Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

The Immaculate Conception


Organist wanted!


Please get the message out there- share this with any musicians you know!

St Anselm’s, Pembury (nr. Tunbridge Wells) seeks organist/director of music. Annual stipend offered. A Catholic parish of 150, run by the Ordinariate Plainchant, hymns, and polyphony – treasures of the English musical heritage – appreciated by clergy and congregation. We aim for dignity in liturgy and warmness in welcome. Contact: Fr. Ed Tomlinson – frtomlinson@yahoo.co.uk

Concert in church


Tomorrow evening (Friday) there is a musical meditation in church, hosted by members of our congregation and their friends, to raise money for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. It begins at  7:30pm and everyone is welcome to attend. Entry is free but there will be a retiring collection. Here is the programme:

Words of Welcome by Dr Brian Beeley

Piano – Patricia Jacobs: Arabesque Schumann

Linda Gorringe sings Panis Angelicus by César Franck

Helen Rathbone Cello accompanied by Dr Peter Ball: The Swan Saint-Saens

Continental Christmas Carols sung by Aidan Lee accompanied by lyre, clarinet and piano

A reading by Helen Warriner

Heather Champion sings ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’ from Handel’s Messiah.

Aidan Lee sings Recit: Comfort me my people –Every Valley Handel

By their fruits…


Sometimes arguments break out within the body of Christ which cause division and, if not nipped in the bud, can even lead to to the scandal of schism. God’s desire is for his church to be one; but such divinely intended unity can only occur via shared proclamation of truth. It is threatened by acts of rebellion. What is needed then, above all else, is fidelity to the faith of the ages. A trust in what has been handed to us from the Apostles and not from the noise of the world.

Meanwhile the devil, father of lies, delights in disagreement and loathes the clarity of truth. Whenever truth gives way to subjective opinion in matters of morality- be assured his work is being done. Soon people pride themselves- not on steadfastness of faith- but the ability to doubt! They shun clarity, claiming it naive,  and worship ‘grey areas’ instead; a supposed hallmark of permissive sophistication. Or we might say that a blanket of confusion hides multiple sins.

This celebration of relativistic and pluralistic uncertainty, so common in the world, seems to have entered the life of the Church. Which is astonishing given that Christ chose to live amongst us precisely that his truth might be known not guessed at! The deposit of faith given because conscience is an unreliable guide in matters of faith. Which father would suggest a child simply follow their conscience because life is complex and there are no moral absolutes? Not a good one! The good father upholds virtue and helps children understand, clearly, the difference between right and wrong. And he welcomes inquisitive minds, never scolding anyone for asking a question, because explanation is ever needed where clarity is concerned.

What then to make of the Holy Father’s stubborn refusal -to date- to answer polite questions posed by Cardinals of good repute? Can there be an explanation besides a lack of satisfactory answer? Why does he press ahead with this agenda given that his synod already turned it down as being inconsistent with the faith of the ages? And why do those who defend the relativist agenda sink always to personal insult? Labelling orthodox voices ‘rigid and uncaring’? Is it really rigid or uncaring to believe that sound pastoral care cannot come at cost to doctrinal fidelity? Where is the mercy for those unconvinced by this agenda? It strikes me that a spiritual war is raging -and we who owe allegiance to Christ must stand by the truth of the Gospel.

But which side is doing God’s work? I would suggest it is easy to work this out in Christian disagreement. Look for those hungering for clarity and and be wary of those encouraging confusion. Look for those who uphold something different to the world not those who seek to change the faith to accommodate worldly thinking. But most of all just step back and observe; learn to judge by the fruit…

Because whenever Spiritual warfare breaks out truth is revealed in human behaviour. Ask yourself who is rational and and who is irrational? Who is polite and who is rude? Who is seething with rage and who is calm and prayerful? Who is making threats and insults and who is showing love to their opponent? Jesus told us we would know them by their fruit. And, if we view the current malaise through this prism of behaviour, a palpable difference emerge. It speaks volumes to me. One side seems politically motivated, the other concerned for the church. One is loved by the world’s media – the other by the most devout within the church.

The current crisis is deadly serious. Some say even more serious than the crisis of the 16th Century or the Arian heresy. So we must support, by prayer and by being vocal, those upholding truth against error. For what is coming into play is a clash between orthodox faith and a modernist revision of it. And if Rome falls, allowing just one thing in contradiction to scripture and tradition, the floodgates will open. We have witnessed this already in the Anglican communion.

