Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: September 2014 (Page 1 of 3)

Rock around the gate…

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This November we are hosting a special evening of entertainment at Pembury Village Hall. A delicious meal will be served to diners and entertainment is to be provided by local cover band, comprising members of our congregation, “Sold Out” There will be a bar on the night – a barrel of beer to consume- and lots of fun to be had. Will you bring family and friends?

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Tickets go on sale this coming Sunday priced at £15 per adult.  The event is not really suitable for small children but youth are welcome to serve tables in return for  supper. All money raised will go towards our renovation project and especially the erection of the antique lych-gate which will form the new entrance into church. We have secured the one pictured above but it is currently in pieces in the churchyard and in need of putting back together and the worst parts given tlc…

Revd Lusted writes…

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Revd Jack Lusted, the Anglican vicar of Salehurst who- just this week- announced his intention to become a Catholic via the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, has written a post on his parish website explaining the reasoning behind his decision. He writes:

Last Sunday (28th September 2014) I announced that I would be entering an eight week period of study leave during which my family and I would be discerning/preparing to be received into the Catholic Church (CC). This has been no quick or easy decision either for me or my family, however I do wish to give you something of an account of what has led us to this point.

Firstly, however, I wish to make it clear that this is in no way a fall out with the local church. Our time in Salehurst parish has been a good time, excellent friendships have been made and my work at church, in our schools and the wider community has been fruitful and personally fulfilling. We have liked it here and above all we have liked you. Also I have no argument with the diocesan hierarchy. Both Bishop Richard (Lewes) and Bishop Martin (Chichester) have been fully supportive, generous and gentlemanly in all their dealings with me, in particular with respect to this decision.

The chain of events that has brought me to this point can be traced back decades, however a principle turning point occurred some eight of nine years ago. During the Maundy Thursday watch I was reading the ‘High Priestly’ prayer of Jesus in St John’s gospel. Our Lord’s prayer for the unity of the Church struck me with a near physical force. Although having been involved with ecumenical activities for many years, this was little more than exercises in mutual niceness. Unity must, if it were to mean anything more than that, be visible and doctrinal. This can frankly only be achieved through the Petrine office, it is the Pope that makes unity visible, tangible and real.

The next breakthrough came with Pope Benedict XVI, the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus (2009) and the establishment of the Personal Ordinariates, in particular the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham here in Great Britain. This made it possible for groups of Anglicans with their priest to become a part of the CC, up to that point Anglicans were only admitted on an individual basis. This was a truly monumental event – the doors to the CC being flung open to unity seeking Anglicans. Moreover, through this structure many Anglican forms of worship, its pastoral practice and spirituality would be welcomed and incorporated in the CC. This was simply too good to ignore – literally the answer to many many prayers.

At the time the CC was making these great ecumenical overtures to the Anglican Church, here in the CoE change was happening. As I have mentioned previously in letters, blogs and sermons, there was an agreement between the CoE and the CC that neither church would introduce any innovation that would cause the two churches to diverge on doctrine, worship or practice. The hope being that unity would emerge through the churches growing ever closer together. Many of us in the catholic wing of the CoE were thus dismayed when General Synod made decisions that would make further convergence impossible, indeed that from that point the CC and the CoE were on divergent paths. Here in Chichester diocese we have largely been protected from some of these changes and traditionally minded clergy have been fully supported and encouraged by our bishops – sadly I have been led to believe that this has not been the case in all other diocese. Nevertheless, the CoE is bigger than either parish or diocese, what goes on in one part is going eventually to affect others. Finally I could not help but conclude that it would become increasingly difficult for me to minister with integrity within the CoE as it embraces an increasingly liberal protestant agenda.

To jump, to swim the Tiber, seemed to be the only thing I could do. A meeting with the Ordinary (similar in some respects to a bishop) of the Ordinariate and a few phone calls persuaded me that the CC would look after my family and I were I to make the move. Nevertheless, it was only after a period of intense prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (in St Augustines, Tunbridge Wells) that I became convinced that this was the right course of action. And, of course, any number of conversations with Sarah often when out walking on days off.

