Thursday 27 February 2014

Keep calm and say the Latin Mass

Richard Collins over at Linen on the Hedgerow is trying to help some young people raise the funds to attend the Chartres Pilgrimage this year.  If you would like a mug - or a whole set for the parish rooms - then go to his page and follow the link or go directly to the donate page here.

After all, a nice cup of tea always calms you down - and so does the Latin Mass!

Friday 21 February 2014

When was the last time you felt unable to go to Communion?

When was the last time you felt unable to go to Holy Communion?

This year?

Last year?



There is some discussion at the moment (here and here) about the approach to Holy Communion in regard to those not in normal or traditional family relationships - in short hand, those who are divorced and remarried. Much less discussion about those in a very similar situation, couples who are living together without the benefit of even a civil marriage - in both cases they are living as man and wife without the relationship being recognised as marriage by the Church.  

Any priest will have encountered the difficult situation first hand among his parishioners (and many personally in their own families).  I always find it a hard task to explain the truth and validity of the Church's teaching and yet it is so clearly rooted in Our Lord's own words in the Scriptures.  I come back again and again in these circumstances to the issue of the now general practice of receiving Holy Communion. In other words, everyone receives all the time. There are in reality plenty of other situations where receiving Holy Communion is not appropriate.  Before anyone taps away in the comments box, I am not in favour of returning to a time when no-one went to Holy Communion and the Church had to virtually force people into receiving "at least" once a year. Obviously, we cannot reserve Holy Communion only for saints. However, arriving at church in a bad temper after an argument or in conflict with someone without having made your peace before coming to the Temple is another Scriptural injunction of Our Lord or a plethora of other unrepented sins should also cause us to hold back. To say nothing of those who are not yet old enough to receive and those who are not Catholics (ie not "in communion" with the Church).

Of course, this is instilled in that most unedifying and rubric-lite of settings for the Mass, the school Mass or classroom Mass. In these unnecessarily makeshift environments (for there is often an empty church just next door) the teacher's desk is suddenly an altar and the pretty ditties are accompanied by the clatter of dishes from the canteen behind the shutters in the school hall.  The odour of semolina (or whatever noxious substances are served as school meals these days) drift over the proceedings.  All present are then marched up to receive Holy Communion, including those who have not darkened the church since the day of their first Communion, whose families never contribute a single penny to the upkeep of the parish or a prayer to its spiritual good. I've a vague suspicion that in many cases even non-Catholic children are marched up as well.  The overarching concern is that no-one should feel "left out". If the rules and guidelines were observed, it would, of course, be those who come from families that actually practice their Faith that would be in the minority and, therefore, the "odd ones out". So the children learn that it's okay to come to Holy Communion whenever they attend Mass - no matter who they are or what state they are in. (I have a priest friend who experienced this logic as a school chaplain. Whilst hearing Confessions in the school he discovered that ALL the children, regardless of religion, were being pushed through the door. He discovered this "pastoral" approach when a child wearing a turban came in to Confess!)

To be able to receive Holy Communion is, of course, glorious. I do wonder though, if beluga caviare and Bollinger Champagne were to be on offer to everyone every day how quickly they would become rather devalued?  How quickly would the associated thrill around them become rather routine and not very much valued? Such items generally engender a sense of occasion and so should Holy Communion.

From another angle, I wonder if this has something to do with an almost consumerist approach to the Sacrament - we need to "get" something when we come to Mass, a physical thing. This would explain why it is not considered enough for those who, for whatever reason, cannot come to Holy Communion to simply kneel in the pew in the Real Presence of Our Lord, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity making a Spiritual Communion but they must be encouraged to come up to the altar rail and have the priest wave a hand over them - or sometimes, as I have seen, extra prayers as well. Simply to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a great blessing and grace. This is also the command of the Church for each Sunday - to attend, for which we seem to now read, "receive Communion".