NB: Oh and do not be deceived by the modernist line ‘this is a new work of the Spirit’. The Spirit is always cited by modernists because they know scripture, reason and tradition are against them. But there is no division in the Godhead. Indeed the very notion the Spirit might contradict the teaching of the Son is anathema.

A dark storm batters the doors of the church then and Christ will need those who stand in the light to repel it. Let us pray that clarity and doctrinal certainty will not be sacrificed in pursuit of a false understanding of mercy. And let us pray that the Cardinals of the church will stand by Christ with courage and save us from schism. The modernist heresy must be defeated. I am praying that the Holy Father will answer the questions posed and come down on the only side that will bring peace and unity. The side which leaves all things in harmony with the teaching of the ages. Let us all pray for him and for the brave men who have dared to challenge the thinking and agenda which is threatening Christian unity in our day.

The works have begun


The plasterers have done a brilliant job this week covering both the central wall in church as well as the one in the Sacred Heart chapel. We now wait for the plaster to set and dry before we can paint, re-mount the furnishings and continue with the works. Perhaps Advent is a good season in which to find the sanctuary muted by necessity.

The rear wall in church will be coloured in the same blue/grey as the side walls in the sanctuary. The reredos and sacred images will then return to their places before a new gradine is constructed, to house the big six candlesticks and tabernacle. Then the altar will be raised up onto a stage. The end result should be much better with muted walls, less busy than the brickwork, ensuring the furnishings stand out. It should lead the eye to the altar and tabernacle- the heart of the church.


Meanwhile the Sacred Heart chapel will be painted in a deep burnt red. Against which our beautiful new reredos, creating by C. H. Ashbee a contemporary and friend of William Morris, will stand out. It is going to look magnificent. And, as if all of this is not enough, the kitchen is also progressing nicely (photographs to finish) and should be in full working order in time for the pre-Christmas lunch on the 10th December. Lots for us to be thankful for then and lots to be grateful about. Watch this space for completed images.

The Silence

Martin Scorsese has directed a film, starring Liam Neeson, centred on the martyrs of Japan and the spread of the Gospel in that place. The trailer is certainly very good and this one certainly has my interest piqued… Let us hope it proves to be a fair and decent devotional film.

A lay retreat


A special retreat for lay people is being organised at the Catholic Shrine in Walsingham by the Ordinariate. It will begin on Friday 10th March at 4pm and end on Sunday 12th March after lunch. Those resident on the retreat will be staying in the new accommodation located at the Dowry on the High Street. The cost is £150 per person (full board) and the retreat conductor will be Revd. Dr. Stephen Morgan.

To book: send £20 non-refundable deposit- with name and address to: Ordinariate Lay Retreat, 56 Woodlands Farm Road, Pype Hayes, Birmingham, B24 0PG.

The balance needs to be paid by the 1st March and cheques are made payable to Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Enjoy!

Advent Charity 2016


This coming Sunday, at 6:30pm, we shall be hosting a special ‘Advent Carol Service’ to mark the beginning of the Advent season. All the favourite Advent hymns/carols will be sung and the readings will focus attention on the great advent themes.  We will also set up our donation box in church and pray for God’s blessing upon this year’s Advent charity- the Angel Tree.

The Angeltree project, an initiative of the ecumenical Prison Fellowship Organisation,  supports prison families by providing a way for incarcerated parents to give Christmas presents to their children. Local volunteers raise funds and work with churches and prison chaplains to buy and deliver these presents. As long as a prisoner is allowed access to their child, prisoners can apply for a gift to be sent. Each gift is sent as though from the parent and is accompanied by a personal message written by the parent for their child.

This is such important work. Families, especially children, suffer greatly when somebody is imprisoned. Anything we can do to hold such families together is important. And because I travel to East Sutton Park Prison every Wednesday, where I serve as the Catholic chaplain, I can personally guarantee that the donation will be sent direct to where it is needed most. Please give generously.

Power only to serve


The fairytale Aladdin centres on the discovery of a magical lamp which produces an all powerful genie. Yet, despite the power the genie possesses, the wretch is a slave. He must grant the wishes of any master and is utterly bound by the magic of the lamp. At the end of the Disney Movie he is set free by Aladdin both from the power and bondage. He cannot have the one without the other. Take note.

