Tuesday, 14 October 2008

College Feast Day

Today is our college feast day: Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. The seminarians were busy all of yesterday preparing - that meant decorating the chapel, polishing the vessels for Mass, running through the liturgy and practising the music. We began this morning with sung morning prayer after meditation, and then at 11.30 Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop with over 40 guests in attendance, including many past Oscotian priests. The schola sang Elgar's beautiful setting of the Ave Maria. Then we had a splendid lunch. I must say I'm rather full now, as I'm still recovering from a Chinese buffet dinner to which four East Anglian priests treated us when they came up last night! So I worked it off by playing a gruelling match of badminton with one of my peers. A wonderful day to celebrate the life of the seminary, but also to turn to Mary as the one who leads us to her Son, who is Wisdom itself.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

A priest and a pope

Last Tuesday we had a Vietnamese priest whose charity we are supporting this year come to talk to the Justice and Peace group. I will keep his name and charity anonymous, because although he is happy to promote his charity around England, I don't want to run the risk of getting him into trouble with the Vietnamese government (assuming they would care to read English seminarians' blogs). This priest goes every year to Vietnam with money he's raised in England over the months, in his parish and through generous benefactors, and he distributes the money to needy causes in his home country. These include orphanages, leper hospitals, convents, and schools in need of basic material and educational resources. In many cases he gives the money to the parish priests, who then spend it directly as it is needed, and give a written account of how the donation is used. This priest's reasons for doing what he does are partly personal - his family itself moved from an extremely poor village in the country, and he promised to himself and his father that one day he would try to help the people from that village. But also, this priest sees that if the Vietnamese people, particularly young people, are given access to good education, they will be equipped to speak out against the injustices that are taking place in the country. (Note: If anyone wishes to support the charity, they can give me their email and I will send the details.)

The priest said that in terms of charitable action and standing up to the government, the Catholic Church is by far the strongest voice in Vietnam. This statement reminded me of other times in modern history when the Chuch has taken the side of the suffering. Only today I saw in The Tablet that there is yet another article accusing Pope Pius XII of virtually abandoning the Jews to the Nazis in World War II. Yet this is irreconcilable with much scholarship since the end of the war, and the testimonies of many during the war itself, that saw the Pope as public in his condemnation of the Holocaust, and instrumental in saving Jewish lives. The Nazis themselves said, "His [the Pope's] speech is one long attack on everything we stand for… he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews… he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals." Journalists from New York to London hailed him at the time as a public voice standing up to Hitler. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/facts/fm0020.html

Albert Einstein, a secular Jew, had this to say:

'Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks….

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.'

- Albert Einstein, Time magazine, 23rd December, 1940 p. 38

May we be able to provide such a witness to the truth in our own time!