Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

A wonderful new reredos

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Yesterday morning several strong men of this congregation, and our friendly farmers Carl and Pete (pictured- they help us whenever we need a trailer) collected a reredos to be situated in the Sacred Heart chapel on the side of our church. Don’t forget that you can click on the images for better detail.

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The reredos was originally housed in an Anglican parish in Haselmere, Surrey but was no longer wanted due to modern renovation taking place there. This news reached the attention of friends in the Portsmouth Ordinariate, who share our ecclesial tastes and passion for preserving heritage, and they suggested that Pembury might be a good home. So we are grateful both to the donating parish and to those who thought of us when it became available!

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The reredos, which is in the ‘arts and crafts’ style, has an inscription carved on its exterior showing that it was commissioned in memory of one Agnes Wallace and her firstborn Cyril. It was made by CR Ashbee, a contemporary and friend of William Morris. Ashbee was a leading light in the arts and crafts movement having set up a workshop in Haslemere where the reredos remained.

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On opening the doors we discovered two magnificent carved angels in the wings. As you can see they are handsome and of fine quality. These photographs do not really do them justice. They are much better close up.

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In the centre of the reredos is a crucifixion scene in which Our Lady and St. John kneel in adoration before the Saviour. Stars can be seen in the sky reminding us of the heavenly dimension and spiritual significance of this event.

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The reredos must now be mounted which is proving a challenge in and of itself. For the item, being quality, is heavy! Fortunately we have architects and antique experts in the congregation who were all offering advice this morning. The aumbry which was located in the Sacred Heart chapel will be moved to the Lady Chapel.

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What a great gift and how fitting that this reredos has made it’s way to us. For we at St. Anselm’s are passionate about upholding an English spirituality that lies at the heart of the Ordinariate vision. So beautiful items of ecclesial furniture made by great English craftsmen are right up our street!

God has been very good to us here in Pembury. There is something rather special happening here as year succeeds to year…

HM the kneeler

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This evening a new hassock arrived in church thanks to the hard work of a parishioner. It is the first of two, the other is being made by another parishioner. As you can see it marks the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen. Now that is a good bit of English patrimony!

Tina Beattie and her modernist thinking…

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Tina Beattie is a Catholic theologian/academic/journalist who, like so many of her generation, who seems to prefer her religion served tepid. A champion of modernism her repeat surrendering to the spirit of the world has gained her many plaudits in the secular world and media. She is often the ‘go to person’ for the BBC whenever they want a Catholic voice that isn’t actually…you know…Catholic.

That theologians like Beattie exist in the present climate is not surprising. They were two a penny in my Anglican days. One might even argue  she is ‘on message’ according to the world. Except of course being in vogue with modern culture can put you at odds with faith. Meaning she is often ‘off message’ according to divine revelation, not least in regard moral and ethical issues.

How she continues to find employment within the Catholic church (she teaches in seminary!) is beyond me??! And this week my incredulity turned to outrage for Beattie put her name to a letter, being sent to Catholic bishops in Poland, calling for the legalisation of abortion. It is a scandal.

How does Tina Beattie square support for abortion with a claim to be Catholic? The answer is, of course, via modernism. Like many she seems to have fallen for the lies of this fashionable heresy. A compromised expression of faith that encourages relativistic, pluralistic and subjective thinking. Truth becomes a foggy and fluid concept leading inevitably to illogical conclusion and positions of contradiction. And, like all modernists, she supports separation of doctrine from practice. Or, as she would likely put it, separation of the impossible ideal from lived reality.  Ergo: I can accept that it is intellectually wrong to kill babies in the womb… but in practice I support the practice because….X, Y or Z.

The trouble with this sort of thinking is that it rests on embracing sin and denying salvation. We set the bar low and accept what people may do without prejudice. Meeting people ‘where they are’ but without ever calling them to repentance. A pessimistic position at odds with the Gospel! A position blind to the fact that Saints were ordinary people. They become superheroes, instead, a type we ourselves could never be. Whose virtuous lives must be beyond us.