Those not in a suitable condition of life/soul do not need to pretend otherwise. By making a Spiritual Communion they can receive much grace.  Indeed, it's sensible to act in accordance with one's actual spiritual state, as defined by the Church of which we are members.  To pretend to something that is not reality does not, in the end, assist in negotiating the spiritual life (or any part of life).  We focus on those who are divorced and remarried but this seems to me to be an example of Pope Francis' concern that we are almost too focussed on sexual sins. Instead of looking at why those in the particular position might be able to get around the rules (and Our Lord's clear teaching) we ought, perhaps, to be asking why so many feel able to come to Holy Communion so frequently without the benefit of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To recognise our relationship with the teaching of the Church and of Our Lord, we do not need to condone the sin to rejoice that the sinner is still with us. Not to make an exact comparison, we are quite happy to carry out the injunction to visit the prisoner without believing that every inmate is actually innocent and there on a miscarriage of justice. Archbishop Muller has just been saying that the care of remarried divorcees must not be reduced to the question of receiving the Eucharist:
Even if there is no possibility of admitting remarried divorcees to the sacraments, in view of their intrinsic nature, it is all the more imperative to show pastoral concern for these members of the faithful, so as to point them clearly towards what the theology of revelation and the Magisterium have to say. The path indicated by the Church is not easy for those concerned. Yet they should know and sense that the Church as a community of salvation accompanies them on their journey. Insofar as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the indissolubility of marriage.
Incidentally, those who, for whatever reason, do not frequently or ever, receive Holy Communion can attend Mass, sing and pray to their heart's content, take an active part in the social life of the parish, involve themselves in the temporal and spiritual works of mercy.  (Every parish has great attendees who come as the non-Catholic parent of Catholic children. I don't think of them as any less my parishioners.) No-one should be looking at who is and isn't coming up to Communion.  In this case, the attitude of all fellow parishioners should be that of the Pope when dealing with those who are seeking God and have good will but find themselves in a flawed and fallen humanity , "Who am I to judge?"

Here is what the Pope has just been saying about the family:
The family is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.
Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into "casuistry", because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity. We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties. And also with a pastoral that is intelligent, courageous and full of heart. 

Saturday 15 February 2014

Vatican adopts pre-1962 Calendar

Despite the fact that yesterday was the feast of Ss Cyril and Methodius, proclaimed Patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis was sticking to the pre-1962 calendar and keeping the Feast of St Valentine!  As far as I can glean, St Valentine has been purged from the new calendar, which seems a pity as "Valentine's Day" seems to grow ever more popular in the secular imagination.  Yet another instance of the Church shooting itself in the foot by "reforming" and breaking the age old links with the popular culture that in some ways at least, still remains rooted in its Christian past.  It would seem sensible to make the most of such links and reclaim them and remind people of where they come from, rather than jettison them.  It would appear that Pope Francis must agree - perhaps we will see the Feast of St Valentine properly restored to its liturgical celebration? 
St Pudsey - Pray for us.

Unfortunately, I suspect that we too often in the Church now ride on the coat-tails of secular feasts because we've lost confidence in our own Traditions.  We can't wait to put on a red nose but seem ever less keen on walking around with ash on our foreheads.  Pudsy Bear seems so much more appealing than our own patron saints. Our leaders are keen on jumping on any political bandwagon that happens to be passing - the social security safety net may or may not be failing but the safety net for souls in a Church where the catechetical and school system have failed to teach generations the importance of the Truths of the Faith is certainly failing and a national disgrace.  We should not be inspired by ideologies aimed at merely improving the world but rather guided by the Faith.

Reclaiming our Traditions and reclaiming culture are one and the same thing.  The proper care and celebration of our religious Faith will always lead to great works being done for those most in need but a focus on the social and the secular without the underpinning of the Faith leads to a relativism that the children of Belgium might not care for quite so much now that they can "enjoy" the same rights as the grown ups.  In the lives of the great "social justice" saints (as they are now often portrayed) it was the Faith that came first, the Faith that they included at the heart of their "programmes", the Faith that was foundation, building block and context - never an "add on". They managed to do their work not IN SPITE of keeping to the Church's Tradition but BECAUSE of remaining faithful to it - including, for the vast majority of them, celebrating Mass in Latin, ad orientem and without wanting to overthrow the doctrine of the Church on Faith and morals in favour of the secular mores of the day. The lepers embraced by St Damien were not looked on with favour by the mores of the day; the vagabond children educated by St John Bosco were not cared for by the secular institutions of the day; the slavers of the day would have been castigated by St Peter Calver, etc etc.

From Pope Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est:

40. "The saints are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love."
"33. With regard to the personnel who carry out the Church's charitable activity on the practical level, the essential has already been said: they must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). "

Friday 14 February 2014

It's good to go back in time

A street in the necropolis below St Peter's, where St Peter himself is buried.

The Missionaries of Divine Revelation are kind enough to send me their newsletter each month from Rome. (I have posted about them before here here and here.)  I liked this article musing on the importance of our Christian Tradition and how it connects us to the generations of Christians down the ages, right back to the Apostles and Our Lord Himself. Very appropriate as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. It put me in mind of Chesterton's saying from Orthodoxy, Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland.” 
“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead... Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”

The Article:

A city like Rome, with its abundance of history and art, can, at times, produce sentiments of inadequacy and disorientation. Here we can find places that open our minds to the possibility of a recuperation of our Christian identity and roots.

