Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

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Alfie Evans needs protection

Alfie Evans is a child who, following a seizure in 2016, has been on life support at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool due to an undiagnosed degenerative illness. In recent months the doctors treating Alfie, believing his condition incurable, wanted to bring his life to an end. A decision which brought them into sharp conflict with his parents who want him to be given every chance, not least as he is not in pain and still partially responsive. The photograph above was taken yesterday.

When Alfie’s parents decided to move their son to a Catholic hospital in Rome (pro-life rather than part of a culture of death) the conflict between State and family took a sinister turn. Using a law that enables the State to overthrow parental rights when deemed “in the best interests of a child”- police were sent to stop the family leaving hospital with Alfie. A seemingly callous decision that scandalised people throughout the world. Since then the authorities have remained bullish in maintaining their stance that Alfie should not be moved to another hospital. What gives them that right?

The saga took a dramatic twist last night when the Italian government, at the Pope’s behest, granted Alfie citizenship to enable him to be transferred to the Vatican hospital against the wish of the State. Pope Francis tweeted support asking that the needs of parents be considered and met. Instead, at 9pm, a judge ruled that Alfie’s breathing tube be removed and medical assistance withdrawn. His death would have been instantaneous had the hospital been granted its initial preference to use a chemical cosh to euthanise. Fortunately they lost that bid at an earlier hearing and so Alfie was left with his parents overnight to let nature take its course.

Since then a minor miracle has occurred. As of this morning, against all odds and the assurances of the medics, Alfie continues to breathe unaided. He is being held skin to skin by his mother and father, who have proved heroic in fighting his cause. The family hope to launch a fresh appeal when the courts re-open enabling his transfer to go ahead. They ask for the prayers of the Catholic community.

It is important to recognise that ethical situations like these are notoriously tricky. Our doctors and nurses work hard to help people and have to make lots of very difficult decisions. They have to work to economic constraints whilst also striving to bring comfort and care to the sick. Nevertheless the following questions gnaw at me

 

  • What is the justification here for the family being sidelined by the State? When did our children become their possession? This blog has long warned that the break down of the family and rise of Big State is a dire threat to personal liberty and the home. This proves that point.
  • How can it be argued that death is ‘in the best interest’ of Alfie given the he remains comfortable and alive when given life support? How can any long term decisions be made given that his illness is undiagnosed?
  • What reason is there for not enabling the transfer to Rome? The cost is being met by others? I do wonder if the decision to end his life was partially economic and the authorities are uneasy about the implications should Alfie do well.

Rugby tour

Most rugby playing fathers, once age catches up with them and bodies are broken, turn to coaching minis. Something I would have loved to get involved with but cannot due to priestly commitments; youth rugby has become a Sunday morning activity in recent years across the entire nation. Our local club has hundreds of families involved.

This secular phenomenon of Sunday morning sport is bad news for the church because I know several families who might well be church goers but for a love of the game. They are the sort who are not committed Christians (yet!) but who are certainly open to the faith. We must find different times in which to promote our services and way to meet their need.

Not wanting my boys to miss out I, rather selfishly, put on an 8am Mass at St. Anselm’s a couple of years ago. The idea being that Benny could get to Mass before training and thereby fulfil both duties. I thought it would be just the two of us but, to my surprise, that Mass has steadily grown and we now get around 20 most weeks. There are lots of reasons why people occasionally require an early Mass and some who simply like that slot. The 8am is here to stay.

The good news, for Benny, is that another boy in the congregation is in the same team. Meaning his father takes them both off to training after Mass. But the downside is that he never gets to play in front of his dad which is important for boys. So when news of the under 8 tour to the Isle of Wight was announced I grabbed the opportunity to make it up to him. And so at 7:45am this morning we head off together for a great weekend of rugby and fun.

