Wednesday 23 March 2011

The dis-comfort of the Truth

Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski offering Mass in Rome on the Feast of St Nicholas

Fr Tim Finnegan has picked up on the "Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy" published yesterday (signed by the Holy Father in January, interestingly, on the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas) by the Congregation for Catholic Education concerning the reform of philosophical studies.

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, explained that the Church is always adapting to respond to the needs of changing historical-cultural circumstances, and that many ecclesial institutions today are lacking in philosophical formation.

This absence is particularly noteworthy at a time "in which reason itself is menaced by utilitarianism, skepticism, relativism and distrust of reason's ability to know the truth regarding the fundamental problems of life," he reflected.

New guidelines are in accordance with Pope John Paul II's "Fides et Ratio," the Cardinal added, which notes that "theology has always had and continues to have need of a philosophical contribution."

Cardinal Grocholewski said the Church intends to recover metaphysics, namely a philosophy that will again pose the most profound questions of the human being.

The Vatican official stressed that technology and science cannot "satiate man's thirst in regard to the ultimate questions: What does happiness consist of? Who am I? Is the world the fruit of chance? What is my destiny? etc. Today, more than ever, the sciences are in need of wisdom."

He said that the "original vocation" of philosophy needs to be recovered: "the search for truth and its sapiential and metaphysical dimension."

The Cardinal also emphasized the importance of logic, calling it a discipline that structures reason and that has disappeared because of the present crisis of Christian culture.

For myself, I have frequently encountered a complete lack of logic and any sort of philosophical coherence when trying to explain the Church's teaching in the parish. Not that I expect everyone to have a philosophy degree but there is so often no coherent mind-set or any willingness to take on board a set of objective crtiteria in relation to the Church's teaching (and liturgy). Nor is this difficulty confined to lay people, I might add. The practical result is that people end up by saying, "Well you shouldn't do that / say that because I don't like it". In other words, it doesn't suit me and never mind any logical inconsistencies. Thus we end up with the situation of our "Catholic" schools where 90%+ of parents will tell you that you don't need to go to Church (ie receive the Sacraments, pray, be part of the communion of the faithful) in order to be a good Catholic. The acknowledgement of objective truth has become alien to our culture. The Faith is a great edifice but just like a house, take away a seemingly small piece of it and the rot sets in - removing that little bit of guttering may not seem very significant but just wait a few years and see the damage it eventually does...

It links in to observations made in a new book by Stefano Fontana "L'Eta del Papa Scomodo" (The Age of the Plain-Speaking Pope). He says that Benedict XVI is distinguished by gentleness and humility, but that does not stop him from touching the bare nerves of the world and the Church. He does this by proclaiming a God who is Love and who is Truth.

He speaks about the Holy Father as a Pope who might shake people out of their comfort zone."By confirming that Christianity is the true religion, this Pope has caused two explosive consequences," he said. "The first is his having drawn the world to question itself about its own truth; the second is his having claimed a public role for the Christian religion. These are two exacting requests that many sectors, whether in the world or the Church, have trouble accepting and often openly oppose."

Presenting Christianity as truth, Fontana asserted, means that the world is "called to redo its reckoning of truth itself, in fact with the subject of truth as such, after thousands of philosophies have said, and continue to say, that truth doesn't exist."

Then, "to ask for a place for God in the world" goes against a view of politics without any absolutes," the author continued.

Challenging a widespread mentality is "difficult and painful," Fontana proposed, and that's why this Pope can cause discomfort, not only to the world, but also within the Church.

"Benedict XVI preaches two things: that God is love and that God is truth. He causes discomfort above all because of the second affirmation," Fontana said. "The world, in fact, accepts in some way that Christianity announce a truth proposed with love, but it does not accept that it proposes a love respectful of truth."

The Pontiff proposes "non-negotiables", and this brings opposition, from society and churchmen both.

"[I]n present-day society there is nothing that is 'non-negotiable,' that is absolutely true or false, good or bad," he said. And "in order to have 'non-negotiable' principles there must be a place for God in the world. Without God everything is negotiable. For this reason the 'non-negotiable principles' of life, of the family, of liberty of education become continually grounds for this Pope's 'uncomfortableness.'"

Other reasons are more specific, Fontana proposed: "The subject of the liturgy, for example, or that of the evaluation of the Second Vatican Council, of the use of the condom in the fight against AIDS, and women priests. In the end, however, all these more specific topics, can lead back to those that I have mentioned above.

"The logic of the world would like to impede the logic of the Church from existing and would like her also to be conformed to the logic of the world. Is there equality of rights among men? Then why can a woman never become a priest? Is there the right of liberty? Why, then, can one not procreate as one wishes? Is democracy not a value? Then why can there not be a liturgical democracy with the individual communities inventing their own liturgy? As can be seen, the world does not accept that the Christian religion should express a truth and would like to extend to her the truth of the world.

"But the Pope says precisely the contrary. He does not deny the natural truths, but says that if they are deprived of supernatural light they also lose the way. Hence it is understandable that this Pope, though with the gentleness that distinguishes him, touches all the bare nerves of the world and also of so many sectors of the Church."

