Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

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The pendulum is swinging…

Here is an interesting fact that should not be dismissed as coincidence. The Dioceses which have most fully embraced the modernist zeitgeist are struggling to inspire vocations. But dioceses which have embraced a return to orthodoxy   experience resurgence in numbers entering seminary. Why is this?

If the lesson needed underlining, the truth applies also within the religious life. The communities which ditched habits and went trendy in the 70’s/80’s are decaying but those orders which retained (or returned to) orthodoxy flourish. And it isn’t a truth only ringing out across the Catholic world; within Protestantism studies show that the more biblically faithful a parish is, the more likely it is to flourish. Consider the Church of England which, despite a very modernist bench of bishops, would collapse without finances provided by thriving evangelicals. Across denominations then we tend to find a liberal leadership/vision out of synch with what is actually working on the ground.

Of course a loss of vocations and followers was never the intention of those whose revolution was to transform Holy Mother Church into something more appealing to a secular age; think of the lukewarm, seventies-esque model of churchmanship so dominant in the latter half of the 20th C. Those who took Vatican II and ran it into a place, neither authorised nor envisaged in the actual documents, imagined they were saving the church by making it more ‘relevant’ They believed (many still do) liberalisation to be a magic bullet for aiding Christ by softening the message of the Gospel and making it more appealing.

But even a cursory look at recent church history shows the vision flawed. A focus driven by the trends of man, not the timeless truths of God, only led to a church which struggles to convince. And so the modernist experiment weakened faith and also desecrated buildings. Looking back it is hard to perceive as wisdom the decision to rip out altar rails, discard sacred images and teach a fuzzy left wing ideology in place of solid doctrine. As novelties like Fair trade Sunday have replaced devotions like regular Benediction so emphasis on the supernatural has given way to something clubby and often naff; a church that celebrates the gathered community because it struggles to look beyond itself to God.

We are left with a painful truth, perhaps too painful for many of the current Episcopacy who were the original holders of this modernist vision. Much of the direction taken by the church in recent years has proved questionable at best. Far from halting decline modernist approaches have accelerated it. And now we reap where that experimentation sowed… hence the widespread closure of parishes, the empty seminaries, emasculated priesthood, poor liturgy and countless young people switching off from faith altogether and pursuing a secular life. And the loss of vocations which chief modernist Cardinal Marx is now lamenting even though his favoured eccliology created the problem! Men will not sacrifice much for a church lacking supernatural emphasis that ever bends the knee to moral relativism..

“Project Modernity” has failed.  Is it not OBVIOUSLY  time then to end it?

Pope Benedict XVI thought so. Hence he encouraged us to revisit the documents of V2 and counter the errors that later took place. He wanted an embrace of the council alongside appreciation for what went before. The creation of a church able to speak to the world of today, but also reconciled to the church of the ages; renewal not rupture. And the Ordinariate was amongst the first fruits of his effort at revival. The reform of the reform, in the few years it was practiced, bore fruit. There was a renewed confidence in the church in the wake of Pope Benedict’s visit to England. Bishops began to think differently. Blogs sprang up, vocations were rising…but then came a moment of shock which threatens to turn back the clock.

I speak of the abdication of Pope Benedict which continues to fuel rumour. Did he jump or was he pushed? Did left wing activist George Soros, as Wikileaks claims, influence the change of direction? Was it linked to the lavender mafia and wolves of whom Benedict spoke in the run up to his abdication? I have no idea and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The change of direction happened. A radical change of papacy took place which saw a clear resurgence of the 1970’s old-guard, the return of Kasper et al whom Benedict had put out to pasture; the very modernists whose revolution was thwarted. We witness, for now, a laying aside of ‘the reform of the reform’ and a return with gusto to ‘project modernity’.