As Father Nicholas is also away, in Ireland for a family wedding, I am grateful to Monsignor Keith Newton, who released Fr. Mark Elliot-Smith from Sunday duties at Warwick Street in London to enable him to come to Pembury and cover services this weekend. Please be there to support him and give him a warm welcome. He looks forward to seeing how the Ordinariate functions within a village setting. And it goes without saying that I am also very grateful to him!

Beware paradigm shifters

The latest buzzword, amongst those who hunger to water down the Catholic faith, is ‘paradigm shift’. Have you run up against awkward scripture that frustrates your favoured narrative? No problem – ignore that teaching by explaining it is time for a ‘paradigm shift’!

Does the historic teaching of the church contradict a desire to endorse _________? (insert favoured cause) Explain how the Holy Spirit is ‘doing a brave new thing’ encouraging a ‘paradigm shift’. If your audience still seems unsure make clear it is a ‘work of mercy’ and demonise those faithful to the previous historic teaching as outdated ‘rigid and legalistic’. Then most will applaud; certainly politicians, the secular media, cafeteria Catholics, atheists, liberal protestants et al…

Cardinal Tobin, who recently caused scandal by sending a private text- (reading ‘Nighty, night baby. I love you xx’) as a public tweet; and whose explanation (that it was for his sister…) was largely met with scepticism, is the latest to jump on this bandwagon. At a conference endorsing modernist agenda he suggested the church is ‘moving’ in its approach to homosexuality because…. a paradigm shift is underway!

But here is the problem for Cardinal Tobin and other advocates of  modernist revolution within the church. You cannot endorse a paradigm shift if there is only one acceptable paradigm!

This is made clear at Mass when we are told that the new covenant is eternal. It is made clear in Hebrews where, in a passage instructing us to honour marriage, we read ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever’. It was spoken by Isaiah  ‘the grass withers, the flowers fade but the Word of God will stand forever’ After his resurrection Jesus made it clear, on the road to Emmaus, teaching how his rising was no ‘paradigm shift’ but a fulfilment of Old Testament promises. Jesus also said “until heaven and earth pass away, not even one iota, nor one stroke of a letter, shall pass away from the law”. 

So how can it be implied, by Tobin et al, that God is now abandoning historic doctrine to do a new thing? A thing, it must be noted, that does not strengthen church teaching but concedes ground to secular concensus and philosophy of the sexual revolution. By all established rules of the church such change is not permissible. And given that those pushing the change can only appeal to sentiment not reason, pleading the cause of mercy but refusing to answer questions with clarity, we ought smell a rat. Might this be a demand for heretical teaching?  Are we being duped into accepting snake oil to ensure comfort from the world?

The Holy Spirit, Word of God, the deposit of faith revealed to Apostles, the Catholic faith -these things being divinely revealed truth  are not for changing. Things might develop naturally but cannot change via contradiction. Because God does not do U-turns. Truth is truth. And this is VERY important. Because when we stop looking to scripture and tradition, to discern the will of God, we are left only with ‘experts’ to tell us which bits to believe and which to discard. We switch from a reliance on objective divine revelation to  subjective discernment imparted by  fallen men. Clericalism writ large. And if the abuse crisis, and rumours of immoral lives within the Vatican, teach us anything – it is that we should not place trust in the Princes of this world but in Christ whose church it is.

So when modernist theologians attempt to seduce you into squaring impossible circles, in the name of mercy and via the ‘paradigm shift’, be extremely cautious. Meditate on scripture, consider the teaching of  Saints. And do read 2 Timothy 4:3 which warns that ‘the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.’ 

Beware Paradigm shifters…I fear they sell us snake oil.

The BBC wants to have cake and eat it…

BBC Radio 4 is at its best when it steps aside from a politically motivated agenda, that seeks to impose a new moral and cultural narrative, and focuses instead on impartial stories of genuine interest.

One such item, on the Today programme yesterday, was a perfect example. It reported on a study revealing a minority of people are born with a fourth cone allowing them to see colour in a superior way. These super visual people may see shades and colours the rest do not. Genuinely interesting stuff.

