Tuesday 23 December 2014

A Christmas address

I've no idea of the atmosphere or dedication or otherwise of the Vatican Curia but Pope Francis' words to those who work for him - as it were his closest "parish workers" - reminded me of a similar list of illnesses that afflict many parishes. Indeed, in just the past week I know of two priests complaining of how those who "assist" them in running the parish try to do so in ways that leave much to be desired.  These seem to be parishes where amongst the laity a worldly model predominates, "Tablet" reading types who see the parish as an organisation where they hold power and the priest is merely an employee over whom they hold that power.  Where the "ordinary" Catholic in the pew who just wants to get on with coming to Mass and saying her prayers is held in little esteem. Not, thank the Lord, something I experience much in my own parish.  

So, to take the Holy Father's words to heart and apply them to the rest of the flock how would this go down in your parish as the Christmas sermon to those who worked in the parish?

The Parish Priest began, “The Parish is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Parish. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Parish Priest, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Parish workers' ailments:

The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Parish body that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.

“Spiritual Alzheimer's disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the 'first love': this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the ability of the Liturgy Committee to decide the colour of one's robes, the Extraordinary Minister's insignia and the honours of the Parish Council or the Finance Board become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false 'mysticism' and a false 'quietism'”.

Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by attendance at Diocesan courses and the production of catechetical DVD's. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues, brethren and priests. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a 'cancer' that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

The Parish priest finished by wishing all his collaborators a very happy Christmas.

Monday 22 December 2014

The Spirit of Christmas 2014

A packed church on Saturday night here at St Catherine Labouré in Leyland witnessed a wonderful Carol Concert, organised by Chev. Anthony Dickinson KLJ, raising funds for the Grand Priory of Great Britain's charity, SUROL - Cardinal Ranjith's organisation working for the relief of those suffering from leprosy in Sri Lanka.

Members of the Octavius Chamber Choir gave of their time and talents to uplift and entertain members of the Order, parishioners and others form the local community.  The choir's organist and Musical Director is David Scott Thomas (who is also the Musical Director and Organist at Preston Minster.)

They chose a great selection of music, from traditional favourites such as the Sussex Carol to Santa Claus is coming to Town! As well as traditional carols for everyone to join in with.  All interspersed with readings both sacred and secular.

From the collection and donations for the evening the event raised close to £5,000 for the Order, which is absolutely fantastic. Our thanks to the wonderful singers of Octavius Chamber Choir, to David Scott Thomas, to Chev. Anthony Dickinson, to the parishioners assisting with serving the mulled wine and mince pies afterwards and to everyone who came along and donated such a generous amount of money to such a good cause.  The oft talked about spirit of Christmas is well and truly alive in the Order and here in St Catherine's.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Carol Concert this Saturday

Carol Concert
With Mince pies & mulled wine
Free Entry

St Catherine’s Church
Stanifield Lane      Farington    (Next to the park)

Saturday 20th December
A collection will take place for those
suffering from leprosy.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Mass in Brussels

 St Michaels's College and the church of St John Berchmans in Brussels

I spent last weekend in Brussels for a gathering of the Order of St Lazarus  as the Commandery in Belgium was raised to the status of a Grand Priory. (More on that at that here.) Members gathered in the church of St John Berchamans for the celebration of Mass celebrated by Chaplain General of the Order in France, Rev Fr Claude Girault, Rector of the Cathedral of Orléans. Mass was greatly enhanced by the singers of the Petits Chanteurs de Belgique, who sang the Missa Brevis de Léo Delibes (you can here the Kyrie from it here.) Together with the Investiture the Mass was quite long but the boys of the choir were as professional in their behaviour as in their singing. 

 The church is part of the Jesuit College of St Michael.

 The interior of the church.

On the Sunday, I managed to find a Missa Cantata offered by the FFSP in the Church of St John and St Stephen at 62, Rue Minimes.  I couldn't follow much of the 20 minute long sermon (!) in French but at least I could join in with the chant and responses of the Mass.  Once again, it struck me as such a strange thing that in an era when people travel more than ever, that the universality of Latin would be so appropriate and helpful to bind us all together. What a pity that so little use is made of the Church's ancient language.   Even in my own very small parish in Britain, there are several nationalities represented, with not everyone's English being excellent.  We have families from Egypt, Ghana and the Philippines - particularly when they first arrive, being able to take part in Mass in a way that is familiar to them would be a great help.  If only we used the language we were directed to by the Second Vatican Council and other papal pronouncements since.  Not by chance did Saint John Paul II recall that:
“The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself” (Dominicae cenae, n. 10).
In continuity with the Magisterium of his Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, besides wishing that there would be a greater use of the traditional Latin language in liturgical celebrations, especially during international gatherings, wrote:
“Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 62).

Archbishop Andrew Leonard of Archdiocese Brussels-Malines celebrated Mass in the church in 2011.