The Balrog’s tail

The Lord of the Rings is a great work infused with Catholic themes. One of the dramatic moments takes place when the heroes traverse the inside of a mountain where an ancient evil resides. A demon named Balrog dwells there and he is stirred as the adventures pass. With desire for destruction it attacks Gandalf and, after an epic struggle, Gandalf’s white magic defeats the Balrog but the danger is not gone… For even as the beast is falling to its death it mounts a final attack. Flicking its deadly tail it grabs the wizard pulling him back down into the darkness with him….

A senior cleric recently suggested, to a friend of mine, that this scene is a perfect illustration of what is happening in the Church. Where Modernism, a heresy which rose up in the wake of Vatican II,  threatened Catholic orthodoxy in the second half of the last Century. In many ways it was and is like a spiritual Balrog which has, in truth, been defeated though its danger is still present and felt.

The defeat is clear because liberal modernists, those who crafted their own version of Vatican II  that encouraged rupture not continuity, have not produced fruit that will last. (I am not speaking of a difference in style here, many very faithful Catholics like simplicity, but of those who have a dissident mindset)

Mass attendance is down where their ideas played out, their concrete churches, stripped bare by their passions, look tired and ugly today and will not, I predict, be deemed worthy of renovation by future generations.  The nominalism they encourage has only emptied seminaries and religious orders. Put bluntly they have not convinced the next generation of their ideals. It is therefore only a matter of time before they vanish. For those who follow watered down religion lose faith altogether. Hence the young raised on a modernist diet have largely given up on God and the church and simply vanished into the secular culture around them.

So Modernism is dying as we enter the 21st Century. Seminaries are now housing men more orthodox than their tutors and it is the religious orders that value tradition that are growing. And the few young people who have not abandoned church now hunger for orthodoxy where it has been introduced to them. Witness the  fruitfulness of St. Patrick’s Soho under Fr. Sherbrook or Holy Ghost, Balham when under the steer of Fr. Langridge. And even in the little places, such as our parish in Pembury, a drop in the average age of worshipper coincides with reforms that follow more closely the rubrics of the Missal and the teaching of the faith with passion.

So Modernism is dying but -remember the scene with the Balrog- its danger has not gone. For its disciples are now in their sixties and seventies and therefore sat on thrones of power and influence. And like wasps at the end of summer they are angry because they can see their vision for the church floundering. They can smell defeat around the corner. Thus they redouble their efforts at present. Witness how the last Synod on the Family was manipulated by political games from modernist sources. The last great push is on…the tail is flicking!

For the modernists are like a people who sincerely believe that cars can run on orange juice instead of petrol. Who, when the cars then stop working, do not conclude that orange juice harms engines but that not enough juice can have been used! The modernists are so wedded to their vision for the Church, centred on loosening moral teaching to fit the conclusions of the sexual revolution, that they refuse to look at the evidence before them. They crush the traditional and orthodox voices and do all in their power to force on the church their own conclusions.

So the tail is whipping like mad even as it becomes obvious that the fruit of the last fifty years was scant. The tail whips even the effect Modernism had on seminaries, mass attendance, religious communities becomes obvious. The tail is whipping even as it becomes so clear that where orthodoxy is allowed to grow there will be found growth, spiritual health, youth and vitality.

We who wish to be faithful to the teaching of the Church in all ages must be patient. We must hold the line and resist un-Catholic innovations. For the future is bright and the light will re-emerge from this period of darkness. Gandalf returns in the end…

Going to print…

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I was delighted to learn yesterday that the Catholic Truth Society have approved a book proposal entitled “Questions and Answers about the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham”- a project I have been working on, as part of my involvement in the media wing of the Ordinariate.

An obstacle the Ordinariate can encounter is that of ignorance. It is not uncommon for those of us who are members to discover that the people we meet have either not heard about us at all or have totally misunderstand what we are about! And who can blame them given that few had this development in the life of the Catholic church properly explained to them? So this booklet aims to plug those gaps in knowledge and put the vision across simply but effectively.

I shall be personally gifting a copy to all clergy in our deanery- and -once it is published- I urge you to do the same within your deanery. And then hand them out to the laity! For this small booklet will be an affordable and easy read. A tract for the times- Newman would approve!