Monday 21 March 2011

Sugarcoat the Pill

On the back page of the (allegedly) more orthodox of Britain's Catholic press this weekend there was a quarter page full-colour advertisement for the Tablet. "Where faith and modern culture meet" it claims. It seems to me that the culture it represents is hardly modern - although I do believe that things from the 1970's are now considered retro-chic, so perhaps hippydom is modern once again. (Where did I put my flared trousers?)

For a publication that so often criticises the Holy Father and the Vatican departments, it puts at the forefront two issues which depict the Holy Father and the Papal coat of arms. Not one of the unpleasant caricatures sometimes seen on its pages but a waving Pope Benedict from the Papal visit and references to Newman. Anyone who knew no better would think it a publication that promoted a love for the Holy Father and the See of Peter rather than a quisling constantly on the attack and questioning Church teaching. A clear case of the spin doctor sugar-coating the bitter pill!

Here is a cover picture that more accurately reflects the dissent-laden turgid rhetoric
you are likely to read inside.

Saturday 19 March 2011

An Unusual Award

My friend, Edmund Adamus, who works for the Archdiocese of Westminster, has just received an unusual award - in that is comes from the Church of the Latter Day Saints! The award is for his work encouraging family values. Edmund tells me that in this area the Mormons have quite a bit in common with Catholic teaching and, unlike many Catholics, are not afraid of teaching and preaching it. All I can say is that if the Mormons like what Edmund is saying and doing, they must hold some properly Catholic values in high regard.

In his thank you speech at the Awards Luncheon, Edmund spoke of the urgency and importance of proclaiming and defending what he called the 'doctrine of the primary educator'.

He said: 'Nothing is more intuitive and instinctual than the parents natural desire to love and protect their child. But what is needed in society and the Church more than ever today is the fresh and newly energised grasp by parents of their inalienable rights and divinely instituted responsibilities especially in the area of the moral formation of their children. It is an awesome task' he said 'and one which society too often undermines and even the Church can sometimes take for granted at their peril.'

He went on to describe how much the soon to be Blessed John Paul II inspires his work in the Diocese of Westminster and beyond in supporting marriage and family: 'John Paul in quoting St Thomas Aquinas speaks of parents as the 'priests of the domestic church' but in one sense I think one can take the spiritual analogy further by saying that all Christian spouses are the priests of the domestic church but those whom God calls to be parents one might designate as 'bishops of the domestic church' given the charge of souls in their care. And given the sacerdotal authority we associate with bishops (to teach govern and sanctify) then it makes sense pastorally to inspire parents with such language and imagery so that they might reevaluate the moral power they are entrusted with for the sanctification of their homes and families for they too must teach govern and sanctify their children like no one else can. And of course we take our ultimate inspiration' he reminded the guests, 'from Our Lord himself who we are told by St Luke 'went down with them (his parents) to Nazareth and lived under their authority'.The point being that Christ would not have been the man and figure he was when he undertook his mission were it not for the enormous influence of Mary and Joseph his first educators in humanity. So if the work of the New Evangelisation is to have the desired impact and outcome it must rest on the reality of the primary educator as a real and living force for good. '

It's slightly ironic that he has received recognition of his work from the Latter Day Saints movement when just last year he was disowned by his own Archbishop whose spokesman said that his views "did not reflect the Archbishop's" in relation to Edmund's criticism of modern society in an interview on the Zenit news agency. You can re-read that post here.

Friday 18 March 2011

Vatican Two and OTHER Councils

The First Vatican Council.
There have been a number of other Councils of the Church
which form and bind our Catholic life.

"the fetichising of Vatican II distracts attention from the real and significant and valuable actions of the Roman Magisterium, which deserve so very much better than the sneers directed at them by illiterate fools" - Fr Hunwicke.

A refreshing breath of honesty and downright sensibleness from Dom. Mark Daniel Kirby at Vultus Christi. He writes to suggest that we put the Second Vatican Council in its proper place - which is to recognise that every other council has the same weight and we forget that at our peril - although Vatican II unlike every other council in the history of the Church did not define any doctrines to be believed or pronounce any anathemas on what is not to be believed.

He is spurred into writing by the irrepressible Fr Hunwicke, whose church in Oxford, St Thomas the Martyr, I visited for the first time last year. Fr Hunwicke's church and he himself seem Catholic in all but name and while a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, I do hope that he is going to become a rose that is known by its proper name and join the Ordinariate.

Here is some of Dom Mark's post:

I have, for some time, been convinced that we would do well to give the documents of the Second Vatican Council an honourable place in the subterranean archives of Church history, and let them rest there to be discovered by generations to come. Fifty years of squabbling over them make me want to cry, Basta! The Church is wider, deeper, higher, and immeasurably richer than what happened from 1962 to 1965.

Aging prelates still litter their discourses with the obligatory reverential references to Vatican II, delusionally convinced that the mere mention of "The Council" has a magical quality. It's all so wearisome. One sometimes has the impression that there is little else in their libraries, that there was nothing before "The Council," and that they have read nothing since.