It is this key change which gifted the world a Pope whose every gesture hints at relaxation not revival of Catholic teaching; dare I suggest he delights those outside the faith but divides the adherents within it? The secular realm and voices on the left cheer loudly, as do protestants and atheists alike..and of course all who sincerely love ‘Project modernity’ ..but scratch the surface and all is not rosy. The Curia is rumoured to be at civil war, Cardinals contradict one another and there is a clear sense of chaos and confusion at play. And many who felt encouraged and emboldened under Benedict now feel dismay.

What to do amidst such political upheavals and confusion? I suggest we who minister at the grassroots, who believe in the proven reform of the reform and not in the failed project modernity, must not be too depressed or cowed. Let us take up the gauntlet laid down by Pope Benedict and pledge our future to building up the faith on that model which works, not on the tired model which doesn’t. Our focus should not be on the harvest being gathered in the present but on the laying down of new vines that can be harvested in the future. Bees may buzz loudly at the end of the summer but they will make way for a new generation.

The pendulum is swinging then and grass roots growth suggest the right course to follow is that of orthodoxy. We have a Gospel to proclaim, parishes to build up and the great news is…..God is blessing abundently those who set about this work boldly and with fidelity to the faith of the Apostles. Let us be amongst them.

Mothering Sunday

It is Mothering Sunday today and we give thanks for our own Mothers, for Mary the Mother of God and for the Mother Church. Here at St. Anselm’s we will also be praying for our new link groups in Maidstone and Sevenoaks. At the end of each Mass we shall hand posies of flowers to the ladies in the congregation and between the 9:15am and 11am Mass a cake sale is being held by the Sunday School children to raise money for our Lent Charity- Aid to the Church in Need.

Holy Week 2017 at Saint Anselm’s

This Sunday has a trinity of titles; it is Lent IV, Refreshment Sunday and Mothering Sunday all at once! We shall be marking the lessening of the Lenten feast at its half way point, when purple vestments give way to rose, in two ways. First the Sunday School will be holding a cake sale in the hall between the 9:15am and 11am Mass- to raise funds for our Lent Charity. Secondly we shall be distributing posies to the ladies of the congregation to mark Mothering Sunday.

Then the final push towards Calvary begins. This year the latter half of Lent will prove especially challenging for Catholic families, given the sad fact that our secular regime has determined the Easter holidays shall occur in the last two weeks of Lent?! It doesn’t sit well at all with the rhythm of church life and times of fasting, devotion and alms giving will inevitably wrestle with the need for family days out and even breaks away from home. Meanwhile the Easter octave- when our children should be enjoying family treats and having fun- will be spent back at school. How I lament it. But there it is and we must do our best to accommodate it.

It is therefore especially important this year that we mark the celebration of Holy Week and Easter in the diary, protecting those times we will give to God on what is the major celebration of the church year. As ever I urge parishioners to attend the entire Triduum- the Mass of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the Good Friday liturgy and the Easter Vigil on the night of Holy Saturday. Together these services are the jewel in the crown of the liturgical church year.

Palm Sunday:

Low Mass 8am

Procession of Palms and Solemn Mass 9:15am

Sung Mass & blessing of palms 11am

Mon Holy Week:    

Chrism Mass* 11:30am

(*at Church of Assumption, Warwick St, Soho)

Tue Holy Week:    

Said Mass 7pm

Wed Holy Week:    

The Service of Tenebrae 7pm

MAUNDY THU:   

MASS OF LAST SUPPER 8pm

(with footwashing, followed by Watch till Midnight)

Compline 11:30pm

GOOD FRIDAY:   Stations of the Cross for children 10am

Ecumenical witness on village green 11am

Confessions 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Stations of the Cross 1:30pm

THE GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY 3pm

Maria Desolata 6:30pm

HOLY SAT:

Children’s Easter Workshop 10am

Confessions 10am- 11:30am

THE EASTER VIGIL 8pm

EASTER DAY:      

Mass of the Dawn 8am

Mass of the Day 10am

Stations of the Resurrection 6:30pm

Great news from America

I am delighted to share with you news regarding the Ordinariate in the United States of America which I have taken from the latest newsletter:

The highly successful parish of Our Lady of the Atonement along with its flourishing school were yesterday, by decree of the Holy Father, transferred from the Diocese of San Antonio to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

The parish was the first established under the Pastoral Provision provided by Pope St John Paul II in 1980 to allow former Episcopalian ministers to be ordained as Catholic Priests and to retain some elements of their Anglican heritage.