Written in every day language, and aiming to be as jargon free as possible,  it should be a great resource for your parish. Watch this space for further details….

Update: Baby Harry and the home cooked dinners!

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The great news is that prayers, and the medical expertise of hospital staff, are paying dividends and baby Harry Grech is out of intensive care and onto the high dependency unit. He is still struggling a little, so keep praying, but the outlook is positive. We are hoping he will be fit enough to go home next week which will be a huge relief for poor mum who just wants him cuddled up with her.

She is not only having to feed him every few hours and ensure that bonding takes place in hospital but also consider the needs of her other three children. Fortunately dad is there to take up the majority of the strain but it is nevertheless a very testing time for the family. But that is just the moment when being part of a healthy church community pays off….

For I was delighted to discover that several of our other mums have taken the initiative, pulled together a rota, and are producing delicious home cooked food delivered to the family each day. Well done to them! And keep praying for baby Harry and the Grech household. Hopefully normality for them is just around the corner. Pray too for all babies in hospital and those who care for them.

Amazing generosity

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We have just counted the total given to this year’s advent/crib charity and have raised a whopping £1465 to send to Father Damian Perera, a priest working with very little resources in Sri Lanka, to contribute to his work in providing education to impoverished children. This is a truly fantastic total given the modest size of our congregation and I thank everyone who gave so generously. What an amazing congregation we have!

Praying for the departed

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This week two special services took place for departed relatives of those in our congregation. Yesterday I officiated at the burial of Peter Rhodes, father of Gail Radley. Today I assisted at the memorial service of Robert Harrison, husband of Jenny. Both occasions were uplifting and the souls of the departed were held in prayer. We continue to pray for them at Mass each day.

Do please join us in prayers for Peter and Robert. And pray too for the Radley family and Jenny as they come to terms with their loss.

Eternal life grant unto them O Lord. And let light perpetual shine on them. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Christianity in action

Yesterday this clip was used during a lesson at Saint Gregory’s Catholic school in Tunbridge Wells to which I had been invited. The theme was forgiveness and the young people were asked to think about what the church teaches in this regard. We began with this emotionally charged clip which shows the parents of victims of a serial killer speaking to the person who wrecked their lives. Witness the killer break down, not when he faces hatred and anger, but when he is shown love and forgiveness he has no right to expect.

I began my slot in the lesson by asking the children what it was that made the old man so different from the others. A few youngsters had picked up on it which was pleasing. The man who demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for love and forgiveness was inspired by his Christian faith. It led us to wonder if grace might be playing a part. It seems fair to conclude that we witness a man fuelled by the Holy Spirit to become more than he might otherwise be. His virtue perfected by God through the ministry of the church.

We then thought about confession noting how God expects a sinner to be truly sorry, desirous of amendment of life and ready to walk in His ways before forgiveness is offered. Surely the Catholic is only expected to do likewise. Reconciliation occurring only when both parties are ready to bridge the impasse, when true helping of relationship is possible. But this doesn’t let us off the hook when somebody refuses to say sorry. Because…

God does not sulk and harbour bad feeling when we reject him. Rather his heart is full of love for the sinner, he is waiting to forgive in hope, he desires above all the reconciliation of the relationship and will do anything to make it happen. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan where the father RUNS to embrace the lost son! We must mirror this attitude of love when we have been hurt. We must love our enemy and do good to those who hate us. Showing love beyond expectation that forgiveness may be easy and possible. Which is what the old man did because of his faith in the video. There is no room for bitterness, resentment and a desire for vengeance in the heart of the believer.

Finally we pondered that nobody is too far gone to be forgiven. Which is great news for all of us who are sinners and might harbour deep shame about sins we have committed. God never tires of forgiving us. And so long as somebody is genuinely sorry, desires to do better and seeks the Lord then there is hope. We must forgive again and again. Something easier said than done but with power to transform the world as the video shows.

Which relationships in your life are in need of healing and forgiveness? Are you receiving the healing of the confessional to aid you on the path to bringing that healing to others? Are you in need of being forgiven? Do something beyond reasonable expectation to bring about that healing today.

