Monday, 24 March 2008

Happy Easter from Ars!

Hope everyone has had a good Easter Triduum and is celebrating the Resurrection in style. A group of us (priests, seminarians and prospective seminarians) are in Ars to see the stomping ground of St. John Marie Baptiste Vianney. So far we've seen the church - with the attached basilica enshrining his body - where he catechised the villagers and eventually heard confessions for up to 16 hours a day; the presbytery where he lived in evangelical poverty, giving away the luxurious furniture which one of the benefactors of the parish gave to him; and the statue of his meeting with a boy of the village (pictured), where he said, 'Show me the way to Ars, and I'll show you the way to heaven.'

The seminary where we are staying was started after JPII visited Ars in 1986, and trains priests from all over the world. It is a great privilege to visit the home of the patron saint of priests, not least because like him it is a very humble and unostentatious place, not much bigger than it was when he was alive. I'll update you on our pilgrimage as the days go by.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Good Friday

It's been an eventful week for us, as we went down to the diocesan cathedral in Norwich on Wednesday for the diocesan Chrism Mass. It was a beautiful liturgy and we had a real sense of being a part of the Church in East Anglia, something that Bishop Michael talked about in his homily. Holding up for us the example of St. Felix who has just been given the status of a feast in the diocese, he encouraged everyone to imitate the apostles in bringing the Good News of Christ to the people of East Anglia.

Part of that good news is obviously the event which we commemorate today - the passion and death of Jesus - acknowledging with gratitude his mercy towards us, and repenting of our own sins which made him 'a worm and no man'. This morning the seminarians from Oscott joined the local community in a walk of witness through the town centre, and we sang 'Man of sorrows' and 'All for Jesus' while students from the secondary school performed a mystery play of Jesus' death. We are just about to go in to Birmingham cathedral for the reading of the Passion and the veneration of the Cross, and this evening we will watch the BBC portrayal of the Crucifixion.

I only saw the first BBC episode on the Passion, which left me with mixed feelings. Much of the script did not come from the canonical Gospels at all, and rather than being hostile to the biblical portrayal of Christ's mission it just seemed to reduce it to a generic message of 'the Kingdom of God is in your hearts.' While some people are happy that Mary is not sweet or saccharine, she also seems to have had no say in her role as Jesus' mother, and does not really have faith ('It's easy to believe when you're young,' she says wearily). Also Jesus comes across, as he often does in these things, as a bit weedy. Still, I liked some of the dramatisations, and especially think Pilate is played well.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Holy Week

A Happy Palm Sunday to everyone!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately; we've just had a week's retreat with Bishop Malcolm MacMahon of Nottingham (a Dominican, ergo a good preacher), and before that the seminary had the flu, so it's been eventful.

Today we're going to Birmingham Cathedral for Palm Sunday Mass, so a break from the ordinary. Holy Week is a wonderful time to reflect on the central truths of our faith. I was watching a 'documentary' last night which explored the Early Church's understanding of Jesus, and the commentator lamented the fact that Jesus isn't seen as more of a wisdom teacher than a miracle maker. The fact is that neither are the primary way in which we see Jesus - He is the great 'I am', the One who being in 'the form of God' took on 'the form of a servant' in order to mediated on behalf of our sins to the Father. All his miracles and all his wisdom would have done us no good unless it had flowed from a love which was ultimately ready to lay itself down for our sake. So though this is a tumultous week in terms of what happens to Jesus, we can rejoice in his love for us, through which we were restored to the Father.

Please keep in your prayers the Confirmation retreat which is taking place in my parish in Bury St. Edmunds today. Pray that the young people will be given the grace to understand and desire the sacrament for which they are preparing.