Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

A filial correction

Last year a dubia was raised by four cardinals. Written in  charitable language it asked for clarification on Catholic teaching following confusion arising from the controversial document Amoris Laetitia. 

Amoris Laetitia is proving controversial because it contains teaching, via footnotes in chapter 8, that seem deliberately vague. That is to say written in language more usually associated with liberal Anglicanism than the clarity on which Catholicism is built. A fact currently delighting modernist prelates who are claiming the document allows the divorced and remarried to receive the sacrament without recourse to annulment. Meanwhile it vexes the theologians, and normative Catholics, who insist there can be no change of praxis if official doctrine is unchanged. Furthermore, they argue, not even a pope can trump the teaching of Jesus.

The confusion has caused tensions to rise and political infighting has broken out on social media. The culture war is back with a vengeance. The situation becoming so farcical that a divorced and remarried person who has no anulment can currently receive communion in Germany but not over the border in Poland??! A divide is exposed then, between those who stand by historic teaching and those who hunger for change. It could lead to schism if unchecked. Clearly, given the seriousness of the matter, contradiction must be sorted. Hence the dubia.

It is curious then that, instead of answering the dubia, Pope Francis has chosen to ignore it. A situation leading many to conclude he wants to encourage the change of praxis though he knows doctrine wont allow it. A grave situation if true. Yet why else does he give the nudge and wink to those encouraging change whilst demonising those who stand by traditional teaching as being rigid and uncaring?

It is a crisis which leaves the church in a precarious position. With a Pope beloved by secular culture and the press, by left wing politicians and celebrities and by those Catholics and protestants who hunger for liberal innovation. But who just as equally frustrates and bewilders the more normative sort of Catholic who was perfectly happy under the steadfast pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI; Popes who never got involved in culture wars but wisely sat above them and worked for unity of the church by being predictable and boring. By simply stating the teaching of the church.

Whatever Pope Francis’ strengths- and he has many- he is a maverick figure who divides opinion like that proverbial bottle of Marmite. (It takes one to know one!) Not good news given that unity is dependent on shared proclamation of truth. That chaos follows when gaps are created between our belief and practice. The world might cheer, when you chase worldly relevance, but it wont be converted. So all you do is alienate your core supporters. A path to decline not renewal as the last Century teaches only too clearly.

So it does not surprise me, nor seem unreasonable, that 60 academic theologians have added weight to the dubia, and pressure on the Pope, by issuing a filial correction of Amoris Laetitia. Many suspect that, like the Dubia, it will be ignored- but it ensures serious questions are not being forgotten. One suspects it is but a small step in a longer quest to unearth divine truth on the matter which the Catholic church is called to profess.

What are we grassroots Catholics to make of it? I find myself torn between wanting to show fidelity to the indissolubility of marriage and yet also sympathise with the pastoral desire to help the divorced and remarried. We are, after all, a hospital for sinners not a club for the perfect. Oh how I wish the Pope had not discarded the wisdom of an annulment process but striven instead to make the process free to access and quick to resolve. So much disagreement would have been avoided.

Instead there is chaos. So we might be wise to leave the matters to play out. A cautionary note stemming from uneasy feeling. Why, if change is possible, wasnt official doctrine developed? Why are questions not answered in conventional manner and via conventional process? The silence bothers. After all other Popes answered dubias quickly and courteously- clearing up confusion via simple answers is what dubias are for. Why then the refusal? It is here I smell the rat.

Might politics, not fidelity to Christ, be driving change? Someone suggest the issue might even be money- for the German church tax pays much to the Vatican, and prelates, fearing loss of income if people are turned off by a non PC church, are forcing changes not in keeping with church teaching. That would make sense but I have no way of knowing if its true. It could equally just be that a generation of 1970’s liberals have control for now and don’t care two hoots for official teaching!

What I do know is the question needs answering  if peace and unity are to be found where political skirmishes are now occurring. So I stand by those seeking clarity. Let us double down on the prayers for our Holy Father and the Church. And stand by official doctrine until the questions receive clear and definitive answers. And thank goodness for the magisterium that helps shape the questions, to do the checks and balances no synod ever could. The silence itself should encourage orthodox believers. This isn’t going away and the magisterium is holing. So hold your head too and keep praying.

