We must fulfil our mission

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Following the successful Ordinariate festival in London earlier this year, Monsignor Newton wrote to the Holy Father to assure him of the prayers and support of all Ordinariate members.

Today a reply came from Rome and with it some welcome words of encouragement and support for the Ordinariate from Pope Francis himself. His assessor wrote the following to convey this news to us:

“The Holy Father encourages you to continue to fulfil, in faith and truth, the mission of the Ordinariate.

“Commending you and all who belong to, and cooperate with, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, the Holy Father willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.”

The Ordinariate Mass on its way…

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This morning the printers received a special order from Saint Anselm’s in Pembury. A new Mass booklet is being produced according to the Ordinariate Rite. This special version of the Mass, put together by the Vatican to reflect an English Catholic spirituality & Anglican patrimony, is profoundly beautiful. Akin to the Traditional Mass but in the vernacular, it allows for wonderful ceremonial to accompany its rich language. One finds not only the prayers at the foot of the altar but also the last Gospel and various other ancient and worthy devotions.

At present Mass on Saturday is said according to the Ordinariate Use. And those who regularly attend- both Ordinariate members and diocesan Catholics- have taken to it very well. Though it does, of course, take a little getting used to.

Once the booklets arrive, and the clergy, musicians and servers have met for training, it will be rolled out -for a trial period- at the 9:15am Mass on a Sunday. So watch this space.

More than a few hearts will surge with delight and nostalgia, I predict,  when the musical setting that accompanies this Mass is heard. It is hauntingly beautiful and  much loved by those who once attended St. Barnabas Church in Tunbridge Wells as Anglicans. You can listen to the credo of this Mass via the link below.

Our Lent Charity

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The St Barnabas Society is a registered charity which operates in Great Britain and Ireland. It provides pastoral and financial help, on behalf of the whole Catholic community, to former clergy and religious from other churches, who have been led by faith and conscience to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.

St Barnabas is its patron because it was he who befriended Paul after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus and encouraged him to begin a new life in the apostolic church with St Peter at its head.

Those who have been clergy of other churches often lose not only their jobs but their homes. Even if they are due to become Catholic priests they often have to wait for a period of months or even years as decisions about their future are made. Thanks to the generosity of the St. Barnabas Society these people are provided with friendship, advice, and where necessary financial support.

The St Barnabas Society continues the work, begun over a century ago, of welcoming and helping clergy and religious of other churches. It cooperates with the Bishops and Parish Priests to provide support until the individuals have been integrated into the Catholic community and established in a new life.

In recent years, since the advent of the Ordinariate, there has been a massive demand on the funds of the St. Barnabas Society. It was they who fed my family in the months between my Anglican and Catholic life. It was they who helped with removal costs and it is they who are now helping Fr. Jack as he waits to hear if he will be accepted for the Catholic priesthood.

Please give generously to the fantastic and important work of the St. Barnabas Society. A most worthwhile charity of welcome and unity.

Fr. Hunwicke on the Ordinariates

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One of the treasures of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is undoubtedly the scholarly figure of Father John Hunwicke. A most English of chaps, he combines a gentle demeanour and razor sharp mind with a twinkle in the eye and delight for mischief. This is a man whose impressive intellect enables him to help people think things through.

At present Father Hunwicke, a former chaplain of Lancing College, is at Silverstream Priory where he is the guest speaker. I am delighted that his speech on the Ordinariates has been made available in public and I wholeheartedly commend it to you. Make yourself a cuppa and settle down. It is worth it.

Ahead of the election…

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The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have released a letter to the faithful ahead of the general election. I must confess that I have no idea who a faithful Christian should actually vote for, given the truly lamentable state of modern politics, the very little choice that actually exists and the fact that no party seems to uphold values I can adhere to.  But hey- we have to vote for somebody…

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

The Gospel is radical and challenging. It is the saving message of Jesus Christ. It is a way of life. It teaches us to value each person: the vulnerable child inside the womb; the parent struggling with the pressures of family life; the person striving to combat poverty; the teacher inspiring students to seek the truth; the stranger fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland; the prisoner in his cell in search of redemption; the child in a distant land claiming the right to a future; and the frail elderly person needing care and facing the frontier of death.

