Tuesday, 30 June 2009

New Deacons

In case you were holding your breath, the five guys from the top year were ordained on Saturday, including Michael and Luke for East Anglia, and are off now to start their summer placements. It was a really moving occasion to see them lying prostrate on the floor while the litany was sung (St Felix and Our Lady of Walsingham among the implored), but unfortunately I couldn't really see them being vested, as the we in the schola were singing the Veni Creator Spiritus at the time (Come Holy Spirit)... They really looked the part in their stoles and dalmatics! When I asked them afterwards how they felt, they said they didn't feel much different, except one guy who said he felt 'ontologically changed.' Maybe next year in seminary they'll take on the role of Deacon Payne, Seminary Formationator, seen on this link!

Term finished after Sunday, when we had a big Mass for the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul in the college grounds, with Archbishop Vincent, the Birmingham bishops, and 3,000 guests. It was a great way to finish the year, and the returning Arch preached well about what St Paul can teach us at the end of the Year of Paul. I've stayed on for a week to work in the grounds with a few others. Fortunately we're able to go to Mass every day. The work consists of weeding and pruning mainly, and is nice as I don't have to think about anything much!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Prayers Please...

Sorry to be so rubbish about posting things on here recently... The last two weeks we've had Schools Outreach, where Year 6 students come into the seminary to learn about our life here, about the priesthood, and about their faith. It's a great opportunity to sow seeds, in the hope that the children will be encouraged to live their faith in a radical way, and who knows? Some of them might even decide to be priests or sisters.

Today our five deacons-to-be returned from their week's retreat, including East Anglia's own, Luke and Michael. They will be ordained on Saturday, so please keep them in your prayers, that they may be given the grace to be faithful to their decision and to persevere on the unique path to holiness that God had given them. Next year they will hopefully be ordained priest.

Right, I'm off to bed.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Year of the Priest!

Today, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, marks the start of the Year of the Priest, inaugurated by Pope Benedict to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney, patron of parish priests (and next year all priests). This is a wonderful occassion for priests to renew their commitment to the Lord, for seminarians to be encouraged in their discernment of the priestly life, and for everyone to support those who have given themselves as priests, praying that more men will hear and answer God's loving call to provide pastors in His Church. At the seminary we are having a Holy Hour tonight to pray for priests and a renewal in priestly vocations, about the same time that the Pope will be officially opening the year with Vespers in Rome. Perhaps you all could say a prayer today for the same intentions, and pray that this year will bring many graces for the Church. Let's pray that God will even surprise His Church with the graces that come from this year!

Apologies that there's been no posting for a while - after our pilgrimage to Assisi I and the other members of Year 2 received Lectorate (the ministry of reader), and then I fell ill, so there was no chance to post about Assisi. Maybe at a later stage!

Right, I'm off to read the Pope's letter to mark the start of this new year. Exciting times...

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Pilgrimage to Assisi

In 6 hours we will be on a bus to Heathrow, where we will get a plane for the Eternal City. After spending a day there, during which we will celebrate Mass in St Paul's and St Peter's basilicas (a fitting conclusion to the Year of St Paul), we will then drive to Assisi. 2009 marks 800 years since the de facto founding of the Franciscans, when 8 men joined St Francis in his life of religious poverty and evangelisation. It should be a wonderful pilgrimage for us. During that time we will be praying specifically for an increase in seminarians at Oscott, for men who are called to the priesthood to hear God's invitation and respond. Please join us in that intention! I will also remember those that read this blog while I am there.

Since we don't come back til the 12th, I want to point out that with the Year of the Priest starting on June 19th (Feast of the Sacred Heart), it would be worth praying a Sacred Heart novena for priests and those called to priesthood, starting on the 11th. Below is a short prayer that could be used as a novena...

Novena of Confidence to the Sacred Heart

O Lord Jesus Christ, to Your most Sacred Heart I confide this intention. [State your request.] Only look upon me, then do what Your love inspires. Let Your Sacred Heart decide . . . I count on You . . . I trust in You . . . I throw myself on Your mercy. Lord Jesus, You will not fail me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Your love for me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your kingdom come.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked You for many favors, but I earnestly implore this one. Take it, place it in Your open Heart. When the Eternal Father looks upon it, He will see it covered with Your Precious Blood. It will be no longer my prayer but Yours, Jesus.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You. Let me not be disappointed. Amen.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Maintenance or Mission?

For the last two days we have been out on pastoral study excursions - an ominous title, but basically just a chance to look at the pastoral life of a priest in particular settings. Today we went to a rural parish in East Stafforshire, to see a parish church that began as a barn in the 1790's, before Catholic Emancipation. St Francis de Sale's church has two other outpost churches, built much more recently, and the whole parish spans 20 miles from east to west, though they only have an overall Sunday Mass attendance of 200. The previous parish priest spoke to us about rural chaplaincy, and as part of that he talked about the amount of time and energy it takes to maintain a number of churches within a parish. One seminarian asked the question I also was wondering: Is it worth the energy to maintain so many Mass centres when that energy could be devoted to the the spiritual apostolate and mission of the priest?

Now, the priest rightly pointed out that maintaining churches is not just about maintaining buildings, but of maintaining the place where people meet God - we are after all, body and soul, and need tangible assurances of God's presence. That seems to be the point in the Leeds parishioners' reaction over the closure of a number of churches in that diocese (without wishing to judge who is in the right in there). That said, I do feel that the upkeep of church buildings should not become the be all and end all of priestly ministry. Also, it is sad to have a church where the priest does not reside, the priest who is the father of that parish family. And for him it must be strange to be the father of what seems to be three different families! How does he give himself properly to one, without compromising his concern for the others?

These are just my gut instincts, and as many have said, there is no easy solution to this difficulty. Some will say it ties into a vocations crisis. Why is there a decline in men training for the priesthood? Fr Steven Langridge has an interesting take on that topic; we are not experiencing a crisis of vocations, so much as a crisis of saints!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Green Liturgy

I find myself actually very pleased to be in the Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year now, with all the the altar furnishings going from white to green... Easter is a lovely season, but then I think we often underappreciate that time of the calendar which is not Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter. Ordinary time does not mean 'mundane' time, but rather, comes from the latin 'ordinal' meaning 'numbered,' referring to the numbering of its weeks. The season began after the Baptism of the Lord until Ash Wednesday, and now continues again until the start of Advent. According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year, it 'is devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects,' whereas other seasons concentrate on particular aspects of Christ's life. So Ordinary Time is far from ordinary!