Saturday, 17 March 2012

Acolytate retreat

This weekend, third year will travel to the Abbey Church of St Michael and All Angels, or Belmont Abbey, in Hereford, for their annual 'weekend away'.

On Monday, St Joseph's day, they will be assessed for acolytate (the second of the instituted lay ministries which are received along the journey towards priesthood), so rightly, we can call this their acolytate retreat. This is the first time our new, expanded year have travelled away together; the original few know Belmont Abbey reasonably well, but, for the new members of our year, it will be a new experience.

Invocation 2012

Invocation 2012 March Podcast from Vocationcast on Vimeo.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Protection of marriage

I'm just watching Daily Politics on the BBC, and there is a debate between two commentators, one from the group, 'Catholic Voices'. There is, of course, a consultation about 'gay marriage' going on at the moment (a consultation which only seems to actually listen and understand the voices it wants to).

Marriage is neither religious nor civil. You cannot have a 'religious' marriage, nor a 'civil' marriage; the marriage itself may be instituted in a religious or civil context, of course. Marriage, as an institution, does not belong to the Church, nor does it belong to the state.

As we heard in Mass this weekend, marriage is a "matrimonial covenant, but which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation of and education of offspring; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." (ccc 1601)

So, marriage exists outside of our religion; it is not a religious institution. It is a human institution, created for the good of the whole of mankind.

One of the reasons why the state exists is to protect the institution of marriage. The Church exists to sanctify it. 

If one of these parties (in this case, the state), attempt to re-define what this institution actually means, then the function of the other party is necessarily affected.

The Church is not worried about her 'religious ceremonies'; she is not worried that the state will make her  witness the 'marriages' of gay couples. It's not about what the Church can do in its own churches. Even if the state did require this to take place, the Church would rather be negatively affected rather than permit it. It is beyond the jurisdiction of the state to do this. Remember, a hundred years ago, the Church in France gave up most of its property to the state, rather than give in to error. Similarly, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the state to re-define something which is greater than itself. The Church - that's you and me, not just the bishops - is bothered about it, because the state thinks it can change what God has ordained for our own good. The state has put itself in God's shoes. The Church will fight, tooth and claw, to eradicate this idolatry and error, not for her own good, but because the whole of mankind will suffer.

If you're not bothered by this, or you even agree with government policy, ask yourself why.

Gay marriage: a new golden calf?

If you are bothered by it, you can sign the petition from the Coalition for Marriage by following this link

You can write to your MP. You can find your MP on this website

You can talk about it with your parish priest. You can ask him to preach about it, and write about it in his newsletter. You can talk about it with other parishioners, with your family and friends, especially those who are not Church-goers. 

Most importantly, you can pray, and remain steadfast to the truth.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pastoral Letter on Marriage

You should have heard at Mass today a pastoral letter written by two of our country's archbishops, Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith, to all the parishes in England and Wales, outlining Catholic teaching on marriage.

The government wishes to extend the legal definition of marriage to encompass same-sex couples. His Grace, the Archbishop, here explains why we should oppose this policy.

You can sign a petition by following this link.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Pastoral visitation

Yesterday and today, we received our termly pastoral visitation from our vocations director, Fr John Warrington, who drove all the way from Ipswich just to see us.

St Felix, holding a really tiny church, in
Woolpit, Suffolk.
And tomorrow, of course, is the feast day of St Felix. We wrote about him last year, which you can see here. Tomorrow, in the college, is the commemoration of St John of God, however, but happy feast to everyone in our diocese.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The priest and eucharistic concelebration

Cardinal Cañizares, Primate Emeritus of All Spain
Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, the incumbent Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, yesterday presented a new book on the subject of eucharistic concelebration by Mgr Guillaume Derville, Eucharistic Concelebration: from symbol to reality.

The Cardinal's preface to the book is published by ZENIT today.

In our times, concelebration in the Latin rite has been controversial; even Pope Benedict has raised questions about it, as the Cardinal mentions in his preface. Has the intention of the Council Fathers been distorted these past 40 years by bad practice? Has the intended symbolism of concelebration been lost in translation? Was it ever properly understood in the first place?

