Tuesday 26 February 2013

EC2010 - Cardinal Francis Arinze - The Mystery of the Priesthood

A Time-Machine Back to 1581: the Death of an Enlightenment Democratic Monarchy

In this day and age of relativism, camps of opinion arise like midges on a hike in Alaska. One brushes away one set of  "arguments", only to find dozens flying into one's face. The media frenzy over the events of the past three weeks is not going to subside. On the contrary, we Catholics are entering into a new era of Church-bashing which will not go away.

The days of toleration for differing religious opinions, or at least, Catholic teaching, is over.

I watched two days of the Parliament hearings of witnesses regarding the civil union or rather same-sex-marriage act. I usually do not watch television, but I was visiting a friend who wanted to watch this swarm of opinions based on sola fide, sola scriptura; each man and woman on the panel proved to be his or her own pope.

The Church of England witnesses, as they were called, had eloquent and keen questions and answers. So did Archbishop Peter Smith and his legal team. I was impressed by the firm and clear positions given by these two groups.

Not so other groups, like the Church of Wales representatives, who waffled.

What did astound me was the out and out rudeness of some of the questioners, all of them MPs, not to be named here. One can look at my blog for names. I merely want to point out the lack of respect towards those representatives of organized religion. At several places in the presentation of answers by Archbishop Peter Smith, some members laughed out loud in derision for the Catholic position on marriage, pre-marital sex, and our anti-contraception, anti-abortion positions.

What came to my mind was that I could have been in a time-machine, taken back to the interrogations of Edmund Campion, Ralph Sherwin, or Robert Southwell et al.

The entire meeting of this Parliament panel on both days was a sham. The smug hypocritical statements of the members of Parliament shone out like words of old transcripts in a history of Recusant trials.

Parliament determines moral and religious policy in Britain, not the churches.

Parliament in 2013 mirrors Parliament in 1581, or 1585 or 1681, this last the year of the martyrdom of St. Oliver Plunkett. I have seen his head in St. Peter's Church, Drogheda. His face is peaceful, but reveals pain.

We honour martyrs in the Catholic Church almost daily. We of this Guild honour Titus Brandsma, who was martyred and is a Blessed. But, do we really want martyrs in 2013? Do we feel uncomfortable watching Peter Smith being derided? Do we want our leaders to stand firm on the ancient teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?

I hope we feel proud and strengthened by the witness of Truth.

I hope we stand with our leaders.

I hope we can see clearly that the actions of Parliament will lead to the type of society created under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, where those who kept the Faith were fined, suffered financial loss, ruin, disgrace, if not martyrdom. Catholics will not be able to be registrars or superintendents of registrars. Catholics may not be able to be teachers in some schools. The Catholic priests may be in a position of disobedience to certain laws after judicial decisions.

Parliament acts just as it has since the Protestant Revolt. Parliament was given powers over the private consciences of the people of Britain and it will take those powers and use those again and again and again. Five hundred years of practice makes this pattern of oppression all too easy. There are precedences. 

We are witnessing the death of the modern Enlightenment democracy as a philosophy of governance. We are witnessing the sliding back to a time when religions were not allowed to stand in the marketplace and speak Truth.

The powers that be have not changed their philosophies. They have renewed an older pattern of intolerance which is wedded to the very power of Parliament.

The Catholic Church has not changed Her Truths, Revelation and Tradition.

We are, again, Non-Conformists, and as in the past, consequences will follow strongly held beliefs.

I hope those who belong to the Guild of the martyr Titus Brandsma know how to stand firm in the storms that will blow across Great Britain. We have an excellent example. Brandsma upheld the bishops' decisions and the clarity of teaching that Catholicism and Nazism clashed. Catholicism will always clash with falsehood.

As Catholic journalists, we of this Guild can follow our patron to whatever consequences may follow.

I, for one, will write as long as I can for Christ and His Church.

Friday 22 February 2013

The Chair of St Peter

“The turbulent have to be corrected,
the faint-hearted cheered up, 
the weak supported; 
the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, 
its insidious enemies guarded against; 
the unlearned need to be taught, 
the indolent stirred up, 
the argumentative checked; 
the proud must be put in their place, 
the desperate set on their feet, 
those engaged in quarrels reconciled; 
the needy have to be helped, 
the oppressed to be liberated, 
the good to be encouraged, 
the bad to be tolerated; 
all must be loved. 
The Gospel terrifies me!”
{Benedict XVI quoting St Augustine of Hippo in Spe Salvi}


On Faith, Hope and Charity

A few moments ago, I saw a most wonderful sight. A flock of about twenty-five white doves flew up over the roofs and passed my window.