The homily at Mass today on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham:

On this day in 1061, the Virgin Mary appeared to a widow, Richeldis de Faverches, in a tiny village in Norfolk and showed Richeldis a vision of the Holy House of Nazereth, instructing her to build a replica. If Mary commands- a faithful Catholic obeys! So Richeldis set to work. But nothing went right for her. Note that fact. Doing God’s will was tough and there was much resistance. We too easily romanticise faith, make church a comfortable place in our imagination where Miss Marple eats shortbread with terribly “nice” vicars. But true faith brings struggle and rejection first- the taking up the cross- the beauty, growth and renewal.  For the devil and this world always conspire against God and God always wins. So Richeldis suffered in her task. And it was on a troubled night, when she could not sleep, that Richeldis heard singing and went to her garden. There- two hundred yards away from her construction site – the house had been completed. Walsingham was born by act of grace and miracle.

After Richeldis’ death, her son, Geoffrey handed ownership to a religious order. Walsingham become the foremost shrine in Europe. “England’s Nazareth.” Which flourished for the next 500 years. It is the twelfth century. The roads were more crowded than those leading to Canterbury. By the 1500s Henry VIII was a regular visitor proudly walking barefoot twice the usual distance of penitents. But those footsteps bore little fruit for the devil was at work in Henry. Think about that too. His going faithfully to mass and professing to be Christian mattered little in the end. Being Catholic is no big deal unless you truly give Christ your heart and soul.

At the reformation the Holy House was razed to the ground. The priory fell into ruin its sacred objects and relics defiled by puritan outrage. The canon of Walsingham, Nicholas Myleham, was hung, drawn and quartered – his separated parts sent to Yarmouth, Lynn, Norwich and Walsingham itself that he might not be granted a proper burial. Now all of this horror is, thank God, in the distant past. We Catholics must move on from it. But it cannot be forgotten because what happened is important to the story of Catholic faith in England, and always will be. Much was lost for Catholicism as the reformation turned into a full blown Civil war. And a shadow fell over the Catholic faith of this land which did not even begin to lift until the 19th Century. When boosted by immigration from Ireland, the Second Spring was born.

It was at the end of that 19th Century that, Charlotte Boyd, an Anglican, discovered a disused barn which had been the Chapel of St Catherine of Alexandria, aka the “Slipper Chapel,” She purchased it and began restoring and then, moved by the Spirit, was later received into the Catholic Church. She transferred ownership to monks at Downside. The chapel becoming one of only a handful to return to Catholic ownership. In 1934 Walsingham became again the National Shrine of England. The end. Well not quite… because we haven’t asked why?

Why did Mary appear in Walsingham? Why the ancient prophesy saying OLW would be at the heart of ending protestant divide? Why were Anglicans, the very people who tore down the shrine, at the heart of putting it back again?

Because as Miss Boyd was converting her barn for Jesus, it was the Anglo-Catholics- that is a group of Anglicans, inspired by Newman, who were exploring their Catholic heritage and history- who were busy too. In the 1920s an eccentric vicar, Alfred Hope Patten, erected a shrine-church with a new replica of the Holy House. It’s still there. Newman had, by then, converted to Rome – leading where his movement would one day be called to follow. And he is so important in the story of Walsingham because without Newman there would be no Anglo-Catholicism and no restoration of the ancient English Marian Shrine.

It is as if God always had an plan to call England back to her original faith through Our Lady of Walsingham. So first he sent Mary in 1061 to ensure a place was built that beat with a truly Catholic heart. Second he inspired prophesy concerning OLW’s role in England’s return to the Catholic faith. Third he waited through the dark days for Catholics until the Second Spring. Fourth; once unity was achievable he softened protestant hearts- inspiring Newman and his cohort to create Anglo-Catholicism. Fifth he called Newman to become Catholic- to lead where his movement might follow. Sixth- as Anglicanism finally abandoned any credible Catholic claim forever, via a series of innovations in Synod, he called the Ordinariate- of Our Lady of Walsingham- into being. Space created within the Catholic church where Anglican- that is English- spirituality can find a new home. Where true ecumenism could flourish.

It is when one sees OLW in the midst of every one of these steps –that one senses the long term significance of the Ordinariate as a new model of ecumenism. And we needed a new model of ecumenism because the old ARCIC model was/is well intentioned but flawed. Friendships were made, fantastic, via things like Churches Together, but no amount of sandwich suppers has actually brought people back together at one altar under one faith. Scratch the surface and there was no work of actual unity- only gestures and much talk.

