movie version The Ninth Day.)

Servant Leadership was also a theme that Father Bradley developed.  In oder to be servant leaders, we priests need to be people of character
  • able to make insightful, ethical, principle-centred decisions;
  • honest, trustworthy, authentic, humble;
  • leading by conscience and not by ego;
  • filled with depth of spirit and enthusiasm;
  • committed to desiring to serve something beyond oneself.
Ultimately it means to be like Christ.

Father Bradley is rightly in demand as a mission preacher. He certainly inspired the priests at the convocation by his evident devotion to the Lord, real appreciation of the mystery and wonder of the priesthood, his frank description of some of the crazy things that have gone on in the past that undermined people's faith and particularly the priesthood.

Father Bradley also used some very moving youtube movies to inspire us or that might be helpful in inspiring others:

Click on the picture to play.

And what did the Bishop say? Another post will deal Bishop Sample's inspiring address on the final morning.

Meanwhile, if you want to see priests relaxing, visit my facebook page and that of Father Ben Hasse. My photo of a bald eagle on the Menominee River seems to have caught people's attention:

The Fall colours were amazing!

Steve Jobs: Inspirational!

I think so. His Stanford University 2005 Commencement Speech is inspirational. OK, I think we can interpret his words concerning "dogma" in a way that we can accept: if someone tells you you can't fulfil your dream, ignore them.

I was particularly drawn by his comments on "joining the dots of the past" (you can't join the dots of the future - you have to trust - in God, we would say), beauty and death. If a man who clearly has no faith in God can inspire in this way, what ideals shouldn't we Catholics be able to inspire in our young people?

His life started off on a completely wrong footing, yet he achieved so much.

Perhaps not all in his life was consistent with how a Christian would seek to model his life, but whoever enjoys using an ipod, ipad, iphone, apple computer... has an opportunity - and an obligation - to pray with hope for the repose of the soul of this man.

Assisi 2011

As mentioned yesterday, some are concerned about the risk of the appearance of syncretism at the forthcoming Assisi event.

Pope Benedict wishes to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi meeting held by Pope Blessed John Paul II that took place on 27th October 1986.

A bulletin from the Vatican Information Service of 2nd April this year outlines Pope Benedict's vision for this anniversary. It says:
Believers too are constantly journeying towards God: hence the possibility, indeed the necessity, of speaking and entering into dialogue with everyone, believers and unbelievers alike, without sacrificing one’s own identity or indulging in forms of syncretism. To the extent that the pilgrimage of truth is authentically lived, it opens the path to dialogue with the other, it excludes no one and it commits everyone to be a builder of fraternity and peace.
It appears that there will no public recitation of prayers, no "ceremonies" but rather dialogue and moments for private prayer and reflection. Not only leaders/representatives of other religions but also people from the world of science and culture who might not profess any belief in God will be participating. Here is what is envisaged:
The image of pilgrimage therefore sums up the meaning of the event. There will be an opportunity to look back over the path already travelled from that first meeting in Assisi to the following one in January 2002, and also to look ahead to the future, with a view to continuing, in company with all men and women of good will, to walk along the path of dialogue and fraternity, in the context of a world in rapid transformation. Saint Francis, poor and humble, will once more welcome everyone to his home town, which has become a symbol of brotherhood and peace.

The delegations will set off from Rome by train on the morning of 27 October, together with the Holy Father. Upon arrival in Assisi, they will make their way to the Basilica of S. Maria degli Angeli, where the previous meetings will be recalled and the theme of the Day will be explored in greater depth. Leaders of some of the delegations present will make speeches and the Holy Father will likewise deliver an address.

There will follow a simple lunch, shared by the delegates: a meal under the banner of sobriety, intended to express fraternal conviviality, and at the same time solidarity in the suffering of so many men and women who do not know peace. There will follow a period of silence for individual reflection and prayer. In the afternoon, all who are present in Assisi will make their way towards the Basilica of Saint Francis. It will be a pilgrimage in which, for the final stretch, the members of the delegations will also take part; it is intended to symbolize the journey of every human being who assiduously seeks the truth and actively builds justice and peace. It will take place in silence, leaving room for personal meditation and prayer. In the shadow of Saint Francis’ Basilica, where the previous meetings were also concluded, the final stage of the Day will include a solemn renewal of the joint commitment to peace.
To me this seems a most laudable project and deserving of our prayerful support.
In preparation for this Day, Pope Benedict XVI will preside over a Prayer Vigil at Saint Peter’s the previous evening, together with the faithful of the Diocese of Rome. Particular Churches and communities throughout the world are invited to organize similar times of prayer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Theme of World Communications Day 2012: Silence!

