Saturday, 21 January 2012

Signed with the Cross

This morning I was at the parish RCIA meeting, called "Exploring Catholicism", for those who are considering becoming Catholic Christians. The priest led the rite of acceptance into the neocatechumenate for those who are not baptised - basically this means that they are showing a desire to let Christ into their lives, and more importantly they are receiving grace through the rite to do so. Those who are neocatechumens have "baptism by desire", and are in a certain relationship to the Church, even though they are not yet sacramentally baptised.

The rite of acceptance is very rich in symbolism. First the priest made the sign of the cross on each aspiring catechumen, so that they might know and follow Christ. Then he asked the sponsors to make the sign of the cross on the ears, that the aspirant might hear Christ's word; on the eyes, that they might see the glory of God; on the lips, that they might respond to the word of God; on the heart, that Christ might dwell there by faith; on the shoulders that they might bear the gentle yoke of Christ; on the hands, that they might manifest Christ in their work; and on the feet, that they might walk in the way of Christ.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Non Anglia Orientalis, sed Angli in Oriente

I'm languishing in the luxurious loungue complex in the space-age Seoul Incheon Airport, on my way back from Our apostolic journey to the Kingdom of Cambodia, which began on the Epiphany. More on that later (those posts will be interesting; this post is mostly rambling, so stop reading here if your dislike such things! I'm just excited about using the internet for the first time in weeks!).

Brother Assistant Sacristan took many photographs during our two-week journey, and so I suspect some of them shall appear here in the next few weeks, as we begin to trickle back into term-time.

Meanwhile, I have another hour before I can board my twelve-hour flight back to Blighty, so having exhausted all other avenues of entertainment which South Korea can provide (without having to acquire an entry visa, that is), I thought I'd send a little word of greeting to our readership from the Far East, as well as having to re-learn how to use Windows, and guess what the various different Korean keys and buttons mean.

Having slept through the entirety of our five-hour flight from Siem Reap to Incheon, I proceeded immediately to the airline lounge at Incheon, and slept for another two hours on one of the beds which are dotted around the airport. Fortunately, it was still dark, but my ear-plugs and eye-shade obscured a surely familiar winter sunrise; I awoke to a damp, misty morning - about nine hours before East Anglia's morning alarms went off - and, thanks to the heating in the airport, I'm protected by the freezing temperatures outside. I had my first hot shower in two weeks, in a well-appointed shower complex in the transfer lounge; the hand-towel and soap were complementary, at least.

I had hot chocolate to wake me up, recited the morning Offices, and then it was time for elevensies, and was grateful to find a shop that sold Ear Grey (with real milk!) and pastries. I read a little of my book, too. I've already finished reading my story book - part three of the Shardlake historical murder mystery and legal fiction novels - my spiritual reading book - Mgr Strange's Risk of Discipleship, which was eerily familiar to the recent three-day retreat he gave at Oscott, but fun nonetheless - and now I'm cracking on with my general interest book - the Lord Patten's Not Quite the Diplomat, which I first read years ago, and though it is six years old and a bit out-of-date, but I enjoy the former Governor's and Oxford University Chancellor's splendid use of vocabulary and wit.

I've had lunch, looked at all the Far Eastern shark cartilidge-derived health products (highly illegal in Europe, so I didn't buy anything!), rediculously over-priced chocolates and gin (not that I'm familiar with customs regulations regarding such products from outside the European Union. Besides, I fancied a bottle of Limoncello, but, it seems, unless it's whiskey, they aren't interested).

I've just looked around a museum-like exhibition on Korean wedding-customs, which was quite interesting, though I found the labels on each item was more descriptive than explanitory, so I'm none the wiser, but the outfits and trinkets were pretty enough to look at.

Now, I'll be off to recite the evening Offices, to save getting out my breviary on the areoplane; I'll save my rosary for take-off methinks!

This day, St Sebastian's day, because of time-zone changes, will not be a mere 24 hours, but 30 hours. The longest day. Until next time!

Monday, 16 January 2012

God Speaks to His Children

One of the brilliant things about being on parish placement is that you pick up tips on how to respond to  perennial pastoral challenges. Like "How do I introduce young kids in the parish to the Bible, in a way that is easy to understand and at the same time faithful to what the Bible actually says?". Well it so happens that at the weekend this particular question was answered for me. I was at a Maryvale catechists' training day in the parish, and someone gave me a copy of "God Speaks to His Children: Texts from the Bible". Published by Aid to the Church in Need in various languages - including the one in the picture above, though I don't know what it is! - this book gives an abridged account of the Biblical History of Salvation. The language is simplified, but pretty faithful to the content of Scripture, and it gives Scripture references at the end of each section. It also has beautiful illustrations. What strikes me is that although the book is quite short, it includes texts that other catechetical materials would omit as being too difficult for children. There is an account of the sacrifice of Elijah and the priests of Baal (leaving out the slaughter of the priests!), the sharp condemnation by the prophet Amos of Jerusalem's wrongdoings, the vision of the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days in Daniel, the Babylonian exile and the return of the people to Israel under Cyrus, and the new heavens and new earth of Revelation.

You can order the book for £3 from this site, and that enables ACN to give three copies to children in places where the Church is suffering.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Just What IS the Epiphany Anyway?

The Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany is one of the most important liturgies in the Church's year. But sometimes it can seem as if it's just a hangover from Christmas - the wise men have finally arrived to present their gifts to the newborn king, long after every Catholic primary school in the country has rehearsed this encounter in a month of pre-Christmas nativity plays. Of course for Latin rite Catholics, this encounter is the main focus of the Epiphany. The wise men represent the Gentile people to whom God extends his salvation. They approach him through their observance of the natural world, and in faith, representing the mutual interdependence of faith and reason in the Christian life. And they give Jesus gifts that indicate who he is: gold for a king, frankincense as an offering for a priest, and myrrh as a tradition burial spice, to indicate Jesus' death as a prophet. Epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning "manifestation", because in the encounter with the wise men, Jesus is revealed to be the King of the World, the Priest who is Himself God, and the Prophet who will not only die for the sake of the truth, but will rise again so that we might have new life. 

But the Epiphany is also connected with two other manifestations of Christ's divinity. The second is the Wedding at Canaa, where in obedience to Mary his mother Jesus works his first miracle, the turning of the water into wine. In this way, St John tells us, Jesus "manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him". The third manifestation which is connected to the Epiphany is Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan. At this event, the Father bears witness to his beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit hovers over him, the New Creation, just as the spirit hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation in Genesis. In being baptised, Jesus not only identifies with us and gives us an example, but he sanctifies the waters, so that they are not just a symbol of conversion but also a means of grace. Though the Baptism now has its own separate celebration in the Latin rite since 1955, it is the primary meaning of the Epiphany in many Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions, where they have the Blessing of the Waters, and people swim or dance in ice cold water to recall Christ in the Jordan. Brrrr!!! Even for us, the Latin rite antiphons in the Divine Office still recall the three intertwining meanings of the Epiphany:

Today the Church has been joined to her heavenly bridegroom, since Christ has purified her of her sins in the river Jordan: the Magi hasten to the royal wedding and offer gifts: the wedding guests rejoice since Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.

Monday, 2 January 2012


We've gone for a bit of a facelift this year, with a little more content than just our blog. We hope you like the changes. More things will be added over time, and altered a little, I'm sure, and, for a while, some of the new links won't take you to anything but a blank page, so treat it as an exciting teaser! Hopefully, we will be able to be a little more interactive, and we hope to be able to use this site as a place of prayer, discernment and maybe even a little catechesis!

There might not be many posts over the next few weeks, as placements will shortly commence. Term starts again on the week beginning 29th January. Please pray for us as we undertake our pastoral placements over the next three weeks.

Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis

Diamond Jubilee Year

2012 sees many big events (the end of the world too, if you are an ancient Mayan!).

One of those events is the diamond jubilee of the Queen of the United Kingdom. After 60 years on the throne, she has seen this country change quite radically, as well at the Catholic Church (she has seen 6 Popes during her reign, and met most of them), and she has presided over some considerable changes in the Anglican Communion as well. I can't possibly imagine how different life is now as it was in 1952.

Though she is not a Catholic, she is a deeply Christian lady, and this year, she used her Christmas broadcast to speak of the hope that Christ signified in his Incarnation as a human person. She said,

Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: 'Fear not', they urged, 'we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 
'For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.'
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. 
God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. 
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love. 
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there's a prayer: 
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today. 
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

How refreshing to hear the Truth broadcast over the whole world by the very head of our establishment! She also spoke of the importance of the family, especially important considering the erosion of the family in our modern society.

It was always an encouraged practice to recite a prayer for the Queen after High Mass on Sundays, a practice, like prayer in general, that fell into abeyance after the 1960s. This year, the bishops of our country have reminded us of this prayer, and have encouraged us to use it publically during this diamond jubilee year. It is the same prayer (the lack of hieratic language notwithstanding) that is found in the pre-Concilar manuals. We've put it in our side-bar too.

V. O Lord, save Elizabeth, our Queen.
R. And hear us on the day we call upon you.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come before you. 
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Almighty God, we pray, that your servant Elizabeth, our Queen, who, by your providence has received the governance of this realm, may continue to grow in every virtue, that, imbued with your heavenly grace, she may be preserved from all that is harmful and evil and, being blessed with your favour may, with her consort and the royal family, come at last into your presence, through Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The bishops' conference have requested that, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday June 3 2012, each parish will celebrate a Mass with prayers to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. During this Mass, the first reading is replaced by 1 Kings 3:11–14 and the Prayer for the Queen, which has been approved by the bishops, is used after the post-Communion prayer and before the final blessing."

The amended prayer in our side-bar can be used at any time.

I know some parishes that will be using this prayer more regularly than Trinity Sunday, even every Sunday throughout the year, after Mass. Republican or not, it is very important that we pray for our country and its leaders. We should always live in reality, after all! The Queen, as the wearer and manifestation of the Crown, our nation's supreme sovereignty, should receive our prayers most especially and regularly. Let's prove that prayer is fashionable. It does work, after all! As St. Peter wrote, "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good" (2 Pet. 2:13-14), and also St Paul, who wrote, "I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour ..." (1 Tim 2:1-3).

So Gawd bless ya, Mum. 

God save the Queen!