And so here I am. About to go on another journey of faith. Please pray for my family and I. As yet we do not know exactly where we will be going, however initially we will be attached to St Anselm’s Pembury and living within striking distance of Tunbridge Wells. This is a most excellent arrangement as our children’s schooling will not be affected.

May I again stress that this move is not due to any unhappiness with Salehurst parish or with the Diocese of Chichester. You have a robust PCC and two of the best wardens you could hope for and an excellent priest who you all know to cover services.

I truly wish you all well.

Fr Jack Lusted

Do please keep praying for Father Jack and his family and the community he leaves at this uncertain but exciting time for them all. His article is thoughtful and gracious and contains within it sound logic that resonates with many of the reasons I too came to the same unavoidable conclusion a few years ago.

The Ordinariate continues to grow in a quiet but reassuring manner.

Make room for new faces

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This morning the Reverend Jack Lusted, vicar of St. Mary the Virgin, Salehurst (Anglican Diocese of Chichester) announced to his parish that, following consultation, he will be taking two months study leave after next Sunday to explore/prepare for a new life in the Catholic church.  A journey he expects to take along with his wife, Sarah, and four children Martha, Isaac, Joseph and Esther.

It is likely that Fr. Jack and his family will become members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and will be worshiping  with us here in Pembury as they discern God’s will for their lives. Please  join me in praying for them at this time, and for the community they leave behind, as they set out on this exciting adventure together.

This post is to ensure that the Lusted’s are surrounded with the prayer of the faithful as they make this courageous move. They need our love and a warm welcome into the Church. For this reason only charitable comments will be published.

Were he to eventually serve as a priest in Pembury, temporarily or long term, it would mean we had both a Father Ted and a Father Jack. Does that turn Father Nicholas into a Dougal?

The field hospital: key to cracking the enigma?

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Pope Francis has intrigued me since being elected Pope. For, looking beyond tedious media spin and wishful projection, he is clearly an enigma. One who refuses to facilitate political games by sitting in a clearly defined box.  So many, including myself, have been baffled at times. What is his real agenda?

Is he the orthodox “son of the church” who enraged many in Argentina due to stuanch defence of the family. A bishop who claimed same sex marriage was of the devil and whose effigy was burnt by pro abortion feminists? That would explain the recent decision to elect a  solidly orthodox bishop in Sydney and his defrocking of an Australian priest for preaching liberal causes.

Or is he a modernist who asks “who am I to judge?” in relation to moral issues. The man who balks at traditions such as wearing red papal shoes and has clamped down on those traditionalists who tend towards religion over faith? This would explain the decision to  elect a solidly moderate bishop for Chicago.

Increasingly I ask- is the answer BOTH? Could it be that where God sent Pope Benedict to bolster those inside the church, he sends Francis to tend those outside? Certainly the needs of the two could not be more different. In an uncertain world the Christian needs dogma proclaimed without compromise and can understand that red shoes denote martyr’s blood- that church teaching on family life is linked to revelation. But the world is not ready to discern such things. Due to its spiritual and moral confusion it only see excess in red shoes and intolerance in our teaching…because its own thinking is all upside down.

But this upside down thinking is not going to go away unless the church finds a way to re-engage the secular culture. Unless the church finds a way to help people discover the truth of the Gospel afresh. And that is the main thrust in the thinking of Pope Francis. IN a world increasingly damaged by violence, hatred and moral disintegration we  simply MUST bridge the widening gap between those inside the church and those drifting from it. The lost sheep need to be found and carried back to safe pasture.

So the key to understanding this papacy, to understanding how the tension within Pope Francis is held with integrity, is to be found in his Apstolic Exhortation- “Evangelii Gaudium”. For there he calls on the church to be brave, to see beyond its own needs and get out into the world as a field hospital. A theme he re-iterated this week as he stressed that the crisis we face regarding loss of Christian culture does not leave us the luxury of sitting in ivory towers pondering the finer points of theology.

