Tuesday, 27 September 2011

To the German seminarians...

Pope Benedict, who concluded a 4-day journey to Germany last Sunday, spoke, before he departed, to the country's seminarians. His speech, which was not written down, but later recorded and translated by the Vatican has just been published, and can be found here.

Here's a little excerpt:

In considering the question -- What is the seminary for? What does this time mean? -- I am always particularly struck by the account that St. Mark gives of the birth of the apostolic community in the third chapter of his Gospel. Mark says: "And he appointed twelve". He makes something, he does something, it is a creative act; and he made them, "to be with him, and to be sent out to preach" (Mk 12:14). That is a twofold purpose, which in many respects seems contradictory. "To be with him": they are to be with him, in order to come to know him, to hear what he says, to be formed by him; they are to go with him, to accompany him on his path, surrounding him and following him. But at the same time they are to be envoys who go out, who take with them what they have learnt, who bring it to others who are also on a journey -- into the margins, into the wide open spaces, even into places far removed from him. And yet this paradox holds together: if they are truly with him, then they are also always journeying towards others, they are searching for the lost sheep; they go out, they must pass on what they have found, they must make it known, they must become envoys. And conversely, if they want to be good envoys, then they must always be with him. As St. Bonaventure once said: the angels, wherever they go, however far away, always move within the inner being of God. This is also the case here: as priests we must go out onto the many different streets, where we find people whom we should invite to his wedding feast. But we can only do this if in the process we always remain with him. And learning this: this combination of, on the one hand, going out on mission, and on the other hand being with him, remaining with him, is -- I believe -- precisely what we have to learn in the seminary. The right way of remaining with him, becoming deeply rooted in him -- being more and more with him, knowing him more and more, being more and more inseparable from him -- and at the same time going out more and more, bringing the message, passing it on, not keeping it to ourselves, but bringing the word to those who are far away and who nevertheless, as God’s creatures and as people loved by Christ, all have a longing for him in their hearts.

There are lost of worthwhile things to read from this apostolic journey, so please, if you can, take some time and have a peek. 

Germany was evangelised by a great Englishman, St Boniface, who is a great model of a bishop for our times too. The Church in our country is in a relatively good position, so we must always keep praying for the churches in countries such as Germany, which are facing a much tougher time than we are at the moment.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Happy feast!

Well, it's only been 13 days since our last post, but today, in East Anglia, we keep the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. Here in the archdiocese of Birmingham, however, it is only a memorial, and so we missed out on the 'proper' offices of Our Lady, and cannot even sing the Te Deum at the office of readings!

Still, now that our weekly 'Rosary rota' here in Oscott is a sign-up list (every Saturday, we say the Rosary together after lunch), and so an East Anglian seminarian managed to take the reigns today, and, as well as praying for the Pope, our normal prayer intention for the Rosary, we gave thanks for her shrine and the priests, brothers and staff who look after it and the pilgrims. We also prayed that the Lord made speed to send us a new bishop in East Anglia.

Fr Stephen Billington, our new philosophy lecturer, preached an excellent homily at Mass today for the feast, and spoke of a priest's essential filial relationship and devotion to Our Lady, through the Rosary, and other prayers and devotions, such as the consecration to Our Lady of St Louis de Montfort.

Ben has travelled up to Walsingham today to celebrate the feast there, so we hope to hear more from him upon his return. Henry will be preaching this evening at First Vespers of Sunday, as is our custom for 5th years, so remember to keep him and his year in your prayers! My year will start preaching (well, giving reflections), at weekday Masses after half-term.

We'd like to wish a happy feast to everybody in East Anglia, and the national shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham. Oremus pro invicem!

"The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary, His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ." - St Louis de Montfort

Friday, 9 September 2011

Change and continuity

We have nearly finished the first week of our academic year. Henry, in year 5, is starting '3rd theology', and Ben and I, '1st theology'.

Even those already in the house have been getting used to all the changes at Oscott, which, as you know, has expanded to 59 seminarians this year, as well as 10 residential and 3 non-residential formation staff; the refectory and chapel are very busy and noisy these days!

St Gregory's, Stratford
Last week, for a little 'community bonding', our house groups (we are divided into small cross-house house groups) travelled to different local places to spend some time with each other, and celebrate vespers.

My house group travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, the hometown of William Shakespeare, and a very quaint English town, if full of rather a lot of tourists! As well as visiting the very fine Anglican church of the Holy Trinity, the burial-place of Shakespeare, as well as boasting a rare pre-reformation stone high altar, we visited the Catholic Church of St Gregory the Great, and there celebrated first vespers of his feast, which was last week.

The following Sunday, Archbishop Longley visited the college overnight, and celebrated solemn second vespers, as well as the community Mass on Monday. Also on that Sunday, Our Lady and the English Martyrs, in Cambridge, was host to the weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, Sunday Worship. Mgr Leeming presided at the first broadcast Mass in the new English translation of the Roman Missal, assisted by the parish choir.

We wouldn't want to over-load you with too much news, so expect more titbits as term progresses!

There are even changes going on in the diocese. Many of the parish moves are happening around now back home in East Anglia, and we shall also be receiving the appointment of a new vocations director very shortly, so let us pray for each other in these transitional weeks. The feast of Our Lady of Walsingham is shortly upon us - always a time to feel a little home-sick!

Collegium Sanctae Mariae de Oscott, MMXI - MMXII

Saturday, 3 September 2011

God is not Geometry

Well, we're back at seminary and starting a new and exciting year! It's wonderful having nearly 60 seminarians in the building; the place has a lively and lived-in feel about it. I'm starting my 5th year at Oscott, and as well as looking forward to diaconate (God/ rector/ bishop if we have one? willing) I am reading in order to get ideas for my final dissertation next year. At the moment I'm reading Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity which he wrote in 1968. Ratzinger has an amazing knack for hitting the nail on the head. Here is something he says about the God who Jesus reveals to us in the parable of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one:

"He is not the unfeeling geometry of the universe, neutral justice standing above things undisturbed by a heart and its emotions; he has a heart; he stands there like a person who loves, with all the capriciousness of someone who loves."

In other words, God is not this:

...but this:

Fortunate for us, eh?