So a different step was needed. One that moves beyond friendship into visible unity via a shared proclamation of truth. That that new step is the Ordinariate of OLW, which manifested here in this place but a few years ago. Here an expression of renewed unity is today found; where cradle Catholics and former Anglicans worship together. Where Catholicism is taught via a restoration of an English Spirituality which informs our beautification and restoration project. And our patroness is none other than Our Lady of Walsingham who, through the Ordinariate, I believe, is now working on step 7…the conversion of England to the Catholic faith. It may take two or three generations, the Ordinariate is but a few years old and we have been charged only with planting the seed. But given that our story began in 1061- that should not concern us. Please continue to support the Ordinariate and to shower devotion on OLW.

Tips for Ordinariate Growth

On the excellent Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog the webmaster, Shane Schaetzel, has shared 8 recommendations for Ordinariate growth. I applaud them and believe we should embrace them in the UK to the extent that each group make them part of the vision moving forwards.

1. Get away from established Catholic Parishes. You can’t build your own house in somebody else’s backyard. Embrace the missionary spirit. Move away from your host parish and set up shop in a populated area where no Catholic parishes are nearby. Even if you have to meet in somebody’s home, or in a storefront, its better than trying to build your own house in somebody else’s backyard. 

Pembury reflection: There is no doubt coming to a small mass centre, ranked low in terms of diocesan importance and presumably heading for closure, helped establish the Ordinariate in Pembury. As did splitting away from Paddock Wood which gave me pastoral control. Where colleagues have been tasked  with running large diocesan parishes, or serving under diocesan priests so that 90% of their time is given to diocesen work, Ordinariate progress has, unsurprisingly, suffered.

Caveat: in Pembury we have no plan to break free from the diocese-holding dual identity is healthy- but the need for ordinariate priests to have control/space to flourish is essential; without autonomy we could never have developed St. Anselm’s to reflect an English patrimony. Our beautification project would have stalled.

2. Get a good website and reliable contact info. Make sure people can easily find you.

Pembury reflection: The blog is widely read and has brought several people to worship in Pembury. This includes locals who joined the congregation and holidaying visitors from as far afield as the USA, Italy and  Australia!

3. Behave like a parish. Make sure you’re offering Mass and reconciliation regularly. 

Pembury reflection: This is true. The Ordinariate won’t thrive long term where it exists only in one Mass per week during a grave yard slot in a busy diocesan setting. In Pembury the liturgy of the Ordinariate is in regular use. Evensong is taken from the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham and we offer Saturday 9am Mass and 9:15am Solemn Mass on Sunday according to Divine Worship. We swap around a bit at other times -save for the 11am Sunday Mass which is always Novus Ordo. We favour Divine Worship for all occasional offices.

4. Make sure you have a parish name- patron saint- don’t go by “Ordinariate community” Nobody understands what that means.

Pembury reflection: Detractors of the Ordinariate love alluding to a fantasy- that we are not part of the Latin Rite. So certain Anglicans say  “were I to become Catholic I would to it properly“. It is nonsense and our clergy only differ from any other in England and Wales in the way a priest from one diocese differs from another. Hence St. Anselm’s is the only Catholic Parish in Pembury open to all. Schisms exist outside the body not within.

5. Accept everybody, even cradle Catholics looking for a new home. Remember, people don’t have to be Ordinariate eligible to become members of an Ordinariate parish. Also think outside the box when it comes to evangelism. If you’re only reaching out to Anglicans, you are doing something wrong. You need to reach out to all non-Catholics. Remember, any non-Catholic (regardless of religious background) who is received into the Catholic church through an Ordinariate parish is automatically eligible for membership.

Pembury reflection: Most people come to Pembury simply because it is the local parish or because we value tradition. Our being Ordinariate hasn’t been a barrier to growth hence we have attracted Keralan and Opus Dei members in recent years. We are a diverse parish like any other. Praise God!

6. Offer highly traditional liturgy. Youth are more attracted to tradition these days. Don’t fall for the hippy happy-clappy trap. Nothing is more dated than contemporary worship. If you want young people to join your community, you need to offer old traditional liturgy. The more “high-church” the better. So use that Divine Worship Missal regularly and vigorously.