As Catholics, we are called to work for a world shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel proclaims the mercy of God and invites us steadfastly to love God and our neighbour.

Our relationship with God leads to the desire to build a world in which respect, dignity, equality, justice, and peace are our primary concerns.

Pope Francis tells us that we are ‘missionary disciples’ who witness to the mercy of Christ through the faithfulness of our lives and the world we wish to build. In the light of the Gospel we can be messengers of hope as we challenge the political candidates about the policies they wish to implement and the reasons why.

At this General Election we are asked to think about the kind of society we want here at home and abroad. Whom you vote for is a matter for you alone. Our aim is to suggest how you might approach this important question in May 2015 and to suggest some key issues for your reflection as you make your own decision.

Voting in a general election should seldom, if ever, be based on a single issue. Elections involve a whole range of issues, some without doubt more central than others, particularly those concerned with the dignity and value of human life and human flourishing. In this letter, we highlight some important issues – but not the only ones. In each case we suggest a question which you may wish to bear in mind.

“ … Remembering the mercies of God… let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature.”
cf Romans 12:1-2

The Anglo-Catholicism landscape post Ordinariate

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I want to explore what has happened to Anglo-Catholicism in the wake of the Ordinariate. To ask important questions that those with open minds might be helped to “think through” what is going on in the ecclesial landscape in 2015.

This could undoubtedly rattle those who, feeling threatened on all fronts, have grown very sensitive to criticism and debate in recent years. To them I say this. If you are not ready to confront the questions the Ordinariate asks, in its hunger for unity, then remember this is an opt-in blog. There is no need to read further. Secondly I welcome debate. So feel free to come back at me and respond. But please do using reason and not just emotion. Theological debate demands that we apply the head as well as the heart.

So what of the Anglo-Catholicism today? From this side of the Tiber, despite fantastic work at the local level, the movement seems to be experiencing deep crisis in the 21st Century. And those who did not take up the offer of Anglicanorum Coetibus are struggling to define or to defend what it actually means to be Catholic in light of that decision. Not least when the Church of England itself now navigates an obviously liberal and protestant path that leads ever further from a Catholic conclusion.

This point was made by theologian Fr. Mark Langham. He suggests Anglo-Catholicism, as well as Anglicanism in general, needs to “think through” its decisions as regards ecclesiology and unity. I found his words helpful and a refusal to “think things through” is one of the changes I witness within Anglo-Catholicism. Can you believe some have even taken to singing the Catholic hymn “faith of our fathers” which speaks of the English Martyrs who suffered at the reformation? A hymn whose last verse reads:

Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

Have those singing paused to think through the use of that hymn in this setting? Do they realise the very martyrs they uphold died at the hands of the body they belong to and precisely because they refused to be English Christians without the Pope? And what do they mean by saying they shall win the country back? back to what? Certainly not what Faber who wrote those words imagined! A small incident, you might think, but it underlines the massive disconnect I discern at present between belief, claim,  practice and reality within Anglo-Catholicism.

If the singers of that hymn really do desire unity, via Mary’s prayers, in a united Catholic England – then how do they justify not joining the Ordinariate? And if they do not want the unity the Catholic church has offered, and prefer to belong to the Church of England, then why refuse to accept the authority of Canterbury? It makes little sense so that one must ask what does it mean to be Anglo-Catholic? What is the aim and purpose of this movement post Ordinariate? Logic surely demands it is time to either truly embrace Anglicanism or delight in the historic offer of unity laid down by Rome?