You can imagine my delight when so bright a luminary as Father Hunwicke expressed with characteristic insight and wit what I have been thinking, but haven't dared to express.

Enough of me, then. Read Father Hunwicke:

Thursday 17 March 2011

Traditional Latin Mass to be taught in all seminaries?

And is it true, and is it true
This most tremendous tale of all?

Can it be true that the Holy Father is to make it even clearer (if that's possible) that bishops are not to restrict priests from offering the Traditional Mass and that seminarians must learn it ? Of course, seminarians are supposed to learn Latin anyway but no course was ever taught at Ushaw in my time, nor at the moment, as far as I know.

Michael Voris has been speaking from Rome recently and others have picked up on this video but I thought it worth posting as well. Certainly in the UK some bishops have been saying, or at least implying, to priests and laity, that the bishop must "give permission" for the celebration of the Traditional Mass. This is contrary to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, of course, but many priests, understandably, don't want to incur the wrath of their bishop - perhaps feeling that if they pushed ahead the wrath would be felt in some other sphere - for example in their next appointment (or lack of one). I have heard directly of these "permissions" being denied in diocese in England, Wales and Scotland. Once again, something that is allowed as an option for any priest at any time is routinely condemned while other abuses that are specifically condemned are routinely encouraged. Isn't an inversion of the proper order of things Satan's trademark to bring chaos to God's creation?

Monday 14 March 2011

Pope Benedict on Latin

As if on cue after my last post, our Holy Father yesterday spoke of Latin from his balcony in St Peter's Square. I'm not suggesting that I count him among my readers! Although, it is known that a number of influential English language blogs are read in the Vatican City. (We live in hope!)

The Zenit news agency reports that Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging the study of Latin, noting that the ancient language has much to offer in the study of ancient and modern history.

The Pope said this, in Latin, after praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

His words were directed to the students and teachers of the Christelijk Lyceum of Veenendaal, Netherlands. The Pontiff stated that he was pleased that the students had come "to Rome to be strengthened in your endeavor to learn the Latin language."

"In fact," he added, "this language has much to contribute, both in the deeper study of antiquity and in the study of more recent history."
On the use of Latin in the Sacred Liturgy G. K. Chesterton put it this way: "The Catholic prayed in the majestic language that had 'fought and conquered the centuries.' He prayed as Saint Ambrose prayed. His priests offered the Sacrifice as Saint Augustine had offered it."
Christopher Hollis in his book 'The Mind of Chesterton'

Chesterton, Hollis tells us "accepted the Latin liturgy of the Church as part of the Catholic tradition and doubtless hardly thought, any more than the rest of us, for many years afterwards, that there was any alternative to it. Vernacularists in those days were thought of as cranks like vegetarians."

Of course these days vegetarians are no longer considered cranks.

Saturday 12 March 2011

The language of celebration is Latin

Fr. Uwe Michael Lang with Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith

Fr Uwe Michael Lang of the Congregation of the Oratory has just written a piece for Zenit on Latin as the language of celebration - it certainly always makes me feel festive. Last time I met Fr Lang it was for a different sort of celebration, as we were in a pub in Kensington! He is, of course, the author of that wonderful and most readable book "Turning Towards the Lord" (preface by a certain Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) on the ad orientem position. In this article he is talking about sacred language as a feature of the religious imperative in mankind. You may read it here but a few quotes will serve to give you its flavour.

The Second Vatican Council wished to extend the use of the vernacular, already introduced to a certain degree in the preceding decades in the celebration of the sacraments (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy "Sacrosanctum Concilium," Article 36, No. 2). At the same time, the council stressed that "the use of the Latin language [...] should be kept in the Latin rites" (Ibid., Article 36, No. 1; cf. also Article 54).

The conciliar fathers did not imagine that the sacred language of the Western Church would be totally replaced by the vernacular. The linguistic fragmentation of Catholic worship was pushed so far, that many faithful today can hardly recite a "Pater Noster" along with others, as can be seen in international meetings in Rome and elsewhere.

In an age marked by great mobility and globalization, a common liturgical language could serve as a bond of unity among peoples and cultures, apart from the fact that the Latin liturgy is a unique spiritual treasure that has nourished the life of the Church for many centuries. Undoubtedly, Latin contributes to the sacred and stable character "which attracts many to the old use," as Benedict XVI wrote in his Letter to Bishops, on the occasion of the publication of the "Summorum Pontificum" . With the wider use of the Latin language, an altogether legitimate choice, but little used, "in the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI, could manifest, in a stronger way than it has often up to now, that sacredness" .