Under its founding Pastor, Fr Christopher Phillips the parish has gone from strength to strength, and grown phenomenally from very humble beginnings. The church has been a centre for the beautiful expression of Anglican Use liturgy and its school is both highly regarded academically and a shining example of a distinctly Catholic school.

When Fr Phillips was suspended from his ministry by the Bishop of San Antonio, who cited concerns that ‘expressions in the life of the parish … indicate an identity separate from, rather than simply unique, among the parishes of the archdiocese’, there were fears that the distinctive Anglican Patrimony of the Parish and School would -at the very least- be watered down. The decisive action of the Holy See has put an end to such fears and the parish is now looking forward to its future as an Ordinariate Parish.

The action of the Holy See not only boosts the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter by bringing to it a flourishing church, school and a fine example of missionary work. It also demonstrates the continuing commitment of Rome to the enduring and independent role of the Ordinariates within the life of the Catholic Church.

MY COMMENT:

I am delighted with this news. Many Ordinariate priests have struggled to fulfil the task given us by the Holy See where diocesan bishops have not been as helpful as they might be in enabling us to flourish. This case sets a strong precedence and is another clear sign of the commitment of Rome to the Ordinariate vision.

Why the Ordinariate?

As promised I share below the address I gave this week when we drew together three Ordinariate groups, in Sevenoaks, Maidstone and Pembury, into a new partnership Minster model of ministry.

What is the point of the Ordinariate?

People picture the Catholic Church as rigid but this notion of a monolithic Church is fallacy. The Catholic church is actually diverse- it has multiple Rites, such as Antiochan, Armenian, Latin etc. And even in just one rite, consider the Latin Rite to which we belong, there can be incredible diversity. You might have noticed that a Dominican differs from a Jesuit. Yet we are one.

We begin to see that the unity in Rome is not about uniformity. Indeed we are not even members of one church in institutional terms. Rather Catholicism comprises many different national Churches, each reflecting something of its local culture and customs, yet united by one papacy. What I want to briefly tease out this evening is what defines the ENGLISH way of being Catholic. What marks the Spirituality on these shores and what has this to do with the Ordinariate?

To understand the present we must learn the lessons from history. So a very quick recap: Catholicism came to Britain in the first Century establishing itself among native Celts and Romans. Missionaries, including St. Patrick who we will toast tomorrow, carried Christianity to Ireland and Scotland. The progress ended in the 5th C when Britain was invaded by pagans who drove the Celts into Wales and Cornwall. Christianity survived in these strongholds but was largely eradicated in England as a whole.

That situation held until the 6th C when two distinct missions spring up. Pope Gregory sends Benedictines to evangelise Kent. Led by Augustine they establish a base at Canterbury. Meanwhile, in the North, a group is sent by Aidan from Iona to establish a base in York. The two great Archdioceses of England come to life: York and Canterbury. Working separately, these Catholic missions convert Britain until one +Theodore unifies them to create, for the first time, one ‘Church in England’. Over the following years the Catholic faith flourished. Indeed England was so loyal to Rome and to Catholic culture that she was named “Our Lady’s dowry”. The foundations for the forging of a distinct English Way was being laid.

By Norman times the Catholic faith defined what it meant to be English. Great Cathedrals and country churches were built, they still define the quintissential English landscape. The great universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded. Our ancient public schools were opened. My own alma mater, Norwich Cathedral school, was opened by monks in 1096- a project of one bishop Herbert de Losinga a close friend of St. Anselm. It was a golden era when art, music and architecture of the highest calibre were produced, the fruits of which were many distinct English customs and traditions.