This image of the genie is helpful in explaining papal infallibility.  A pontiff has power but only at service of the church. No Pope may change teaching at whim or to pursue political outcomes. In fact a Pope may only speak infallibly when the new teaching is in line with scripture and tradition. When it is a natural development not an innovation. Church teaching, like the arm of a child, develops but it cannot change into something different. Infallible teaching exists to end confusion and settle important matters. When a Pope speaks ex cathedra he declares definitive teaching. But it is a rigorous process and has only, actually, occurred twice. Once when Pope Pius IX ruled on the Immaculate Conception and later when Pope Pius XII settled the matter of Mary’s Assumption into heaven.

This week something HUGE blew up in the Vatican. For the first time since 1330 the Holy Father has been formally questioned by a number of Cardinals. They have produced questions to which they demand CLEAR answers. The questions centre on the vague text of the controversial document Amoris Laetitia; which has caused confusion in the church for it reads more like an Anglican document designed to appease all views than a Catholic document seeking clarity. The pastoral fallout has been a predictable free for all, some clergy handing out communion to divorced and re-married, others refusing. None can deny clarity- in the face of this contradiction in practice- that clarity would be helpful.

To date Pope Francis has ignored the request. It seems his personal desire- the intended reason for the ‘Year of Mercy’ and ‘Synod on the Family’ -was to change teaching in regard divorce and re-marriage. But such change has proved hard. The Synod refused the modernist desire because it could not be defended by scripture and tradition. And this, I suspect, is why the holy father has contempt for traditionalists at present whom he labels ‘rigid’. Well now the ‘rigid’ (others might say ‘faithful’) Cardinals are demanding he does not bring about his desired change deviously or by the back door. Such power is not his to exercise.

The demand comes because, after the failed Synod, the modernist camp (who refer to themselves as Mafia) changed tack. The Pope praised voices that encouraged a liberal interpretation but without explanation. In effect  a nudge and a wink was given now that formal declaration proved impossible. The hope being that praxis could do what doctrine could not. But even this approach is failing as the worried Cardinals, in love, have taken their concerns for the church into the public domain.

The warning is clear;  if teaching is not clarified officially, and via correct process, the Cardinals will move to declare the document heretical and begin proceedings to challenge current papal authority. Gloves are off as four  brave Cardinals attempt to show the world that political tactics must not frustrate Catholic process. Pope Francis must show how these changes are faithful to the teaching of the church or retract them. It is an historic moment as Cardinal Burke is amongst the most senior Canon Lawyers in the world.

All of this infighting is upsetting but it isn’t new. And amidst the chaos it is very comforting to note how the defences are actually working. We have been here before in history and there is every reason to believe truth will ultimately emerge victorious as it did after the Arian crisis. It is ever clearer that the Pope himself is having to learn a lesson. He is a genie; a servant not master of Catholic teaching. No matter what he attempts the settled doctrine will frustrate him, if he is being innovative, and call him back to Christ. And that, I think, is a wonderful lesson for all Catholics to observe.

The modernist camp will now put up a good fight- popularism and modern culture is on their side (witness the Tablet refer to Catholic doctrine as ‘old fashioned teaching and a request for simply clarity as ‘a trap’!)  but as the storms of modernism crashes against the barque of Peter so it looks likely that the gates of hell will not prevail.  We who wish to be faithful must pray for our Holy Father and for the brave Cardinals who seeking clarity on our behalf. For only clarity will allow the truth of Christ to emerge.

A good motto for seekers of truth then; never be frightened of clarity and always doubt the motives of people who are. I hope and pray Pope Francis will come out and clarify teaching and show that this was all just a misunderstanding.

Exciting opportunity at St. Anselm’s


Tom, our lovely director of Music, is relocating to Bournemouth after Christmas due to work commitments and changes in his private life. There is some good news in this for him personally and he goes with our best wishes, our thanks and our prayers. However….it does leave us short of an organist/director of Music for the second time in as many years! So if you know of anybody who might be available to play the organ on Sunday please get in touch.

The good news for any incoming musician is that our previous post holders have been very happy in their time here. We have a close and genuinely welcoming community and are enthusiastic about liturgical music. Our musicians are therefore valued! An advertisement will appear once I have met with the parish treasurers and wardens to set a budget for renumeration. But if anyone wants to get in early and speak directly- my telephone number is 01892 825009.

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