Now, doves symbolize many things to many people and the white dove is special. For Catholics, and some Christian denominations, the single white dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. For some people, the white dove represents purity. We see this in art, as frequently a saint in paintings may be depicted as holding a dove. For some, the dove is a symbol of married love, as doves mate for life, and white is a sign of love and hope. For many people who are not religious, the white dove represents peace, especially peace in the world.

Noah's dove in Genesis 8:11 symbolizes a new beginning and God's peace with the world now purged of sin.

Today, on the Feast of the Chair of Peter, when the world waits for two momentous events-the entering into a monastery by Pope Benedict XVI and the election of a new pope, the doves today reminded me of the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

These virtues, given to us in baptism, are strengthened by the sacraments. Faith carries with it prayer, fidelity to Rome, and companionship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Faith gives us a solid basis for our daily activities. Faith helps us know and believe and love.

Hope points us to the future and helps us to rest in the assurance of God's presence among us. Hope helps us to "carry on", persevere and never give up our Faith.

Love creates the culmination of all virtues. The Love of God leads us to love of those around us. As we know from Christ and St. Paul, Love is the greatest of all the virtues, 1 Corinthians 13:13

To see a flock of white doves against the grey sky threatening snow or cold rain, I am reminded of these virtues which have been given to me as gifts. 

The great graces of baptism should not be forgotten or taken for granted. Just as Christ promised us to be with us until the End of the World, so too, we can look towards those virtues given to us as Children of God, as Heirs of Heaven.

For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith. 1 John 5:4 DR

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Papal Ash Wednesday Homily

Venerable Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter's Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2.12). Please note the phrase "with all your heart," which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: "return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment" (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that "rends the heart". Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to "rend their garments" over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others - but few seem willing to act according to their own "heart", their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.

This "return to me with all your heart," then, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community. Again we heard in the first reading: "Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent (vv.15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came "to gather the children of God who are scattered into one" (Jn 11:52). The "we" of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn 12:32), faith is necessarily ecclesial. And it is important to remember and to live this during Lent: each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.

Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: " Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the LORD weep and say: “Spare your people, Lord! Do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’"(V.17). This prayer leads us to reflect on the importance of witnessing to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.

"Well, now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us with an urgency that does not permit absences or inertia. The term "now" is repeated and can not be missed, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity. And the Apostle's gaze focuses on sharing with which Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of taking on all of man’s sins. The words of St. Paul are very strong: "God made him sin for our sake." Jesus, the innocent, the Holy One, "He who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin sharing the outcome of death, and death of the Cross with humanity. The reconciliation we are offered came at a very high price, that of the Cross raised on Golgotha, on which the Son of God made man was hung. In this, in God’s immersion in human suffering and the abyss of evil, is the root of our justification. The "return to God with all your heart" in our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, in following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of self. It is a journey on which each and every day we learn to leave behind our selfishness and our being closed in on ourselves, to make room for God who opens and transforms our hearts. And as St. Paul reminds us, the proclamation of the Cross resonates within us thanks to the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador. It is a call to us so that this Lenten journey be characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

In the Gospel passage according of Matthew, to whom belongs to the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by the Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are also traditional indications on the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to «return to God with all your heart." But he points out that both the quality and the truth of our relationship with God is what qualifies the authenticity of every religious act. For this reason he denounces religious hypocrisy, a behaviour that seeks applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the "public", but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: "And your Father who sees everything in secret will reward you" (Mt 6,4.6.18). Our fitness will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory and the more we are aware that the reward of the righteous is God Himself, to be united to Him, here, on a journey of faith, and at the end of life, in the peace light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to "return to God with all our heart", resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. May none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, also addressed in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will shortly carry out. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord accompany us in this time. Amen!

+ R.I.P. +


This blog constitutes my humble attempt to archive selected posts from the blog entitled, 'The Fire of Their Love' which was run, until today, by my dear sister, and sister in Christ, 'SHADOWLANDS'.

I received a very sad telephone call this morning around 09:00 GMT, from my nephew, who informed me that his mother had passed away on Thursday, 20th September 2012.

The whole family, me included, are presently suffering from the intense shock of bereavement, and I would ask for your prayers of consolation.

I knew my sister as 'Lindy' (short for 'Rosalind' or 'Roz'), and I have spent most of the day grieving, praying for her soul, and consoling other members of the family.