This point is emphasised when one ponders the ecumenical landscape. Let’s get real. The ordination of women, and the ordination of practicing homosexuals within Anglicanism has killed hope of formal unity between Canterbury and Rome. Conversation will continue. We must maintain good relations. But hope of a formal union is over. So anyone claiming to work for the sort of unity that seemed possible forty years ago is living in la la land. And if one is not working for such unity- as the shift of liturgical clothing by Anglo-Catholics from cotta and stole to hood and scarf in recent years might suggest- then what exactly is the Catholicism to which you adhere?

Because the Church of England has made a permanent statement about its Catholic claim when it tinkered with the three fold order. Pope Francis said the door is forever closed on women priests for Catholics. He is right. Therefore the Church of England would need to release every woman ordained and then refuse to create more for true unity to be possible. And this isn’t going to happen.  So what do Anglo-Catholics make of this dilemma?

Today’s Anglo-Catholics are hoping to live unaffected by the wider decisions of Anglicanism. To this end they formed a “society”- the manifestation of post Ordinariare Anglo-Catholicism- an imagined “church within a church”. Validity proved by membership. A letter from the secretary one’s celebret. But this is problematic because whatever makes for authentic Catholic order- it is hardly a letter from a group that lacks authority from on high. The game is up then surely? It is hard to see how anything beyond hospice care is possible.

In many ways the Society attempts to be a group akin to the Ordinariate but minus the Pope. It doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny. First in terms of unity. For membership of the Society leaves one out of communion, not only with Catholics the world over, but with all other Anglicans too. Whereas membership of the Ordinariate puts you in communion with 1.4 billion and leaves you part of the Catholic mainstream. Why then opt for the Society instead of embracing the offer of unity laid down by Rome?

Secondly in terms of official recognition. The Ordinariate is sanctioned by Rome and comes with blessing and approval. We are entirely legitimate. But the Society was formed with no public recognition from Canterbury. It might serve those who belong but who beyond its membership will take the movement seriously? Will the Eastern Orthodox? Or the CDF? Or even Lambeth Palace? What then is the Society to be about? This is the question I would ask Anglo-Catholics today but the silence is deafening.

So to my challenge. What is the long term aim and purpose of the Society? What are the achievable goals and how do you reconcile these with the current ecumenical landscape? And how will you deal with the Ordinariate into the future as a group given that it is Rome’s answer to the question of unity? I would love to hear answers.

I would love the Society to put forth a coherent explanation of what it is actually about.  That I might understand it and see its purpose beyond preservation for the sake of resisting change. Is anyone up to the challenge? I would happily let you have a post on this blog…

And finally what do the Society make of the photograph above? Where the new Bishop of Burnley- Philip North (a traditionalist who does not recognise the ordination of women) poses with the first female bishop- Libby Lane. Many assume the photograph is a wonderful expression of  “better together” and making things work. I say think it through a little more…isnt it just a smiling acceptance of deep disunity?  They might be chums, they might grin and cuddle for the cameras, but they cannot stand at the altar together and they do not preach the same faith. How can these two positions flourish together? Did not Jesus himself suggest that a house divided on itself must fall? Surely they are pitted against each other and only one of this visions can win out in the end? And  the next two photograps suggest the battle is already won…

The consecration of Libby Lane with most every bishop present. It stands in strong contrast to the next ordination in which very few were there.

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Am I alone in discerning a token gesture given to those whose hope of reclaiming the Church of England is now long gone? To those who find themselves in such an impossible situation I simply say this. The Ordinariate was created for you.

Stations of the Cross

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At 6:30pm tonight, and on every Sunday in Lent, Stations of the Cross will be prayed in church. All are most welcome to attend. This would be a good Lenten discipline to take up. On Wednesday evenings there will be confessions from 6pm and Low Mass at 7pm followed by Eucharistic adoration. Let us make the most of this holy season of penitence and prayer.

Camels and eyes of needles

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Jesus said “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel to go through the eye of the needle”. A strange and pretty useless saying until you learn that the narrowest gate into the old city of Jerusalem, pictured above, was/is known by locals as ‘the eye of the needle’! A quick but notoriously risky route into the city because a camel could just squeeze through… but only if the saddlebags were first removed. Presenting bandits with an ideal opportunity.