For a moment, let us abandon the noisy hub-bub of the streets and try a fascinating experience by descending right unto the core of the ancient city.  Let us imagine the Vatican necropolis that lies below St Peter’s Basilica and Rome’s rich population of Catacombs. 

Exploring these places, one captures the breath of an entire community that has managed to realise beautiful, “anonymous” harmonious compositions that arose, not from the desire of the artist, but by a believing community as a testimony of Beauty.  Their works show that they share our faith and that they form part of a Church that, through the centuries, has handed down an abundance of wonder and collective witness of martyrdom and Christian dedication.

Right from the Apostolic era, Christians have merged like yeast in the dough of contemporary society and have quickly shown their specific identity.  We need only call to mind Diognetus famous letter from the second century to a Christian and a pagan: “Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life... They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven.”

One of the burial chambers below St Peter's.

No community is able to retain its identity amongst the incessant influx and rapid events if it doesn’t build on its past.  

Remembering is a precious act of the spirit. Considering the heritage that we hold in common with so many Christians, helps us to be amazed at the constancy of our Tradition. This heritage teaches us to appreciate the beauty of Holy Mother Church who is always growing and maturing  in the purpose for which Christ founded her.  

The Church is primarily and essentially a memorial of her Saviour, a passionate memory that is ever alive and covers over two thousand years of the history of mankind.  

Let us enter into the maternal heart of the Church where we can draw from the fountain of the history of the martyrs, the saints, the Councils formed to defend the Truth, the miracles and all the spiritual richness that culminates in our greatest gift: the Eucharist. “Do this in memory of me” The Church never forgets the Spouse that, “loved the Church and handed himself over for her” (Eph 5,25). By remembering our history and reliving the testimony of those Christians that have gone before us, we are able to learn how we too can put Jesus at the centre of our lives and to teach those who have not met Christ that there is a superior, happier way of living here and now on earth.

Monday 10 February 2014

Burns' Night Supper

Members of the Order of St Lazarus and friends had a rare treat at the Burns' Night Supper held recently to raise funds for the work of the Order supporting those suffering from leprosy in Sri Lanka.  Our Grand Chancellor, The Much Honoured Baron of Fetternear, was the host at Farington.  After a non-traditional Bellini to welcome guests, we had the excellent traditional Scottish fare of Scotch Broth; Haggis  wi’ Bashit Neeps & Champit Tatties, followed by Clootie Dumpling. Prepared for by the Selkirk Grace, prayed by the Chancellor, Fr Mark Lawler:

   Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.           

A rousing Address to the Haggis was was given by friend of the Order Mr Scott Lawler, dressed in the unusual garb of a Hibs supporter, complete with ginger hair and bonnet! (For the record, neither his own!)  While we drank to the immortal memory of Robert Burns, aware that Burns' Night is not a typically Catholic custom, we also raised a glass to the King oe'r the Water! 

 The Chancellor and the Marshal of the Order - suitably attired for the evening.

Thanks to members and friends for a highly enjoyable evening which raised £500 for the Order's charitable work.

Sunday 9 February 2014

World Leprosy Day 2014

Two Sundays ago on 26th January it was World Leprosy Day.  Parishioners and local members of the Order of St Lazarus braved the elements to walk in Cuerden Country Park just up the road from the parish.  In fact, so bad was the weather that our numbers were a little reduced from those who were hoping to walk. We returned tot he parish to the welcome sight of hot bowls of soup, prepared by others doing their bit.  Thank you to the walkers and indeed to sponsors from the parish and beyond, for we raised £563.  

This money is going to assist the work of SUROL, the charity in Sri Lanka being sponsored by the Order of St Lazarus.  This great cause allows us to give money to a charity that is small enough to be able to report exactly where the money is going and even the individuals and families who are being helped.  Indeed, we have personal contact with some of those running the charity in Sri Lanka, which helps us to have confidence in the good use the fruits of our fundraising are put to.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Traditional Pligrimage to Walsingham

The LMS's 5th walking pilgrimage to Walsingham takes place this summer from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2014. With Traditional Latin Mass every day plus traditional Catholic devotions, Confession available throughout the pilgrimage, this is the ideal opportunity to recharge your Faith and meet like-minded individuals and families. You can sign up for the pilgrimage here:

Sunday 2 February 2014

Pope Francis: “Faithfulness to the Church: faithfulness to its teachings; faithfulness to the Creed; faithfulness to the doctrine, to guard this doctrine.