I have also just been sent an article by a friend - an interview in with the Bishop of Tulsa, Edward Slattery in "Catholic World Report". I only have it in an adobe document but here is a particularly good bit:

The liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church

Friday 11 March 2011

Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue

Padre Pio receiving Holy Communion
(courtesy of Taylor Marshall: see here)

My last post has evoked some comment. I was particularly interested in what someone attending Mass in our diocesan offices had to say, asking,
"Are there not worse crimes against reverence within the Church?"
I must point out that I did not say that receiving on the hand is a crime. I did point out that some notable and saintly figures in the Church and Councils of the Church have taken a dim view of it and thought it neither helpful nor reverent. (I am still waiting for anyone to post a quote from a similar source which supports an increase in reverence by receiving on the hand.) Yes, indeed there are worse crimes against reverence to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament but I was talking only of this particular, very prevalent, manifestation of what my pastoral experience has led me to believe has contributed towards a lack of reverence. The point that some modern commentators are making is that the familiarity it engenders is perhaps part of the problem of the lack of respect and reverence towards Our Lord's presence in the Blessed Sacrament that all must admit is a concern in the Church today. Also, that it is not, in fact, rooted in historical or ancient practice. (See Taylor Marshall again here.)

The very fact that most people (at a Mass with a bishop or anywhere else) receive in a way that is not the norm but an exception (one might even say an extraordinary way of receiving) rather highlights the problem. If the present legitimate indult were to be withdrawn tomorrow, would there be a quiet acceptance of the Papal authority that first granted the indult - or would there be a great deal of disobedience? I note that the writer of the comment inadvertently highlights another facet of the modern distortion of the liturgy where the persons involved become more important than the Christ centered reality of the liturgical action. Thus "Bishop Tom Williams" is graced with the honour of capital letters while "mass" is not. The person of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is described as "it". So the person celebrating becomes more important than who and what is being celebrated - Christ himself. Small observations, I know, and not necessarily indicative of a lack of reverence but perhaps it does point to something Cardinal Burke has recently said:

"If we err by thinking we are the centre of the liturgy,
the Mass will lead to a loss of faith."
Strong words indeed, to think that the Mass when celebrated with he wrong emphasis can itself lead to a loss of faith. Michael Voris has some characteristically bold things to say about this.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Communion on the Hand

I put a post up in January about this great little book. So popular has it proved that the print-run ran out and it has now been re-printed in hard-back. They can be ordered through PCP Publications, or through Cenacle.

I found these quotes from some well-know and reasonably holy people...

"There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favour of this practice, nor do I recommend it." - His Holiness (soon to be Blessed) Pope John Paul II, responding to a reporter from Stimme des glaubens magazine, during his visit to Fulda (Germany) in November 1980.

Holy Communion received on the tongue "signifies the reverence of the faithful for the Eucharist ... provides that Holy Communion will be distributed with due reverence ... is more conducive to faith, reverence and humility.... It [Communion in the hand] carries certain dangers with it which may arise from the new manner of administering holy Communion: the danger of a loss of reverence for the August sacrament of the altar, of profanation, of adulterating the true doctrine." - The Servant of God Pope Paul VI in his instruction Memoriale Domini (May 29, 1969)
Mother Teresa
"Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand."- As reported by Fr. George Rutler in his 1989 Good Friday sermon at St. Agnes Church, New York. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was asked by Fr. Rutler, "What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?" without pausing a second she gave the above reply. She stated that to her knowledge, all of her sisters receive Communion only on the tongue.
"Behind Communion in the hand—I wish to repeat and make as plain as I can—is a weakening, a conscious, deliberate weakening of faith in the Real Presence.... Whatever you can do to stop Communion in the hand will be blessed by God.”
- Fr. Hardon, S.J., November 1st, 1997 Call to Holiness Conference in Detroit, Michigan, panel discussion.
"There can be no doubt that Communion in the hand is an expression of the trend towards desacralization in the Church in general and irreverence in approaching the Eucharist in particular.... Why—for God's sake—should Communion in the hand be introduced into our churches when it is evidently detrimental from a pastoral viewpoint, when it certainly does not increase our reverence, and when it exposes the Eucharist to the most terrible diabolical abuses? There are really no serious arguments for Communion in the hand. But there are the most gravely serious kinds of arguments against it." - Dietrich von Hildebrand (called a “20th century doctor of the Church” by Pope Pius XII), in an article entitled "Communion in the Hand should be Rejected," November 8, 1973.

"With Communion in the hand, a miracle would be required during each distribution of Communion to avoid some Particles from falling to the ground or remaining in the hand of the faithful.... Let us speak clearly: whoever receives Communion in the mouth not only follows exactly the tradition handed down but also the wish expressed by the last Popes and thus avoids placing himself in the occasion of committing a sin by negligently dropping a fragment of the Body of Christ.”- Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise of San Luis, Argentina in his book Communion in the Hand: Documents and History.

There are these authorities as well...