Holding it together was the religious life. Over 800 monasteries and convents dotted the landscape; centres of learning, pastoral care and devotion. England had a truly Catholic vision- a fact few people appreciate today. And this ‘English Catholic Way’ became a jewel in Europe’s crown. English Catholicism famous for high culture; an emphasis on academic learning and aesthetic beauty. So here are two things to bottle in our quest to unearth an authentic English Way. It is something rooted in beauty, culture and a striving for excellence.

But then comes the reformation and the “English Way” was decimated. The Shrine at Walsingham, alongside most other religious buildings, destroyed. The bones of St. Augustine thrown to the dogs – his abbey was razed. Now there is much to say about the reformation, a brutalist movement in this country with disturbing parallels to what Isis is doing in the Middle East today, but I ask just one question; what happens to the ENGLISH way? To the unique charism of English Spirituality in the wake of such horror and destruction?

To answer I draw on a stunning analogy first suggested by the scholar Fr. Aidan Nichols. Picture “The English Way” as a beautiful vase belonging to God. Henry VIII smashes it but God’s will is to restore it through a work of spiritual restoration, a bringing of separated pieces back into unity. But before you can bring those pieces together you need the base; without which gluing any pot together is futile. It was the heroism of the recusants that preserved the base at tremendous personal cost. They ensured Catholicism never did die out. Nevertheless a base alone is no vase. And it is simply a fact of history that much that was essential to “The English Way” went missing as outward looking zeal turned inward. When fear and rejection grew into the ghetto mentality- the tribal instinct- which can still inhabit English Catholicism today. But this is not the “English Way” which once evangelised an entire nation and flourished via its own flowering of culture and customs.

This loss wasn’t the fault of the Catholics. How could they hope to sustain a high cultural life as resources and buildings were taken from them? Survival was all any could hope for as Catholicism was pushed to the margins of English life for generations to come. A situation that held until the 19th Century and the Second Spring. A term referring to the Catholic growth of this period. The time when Catholicism was able to begin the task of rebuilding.

Every Catholic should rejoice in the Second Spring. But for the purpose of our quest we need exercise caution. A growth of Catholicism in this era does not automatically mean resurgence of the English Way. Ironically that English way was being rediscovered at this time but not by Catholics. It was the Oxford Movement, Anglo-Catholicism, which took up that work under Newman, Pusey and later Hope Patten. For Romans there was growth in number but it mainly due to immigration from Ireland. Praise God for that; the church must ever be truly universal. These people gifted treasures of their own- the much needed handle for the ancient broken vase. But the English Way remained buried.

That is an important question because wherever the Gospel has flourished it has reflected the local culture. Go to China and you will see depictions of Chinese Mother and child. Go to Africa and in some places the playing of drums are more important than pipe organs. We hit on a serious problem for Catholics since the 19th Century. Catholicism is tolerated in England but it remains, for many non Catholic people,a  foreign thing. Anglicans will jokingly refer to the “Italian Mission to the Irish”. The establishment tell us Welby is 104th successor of Augustine not  37th since Cramner? In Liverpool it remains “Paddy’s wigwam” it is not George’s. And visit many Catholic churches and you guarantee a statue of Patrick- but who ever sees Wilfrid? Catholicism is just not English in the national consciousness as crumpets, Marmite and Beefeaters are. So without losing our intended diversity and multiculturalism how do we eradicate the view of Catholicism as foreign entity?

Who can restore the authentic English spirituality today? I could not go to America and tell American people who they are. Such a message must arise from within. So where is the key to restoring English spiritual customs… like long albs, harvest festivals, Evensong, hassocks, unbelieving bell ringers et al? The answer, like it or not –is in the Church of England. Because- perversely- it is there, with the heirs of the reformers, English customs survived. Catholicism was not preserved but Anglicanism nevertheless retained fragments of the rock from which she was hewn. If recusants retained Catholicism but lost the English Way, we might say Anglicans retained aspects of the English Way but lost their authentic Catholicism.