Pembury reflection: Message received and understood. Mass is only ever celebrated Ad orientem and we use plainsong for the Sunday Novus Ordo. Our use of hymnody is wide ranging but we only embrace hymns with solid theology appropriate to the liturgy of the day. The Ordinariate must be distinctive to survive and we clearly have a mandate to be part of the much needed reform of the reform.

7. Offer challenging homilies. People today are sick and tired of watered-down, non-offensive homilies that don’t challenge them to live the faith. Don’t get me wrong. We need to show the love of God in all of our teaching, but at the same time we need to clearly define sin and challenge people to overcome it.

Pembury reflection: For others to judge. Though I assure you the clergy of this parish like nothing watered down in life, including whiskey!

8. Don’t over-explain yourself. There is a tendency to want to explain the whole thing when it comes to the Ordinariate, Anglican Patrimony, our history, etc. Don’t do that. Just answer people’s questions as they ask them, and only give them the information they ask for. Don’t over explain it. That confuses average visitors and makes them think something is “fishy.” Just tell people what they need to know, only when they ask. Then carry on as if what you’re doing is the most natural thing in the world.

Pembury reflection: I agree. It can be a challenge though because people remain woefully ignorant about the Ordinariate and its purpose. What I tend to do is give new comers a free copy of the CTS booklet Understanding the Ordinariate That way I can smile and they can read at home should they be interested. Must order more today….

The Ministry team just got bigger!

At yesterday’s Mass in Sevenoaks a special announcement was made: Monsignor Keith Newton has asked Deacon Robert Smith to move from the parish of St. John the baptist in Westerham to Saint Anselm’s in Pembury. This is good news indeed.

He is asked to make this move with Mr. Roy Cavey. Roy is in formational training for the diaconate. As part of his formation Roy was made lector earlier this year, by the Ordinary, at our confirmation service here in Pembury. He is pictured above cutting a cake with Sean, a recent confirmation candidate, on that wonderful day.

The move ensures it is the Ordinariate which benefits from the ministry of these men and that both remain rooted in its own culture and tradition.  As part of their new ministry they have been given oversight of the fledgling group in Sevenoaks. And to ensure they can build that group up and pastor to it effectively they will split their time between our own parish in Pembury and the parish of St. Thomas in Sevenoaks where the Sevenoaks Ordinariate now gathers. The Ordinariate is most grateful for the support of Fr. David Gibbons, parish priest there.

And so our Minster model for the West Kent Area continues to grow. God certainly has a sense of humour;  for that is three mass centres, three priests, one permanent deacon, a deacon in formation and two seminarians sent from the group. Whatever next I wonder? This isn’t quite what gentle village ministry is meant to be about!!

Behold the wood of the cross

A reminder that the Sevenoaks Ordinariate Group resumes this evening. Mass, according to Divine Worship, will be offered at St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church in Sevenoaks at 7:30pm.

Today the church throughout the world celebrates the feast of the exultation of the Holy Cross; a wonderful opportunity, outside of holy week itself, to reflect on God’s extraordinary work of salvation and his sacrifice on behalf of us all.

Mass, according to the Novus Ordo, is also being offered at St. Anselm’s at 10am this morning, the usual slot for Thursday Low Mass.

Compare and contrast

I have zero tolerance where child abuse, in any form, is concerned. As a father it makes my blood boil. So let me state clearly; I deplore sexual abuse and have no desire to make apology for offenders or protectors. Where crimes were/are committed the judicial system must be used for it is shameful when the issue is not dealt with appropriately by institutions and individuals.

It is well documented, and profoundly sad, that the church has historically failed in this regard. Many crimes reported today, and an obvious failure to deal with them effectively, stem from the 1960s- 1980’s- in the wake of a sexual revolution but before modern safe-guarding practices were put in place. A time, to be fair, when most institutions chose to look the other way or trust in woefully ineffective therapy to deal with the problem. We might consider how the BBC handled its staff including Jimmy Saville. Or how politicians, including Harriet Harman, lobbied for pedophile groups.

Statistics suggest the problem was societal and not linked to just one institution; the church. Secular care homes had/have no better record than religious ones. Teachers tend to abuse at a higher rate than clergy and indeed all professions with access to children are targetted. And whilst hollywood may delight in tales of wicked nuns running evil Irish laundries, survivors state that whilst they were bleak places indeed- so were all work houses and similar institutions of that day. And today the most likely person to abuse a child is not a cleric but a family member or trusted friend. Yet still the church tends to be singled out for demonisation. Why is this? Why does the church get more heat for abuse from the media than celebrities like Roman Polanski?

