Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Mass of the Assumption

Tomorrow is major feast of the Church, the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven and a day of holy obligation. We shall be offering a Sung Mass at 7pm followed by devotions at the Marian Shrine.

It often surprises people to learn that the feast is a very ancient one, celebrated universally by the sixth century. The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven dating from the fourth, in a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” The document is written by St John to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, and recounts the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

Tradition places Mary’s death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, in one of the rare moments in which papal infallibility was exercised, declared the assumption to be a dogma of the Church “that the Immaculate Mother, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Confessions of a rigid Catholic

I need to come clean. It is me. And others like me. We are the ones out of favour with certain members of the hierarchy and therefore find ourselves marginalised, even demonised at times, and called names like ‘rigid’ and ‘neo-palagian’.

It is us who frustrate the desired programme of change by refusing to liberalise on matters of faith, morals, doctrine and scripture; that the church might be in vogue with the world. It is us. We are the rigid. But why? What compels us to swim against the tide and not join this modernist revolution?

Here is what I would say to those who label me as rigid.

First it gives us no pleasure. It isn’t much fun existing on the naughty step, even if God has blessed me as I sit here! Like many who attempt to be faithful to the magisterium, when so many prelates favour the ‘modernist approach’, my ministry has involved glass ceilings, invisible walls and alienation. This doesn’t bother me much – for I love my parish- but its worth noting because this cost speaks of conviction. We rigid are not being difficult for the sake of it. Nor scared, backwards, stupid or uncaring- as claimed by those who dislike us- rather it is a matter of conscience. We believe modernism is wrong. Very wrong. A heresy in fact. And therefore feel compelled to state it even to the point of suffering if necessary.

Why do I think modernism wrong? Because, in multiple ways, it has failed to convince me. Ultimately us rigids have weighed up the evidence and, sorry modernists, your calls for liberalisation just don’t add up…and I speak as a Christian with a lot of experience. All my Christian life I have witnessed decline in the Christian faith and culture of the West. And the hours I spent studying and praying and examining and experiencing Christianity, at one time in a very liberal Anglican seminary incidentally, in two different denominations and across a raft of churchmanship, has led me to one conclusion; its modernism silly! That is the problem. Not the faith.

The claim has ever been that a more liberal/modernist/progressive direction guarantees renewal for the Church. But there exists no evidence whatsoever to support the claim. Quite the reverse. Which is hardly surprising given that the entire history of Christianity teaches the polar opposite; that radical fidelity and witness lead to sanctification and God. Nevertheless many Christians have embraced modernism and I have witnessed first hand how they then tend to fall away, to become more secular in outlook, more faithful to the beliefs of the present secular age than to the revealed Word of God.

Why do many still choose it, given its awful track record? Partly because some know no better, its all they have experienced, others because modernism is convenient; it demands little and promises a life of comfort and ease in this world. It allows for a cafeteria faith- the tribal belonging but without the rigour and discipline. Which is to say it chimes with the West at present. And because 1970’s clerics (the fathers of this revolution) are now in the ascendancy it is experiencing revival. Yet let us not be so foolish as to confuse popularity with success. The awful television programme ‘Love Island’ may be popular- it doesn’t make it any good!

So leaving aside the unsurprising popularism of a loose and easy faith let us explore its fruit. And here we reveal a paucity of spiritual edification. Most Catholic schools opted for modernism since the seventies and what did they churn out? Not many authentic Christians, if we are honest, but militant lapsed atheists with a strong social conscience are two a penny. What we seem to have taught was a type of Marxist activism- a focus on the philosophy of man not God. Little wonder the budget for worship in most of these schools is less than negligible and few of the teachers practice themselves.

Next we might consider how it was on the watch of a modernist leadership that rot set into Western faith to the point that we enabled the secular mindset, so hostile to Catholic faith, to take over. So many dioceses are run like businesses today and not as houses of prayer. Modernist prelates have become line managers not pastoral shepherds and defenders of faith. They are seldom seen in parishes for their time is taken up in so many meetings and with bureaucracy. Priests too are sidelined by a strange understanding of lay ministry that encourages everyone to take up occupancy of the sanctuary, therby emasculating clergy and stealing their sacred functions,  instead of going out into the world to serve as evangelists!