At the reformation most English were simply victims of circumstance. Sucked into a Church rejecting the Pope but often carrying on regardless. The Book of Common Prayer wasn’t written in a vacuum, it was the fruit of a Church which had worshipped with its own Sarum Rite. Pope Benedict understood all of this so he established the Ordinariate and chose such robust English patrons for it. Our Lady of Walsingham, whose Shrine was the jewel of the English Way, and Newman, Oxford man, who understood that the only hope for the English Way lay with Rome. The re-uniting of Augustine and Gregory. “To be steeped in history”, said Newman, “is to cease to be Protestant.” See how Newman led where his movement, Anglo-Catholicism would one day be called to follow, under the title of Ordinariate.

Benedict reached out to Newman’s babies saying bring your patrimony with you. Things that would be lost if we simply joined the local dioceses of our day. The Catholic church did not need the Ordinariate to teach it to be Catholic. Our patrimony was our gift – that which can help in the task of restoring the English way. It was for the evangelisation of non-Catholic Englishman that the Ordinariate was and is needed. Others are also about this work, we might consider Newman’s other babies – the English Oratorians. Now we can bolster their mission.

Alas this vision and intention is not always understood. Some Bishops resist us because they cannot control it; they want our clergy but not the patrimony we bring. Other Catholics dislike it because our vision looks beyond the 1960’s and is rooted in orthodoxy; they prefer to build on modernist lines. And at times we have failed ourselves because we lack the resources to do the vision justice or we ourselves haven’t really embraced the vision fully.

But where the Ordinariate has been enabled results have been amazing. Look around you. Before the Ordinariate arrived in Pembury this was a dual use hall only reflecting a spirit of the 1960’s. But since we arrived so has an intended beautification to shift to incorporate the wisdom not only of 1960 but also 1060 and 1860! The birth of Catholic England and the revival of Anglo-Catholicism under Newman.In this little place we have seen a vision bearing fruit. And let me stress that our emphasis on the English way hasn’t compromised, in any way, our being a universal church. Our congregation comprises Indians, Poles, Maltese, Irish, Scottish and more besides. And all seem to have rejoiced in the changes.

To conclude: in the Ordinariate we have a fragile shoot growing, against all odds and with the help of the Holy Spirit. I believe it has enormous potential. But for this to be achieved it needs people to believe in it, support it and sustain it. We provide, not protestant treasures- that would be madness- but lost Catholic treasures. The singing of the Angelus at Mass. The Divine Worship liturgy whose soul was forged in the Sarum Rite and so on. So please help in the task of bringing it to life in this area of Kent. Please commit fully. For the harvest is rich but the labourers few. We have been given such a tremendous opportunity- pray God that people will see this and come together to make it happen.

Pembury Minster!

Yesterday evening we welcomed our Ordinary, Monsignor Keith Newton, to the parish alongside friends from Maidstone and Sevenoaks, to chair a special evening in which we laid out an exciting new vision to strengthen the bonds between our local groups and, hopefully, breath new life into the Ordinariate in the Sevenoaks area, which never got off the ground due to disinterest from its original pastor who has since been incardinated into the local diocese.

The evening began with Low Mass according to Divine Worship before we moved into the hall for refreshment. I am grateful to Janet and Trudy who worked hard in the kitchen. This time of fellowship was precious as it allowed people to meet together informally and get to know one another better. The atmosphere was very warm and friendly.

Monsignor Keith then gave the official welcome before I delivered the main address cementing the vision of the Ordinariate. I will post it tomorrow, it is entitled ‘What is the point of the Ordinariate?’ After this Fr. Nicholas spoke about the ancient Minster model of parish ministry. Which is the model we are going to adopt for groups in the West Kent Area.

