Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

The balancing act

tightrope

It is clear from comments on recent posts that certain people still imagine the Ordinariate exists outside of diocesan structure and is in competition to the wider church in this land. Nothing could be further from the truth. Critics and friends alike do well to remember this; the Ordinariate is part of the Latin Rite not a separate structure disconnected from it.

Which is why our priests were ordained by diocesan bishops having attended formation arranged by Allen Hall. As one bishop remarked to a layman questioning our validity- ‘if he isn’t a proper priest nobody else is either!’ We begin to see why it was easy for Ordinariate priests to transition into parishes to serve any Catholics who worship there. At the most fundamental level we are priests like any other. And so Ordinariate members are free to attend Mass in any church; just as diocesan Catholics are welcome to worship where our priests operate too. We are one despite having our unique mission to fulfil.

Take St. Anselm’s. It is now served by Ordinariate priests but it remains a diocesan church. The parish having the same status as any other in the deanery. Of course it is distinctive; our priests are beholden to the Ordinary first and diocesan bishop second…as would be the case for any parish run by religious. And our charism and patrimony provides distinctive gifts. As is true for Benedictines, Augustinians, Jesuits, etc etc… So we might offer Divine Worship as well as the Novus Ordo but the parish is a parish like any other.

Oh that our critics would get this into their heads! When we seek resources and buildings and control we are not wrestling them away from the Latin Rite. We are the Latin Rite. It is not therefore hostile action but the offer of help. Akin to an organisation moving an employee into that place where they can be most effective for the overall gain of the company. Our vocation is to help the Church as part of the reform of the reform. We are not a breakaway schismatic group called to dwell in the ghetto- and should this ever happen we would have failed our mandate. But nor are we called to simply function like all others. Difference can be healthy where unity exists.

Back to Pembury and we might eventually seek some sort of agreement, say that appointments be made at the discretion of the Ordinary, to ensure long term Ordinariate flourishing (as has occurred at Precious Blood) but we would never seek a break with the diocese. That would be pointless. We are called to be a body breathing with two lungs and we would not have it any other way.

Why then a call for our own buildings? Because where smaller groups are under the control of non-Ordinariate priests, and/or unable to book slots for worship conducive to growth, there our mission is struggling. Only an idiot would fail to see that the Oratorians, for example, would struggle to thrive if forced to book services at Farm Street, as opposed to having their own building to reflect their patrimony. Yet that does not mean Farm Street is in competition with the Oratory. Far from it.

So why do people imagine granting the Ordinariate help is a negative move or a danger to other parishes? I suspect it is because what they really oppose is change; a fear of the reform of the reform itself. In truth it is not that we are too separate- as they state- that annoys them but rather that we are far too close…the liturgical vocation we have been given by the Congregation for Divine Worship proving an irritant and unwelcome gift to accept. But that discussion is for another day. Let us remain focused on our intended identity and belonging.

What becomes clear is that there is a careful balancing act for every Ordinariate priest and group to consider. We must remain distinctive and yet also a functioning part of that which we joined. Lean too far into diocesan inculturation and we fail to build the Ordinariate as the Holy See requires. Lean too far into the Ordinariate and we end up in a ghetto. Between these two pitfalls lies our true goal.

And the hard work isn’t only for those of us in the Ordinariate. The Catholic church called all Catholics to welcome the Ordinariate, to support it and be generous. It is hard to fulfil our mandate if begrudging cold shoulders are offered or meanness or nastiness is exhibited. There just isn’t any room for the sulking elder brother from the prodigal son! But where people have proved open and generous and accepting- there something beautiful has occurred. So at the end of the day it really does take two to tango! Stubborn refusal to dance- from either side of the relationship- must be resisted for it can only bring sorrow to God’s heart and a thwarting to the vision of Pope Benedict.

Consider the image accompanying this post. That is how the Ordinariate is intended to function. The balancing man being the groups where they exist. The rope being the support and resources we are given. The left hand is that of our Ordinary and the right hand is that of the diocesan bishops. We need all working together to avoiding falling by the wayside. A precarious position but with so much potential. Please pray that the balance is found.