I understand that her blog, 'The Fire of Their Love' has proven to be a significant source of spiritual support for many other Christian bloggers, and in particular for members of religious communities, whom I personally believe she had a vocation to serve.

While I am still reeling from the loss of a close sibling, I am also deeply saddened by the apparent prospect of an unrealised vocation of inestimable potential. As a Christian and a Roman Catholic, however, I believe that Lindy (SHADOWLANDS) is now in Heaven, and will be hence more than able to continue her vocation interceding before God for the many needs of our precious priests and religious.

                                          R.I.P. Lindy.
Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

[thanks to 'Maranatha' Steve]

The Feast of the Crown of Thorns

In an English version of the 1962 missal, this Friday, the First Friday in Lent, is the Feast of the Sacred Crown of Thorns. This struck me as a time to meditate on the paradox of Christ's Crown of Thorns and His Earned Crown of Glory.

The Gradual reads, "A golden crown upon his head, signed with the emblems of holiness, of glory and honour and the might of his deeds." And, "With abundant blessing thou has met him on his way, thou has set a jewelled crown upon his head."

The two quotes are from Ecclesiasticus 45:14 in reference to Moses and the second part is from Psalm 20, with relation to King David, both men are types of Christ.

In the Lesson, or Epistle, the reading is from the Canticle of Canticles, reminding us that Solomon, as the translation notes, was given his crown by his mother on his day of betrothal. How fantastic and what a symbol of us joining in the Bridal Love of Christ in heaven, being given whatever crown we have won by Our Lady Mary.

All of this rich imagery is counteracted by the sharp Gospel of Christ in front of Pilate, wearing the mock and painful Crown of Thorns. Pilate, in John 19:1-5, says to the crowd, "I am bringing him out to you, to show that I cannot find any fault in him." We have fault, and yet we are invited into this suffering.

As a writer, who writes poetry, plays, children's stories as well as a blog, I find that the imagery here appeals to one who is creative, and in that sense, I am writing for all those in the Guild here. Why? We live out our writing. We do not put on paper or on the Net thoughts and experiences which are merely cerebral. We write what we are, and many times, we are criticized and even pilloried for comments or thoughts. You should see some of the comments I do not let out of moderation!

We live in less than comfortable means in order to write, our calling, and we wear suffering like a crown, hidden from all, but obvious to ourselves and perhaps, to those near to us.

Why? Christ calls us to duty, as the Liturgy states, "A crown of tribulation blossomed into a crown of glory, and a garland of joy," and we are reminded that the here and now is not the time for rejoicing.

One of the huge problems of so many Catholics both in America and in England is that they think they need to be rejoicing all the time.

No, and as one of my Benedictine mentors shared with me, "Rejoicing belongs to the next life." False joy is self-deceit. And, a modicum of seriousness about the suffering of today is more realistic than false rejoicing.

I think of St. Therese, the Little Flower, on this Ash Wednesday, and anticipate Friday's feast. This crown of thorns is our choice to refuse or accept, in what manner God give us. She wrote of "unfelt joy", which means that in wearing her crown of thorns of intense physical suffering, she was anticipating her eventual crown of glory.

Happy Lent, but not too happy!

Cardinal Arinze reacts to pope's resignation

Thursday 7 February 2013

Unnatural Acts

Stay safe . . . stay sterile!

A fable . . .

For many years those who practised mutual mutilation were discriminated against. The law did not recognise that the removing of limbs could be a fulfilling and enjoyable act when done with the mutual consent of the parties involved, and insisted that mutilation should not be practised, even sending to prison those who were found guilty of lopping off the limbs of their partners.

Of course now we know better. The idea that the human body has any intrinsic value, dignity or purpose belongs to a past era, an era of dogmatic and authoritarian morality, that has no place in modern society. Partners in mutual mutilation, who consummate their relationship by the removal of an arm or leg of their lover, are now recognised in law as civil partners. Isn't it time the discrimination were removed completely? Shouldn't they be allowed access to marriage too? Why should these bigots who insist that amputation cannot be a natural way of consummating a relationship be allowed to continue to promote their poisonous mutilophobia?