And who can deny a loss of beauty and reverence in modernist worship? Little wonder seminaries emptied and parishes closed where houses of God became mundane and unappealing. And statistics back this up. Liberalisation leads to decline no matter the denomination. Yet still the trend persists….and for some reason it is the prelates whose own dioceses have experienced the greatest decline who currently have the loudest voices in this papacy. Why are we listening to the voice of the church in Belgium where zero growth is found? Why don’t we listen to the voice of China and Africa where growth is impressive?

And consider liturgical experience in recent decades. My experience of modernist worship is dreadful. Sorry but it is. Awful music, poor teaching and chummy embarrassing attempts at entertainment have become normative. The emphasis is all wrong- it seems to be on championing man and celebrating the community- not worshiping the God of scripture. Where is the reverence? Where is the awe? Where is the righteous fear of the Lord? So much seems off where worship is banal and dumbed down and devoid of supernatural awareness. Whereas I find a more traditional hymnody centred on Christ and I find the use of altar rails and historic Christian art stirs my soul to worship. So worship proves another nail in the coffin for modernism in my book. Where is the depth and  beauty? The holiness and  fidelity to Christ?

And, whilst I am on a roll, there is the intellectual life. Sorry modernists but your arguments seem shallow in contrast to orthodox thinkers like Pope Benedict XVI and the desert fathers. You ever hide behind clever ambiguity but you avoid both truth and clarity. The very things that appeal to me. So this again fails to convince.

In modernist praxis I see only impoverishment of living faith then and this makes me suspicious of real motives. It cannot be coincidence that many of the voices calling for a downplaying of moral teaching are the ones embroiled in scandals; lurid murals involving sexual licentiousness to the erection of a St Gallen Mafia to subvert the role of the Holy Spirit even to reported orgies in the Vatican. How do these men survive? It seems only the orthodox are punished- the modernists protected at all costs.

So there you have it modernists. Understand nobody who knows me personally views me as rigid. Only you. Because you have failed to convince me.  Failed because, as I see it, liberalisation breeds only surface popularism and fails to win souls for Christ. Oh I know it  delights those who want faith neutered- including atheists, nominal Christians, those enslaved to particular sin etc, – but it does not encourage real and living faith. The sort I want for my children. Which means instead of baptising all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you stand with Pilate, asking  ‘what is truth?’and visibly shrinking from certainty, integrity and obedience. For that reason I am out. I stand with the saints not you.

See I didn’t give my life to the priesthood to make the church like the world, or to excuse the sexual revolution. I did it for Jesus because I believe the Gospel! I am for the magisterium. The dubia reflects my concerns and I thank God for those who raise it. For if traditional Christian faith built the West it still has much to offer. And if saints and martyrs lived by this faith by grace and flourished – so can we! And in defence I refer you to Revelation 3:16 and the entire letter to Timothy.

Therefore I mean to remain rigid in the faith of the Apostles until my dying breath, hopefully beyond that. Though not being a very good Christian I cannot guarantee it. But nevertheless I shall not apologise for it.

With that said by all means let us debate mercy- how might we reach out in love and help the church become a hospital for sinners not just a club for the holy? I love the way you think that important. So do I. I will debate this with joy -for I am actually quite a liberal chap underneath it all- it is just that when it comes to the faith itself well that is not up for grabs. Non negotiable no matter my feelings. On that I am rigid. I think its what God asks of us. Struggling sinners that we all are.

The Ordinariate in Japan

Father Nicholas is currently holidaying in the Far East ahead of visiting his eldest son in Hong Kong. This week he travelled to Japan where he hunted down Fr. Kajiwari; a most fascinating cleric occupying a unique role within the Catholic church.

For Fr. Kajiwari is a former Anglican, and one time student of the Cuddesdon theological college, who has gone on to establish the only Ordinariate Group in Japan. The group is only small but very committed to the vision laid down by Pope Benedict and is linked to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross whose Ordinary is based in Australia.