The case studies

person lupe

Yesterday I looked in detail at why the Ordinariate faces hostility from certain quarters. Today I tackle a different issue arising from the Catholic Herald article- the reason why some Ordinariate clergy are doing more than others regarding our development. To do so I want to take some imaginary clergy of the Ordinariate- but place them in real settings- that we might discern why some have more enthusiasm and better morale than others.

Father Autonomy

Father Autonomy entered the Ordinariate with a reasonably large group of people. He was sent to a small Catholic parish facing closure and given control of development within that parish. Despite initial hostility from certain cradle Catholics, and a lack of support from some within the deanery, he was at least able to roll up his sleeves and work hard to establish the Ordinariate vision.

Five years on and Father Autonomy and his parish is flourishing. There is now a weekly Divine Worship Mass, young families have joined the congregation, and the new organ is helping the choir embraced the now normative plainsong and polyphony drawn from the church’s own treasury. A beautification project has helped the people to love their house of worship once again. The future looks very bright for the Ordinariate in this place.

Father Dependent

Father Dependent entered the Ordinariate with only a handful of followers. His tiny group were asked to join the local parish, a large thriving church with several hundred at Mass each Sunday. Father Dependent was set to work as a sort of curate- being given lots of duties within the parish to ensure his keep. His Ordinariate group could find no viable slot for worship on Sunday morning- so they meet on the Second Sunday of each month at 4pm. The group has grown by 50% which means there are still only a dozen souls at each monthly meeting.

Five years on and Father Dependent, who is passionate about the Ordinariate, feels guilty and demoralised. He is working incredibly hard for the diocese and just doesnt have the time to build up the Ordinariate in that place. Sunday afternoon is a lousy time for Mass and he cannot see how the Ordinariate group will survive long term; not least as the members are now used to worshipping Novus Ordo Sunday morning by Sunday morning. He too is getting used to the diocesan way and can see that there is a danger he might turn native. He attempts Divine Worship but the poor ordering of the church does not suit it and he has zero control of the set up in the sanctuary. The future looks challenging in this place.

Father Rebellious

Father Rebellious joined the Ordinariate with a group but only as a means to an end- he would never have been ordained a Catholic priest without it. He used the Roman Rite as an Anglican and secretly wanted to go native to the diocese the moment he joined. For this reason he slotted in with the standard diocesan pattern and did nothing whatsoever to establish the Ordinariate. He has caused some damage by bad mouthing it to any who will listen. The bishop gave him a good living in a thriving parish.

Five years on and, whilst his financial situation might have helped the Ordinariate, he has never sent a penny to the centre. His brother priests feel betrayed by him. He is now settled in a successful parish where he is in control. He has no inclination to use Divine Worship and does not bother to attend Ordinariate meetings. He has been in talks with the diocese to transfer for he cannot see why he shouldn’t benefit from the pension and health care provision. The Ordinariate never happened in this place. Which is lamentable as the potential for growth was significant.

Father Chaplain

Father Chaplain entered the Ordinariate with a small group who couldn’t hope to support him financially. He was therefore employed as a chaplain to a giant hospital which takes up the lion’s share of his time. His group is drawn from a large geographic area but most are committed to meeting regularly. They use a local church every week but at an unpopular hour.

Five years on and Father Chaplain is exhausted. He would love to do more for the Ordinariate but he lives 40 miles away from his people and is on call most days of the week. He struggles to attend meetings with other Ordinariate clergy due to his working hours. Yet he remains a good friend to them. Because of his enthusiasm his group have held together well and there are reasons for optimism about future development. But people cannot see how this will happen unless he is freed to be their priest.

What can be done for each group? 

There then are a some typical case studies. It becomes clear why some groups are doing better than others. It also becomes clear why some clergy are better situated than others to find confidence in the overall mission. The work of the hierarchy of the Ordinariate must now be this; to ponder each individual setting and make inspired changes where the Ordinariate mission is thwarted or strangled.

