Sunday 16 September 2012

The third meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma -- the association of Catholic bloggers continues to flourish

Members of the Guild st the blognic!
The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma met yesterday for its third meeting since it was formed in May 2011. (See the previous post on this blog, posted by Supertradmum, for more information.)

Guild members and supporters met at 10.30am in the Brompton Oratory’s Chapel of the Seven Dolours, where an EF Low Mass for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady was celebrated for us by Fr Rupert McHardy CongOrat. (How wonderful it was to be at Mass yesterday in which the Stabat Mater sequence was recited before the Gospel!)

A meeting of the Guild was held after Mass, during which Fr McHardy gave a most enlightening talk on historical Catholic apologists and controversialists. These men and women would most probably have been bloggers today. They also often faced the same problems, temptations, and dangers that many modern-day bloggers have to deal with.

Fr McHardy reminded us that there had not been many controversialists (or ‘potential bloggers’) during the few decades leading up to the Second Vatican Council. But there have been periods in the Church’s history, usually coinciding with advances in communication technology and major upheavals in the Church, when Christians seem to have engaged in a type of pre-blog blogging -- apologists, pamphleteers, reformers, prophetic saints, etc.

Beginning with St Jerome, an undoubted controversialist and someone often willing to speak his mind in defence of the truth, Fr McHardy gave examples of men and women through history who would probably have been bloggers were they alive today – three main periods were covered: the early Church, the Reformation era, and the nineteenth century.

Whilst dwelling on the life of St Philip Neri, the Second Apostle of Rome and founder of the Oratorians, Fr McHardy suggested that the great man would probably have been a blogger were he around today. [UPDATE 20/09/12: mea cupla -- I have just been reminded that Fr Rupert McHardy did not in fact suggest that St Philip would have been a blogger, but that he would rather have supported bloggers. Please accept my apologies, Father.] When the then Pope was about to act in what could have been an unjust way, St Philip, together with other Roman priests, complained publicly against the pontiff's actions. As a result, many of the Pope's critics were expelled from Rome – with the exception of Philip Neri!

Referring to the fact that real-time yet distant forms of communication, such as online commenting, can result in the publication of ill-considered or uncharitable words, Fr McHardy mentioned the Victorian postal service – which was far quicker and more reliable than the one we have today! At that time, letters posted from London in the morning would arrive in places like Birmingham by the afternoon, and responses could reach the original sender by evening. Mentioning to two great Oratorian controversialists, Blessed John Henry Newman and Fr Frederick William Faber, Fr McHardy suggested that the fast postal service between London (where Fr Faber was based) and Birmingham (home to Newman) may have contributed the misunderstanding and strained relations known to have existed between these two men. As with today's social media communication, Victorian letters were often posted in haste, with little thought, and sometimes with unintended or negative consequences.

Other saints and churchmen unafraid to defend the truth and be controversial, even to death, such as the twentieth century's St Maximilian Kolbe and Blessed Titus Bransdma, would undoubtedly have been bloggers today said Fr McHardy. He emphasised the need for bloggers to defend the truth and give charitable witness to the faith, especially as standing up for what is right and for the Catholic faith will always involve a certain amount of controversy or risk.

Richard Collins thanks Fr Rupert McHardy
(source: Fr Z)
After the talk all present recited the Guild prayer. Then Richard Collins (Linen on the Hedgerow), on behalf of the Guild, thanked Fr Rupert McHardy for his generosity in celebrating Mass for us and for his excellent and informative talk. The Guild also thanked Fr Julian Large CongOrat (Provost of the London Oratory) and the Fathers of the community for allowing us to meet in and use the facilities of the Oratory. Richard also thanked Fr John Zuhlsdorf (Fr Z's Blog - he has written about the day here), who had travelled from the US to be present with us – Fr Z replied by speaking very warmly about the Guild and its mission.

A meeting of the Guild was then held, during which many topics were discussed by those present, including: the need for us to elect officers sometime in the future, the possibility of producing Guild-related literature, general blogging matters, and the continued success and growth of the Guild. A copy of the minutes should be sent to Guild members sometime in the near future. The meeting ended with the recitation of Lord's Prayer for the Holy Father's intentions during his current visit to the Lebanon. 