Fr. Kajiwari was delighted to welcome Fr. Nicholas, not least because the group is, for matters of geography, somewhat isolated. Not that they are the most remote group within the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross…that honour goes to a group in a most remote part of Papua New Guinea whose services can only be accessed by canoe!

There is something heartwarmingly eccentric about little offshoots of the Ordinariate springing up across the globe in the most unlikely of places. It certainly reflects an Anglican Patrimony! But it serves as a reminder to us that our mission is not only local but universal, a call to be part of the reform of the reform, with its dedication to good preaching and liturgy, that lay at the heart of Benedict’s pontificate.

May God richly bless Fr. Kajiwari and the Japanese Ordinariate. And all groups of Christians throughout the world who witness to something special despite being small in number. Where two or three are gathered….

UPDATE:

And this morning we had holidaying visitors too. Father Andrew Starkey of the Ordinariate group in Manchester concelebrated the 11am Mass and a good portion of his family were in the congregation. We were especially grateful to his son, Thomas, who stepped in and played the organ.

In print

The Catholic Herald kindly asked me, this week, to produce an article reflecting on the most recent General Synod within the Church of England; which served as yet another blow to those who value the traditional teaching of the Christian faith in all ages. You can read it by following this link.

Catholics in India; the review

Around 30 children descended on St. Anselm’s this week for the annual children’s holiday club. This year the theme was “Catholics in India” which gave us a rich source of ideas for craft, activities and games.

Each day the children enjoyed creating art, small and large, and playing games together in the church grounds. Old favourites like ‘what is the time Mr Wolf?’ and ‘stuck in the mud’ proved especially popular.

After refreshment of juice and biscuits, demolished in seconds, the children came into church each day for a short talk on the faith. The overall theme was “Being Saints” and, given the topic, special focus was given to St. Thomas, who took the faith to India, St. Theresa of Calcutta, who famously cared for India’s poorest and St. Alphonsa, the first Indian female Saint beatified by Pope Benedict in 2008.

 

Sanskrit T-Shirts were made as well as giant maps of India, complete with geographical features like mountains and rivers. The children learnt about the Indian national animals, plants, sports and much more.

On the final day, this morning, the children made a giant Mango tree. It was a lot of fun even if most of the helpers ended up with as much paint on them as on the tree!

And a herd of Elephants were created by clever use of milk cartons. It has been noted that the elephant at the back seems somewhat alarmed!!

Marbled images of jungle animals helped the children think about camouflage. Can you spot the beasts lurking within?

And amidst all the activity there was lots of laughter and friendship. Many of the children are now veterans of the holiday club and eagerly look forward to taking part. Most attend our church but we also attract children from other churches in the local deanery.

Lotus flowers and peacocks took up yesterday afternoon. The names refer to the owners not the birds, I think….

And we used coloured rice to create some beautiful images on card. Here you can see the Indian flag as well as various patterns.

Alas we could not produce the wonderful coloured spices which you can see in an Indian street market. But we all agreed the stained rice looked almost as good…

We owe a debt of gratitude to all the adult helpers and especially to Hayley, who spends weeks planning the craft and getting everything ready. Her hard work produces so much joy for the little ones. Whatever will the theme be next year?

Confirmation and first communions 2017

A truly wonderful day in Pembury as six children received Holy Communion for the first time. We also had a confirmation of an adult and a special administering of a minor order. All in the presence of our Ordinary, Mgr. Keith Newton, who was the celebrant at Mass.

There are so many lovely photographs of our first communions and confirmations today that a simple blog post will not do. So head on over to my flickr account to enjoy them all. There are some absolute corkers!

We are very grateful to Brian for acting as photographer and uploading them to me so swiftly. And very grateful to all the people who worked so hard to make the event such a success. Thank you! And God bless all those who took another step forward on their journey of faith today.

Gnosticism is back with a vengeance

Since its inception the church has been at war, battling against all sorts of wrongful ideas and beliefs. We call these heresies and they are treated as toxic to the soul because they lead us away from revealed truth. Most heresies end with an ism, we might consider Arianism, Donatism, Nesotrianism, and it is a constant battle to overcome them because, like weeds, they tend to die down for a bit but then come back with great vengeance.