Could Father Rebellious be sent to the busy chaplaincy, given that he doesn’t care about the Ordinariate anyway, that Father Chaplain might take over his group, rescue that situation and enable them to flourish? Is there any way resources and a building could be found to help ween Fr. Dependent off diocesan support? He would then be free to put his energy and talent into the building up of our mission rather than serving diocese first and his own ordinary second.

Every group needs to be looked at afresh. And where a situation is manifestly not favouring the Ordinariate questions must be asked in collaboration with the CDF and diocesan bishops. And this is exactly the type of conversation and analysis the report ‘Growing up and growing out’ was written to facilitate.

Please God it is not just placed on a shelf in fear but bravely engaged with. Radical decisions need to be made if each group is to be ensured of success into the future. We simply have to build our own non-geographical diocese and not just a devotional society type sandwich club to indulge priests of a certain disposition.

Pondering the hostility

whychildrene

Yesterday I responded to an article in the Catholic Herald focussed on the present health of the Ordinariate in the UK. It has inspired me to produce more posts, which I will publish over the coming days, to help us consider the issues thrown up in greater depth. I think this will prove a healthy exercise.

Let me begin then with that issue of hostility mentioned in the article. Why are some diocesan Catholics hostile to the Ordinariate? How widespread is this distrust? And what is behind the refusal of certain people and groups to embrace this papal initiative? The answers are not just interesting but revelatory.

But before we scrutinise cold shoulders let me stress negativity towards the Ordinariate is not as widespread as some imagine. Many Catholics have been wonderfully supportive. The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy counts many ordinariate clergy as members due to its welcome. The Catholic Herald has been a steadfast friend; the list could go on. So don’t imagine Ordinariate folk are ‘Billy- no- mates’ – nothing could be further from the truth.

Yet we do cause irritate certain individuals and groups which have frozen us out and made us unwelcome from the start. Why is this? My own experiences suggest the reasons are as follows:

MODERNISTS

The zeal the Ordinariate has for a robust expression of Catholic faith dismays those who hunger instead for liberalisation. If your dream is to see the Catholic church embrace women priests and bless gay unions and do away with the need for annulments etc… well the Ordinariate  are just not the Anglicans you were hoping for! Worse they add power to the elbow of those pesky faithful who oppose you. Little wonder there is no love for for the Ordinariate in such quarters. Wishy washy theologians detest as a matter of necessity- we are diametrically opposed.

TRIBALISTS

Another group that routinely rejects the Ordinariate overlaps with the above. Only the driving force is different. There are those for whom Catholicism is tribal; more to do with who you are than what you believe and practice. So they might reject aspects of Church teaching but nevertheless claim to be the authentic Catholics. For them a ‘convert’ is a dubious figure.

Because such people thrive on a ‘them and us’ policy their gut tells them that because the Ordinariate is ‘different’ it must be ‘wrong’. If we are to join the Church at all it should be on their terms only and any appeal for unity doesn’t carry water. We should be grateful for admission; accepting our status as second class citizens, not sharing gifts of patrimony and having our own opinions and teaching office!

SECTARIANS

Linked to this is the baggage 500 years of Catholic oppression wrought on these shores. People imagine the reformation is done and dusted but scratch the surface and vestiges of suspicion still bubble to the surface. It is one aspect of an historical wound which the Ordinariate was established to help heal.

Who can deny that the Ordinariate stirred up buried sectarian sentiment the moment it was established when the British Press opted for the word ‘defector’ to describe those becoming Catholic? ‘The Pope parks his tanks on Lambeth lawn’ screamed the Times! Such establishment sentiment has its root in a consciousness that thinks of Catholicism only in terms of that which is foreign.

Now just as Anglicans can prove subconsciously tainted by sectarian tendency, so Catholics exist who possess unresolved tensions. Those who themselves felt repressed by society or whose family were poorly treated generations back. Who remember an England whose boarding houses said ‘no Irish’. Such people are understandably suspicious of initiatives centred so firmly on English spirituality.