In Pre-reformation England, larger parishes sometimes became Minsters; centres of excellence offering administrative and pastoral care to smaller outlying communities. This enabled local clergy to work in collaboration. Fr. Nicholas informed us that the original Minster was in Kent at…wait for it…Minster!

We then unveiled plans to make Pembury a sort of Minster to the outlying smaller groups in Maidstone and Sevenoaks. Under the patronage of St. Augustine of Canterbury this new ‘West Kent Ordinariate Mission’ should prove advantageous for all three groups. It is anticipated that clergy from St. Anselm’s will regularly visit Maidstone and Sevenoaks to celebrate Mass and encourage the people and clergy there. In return the smaller groups will be invited, from time to time, to share in the festivals at Pembury.

Deacon Robert Smith, the new pastor of the re-imagined Sevenoaks Group, then shared the very best news of the night. The new Catholic priest at Sevenoaks, Fr. David Gibbons, has kindly offered to host the group at his church and desires to welcome them fully with open arms. He is an ex-Anglican after all! This was  uplifting news and will enable the now small Sevenoaks group to benefit from the support of the wider parish there. The anticipation being that the group will meet fortnightly on a Thursday evening.

The first Sevenoaks gathering will take place on May 11th and I urge any and all who support the Ordinariate to come along at 7:30pm to support this inaugural event. We will try to ensure it provides reverent, dignified worship and an opportunity for enjoyment afterwards. If you cannot make it then please pray for us. We need prayers as we seek to be faithful to vision enshrined in the document Anglicanorum Coetibus. Why? Read tomorrows posting…

 

Mgr. Newton to host important meeting

This Thursday Monsignor Keith Newton visits our parish to host a meeting with implications for three distinct groups within the local Ordinariate. Those groups being Pembury, Maidstone and Sevenoaks. This is an open meeting and anyone is very welcome to attend. The talk should appeal to anyone remotely interested in what the Ordinariate and its mission.

The evening begins with Mass according to Divine Worship at 7:30pm. (Members of St. Anselm’s are asked to supply cakes/biscuits for refreshment after Mass). At 8:30pm the Ordinary will give an official welcome before I present the main address, lasting 25 minutes, entitled “What is the point of the Ordinariate?”

Father Nicholas will follow this with a brief explanation of an ancient English concept; the Minster model of parish ministry. For this is the vision on which the three groups are being asked to move forwards. A move that would see Pembury evolve into a mother church to help support the smaller groups in Maidstone and Sevenoaks. And a move to bring our clergy closer together that we might better support one another. It is something I am very excited about. Watch this space…

What is truth?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

We live in an era of pessimism and self doubt. Empires rise and fall and the Western Empire is now itself showing signs of advanced decay. It looks like the Roman Empire before it, at the end of its cycle. Then a man named Hannibal marched over mountains with Elephants and struck at the heart of Rome. A symbolic gesture to show to the world a chink in the armour of the once unbeatable giant.  It sent shock waves through the globe and Rome’s self doubt exacerbated until it fell. A once mighty Empire collapsed on itself completely.

For us it wasn’t elephants but aeroplanes sent crashing into twin towers. A strike at the heart of the West, to underline our own growing vulnerability. The terrorists hoping to increase self doubt and one senses their success in all the chaos and division regarding Trump, Brexit and the wider collapse of trust in mainstream media and politics. We are a culture in meltdown and panic is evident. The Judea-Christian faith, which built and sustained us, is rounded on and rejected. And, as happens at the end of Empires, moral decadence kicks in; resources freely given to sustain the vision in the public square diverts to the pockets of the wealthy.

Pilate famously asked ‘what is truth?’. Ever the question of oily politicians who fail to exercise justice. Of those who have lost faith in the central vision of the culture they inhabit but who nevertheless feed off it parasitically. (As modern atheistic secularists gorge on what remains of a once Christian nation, claiming its virtues and accomplishments, its sense of justice, liberalism and tolerance, for their own.)