Which is to state Pope Francis is a faithful “son of the church” whose  agenda is not, and never has been, to change church teaching. Rather he is desperate to help the millions of people seduced by secular lies to understand Gospel truth. And be honest. Whilst the true Christian rightfully adored Pope Benedict for his approach- his ability to speak to the world was diminished. Cruelly and unfairly he was a figure of hate.

Francis is playing it different. He will not change doctrine, fret not about the synod on the family, but he will deliberately tone down certain themes in favour of those more appealing to the world in its present fallen state. He is going to flirt with secular culture to engage it before then guiding people towards the truth. And this makes absolute sense when you consider that, as an Argentine, he would be all too aware of Eva Peron. The one who got the people to love her that she might lead them where she wanted….

It was also a tactic favoured by St. Paul “to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Pope Francis is attempting to speak to the secular world in its own language, not because he is enamoured with it, but in the hope of saving souls.

Look carefully then and, unlike those sorry prelates who water down the faith to endorse the world’s thinking, Pope Francis is watering down nothing at all. He tells us we need a synod on the family to ensure pastoral practice is better but insists his desire is not to change the teaching. And he continues to appoint both bishops to care for the flock (Sydney) and those he feels are best equipped to build bridges with the world (Chicago) He is not saying we Christians do not need our dogma but that the world is not ready for it yet. How ironic then that those clamouring for dogmatic change adore him so! He is not with them…but he is concerned for them. And he wants to re-engage them with Christ. His primary mission.

Now you might consider this strategy poor due to its risk or you might think it a work of sneaky Jesuit genius. Certainly it has gained him plaudits but it has also rattled many cages. My sense is that he wants to see in those of us inside the church living faith as opposed to crusty religiosity no matter our liturgical preferences. And above all he wants us to present an approachable face to a suffering world that we might draw people closer to Christ. Food for thought. How could we better reach out to the world in love and not repel it in fear by protecting our own sensibilities?

 

A star is born

The National Gallery in London has released a short video on youtube to encourage membership. I think it is fabulous but then that is my beautiful wife restoring a painting…shame about the goggles.

Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

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Today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. A very special day for those of us involved in the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Mass will be offered at 7pm according to the Ordinariate Rite. All welcome.

Striking that balance

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One of the trickiest balances in life is found in relation to justice and mercy. How does one reconcile the need for both? Too much emphasis on mercy and justice is not served. Too much emphasis on justice and mercy is not delivered.

God’s answer to this eternal problem was delivered on the cross. For that he dealt perfectly with sin (which called for justice) and his promise of redemption (which called for mercy). But we humans are not God and we tend to struggle with the balance. We see this so often in the law courts, in our economic life and so on and so forth.

This week Pope Francis set up a commission to streamline the annulment procedure. A move that put the cat amongst the pigeons on internet forums. How will the rulings of the commission affect the sacramental life of the church? Will there be such hunger for mercy -the admittance of the divorced and remarried to communion is what some even suggest- that any sense of justice will be lost?

People need to calm down. Firstly because the press release explicitly states that teaching regarding the indissolubility of marriage remains. Secondly because even if Pope Francis were the hippy radical the press paint him to be (which he is not) he lacks the power of an Anglican Synod. He cannot change Catholic teaching at whim or by a majority vote. It is protected.

What he can do- and I hope he does- is ensure the annulment process is efficient. For at present it can be cruel when a case is dragged from pillar to post due to bureaucratic process or incompetence. I know of a person who went to tribunal in 2010 and still awaits an answer. A situation pastorally unacceptable. Fortunately this is an exception- tribunals normally do a great job- but such a situation should not be possible at all.

The process can be improved then. After all what matters for the Church is not the process- but that every decision reached can be trusted. It is here that teaching on marriage lives or dies.

A caveat. Should the commission be so moronic as to allow individual parishes to decide cases it really is time for despair. For most parishes are not centres of excellence and cannot even be trusted to teach the faith let alone judge cases of marriage. But this seems a very, very remote possibility and the more likely scenario is a diocesan body equipped to make sound judgements quickly.