It makes for a conundrum. How to speak out about press impartiality without minimising, in any way, the suffering of victims? What to do when there is truth in what is reported -and yet the reporting is being done, not to help victims, but for the delight of giving the church a good kicking? To explain let us examine the very different way in which the BBC reports on the grim issue of child abuse when the church is involved and when it is not. The difference in tone being so seismic as to be revelatory.

The first,  ‘bodies of children found in mass grave’  was presented with an eerie photograph and strong language evoking terrible foul play. Yet scrutinise the text and it transpires the remains ‘discovered’ were in a cemetery??! What else did they expect? And that the remains were ‘of children’ is hardly shocking when you discover said cemetery is a plot attached to an orphanage. So what, exactly, is being alleged beyond vague suspicions of something sinister lurking in the past? There seems to be a paucity of hard facts at play but plenty of vague allegation.

Apparently the allegation is valid because records are hazy as to who is buried here. But that, in itself, is hardly evidence of abuse given that all other burial sites of this era would be much the same. This was a time when cholera and disease meant infant mortality was high. An era when record keeping and care of children, especially very poor children, was woefully inadequate. We all know that such children were being stuffed up chimneys, broken in manual labour, flogged and so forth. So if there is specific abuse to be answered for- why isn’t it cited? The story- in its present form- looks more like a hatchet job to continue a favoured narrative (Catholic bad- modern libertarianism good) rather than anything substantial.

Now compare the tone of that first article with a tweet  from Victoria Derbyshire- or with this older article. Once the church is removed from the equation, and the issue placed into the smorgasbord of modern PC agenda, the tone changes significantly. Out goes horror style black and white photos- in comes reasoned presentation. We are encouraged to sympathise with those who prey on the young and objectify them for their twisted gratification. There is no hint of evil at play here (grrr – more is the pity) now it is a health issue in need of medication. So- chillingly- we are told, as in the bad days, that ‘therapy’ is the answer! What a seismic shift in tone and how it speaks volumes.

To conclude then: I find it outrageous that wicked people harm children. I dislike any attempt to downplay the sin involved in such situations. That some hide behind dog collars and habits to access their victims is also heart breaking. And I weep that many children have found/find care homes totally bereft of love and care and places in which sinister characters are lurking. Oh how little ones suffer when the family breaks down! Fathers we have a duty to protect our little ones.

But I also find it sickening that voices within the media would use such stuff to pursue ideological agenda. It suggests they dont care for the victims at all – only their own favoured narrative. So be careful what you believe in a relativistic and pluralistic post-modern society that no longer even believes in truth. I fear the media manipulates our thinking, attitudes and beliefs far more than many realise.

Regarding Jacob Rees-Mogg

It shocked the modern world. A Catholic MP who subscribes to Catholic teaching. Who actually respects the Church instead of belittling it. Can you imagine?! What shock!  How unimaginably out of touch. Doesn’t this foolish man realise we have moved on?  That wholesale destruction of babies in the womb is enlightened choice and that removing a consideration of children from the marital bond, to accommodate adult sexual tastes, is a sign of stunning progress? How dare he?!!

The interview was embarrassing; it was men against boys in terms of intellectual understanding. The MP showing knowledge of what rightly pertains to State and what is privately held belief within the democratic process. The interviewers baying for his blood as they tried to enforce the narrow group think of modern culture. Just when did we turn into a new version of old Soviet Russia; whereby we are told what to think and believe and closed down by hate labelling should we dare to transgress? So much for free speech and liberality in intolerant PC Britain. One hears the voice of Napoleon in Animal Farm – “four legs good, two legs bad!”

Both Jacob Rees-Mogg and Tim Farron reveal to us that anti-Christian bigotry is not only thriving but growing in modern Britain. Indeed one detects real malice and spite for those who believe in, say, the sanctity of life from conception to the grave, or who uphold marriage as a union for one man and one woman due to the manner in which babies are made. Why so much hatred for alternative views? Why are Christian beliefs no longer to be tolerated? Why so much venom?

