Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: April 2015 (Page 1 of 3)

Vote Tomlinson

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The election looms and, as a Christian, I still feel alienated from the electoral process because all options leave me disillusioned. So pushing all parties aside I thought it might be fun to share the manifesto of my dreams. Let me present the newly formed (in my head) Tomlinson party…my idea of what ought to be offered  the electorate for the good of our nation.

1. A return to Christian values

Christian voters feel marginalised because the ethical basis on which we are governed is drifting/being driven from its historic Judeo-Christian foundation to adopt and serve a secular egalitarian vision. I would stamp out the secularism rampant in society and ask voters of all faiths to embrace our Christian heritage instead. The electorate should be made aware that Christianity gave us Oxford and Cambridge, our greatest schools and universities, our hospitals etc. Highlighting this cultural indebtedness, alongside the myriad ways in which Christianity continue to enhance Britain (via soup kitchens, volunteerism, etc) is vital to my campaign. We must stop being ashamed of our Christian values and be helped to see how they can again form our identity for the good of our future.

2. Liberty must prevail

A truly Christian nation would be great news for people of all faiths and none. Because Christianity is still the greatest champion of personal freedom and conscience this world has known. It created the Western values people hold dear, the values being dismantled in our day. Voters must be helped to see that the current ideology has only ever thrived parasitically on a Christian host and only ever leads to the growth of Nanny State at clear cost to individual freedom. With Christianity jettisoned the State becomes the god and that is bad news for all.

A nation valuing difference and respecting liberty would accept that Jewish butchers need not sell pork to their customers due to their sincerely held beliefs. But it would understand that others may sell bacon. A common sense approach that ought to be applied to Christian bakers today, but isn’t, where gay activists are demanding produce that is an affront to the baker’s beliefs. People of all faiths and none would be encouraged to live alongside one another in mutual respect. Much as we did for years when Britain was a Christian nation.

This would inform a compassionately controlled immigration policy in which people were welcomed into Britain from abroad- with delight-  so long as they were sincerely looking to contribute to the communities they inhabit and respect the Judeo-Christian values of these isles.

3. The family at the heart of society

A return to Christian Britain would put the family at the heart of society. This would mean parents being valued as the chief educators of children. There would be significant tax breaks for married couples to encourage parents to remain together for the benefit of the next generation. My party would work hard to ensure one salary was sufficient to pay the mortgage- allowing mothers genuine choice and flexibility. A luxury only afforded to the wealthy at present. In the interests of the young the notion of “gay marriage” would be abolished. Instead civil partnerships would be offered within the civic realm to reflect the liberty and respect shown to those not choosing to live by Christian standards.

4. A smaller state

The State has become bloated and expensive in recent decades believing itself worthy of probing into every corner of our private lives. So one of the main thrusts of the new party would be a massive reduction in government. Subsiduarity would be the order of the day. Help must be there for the vulnerable, and more than at present, but the aim would be to allow families and communities greater freedom to govern themselves.  The salaries of government employees would return to sensible levels with a cull on corruption and excessive expenses and pensions.  A move to drastically lower taxes and ensure revenue flows to communities- for libraries etc- not the back pockets of the few. The new State would be there to serve the community and not to dictate. An end to the new Orwellian Britain and its heavily imposed PC agenda.

5. Education

There would be a major overhaul of education. In essence greater trust would be shown to teachers to educate without government interference. The red tape would go with only a few inspections to root out the useless. And the ideology currently rampant within the current curriculum would be scrapped with an  emphasis on returning to a model in which we teach children how to think not what to think. We would insist on the highest possible academic standards.

6. On health

A Christian culture would insist that health services work to the end of sustaining not ending human life. There would be much less management of hospitals but greater emphasis given to ethical considerations. The taking of human life would be criminalised that all may be truly protected from conception to the grave.

