More photos from Sunday…

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There are lots more photographs available of Sunday’s special service of First Communions and Confirmations at Saint Anselm’s. If you want to see the full selection then visit my flickr account. If you want to enlarge those on this post simply click on them.

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Thanks must go to Dave Reilly for being photographer on the day. He has really captured some very special moments for us.

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Do check them all out on the flickr account. They really are wonderful. I especially like this shot of the children lining up to offer the intercessions.

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Do continue to pray for those who were admitted to communion and those who were confirmed. We must pray hard that they are really rooted in the Catholic faith and come to love Jesus for life.

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And my  favourite, of course, is this shot of Jemima at the very moment she receives the body of Christ for the first time. That is one for the albums and for a frame! What a wonderful day it was.

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Pope offers his support!

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From the official website of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham ahead of the special “Called to be One” celebrations this September…

Pope Francis Prays for Success of Ordinariate’s Exploration Day

Pope Francis’ blessing on the exploration day and Archbishop Mennini’s words of support for it follow a statement of welcome for the initiative from Cardinal Vincent Nichols. In his capacity as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Cardinal said: “the Ordinariate both enriches the Catholic Church with Catholic aspects of the beautiful heritage and culture of Anglican patrimony and advances the cause of unity which must be the ultimate aim of all ecumenical activity… I wish you every success with this initiative. I hope it will attract many interested enquirers”.

Last week Mgr Newton warmly invited all those who are interested in the Ordinariate to attend the exploration day “whether because they are considering their future or just because they would like to see more of what we are and what we do” . Mgr Newton’s invitation came in his response to the Church of England General Synod’s decision to allow women to be ordained as bishops. In the same statement Mgr Newton said that, though that decision was a very happy one for many within the Church of England, it made the position undeniably harder for those within the Anglican Church who still longed for unity with Rome.

The Ordinariate was set up by Pope Benedict in 2011 to make it possible for Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church to do so, bringing with them much of the heritage and traditions of Anglicanism. Pope Benedict described these as “treasures to be shared”. On the exploration day, each of the 50 or so Ordinariate groups across the country will host a different event, with the common theme of the vision for Christian unity which is at the heart of the Ordinariate.

This is great news for those of us in the Ordinariate. It shows how we have the fullest support of the church in being at the front row of modern ecumenism. A unity lived out and not just talked about.

Here at Pembury the Called to be One celebrations will take the form of Choral Evensong & Benediction with a special talk and refreshments. Sunday 7th September at 6:30pm

Pray for Christians in the Middle East

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This is the Chaldean Cathedral in Mosul, Iraq, where Christians have worshipped peacefully for 1,800 years. It has this week been burnt to the ground by members of an extremist Muslim group, Isis, as all Christians are told to leave the country, pay a huge fine to be left alone or else slaughtered. It is a bitter persecution.

I apologise for the graphic nature of the following photograph, which is very disturbing, but we must understand the gravity of the situation faced at this moment by Christians in the Middle East. What you see are a group of Christian women, whose only “crime” was to follow Christ, their lives taken by monstrously evil men who subscribe to the intolerant creed of radical Islam.

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How many lives must be lost before our politicians take this seriously? Were they fashionably homosexual you feel the whole West would be there already. But because they are Christian, trends in political correctness lead people to look the other way. And the silence in the media has been deafening for months if not years.

We really must pray fervently to God for their souls. We must fast and hold devotions and pray for justice to be done. And above all we must call on those with power to stop looking the other way as people are butchered for their faith. And finally we must urge all decent Muslims to stand up to the nutters and speak out. It is not enough to simply point out that violent people are in the minority as this video shows- wait for the female speaker! I feel sorry for the questioner but the answer is bang on the money.

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So many troubling accounts of terrorism in the Middle East at present. Photographs showing the dead in pools of blood. Children crying at the feet of crucified parents. Evil thrives when good people do nothing. So what can we do to help the Christians of the Middle East? This link makes some suggestions. You might also join me in donating to those on the ground who are officially conducting humanitarian work for the Vatican. How do we help end the vile atrocities we all too often see perpetrated in the name of Islam.

As to Tony Blair and other Western leaders who drove into Iraq and unsettled that region, whilst lying about their intentions. Well I believe they should be standing in the dock and on trial for war crimes having unleashed much of this mess across the Middle East. Kyrie Eleison. So much hatred. So much violence. So much pain.

Standing room only…

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It was standing room only this morning for our first communion and confirmation Mass. Don’t the candidates look wonderful? More to follow…

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It was also “happy birthday” to Hayley who got a special thank you for all the hard work she does with children’s work in the parish.

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Building party

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Yesterday afternoon, on the hottest day of the year thus far, three good men joined me at Saint Anselm’s to help reconstruct our new external statue. No small task given it’s size!