The latest heresy to re-emerge, which was all the rage back in the 2nd Century, is Gnosticism. Gnostics taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, a demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the more remote supreme divine being. Through secret knowledge (gnosis) the spirit could free itself from the vile trappings of the flesh and find redemption. Gnostics held that the entire material realm was essentially evil and that the Spirit, being pure, needed freeing from it. This was the purpose of faith; no resurrection of the body for them!!

Although nobody, to my knowledge, has resurrected the gnostic belief in a demiurge we are nevertheless witnessing a massive revival of the other aspect of Gnostic belief; that materiality is bad and Spirit alone matters. A clear rebellion against Christian belief which maintains man is created as a unity in distinction in which body and soul together form a sacred identity. Created matter is important as witnessed by the incarnation of Christ and his physical resurrection from the dead.

The history lesson complete let us now examine the thinking of the modern culture. And what, but gnosticism, drives the ridiculous (but popular) notion today that God given biological status is irrelevant? Does a man wish to be a woman, or vice versa, no problem; deny observable material truth because, as the gnostics ever held, your identity is solely who you are on the inside! The physical body is poo-pooed, even mutilated and butchered  to create a false reality. For it is only seen as a vehicle, an accident of birth, a restrictive cage in which the real person is trapped. This is gnosticism writ large. For the person is no longer an embodied soul but rather an enslaved soul whose evil material body is a prison.

Gnosticism is also behind the modern drive for same sex marriage. For here the necessary biological materiality, requisite to create that ‘unity in distinction’ at the heart of marriage – the coming together of man and woman- is again rejected. The only important consideration, we are told, centres on love between two kindred spirits. The biological aspect is denied at a cost, I would argue, to the needs of children. We witness the denial of everything the church ever taught about marriage and family.

Finally  gnosticism is also running amok within Christian understanding. For what, but a denial of the biological aspect of the person representing Christ at the altar, lies behind a call for female priests? We would never cast a hairy chested man as the Virgin Mary in a passion play,it would descend into farce, but many seem comfortable doing the reverse; asking a woman to stand in persona Christi at the Eucharist as if his incarnate self was incidental not revelatory. There is not space to unpack this here but the bottom line is that the nature of God revealed as man has a huge bearing on theology. (Email me for an article on the subject)

The gnostic tendency of many modern Christians should not surprise us. For poorly catechised believers have always looked to the prevailing culture for their lead and been vulnerable to attack. At one point the entire church almost sold out to Arianism before pulling back from the brink. So today we see a huge number of prelates, priests and people in thrall to gnosticism and modernism and hungering for a revolution that would allow historic Christian teaching to be replaced with something more suited to the spirit of the age. But this must be resisted. It is the battle to which the Christian is ever called. We must deny error and stand for truth.

So I do my best to stand firmly behind Christ and against modern Gnosticism. It doesn’t win me many friends but I must do this because I believe God created us in love and that our identity is not an entrapped soul fighting against a wicked body but found in acceptance of our God given identity; body and soul. Furthermore I believe God created humanity male and female and called them together in love for the furtherance of the human race. This unique coming together- of man and woman- is a coming together of two halves of an intended equation. A complementarity is achieved in which each perfects the other through essential difference. This must be cherished and not lost.

Which does not mean I lack compassion for people who struggle in life. The person with same sex attraction needs respect. Where people opt to live outside of the Christian faith I accept the need for legal protection and recognition. Holding to traditional thinking does not mean we are unkind to those who are mentally anguished and imagine they are something they are not. Like the anorexic who imagines they are fat- we must help transexual people without colluding in the fantasy. We can be loving and respectful yet hold to the Christian creeds. At least when the debate is not being closed down by those who would label us haters.

This view might not be trendy. But I believe it is truth.

Help us finish the work we have begun…

The last few years have been busy at St. Anselm’s as we have forged ahead, despite limited resources, with a vision to transform a tired 1960’s dual use hall/mass centre into a proper church fit for reverent worship.