7. On finance

In recent years capitalism has been overthrown in favour of corporationalism. Enough of the huge cartels, the big supermarkets and giant corporations who are never allowed to fail or pay tax. Back to a nation rewarding success and encouraging a level playing field. Less cronyism and more help to small businesses and local communities etc.. Banks would be regulated to ensure that a greedy few were not gambling with the future of the many.

8. Crime and punishment

At present the law is often an ass. The poor are not as well served as the wealthy by the judiciary. Prisons would be run to reflect our Christian culture with prisoners living under a Benedictine rule. The prayer would need to be optional – to reflect our libertarian values- but all would have to attend services! A bit like school chapel when I was young.

This would – in my opinion- transform lives. And a huge amount of work would be done to help rehabilitate prisoners after they have served time. Too often today they are abandoned and offered no real opportunity to choose a new life.

So there you have what I would do. A very Christian model for the nation to follow. And one that would save us from the Marxist inspired nanny Statism offered by most every party today. Would it get your vote?

More good news- thanks be to God!

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As regular readers know builders are presently on site at Saint Anselm’s as our project to build a new parish room, and thereby create a permanent church for the community, is well under way. This week a new entrance is being constructed and the beautiful external crucifix salvaged from a redundant convent, pictured above, is being moved to its permanent home. It will now greet people as they enter the grounds of our church, a powerful reminder of whom we serve and in whose name all this work is being done.

Ours is a small congregation so funding was ever a challenge. But that challenge was lessened this week when the Friends of the Ordinariate very generously awarded a grant of £10,000 towards the work.  This grant sits alongside £30,000 already given to us by Southwark archdiocese and various other gifts from parishes and benefactors. The donations now total close to 50% of the work. And when you consider that our grounds are also being developed thanks to a grant from the local authority- it has been a great year for us in which we must give thanks to God for so much generosity.

Having satisfied the diocese of our ability to meet costs, the rest of the work is being funded by loans offered to us by parishes from within the diocese. The new hall/parish room will contain a commemorative plaque naming them- and our benefactors- in thanksgiving. And the new room is to be named the Hine Room after Bishop John Hine who retired as area bishop within the diocese last year. He is, to our knowledge, the only bishop to have been raised  in Pembury and he will be visiting in the Autumn to unveil the plaque. We are also planning a special Mass of thanksgiving to officially open the room. Details to follow.

Once the hall is complete we will begin work on church renovation. We have a busy but productive decade ahead! If anyone wishes to make a donation towards our project- and the later beautification of our church- they can do so by emailing me directly and requesting further information. Every penny helps!

Shepherds v Hirelings

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A couple of people asked me for a copy of yesterday’s homily. I am therefore posting it here today:

As a child there hung in my bedroom an image of Christ the Good Shepherd. I liked it a lot though it dripped with sentimentality. It was that image of gentle Jesus meek and mild, skin scrubbed clean, beard neatly trimmed, as he clutched an impossibly white lamb to his breast. A healthy devotional image but one devoid of any authenticity. So it is not an image for today when we contemplate a Gospel passage in which Jesus cries out for authenticity- for the laying down of life in the service of God. Far better that we focus on reality- the filthy sheep and shepherds of the ancient Middle East. Which leads to a lovely quote from Pope Francis who suggested clergy today must keep about themselves the stink of the sheep. Whatever did he mean?

The church needs true shepherds. Priests and bishops not divorced from reality, like my picture, but rooted in truth and close to their people. That they might guide the Church into the future. Clergy who put God first, others second and self last. That is what the church in every age needs, but what she often gets, alas, is hirelings. Those who profess a love of Christ but who, in reality, put personal comfort and political ambition ahead of the Gospel. How priesthood is diminished when this happens! We might consider, most obviously, those wicked men who hid behind their collars and abuses young people in their care. And those cowards who covered up the truth at the cost of other victims.