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The task was made all the harder because those who had deconstructed the structure had cut through all the screws instead of undoing them. It was therefore a case of removing useless metal and inserting new fixtures.

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With the sun beating down it was important to keep the workers hydrated. Jugs of cold squash and cups of tea helping spur us onto victory…

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The structure, which once stood in Begbroke Priory in Oxfordshire, is 19th Century and made of seasoned oak. Great for durability, less great for driving screws into! But thanks to the expertise of my father in law, Peter Woodhouse, work carried on at pace! The structure is only temporarily situated by this wall where it is a little obscured. Once the new parish room is built it will move to a more prominent position facing the road. A clear sign to all that there is a Catholic Church on this site.

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Once constructed a cold beer was the reward for all. My thanks to the aforementioned Peter, to another Peter and also to Bernie. A job well done. Now to setting up for our confirmations and first communions this Sunday. It is going to be a busy weekend!

On the radio

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This week I recorded a radio interview for EWTN’s Celtic Connections, which you can listen to here. I was being asked to reflect on what is driving the many changes witnessed within  the Anglican Communion in recent time, including the decision to consecrate women to the  Episcopate and the support of a former Archbishop of Canterbury for Euthanasia.

The programme also includes an excellent interview with the Primate of Belgium, Archbishop Joseph Leanard. So make yourself a cuppa and tune in!

Evolution…only a theory

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I am grateful to Dominican scholar Fr. Thomas Crean, of the University of Oxford, for sharing the video above on his Facebook page. He posted it with the following explanation “Many Thomists look down on talk of ‘intelligent design’ in this man’s sense. Perhaps they think it is a mixing of disciplines. But Aristotle finishes his Physics with a proof for the existence of God.” 

I am grateful not so much for the science involved as for the reminder that  much of what is presented as “fact” today is merely the accepted theory embraced by the majority. And if we are not careful it can actually close our minds and lead us away from truly questioning and evaluating reality.

Evolution may or may not be eventually proved. Personally I believe in micro evolution (change within one species) but am very doubtful about macro evolution (change from one kind of species to another). But  I am no scientist. What is fun is the next video, produced by Muslims, in which it is pointed out to the “learned and the clever”, that what they profess  with great certainty as FACT is, in fact, FAITH. Oops! How awkward! It is worth seeing to the end…

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The Ordinary writes…

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Monsignor Keith Newton has written to his clergy asking for the prayers of our people. Please join me in obeying his request. Tomorrow morning our 10am Mass will now be for his intention.  He writes:

The Assisted Dying Bill has its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Friday 18 July. If it became law it would make incitement to suicide routine in our society, thereby putting pressure on the most vulnerable to see themselves as a burden to society. The Church’s teaching is clear: that human life, from conception to natural death, is a gift from God. Christ calls us to offer those facing serious illness care and hope, not despair and killing. The emergence of the hospice movement, which has enabled great progress in palliative care, is one of the fruits of this Christian calling common to Catholics, Anglicans and other Christians. The Assisted Dying Bill is a rejection of this Christian inheritance, and instead promotes what Pope St John Paul II called a ‘culture of death’

Information on lobbying Peers can be found here:

This conflict against the culture of death is first of all a spiritual one, and therefore I invite members of the Ordinariate and others to dedicate some time today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday) to pray – if possible before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – for the upholding of the sanctity of human life.

Not Dead Yet!

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Please take a moment to sign this petition. It has been organised by “Not Dead Yet” a group of  disabled activists who are very concerned about the proposed legislation to legalise Euthanasia. A reminder of what the Catholic Church teaches us about Euthanasia in the Catechism:

2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

Mgr. Burnham reflects…

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Monsignor Andrew Burnham, pictured above centre with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Menini, and Sister Winsome of the Ordinariate has asked me to share with you his reflections following the decision of the Church of England to admit women to the Anglican Episcopate. Before joining the Catholic Church Monsignor Burnham was the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. A passionate ecumenist he has long advocated RITA. Which stands for “Rome Is The Answer!”

Women Bishops and Unity with Rome

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For many years, those in the Anglican Communion who have been opposed to the ordination of women, have been attacked for misogyny and sexism. It has been well understood that Catholics and Orthodox have been trapped within ancient systems, making their male-only Holy Order inevitable, at least for the present. Like Orthodox Jews and Muslims, these age-old denominations would find – will find – huge difficulty with escaping from tradition. Anglicans, however – so the argument goes – have a means in their system of synodical government to escape and thus they can escape and must escape.