Jesus was using this sign to make a point about spiritual progress in life. Those motivated by money must shed the love of wealth to find God. What do you need to shed to find God? Use of pornography? Love of the bottle? Desire for comfort? The point wasn’t about money you see- but about the false gods we all create that stifle spiritual progress. If we are to find God this Lent we must make a good examination of conscience and take this all to God in confession. We must unmask what is drawing our hearts away from Christ and root it out. We must  sacrifice these things to God not because they are necessarily bad in themselves but because they are hampering our spiritual development.

Being “cut down to size” isn’t pleasant. It means facing hard truths about who we really are when the mask is removed. And we can often blind be blind to these faults because, little by little, they become so much part of who we areConsider how nobody is born bad-tempered, no little by little we fall into the habit of throwing our weight around, stamping our feet. What began as a small blight on character grows into a soul-threatening disease. And if it is not treated such sin becomes very difficult and painful to remove. So sins needs nipping in the bud- BEFORE they take hold. The flirt struggles to avoid an extra marital affair that the chaste person wouldn’t even consider forming.

Do you see why examination of conscience is vital in Lent? Not because we are necessarily in a bad place today but because we might end up there if sins go unchecked. Lent is therefore a warning! Stop – don’t let this be you! Do something. Like the narrow gate into Jerusalem it demands we drop our baggage in order to progress on the road to Christ.

Understand this then. There is no point giving up chocolate if you have a healthy attitude to food but are addicted to pornography. Nor is there any point giving up alcohol if you rarely drink but struggle with self discipline where biscuits are concerned…What you give up is far less important than why you are doing so. It should be to overcome your own struggles and sins and in order to learn the virtue of self discipline without which spiritual progress is almost impossible.

Helpful infographic

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Often people imagine that fasting means nil by mouth. Others confuse fasting with abstinence. So here is a very helpful infographic to guide you through the season of Lent. The 5/2 diet is all the rage at present- it was invented by the church if people did but know it!! For Wednesdays and Fridays were always set aside by the church for the teaching of self discipline over the body to encourage self mastery and discipline over the soul.

Will you be fasting in Lent? Will you abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year? Little things which, when we do them, really help us on the way to a strong and living faith.

Do click on the image to enlarge it.

Lent begins…

Ash Wednesday is here and the young men who are considering their vocation within Southwark diocese, under the guidance of Fr. Stephen Langridge, have produced this excellent catechetical video. We must continue to pray for their formation and for all involved with encouraging vocations.

I must confess Lent 2015 has caught me on the hop. I don’t feel particularly enthused by its arrival and am struggling to get truly motivated. If you feel the same then join me in pulling up your spiritual socks, getting on your knees and shaking off the sloth! This is exactly what Lent is for. Time to get back to basics, to re-energise our faith and spend time with Jesus  in prayer as we prepare for the coming Easter celebrations. For what joy can Easter bring if our heart is not united with his? If our lives are not giving over to the Gospel?

In the last couple of years I have noticed a growing trend. Christians seem keen to ‘take up virtues’ in place of ‘giving up vices’ for Lent. I am not at all certain of the wisdom here which seems symptomatic of a Christian culture in danger of losing sight of sin and the desperate need we have for mercy. If we say we have no sin we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. So ponder what it says when we downplay the need to hone in on our sins during penitential seasons?

Doing good work is always a part of Christian life. So do take up some virtuous deed…but not instead of giving something up! For if we make taking up good work the heart of Lenten observance the danger is we rush ahead of ourselves. We reach out for the crown of Eastertide not the coming cross of Holy Week.

Giving something up, something that really will hurt a bit,  is very important because it teaches us self discipline. And without self discipline we can but fail on the journey of faith. It self discipline is what combats self indulgence to make us masters over our lives not slaves to our passions. What will you give up?

May all readers of this blog use this season of penitence wisely that it may lead to genuine conversion and encounter with the living Lord.