Those are the most obvious examples of hirelings. But there are others, better hidden but also dangerous. I speak of clergy who uphold a liberalising agenda. Whose voice ever calls for greater synthesis with the prevailing culture. The issues change from one generation to the next but the  thrust of their argument is constant. A voice which pleads for change that the church may be more relevant. These men would shepherd God’s people but not at personal cost. They want a Christianity in vogue with modern attitudes not a faith that might challenge the world. Are these not hirelings? Those who look like shepherds, who should be shepherds, but whose teaching, in truth, leads away from the historic faith towards greater acceptance of the worlds philosophy?

Learning to differentiate between authentic shepherds and hirelings becomes a crucial skill. Because even those in high office, actually especially those in high office, are often tempted in this regard. And who can blame them? It is not easy being a bishop. You spend time with influential powerful people and there is much pressure to conform. Furthermore you have much to lose- the place at high table, the praise of elites! Which is why, sadly, many bishops come to value compromise over clarity. And, in the very worst cases, they can become obstacles to the Gospel and not conduits of it. Men of the institution not men of God. Which is why bishops need our prayers daily. And it is why they must be held to account  and reminded that they are to be shepherds of truth not politicians.

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We need authentic witnesses not false teachers. The chilling photograph of German bishops giving Hitler a salute reminds us of this fact. As does the reformation in England when most every bishop capitulated to the crown, hid in palaces and shared the plunder as martyrs were put to the sword. The exception, of course, was St. John Fisher. The BBC drama Wolf Hall might have delighted in portraying him a villain. But that was a wicked lie. In truth he was a hero. The one shepherd surrounded by hirelings who spoke truth to power and witnessed to Christ with his life.

It is in times of crisis, when the wolf comes as the Gospel puts it, when we often learn who is the true shepherd and who is the hireling. In times of comfort it is hard to tell. And today we are again living through a time of crisis as the modernist heresy challenges our faith. And so it was that during the last Synod on the family we heard two very different voices emerging. Some Cardinals were passionate in their defence of the faith of the ages. But others seemed more passionate about the teachings of this fallen world concerning marriage and family life. There were those who upheld the Gospel and those who would have us believe that mercy calls us to abandon it’s teaching. We must champion and support those who are faithful and challenge those who no longer speak for Christ in the world. We must pray that the voice of the shepherd triumphs!

From bishops to priests. The problem remains. How many clergy refuse to speak out on contentious issues? How many shy away from controversy running the church as a social club not preaching the faith in its fulness? I do not point a finger without being aware of my own shortcomings in this regard. One of my favourite writers is Fulton-Sheen. He said people do not need priests who are regular guys but those who are examples of holiness. That calls me short. Too often I am just a regular guy at the rugby club or in church or at the Black Horse. I have much to do in my own spiritual life lest I become a hireling not a shepherd. It is all well and good talking the talk but we who profess the faith must also walk the walk. And it is here many of us fall by the wayside. But read today’s Gospel and see how Jesus calls us to be faithful. He yearns for authenticity. The living out of a vocation not the doing of a job.

Authenticity; that is what we must strive for though each is a broken vessel. But take comfort- we do not rely on ourselves but on him. And all he wants is for us to desire to change- to lay down our lives that he might reform them. And so from priests to people. What of you? Are you an authentic witness? Do you shine forth with Easter joy. Or, like me, is there room for improvement when it comes to true discipleship?

Back to Fulton Sheen. He said behave as you believe or you will soon believe as you behave. We ought to be celebrating Easter fully. But how can Western Christians do so when, during the last Century we have, in so many places, sold out to secular culture? The faith handed to us by saints and martyrs has been watered down and damaged by accommodation to the world. So we do rejoice but it is muted. We do rejoice but there are many missing from the celebration. And so todays Gospel arrives us a challenge within our rejoicing. He laid down his life for us- will we now lay down our lives for him? So let me ask. If you were arrested for being Christian would there be evidence to convict you? Do your beliefs stem from Christ or the spirit of this age? What are you to be this coming year- a shepherd or a hireling?

St George & the Dragon

Little is actually known about England’s patron Saint George, whose feast day falls today. What we do know is that he was born circa 280 in Cappadocia, an area that is now part of Turkey and that Emperor Diocletian executed St. George on April 23, 303, in Palestine, for protesting Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. this is a man who was willing to go to his death for love of Christ.