Does this ring a bell? It should. It was the voice of dissent ringing out from the Synod on the family and pushed by Cardinal Kaspar and his gang. Those who now claim Amoris Laetitia allows those living in adulterous relationships to be admitted to communion without need for annulment. A conclusion requiring one to ignore over 99% of what the document says. But then that is only a document. It is only doctrine. What relevance to real life?! When you follow the modernist position -doctrine is only for bookshelf or classroom. In ‘real life’ we upload a spirit of permissiveness under the excuse of mercy… that the sexual revolution may thrive.

Now there may need to be a debate in the church about morality in the present world. And, of course, Amoris Laetitia and the ,synod was an attempt to do just that. But that debate cannot be held in an adult way, or with integrity, if there are voices present which are duplicitous and less than honest. And that is the problem with modernism, it isn’t honest.

To see just foul the logic really is switch the subject in hand. Away from something modern man is unbothered about, like abortion or divorce, to something the modern world still finds repugnant. Let us say child abuse or rape or murder. Would we still follow the logic of modernists…Let us re-hash the arguments of Beattie et al to find out….

We uphold the teaching of the church.. but acknowledge that sometimes PAEDOPHILES face agonising decisions about whether or not to give in to their temptations. And we recognise that some, in good conscience and with the help of a priest, may find themselves in situations where, despite being unable to stop abusing children, should receive communion.

Hmmm. No that doesn’t sound right. Let us try again.

We uphold the teaching of the church.. but acknowledge that sometimes SERIAL RAPISTS face agonising decisions about whether or not to attack. Because of their poor formation, they may not be in a situation of objective sin and might, in good conscience, be admitted to communion. Certainly we should include them more in the life of the church. Perhaps if they show a desire to reduce the number of people being abused and are therefore on a gradual path to salvation….

It doesn’t work does it? And I am grateful to the razor sharp mind of Fr. Hunwicke who first pointed this out. It exposes how dishonest is the argument being put forth. If only modernists could be honest this is what they would actually say:

We don’t really believe doctrine and practice can be divorced where sin is concerned. For we abhor child abuse and rape and murder. It is just that, having swallowed whole the thinking of the sexual revolution and the present culture, we have lost faith and confidence in our religion. For this reason we want it to conform to the spirit of the world. 

Furthermore understand that we no longer consider homosexual sex or abortion, or sex outside marriage or serial monogamy to be sinful. I mean once you no longer believe in hell or damnation what is the big deal in any case? Which is frustrating because our attempts thus far to justify such change of mind by use of scripture and tradition has failed. It seems the pesky Lord Jesus and his followers left us no wiggle room! Grrrrr…..doesnt this explain why we are so angry? Doesn’t it explain our vexation with traditional Catholics whom we hate? 

So cut us some slack as we do this the hard way. We must use dishonest logic, calls for dialogue (don’t worry we are hear to make demands not listen) and other recognised political tricks to damage the church to the point where we get our own way. It would, of course, show much more integrity if we simply left. But we get such a power rush attempting to change Holy Mother Church from within and, besides, there is much money and applause to be gained from the world in the process. The devil looks after his own…

Yours not very faithfully, 

Every single modernist theologian of the last half century. Which is a lot of us. 

John Henry Newman on St. Mark

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One of the prescribed readings for today, in the Customary of Our Lady Walsingham (daily prayer for the Ordinariate) is a sermon on the life of St. Mark written by our patron Blessed John Henry Newman. It spoke powerfully to me of the problem we so often face today of a demasculinised priesthood and led me to pray thus; Lord give us priests of courage and zeal -not compromised men devoid of leadership and testosterone; too frightened of laity and leadership to preach the Gospel boldly. Help those who are not naturally courageous to find strength in you and be transformed as was St. Mark. Here is the sermon that inspired this prayer!

THE chief points of St. Mark’s history are these:—first, that he was sister’s-son to Barnabas, and taken with him and St. Paul on their first apostolical journey; next, that after a short time he deserted them and returned to Jerusalem; then, that after an interval, he was St. Peter’s assistant at Rome, and composed his Gospel there principally from the accounts which he received from that Apostle; lastly, that he was sent by him to Alexandria, in Egypt, where he founded one of the strictest and most powerful churches of the primitive times.

The points of contrast in his history are as follows:—that first he abandoned the cause of the Gospel as soon as danger appeared; afterwards, he proved himself, not merely an ordinary Christian, but a most resolute and exact servant of God, founding and ruling that strictest Church of Alexandria. And the instrument of this change was, as it appears the influence of St. Peter, a fit restorer of a timid and backsliding disciple.