ST. SIXTUS I (115-125). Prohibited the faithful from even touching the Sacred Vessels: "Statutum est ut sacra vasa non ab aliis quam a sacratis Dominoque dicatis contrectentur hominibus..." [It has been decreed that the Sacred Vessels are not to be handled by others than by those consecrated and dedicated to the Lord.]
POPE ST. EUTYCHIAN (275-283). Forbade the faithful from taking the Sacred Host in their hand.
ST. BASIL THE GREAT, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH (330-379). "The right to receive Holy Communion in the hand is permitted only in time of persecution." St. Basil considered Communion in the hand so irregular that he did not hesitate to consider it a grave fault.
COUNCIL OF SARAGOSSA (380). It was decided to punish with EXCOMMUNICATION anyone who dared to continue the practice of Holy Communion in the hand. The Synod of Toledo confirmed this decree.
POPE ST. LEO I THE GREAT (440-461). Energetically defended and required faithful obedience to the practice of administering Holy Communion on the tongue of the faithful.
SYNOD OF ROUEN (650). Condemned Communion in the hand to halt widespread abuses that occurred from this practice, and as a safeguard against sacrilege.
SIXTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, AT CONSTANTINOPLE (680-681). Forbade the faithful to take the Sacred Host in their hand, threatening the transgressors with excommunication.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274). "Out of reverence towards this sacrament [the Holy Eucharist], nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament." (Summa Theologica, Pars III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8)
COUNCIL OF TRENT (1545-1565). "The fact that only the priest gives Holy Communion with his consecrated hands is an Apostolic Tradition."

And, for sake of balance I encourage everyone to post similar quotes in favour of this practice from such eminent Saints, Beati & saintly ecclesiastics.

Monday 7 March 2011

Adoremus in aeternum II

Part II of the Zenit interview with Father Racine, organiser of the Adoratio 2011: From Adoration to Evangelization Conference, an international conference on eucharistic adoration in Rome, which will take place June 20-23.

Q: On the conference Web site, the first phrase is one taken from Pope John Paul II in which he says: "In order to evangelize the world, we need experts in celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Holy Eucharist." In what way is eucharistic adoration missionary?

Father Racine: It is missionary in so far as, to borrow again two verbs of Benedict XVI, eucharistic adoration permits me to "prolong" and "intensify" that which is celebrated at the Mass. It permits me to live intensely the grace of the Eucharist which "makes the Church" and which makes the Church grow. The more I live from the Eucharist, the more I love the Church and the more I commit myself to the mission the Church proposes to me.

Q: The theme of the conference is: "From Adoration to Evangelization." Adoration pushes the adorer to "let go" and let the Lord act more powerfully through him, thus entering into a renewed trust in him. Does this mean that the new evangelization requires us to let go of our own personal visions in order to enter into a new vision, ever renewed by the Spirit?

Father Racine: Yes, the contemplation of the face of Christ helps me to re-center my life on him. Before the Blessed Sacrament I am led to say, like the young Samuel: "Speak Lord your servant is listening" and not, "Listen Lord your servant is speaking!" It is a school of silence in which I let Jesus speak to my heart.

In adoration, I listen and discover the will of God for me. In fact, I receive not only the understanding of his will but also the grace to accomplish it in my life. Too often Christians have the tendency to become absorbed by many different works, which in themselves are good, but which remain inspired by their own will and not the will of the Lord. The Eucharist de-centers me from myself in order to re-center me on Christ and his word.

Q: You are the organizer of this conference as the founder of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist. What do you believe to be the charism that you have been given to serve the universal Church?

Father Racine: We are available to help the pastors or bishops organize times of permanent adoration in their parishes or dioceses. Following on from the desire of Benedict XVI ("Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 67) to see emerging places of continuous adoration, Cardinal Hummes in a document from the Congregation for Clergy in 2007, asked that there be established at least one place of perpetual adoration in each diocese or large town, in order to obtain the following graces: the sanctification of the clergy, to make reparation for the faults of the clergy and also for new vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The cardinal speaks of a grace of "spiritual maternity" for a community that adores the Blessed Sacrament day and night. Jesus is the Bridegroom and the adoring community becomes the Bride. In this divine marriage sealed in the New Covenant of the Eucharist, the community gives birth to vocations for the Church. In other words, vocations are obtained on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament.

So we try to help Christian communities organize a continuous adoration. During the course of a weekend of preaching we invite the parishioners to commit themselves to a weekly hour of adoration. Then we form a little team of organizers who oversee the replacement of adorers who will be absent and the maintenance of adoration over time.

Q: Do you have an example of a place of perpetual adoration which has born fruit in vocations to the priesthood and religious life?

Father Racine: With our help Bishop Marc Aillet, of the Diocese of Bayonne, France, recently established two places of perpetual adoration in his diocese, one in Bayonne, the other in Pau. He said to the adorers in these two chapels that thanks to their prayer the Lord had given the diocese around 15 new seminarians! Bishops in the United States give similar testimonies.

Q: You are the founder of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist, which is a new clerical association erected by Bishop Rey of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon on July 17, 2007. In these past few years how have you seen the Lord act?

Father Racine: The Lord has acted in letting us exist and grow. We have four seminarians, a deacon and three priests, with a team of lay people who also participate in our missions. Every time we are invited to a parish we are always astonished to see how well, in spite of the difficulties, things get organised and continue to endure over time. There is always a little sign from the Virgin Mary. She prepares these missions and helps us to accomplish them. We are convinced that Mary invites her children to come and adore Her Son present in the Eucharist.

Q: How can parishes be renewed by Eucharistic Adoration?