St Anne inviting us to be silent (as found at Reluctant Sinner).
Well, actually: "Silence and Word: Path to Evangelisation".

Silence is very difficult to achieve in our day. Last week much of Gwinn, MI, experienced a power outage following 70+ mph winds which brought trees down over power lines, resulting in loss of power. The lack of electricity certainly was not without its inconveniences: no hot water, no lighting, no possibility of cooking, loss of food in the freezer, etc. But one blessing it did bring was silence: no radio, no TV, no internet... just the possibility of reading by candle light (or kindle-light!) and working quietly during the day. One was able to listen more to one's thoughts and the voice of nature.

Pope Benedict has chosen a very important theme concerning communication. Communication is thought to be all about words. But how important silence is too.

The Vatican's news release on the subject states:
The extraordinarily varied nature of the contribution of modern communications to society highlights the need for a value which, on first consideration, might seem to stand in contradistinction to it. Silence, in fact, is the central theme for the next World Communications Day Message: 'Silence and Word: path of evangelisation'. In the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, silence is not presented simply as an antidote to the constant and unstoppable flow of information that characterises society today but rather as a factor that is necessary for its integration. Silence, precisely because it favours habits of discernment and reflection, can in fact be seen primarily as a means of welcoming the word. We ought not to think in terms of a dualism, but of the complementary nature of two elements which when they are held in balance serve to enrich the value of communication and which make it a key factor that can serve the new evangelisation. It is clearly the desire of the Holy Father to associate the theme of the next World Communications Day with the celebration of the forthcoming Synod of Bishops which will have as its own theme: 'The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith'.
How quickly people react to sound bites. The Pope himself has experienced misunderstanding of statements he has made, the result of a lack of that "discernment and reflection" that is mentioned above.

Silence is also key to prayer, as I have mentioned recently. I look forward to reading the forthcoming message of Pope Benedict which is customarily published on the memorial of St Francis de Sales (January 24th), patron saint of writers. World Communications Day itself is kept on the Sunday before Pentecost (May 20th in 2012).

Reluctant Sinner has further comment.

"That I may see you" - this is the essence of prayer!

Pope Benedict, since May, has been dwelling on the subject of prayer in his weekly Wednesday Audiences. Having a little bit of relaxation time as I attend the Marquette Diocese Priests Convocation, I am catching up a little and have just read the first audience given on May 4th.

Pope Benedict refers to ancient civilizations and their intuition of the existence of God, the desire to have real communion with God, and even their sense of bondage to sin and the need for liberation and God's mercy.

Some examples:
I shall start with ancient Egypt, as an example. Here a blind man, asking the divinity to restore his sight, testifies to something universally human. This is a pure and simple prayer of petition by someone who is suffering. This man prays: “My heart longs to see you.... You who made me see the darkness, create light for me, so that I may see you! Bend your beloved face over me” (A. Barucq — F. Daumas, Hymnes et prières de l’Egypte ancienne, Paris 1980). That I may see you; this is the essence of the prayer!

In the religions of Mesopotamia an arcane, paralyzing sense of guilt predominated, but which was not devoid of the hope of redemption and liberation on God’s part. We may thus appreciate this entreaty by a believer of those ancient cultures, formulated in these words: “O God who are indulgent even in the greatest sin, absolve me from my sin.... Look, O Lord at your tired servant and blow your breeze upon him: forgive him without delay. Alleviate your severe punishment. Freed from bonds, grant that I may breathe anew, break my chains, loosen the fetters that bind me” (M.-J. Seux, Hymnes et Prières aux Dieux de Babylone et d’Assyrie, Paris 1976). These are words that demonstrate how the human being, in his search for God, had intuited, if vaguely, on the one hand his own guilt and on the other, aspects of divine mercy and goodness.