The encouragement which we derive from these circumstances in St. Mark’s history, is, that the feeblest among us may through God’s grace become strong. And the warning to be drawn from it is, to distrust ourselves; and again, not to despise weak brethren, or to despair of them, but to bear their burdens and help them forward, if so be we may restore them. Now, let us attentively consider the subject thus brought before us.

Some men are naturally impetuous and active; others love quiet and readily yield. The over-earnest must be sobered, and the indolent must be roused. The history of Moses supplies us with an instance of a proud and rash spirit, tamed down to an extreme gentleness of deportment. In the greatness of the change wrought in him, when from a fierce, though honest, avenger of his brethren, he became the meekest of men on the earth, he evidences the power of faith, the influence of the Spirit on the heart. St. Mark’s history affords a specimen of the other, and still rarer change, from timidity to boldness.

Difficult as it is to subdue the more violent passions, yet I believe it to be still more difficult to overcome a tendency to sloth, cowardice, and despondency. These evil dispositions cling about a man, and weigh him down. They are minute chains, binding him on every side to the earth, so that he cannot even turn himself or make an effort to rise. It would seem as if right principles had yet to be planted in the indolent mind; whereas violent and obstinate tempers had already something of the nature of firmness and zeal in them, or rather what will become so with care, exercise, and God’s blessing.

Besides, the events of life have a powerful influence in sobering the ardent or self-confident temper. Disappointments, pain, anxiety, advancing years, bring with them some natural wisdom as a matter of course; and, though such tardy improvement bespeaks but a weak faith, yet we may believe that the Holy Ghost often blesses these means, however slowly and imperceptibly. On the other hand, these same circumstances do but increase the defects of the timid and irresolute, who are made more indolent, selfish, and faint-hearted by advancing years, and find a sort of sanction of their unworthy caution in their experience of the vicissitudes of life.

St. Mark’s change, therefore, may be considered even more astonishing in its nature than that of the Jewish Lawgiver. “By faith,” he was “out of weakness made strong,” and becomes a memorial of the more glorious and marvellous gifts of the last and spiritual Dispensation.

St. Anselm was not for self

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Check out the image above. It so perfectly captures the selfie culture of the 21st Century West, where self ever comes first. Now consider the following prayer from a very different era.

Come, you ordinary  person, turn aside for a while from your daily employment, escape from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your cares. Leave your heaviest worries to one side, Make space for a time for God Enter the inner chamber of your soul, Shut out everything except God, And that which can help you in seeking him, And when you have shut the door, seek him. Now, my whole heart, say to God, I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek.’

It’s a far shout from the selfie culture isn’t it? This humble prayer encouraging us to seek the face of God, not self. Written, by St. Anselm, a thousand years ago. Back to today and the inability of the West to see beyond self, let alone to seek the face of God, should deeply concern us. Because, when we stop looking beyond self, we cannot learn from others; we become ignorant and myopic. Ironically losing sight of who we are. Children of God not creatures for self.

And bit by bit our grasp of where we came from, a healthy appreciation of our Judeo-Christian history, crumbles; the culture begins to collapse. The wisdom of those who came before is discounted. Figures from the past written off- as out-dated or irrelevant. The modernist mindset holding to a myopic vision that imagines social justice was only discovered in the revolution of the 1960’s!

Today’s modernists abhor the Christian past because it does not serve the agenda of the relativistic, pluralistic present. Never mind that our forebears built the great civilisation we seek to destroy; they must be discounted! For they are not like us! And thus the great men and women who forged this nation, figures like St. Anselm, are forgotten. Who today could tell you a thing about him…though he remains, perhaps, the greatest English philosopher ever to have lived?

This cultural Alzheimer’s is the blight of the West today. Our Christian values – love of God and neighbour- are torn down; the selfie culture emerges where love of self dominates. A dumbed down celebrity culture rises up in which people show more interest in the colour of Jordan’s knickers than the plight on Jordan’s banks! Where the death of a pop artist Prince had people weeping with self referential sentiment on social media whilst their hearts seem unmoved by the plight of refugees drowning in our seas. It is all a part of the modern narcissistic secularism which emphasises personal rights over communal responsibilities. Its what touched me that matters, it is what I identify as or with; it is not a thing grounded in truth.

