In recent years I have fallen in love with podcasts. These are short radio programmes which are not broadcast live but rather downloaded by users to be listened to at leisure. Users may also subscribe to favoured programmes, via an app on their phone or computer, to ensure they do not miss latest episodes.
Of course podcasts are only as good as the content. Some are total rubbish and soon discarded, others genuinely fascinating. ‘Stuff you should know’ is a favourite of mine as each episode is on something totally different but explored at depth by two infectiously enthusiastic characters. It is a delight for lovers of trivia. Another guilty pleasure is true crime but I also use them to catch up on current affairs, sport, politics and, of course, religion.
The latest episode of the Holy Smoke podcast, a religious affairs podcast hosted by the journalist Damian Thompson, is well worth a listen. If you don’t use podcasts then you can visit this website to listen online.
In this latest programme Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen who recently left Anglicanism to become Catholic, is interviewed. What he has to say about the malaise of the Church of England in the present day is important for it affects certain trends in the Catholic church too. I especially applauded his point that churches fail us all when they cease being spiritual supernatural entities and descend to the realm of human politics.
The irony of the modern age is that the more we promote tolerance as an ideal the less of it we witness. In fact ours is increasingly an enraged and selfish age in which toleration of other people and viewpoints is at an all time low.
Consider the political landscape. In America democrats no longer conceal their hatred of republicans, especially President Trump. And the republicans barely hide their loathing for leftism and socialist ideals. Centrism is dying. The left and right abecoming more extreme, more outspoken and less tolerant of alternative view points. The situation is no different in the UK where the entire fiasco over Brexit highlighted a similar division which shows little sign of abating.
One cause of rising division in the 21st Century is the modern media which long ago abandoned even the pretence of impartially to promote narratives and ideologies instead. This leads to subjective demonisation and adulation of people, parties and groups and does little to bring people together. Social media is especially toxic serving as a virtual petri dish for the cultivation of hatred. When nobody is physically present we easily lose sight of our opponents dignity. We begin to pigeon hole and dehumanise instead.
Another reason for division, seen in growth of hard right and hard left, is due to a collapse of centrist liberalism which was the politics of choice in the 20th Century. Lies over weapons in Iraq, the financial collapse, the discovery of widespread abuse and corruption in institutions and political parties, the growing gaps between rich and poor; these have led to a loss of faith in the globalist centrist project. People no longer trust those in authority and, it must be said, often with good reason. A shift to the fringes and to a politics of protest is the inevitable outcome. This loss of confidence in a globalist vision can also be seen in increasing success of nationalist governments. A situation that makes peace between nations increasingly fragile.
Sadly this loss of tolerance and rise of division can also be seen in the church at present. Where previous papacies held a fragile truce between modernist and traditionalist, elevating a balance of both and seeking to broker peace, the latest trend is for demonisation of one by the other in a bid for total domination of power. Cardinal turns against cardinal and the threat of another schism is real.
Against this sorry back drop of division in the church and world a need becomes obvious. Jesus said ‘blessed are the peace makers’. How could you be a peace maker; at home, in school, in the workplace? How can you show acceptance and tolerance of those with whom you disagree? We have to learn to live alongside one another in the end. This does not mean losing integrity. After all a pursuit of goodness and truth always trumps pursuit of peace because you don’t do deals with the devil! But it does mean learning how to better disagree, even bitterly if necessary, but in love. Not all who vote a certain way are bad, not all who believe a certain way are wicked.
Republicans go buy a democrat a beer and vice versa! Leavers make supper for a remainer and discuss football not politics. Rugby clubs, churches, clubs and societies are excellent places where a coming together can be done. And remember when debating online- a real person is on the other end. We must not lose sight of their dignity and they deserves as much care and attention as you.
Our associate priest, Fr. Benedict Kiely, who does heroic work for the persecuted church in the Middle East, was interviewed on EWTN this week regarding the situation for Christians in the middle East in light of the increased tensions between Iran and the USA.
You can visit the page of Fr. Benedict’s charity, Nasarean.org, by following this link. Do please make a donation if possible. This coming Lent our parish will be supporting the work officially.
It is the feast of the Epiphany which is one of my favourite seasons in the church year. Not only because there are so many wonderful Epiphany carols but also because there are some lovely little customs as well.
One of these is the marking the doors of the faithful with blessed chalk. Why not mark your door as well? If your parish does not follow the custom then non-blessed chalk could be used.
Simply gather the family in front of your front door for a short time of devotion. Somebody must then chalk the following inscription 20 + K +M +B + 20 as the following prayer is recited:
The 3 wise men
M Melchior and
B Balthasar followed the star of God’s Son, Jesus, who became man
20 two thousand
20 and twenty years ago.
+ + May Christ bless our home
+ + and remain with us throughout this new year.
Almighty God, incline your ear. May you bless us and all who are gathered here. Send your holy angel who will defend us and fill with grace all who live here. May our home be a place of love, hospitality and welcome. May you always be made welcome here. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
You can then write ‘ora pro nobis’ (pray for us) underneath and chalk a small crown above each of the three letters representing the magi.