But then came the bombshell moment when the Beeb let slip it does not believe its own narrative. Because the report made clear only women are born this way. Which is odd given how much energy the BBC normally expends assuring us our sex is not objective reality but open to choice; as if we may choose to be male, female or any number of realities which our grandparents never heard of…

So unless the BBC can explain why nobody who identifies as woman (but was born with penis) has this extra cone..it must surely concede that all previous claims suggesting ‘gender’ is subjective are scientifically faulty. For this report made clear  the biologically determined differences between men and women. So which is it BBC? Do you uphold scientific fact as reported by yourselves yesterday or refute it? You cannot logically have it both ways.

Understand I have sympathy with those whose psychological state makes them question reality. Mental illness is no joke and such people need acceptance, love and support. Be gentle with those who suffer delusion; be it the anorexic who believes themselves fat, or those unable to accept their sex. But what such people do not need is a state sanctioned collusion in the delusion that contradicts truth!

It would be unspeakably cruel to gouge the eye and hack the hand off the person who believes they are Lord Nelson. So why do health professionals hand out drugs and perform mutilating surgeries on people, some of them only teens, who are deeply confused about their sex? And why do the media applaud this and act as if biological science is not a factual discipline?

The differences between men and women are biologically determined. They exist not only in fourth cones but at a chromosomal level and can even be seen in skeletal remains! It is high time  we stopped the ridiculous PC narrative that undermines objective reality and dared speak truth in love. Doing this does not mean we must be hard or cruel on vulnerable people who need our support. Disagreement is allowed in civilised debate and sometimes those who question our assumptions and beliefs are working very much in our favour.

Don’t be desperate and needy

Anyone who has been pursued romantically by somebody they do not fancy knows desperation is a turn off. There is something repellent about neediness especially when it stems from lack of self dignity and respect. Thus marriage counsellors tell wounded spouses to retain self worth if they wish to fix marital problems. Become needy and you lose respect. Exude self worth and others find you attractive.

If only the modern church could grasp this truth. For one so often detects a sense of desperation amidst evangelisation which contributes to decline. From giant thermometers begging for money to endless trendy slogans and gimmicks, one senses neediness. Then, instead of showing the world the true value of living faith by putting trust in supernatural grace and daring to live differently, Christians are found begging for societal acceptance, leading to cringe inducing initiatives and misguided approaches to liturgy and doctrine.

Standards slip, truth is watered down, in fact anything goes when Christians become too desperate for secular approval! The church enters an insane courtship dance being gradually seduced by the world’s narrative, seeking relevance at any cost. She appears cheap, desperate and less than attractive. Not mysterious and enticing- as when she relies instead on her founding principles and dares preach the faith without compromise. More attractive is the blood of principled martyrs than the compromised faith of charlatans.

When the balance of power tips in favour of the world the result, as the last Century shows plainly, is a secularisation of ecclesial communities and loss of supernatural faith. The vision shifts from the next life to this, from worship of God to celebration of the gathered community. Roller skating vicar reaches out to youth, reads newspaper slogan, alongside embarrassing photograph that makes youth mock. There is nothing less cool and needy for approval than roller skating vicars.

A well meaning parishioner once explained an emphasis on folk songs at Mass as an appeal to youth. An awkward silence followed when I pointed out those youth were absent. The sentiment was worthy but the approach was flawed. Not only because folk tunes of the 1960’s  are no longer attracting youth today but because that sense of neediness to attract the youth pervaded. A scenario replicated in so many congregations where a grey haired youth of a bygone era hunger to maintain relevance. Like the flared trousers of Lionel Blair their notion of youth appeals is out of fashion but, like all who fail to keep up with trends,  they fail to notice.

