Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A book, a chair, and a Cambridge curate

I have found that the main downside to having several contributors to the same blog is that someone might get to the computer before you do, and write the article you were going to write, with the same picture! Having gone all the way downstairs with my camera-telephone to take pictures of our statue of St Peter, all vested in a lovely cope, I returned to my laptop to find that my diocesan brother had the same idea sooner than I. Fortunately, however, I have realised this afternoon that I don't know how to send photographs from my telephone unto my computer (I can't remember how I did it on placement!), so I'll just have to provide the text.

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in Oscott College Chapel
Oscott is home to the Chair of Peter!

Last year, I subscribed to a monthly publication of which you may be aware called, Magnificat. It provides the liturgical texts of the Mass for each day of the month, along with other prayers, devotions, essays and spiritual writings.

Today's spiritual reflection in the pamphlet is all about the Church, written by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson:

Treat the Catholic Church as divine only and you will stumble over her scandals, her failures, and her shortcomings. Treat her as human only and you will be silenced by her miracles, her sanctity, and her eternal resurrections.
Of course the Catholic Church is human. She consists of fallible men, and her humanity is not even safeguarded as was that of Christ against the incursions of sin. Always, therefore, there have been scandals, and always will be. Popes may betray their trust, in all human matters; priests their flocks; laymen their faith. No man is secure. And, again, since she is human it is perfectly true that she has profited by her human circumstances for the increase of her power. Undoubtedly it was the existence of the Roman Empire, with its roads, its rapid means of transit, and its organisation, that made possible the swift propagation of the Gospel in the first centuries. Undoubtedly it was the empty throne of Caesar and the prestige of Rome that developed the world's acceptance of the authority of Peter's Chair. Undoubtedly it was the divisions of Europe that cemented the Church's unity and led men to look to a Supreme Authority that might compose their differences. There is scarcely an opening in human affairs into which she has not plunged; hardly an opportunity she has missed. Human affairs, human sins, and weaknesses as well as human virtues, have all contributed to her power. So grows a tree, even in uncongenial soil. The rocks that impede the roots later become their support; the rich soil, waiting for an occupant, has been drawn up into the life of the leaves; the very winds that imperiled the young sapling have developed into its power of resistance. Yet these things do not make the tree.
For her humanity, though it is the body in which her divinity dwells, does not create that divinity. Certainly human circumstances have developed her, yet what but divine Providence ordered and developed those human circumstances? What but that same power, which indwells in the Church, dwelt without her too and caused her to take root at that time and in that place which most favoured her growth?
Monsignor Robert
Hugh Benson

Amen to that.

Monsignor Benson was once a curate in Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, a convert from Anglicanism, who served in that city for three years under Canon Scott, when our diocese was part of the Diocese of Northampton. He was a prolific writer, as he says himself, he spent a lot of his time in Cambridge 'writing books' in the morning and evening. He is a published spiritual and literary writer, but his life was cut short, and died in 1914.

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