ANTI-ELITIST CULTURE WARRIORS

There is a type of Christian, and especially Catholic, who dislike anything remotely cultured. The sort who think outdated folk mass is the only ticket for healthy evangelisation! Such people have not taken kindly to a movement espousing traditional hymnody, choral treasures and love of plainsong. Here the opposition is about liturgical taste and theological opinion. Such people have been conditioned to view Vatican II as a rupture not a moment of continuity;  so they see the Ordinariate championing outdated worship- that which is ‘going backwards’ by ‘bringing back’ altar rails, statues, ad orientem celebration et al.

Many of our Episcopal opponents sit in this category. They have an agenda into which we do not fit. And the potential the Ordinariate has to undo the innovations of recent years frightens them. It is the sight of birettas, maniples and fiddle back chasubles which has this group foaming at the mouth for they will not stomach any worship rooted in traditional Catholicism. These being the ones who have sought to totally stamp out the Traditional Latin Mass in recent years.

HATERS OF CHANGE 

Finally there are some for whom the Ordinariate is uncomfortable because our mission to renew challenges the tendency to stagnate. If you have spent years dumbing things down at parish level, putting up with poor liturgy and preaching a watered down gospel then the arrival of a people passionate about faith and the reform of the reform has an unintended consequence of challenging what came before. This is not to suggest all non Ordinariate worship is poor- in many places it is healthy and we can learn much from those we have joined- but where parish life is rather tired or poor…well there we tend to draw both fire and criticism!

It has led to a sneering mentality. And it is said by such people that we think ourselves superior because we do not value what we have inherited. What develops is something of the elder brother syndrome from the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is lamentable but very understandable. Not least because our vocation to establish our own patrimony is surely not intended as a criticism of others in any way at all.

CONCLUSION

When you pause to reflect on the above something becomes apparent. It isn’t, in fact, the Ordinariate which angers. It is our adherence to an orthodox expression of the faith, to good liturgical practice rooted in fidelity to the Catechism. And this is something we share with many others. It cannot be coincidence that those who have proved friendly also value such things!

In other words the hostility the Ordinariate draws is no different to the hostility authentic Catholicism attracts to all who subscribe to it. And to demonstrate this fact one need only consider the OTT spittle flecked tantrums certain prelates threw recently when Cardinal Sarah merely dared suggest ad orientem worship might be needed. If they hate us, well they hated him first…and these people also hated that elderly Bavarian who created us..and his liturgical reforms and so on and so forth.

Thus I suspect the anger we encounter might be healthy. A sign we are doing what we were created to do. Being prophetic never did bring love! Nonetheless we must continue living out the desperately needed reform of the reform and witnessing thereby to an authentic expression of Catholic faith; the sort which has always caused outrage down the ages.

When we became Catholic we were pitched, whether we liked it or not,  into a battle long raging and in which the Holy Spirit might just have a part for us to play. That a more faithful working out of the Second Vatican Council might finally materialise. The sort which might halt the emptying of seminaries and pews and bring about a healthy revival.

Why I remain optimistic about the Ordinariate

22915421792_69c59d9a7c

Damian Thompson has written an explosive article about the Ordinariate for this week’s Catholic Herald and it has got tongues wagging. Good for him, that is what excellent journalists  do and, love him or loathe him, the marmite of the Catholic press certainly has a flair for eye catching headline and thought provoking analysis. What then to make of his article? It seems some wish to congratulate him on astute and honest observation whilst others feel the article was too negative and unhelpful. Here is my take.

First there is a difference in life between constructive and destructive criticism. Between a challenge from a friend who desires to help and the chiding of an enemy who seeks to wound. And who can argue that this is healthy criticism when both the Herald and Damian have championed the Ordinariate from its inception and would still love it to flourish long term? We would be wise to listen then; for this challenge comes from friends even if it proves uncomfortable in places.

And the over-arching message- which I agree with- is that fear, pessimism and weak leadership will sink us -and is already sinking us in places- whilst  strong leadership, risk taking and pioneering vision will help us survive beyond a generation- as is also witnessed at present where the Ordinariate is effective. NB: it was nice to be singled out for that praise but others deserve it too.

Damian is also right to note instances of low morale within the Ordinariate at present. This needs to be addressed because dispirited souls do not build up the kingdom. But let us not be overly critical of those who have struggled because the reality is that many have been asked to minister with very little by way of support, reward or encouragement.