In Pembury good things happened when we moved towards a more timeless approach to liturgy and preached with confidence. The aim was for worship that never goes out of fashion because it does not belong to the worldly realm or any specific era. Plain song settings replaced clapping responses and traditional hymnody the folk songs. And we worked hard to beautify our church to produce a sense of timeless beauty. The average age soon went down and numbers went up.

Our society is in crisis. Politics is broken and there is a sense of tiredness within the culture. Here is the tragedy!  A church full of renewed confidence in her own historic worship, faith, morals, philosophy, culture and tradition would soon re-evangelise this failing nation. If emphasis was placed on authentic holiness of life, supernatural grace and its power to transform- amazing things would happen…

..but they cannot for as long as the church loses confidence herself and follows society into that pit of despair. A self pitying church is the last thing the world needs now. For a church terrified of irrelevance, and therefore watering down its message to appease the failing consensus, cannot help that consensus out of the mire! It is part of a problem not solution. But if we could  re-locate authentic belief and dignity- the gifts and message of the timeless church in all ages (and drop the desire to get “with it”) we might be an attractive solution.

A half century of modernist tendency has led to decline – is it not time to consider again Pope Benedict’s call for reform of the reform- of which the Ordinariate is significant? Pray for a renewed confidence in the historic faith of the ages.

Divine Mercy Birthdays

It was birthdays galore this weekend. At Saint Anselm’s Pamela, pictured above, was celebrating her 90th birthday- and arrived at church with a special cake courtesy of her family and friends.

The bubbly was also to hand as we toasted Michael Smith, one of our ever present servers, who recently turned 70. His birthday fell during holy week- so celebrations were delayed until this morning.

Over at Wateringbury, where I was covering Mass for the Maidstone Ordinariate, Dominic Pyle-Bridges arrived with cake to share as he turned 80 today. So 70th, 80th and 90th birthdays  celebrated within the local Ordinariate. Happy birthday Pam, Michael and Dominic!

A happy Easter!

What a glorious Holy Week was celebrated at St. Anselm’s with the church full to capacity throughout the Triduum and on Easter day. It was encouraging for clergy to witness such obvious support and devotion from the laity – so a BIG thank you to everyone who was present and who participated. Especially servers, choir, extra singers, bacon roll producers, flower arrangers, cleaners and those who organised and ran the Easter workshop for children on Holy Saturday. It was appreciated.

As the lead photograph shows the fast has turned to feast in our household. Jemima baked an amazing Easter cake without any help at all. It is delicious if a little daunting due to its truly gargantuan proportions! Meanwhile I broke my Lent fast with a pint of Thornbridge Jaipur. My first taste of beer since Shrove Tuesday. It was a light ale delicious, full of flavour and packed a punch.

A happy and blessed Eastertide to all readers of the blog. Mass will be celebrated publicly on Wednesday at 7pm and on Saturday at 10am. All other weekday services are cancelled this week as the clergy recharge batteries…

Easter workshop 2018

With parish priests out of the way in the confessional, and most grown ups busy cleaning and preparing the sanctuary, the children enjoyed themselves in the Hine Room as they took part in the Easter Workshop. There were craft activities to glue, decorate and put together, gardens to construct and biscuits to be eaten. The chocolate guzzling must wait another day….

The church is decorated beautifully in readiness for the Easter Vigil. A good number of the congregation have been shriven this day. Now we await the dawn in joyful anticipation. It will be an early night tonight and the alarm clock is set. See you at 5am – I hope! If not at 10am when we will continue to celebrate the great feast.

Behold the wood of the cross!

Its been a blessed Triduum, thus far, with in excess of 120 at both the Mass of the Last Supper last night and the Good Friday liturgy this afternoon. Which for a small village church like ours is encouraging, a slight increase from last year. The choir, buoyed by extra voices, have been in magnificent form. The servers guided us through the liturgy with a skilled honed over  years of service at the altar.