Father Racine: This renewal is brought about through the numerous fruits and graces of eucharistic adoration, but first of all there is a grace of unity. Eucharistic adoration unites the different parish realities. We also observe the grace of vocations. Occasionally there are people who enter the priesthood or the religious life but very frequently there are lay people who commit themselves to the parish with much generosity. Adoration renews zeal for the Mass and for sacramental confession. In praying before the Blessed Sacrament, adorers receive the divine light which illuminates the conscience so as to better live the sacramental life of the Church.

A pastor once gave a testimony on how adoration nourishes and fortifies the faith of his parishioners: "The Lord has always answered the prayers of the adorers and he continues to do so. The Chapel of Adoration has been a true ‘foyer of prayer’ for several years. Our Christian community is filled. I believe that perpetual adoration is the most noble and yet the most easy accomplishment of my life as a priest. The benefits are so numerous and the effort is so minimal on my part. The best thing I can do for my parishioners is to help them grow spiritually. [...] Perpetual adoration makes Jesus present at all times, for each and every person. He is really there in person for each one of us."

Q: And you personally, how has Eucharistic Adoration changed your life?

Father Racine: I studied to be an engineer in Paris and then I went over to Texas. During a trip to Mexico, in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I received my call to become a priest. I returned to Houston where I was working at the time and there I met a lady who desired to have perpetual adoration in her parish. At the end of each Mass, she would approach a different parishioner to speak to him or her about the infinite love of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a thing but a Person! The Eucharist is a Heart that loves us and has a thirst to be loved by us in return. I began to participate in adoration over there and I discovered the grace of permanent adoration. An adorer from Texas said to me that for him perpetual adoration was like being on a great cruise ship. Day and night one can hear the noise of the engine which propels the boat forward. Through permanent adoration there is always somebody before the true spiritual engine of our parishes: Jesus in the Eucharist.

When the people of Israel fought against the Amalekites, Moses interceded before God, raising up his hands in prayer to obtain the victory from the Lord. But then he grew weary and he had to ask Aaron and Hur to help him to hold up his arms. They did and God gave a total victory to his People. For us also, in perpetual adoration there is always somebody before the Lord, in an uninterrupted chain of prayer and intercession, so that the whole heart of the parish is unceasingly raised up to the Lord. And God will give the total victory to his People, the Church: That is to say, his light and mercy will scatter the darkness in our hearts and in our world. That is the reason why I chose to commit myself to this mission.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Adoremus in aeternum

Pope Pius IX in a Eucharistic Procession in St Peter's Square
I mentioned on an earlier post that I'm going to the International Adoratio Conference in Rome later in the year. The Conference is being sponsored by Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, whose diocese I will be visiting later in the year as well. One of those responsible for getting everything in hand for the conference, Father Florian Racine, has just given an interview to Zenit, the Catholic news service.

According to Father Racine, Adoratio 2011 will seek to not only promote Eucharistic adoration, but also to underline "the central role of the Eucharist in all aspects of ecclesial life. We will see how adoration is important in the formation of priests, how it renews parishes and dioceses, how it nourishes consecrated life, without of course forgetting its direct link with charity and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel."

The three-day event will include 14 conferences, workshops, the celebration of Mass in the ordinary and extraordinary forms, all-night adoration and the divine office. It will conclude by joining with Benedict XVI in his celebration of the solemnity of Corpus Christi at the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the eucharistic procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Scheduled speakers include Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and former secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signature; Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; and Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

Here is Part 1 of this interview, where Father Racine discusses the motivations behind the Adoratio conference, as well as the importance of Eucharistic adoration in the spiritual lives of the faithful. A timely reminder to commit to spending time with the Lord this Lent. The highlights are mine.

Q: Father, you are one of the organizers of the International Conference on the Eucharist that will take place in June 2011. Why is this conference of importance to the Church at this time?

Father Racine: As we know, Pope John Paul II asked the Church to be committed to the "New Evangelization." One of the aims of this conference is to help to anchor this in the Eucharist, center, source and summit of all evangelization.

So that our evangelization will be founded upon the Eucharist, we must go and draw from the source of grace in the eucharistic mystery, which itself "must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," Pope John Paul II, No. 61). "The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself" ("Sacramentum Caritatis," Benedict XVI, No. 66).

To speak of the "New Evangelisation" has become fashionable in recent times, but we must be attentive to the risk of simply copying the "Evangelicals" in their methods of evangelization. Without calling into question a certain effectiveness of their practices, we mustn't forget that for us Catholics, the source of divine life and thus missionary fruitfulness is found in the sacrament of the Eucharist! I do not announce the Gospel in my own name, or solely by my own strengths or personal talents, but in the name of the Church and by the power of the Eucharist.

As Benedict XVI wrote: "An authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church. We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: 'That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us' (1 John 1:3)" ("Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 84).

Q: Numerous speakers have been announced for this international conference, and curiously, the range of topics is extremely broad, since they cover everything from the mission, to the religious life, to the commitment to the poorest of the poor. Why such a broad range of subjects in order to speak of the Eucharist?