In the pagan religion of ancient Greece, a very significant development may be seen: prayers, while still invoking divine help to obtain heavenly favours in every circumstance of daily life and to receive material benefits, gradually became orientated to more disinterested requests, which enabled the believer to deepen his or her relationship with God and to become a better person.

For example, the great philosopher Plato records a prayer of his teacher, Socrates, held to be one of the founders of Western thought. This was Socrates’ prayer: “Grant to me that I be made beautiful in my soul within, and that all external possessions be in harmony with my inner man. May I consider the wise man rich; and may I have such wealth as only the self-restrained man can bear or endure” (Plato, Phaedrus, English trans.: Loeb, Harold North Fowler). Rather than to possess plenty of money, he wanted above all to be beautiful within and wise.
In reading these words, I wonder if Pope Benedict is preparing the ground for the next Assisi gathering which is often considered controversial by traditionally minded Catholics. The Pope wants to be present to ensure that the event has a proper orientation. Some will want him to preach to the adherents of other religions that Jesus Christ is the only Way. Maybe he will, but surely nothing but good can come in gathering men and women who believe that there is a Being to whom we must pray if we are to be truly human. They may not yet know that Being but they are acknowledging Him nonetheless and their dependence on Him, that they are not self-sufficient.

As the Holy Father says:
In the examples of prayer of the various cultures which we have considered, we can see a testimony of the religious dimension and of the desire for God engraved on the heart of every human being, which receives fulfilment and full expression in the Old and in the New Testament. The Revelation, is in fact purifying and brings to its fullness man’s original yearning for God, offering to him, in prayer, the possibility of a deeper relationship with the heavenly Father.
Today's audience is on Psalm 23 which happens to be this coming Sunday's Responsorial Psalm.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mothers and Fathers removed from British Passport Application Forms

Firstly, a new blog to check out: Defend Marriage in Scotland. It's going straight to my sidebar and Google Reader subscriptions.

And this blog brings to our attention an article in yesterday's Daily Telegraph which says:
Following pressure from gay rights campaigners, the Home Office is modifying the application process to make it more politically correct.

Instead of an applicant naming their mother and father, they will be asked for details of “parent 1” and “parent 2”.

The change has been made following claims the original form was “discriminatory” and failed to include same-sex couples looking after a child.
When you enter the world of political correctness you end up discriminating against those who have natural rights, the right of a father and a mother to be recognised as such, not simply as a parent. "Parent" is a term that includes both father and mother but does not distinguish between them. Each has a right to be recognised. Feminists should protest about the lack of recognition of the woman as mother. In this sense, all distinction between the sexes is denied, which is of course one of the fruits of the denial of the purpose of sex: the generation of offspring. This denial begins at contraception.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Second Missionaries of Charity house in Moscow threatened with demolition

The Moscow authorities demolished one house just over a week ago because of lack of permits, and now the city has initiated criminal proceedings against the MC's over the remaining property.

The Archbishop in Moscow, Mgr Paul Pezzi, refers to a "dictatorship of law".

See for more.

See how America Magazine mis-represents Vatican II

In a post dated October 10th 2011 (it's only October 3rd as I write) entitled Save the Altar Girls, the editorial reports on the decision by the rector of Ss Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona to restrict serving at the altar to boys. This, of course, was always the Church's practice until a 1994 decision to permit girls to serve.

Now, the Second Vatican Council was concluded in 1965 and it made no mention of allowing girls to serve at Mass. Yet America Magazine writes:

These moves to limit laywomen’s access to the altar threaten to drag the church back into the pre-Vatican II world. One wonders if next the altar rail will return, another barrier between the priests and the people.

Where was the removal of altar rails mentioned in Vatican II? It wasn't.

This is a so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" article which bears no resemblance to the letter of the Council.

The editorial makes the following case:

The key issue is the status of the baptized: that the laity may be called by the Spirit to offer their talents in various roles. The rejection of altar girls disregards the counsel of the Second Vatican Council that the charisms of the baptized “are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation.” By virtue of baptism, the council reminds us, “there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus.” There is “a true equality between all with regard to the dignity and activity which is common to all the faithful in building up the Body of Christ” (“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” Nos. 12, 32).