This journey, whilst exciting and full of promise, has been bruising at times. It is not easy pioneering a new chapter in the life of the church with no tangible resources and with disdain or hostility from certain local hierarchs and clergy. Change, as happened in Pembury,  goes hand in glove with conflict. Should we really be surprised then that the more robust have coped whilst the more sensitive are struggling? Not every one is built for pioneering work. What then can we do to better support Ordinariate clergy- that is the point to take from the article. Not a delight in pointing the finger at those who might be failing.

As regards hostility of hierarchs a valid point was made but with too much force! It is not quite fair to state that all Catholic bishops have been unfriendly. Not so. A few have been truly horrible, most have been steadfastly neutral and a few gracious and friendly. Here in Southwark I can have no real complaint.

As regards lack of generosity the article is spot on. Despite papal requests for generosity none has been shown. Not a single building handed over- despite many closing in Britain each year. And where presbyteries have been purchased or churches loaned understand that the maintenance falls on the Ordinariate group whilst the asset remains firmly with the diocese! Who wins there? Here the lesson seems obvious- our own leadership must learn to be braver in negotiation for we have a resource the dioceses need- clergy- and they have resources we need- buildings and cash.

Instead of meekly rolling over we must adopt a tougher stance; if you want Father X helping you at St. Z then please give us this parish due for closure for our cause. If you want Father Y working there, give me a solid and reasonable sum to cover pension provision. To date we have been far too meek and have therefore allowed every situation to favour diocese and not Ordinariate. And it has led to ludicrous situations in which our priests are working 90% for the diocese and only 10% for our own cause; little wonder in such settings the Ordinariate is failing!

But again let us not be too quick to point fingers in this regard. Our leadership has itself had little by way of support and its first priority has been ensuring clergy families are housed and provided for. In theory my advice is sound but in practice it isn’t surprising to note caution when gambling on people’s livelihoods. The power, in truth, is with the diocesan clergy and it is they who need to be heroic and generous in helping establish the Ordinariate. Which is why Benedict spoke to them of this need at the outset and not to our own people. And I do think that the struggles we have faced begin and end here- with the response or lack of it by the English Bishops to the request of the Holy Father.

As regards liturgy I think Damian is, again, correct. We must move away from the nonsense that encourages Ordinariate clergy to choose between Divine Worship and Novus Ordo on personal preference alone. If you don’t like it tough- this isn’t about you! A deal must be struck that if a diocese benefits from free priests via the Ordinariate then in that parish the principle Sunday Mass will be Divine Worship. And Damian is also right to note that the Ordinariate is not well served by those of our clergy not convinced about its vision. If some need to be released to the diocese- because they are novus ordo to their core- let them go. We need focus and shared practice and we need people on board who are pulling in one direction.

We begin to see that the article in the Herald touches on many truths even if the tone is occasionally out. And it is here I feel I must make the most obvious corrective. For whilst I delighted in being singled out for praise it isn’t fair. Here in Pembury the story is manifestly not the Ed Tomlinson show; it is a collective work in which laity deserve fulsome praise, to say nothing of the delightful eccentric that is Father Nicholas! Nor is ours the only parish in which positive news is found. At Precious Blood in London, in the West Country, in the Midlands and in many other places besides one witnesses genuine growth and cause for optimism. It was I who suggested that the Oratorian model is one to emulate. And I remain optimistic that in the next decade we will have at least five or six centres of excellence in which our mission can be established.

Furthermore we should be encouraged that the points raised in the article did not come as a surprise. The reality is that Ordinariate II – as Damian names it- has been a work in progress behind the scenes for some time. It is what occupies our recently elected Deans and the Ordinary’s council, which led them to write the report ‘growing up and growing out’. A report which notes how when we first arrived the priority was simply to get clergy housed and cared for-  and it is only now, five years on, that we are strong enough to ask more pertinent questions. How is the Ordinariate served in each situation? What needs to change?