George was written about by Eusebius of Caesarea and made known to England by Arculphus and Adamnan in the early 700s. He was made patron saint of England in 1098, after appearing to soldiers at the Battle of Antioch. And he will be forever linked with the great legend of his defeating a dragon which was terrorising a community and holding it to ransom.

Some historians have suggested the dragon may have been a crocodile. Others think George might have slain one of the last living dinosaurs. Others believe there never was a dangerous beast and that the story is fable. Whatever the truth the story is powerful and works effectively as allegory. You can use the story to speak of St. George as the symbol of good overcoming the dragon which is the symbol of evil. Or you can see the captured princess as a symbol of purity which is under threat from the dragon as a symbol of lust, conquered by the Christian virtue of St. George. Or George can represent Christianity overcoming paganism which is the dragon. What a great tale it is!

Today the last word simply must go to Shakespeare.

Feisty nuns

There are those on this blog who believe I am harsh in criticising modernist liberalism within Christianity. So be it. My criticism will continue because  I sincerely believe liberalism anathema; a cancer to true and living faith in Christ Jesus. The leading cause of decline. But as to being harsh- well compared to the much loved Mother Angelica, who formed the EWTN network and who turned 92 this week, I am a pussy-cat!

The video above shows her speaking out against the erosion of Catholic life caused by liberal modernism. Her message delivered following an evening in which she had been subjected to liturgical dance in which Christ was depicted as a woman. Mother was not happy! Scroll to the 8 minute mark if you are short of time to see the main thrust of her arguments. Her points remain valid.

The fortunate thing today is that the fruit of liberalism, or rather the lack of it, is becoming obvious. Wherever the liberal agenda has been attempted there you find a loss of vocation, closure of parishes, disunity, loss of youth and loss of men. And what seemed novel, even trendy, forty years ago is now looking dated and deeply unfashionable.  The trend is therefore reversing. Young people today either seek traditional Catholicism or drop out of church altogether.

It leaves a situation on the ground reminiscent of Aristophanes’s “The Wasps”. A generational divide exists in which an elderly leadership hungers for novelty and rebellion- the desire to conform to the world- whilst the younger generation wants to adhere to that which is conventional- the desire to be in the world but not of the world. How much more orthodox is the average Seminarian of 2015 than the average bishop! Thus the pendulum is swinging. This is the last watch of liberal Catholicism before the clock is rolled back. Which is why I predict, that within twenty years, radical change will come.

There may be a few more tricky years to endure yet but then will come a time of rediscovery. A third spring. That which was downplayed will be re-emphasised. Beauty will matter once more. Churches will be re-ordered to restore their former glory. And the church will finally be ready to put into place the actual teaching of Vatican II. For she will have ditched liberal modernism, that politically inspired mess that masqueraded as V2 but was, in truth, a wilful deviation from it.

The Christian response to Isis

Fr. Alastair writes…

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Fr. Alastair has agreed to my printing the letter he wrote for the parish of Withyham announcing his reasons for leaving the Church of England to become a member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It is a very fine letter which speaks powerfully of his integrity and wisdom.

After much thought and prayer, and with the help of spiritual direction, I have decided that I can no longer remain within the Church of England.

I am by God’s grace to be received into full communion with the Church of Rome. Denise and I will be taking instruction, and we are seeking reception into the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The Ordinariate, as many of you will know, is that part of the English Catholic Church called into being in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI for Anglicans who wish to retain the distinctive musical traditions, liturgical culture and pathways of spirituality of the Anglican Church, while being fully in communion with the 1.3 billion Catholics in the rest of the world.

I am very conscious that today we are in a church building originally designed and built by English Catholics, consecrated by a Catholic bishop, and which for five centuries or so was served by Catholic priests who were in communion with the See of Rome. This period includes the time when Withyham was a cell of a French Benedictine monastery.