For the late Peter Hebblethwaite, a generation ago, Anglicanism, with its historic orders of bishop, priest, and deacon, would be a laboratory for the Universal Church.   As the ministry of women bishops, priests and deacons was gradually accepted at local level, so the whole Christian world would learn how inevitable this development is, how godly and welcome. The argument works where gender is thought to be irrelevant – there is nothing intrinsically different about men and women. It works no less well where the sexes are thought to be complementary. Women bring a whole raft of new skills, a new sensitivity, enabling wholeness to be discovered, half the human race being no longer barred from exercising representative ministry.

So much for sociology. The theology is a bit more difficult. There are roughly three positions, two quite well-developed and one less so. The first of the two quite well-developed notions is that the emancipation of women, like the ending of slavery, is the working out of Galatians 3:28 (‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ ESV). This is a theological position but it rides on what nowadays is called the human rights agenda.   Wilberforce and slavery. The suffragettes and female emancipation. If we call this the liberal position, we are using an accessible shorthand rather than a sharp description.

The second well-developed notion, beloved of charismatic evangelicals, is that God the Holy Spirit is always doing something new in his Church and one of the important new things he has been doing is opening the ordained ministry to women. God at work in his world. God at work in his Church.

The third position – less worked-out but espoused by no less a figure than the Archbishop of Canterbury during the final, 2014 stage of the debate in the Church of England, is that there should always have been women as bishops, priests, and deacons. Two thousand years of church history – and the ongoing practice of the majority of the Christian Church – stand indicted by the failure to recognise and use women’s ministry. It is a slightly dangerous argument for obvious historical reasons and it takes the risk of indicting Jesus Christ for choosing male apostles. The New Testament and the Church of the Ecumenical Councils, as well as the Church of the mediaeval period and the Protestant Reformation all fall short. We are saved by the Enlightenment, not the most reliable of allies.

The virtue of the decision of the General Synod in 2014 overwhelmingly to vote in favour of women bishops is that it restores coherence to English Anglicanism. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is, as it were repaired, once the mutual recognition of ministry, lost in the 1970s, is restored.   The position of those opposed to women’s ordination is respected. Once more they are said to have an honoured place and it would be churlish and discourteous to point out that, in this matter, rhetoric has always been stronger than practice in the twenty years since women have been ordained priest in England. The important difference now is that the language of reception and communion have been largely ditched in favour of the language of tolerance.

Until this point it has been possible – not always easy, but possible – to say that the ordination of women in Anglicanism has been provisional, awaiting the eventual verdict of the Universal Church. Something like Peter Hebblethwaite’s view. The new position is that not accepting women’s ministry – rather like a disability – is accepted lovingly. This priest does not fly: we won’t ask him to be a chaplain in the airforce. That priest is claustrophobic: we won’t ask him to visit prisoners. Those parishes don’t want a woman vicar: we’ll let them have a male one. It is, of course, licensed sexism and, like guest-houses being required to accept gay couples, and bakers being required to ice cakes with gay messages on them, it is only a matter of time before such prejudices become no longer tolerated.

The pressing issue for many will be: should one leave the Anglican Communion if one believes profoundly that women bishops are an impossibility, that the Eucharist celebrated by a woman priest is not truly confected? It might be thought, mutatis mutandis, that the conservative evangelical version of this is similar but, of course, it is not.   The Anglo-catholic version of the argument is ontological and the system, if it breaks down, ceases to be a system. The conservative evangelical minds his own business and finds order not in the wider structures but in the life of the local congregation and its relationship with like-minded groups, of whatever order, presbyterian or episcopalian.

It is not the job of Catholics, even Catholics who have been Anglicans, to persuade others to leave the Anglican Communion. Nor could one become a Catholic legitimately simply on the basis of the implosion, as one would see it, of Anglican ecclesiology. Anglicans are not Catholics who believe a bit less. Catholics are not Anglicans who believe a bit more. In the end, the similarities between the two systems – Anglo-catholic and Roman Catholic – as Newman saw are illusory. In the end they are two very different systems.

A personal anecdote illustrates this well. On 15th July, travelling to London, the train had to make an unscheduled stop. As happens, the passengers, silent until this point but anticipating a delay that was possibly a long one, began to talk. My neighbour, a man in his forties, asked me which I was. ‘Catholic’ I replied. He then raised with me what the difference was. He had it in one: Catholics look to the Pope and Anglicans (because of Henry VIII’s divorce) to the English Crown. Then he wanted to talk about what most concerned him: not the front page news about women bishops, that was displayed on our table, but the absurd claim, attributed to Pope Francis, and no doubt made off the papal cuff, that 2% of Catholic clergy were pædophiles.   For him, and for me, and for many, comparing Catholics and Anglicans is like comparing apples and oranges. To become a Catholic, then, is inevitable and necessary not because of what happens elsewhere but because one becomes convinced of the claim of the Church that the Catholic Church subsists in the Roman Catholic Church.