The Cardinal quotes an elucidates some words of the Holy Father:

“Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.” 
That is to say: the liturgy, and within it the act of concelebration, will be beautiful when it is true and authentic, when its innate splendour is really reflected. It is in this context that we should understand the question posed by the Holy Father regarding concelebrations with a large number of priests: “For my part,” said the Pope, “I have to say, it remains a problem because concrete communion in the celebration is fundamental, and I do not consider that the definitive answer has really been found. I also raised this question during the last Synod but it was not answered. I also had another question asked regarding the concelebration of Mass: why, for example, if a thousand priests concelebrate, do we not yet know whether this structure was desired by the Lord?” 
The question is precisely one of keeping “the structure desired by the Lord”, because the liturgy is a gift from God. It is not something fabricated by us men; it is not at our disposition. Indeed, “By his command to ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19; cf. 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament.”

The whole preface is available on ZENIT

The book, published in French, is not yet available on the more commonly used book shops, but I've found it available in English from various US vendours, including Canon Law Books, and the MTF. Perhaps I'd better get hold of this work. I've always found concelebration quite difficult to understand and sometimes is an obstacle to my personal piety. Maybe this will provide some insights...

I'll leave you with another paragraph from the Cardinal:

As Benedict XVI stated: “I join the Synod Fathers in recommending ‘the daily celebration of Mass, even when the faithful are not present’. This recommendation is consistent with the objectively infinite value of every celebration of the Eucharist, and is motivated by the Mass’s unique spiritual fruitfulness. If celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest’s configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation.” 
For each priest, the celebration of the Holy Mass is the reason for his existence. It is, it must be, an entirely personal encounter with the Lord and with his redemptive work. At the same time, each priest, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is Christ himself present in the Church as Head of his body; and he also acts in the name of the whole Church “when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice”. When we experience the wonder of the Eucharistic gift, which transforms us and configures us to Christ, there is only room for amazement, gratitude and obedience.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Happy birthday Augustus!

One couldn't let today pass without a quick reference to the fact that today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.

So, happy birthday, Mr Pugin!

He was, of course, along with Mr Joseph Potter, one of the architects of Oscott College, notably the chapel and other interior and exterior features (including the outdoor statues of Our Lady on the front terrace and the Sutton Lodge, the latter being the first image of Our Lady on an English highway since the reformation!). Oscott was one of Pugin's earlier works; only later came St Chad's, St Giles, and, of course, the Houses of Parliament. There are literally hundreds of buildings and items in his portfolio, one of which is one of our own churches, Sacred Heart, St Ives, which, though is many miles from its original location, and significantly, and unfortunately, altered from the original design, is something to be proud of!

I have a great admiration of Pugin. Born and brought up in London in a staunchly non-conformist household, he converted to the Catholic faith in the mid-1830s, and employed his zeal and enthusiasm in the Catholic, and Gothic, revival movement, recently brought about by the Catholic Emancipation Act, which removed most of the institutional barriers against Catholics in our country a decade previously.

The sedia in St Giles, Cheadle, designed,
of course, for the Sarum use. 
Kicked of by the strains of Blake's poem, Jerusalem, there was a intellectually violent rejection of the status quo: increasingly squalid living conditions, rapid industrialisation and consequent de-humanisation of society, decadence, social inequality, urbanisation, and, of course, King George IV.

Pugin was a spear-head of the Gothic-revival movement, which sought a return to the simple times of the mediaeval period, before the reformation, before the 'enlightenment'. The popular architecture summed up for Pugin the decadence of society. It was plain, boring, and all for show. The romanticism of the nineteenth century, which extended far beyond architecture, and even strayed into theological schools, for me, defines that oepoch. Indeed, we can learn something from it, as we know from the scriptures, a good housekeeper takes our from his treasures what is new and what is old. Indeed, we can say that Pugin laid some significant seeds for the second Vatican Council!

Pugin was controversial, even in his own time. What were these exotic creations he was coming up with, taken from a time long past, and made real for us today, using modern methods, and modern artistic talent? Pugin, for me, represents a movement which sought to restore what was being eroded from man's dignity by the 'progress' which he failed to realise was rotting his very soul. Perhaps, in our own era, we can learn some lessons from Pugin and the other romantics.

It cost him dear, however. Pugin's personal life was deeply troubled. He was widowed three times during his short life, and suffered many physical and mental illnesses, and died at the tender age of 40. Not wishing to question Providence, I do wonder what other marvels Pugin may have left us if he had lived a little longer. The good Lord obviously wanted him to design a few gothic stencils for the heavenly rood screen.

Happy birthday, Mr Pugin, and thank you.

The most important thing, of course, is that Pugin's works are
not for the museum. As he would of wished, they are still
alive and well today. I wonder what the Catholic Church
would have been like in our country without him. Much
more impoverished, I suspect.