Father Racine: The different themes were chosen with the intention of showing the central role of the Eucharist in all aspects of ecclesial life. The speakers will help us to reflect on the particular role of adoration for evangelization, while situating adoration always in relation to its intrinsic connection to the Mass. We will see how adoration is important in the formation of priests, how it renews parishes and dioceses, how it nourishes consecrated life, without of course forgetting its direct link with charity and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel.

Q: St. John in his Gospel tells us that the Lord seeks those will adore Him in "spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). What, in your opinion, is it to adore in spirit and in truth?

Father Racine: It seems to me that in order to adore in "spirit and in truth," we must approach the Blessed Sacrament from two complementary angles:

First of all, I must enter into the Trinitarian dynamic. In the Holy Eucharist I adore first of all Jesus who is present before me. He is the Incarnate Word, who prolongs his incarnation for his Church. Then following on from this personal and consoling encounter with the Christ, I take another interior step: Jesus leads me to the Father. I enter into the Son's adoration of his Father. Jesus purifies my spiritual life, detaching me from sensible consolations in order to attach me to God himself. I encounter the Father, source of all mercy. I allow myself to be loved just as I am. Jesus carries me as the Good Shepherd who carries the sheep upon his shoulders. Finally, in this movement of the Son toward the Father, I receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, gentle and discreet, but which permits me to live intensely the Christian life. In receiving the Holy Spirit I can then commit myself to the mission of the Church, toward others.

Also, my adoration must not be a private devotion or merely a personal act of piety, it must become an ecclesial prayer. In effect, "Closeness to the Eucharistic Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries but, on the contrary, makes us open to human joy and distress, broadening our hearts on a global scale" (John Paul II to Mgr Houssiau, 1996).

Q: When a person commits himself or herself to adore for one hour per week, do you understand that to be a participation in the mission of the Church?

Father Racine: We cannot judge what happens in hearts. However, we can acknowledge the difference between the two following approaches: to come and adore when I have a bit of time, after I have done all my personal activities and if I feel like it… and to come and adore faithfully every week, choosing to consecrate a specific hour every week to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This second approach commits me to the Church. I don't go first of all to present my personal intentions, but rather I am sent on mission by the pastor, to carry the world, to intercede in the name of all the people of the world. I am interceding for the sick, for those who are making important decisions, for those at home, at work, on the road. In short, I am there, I am a presence of the Church before the Lord in the name of all the others.

Pope John Paul II once wrote these profound words: "Through adoration, the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the Gospel. Anyone who prays to the eucharistic Savior draws the whole world with him and raises it to God. Those who stand before the Lord are therefore fulfilling an eminent service. They are presenting to Christ all those who do not know him or are far from him; they keep watch in his presence on their behalf" (Letter to Mgr Houssiau, June 1996).

Q: In a dream St. Don Bosco once learned that in order to face the storms which come our way we must be attached to three pillars: the Church, the Eucharist and Marian devotion. Is eucharistic adoration a lifeline for the Church in this time of storms and purification, especially in the West?

Father Racine: Jesus says: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). The more Christian communities are united to Christ the more they are purified by the Father and made fruitful by the Spirit. The Eucharist is the sacrament that brings about this communion between God and us. Eucharistic adoration renews our union with God.

We see that Christians, Catholics, want to pray, but we also observe that it is so difficult to pray at home because of all the distractions. Going before the Blessed Sacrament helps us. Being face-to-face with Jesus in the sacred Host leads us also to a heart-to-heart with him. Jesus became flesh 2,000 years ago to unite himself to us. The Eucharist prolongs his incarnation. He is there in the Eucharist so as to become one with us and in order to give us a new heart and a new spirit.

To remain silent before the Blessed Sacrament may appear difficult. But Jesus is the easiest person to encounter, to love, to visit! Also what is proper to spiritual combat is perseverance. We must not adore for our own sakes or to receive sensible consolations. We must go and meet our Creator, our God and find our joy in this encounter even if we don’t "feel" anything. In this way our adoration is more pure because it leaves everything up to God.

St. Peter-Julian Eymard once said: "You are suffering from spiritual dryness? You can at least give glory to God's grace without which you can do nothing. Open your soul toward heaven just as a flower opens its petals at sunrise to receive the refreshing dew. [...] But you are in a state of temptation and of sadness; everything rebels in you; everything induces you to leave your adoration under the pretext that you are offending God, and that you are dishonoring him rather than serving Him. Do not listen to that insidious temptation, it is the adoration of combat, of fidelity to Jesus against yourself. No, no, you are not displeasing to him: you are bringing joy to your Master who is looking at you… He expects you to honor him by remaining with him to the last minute of the time you were to devote to him."

Let us not forget that adoration is part of the first commandment, it is the first duty of the virtue of justice. We must acknowledge God our Father. In the desert the devil wanted to turn Jesus away from the true adoration, which is due to God alone. Jesus responds with a citation from Scripture: "Adore the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Matthew 4).


And to prove that Eucharistic devotion is still alive in some seminaries at least here is the
Annual Eucharistic Procession at Rome's Dominican University last year
(Nothing like this at Ushaw Seminary in the last 40 years - and now it's closing...)