I want to be among those who will have worked for the re-establishment of the unity of Christendom within this realm – in whatever ways are now being mapped out by God’s providence. Unfortunately such reunion cannot happen with the Church of England, which by its deeds has resolutely set its face against unity with the historic churches of East and West.

There may be some who will regard my action as a betrayal. But it is not. During my time here I have done my best to teach the Faith and to be a priest to you all. However, if a priest does not listen to the voice of his own soul, he cannot with any sincerity be a pastor to others. And unity is a gospel imperative. Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed that his Church might be one. It follows that unless there is a sound theological reason for being apart, Christians should always seek to be united rather than divided. For my part, there is no valid reason for remaining in schism from what for 2000 years has been the Church of the West.

I have greatly valued my time in this parish. It has been bracing, even invigorating. I have learnt much from you, and for that I shall always be very thankful. I have prayed for you all, and will continue to do so. There are a number of challenges in this parish. I hope that some of them have begun to be addressed this past Lent.  

The Archdeacon of Hastings and the Bishop of Chichester, with whom I have of course been in touch, have said that once I have publicly declared my position, this should be my last public service with you.

Over the coming months there will clearly be a heavy burden on the Readers, Elizabeth and Donald, and also on the churchwardens and PCC. Please pray for them. Give them the help they will need.

And of your kindness, please pray for Denise and me in the times that lie ahead for us. We in turn will not forget the friendships we have made, nor the loyalty and support that many of you have given.

After this service, instead of coffee, we are inviting you to drinks at the Rectory. Please do come over to say goodbye. Or if that is not convenient, we are around for much of next week – please feel free to drop in.

Alastair Ferguson
Third Sunday of Easter 2015

Revd Alastair Ferguson

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Until yesterday Revd. Alastair Ferguson was active as the vicar of St. Michael and all Angels in Withyham, East Sussex. An Anglican parish in the Diocese of Chichester. But that changed at the end of Mattins when he announced to his congregation, that with immediate effect, he was stepping down to follow his conscience and join the Catholic church, via the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with his wife, Denise. At the request of the diocese he now begins a period of extended leave that is owing to him.

Once the announcement was made Cardinal Newman’s beautiful prayer –‘support us all the day long’ -was read out and the final hymn was the Eastertide favourite, ‘the strife is o’er the battle done!’  Members of the congregation were then invited back for drinks in the rectory garden, a magnificent old property, and as you can see the party was gatecrashed by cassocked riff-raff from nearby Pembury in Kent…

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Father Alistair, a former GP, and Denise will be worshipping with us at Saint Anselm’s over the coming weeks as they discern where God is calling them next. This represents great charity on my part- I want readers to understand- given that he is a graduate of Oxford (like Fr. Nicholas) whilst I am a light blue!

What courage Fr. Alastair and Denise are showing to leave behind so much with no clear answers for the future, save this strong desire to walk the path of unity and a genuine belief that God is calling them to it! We must pray for them and make them truly welcome!

Like Fr. Jack, who joined us only a few months ago from Robertsbridge,  Fr Alastair surprised the Anglican authorities when he announced to them his intentions. Being typical country parsons- prayerbook catholics from a rural setting- these are not the unashamed Romanists you once found in town centres, those people assumed were the obvious candidates for Ordinariate life. No, it is not the lovers of exotic liturgy who seem drawn to Rome today but those, who with gentle but firm resolve, simply wish to stand by the faith of the ages and delight in that authentic Anglican patrimony which the Ordinariate upholds.

This does not surprise me. ‘Being catholic’ for many Anglicans today is an aesthetic choice. A love of dressing up and enjoying the trappings of ceremonial. But that isn’t what Catholicism itself is about. So little wonder- in these days when the Catholic claims of Anglicanism have fallen- it is orthodox hearts and missionary minds, not the gin and lace set, who are finding their way home.  Because if you claim to be Catholic, as these men came to realise, the game is up on Canterbury’s shore. Only protestants and liberals can survive with intellectual credibility. A fact to threaten belief not liturgical proclivity.