On Saturday February 22nd we are holding a fabulous ‘Bollywood ball’ in Pembury Village Hall in aid of church funds. Tickets will go on sale from this Sunday and will include a three course meal and live entertainment. A fully licensed bar will operate throughout the evening.
The ball will be authentically Indian thanks to the Keralan members of our congregation who have kindly volunteered not only to cook the food but also provide the entertainment. Expect local indian songs and dances and delicious Keralan cuisine. My favourite!
The hall comfortable seats 120- which is the limit for the night. So book the babysitter and grab a ticket early to avoid disappointment.
Netflix has released a drama based on an imaginary meeting between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, the roles played superbly by Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins. Sadly I cannot recommend it. 1/10 is my paltry score.
The reason for the low score has nothing to do with acting talent or production values, these are high, it is due to the overall content. This is a dishonest programme that forgoes truth to push the tired and predictable political agenda of Hollywood elites. Bottom line; liberal leftism is good, conservative morality is bad.
Expect to see “conservative” Benedict presented as a grumpy old goat who is out of touch and needs replacing. Replacing by “liberal” Francis the enlightened progressive who is ushering in the brave new era. We are essentially told that all will be well, pleasant and touching even, so long as past it conservatives step aside and allow with-it progressives to take over. Move aside traditional Christian thinking let a radical new leftist activism determine the life of the church. All hail the Anglicanisation of Rome!
Meanwhile, in the real world, the Benedict papacy saw optimism creeping back into the life of the church whilst the Francis era has been blighted by controversy, chaos and growing divide. Rumours are rife of a lavender mafia active in the highest levels of the Vatican. I have no idea if this is true but we have certainly witnessed a return to the centre of figures mired in scandal, such as Cardinals Ricca, Daneels, Maradiaga and Cocopalmerio. The drama investigates none of this, of course. It is just Benedict bad, Francis good, which is a great disservice to both of them.
What a shame the acting talent wasn’t used to make something better informed, more balanced and genuinely interesting. Who needs made up stories of life in the Vatican when so many fascinating stories, good and bad, surround it in truth?!
We are deeply indebted to a generous benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, for a wonderful Christmas gift for the congregation. A vintage statue of Saint Anselm our patron has arrived in church. Isn’t he just wonderful? Yesterday people were simply delighted to find him waiting for them as they gathered to worship. He will be blessed this morning.
The image arrived, all the way from Holland, yesterday morning at 6:45am. So began a very long day indeed. In the morning several members of the congregation helped unpack him, erect trees and decorate the church whilst Father Nicholas and I heard a steady stream of confessions.
In the afternoon we held our annual nativity play as part of the crib service. This year our French bulldog Coco even had a role playing the part of one of the Kings. The children were in good spirits and all performed admirably.
The 5pm vigil Mass and Midnight Mass went well with especially good attendance at Midnight. Now I set off for the Mass of Christmas morning. A happy Christmas to all readers of this blog. May it bring you many blessings.
This evening a goodly congregation gathered in Saint Anselm’s for our service of 9 lessons and carols. The choir were not as numerous as that of King’s College Cambridge, seen in the video above, yet they nevertheless led the singing beautifully. And after the carols we enjoyed minced pies and refreshments in the Hine Room.
On Christmas Eve morning the priests of the parish will be in the confessional awaiting penitents. Meanwhile the Christmas trees will be erected and decorated and the church cleaned. Pop in if you can.
At 2pm a rehearsal will take place for all the children wanting to take part in this years nativity play which is the centrepiece of our crib service at 3pm. I am currently being nagged by my own children to allow our dog, Coco, to take a part. One of the Kings is the desired role at present! The service at 3pm is particularly suitable for primary school aged children.
At 5pm we hold the vigil Mass of Christmas Eve. This service counts towards the obligation and is particularly suitable for those with very young children and for the frail who cannot get out late at night.
At 11:30pm we will hold Midnight Mass, the most important service of the Christmas period. If at all possible do please try and support this service which enables us to gather at the darkest point of night to await the light that came into the world.
And finally on Christmas Day morning there will be Sung Mass in church with carols at 10am to which all are very welcome to attend. Along with the Midnight Mass and Vigil this counts towards the obligation Catholics have to attend Mass at Christmas.
It is rumoured there is a very special gift for the parish to be unveiled at the Christmas service this year. Come along to see what it might be. For those further afield watch this space…
Alas Ebay took down the auction for the first ever 500ml of Anselmian gin because they do not allow the sale of alcohol. Mea culpa. This is a shame as the bottle was going for £45 at the time the auction was pulled. Is that person still out there? Will they offer again?
We shall have to begin the auction again on this website. Simply leave a bid in the message section of this post. And only post your bid if higher than the current total. We shall end the auction next Sunday evening. Happy bidding!