Let me repeat then. What matters is not the process itself but that we can trust  decisions made.  And given Christ’s promise that the Church would prevail – there is plenty of room for optimism at present. Personally I am predicting that this Synod on the family is not about to bring in a raft of liberalisation but will prove a new humane vitae. A reaffirmation of church teaching that leaves the world, the devil and the modernisers howling in despair.

A seminarian writes…

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Thomas Mason is a seminarian of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham who is currently on a summer placement here in Pembury before he returns to his studies alongside the Dominican’s at Blackfriars,Oxford.  He has kindly written today’s blogpost:

An English Village Church– an outsider’s view of S. Anselm, Pembury.

If one journeys in one’s mind to an English village, one might well find a tree-filled churchyard; then entering the church, hymns from the English Hymnal and choral music from the English tradition to provide a solid musical underpinning for the worship. As the shadows lengthen on a Sunday afternoon, one might even find a local lady cycling to evensong. Thus one might well conceive the stereotypical idyll of a Church of England village parish – but of course this is no Church of England parish, this is a Catholic Church fully united in faith, teaching, practice, and communion with the See of Peter whence unity in the Church flows.

Viewed from the outside the church of S. Anselm, Pembury, strikes one as a place which is remarkably ordinary. Built as the church hall in the ’60s, money ran out before the church itself was built, so it currently functions as both church and hall. These two facts, which seem to be in direct contradiction are the foundation upon which the Ordinariate is pursuing its work in this corner of Kent.

The idyll which is seen as characteristic of the Church of England is, of course, a nearly extinct species; as our former home is finding that its centre will not hold, the Ordinariate seeks to tap into the deep and long memory of Christianity in England. It is no coincidence that the parish Priest’s youngest son is named for S. Augustine of Canterbury, whose mission (on the direct orders of the then Holy Father) led to the creation of a deeply Catholic nation and culture which lasted for a thousand years.

This memory needs to face and address the effects of the reformation; England was dragged out of Catholic Christendom at the point of a thousand pikes, at the hangman’s noose, and at a series of smaller exclusions and marginalisations too numerous to mention; yet something remained – Henry, Edward, and Elizabeth did not manage entirely to extinguish the yearning to Catholicism and that remnant grafted back onto the strong nourishing roots of the Catholic Church is being allowed to flourish once more.

There is a palpable Englishness about everything which happens, yet this is through and through a Catholic parish. Straggling both the Ordinariate (which supplies the two Priests and around half of the laity) and the archdioceses of Southwark (which supplies the building and the other part of the laity) the parish seeks to model unity in diversity – neither side extinguishes the other, yet both enrich each other. The great hope of the Malines conversations – the Church of England united not absorbed – is being built in an unassuming manner. Diocesan Catholics joining Ordinariate Catholics at evensong, and kneeling together for benediction.

The physical setting does not even begin to compare with the local Ordinariate members’ former home of S. Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells; and so it would be easy to consider the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, to be inappropriate here; to relax into a gentle mediocrity which in seeking to offend and challenge nobody leaves all unfulfilled. Yet, for many years it has been a mark of the anglo-catholicism whence we came to seek always and everywhere to create ‘Heaven and Earth in Little Space’ – to take the title of a book by (the now Msgr) Andrew Burnham, of the Ordinariate. The outward and obvious challenge of the space seems to force an extra effort to create that within.

The beauty which is pursued is expressed in the reverential manner of the celebration, in the maintenance of a strong musical tradition, but above all in the beauty of Catholic Faith and teaching. There is no sense of a tension between a beautiful celebration and the unabashed expression of truth, but rather they become two sides of the same coin – the Faith is itself an object of beauty (one might even call it the veritatis splendor), that it is surrounded by other forms of beauty as it is expressed flows naturally from this central first proposition.

