Monday, 23 December 2013

When the Son of Man cometh....

... shall He find faith on earth?

"The crisis in the church today is one of faith.  So few believe any more"... so said a priest friend recently (quoting another priest), and it is a sentiment that I happen to agree with.  Here are a few examples I'd like to share with you:

I've just returned from the dreary but affluent suburbs of Manchester.  I went to the weekday Mass at the nearest Catholic church.  The church is well ordered and very well attended.  It looks like a healthy parish.  After the weekday Mass, the priest put out the monstrance for Exposition, this was done with no ceremony, but there He was on the altar after Mass for all to contemplate.  However, ladies started busying themselves in the sanctuary, cleaning up round Him, doing things that could have waited or which could have been done before the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.  In the pews, the "watchers" were in deep chat about family members loud enough for me to hear everything.  They were happy, they were comfortable and I wanted to slap them and scream  "HE'S HERE, LET HIM INTO YOUR WRETCHED LITTLE LIVES WHY DON'T YOU".

I didn't and instead uttered a nearly audible kyrie eleison and left them to it.

Whose lack of faith, mine or theirs?

What is up with all these traditional minded Catholic blogs?  The invective against the Holy Father.  The doom and gloom about snippets of news from Rome.  There is no faith there.  There is seemingly no belief in the Real Presence; that the Blessed Trinity IS at work, that God IS the Eternal Present, that satan has been conquered and that the Church IS the bride of Christ.  They are behaving like the mouthpiece of the opposition.  They are living in a narrow, materialistic, unsanctified, trite little world that all that beautiful liturgy they do so much to promote is supposed to transcend. And indeed it is horrific that they are not in a better state spiritually after their exposure to it. They have forgotten holy scripture and they have forgotten how to love.  Again I want to slap them and scream "HE'S HERE, LET HIM INTO YOUR WRETCHED LITTLE LIVES WHY DON'T YOU".

Instead I utter a quick chorus of  Christus vincit, and decide in my heart that they are heading for Hell and I don't care.

Whose lack of faith, mine or theirs?

I need to sit somewhere quiet this Christmas. I need to stop thinking. I need to indulge in nothing more than a bit of spiritual senility and just smile at the Word made flesh. 

He's here, I need to let him into my wretched little life.

The Christ Child- Zurbaran

A HAPPY and HOLY CHRISTMAS to you all.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Personal response to Church matters

'Tis my blog and these are my thoughts.  Please feel free to correct me if you feel I err from Church teaching....

On the Franciscans of the Immaculate
  • Some of the greatest saints were treated harshly by the Church, the harsh treatment of the FI is no sign they are lacking in holiness.  It should be seen as a refining and a purifying and a test of obedience. Obedience to the Church (which will never ask you to sin) is very important, especially when it seems unfair.  Is this situation like the revolting treatment that St Elizabeth of Hungary got at the hands of her sadistic confessor? I don't think so.  Is it like the consigning to drudgery and hard work that dear St Philip Neri inflicted on the brilliantly gifted Cesar Baronius?  I don't think so. Is this like the politically motivated but papally decreed Suppression of the Jesuits?  No way, they are not influential enough for that.  Is it like the suspicion that St Teresa of Avila came under at the hands of the Inquisition?  Hmm, no, they are not really reformers, or are they?  It is like the necessary anti-Jansenist purges of the seminaries in the 18th Century?  I don't thinks so.  But if it is like any of the cases I have mentioned, then it will (in the long run) be for the good of souls.
  • Having a Capuchin "sort them out" is like having an Oratorian sort out the French Oratory or an English Benedictine sort out the Subiaco congregation.  It was never going to be pretty, ones close brothers are the most critical.
  • We (the great unwashed of Blogland-beyond-the-Pale) know nothing and must remember that we know nothing.
  • It is wrong to compare their treatment to that of the women religious in the States who "have moved beyond Jesus" and who have had little in the way of censure. Those women have (to be fair)  honestly stated their heresy and the Church's choice is either to burn them or to treat them as we would anyone else who is has wilfully misunderstood Church teaching to the point that they are endangering their own souls. Burning would only be an option if they were a serious threat to the souls of others.  They aren't. So the Church must work on bringing them back to Christ for their Salvation.  This will be gentle work because their mantra of male oppression produces an unhelpful knee-jerk reaction in them quicker than you can say "patriarchy".
  • It is dangerous and unhelpful to portray the struggles of the FI as if they were a bastion of all that is good and true.  The only creature who is that is Our Lady.
On the Holy Father and my mother
  • The Holy Father will not be aware of the delicate state of my mother's faith and how she finally made it back to Confession after 50 years earlier this year.  Getting her to go to Mass regularly has been difficult.  She doesn't understand the Novus Ordo.  She was attracted towards Benedict but I'm afraid that Pope Francis has not helped.  Mother is a Thatcherite and I'm afraid his love of speaking about social justice has just about completely turned her off.  Before she retired she had worked as a doctor in one of the most socially deprived areas of  England, she knew more about poverty than most and whilst politically her views are indefensible, her charity was not.  I am not blaming him for this, just saying that reaching out to people like my mum is not straightforward.
On the Holy Father
  • I love him.  It is great that he is a Jesuit.  I love the way Jesuits make us feel uncomfortable.  Feeling uncomfortable is good and necessary for us committed Catholics.  The bottom line is that the Bishop of Rome endlessly lays down a challenge for us and the challenge is; do you love Christ? It is only right that the same challenge Our Lord gave Peter, Peter should give us.  Nothing else Peter says or does has any meaning outside of this challenge