More scenes from the pub!
Following the meeting, all present retired to a local pub, called The Hour Glass, for lunch and an afternoon of socialising – otherwise known as a ‘blognic’! During the afternoon, we were joined by a few bloggers and users of the new media who had not been able to get to the first part of the day, amongst them were Fr Tim Finigan (Hermeneutic of Continuity) and ‘Sir Dan of the Blogosphere’.

About 15 people were present at Mass, whilst 12 members and supporters came to the Guild talk and meeting, with at least 16 then making it to the pub over the course of the afternoon (though I had to leave early, so there may have been more). Needless to say, some of those present would rather remain totally anonymous, but amongst those at the Guild meeting itself were: -

Malvenu (Quam Augusta Porta); Supertradmum (Etheldreda’sPlace); Richard (Linen on the Hedgerow) and his wife, Sally (one of their daughters, Catherine, also came to the pub); Paul (Twitter user and OTSOTA);  Mary (The Path Less Taken); Simon (The Red Rose Society); the commentator and Twitter user Londiniensis; Dylan (A Reluctant Sinner); and Fr Z. A young seminarian user of the new media was also present at the Mass and meeting, as were a few other bloggers and online commentators who came along to the ‘blognic’. Apologies were received from six UK-based members of the Guild including: The Bones, leutgeb, A Tiny Son of Mary and Mulier Fortis.

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma's third meeting was a most enjoyable day of prayer, reflection, discussion and socialising!

Blessed Titus Brandsma, pray for us

Saturday 15 September 2012

Father McHardy speaks to the bloggers....

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma had a meeting today, Saturday, in London, and the talk was extremely interesting. Here is a quick summary of some of the main points. Dylan has a longer and more detailed (as well as excellent) article.

Father McHardy of the Oratorians at the Brompton Oratory, where the bloggers met, put Catholic blogging in the historical context of centuries of apologetic writing.

Comparing the present use of the Internet with the pamphleteers of the Count-Reformation, Father McHardy noted that a combination of adherence to the Truth and charity form the basis for expressing the True Faith.

Starting with the example of such writers as St. Philip Neri, who Father pointed out was involved in the events of the day in the Church in Rome, and moving to the English pamphleteers, who daringly answered Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in the breaks with Rome, Fr. McHardy encouraged all to maintain dignity in writing.

But, as he said clearly, Father emphasized that the duty of the blogger was spreading the Truth of the Holy Catholic Church, no matter how unpopular this was to those who are caught up in secularization and the material pursuits of the world, or even for those Catholics who are struggling to agree with Church teaching.

Father stressed that there "is a place of controversial-ism in the Church and that controversy is not new in the Church."

He also said that, "To defend the truth is the most important thing to do."

Father also noted that anonymity or pseudonyms were used by the Counter-Reformation writers and that there is freedom in this method.

Referring to Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, Father noted that he, too, was a public apologist, a necessity for the times.

"Being critical is not always a negative thing," said Father. 

His talk was both encouraging and stimulating. Thank you, Father McHardy.

Monday 10 September 2012

Guild of Bl Titus meeting on Saturday 15 September -- with many of your favourite bloggers, including the fantastic Fr Z!

This Saturday, 15 September, will see the third meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma. All Catholic bloggers, online commentators, blog readers and followers, and users of the new media are warmly invited to attend.

The day will begin at 10.30am with Low Mass celebrated by Fr Rupert McHardy Cong.Orat. in the Chapel of the Seven Dolours at the Brompton Oratory (London). Fr McHardy has also kindly agreed to give a talk to those present, before an informal meeting of the Guild is held.

A blognic is scheduled to begin around 1.00pm at the The Hour Glass pub, near the Oratory.

Richard Collins (Linen on the Hedgerow) has just received confirmation that the popular priest-blogger Fr John Zuhlsdorf (Fr Z -- WDTPRS) will be present (Deo volente) at the Guild meeting and blognic. Fr Tim Finigan (The Hermeneutic of Continuity) also hopes to be present in the afternoon. Many other Catholic bloggers and users of the new media plan to be there, too.

So, if you are in London this coming Saturday, why not join us, either for the whole day or for the blognic in the afternoon? It promises to be quite a day!