For many years now the exponents of this perfectly legitimate means of loving expression between partners have been promoting their cause in our schools. The Terry Hogwash Trust has published a leaflet for use in school classrooms, entitled 'Your Stump and Mine', explaining how teenagers can experiment safely, expressing their perfectly natural desires to remove parts of their lovers' bodies. The leaflet advises amputation virgins to start with fingers and toes, before making the move to the removal of larger body parts. 'But remember,' the leaflet helpfully explains, 'it's your body: you'll know when you're ready.' The leaflet also provides useful guidance on avoiding the common pitfalls of mutual amputation, particularly the necessity of 'staying safe' by using sterile equipment to perform this loving, intimate act.

A few groups of parents have protested at this so-called 'corruption' of their children into 'unnatural behaviour'. But a spokesman from the Terry Hogwash Trust was firm in his refutation of their attempts to constrain their offspring. 'What right have they to prevent their children expressing themselves?' he said. 'It's disgraceful that some parents want to force their children to stay in the closet, not recognising their need to grow into their identity as mutilators.' Some groups have questioned whether such bigoted parents should be allowed to raise their children, or whether they should be removed by social workers and placed with more open-minded foster parents.

But the worst hot-bed of mutilophobia is to be found among religious fanatics. Stuck in a medieval mindset, they have repeatedly claimed that the human body has an intrinsic purpose and dignity beyond the sensual enjoyment of the individual, and spurred on by these abstract arguments, some among them have even dared to suggest that partners in mutual mutilation should not receive equal recognition under law. Hopefully the government's plans to open up marriage at last to this much-maligned group will silence these zealots. And if they will not be silent, isn't it time they were made to pay for their hate-filled comments against these respectable members of our modern, pluralistic society?

[This post originally appeared on A Tiny Son of Mary's blog.]

Friday 1 February 2013

Catholic, then Protestant and then Catholic again

One hundred years ago precisely, a community of Anglican Benedictine monks in Wales converted to the Catholic Faith - were they the Proto Ordinariates?

The history of a small island community off the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales is an interesting one that resonates with the Ordinariate situation today.

Caldey Island (Ynys Pyr or Byr in Welsh) lies some four miles from the mainland and was first settled by Irish monks in the 6th century.

The "Caldey" name was given to the island by the Vikings who raided the Welsh coast on a regular basis and, translated from the Norse it means "Cold".

In the 7th century, when all was Catholic, Caldey became a Priory in association with the Benedictine settlement at St Dogmael's some 30 miles away in what is now Ceredigion.
A stone relic of the St Dogmael's Benedictines may be views at the National Shrine of Wales, Our Lady of the Taper in Cardigan.

The links for these two monastic communities went back to their mother house at the Abbey of Tiron in France.

The Caldey Island Benedictines eked out a living under what must have been pretty extreme circumstances until Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries and shrines and stole all their religious vessels and art.

The island monks disappeared as so many other orders and secular priests disappeared and the island was left to the elements and, no doubt, a few farmers who would have ferried out their stock to fend for themselves until such time came for them to be slaughtered and salted ready for transportation to the larger towns and cities.

Then, in 1906, an Anglican Monk by the name of Aelred Carlyle purchased Caldey for his small community of monks.
It would seem that Abbot Carlyle was ahead of his time as he tried desperately to introduce elements of the Benedictine Rule into the Anglican Church and he struggled, also, to tame the island and make it a fit and habitable base.

He failed in the former and succeeded in the latter; the little community clung to the island like limpets to a rock and then, in February 1913, as a man, Abbot Aelred and his community converted to the rock of the Catholic Faith.

What was once part of the one true Church had been restored fully.

The going was, exceedingly tough in the following years and, in 1925, Abbot Aelred and his community yielded to the pressures of finance and the elements and left Caldey to move to the kinder climate of Gloucestershire's Prinknash Abbey.

There ended the Benedictine rule on the island.

But, a mere four years later a group of Belgian Cistercians from Scourmont Abbey took on the mantle of a lonely and demanding existence and occupied Caldey Island Monastery.

Today, the community of Cistercians is doing well and they market perfumes and chocolate that they produce themselves.

Novice applications are high as the island lifestyle has a certain romantic, if not fanciful air about it but the Abbot is shrewd enough to fend off who wish to escape from reality.

                                                              Latin Mass celebrated in the old Priory Chapel

Unfortunately, the Latin Mass is no longer celebrated on Caldey except on the odd occasion by a visiting priest but, in Summer time, tourists take the short boat ride from Tenby to experience, in a small way, what it is like to be a monk in the 21st Century - not so very different from the 6th Century - a little more comfort and a lot less Latin, otherwise, the same.

NB: Abbot Carlyle led his monks into the Catholic Faith in February 1913 - one hundred years ago this month.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow
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