Sunday, 22 February 2009

For the Holy Father

Dear Reader,

Visit here for a very important post from Blogging Lourdes, and do as your informed conscience directs.

Thank you.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Noble Simplicity

Read into the title of this post what you want.

Prompted by the nasty mess heaved up by the Tablet this week, many are now meditating on the Mass and the "needs of the people". Here are my thoughts.

Recently, the need for some spiritual succor has proved too great and I’ve headed off to the Oxford Oratory for Mass on two occasions.

Both Masses were Novus Ordo and facing the congregation, one in Latin one in English. Both were very prayerful. The reason for this was the strict adherence to the sacred liturgy. No priest breaking off mid way through to ask Mr. Smith how his hip operation went. No children on the altar for the Lords Prayer. No hymns. Sermons that actually tackled the meat of the Gospel reading.

Mass is often about endurance. Recalling that prayer is a battle, Mass can often be the ultimate conflict. Sometimes this is down to scrappy liturgical “interpretation”, sometimes it can be down to an ill prepared congregation (been to a school Mass recently anyone?). The battle to remain focused and concentrate prayerfully on the sacred mystery is intense. I’m afraid, often I’ve left Mass feeling utterly defeated.

Nevertheless, sung solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary form is also a feat of endurance. So many distractions, so much beauty, so much for one scientist with a very short attention span and complete inability to multitask to take in. In some ways, and in no way disrespectfully, it is like asking someone who enjoys a quick shower to get something meaningful out of a long soak in a candle-lit bath.

It is nice not to have to face this conflict and go to a simple said “say the black do the red” Mass. A subtler battle then takes place between your more selfish human nature and your desire for union with God. It is altogether more intimate and humbling.

Some nice and very Oratorian touches were the sheer reverence and time taken over the cleaning the chalice, the use of the altar rails and the extra priest that appeared during communion to pray in reverence before the open tabernacle whilst the celebrant distributed the Eucharist.

Incidentally the chalice cleaning would have been lost from the view of the congregation had the Mass been ad orientem, I personally found it profoundly moving and don’t believe this ritual should be exclusively for the altar boys’ eyes only.

Pray for our priests, pray for the Church.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Rupture

The battle lines that are being talked about between the liberals in the Church and those who are conservative and openly loyal to the Holy Father seem at first to be very plausible. There can be no doubt that rupture in the Church is forged by those with their own agenda and that agenda is not Christ centred or Petrine. I just have a small problem with defining these liberals as the enemy. Whilst my sympathies do not lie near them (I’ve seen them wreck too many schools and as a result too many children’s notion of the Faith to even like them), I do feel it is unhelpful to point a wagging finger at them and say they are the root of all that is wrong with the Church.

This can’t be good for the Church. It is all too black and white, good versus evil, them against us. Whilst I do not doubt that there are some seemingly within the body of the Church who are hell bent on destroying it, playing out some real life “Lord of the Rings” with our fellow Catholics is wrong.

I offer a humble solution below. Look to the Apocalypse (chapters 2 & 3). The beginning of Revelation concerns the Seven Churches of Asia, the members of the Body of Christ. John is made aware of all the possible sources of rupture that could exist within this body. Forget the liberal/conservative split, look here for guidance, it offers a salutary lesson that we must look, each and every one of us, to our own failings and possible causes for rupture.

Ephesus: A righteous church, but Christ warns John that “they may have less love now than formerly”, I see the most startling parallel with our own conservative brethren here. It is a trap we can all fall into.

Smyrna: A persecuted Church. Hammered by the devil, great saints will be forged here, but isn’t it worth remembering that where persecution is greatest, there are also great opportunities for harm to be done, a persecuted church is asking that all its members behave like saints here on earth. Would not anger, hatred and a desire for vengeance swell in my heart if I were a Catholic in Iraq, the Holy Land or China?

Pergamum: This resembles the Church today in the affluent west. Many openly flouting the laws of the Church yet calling themselves Catholics. Real repentance is called for from all of us, no matter how small our transgressions are. For those of us of a conservative mind set, are we not guilty of the sin of omission, for not shouting out loudly enough what the Church stands for in such a way that others will hear and take note.

Thyatira: A persevering Church, a grade A for effort but only a D+ on sound teaching and theology. A church openly welcoming false prophets and possibly New Age “spirituality”.

Sardis: The sleeping church. Aaaargh, I know this one too well!

Philadelphia: A conservative church that loves the law and doesn’t want to think too much "outside the box". Christ promises to protect them and recognises their weakness.  And weakness is probably no bad thing. They seem to be a church that is doing nothing wrong however, one gets the feeling the Philadelphians would probably not make good missionaries.

Laodicea: Wealthy and lukewarm. Offensive, repulsive and a travesty, it offers no solidarity to the poor, the uninformed and the oppressed. Just remember, lukewarm can feel hot if your hand has previously been in cold water. However, we are not a Church of relatives, we are a Church of absolutes, and lukewarm is lukewarm and vomitsome.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Render therefore to Caesar...

Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's. Matthew 22:21

I don't have much of an objection to paying tax. I do object to disproportionate taxation, like the obscene levy we pay on fuel in this country. I am also think inheritance tax in morally unjustifiable. However I'm a subject of this rotting land and a moderately obedient one at that.

However I do wonder if Caesar is not just getting a little greedy in the things that he thinks he owns and the things he thinks we ought to be rendering up to him.

Caesar thinks he knows what will make us happy. We are supposed to follow his dreams through the meritocracy in which we live, following his aspirations for us, living his dreams, gaining his qualifications, passing his examinations, getting his promotions. We are likely to forget Caesar does not own our dreams or our happiness.

Caesar thinks he knows what we should learn. Actually Caesar is terrified of knowledge, that's why he insists on the wholesale institutionalisation of learning from early years to the grave which greatly inhibits free thinking and creativity. That's why he is terrified of homeschooling and school teachers developing their own curriculum. Caesar does not own our minds or the minds of our children.

Caesar thinks he owns our health and our safety. He legislates manically, telling us what tests we ought to have for our health, what pills we ought to be popping, how our public spaces ought to be arranged so as to manage risk and prevent accidents. He is obtrusive, nannying and mercenary, he plays with peoples' natural tendencies to care and makes them believe he always knows what is best. Caesar does not own our bodies or our health.

However Caesar does own our fear and he plays with it endlessly. Our fear of crime, our financial worries, our employment worries are all his. Give these back to Caesar and get on with living and loving as instructed to in the Gospels.

I used to be nearly envious of priests and the life consecrated to God. No mortgages, little in the way of taxes...all that obedience and submission and all totally devoted to the will of God....Not any more.

Our poor brother priests have to contend with the crippling bureaucracy of "Child Protection", "Health and Safety Legislation", "Disability awareness" and building "fit for purpose" insanity. Couple this with grossly unfair water rates, endless diocesesan initiatives, emasculated Catholic (in name only) schools and a large heap of the bureaucratic cr*p the rest of us have to put up with and the priest's life truly has a large chunk of it rendered up to Caesar. It is a grotesque and unnecessary "Kaiserschnitt" ripping the heart and soul out of parish life and leaving many a priest lonely and confused and desperately trying to reconnect to his vocation.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Ubi Caritas

I couldn't help thinking as I drove home from work that it may be a good idea if Bishop Williamson (SSPX)went on retreat. I'd like to see him on the same retreat as some of the most beardy, sincere and well meaning, sandal wearing, guitar hugging, Catholic priests from our shores. I'm not sure what the outcome would be but I have no doubt it would be for the good of the Church.