Welcome Harry! And prayers please…

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Congratulations to Marie and Darren Grech who have produced a delightful little brother, Harry Peter Francis, for Katherine, Daniel and Jessica. All of Saint Anselm’s congregation will, I am sure, join me in the hearty congratulations.

Unfortunately baby Harry cannot be with mum at present because there were some little complications with the birth which means he is currently being cared for in the intensive care department. We are optimistic he will soon gain strength and benefit from the wonderful care of the hospital staff.  We are also optimistic that he will benefit from the prayers of the faithful. Please pray for him today.

The problem with gradualism

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Oh no! Another in flight interview from Pope Francis leading to another comment leading to deep confusion. It provides the enemies of the church with an obvious opportunity for spin which they will take. I refer to comments given to reporters yesterday regarding fidelity to Catholic teaching on contraception. The Pope made clear that Catholics need not “breed like rabbits” A phrase famously used by Ian Paisley to chastise those he claimed “bred like vermin”.

What the Pope was undoubtedly attempting to say was that living according to Catholic teaching does not automatically lead to lots of children. He was  informing those outside the Church that use of Natural Family Planning means one can live faithfully yet space out offspring, citing the necessary example of a mother whose life is endangered. And remember he was only speaking about this subject because he had used this tour to make clear his support for Catholic teaching as found in humanae vitae. So it is definitely not the case that he is being radical, only defending his defence of Church teaching.

But that isn’t what the world is going to hear. People will delight in twisting those words to draw false conclusions. Firstly the suggestion will be made that this is evidence regarding a softening of Catholic teaching under Francis. Secondly that large families are not wonderful gifts to a world desperately in need of more children. I am so sorry that the confusion is going to bruise large Catholic families. If you are one of those then hear this from -a priest of the Church- we love you and we need you!

Why does this Pope cause this confusion on such a regular basis? As stated before it is- I believe- because he has one message for those outside the church and one for those within the church. He perceives that the faithful need a radically different message to those far from it in the culture we currently inhabit.

Which is why his message to Catholics this week was to reinforce Catholic teaching and praise Pope Paul VI for the wisdom of humane vitae. But to those outside the church, via the world’s media on the plane home, he chose to use one of their common misconceptions- that Catholics ‘breed like rabbits’- to teach that, in fact, living by Catholic teaching may not be the reality they imagine.

One message for the faithful Catholic and one for the person on the periphery. It is something we have seen before. The world gets told “who am I to judge?” so that people understand the Church welcomes sinners. The Cardinals are then judged and given a roasting for having not lived up to the standards Christ expects. It is all part of that gradualist approach the Holy Father has made clear is part of his arsenal when it comes to evangelisation.

The problem is that, in a media saturated world, the messages are in danger of running into one another and get horribly distorted. Then the world hears what it wants to hear and faithful Catholics become confused or even disillusioned. Not for the first time I wonder if a man who feels comfortable as the world’s parish priest needs to ponder his also being Pope? So often he seems to forget that shooting from the hip is dangerous when every word, sentence and phrase will be scrutinised in detail. Might he take a leaf from his predecessor’s book, or that of Her Majesty the Queen, and say only what is  necessary and only then after careful consideration?

I don’t know. Because whilst moments like these leave me banging my head on the table- this Pope has managed to grab the world’s attention in a remarkable way. It might be that the pain of frequent misunderstanding is the price to be paid for the Church drawing the world closer to itself.

Ultimately the proof will be in the pudding. Are attendances and vocations rising or falling under Francis? Is the church strengthened or weakened on his watch? Risk is by definition dangerous and at present the court is out. What is certain is that he is a man whose personality and character will ensure that more surprised are just around the corner!

Biggest crowd in history?

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Some 6 MILLION people gathered for the Papal Mass in Manila. It is reckoned to be one of, if not THE, largest Catholic crowd in history. As Father Nicholas remarked at Mass this morning, it is wonderful watching the faith of the people of both Sri Lanka and the Philippines who have turned out in such large number to greet the Holy Father. Many of these people have no funds to arrive via fast train or motor car and will have walked a great many miles to be present. It is a real sign of the strength of faith of those who have so little. What a contrast to those in the affluent West…