When we lose all faith in moral certainty the world grows grey. There is no black or white, no ideal to strive for, no dream to sustain or ultimate goal to achieve…so each may do as he pleases. Always birth rates dry up and economies fail. The only point to life becomes the hoarding of wealth for transitory pleasure. The chasing of hedonistic fantasy. Relativism becomes the new religion for pleasure demands no boundary or restriction. The culture falls into chaos and confusion for it is never good news for a nation to find itself without faith or shared purpose.

This loss of faith then leads to rejection of identity and history, to self doubt and capitulation of all that went before. As the founding Christian vision fades in the West we witness everything being thrown into question. Why the very notion of truth crumbles before our eyes! “What is truth?” the West asks Christ once again. Consider the rejection today even of scientific facts regarding men and women.  Obvious truths determined by wombs and willies give way to a confusing notion of multiple genders based on sentiment alone. From cis-queer to agender, to trans-this or that. Be whoever or whatever you desire. Because the old order is discarded and there is rebellion against God. Who is he to impose the natural law upon us? Welcome to 1984.

This self doubt is also evident in the Western church. Where the plain facts of scripture and tradition, doctrines unquestioned for thousands of years, are suddenly doubted and rejected. Relativism runs amok amongst the liberalising voices of our day especially amongst the hierarchs of a certain generation. Sure Jesus  taught marriage was for life… but we who believes it or can live it anymore?

This questioning voice, like the wider culture we inhabit, stems from despair. The modernist loves the church, his/her hope is that worldly reform might save it! But they no longer hold enough supernatural faith in God- and in his eternal word- to sustain it. So they seek to save it themselves, modernising and changing, watering down and appeasing… because they no longer believe that its own teaching can sustain it. It is a voice of rebellion, echoing the culture of despair, shouting out against the founding principles of Christianity – against her teaching on marriage and the family, against the creation of man and woman as equal but different, against God himself!

Should it surprise us when it also hits out, with scorn and derision, at the opposing voice of orthodoxy- at those who would urge us to remain faithful to the teaching of the church? No because firm faith in this age of growing despair seems alien and impossible, rigid and out-dated to those losing faith. They spurn the only medicine that might save them. The relativist loathes strong faith for he himself no longer believes! Yes- at the heart of modernist thinking is fear- a loss of faith. A desire for a church that conforms to  world not one that might conform the world to Christ.

An indulgent self doubting culture can have no happy ending. Nor an indulgent and self doubting church. Before long the lean and vision driven will prosper and overtake. So if the West wants to halt decline it MUST somehow re-disover its founding principles. The same is true for the Church in the West. To stem decline- it too must re-discover a sense of confidence in Christ and his eternal word. It must defeat the challenge of modernism- the greatest heresy of all time.

But here is the sting in the tail. Many of the current leadership in the church represent the problem not the cure; they witness to the chaos and confusion. We might consider here the growing division caused by the current papacy which seeks to re-introduce relativistic agendas of the 1970’s. That which attacks orthodox faith as too rigid whilst ever emphasising doubt over faith, sentiment over reason and a worldly sense of mercy over clarity and fidelity. The bar set to meet man where he is not elevated to raise him up to the standards of Christ.

What does it say when we have a Pope who is flavour of the month amongst those who attack the faith, from within or without, whilst he only bewilders and dismays those whose desire is to be faithful? Why does his teaching resonate not with the voice of the church in all ages, but with prevailing attitudes of a decaying culture and its sexual revolution? With the greatest respect one must question, at this time, the direction of the Church since Pope Benedict resigned. For what is there to conclude about the current refusal to answer the dubia save fear about what such answers reveal? Not firm unquestioning faith in Christ – I suspect- but that modernist desire to conform to the culture at plain cost to the faith.