The demonisation of Christianity we witness should alarm us all. For history teaches dehumanisation of any minority is a step on the road to persecution. So thank God for the courage of Jacob Rees-Mogg who, unlike Farron, refuses to apologise for his faith. Why should he? What a breath of fresh air to witness such integrity. He is doing more good than he knows- even if he pays a heavy price in terms of preferment. For he holds up a mirror to the brave new world and, in the vitriol showed towards him, we understand better the creeping intolerance of our present culture. It must be stopped.

Why do they hate us? Why are the thought police so enraged by Catholic teaching?Because their brave new world is constructed on flimsy foundation. Their philosophy is parasitical and only alive because it feeds off the fruits of the very culture it now seeks to consume. Having jettisoned Judeo-Christian moral thinking, they have replaced it with nothing beyond sentiment and feelings. They have no real contribution to make which is why we decline. And unable to underpin emotionally charged arguments with reasoning, they close down debate and hate label instead. The Emperor would soon be shown to be naked, on issues like gender fluidity- should the wisdom of historic Judea-Christian culture be given fair voice at the table.

Of your goodness pray for Christian MPs across the political spectrum. The authentic ones not the pseudo pick and mix variety who are part of the problem not the cure. Pray for an end to the brave new world failing us all. And pray that our nation rediscovers its Christian faith before something more sinister replaces it. For that is the real danger of vacuous modern secularism- it creates empty space where faith and vision should exist- and nature abhors a vacuum and dark forces are always waiting in the wings.

God speaks but who is listening?

This week the media is reporting on significant decline for Christianity in the Uk and especially the Church of England. It seems the Anglican experiment- to embrace modernism/moral relativism- is leading to spiritual death. Doubtless the prevailing atheistic culture (and its media) played a part but the demise is also linked- I firmly believe- to the decision of the Anglican hierarchy, in recent time, to marginalise orthodoxy and soften doctrinal fidelity.

We are called to follow God not man; to preach Christ crucified not applaud the sexual revolution and embrace cultural marxism. The headlines suggest that when this is forgotten, and forgotten it has been, we do not create (as fuzzy prelates can foolishly imagine) comfortable, easy going churches appealing to the masses. We just we die out as a body worth fighting for. Our integrity and belief sold down the river in pursuit of relevance that never arrives. For once Christians are in thrall to political crusades not sanctification- what is the point of church anyway? If our views, beliefs and behaviour are no different from non-Christians- why not stay in bed, listen to Radio 4, get with the programme, and just be nice to people?

The picture was only marginally better for Catholicism. But then it too, since the worst excesses of a wilful misreading of Vatican II,  has rolled over instead of taking the fight to a hostile modern culture. Many (so called) Christians today speak powerfully on social justice issue, the environment, LGBT causes -yet remain mute, even combative, when it comes to the Word of God. That is the reason for decay. For if the history of Christianity, and witness of  Saints and Martyrs, teach anything .. it is that God blesses fidelity to his Word not to political agendas.

We reap what we sow. And the current harvest – spiritually meagre as it is- has been sown since the late 20th Century; I speak of that modernist trend which stripped altars, turned focus from God to man, ripped out rails, ended devotional practices, threw away sacred images and embraced the groove of the world instead. Those who watered down doctrine to appease the world promised ever greater relevance and growth. What irony! And it is now clear that God will not be mocked and thus, wherever modernism has prevailed, we witness this epic decay; the closure of seminaries and parishes, the abandonment of faith to the secular culture.

In the Gospel this Sunday, Peter was lambasted by Christ. It seems even the chief of Apostles can be in need of chastisement occasionally! His crime? A hubristic attempt to tell Jesus his business!! Let that sink in as you consider the modern context. Peter was doing Satan’s work because he felt his own limited vision for the church was better than what Christ had explicitly revealed.

It wasn’t that Peter didn’t understand. He did. Jesus explained he would go to Jerusalem be rejected and die. It wasn’t that Peter was bad. His intentions were noble- he wanted to protect Jesus. The problem was his vision- it was stunted. His faith faltering to the point he could no longer see beyond this world. Had Peter’s vision prevailed we would have been robbed of Easter.  So Jesus said- with words that need to ring out today- “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” 

On the side of men not God. A perfect way to describe the modern Christians who call for change to appease the world. Often, like Peter, they have noble intention. They really believe their vision is better than God’s!  But, like Peter, they are stunted; motivated by political agenda or fear. Supernatural faith is absent; we witness, in them, no fidelity and faith in the power of God,  only decay.