Which means Britain’s Christian heritage is not presently being acknowledged or valued. Little wonder inequality and political corruption are rising. Little wonder the elite are cut off from the grass roots. This culture of self encourages greed not empathy. And because it is facile it struggles to say anything coherent when faced with  the threat of terrorism, the plight of refugees, the collapse of the family. The West is puffed up; proud to the point of narcissistic self referential selfishness; which, using St. Anselm’s language- closes a door. Shuts off access to the wisdom of God and to the wisdom of the past. We discard our culture; the Judeo-Christian bedrock of Western civilisation. It is cultural suicide. Yes but hey- does my bum look big in this?

How our collapsing culture could learn from St. Anselm.. if only it could see beyond self. Born in Italy, before the battle of Hastings, his world was as brutal as ours; worse in terms of poverty, violence, injustice and suffering. But by living out the faith in fullness he became a solution, not part, of the problem. One of the spiritual and intellectual giants on whom our nation was built.

For Anselm, above all else, was sincerely humble. He spent a life trying to avoid high office. This was an age when bishops made much show of protesting unworthiness despite backstabbing their way to the top! Not for St Anselm such false modesty. He was humble. A spiritual man who hungered only to serve God not self.

Hence as a young man, when his father (a nobleman) wanted him to join an eminent monastery where he would rise through the ranks of the church (a bit like Oxbridge today)- Anselm, unimpressed, refused. Instead he set off in search of a holy person he could truly respect. He found him in Lanfranc, Abbot of Bec in Normandy. Here he stayed and dedicated himself to prayer and learning as a monk. That is all Anselm really wanted. To pray, think and write. And as a monk he did those things superbly. So well that his writings became influential and shaped our Western culture. As a philosopher of the church he is second only to Augustine and Aquinas. His books still used in academic circles. His genius a gift to the church but a nuisance to his ambitions to escape high office. For his reputation grew.

For whilst visiting England he was ambushed by King William Rufus in Gloucestershire. Who thrust the vacant Archbishop of Canterbury’s crozier into his hand. Anselm responded by clenching his fists. But eventually he relented and became Archbishop of Canterbury, fiercely loyal to the Pope and the teaching of the Church. Which is to say- unlike so many bishops before and since- high office didn’t corrupt him. A fact which annoyed the King. For Archbishops, then as now, are meant to know their place. Anselm didn’t. So when the King demanded £1000 from the church coffers to a finance war, Anselm said no! He was happy to speak truth to power. And having only just taken office he was exiled. He later returned and was later exiled again by the next King. But through all the struggle he gained that reputation as a man of God, of courage and of learning. Ever humble. Ever seeking the face of God not self.

That is what made him great of course. How the modern selfie generation could learn from him, if only they could be helped to find him by being enabled to see past themselves!

Happy Birthday Your Majesty!

New booklet on the Ordinariate

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It was exciting opening mail today to discover that a little booklet I have been working on, on behalf of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham’s media group, has gone to print. You can pre-order copies on the Catholic Truth Website. 

Whilst it is nice to be named as the author, the reality is that the booklet is the result of much collaboration with my colleagues and friends.  I am especially grateful to Fr. Redvers Harries, our Canon Lawyer, who went through drafts with a tooth comb correcting my faults as necessary. Detail not being my thing!  Thank you to all others who looked it over, gave advise and helped in any way. It was noted and it is appreciated.

Please, please do buy lots of copies of this little booklet and hand them to people you know. Hand them to Anglicans who might be interested in learning more about this work of unity. Hand them to those friendly to our mission within the Catholic church. And hand them, especially, to those uncertain or hostile to us! For there are many who still haven’t fully understood the vision of Pope Benedict and this booklet is aimed at clearing up misunderstandings and laying out the vision with pride. All sorts of practical questions are posed and then answered. Order copies for your parish today…

Europe; in or out?

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The political question facing Britain at present revolves around our relationship with Europe. A vote is to be taken during which we must decide; do we remain part of the European Union or re-imagine the relationship by exiting? It is a big decision with many ramifications and therefore requires calm consideration. Which way should we go?