Monday, 2 December 2013

Catholic response to Tom Daley

So we find out today that a sporting superstar who has been under the media spotlight from a very tender age is pleased to tell us that he is now in a relationship with another man.

I teach in a school, the Catholic response to such items of news, irrespective of their newsworthyness, is important.

My first thought is to say, congratulations! I'm glad that he has found someone that he can be involved with in a mutually supportive way.  A life under the media spotlight must be dreadful, lonely and weird, anything approaching support and comfort from another human being is to be welcomed.  However that is not my Catholic response.  This doesn't mean that I only wear my Catholicism as a hat that I can take off at times, but this response must be seen in the light of my faith which ought to provide the fullest response, if I think and pray about this carefully.

I can only begin to imagine the crazy fan mail he has received from obsessive, hormonal teenage girls.  The poor boy has had his body on display to the world for so long and it has always grieved me that this has been the case.  We have no control over how others view images of us. I can only begin to imagine what bizarre and uncomfortable view he must have of female sexuality when expressed through such mail.  I can fully understand that it would be another man who could offer sensitivity and love to the real Tom Daley, that all seems to make perfect sense.

Being a Catholic means putting Christ first in everything.  It means that all relationships with all creatures are subordinate to our relationship with Our Lord and Saviour.  I have no idea if Tom is seeking friendship and communion with Christ.  I have no idea if he realises that all happiness ultimately comes through Christ and all lasting joy is actually a share in His life.

So, if he is not interested in God, does it matter what he is doing?  Yes.  Tom has made it matter by releasing this into the public domain.  He thinks it is important, therefore it IS important.  So if we fail to respond, we are failing in our love for all men.

So (prayerfully) I think the Catholic response is as follows (please add your pennorth if you think I'm wrong):

People love each other, irrespective of gender and sexuality.  True love is self-sacrificing, mutually enriching, faithful and committed.  Catholics believe that outside of marriage (and two men cannot marry) all love must be self-sacrificing in that the lovers must be chaste and celibate and never even contemplate pleasuring each other in a sexual way.  The love must be heroic and chivalrous, brave and focused on our eternal happiness in heaven.  Christ's way is totally chaste and with totally pure intentions.  It is not a matter of suppressing sexual feelings, it is a matter of realising there is desire but handing that desire over to God, from whom all that is good in that desire came in the first place. This is because desire can have several causes, and if we truly love someone, we will want that desire to proceed and be strengthened by the right source, God. It becomes a matter of subordinating sexual feelings to a truer, deeper love, which becomes an intoxicatingly beautiful thing to do.  Being chaste is loving in its fullest.  This applies to all relationships irrespective of their "orientation".  Chastity is a positive force for the good and nothing should get in the way of it. The more chaste you are, the more you realise that it is the only way to love (that applies within marriage too where chastity should continue but celibacy usually does not). A pure heart does not seek pleasure, no matter how appealing the thought of pleasure may be, but a pure heart is full of an unshakable happiness and profound joy.  Ultimately a pure heart seeks Love and the source of Love is God. The love of another human being can lead us to God, but only with purity of intention and the subordination of our own desires.

My guess right now is that if you asked Tom if he was religious, he'd probably say that he was in a very private way, and I'd bet my last pound on him saying that his lover was a gift from God.  I for one would not argue with this. I'd just add that we all always squander and waste what God gives us and ultimately ruin it, if we don't put love of God above our love of creatures.