But this argument could be used in support of a campaign for the admission of women to the ranks of the priesthood, yet this is clearly not possible. There is no distinction between male and female in terms of their equal dignity before God, but male and female not only have different physical attributes (only one can be father/husband and only the other mother/wife), they have distinct sacramental attributes to, signs of Christ as bridegroom and the Church as bride respectively.

Clearly America magazine is worried that the Phoenix decision might lead to a trend, and I think they are right to be worried as many of the innovations made over recent decades are being re-examined and rolled back. Whatever their views on girls and altar serving, they should not be invoking the spirit of Vatican II. Altar rails are making a come back too.

New Personal Parish for the Traditional Mass and Sacraments

From Rorate Caeli:
America is fast becoming the nation of Personal Parishes for the Traditional Roman Mass and Sacraments. This Sunday, the creation a new Personal Parish, to be established by the Ordinary of Fort Wayne-South Bend, was announced - a decision of Bishop Kevin Rhoades, as foreseen by Summorum Pontificum, art. 10. As reported by D. Werling, the existing Sacred Heart parish will cease being a territorial parish and is to become a personal parish for those attached to the "Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite" in Fort Wayne, Indiana (with its former territory attached to that of another territorial parish).
The parish will be administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Oath against Modernism

Fr Z and Fr Ray Blake have put this Oath on their blogs. Here it is. Naturally I would have no hesitation in signing this if asked. Would you?

Given by His Holiness St. Pius X September 1, 1910.

To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.

I . . . . firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day.

And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated:

Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.

Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time.

Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical' misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely.

Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.

Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas.

I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion.

I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful.

Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm.

Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles.

I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.

I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God and these holy Gospels (which I touch with my hand).

Prayer - Divine Silence and homesickness for the tabernacle and altar...

"What makes the soul really suffer is when one is obliged to lend one's attention to some banal, worldly conversation. The soul then feels ill at ease, estranged by all the insignificant things she hears, and to which she must make some reply. She compares these empty words to the divine silence of the church and the tabernacle, and the heart is homesick for the altar." Spiritual Journal of Lucie Christine as edited by Father Poulain and quoted in Common Mystic Prayer by Gabriel Diefenbach, O.F.M. Cap.

I'll be addressing the topic of silence in Church soon... So many words that should not be uttered in this temple of "divine silence".

Human Life - the choicest vine

The Parable of the Vineyard (Mt 21:33-43) relates how God had dealt with Israel, the chosen people. But it also relates to the Church and the world, for the Church is the new People of God, the new Israel, not confined to any particular race or geographical location, but intended by God to embrace people of every race and nation, which is why it has been called "Catholic" from the earliest centuries of its existence.

The vineyard we hear about in the Gospel and in the prophecy of Isaiah (Is 5:1-7) was perfectly prepared:
  • a hedge round it to mark the property out;
  • a wine press to press the grapes to produce fine wine;
  • a tower to ensure it would never be without water.
It was leased to tenants and the owner went to another country. God created this world and entrusted it to us as tenants. We were to be the stewards of this beautiful, perfect creation. We were left to it. All we had to do was protect it, till it, work to ensure it bore good fruit; to respect and not manipulate the laws of nature.

An absent landlord will generally employ an agent to keep an eye on the tenants:
  • to ensure all is well
  • to collect the rent, in this case the fruit of the vineyard: grapes and wine.
But all was not well in the vineyard. Had it been, the agents would have been welcomed. Instead, they were beaten, killed, stoned. God had sent his agents - his prophets - to the people of Israel, to remind them
  • that they were God's people, his possession;
  • that God expected fruits of good works, worship, fidelity, etc.
The prophets were, however, so frequently rejected.

The prophecy of Isaiah speaks of the vineyard of Jerusalem from which God expected fine grapes but which yielded only wild grapes.

When he looked for justice he found only bloodshed. Man was killing man, shedding the blood of his brother and, ultimately, the blood of God's only begotten Son, the heir in the parable whom they cast out of the vineyard and killed, taking Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem and crucifying him outside the city.