And the great news is that God has richly blessed our endeavours. What we have given has been multiplied, when we have needed funds they have arrived. Meaning a minor miracle has occurred in Pembury; for less money than a nearby parish built just one parish room we have renovated the space to the glory of God. Here is what it looked like five years ago.

This was a time when the church had to be laboriously set up for every use. Plastic chairs set out in lines with rubber kneelers and the altar wheeled in. It was not conducive to devotion for the moment Mass ended, instead of kneeling before the sacrament in prayer, the congregation was launched into operation clear-up. It rather encouraged a view of Sunday only Christianity. God packed away for another week.

Here is what St Anselm’s looks like today. Wooden pews have replaced the plastic chairs. Stations of the cross have been erected. A hall built. Beautiful hassocks replaced the rubber kneelers. 72 leylandii were hacked down and a lawn laid. And so many salvaged items have found a permanent home here, from the magnificent altar in limed oak to the two new reredos which add beauty to the whole. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped us to get this far. Thank you!

But the work is not yet done and we are now launching a final appeal to finish the work we have begun. This final phase will see us install a beautiful new stained glass window in place of the current glass above the sanctuary. This is desperately needed because the current window, fashioned for hall use, is so bright as to ensure a glare that dazzles the worshipper and draws the eye away from the sacrament. This photograph of last years first communion candidates shows how bad it can be.

The other work that needs doing is less exciting than the window but every bit as necessary. We have to renovate the lighting; for at present we have but two settings. We either use the existing flourescent tubes designed for hall use in the 1960’s – which are so bright as to kill all and any atmosphere…or else we use the two standard lamps we have, and then the place is gloomy and reading hymn books becomes very challenging. Furthermore the current lighting was not designed for ad orientem worship and so the priest casts a shadow over the missal- which can prove rather challenging during evening celebrations.

So we are asking for financial help to ensure we finish the work we have begun. Ours is only a very modest parish, so benefactors and friends are hugely appreciated. Could you send a gift to help us? We have to raise around £10,000 so need all the help we can get. Donations can be sent to The Presbytery, 31 Henwoods Crescent, Pembury, TN2 4LJ.

NB: for those able to offer a significant gift we are offering a once in a lifetime opportunity. The window will be installed, to the glory of God, in memory of a few loved ones whose names will be inscribed on a commemoration plaque. Might your relative or friend be remembered in this way?

This coming Sunday

A reminder that this coming Sunday is going to be a day of great celebration for the parish. At 11am Mgr. Keith Newton will celebrate Mass at which several children will make their first communion. In addition a young man will be received into the Catholic church and confirmed.  And Roy, a deacon in training attached to the Sevenoaks Ordinariate Group, will be admitted to the minor order of reader, an important stage on his spiritual journey.

It is going to be standing room only in church, so arrive in good time to secure a seat. We are also requesting that you refrain from using the car park- it is only for the disabled-  as we need to utilise space for the celebrations. There is plenty of parking in the surrounding roads and a public car park at the recreation ground.

After Mass there will be a BBQ in the parish grounds. We have a barrel of Tunbridge Coppernob arriving for beer lovers and other drinks for those who prefer something else. We ask for a donation to cover the cost of meat and people are asked to bring a salad dish for the table.

And this will also be a gift day for the parish. We need to raise money to install the new stained glass window, pictured above, and renovate the terrible lighting. Leaflets detailing the project will be distributed and a gift box will be placed before the sacrament after Mass. Please place your gift here and remember to sign the gift aid form if applicable. Let us finish the magnificent renovation we have begun.

Hockey sticks & milk cartons

The children’s summer holiday club is almost upon us and lots of fabulous games and craft activities are being planned. To help one planned activity take place we are asking if people could lend us old hockey sticks? Bring them to church or to the Presbytery and we will return them to you after the event.

We also need milk containers. These will be transformed into something fun for the children. Please bring them to church this Sunday or next and bring the lid as well please. They are no good without them….don’t ask me why because I am only the messenger!

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