Which is to say the baby Benedict delivered is becoming a toddler under Francis. And we are only just now able to begin the real process of growth and development. That would be my caveat to  this article- things in their infancy are rarely as strong as they will become in maturity! Doubtless smaller groups will vanish and mistakes will and have been made. But the miracle is that we are still here- we do have successes to celebrate and we do exist at the heart of the reform of the reform. And – best of all- where we are allowed to flourish we bring growth and health. Hurrah!

Ultimately then I welcome the article. It is full of insight if a little off in terms of tone in places. But the bottom line is that I remain very optimistic. God has called us to something extraordinary and he will not abandon us…so long as we are brave and insightful and ready to take risks. Message received and understood in these quarters. Onwards and upwards we go…

A most Catholic theme park

An hour’s drive from our lovely campsite in the Loire Valley (if you like camping give it a go) was Puy Du Fou, a French theme park which boasts no rides only ‘live performances’ played out in various zones. The pamphlet we had picked up made it hard to imagine what it actually entailed, and in fairness it is a place like no other, furthermore we were worried about the language barrier with small children, but rave reviews from other campers convinced us go. We are so glad that we did. Do click on the images to enlarge- they are worth it!

IMG_0233

On arrival we picked up headphones -which translated everything into English- and headed to the first show plucked at random; a 45 minute epic set in the 1700’s. We queued amongst the hoards (it is popular) with no idea of what to expect. All I had gleaned from the internet was that most delighted in it and one grumpy atheist moaned about ‘distinct Christian undertones’. I soon discovered he was quite wrong- there were no undertones only overt Catholic over tones and what unfolded thrilled me to bits.

puy-du-fou-le-dernier-panache-un-spectacle-revolutionnaire_1

The tale we engaged with followed a small band of intrepid souls fighting the Catholic cause against the dastardly French revolution. With rousing music and scenes of brave men kneeling before the sacrament to find strength to die for their faith, I soon had tears in my eyes. The message our hero, Francois Charette, kept delivering was ‘that as long as the faith flickers in just one heart then there is hope for us all!’ How the drama came alive with real animals, swashbuckling sword fights and the best live stunts I have witnessed. It was breath taking, uplifting and simply wonderful.

105812667_o

After a wander through the 18th Century themed village- each zone has such an area- where snacks are sold by people in period dress and the children can pet animals or watch a blacksmith make swords etc- we made our way to the second show. This one not randomly chosen but enthusiastically demanded by over excited children. We headed to a mock up of the Roman Colosseum where another epic was about to begin. And what a spectacle it proved! As we took our seats two Gaulish slaves ran into the arena and painted the sign of the fish on the sand. Roman soldiers came looking for them and chased them off before the Emperor- that villain Diocletian- took to his throne. One smelled another victory for the church was about to unfold…

05_signedutriomphe__021585600_1730_18062012

It transpired that one of the centurions had fallen in love with a Christian girl and converted. The Emperor was livid and made him take part in a fantastic array of challenges. We witnessed a full speed chariot race in which several chariots fell apart dragging the riders out across the sand. We witnessed gladiatorial fights and even real lions and tigers led into the arena. It all raised the hairs on the back of the neck. So ambitious and so well performed. Eventually our hero triumphed, of course, and Diocletian was chased away by a live hyena. How the children cheered (and daddy too) as Christian symbols were raised and the faith triumphed!

vikings-puy-du-fou-les-epesses-85-534647

Next we headed to the Viking show where again the message was hardly subtle. The natives were Christians living a good life as a wedding was celebrated. But then came the wicked Vikings who sacked the village amidst much pyrotechnic delight and threw the coffin of the local saint into the lake. Soon skirmishes were breaking out everywhere, one man felled by a live Eagle and another dragged by his ankle from a horse which was ablaze! It was all very exciting. The vikings were then thwarted as the dead saint came back from the dead, walking over the water and bringing them to their knees. They soon renounced their pagan way and, having been forgiven by the Christians, joined the wedding feast.

mousquetaires-de-richelieu_07_hd

Our final show saw us head back inside for the tale of the three musketeers. An amazing flamenco dance was performed at the climax of this show as horses and women cavorted across a floor drenched in water. It was breathtakingly beautiful. The amazing thing about Puy du Fou is that, despite its obvious Catholic agenda, it is very much a mainstream and popular attraction. The crowds loved every minute and were thunderous in applause. A lesson to the wider church is to be found here. When we aim for the highest standards, taking pride in our history and message and making use of art and beauty to maximum effect- then the results are amazing! What contrast to the average parish, I thought, where so much is banal and uninspired and amateur and aimed at the lowest common denominator.