On holiday last week in France, by chance, I endured a modernist Mass. I wont say where but it upset me. Reverence was absent. Unsightly microphones and a modern altar seemed out of place in an ancient sanctuary. Nobody prayed before Mass or, it seemed, during. The service was led, for no obvious reason given the presence of a priest, by a domineering lady who sang and waved arms in encouragement at a bored looking congregation. The priest only spoke to perform those parts of the Mass which Canon Law most obviously forbade the lay lady from doing. Crucial parts of the liturgy were missing (there was no Epistle). The peace, under the form of a dire folksy ditty, lasted twice as long as the Eucharistic prayer.  Laity thumped around the sanctuary; the sacrament taken from the tabernacle like a turkey from the oven. Nobody genuflected. Nobody welcomed us.

This was a different land, different culture, different language. But all the hall marks and fruit of modernist worship were visible. Of 100 gathered souls -only two heads were not bald or else white. Save one solitary grandchild- I presume- the entire congregation had nobody below 65. Most were over 75. It smacked of self indulgent celebration not worship of God. It was beyond tired. Thus this French church cemented everything the media report about Christian decline in the West….

…yet a friend later told me she had worshiped, just one week before, at a traditional Mass in the same area of France. In contrast it was full of vitality. God is not being subtle. And here in England-great news from Portsmouth where, under Britain’s most orthodox Bishop, (who encountered much resistance on his appointment) they delight in the largest number of seminarians in living memory! Or consider Fr. Ray Blake’s orthodox parish in Brighton which, though small and not loved by trendies, has produced more vocations than the rest of that diocese combined.

What does this say? Why do so many prelates continue with the model that is failing? Is anyone in the hierarchy considering why growth is linked to orthodox witness? Or do they ignore it because this growth is ‘the wrong sort’ and linked to a robust Christian witness which they themselves fear as being too rigid and uncompromising to the Spirit of this world?

Yet despite little encouragement from on high the little shoots of growth continue to sprout. It is like the end of Winter in Narnia. Witness the hunger in younger Christians for a fulsome faith. Be that Extraordinary Rite or Ordinariate or just a more orthodox and faithful interpretation of the Novus Ordo. Such things give me hope. Surely Pope Benedict XVI was right when he recently stated, “God wins in the end.”

It is high time we abandoned the ludicrous attempt to seek relevance in the world and returned to the robust faith of the fathers! Let us embrace the true intentions of the Second Vatican Council and build a faith of continuity with the teaching of the church in all ages. The way of life not death as the evidence is suggesting. The reform of the reform to which the Ordinariate is wedded

Three cheers for the Ordinariate

The first cheer is for the coming together this week of Mgr Entwhistle, Mgr. Newton,  and Bishop Lopes; the three leaders of the personal Ordinariates. They are currently spending time together in Australia to enable them to work in closer collaboration and plan for the future together. This is good news and is bound to produce fruit for the future.

The second Ordinariate cheer is for Mrs. Frances Cawson, of the Southend Ordinariate Group. She and I share something in common- we were both married before the altar at St. Thomas of Cantebury church in Brentwood where I served my Anglican curacy. Though I married in this Century and she all the way back in the 1930s!

The final cheer goes out to Jackie Ottaway who has been named as one of the ‘Catholic Women of the Year’ in recognition of her dedication in getting the online Ordinariate magazine, the Portal, off the ground. She now serves as co-editor of the publication and also helps to organise our national pilgrimages and celebrations. She is named alongside Antonia Moffat, Kathy Kelly and Sister Mary Kenefick.

The Catholic Woman of the Year award is given each year. If you wish to attend the special luncheon then it takes place on Friday November 3rd at the Amba Hotel in Marble Arch. To book, and for further information, contact Joanna Bogle at auntiejoanna@yahoo.co.uk 

Great news regarding Ascension and Epiphany

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have made a sensible decision and restored Ascension Day and Epiphany to their proper dates next year, rather than moving them to the nearest Sunday. Hurrah for that decision and may it spark a trend of restoration.

Why? Because keeping feast days during the week really emphasises their importance and makes them special. It also helps to remind us that faith is a priority to be lived out day by day and not just something for the weekends.

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