The finest vine is the vine of human life. Each human being is like the finest of grapes. It, of all creatures on earth, must never be killed or harmed by another.

Everyone of us here sees in every baby a little miracle. Sure, it came about through the co-operation of its father and mother, but they did not determine what kind of baby they would have, what its features or character would be. This was the work of God, accepted as a gift to be marvelled at. And if the baby is sick in any way, we surround it with special care and it becomes even more of a treasure.

But there are those who see a baby as bad news, another burden on the planet, another person with whom to share the resources of the earth. And a sick baby as one not deserving to live.

As they did when the baby who would make the human population top 6 billion was about to be born, so as the population approaches 7 billion the BBC World Service has been focussing on India. Why India? Perhaps the 7 billionth member of our current population will be born in the USA? And if this were the case, it would consume far more than the baby born in India. The rich West wishes to control the population of places like India, seeing it as a threat to its comfortable life, not wishing to share the vast resources that are at our disposal.

We see our Christian youth as our future, with their desires to live good lives, and we wish to help them grow up pure and innocent.

But there are others who wish to corrupt our youth, to lead them along the ways of evil so that the culture of death may spread further.

We see our elderly as possessing so much wisdom from which we and the younger generations derive so much benefit, deserving of our care and respect.

Others see them as a burden whose deaths can be hastened by withdrawal of treatment and care or by other deliberate acts to hasten death.

Today the bishops of the US call us to observe a Respect Life Sunday. They ask us to go back to the basics about human life and sexuality.

To "Respect Life" means to respond appropriately to the value that is life:
  • to preserve and nurture it;
  • to honour marriage as the proper relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of creating and nurturing human life. Marriage has precisely the purpose of creating life. That is what it is all about.
  • to nurture in our young people the virtue of chastity and the respect they owe to their own bodies and those of others;
  • never to deliberately frustrate the process of procreation through contraception which is where the first "NO" to life is uttered. It is here where the culture of death begins. It does not begin with abortion but with contraception;
  • to value the lives of the poor and needy, seeing Christ in them, by helping them in their needs.
Those who killed the son in the parable - so we are told - will face a miserable death. So will the proponents of the culture of death. We wish to save them from such a miserable end.

The vineyard - if presently it seems to be tenanted by destroyers of the vine of life - will be taken from them and leased to other tenants who will bear fruit, fruit of the choicest grapes of life.

The culture of death will, eventually, give way to the culture of life. This became clear to me at January's March for Life in Washington DC, when I witnessed so many young people (and when I first came to know the fine young people of Gwinn) bearing witness to the value of life. The purveyors of the culture of death will - inevitably - kill themselves off. Their place will be taken by the proclaimers of the culture and Gospel of Life who are the future.

Let each one of us in our own personal lives be respectful of life and God's plan for life, each in accordance with our particular vocations. And let us do all we can to support those who are actively working to defend vulnerable human life, and join them in so far as we are able.

Witness of Christ's Presence in London

Photo: londonse1 community website
My home archdiocese's website carries news of a wonderful procession of the Blessed Sacrament from Westminster Cathedral to St George's Cathedral Southwark to commemorate the first anniversary of Pope Benedict's visit to the UK and the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman. Here is the post in full (quoted in full since it is not possible to provide a link to the post itself).
On Saturday, 1st October 2011, nearly a thousand people, following the processional cross, accompanied the Blessed Sacrament in procession from Westminster Cathedral to St George's Cathedral, Southwark. The Blessed Sacrament Procession marked the first anniversary of the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman and the Holy Father's visit to Britain. It was a walk to witness to the reality of the presence of Christ in London.

Biishop Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster, carried the Blessed Sacrament and gave Benediction at St George's Cathedral.

During the procession pilgrims sang hymns and prayed the Rosary

It took nearly fifteen minutes for the procession to enter the Cathedral

These two cathedrals are thought to be the closest Catholic cathedrals in the world. They are just 1.31 miles apart as the crow flies. And, strangely, although the Southwark diocese is south of the Thames and the Westminster diocese is north of the Thames, St George's Cathedral is further north than Westminster Cathedral due to a bend in the river.

More photos on the RCSouthwark Flickr page

Saturday, October 1, 2011


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