Saturday 8 September 2012

Gearing up for the Year of Faith

Sooner than we think, in less than 5 weeks the Year of Faith will begin. For all of those who take up the Church Universal's invitation to deepen their understanding of the Faith by studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it will be a time of renewal. This is an amazing opportunity to rediscover the riches of the Church's teachings and to be infused with the joy that comes from being reminded about just how wonderful God is and how perfect His plan for the salvation of humanity is.

While I am still waiting to see whether the Apostolic Penitentiary underlines with indulgences some of the Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith and any other worthwhile spiritual practices, I already have two plans. The first is to pick up where I left off reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church to my son, somewhere around the explanation of Jesus coming to judge the living and the dead in Part One - The Profession of Faith, and to read between one and two pages a night. The second is phase two of our parish study group which started from Pentecost 2012 as a response to the Australian 'Year of Grace' and which will also become a response to the Universal Church's 'Year of Faith', beginning from Thursday, 11 Oct 2012. We will be using the same discussion questions, just changing the text from the Gospel of St Mark to the Catechism. What's different about this study group is that summaries of the discussions are being posted online at , and that will continue during the Year of Faith.

The discussion questions come in three parts. In Part A people share about what they hadn't noticed in the text before, or what surprised them; which puts us in welcoming position towards the text and to what God wants to teach us through the text. In Part B we talk about past events of grace that the text has reminded us of, together with how we have seen God active in our lives recently. Doing this has inspired us all to live the Gospel more faithfully and has made us more aware of the various ways God works in our lives. In Part C we look at examples of Christian art which illustrate the text, and examples of Saints who have lived out aspects of the text in memorable ways. This last part is already going some way towards fulfilling the Year of Faith recommendations 5 and 6 at the level of episcopal conferences.

5. The Saints and the Blessed are the authentic witnesses of the faith. It is, therefore, opportune that Episcopal Conferences work toward the dissemination of a knowledge of the local Saints of their territory, also by modern means of social communication.
6. The contemporary world is sensitive to the relationship between faith and art. It is, therefore, recommended that Episcopal Conferences maximize the catechetical potential – possibly with ecumenical cooperation – of the artistic patrimony of the region entrusted to their pastoral care.

Obviously it is not going to be possible to cover the whole Catechism in the approximate 52 weeks we have (allowing for Christmas, Easter, Public holidays and unexpected interruptions). So I've worked out a scheme for studying three areas of the Catechism, which I hope will prove useful to others who wish to study the Catechism during the Year of Faith. Within the next week or two it will be uploaded to the Catechism Study Plan page of the above mentioned blog. Because the 'Year of Grace' will be running concurrently with the Year of Faith, we have chosen those parts of the Catechism which have a greater resonance with Grace. Thus we will start with 22 weeks on the Sacraments, because they are our major source of sacramental Grace. This will take us up to Holy Week. After Easter we will do 15 weeks on Prayer, because Prayer is the lifeblood of the Sacraments and the major way actual Grace comes to us. For the final 15 weeks we will be doing Section One of Part Three of the Catechism : Life in Christ, which deals with topics like virtue, salvation and conscience.

Since neither the chapters, the articles or the paragraphs in the Catechism are of equal length, I have tried to break up each section with reference to the topic headings and to work on an average of 15-22 paragraphs and 3.5-5.25 pages worth of Catechism text.

The reasoning behind this is that the section length needs to be short enough to read out loud at the beginning of the study group, and yet long enough to give our artist sufficient imagery to work with. Because life often gets in the way of our good intentions, reading the section aloud will assist everyone who wasn't able to read it before hand. We also often understand text much better when it is read aloud, and notice parts that we would normally skim over when reading the same text to ourselves. In addition, St Paul tells us in Romans 10:14-17 that faith comes from what is heard via preaching, and through the Catechism the wisdom of Church gathered over 2 millennia is preached to us.

Apart from the articles on Sacramentals and Christian Funerals (because they are short), we will be ignoring the 'In Brief' portions of the Catechism. This is because they are usually lacking in imagery and in footnotes, and because bypassing the 'In Brief' portions will enable us to cover more of the main text. The footnotes are of importance because for the discussion question about the Saints we hope to look at the lives of those Saints who are quoted, and the context in which they are quoted, as well as Saints who lived out those parts of the Catechism in exemplary ways.