So who is behind Puy du Fou? A devout Catholic aristocrat for whom this park is his way of giving back to God and his legacy to his mother. Recently the park made a huge donation to the pro-life cause and it exists to proclaim the faith with passion. Ultimately the message at it’s very centre is the one spoken by our hero Francois, that as long as the faith burns in just one place there remains hope for us all. Hurrah for Puy du Fu; how wonderful there is still space in the secularised West for such faith to flourish. I am, unsurprisingly, a massive fan. Go and see it!

We Tomlinson’s will return! Not least because we only had time to absorb four of the sixteen shows and that is before we consider the night-time spectacular, performed by over 3000 people, which needs to be booked a year in advance! People flock to see what we have to say when we do our best to say it well.

And home again…

IMG_0101

Back in Pembury after a wonderful camping trip in the Loire Valley, France. And, yes, miracles do happen as this year we managed to get there and back with no mechanical failure at all. Hurrah! Perhaps next year I can break the other hoodoo that plagues my summer excursions- it always rains when I pack away. Even this year, despite scorching sunshine and dry earth for 99.99% of the week- a solitary storm cloud dutifully arrived just as the tent was taken down to ensure it is sopping wet and now needs to be unpacked and dried tomorrow. We had to laugh!

Later this week I will share photographs and reflect on our travels. Tonight I am too tired. As the family will be in residence over the weekend, our plans were changed, I have asked the locum priest to stand down and will celebrate both services this coming Sunday.

I look forward to catching up with parish friends then, if not before. Perhaps in the Black Horse for I remain on holiday for another week or so. Not that I shall be spending it all in the pub- for the summer holidays are upon us and time with the children is to be savoured. They really are a lot of fun!

Freddie and Isaac

13892150_1150384945026051_7265415841440062791_n

It was all go on the baptism front this morning and, rather amazingly, both parties provided an additional clergyman! At 9:15am baby Isaac became the first child baptised at St. Anselm’s according to the Ordinariate liturgy; Divine Worship. Isaac’s grandfather is an Anglican minister and he very ably led the intercessions for us. He is pictured holding the baptismal candle.

13880161_1150384941692718_23794102164042137_n

At 12:30pm we had a stand alone baptismal ceremony for baby Freddie. And because his uncle is a Catholic priest I took a back seat, aside from preaching a homily, and allowed him to celebrate the liturgy which he did very ably. Both services were joyous occasions and we were delighted to add two new members to Christ’s church here on earth.

Both babies are also regular members of our congregation. How we delight in the presence of young families. Please pray for Isaac and Freddie that they may ever remain close to the Lord Jesus in life and grow into the people God calls them to be.

Baptisms complete I am now away from parish duties for a fortnight. There will be no midweek worship- unless stated on the blog. Next Sunday morning we welcome Fr. Simon Heans, of the Ordinariate, as celebrant for the Mass. The following Sunday Fr. Mark Elliot-Smith, also of the Ordinariate, will be the celebrant. I am very grateful to them for offering to cover in my absence, what with Fr. Nicholas deep in the undergrowth of some jungle on the other side of the globe….

In an emergency contact any of the local deanery churches. The only person resident at the presbytery will be my  father in law who is kindly painting in the wake of the electrical problems. What a top man!

Rugby boot camp

There has been something of a war on masculinity within Western culture for some time. To the extent that our education system routinely favours girls and often fails boys, especially those from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Too often lads are praised for feminine qualities but demonised for anything remotely rugged. And the effect is not good on them or on  society. I fear we are raising a generation of wimps- repressed boys who grow quick to take offence and slow to take responsibility. Factor in the breakdown of the family, which has left many being raised without any positive male role model at all, and the problem is exacerbated.