I end with words of encouragement for those confused and dismayed. The Christian faith has survived many crises, has stood the test of time as empires rise and fall. It may be dying in the West and in some of its current leadership- but it flourishes in the East and on the ground where orthodoxy is enabled to flourished. The church has been thrown to the dogs before and each time it was the dog that died. So hold the line, be faithful and pray. We are a resurrection people and need not fear death of any kind. And looking to the grass roots and to the future, I suspect the swing in the pendulum is coming….till then stand by the cross and weep. Stand by and for Jesus Christ and the Gospel, even as he is again rejected, question, mocked and attacked. The dawn will come, the approaching feast of Easter guarantees it.

Lent Charity 2017

This Lent our parish is, again, supporting Aid to the Church in Need. A fine charity working in over 140 different countries to ensure that the work of the Gospel may flourish. Where there is crisis the charity brings emergency relief. Where there is  stability the charity helps the church achieve its goals in areas of poverty.

On Sunday a representative of ACN visited our parish and gave a moving address. He told us how impossible taxes are imposed on Christians under Sharia Law in countries under the control of Isis. The thugs then visit your home and you have three choices. Pay the tax. Convert to Islam or suffer the consequences which are sever. Most take the fourth option and flee the area.

Meanwhile Isis tear church buildings apart and attempt to decimate the Christian presence from the area. This is culturally terrible for Syria’s Christian community is ancient- this being the land in which St. Paul famously had his conversion. For two thousand years the Christian community has lived peacefully in Syria. Today it faces total extinction with millions displaced and thousands put to death.

One unlucky couple received the visit before they could get away. The man of the house was struck on the back of his head with a rifle butt which temporarily blinded him. In his panic and fear he lashed out and struck the IS boss. He was then taken away to a prison camp and strung up on a cross for over a month and beaten severely on a regular basis. He begged to God for help and it arrived in the most surprising manner. A bomb blast caused sufficient chaos for him to escape.

He managed to locate his wife and the two of them were taken in by Sister Annie, Aid to the Church in Need’s main contact in the area. Thanks to the generosity of donors in the West – the couple were given shelter, food and clothing. Their teenage children are still missing. What unimaginable torment they and others have suffered. Many Christians paying for their faith with their lives.

The work of ACN isn’t only about crisis help though. Elsewhere, in Africa, the charity gives motorbikes to hard working parish priests who have vast parishes to cover. This ensures that worship can take place even in the most remote settlements. Whilst in the Ukraine the ACN has sponsored every single priest now working in that country through Seminary! Elsewhere the charity builds houses of worships, schools and chapels. It really does have a wide ranging CV when it comes to helping others!

Please give generously to the ACN this Lent and pray for them. In church a donation box will be situated in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel throughout the penitential season. If you are not local to Pembury you can still support the charity by following this link.

A new predella & kitchen

The builders returned to the parish this week to finish the final phase of our current internal works. The building of the new predella and step to raise up the altar and give it dignity and prominence. The new predella necessitates the images of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph be moved and this work will also be completed this week. Finally the unsightly heating switch, which blights the rear wall, is going to be hidden. We remain grateful to the generosity of our benefactors and supporters.

The work is not yet complete but we managed to put most things back together yesterday evening for the Ash Wednesday Mass. And it was most encouraging to see good numbers in attendance so that we could begin Lent in devotion. And whilst we celebrate progress in the parish please note how the kitchen works have also been completed. What a wonderful start to the year for our small but well loved parish.

Here we see Geoffrey Ravenhill, one of our church wardens, using the sink with pride. Geoffrey very kindly project managed the work and his meticulous attention to detail ensured the entire process was stress free. In fact we benefited from hiring a very skilled carpenter, Evaldis, who has now started attending Mass with us. If anyone needs a new kitchen or any carpentry work then contact me for his details. As you can see the new kitchen is a vast improvement on what we had before!

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