If our journey through the Gospel of St Mark is anything to go by, our journey through these three areas of the Catechism is going to be very exciting. There is a grace which comes when believers study matters of Faith together which isn't as strong when you study them alone. Can you imagine the grace that will be outpoured if the whole Church takes the Year of Faith seriously, studies the Catechism and the documents of Vatican II anew, and experiences the joy and renewal that comes from the rediscovery of the wisdom, power and love of God?

May that grace be yours, and may these few paragraphs spur you on to do your own planning to take maximum advantage of the Year of Faith.

Birthday of the Virgin Mary: Mother of Christ and the Church

From the Office of Readings for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: -

From a discourse by St Andrew of Crete 
‘The fulfilment of the law is Christ himself, who does not so much lead us away from the letter as lift us up to its spirit. For the law’s consummation was this, that the very lawgiver accomplished his work and changed letter into spirit, summing everything up in himself and, though subject to the law, living by grace ... He changed whatever was burdensome, servile and oppressive not what is light and liberating, so that we should be enslaved no longer under the elemental spirits of the world, as the Apostle says, nor held fast as bondservants under the letter of the law. 
  [...] This radiant and manifest coming of God to men most certainly needed a joyful prelude to introduce the great gift of salvation to us. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is the prelude, while the final act is the fore-ordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages. 
 Justly, then, do we celebrate this mystery since it signifies for us a double grace. We are led toward the truth, and we are led away from our condition of slavery to the letter of the law. How can this be? Darkness yields before the coming of the light, and grace exchanges legalism for freedom ... Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in heaven and men on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.
(To read the passage in its entirety, please visit Universalis)

From Pope Benedict XVI's Homily for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August 2012): - 
There is a beautiful passage from St Gregory the Great on St Benedict that we can apply to Mary too. St Gregory the Great says that the heart of St Benedict expanded so much that all creation could enter it. This is even truer of Mary: Mary, totally united to God, has a heart so big that all creation can enter this heart, and the ex-votos in every part of the earth show it. Mary is close, she can hear us, she can help us, she is close to everyone of us. In God there is room for man and God is close, and Mary, united to God, is very close; she has a heart as great as the heart of God. 
But there is also another aspect: in God not only is there room for man; in man there is room for God. This too we see in Mary, the Holy Ark who bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us, so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with its problems. This presence is realized in the faith: in the faith we open the doors of our existence so that God may enter us, so that God can be the power that gives life and a path to our existence. In us there is room, let us open ourselves like Mary opened herself, saying: “Let your will be done, I am the servant of the Lord”. By opening ourselves to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary, our life becomes rich and great.  (emphases mine) 
(To read the homily in its entirety, please visit the Vatican website.)

Hail Mary, full of grace. 
The Lord is with thee. 
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 
Holy Mary, Mother of God, 
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Saturday 1 September 2012

St Giles, patron saint of the Paralympics?

                                                                 Symbol of the Paralympics, three "agitos"

Today, Saturday 1st September, is the feastday of St Giles, believed to have been a 7th Century Athenian from a noble family.

He left his native land and travelled to France where he lived for some years as a hermit.
According to legend, he befriended a deer and was subsequently wounded by an arrow when hunters tried to kill the animal.
 As a result of his wound, St Giles became permanently crippled which resulted in him being appointed patron saint of the physically disabled.

His miracles won him the support of many of the aristocracy and, eventually, he founded an order that adopted the Benedictine Rule.

The monastery of St-Gilles-du-Gard was founded by him towards the latter half of the 7th century.

Interesting to note that the 2012 Paralympics has adopted the symbol of movement known as an "agito" from the Latin for "I move" - three agitos form the 2012 Paralympic symbol.

A great pity that St Giles could not have been included in the various corporate identities projected by the Paralympics.

Prayer for the Disabled to St. Giles
O Lord, we beseech you to let us find grace through the intercession
of your blessed confessor St. Giles;
that what we cannot obtain through our merits
be given us through his intercession.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

St. Giles
Pray for us.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow
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