It almost moved me to tears watching the deep devotion with which the congregation venerated the holy cross this year, as the choir sang the reproaches. Some of the more frail and disabled strained every sinew to bend the knee though they were not, of course, compelled to. We have been praying at Mass for weeks that our Holy Week services might be grace filled occasions enabling an encounter with the Lord. Those prayers have, I believe, been answered.

Tomorrow, it being Holy Saturday, there will be a priest in the confessional from 9am until he is no longer needed. Meanwhile the church will be cleaned from top to bottom, the brass polished, fresh linen laid and the vestments got ready. Anyone willing to do some spring cleaning should turn up from 10am until noon. Bring some brasso if you have it! Meanwhile the children have the ‘Easter workshop’ at 10am and will be constructing the Easter Garden and making craft items. It is going to be a busy morning.

Before dawn on the third day, at 5am on Sunday morning, we shall complete the Triduum by celebrating the Easter Vigil; entering church in the darkness of night and leaving as the sun rises on a fresh day of resurrection! The service will be followed by bacon rolls, mugs of tea and, for the adventurous, bucks fizz! We shall hold a Sung Mass of Easter Morning at 1oam, also followed by bubbles and, it is rumoured, a chocolate egg or three.

You can keep the chocolate. I am gearing up that afternoon, with genuine excitement, for my first pint of real ale since Shrove Tuesday.

A user not a worshipper

Last night the Gospel presented us with that wretched figure of Judas Iscariot. We do well to ponder his miserable death during Holy Week, not only because his betrayal preceded Gethsemane and the pieces of the jigsaw are now falling into place, but because we can learn much from how the devil ruined him.

It began with dishonesty. Here was a thief who robbed from Christ, his fellow apostles, the Church and poor. Why? Because these were no longer his priority in life. Faith had become but a tool in the service of his real love- the self.

In that flaw he is, sadly, not lonely. We might think of many wicked and ambitious clergy who use the institution of the church for twisted purpose. Sex abusers, the power hungry, those who seek social and financial gain. And it isn’t only clergy! We might consider politically motivated Christians for whom this or that agenda ever trumps the authentic Word. Who use the Church to advance crusades. Playing ingenious games with the plain teaching of scripture to obscure its truth in favour of desired outcomes.

What such people always have in common is wayward devotion. Though called by the Lord they come to deny him for their true love is other than Christ. Though living alongside him, day by day, they come to lose sight of him entirely for their true love is other than Christ.  Though benefiting from his holy church – they think nothing of damaging it for their true love is other than Christ. They are, in a word, Charlatans!  And the problem with spiritual charlatans is that, when the supernatural aspect of faith dies within them, when devotion and prayer grow cold, as it must….betrayal is always the final outcome.

Thus they morph from believers into false followers who neither know the Lord nor love him. Who give the appearance of being a disciple but with hearts pledged to another- be it greed, sex, cultural Marxism, nutty fascism- anything! Soon they do not value Jesus much at all. In Judas case he came to be worth less than 30 measly coins. It speaks volumes. As does the cheap looking sanctuary with unwashed altar linen to the sloppy liturgy in which God seems absent or the miserly giving or impoverished prayer life. By their fruit shall ye know them.

And recognise the betrayal was not the calamity- every disciple abandoned Christ that day. Peter thrice before the cock crew! No it really was that filthy wayward heart. That is what stopped Judas, unlike Peter and the others, returning to the Lord. That is what made him unable to find God again even when entirely penitent- he returned the coins and admitted ‘I have betrayed innocent blood’. It seems a poisoned soul abandons God when overly full of despair and shame- the sinners lot. The tawdry double life is what ultimately killed Judas rotting him from inside out.

Tragic when you consider that just two more days of trust would have helped him experienced the grace and power of resurrection.

Confessions will be heard throughout the morning of Holy Saturday. Do not let shame build up in your life to the point you lose sight of God. Repentance, amendment of life and the reception of God’s mercy. Where would we be without them? It was for these things he hung on that tree.

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