Perhaps God himself is not particularly interested in preserving ‘the Anglo-Catholic sect’ in any case. But that he used Anglo-Catholicism in the last two centuries to soften protestant hearts ahead of the true work of unity that is now unfolding within the Ordinariate. The calling home of those separated from Rome at the reformation who are now in danger of being led even further from Catholic truth as the C of E abandons its self proclaimed via media to promote its current liberal creed.

Alastair and Denise- we delight in welcoming you into the life of the Ordinariate. May your witness inspire many others to follow, indeed my prayer is that the whole Church of England might one day wake up and see the unbelievable potential and gift that the Ordinariate presents it. That we might all be one. The abandonment of the experiment of liberal modernity and the schismatic tendency of protestantism to reclaim the authentic truth and unity of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith.

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A letter to the parish

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David Howell is a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Southwark currently studying at the Venerable English College in Rome. His link to our parish here in Pembury comes by chance. He being the seminarian we were asked to support in prayer by Fr. Stephen Langridge who cares for vocations in the diocese. This week I received a letter from him thanking us for those prayers:

Dear Father Ed, 

Thank you so much for having your parish pray for me during my seminary formation. It is a great encouragement and help for me and I will pray for you all too. I am due to be ordained a deacon on 12th July just outside Rome and then am due to be ordained priest the following July. 

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The enclosed postcard is the “Martyrs Picture” from our chapel, which was seen by many of the 44 martyrs of the seminary. 

Best wishes

David Howell

Please continue to pray for David. I shall be writing to thank him for his letter and inviting him to visit us next time that he is home.

The forthcoming election

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The graffiti above is cynical but sums up my feelings heading into the general election. The bottom line is that I can not find a single party upholding the views of Christians. Who are we to vote for? It is a question many Catholics are asking. Perhaps we need to vote for local individuals over a party under the circumstances? Is that acceptable in a general election? I do not really know…but what I can share are two good posts from the last week that will help you in your thinking.

The first comes from Ordinariate priest, Fr. Ian Hellyer. You must read it in a lovely gentle West Country lilt to hear his authentic voice! He helpfully reminds us that Catholic teaching stresses how society should place the dignity of the human person at the centre. Not the creation of wealth at the expense of human dignity, not the following of ideology at the expense of the person, not the building up of the State at the expense of human dignity. The building up of humanity, especially protection of the weak, must be the heartbeat of the manifesto acceptable to the Christian. Shame I cannot really find one.

The second entitled “Who can I vote for?” was penned by Deacon Nick Donnelly for a local newspaper. As if the suspicion that the Christian voice is sidelined in modern politics needed highlighting, the paper then refused to publish the article due to its “political content!” Fortunately a blog picked it up. Having shown why the parties fail the Catholic he asks a huge question; has the time come for Christians to mobilise and form a better party? A fantastic vision but it will not help us in the short term.

My own feeling is that we might be looking in the wrong place in any case. Given that the majority of our laws are now formed in Brussels not Westminster why do we still behave as if this election is the big one? If Britain has become a Federal State, as I believe it has, then the political narrative on these shores needs to change in order to recognise the fact.

It is our European MP’s who hold the power over us and it is they who should therefore demand our fullest attention. But most of us do not even know who they are. If you doubt the power of Brussels consider how gay marriage, forced on the electorate without vote despite never appearing in any manifesto, occurred because promises had been given in Europe long before it was even announced in the UK Parliament. Don’t be sidelined by the issue itself – it is the process I am highlighting here. And it hints at something much less than authentic democracy.

Perhaps many, like myself, feel disempowered and apathetic precisely because we are not voting for the leaders of this nation but only for the figures who represent them locally? The servants of the massive corporations and the faceless eurocrats. It would explain why the genuine choice and excitement offered by Thatcher v. Kinnock in my youth has given way to the banal options of today. Our career politicians seem dull in comparison and are barely different one from the other. What do you think a Catholic should do in the forthcoming election? Keep it courteous please!

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