Three Pillars of the Church

Last week at his daily Mass Pope Francis spoke about the importance of belonging to the Church, the Holy Father drew on the image of David in the first reading of the day, focusing on his relationship with God, which he compared to a father and a son. This relationship calls on us to reflect on our relationship with God and the Church.  

(With my own highlights in answer those who want to portray Pope Francis in their own image of wishy washy Catholicism.)

“The Christian is not a baptized person that receives Baptism and then goes along his own way,” he said.

“The first fruit of Baptism is to make yourself belong to the Church, to the people of God. A Christian without a Church is not understood. And for this reason, the great Paul VI said that it is an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church; to listen to Christ but not the Church; to be with Christ at the edge of the Church. It can’t be done. It is an absurd dichotomy.”

Continuing on this sense of ecclesial belonging, the Pope highlighted three pillars, the first being humility. This humility is exemplified in the person of David.

“A person who is not humble, cannot hear the Church, they will hear what she likes, what he likes," the Pope continued. "And this humility is seen in David: ‘Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house?’ - that realisation that the history of salvation has not begun with me and will not finish when I die. No, it is all a history of salvation: I am coming, the Lord takes you, He makes you go forward and then calls you and the history continues. The history of the Church began before us and will continue after us. Humility: we are a small part of a great people, that is going on the path of the Lord.”

The second pillar the Pope highlighted was faithfulness, which he noted is “connected with obedience.”

“Faithfulness to the Church: faithfulness to its teachings; faithfulness to the Creed; faithfulness to the doctrine, to guard this doctrine. Humility and faithfulness,” he said.

“Even Paul VI reminded us that we receive the message of the Gospel as a gift and we should transmit it as a gift, but not as something of our own: it is a received gift that we give. And in this transmission to be faithful. Because we have received and we should give a Gospel that is not ours, it is of Jesus, and we should - as He says - become masters of the Gospels, masters of the doctrine received, to use it to our liking.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that the third pillar, prayer for the Church is an important service that unites us to the universal Church.

“May the Lord help us to go on this path to deepen our belonging to the Church,” he said.

On another day the Holy Father reflected on the first reading which spoke of David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba which led to the murder of her husband, Uriah. David, he said, rather than seeing his adultery as a grave sin, sees it as a problem that needs to be resolved.

Referring to Pius XII’s assertion that “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin”, the Pope reflected on Uriah, who represents the innocent victims who suffer as consequence of our sins.

“I must confess, when I see these injustices, this human pride, also when I see the danger that would happen to me, the danger of losing the sense of sin, it does me well to think of the many Uriahs in history, the many Uriahs who even today suffer from our Christian mediocrity, when we lose the sense of sin, when we let the Kingdom of God fall.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to take a moment to “pray for ourselves so that the Lord give us always the grace to not lose the sense of sin, so that the Kingdom does not fall from within us.”

It struck me that, while these calls are for all of us to take heed of, there are those in the Church (particularly those who would use the Holy Father's words for their own liberal and re-(de)forming agenda) who could well take particular heed of them.  I've been reading the reports of ACTA on Deacon Nick's Blog.  members of ACTA (A Call to Action) could well benifit from a reflection on the Pope's words, "Faithfulness to the Church: faithfulness to its teachings; faithfulness to the Creed; faithfulness to the doctrine, to guard this doctrine. Humility and faithfulness." Particularly he notes that faithfulness is related to obedience and presupposes humility.  It's not really believable to say that you love the Church but want Her to change completely.  No husband could get away with that with his wife - "I love you, darling, but here's a list of things I don't like about you that you must change!" Not a very convincing term of endearment.

According to Deacon Nick's Blog, ACTA intends to have its national meeting this October in Liverpool Hope University, which is made up from what used to be the Anglican and Catholic Colleges. I don't know how much influence the Archdiocese still has at the University, although  University Council is chaired by the Pro Chancellor, Mgr John Devine OBE, a Liverpool Priest.

I see from ACTA's website that there are regular monthly meetings here in a Liverpool parish. Not a very wholesome use for Catholic premises to be used for groups who want to undermine great chunks of the Church's teaching. To continue the husband and wife analogy, a bit like using the marital home for an illicit affair! Perhaps a new Archbishop will call things to order.  To quote Chesterton: we do not want “a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world. We want one that will move it away from many of the things towards which it is now moving."