The problem I have, and I cannot be alone, is that calm consideration seems impossible in the present climate. Because those in favour of Brexit, as it is termed, and those in favour of remaining in, are spewing forth more heat than light. Both sides favour scare tactic polemics to paint a picture of inevitable Armageddon should their favoured outcome lose out. Which is  frustrating because it makes the job of actually grasping reliable facts very tricky indeed.

Last week the Catholic bishops of England and Wales pitched in to the debate. Like other powerful voices they urge us to remain in the union. But of course when bishops speak in this way, it is not binding or linked to faith. They may speak but we are not obliged to follow. Each must make a decision with integrity. So follow this advice as you see fit, I guess.

For me, as ever with politics, I am not at all clear on which way to vote. So I would be grateful- in the comments section -for links to impartial and reliable information. The sort that might help little people, like me, reach sound decision. Apologies to Mr Cameron but multi million pound tax funded leaflets from central government do not scream impartiality!  Nor does our mass media, and especially the BBC, who so obviously work for powerful elites and not the man on the street. Where can one go today for genuine balanced coverage?

It leaves me on the fence. On the one hand I see how Britain leaving the European Union could have a destabilising effect on a fractured West. Any exit could have a domino effect, sparking a trend for nationalism and hurting already vulnerable nations and people. The danger here is that power shifts to those who do not believe in love of neighbour. Anything that might fuel racism and distrust must be avoided.

But, on the other hand, the current situation seems woeful. The EU claims huge amounts of tax payer’s money and it is hard to see where it goes. There are rumours of a gravy train for political classes and of serious corruption. And the project itself is mired in secrecy. So many laws passed in Brussels by a faceless bureaucracy whose agenda we cannot know.

All of which is to state that I would be in favour of a European Union that truly serves the people. Something honest, transparent and working for the good. But I don’t have any confidence- at all-that this is what we have at present. Indeed  I have a hunch we have the opposite. An EU that is less than transparent or honest and which exists only to serve the elites and big business. We are often told this helps the little man by a trickle down effect but the reality is that little trickles down.

And this leads to my much more serious concerns regarding politics. My fear that  democracy itself is in a serious crisis. Over time the system has become skewed and bloated so that the rich are getting richer and the poor are just held above the breadline to be exploited to prop up the State. And this situation leads to detachment and loss of interest. So many people no longer care what happens- in Europe or in Westminster- because they believe the system is not there to serve them. All they have seen in recent years is a rise in cost of living coupled with the closure of community services like public lavatories, libraries and school buses.

Bottom line then. How can we make a decision over Europe when there is currently so little trust in the entire political process? The expense scandal and house flipping of politicians has had a long term corrosive effect. Only last week we discovered that certain people in parliament cannot even be trusted to fill in a tax return!  Why then should we listen over Europe? Why should we believe them when they speak of what may or may not be in our benefit?

How do we fix democracy that we might, once again, feel part of the political process. That strikes me as the question behind the European debate that, if corrected, would mean the debate wouldn’t have been needed in the first place.

 

A busy weekend ahead

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On Saturday evening a St. George’s day quiz is being held in the Hine Room. Entry is £5 per person with proceeds going towards our kitchen project. Bring your own refreshment and feel free to arrive as a team or individual. It should be lots of fun.

The feast of our patron, St. Anselm of Canterbury, falls this Thursday, 21st April. We are therefore holding our annual Patronal Festival next Sunday when both the 9:15am and 11am Mass will end with Benediction. Do come and celebrate our impressive patron whose mighty intellect was such a gift to the church.

St. Peter- a late convert

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A copy of the homily preached on Sunday

In life we have a choice. We may serve self-  which no matter the comfort we find- so often leads to inner loneliness. Or we can serve God and neighbour, as Jesus taught us, and thereby find meaning and love. If you need convincing of this fact ponder the life of St. Peter. For, at different times, he chose each of these paths with starkly different consequence.

He began a little puffed up and little too self oriented. At the Last Supper it was Peter who loudly boasted he would die rather than deny Christ. But Jesus said “no- you will deny me three times”. And a few hours later Peter was so frightened he did precisely that-  swearing he did not even know Christ. When push came to shove Peter took the selfish path. He abandoned Jesus to protect self. And at that point he  limps away from the passion narrative; a defeated, lonely man weeping tears of bitter despair.