Saturday 5 March 2011

CAFOD again

The concerns being expressed about CAFOD and its commitment to the fullness of the Church's teaching are compounded by this ongoing story.

The former International Director of CAFOD Lesley-Anne Knight went on to become the General Secretary of Caritas International – the confederation of Catholic Aid Agencies that includes CAFOD - has been prevented by the Holy See from taking up a second term of office. You can read further at Protect the Pope. It would appear that mistrust about some charitable agencies when it comes to being faithful to the Church's teaching goes to the highest levels. The mistake made by some is not believing that, when it comes to important matters and teaching that has been constant over the history of the Church, it may be challenging, it may be counter-cultural but it cannot be "un-pastoral". Not if you believe in the Church as She defines Herself. In an interview in the USA paper The National Catholic Reporter (known in some quarters as the "National Catholic Fishwrap" for it's uber-liberal stand) M/s Knight reveals by her own words what is wrong with her basic approach. My way of being church / your way of being church - ie relativism, the underlying cancer that the Holy Father is trying to combat. The whole tone of what she says is riddled with that self-satisfied, over-confident and in-the-know manner (I think it's called clericalism) that certainly gets my blood boiling! Here is what she says:

It may be that my personal way of being church, or someone else’s, doesn’t fit a particular brand at the moment.

The "brand" she refers to is the Holy See's!
Need I say more.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti (RIP) and Pakistan. Lent and CAFOD.

As Lent approaches, I was interested to read across at In hoc signo vinces that CAFOD donated £295, 970 to Islamic Relief in 2009. (CAFOD is the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development - the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales.) I mention it in connection with Lent as in many parishes but especially in our "Catholic" schools Lent has become synonymous with CAFOD. I know that many priests and even some bishops have become a little uneasy / unhappy with this complete Cafodization of Lent. In our schools I suppose it is a very easy way for the many non-Catholic teachers and the many Catholics teachers who are lapsed or in irregular life-partner situations to make a link with Lent that doesn't necessitate any actual mention of the Faith (spirituality, dogma, Church teaching) - just a very general "helping those less well off than us". Laudable in itself but hardly the whole richness of embracing salvation that God offers us through His Church. The Faith is, after all, more than social justice (and - this may come as a surprise to some - priests who wear a biretta can also feel passionatley about social justice!

Some years ago when the news broke about CAFOD's fudging on the use of contraception to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids I tried to find out exactly what their policy was - but without any straightforward answer to my questions. Of course we can have a realistic and nuanced view to this terrible problem, as the Holy Father has made clear but it must go hand in hand with a call to conversion. Like dieting, the only really effective way is to change your habits and behaviour to achieve any real and long-term effect. Many in the Church have lost the confidence in Her and in the Gospels to preach a lifestyle radically different from the pagan world about us.

But to return to CAFOD. I can't see why CAFOD needs to distribute its funds (OUR funds) through Islamic organisations. I know the response will be that an Islamic agency would be the most effective means to get aid to victims in some areas, like the earthquake in Pakistan, but I find some difficulties with this.

1. There are Catholic agencies and charities - Catholic diocese - in such places as Pakistan. We know this because the Church there is persecuted. See here for an example. The only Christian in the Pakistan government, Shahbaz Bhatti, has just been murdered (see here for comment by Damien Thompson) and he is the second politician who has been calling for tolerance for Christians there to have been assassinated while the government has been slow (to say the least) to do anything about those calls.

2. There is an issue with corruption in many of these countries - Pakistan being one of them. See here for how UN aid was linked to extremist Islamic groups.

I would like to give money raised in the parish to Aid to the Church in Need who often give their funds directly to Catholic diocese in areas of need but CAFOD is the official charity. Two obligatory collections are listed in our diocesan yearbook. The printed envelopes we get for weekly donations automatically include these extras for CAFOD. As a parish priest I think I may be within my rights to decide not to hold these collections or make it clear that we are collecting for a different charity on those Sundays but then can my nerves stand for another little disagreement with the diocese?

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Mgr Loftus on 'poor Lavinia Byrne'!

Further to my last but one post. If you read the article byMgr Loftus, in the Leeds Diocesan newspaper, you may have noticed that The Ghost of Councils Past refers to Lavinia Byrne and the "disgraceful treatment" she received which he described as one of the "post-conciliar errors". A friend of mine pointed out the following:

But, let’s not forget that at the heart of the Lavinia Byrne case was her refusal to accept Catholic teaching on the question of whether women can be priests. And on this question the Church’s doctrine has been utterly consistent since the beginning of the Christian era: namely that the Church has no authority to ordain women. This was confirmed by Pope John Paul II in 1994. He made it very clear that this was not a new dogma, but a very old one. To teach the contrary, he declared, is “equivalent to leading consciences into error.”

The ladies below need not have had any worries, I think. In fact, one look would have sent you running for the bottle. As someone once said to me, the strongest argument against ordaining women might be the women who actually want to be ordained!

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