The beauty is also not to be kept hidden. Just as the via pulchritudinis was called a ‘privileged pathway for evangelisation’ [Plenary Assembly, Pontifical Council for Culture, 2006]; so the beauty is passed on and shared. The sharing is suitably quiet and unassuming (for such an English place), but is clear; the beauty when fully presented becomes irresistible. This sharing also means that rather than talk about the importance of community, here it simply happens because it’s the natural thing to happen.

What will I carry away from S. Anselm’s? First, there is a strong theology of place, this is a particular corner of England, and therefore it is right and proper that a deeply English spirituality should be pursued; the place is also personal, this is a particular community of people, a community who clearly know and love each other. Secondly, this particularity of place is complemented by the universality of Catholicism; in singing the chants from the Missal any Catholic from the anglophone world should be able to feel at home and join in with the Mass, the teaching and the communion are world-wide and throughout time. Thirdly, the concept of beauty; the beauty of the truth of the Catholic Faith, and its reflection in a desire (a realised desire) to have beauty and reverence in worship. We are told that a three-legged stool is sturdiest, and upon these three legs S. Anselm’s is creating a truly special expression of the Faith which is in turn drawing people in and enriching them to bring others in.

The Ordinariate Festival

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Today was an historic day as supporters and members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham gathered in Westminster Cathedral for our very first festival. It was a time for celebration and reflection and catching up with friends. And it was well attended. Photographs are available here.

The morning began with coffee, a welcome and a round up of news from various local groups. We then moved from a hall into the Cathedral itself for Mass at 12:30pm celebrated by Monsignor Keith Newton. His homily was inspiring reminding us of the need to live our faith authentically that we may then witness more effectively.

After lunch we returned to the hall for the key note addresses. First up was Cardinal Vincent Nichols who assured us of his prayers. The Cardinal recalled the progress of the Ordinariate thus far and reminded us of the need to strike a tricky balance between retaining a distinct charism and yet functioning as a necessary part of the whole. This will come by seeking together what God and the Church requires of the Ordinariate and not just indulging and chasing after our individual whims and desires. He also suggested that patience is needed as not everyone is yet able/ ready to hear the message we bring. Time is needed for this development in the life of the Church to be fully understood and appreciated.

It was then the turn of Monsignor Keith Newton who received a rapturous and lengthy applause! He was on great form and delivered an upbeat reminder of the need to support the vision of the Ordinariate as we obey the will of God. All in all a fantastic day which could well develop into an annual event.

All of the talks can be read in full here. 

A day of hard graft

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Those in favour of muscular Christianity would have approved of today’s efforts at Saint Anselm’s for a fence was dismantled and 22.5 trees felled as the start of our garden project began. The intention is to remove many unsightly and overgrown leilandi from our grounds that better hedges can be planted. This will enable us to open the space we have and turn what is a dark overgrown and muddy area in which grass cannot grow into a beautified space that will benefit the local play school and church children.

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As you can see the hard graft required many breaks for piping hot tea and hearty bacon sandwiches. Quite why the volunteers felt the need to line up so perfectly is beyond me. But I do know that feeding the stomachs of all led to a day of great productivity.

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Much of the cost of the project has been met via a grant from our local County Councillor – a member of our congregation. For this reason he had to leave the room when the decision was made to ensure impartiality. Fortunately the remaining people looked favourably on our project and so we are grateful to KCC for helping meet the cost of new bushes, labour and a chipper to shred the massive amount of greenery we are dismantling. The congregation are also helping via second collections this month as the cost of root removal is significant.

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Further days of work are already in the diary and this helps prepare the ground for the builders who will erect our new parish room. So it was an auspicious day and a clear sign of the intent and vision that is driving us forward as a parish. Massive thanks are due to all who sweated over the felling, limbing and clearing. Each and every one  merited the beer we enjoyed afterwards at the Black Horse.

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One wall of unsightly overgrown trees is down then and we now have two walls to clear. All decent established trees being left to enhance this area of local beauty. With a new parish room to be built  it is shaping up to be a busy but exciting few months.

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Is it just me or does Fr. Nicholas resemble bigfoot in this final photograph? He certainly looks surprised to be snapped.

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