Then, as we celebrate throughout this Easter season, Jesus rose from the dead. How Peter must have felt! Elated that Christ triumphed- certainly- but also embarrassed and ashamed; he had not followed to the end! Like Judas; Peter had betrayed Christ. So Peter is hurting. His relationship with God dislocated. He needs to be healed- he needs absolution. So Jesus, in today’s Gospel reading, gives Peter an opportunity for reconciliation. He asks three times ‘do you love me’ – that the threefold betrayal might be overturned by a threefold profession of love.

There is a deep subtlety in this interchange lost on the English. Because we have only one word; love. Yet most languages use multiple words for love each describing different types; erotic love, family love, affection, etc..

Now when Jesus first asks ‘do you love me’ – he uses a word emphasising the finest love. The love which gives without question. Divine or supernatural love; the sort needed to love your enemy, or by which God sent His Son into the world. It is too much for Peter. His cheeks burn with humiliation. He learnt a lesson on Good Friday! So his boasting is gone when he replies, not echoing the fine word of love chosen by Jesus, but with a much weaker word. A word implying affection. Peter is saying – I can only love you a little- because I am so weak on my own.

Jesus smiles, I imagine, and tries again. Peter, you old fool, I died to save you. Let me ask again- do you love me? Peter, realising his first answer falls short, tries again. He upgrades affection to a stronger word but still short of divine love. Jesus accepts it. The third time he asks ‘do you love me’ –he uses Peter’s word. The two of them are back on the same page and Peter is able to look Jesus in the eye again. He receives his absolution.

And he needed that assurance. For Peter, if you look at the text, had gone back to his fishing. This is significant. He had stopped being an apostle. He believed he had failed God so very badly that God wouldn’t want anything more to do with him. Just as all of us can feel when we sin overwhelms us. When we struggle to live in and with the Lord who came to save us. But, take note, Peter was wrong! He might have given up on himself but God had not given up on him! Jesus wants him back. As he wants all us sinners back, through confession, when we turn from him.

And once Peter is restored to grace he is not left to wallow in his sin. He is not, in any way, downgraded in his ministry. Rather Jesus pushes him back into the work God has in store for him. “Feed my sheep.” Enough of the self pity Peter – having been healed by Christ’s love and mercy -now take that love and mercy to others.

Finally note this; Jesus didn’t only reverse the three fold denial. He also reversed his prophecy concerning Peter. Because before the resurrection, when Peter was living for self, Jesus could only see failure ahead. You will deny me three times. But now, after the resurrection – with the Holy Spirit on the way- Jesus recognises a change in Peter. He now truly wants to live in the Lord. And so Jesus can prophesy a better future. The gift he gives to all who turn to him in sincerity. Didn’t it take him a long time to truly give his life to Christ! There must be hope for us yet…

Jesus says Peter will grow in faith and love and then die with fierce love for God. Oh  and guess which word for love he uses? Yes- it is the word Peter couldn’t accept for himself. The purest love- a supernatural, divine love. The sort that flows from the Godhead into the true penitent who has turned in faith to Him.

And of course Peter did. Having taken the Gospel to Rome the devil came for Peter. At first Peter was, again, afraid. He ran out of Rome, fleeing his persecutors on the Appian way. But, ancient tradition states, as he ran he saw a vision of the risen Christ coming towards him. The risen Christ asks him ‘Where are you going?” And Peter, coming to his senses replied, ‘I am going to Rome to die for my Saviour!”  Then turning on his heel Peter went back into the city. And on Vatican hill he stretched out his arms for Christ and was crucified. Asking his aggressors to kill him upside down because the same death as Christ was too good for him.

At last Peter embraces the cross he shunned on Good Friday and so enters heaven. And over the place where his body fell stands St. Peter’s basilica today where his bones are still preserved. A testament in brick, mortar and relic to the lonely beaten man whose tears of bitterness turned into joy when he finally gave his life to Christ.

How do we find meaning and love in life? Not alone or looking to self that much is clear. First, God must break down our pride and self-sufficiency, often through failure and suffering. Then, when we are ready, he draws us further; guides us into pastoral work that bears fruit. The giving of self for others. And finally this process bears its ultimate fruit in a death that gives glory to God- by which we merit the place in his eternal kingdom.

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