IMG_0034

We need positive male role models both inside and outside of the home. And we must create safe space in which boys can be boys. So I was delighted to involve Benedict in the boot camp which took place at Tunbridge Wells rugby club this week. He is pictured above with his colossal coach Rick, a former special forces man. All the coaches were rugged men like Rick but also fun loving and compassionate. The effect was absolutely magical and there were emotional scenes as the boys and coaches said goodbye this afternoon.

It was also a fun night last night as a few of the TWRFC veterans showed the coaches a good time in town. Live jazz on the pantiles accompanied by a few pints followed by some late ones in a cellar bar. What a great week. I know that the boys are counting down the days to next summer when the boot camp will return. As you can see skills were developed and much fun was had.

 

 

The Sportsman’s Mass

IMG_0020

One of the great difficulties for the church in recent years has been competing with  sports clubs on Sunday mornings. So many children now take part in sports at the exact time the principle service takes place in most churches. It presents quite the conundrum for Christian parents; how to ensure children appreciate that worship is a first priority activity without making them miss out on what they love? Causing resentment in the young does not encourage them to delight in being church.

It isn’t a new problem. When I was growing up in the 1980’s my father struck a sensible compromise. Being raised an Evangelical Anglican there was a simple solution; I could play rugby Sunday morning so long as I promised to go to church on Sunday evening. Large evangelical parishes tend to cater to young adults by holding their principle services of an evening, so it was a no-brainer.

But for Catholics the problem is not so easily solved. Sunday is of obligation and the Mass, not Evensong or Benediction, demands our presence. Of course many parishes hold a Saturday evening Vigil Mass for this purpose. But that isn’t a solution in my household, or many others, because Saturday is when the big boys (aka men) play sports. What then can be done for sporty Catholics? It is something I have pondered on and off for quite some time.

IMG_0549

This week my eldest son, Benny, received his first taste of rugby at a boot camp run at the local club by some enormous gentlemen from New Zealand. This afternoon, during the presentation bbq, he will conduct the Haka alongside his coaches! It is fabulous witnessing how much enjoyment he has had. And how good that his holiday is being spent outdoors and not sat idle on a silver screen. But… this taster has whetted his appetite and he is desperate to sign up to the under 7s! Hurrah says one part of me – oh no cries the other! That thorny issue concerning Sunday mornings is upon me as a father and as a father- if you take my meaning.

The answer is that I am going to start offering an additional Dawn Mass at St. Anselm’s on Sundays. And I want the word put out around the deanery that it is aimed at helping Catholic parents fulfil their obligation if involved in sport throughout the weekend. The ‘sportsman’s Mass’ will begin this autumn. See bulletin for further details.

Prison Chaplaincy inspection

East Sutton Park Open Prison.png

Above is a photograph of HMP East Sutton Park, an open prison outside of Maidstone. It houses just over 100 ladies at any one time and boasts on of the very best records at halting re-offending in the country. Little wonder- the surrounds are pleasant, the ladies are treated with respect and encouraged to live and work in community, tending to the working pig farm and nurseries. The whole thing having been founded by an eccentric Christian lady who had a genuine heart for people. One can smell the Christian founding vision in the ethos here.

Each Wednesday I travel to East Sutton Park Prison to offer Mass for the Catholic residents and hear confessions. To conduct interviews and go for walks around the grounds, to ensure I become a familiar smiling face to all who work and live here. It is a welcome change to the daily routine and often humbling; for there is something refreshingly open about the people here, many of whom have painful and broken backgrounds. An honesty you do not always find in comfortable middle class settings!

Today I visited prison for an inspection of the chaplaincy department. The full time chaplain had organised lunch and we were joined by the Sikh, Moslem, Free Church and Anglican chaplains. And, a pleasant surprise, the inspector was in fact an old friend- a lady who had trained for Anglican ministry with me at Westcott House in Cambridge! It was great to see that she has found her vocation and is clearly flourishing having risen to become one of the most senior chaplains in England. Fingers crossed that we pass with flying colours!

Page 1 of 46

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén