Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: December 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Epiphany Carol Service

Saint Anselm’s are holding an Epiphany Carol Service on 10th January at 6:30pm. It is being held a week after Epiphany itself due to availability of clergy, choir and servers, this being a holiday period.

So book the date and come along to hear readings which tell of the incredible journey of the magi. Listen to your favourite Epiphany hymns from ‘we three kings’ to ‘brightest and best’. The latter is my all time favourite hymn. The choir will be led by Director of Music, Tom Davis, and will end with refreshments in the hall.

Gifts for St. Anselm

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The church is looking magnificent. Trees in stereo this year! Do click on the images to enlarge them. Our services have gone well and the children were just wonderful in the Nativity 2015.

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This year has also seen four gifts presented to the church. First some gorgeous new matching backdrops now situated behind the image of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. Huge thanks to the Hoare family who crafted and donated them to us.

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Here we see Joe and Chris putting them up which was no small feat. We are lucky that they are both professionals, the family having worked in the antiques and interior decoration trade for a great many years.

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The other gift to the parish comes from many people. During the autumn we had a basket out to raise funds for new storage units in the hall. This ensures the preschool equipment can be put away and it also provides the Sunday School, and other groups, with space to put their things. How fantastic to have them built.

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The new hall storage meant that we no longer have to store chairs and tables in the rear of the church itself. And that freed up the space for the creation of our tiny chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham. Here an image of her is found, along with that of Blessed John Henry Newman. The relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi resides in the altar. This space encapsulates the Ordinariate vision and is perfect for daily mass and the recitation of the offices.

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And the servers have reason to cheer this Christmastide thanks to a donation to the parish which affords them new pews. They are of good quality and add to the beauty of the evolving sanctuary.

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So many blessings for us as a parish this last year. So much to be thankful for as we ponder our growth in number and the feeling of being settled and happy together. God is good and he is clearly at work amongst us at this time. A blessed and happy Christmas to all our readers. We end with a picture of our crib situated in our other chapel, now dedicated to the Sacred Heart, to distinguish it.

Three working altars in St. Anselm’s. Nobody would have predicted that five years ago!

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The next 48 hours….

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I love Christmas Eve and Christmas day. It is always a manic but thoroughly enjoyable time as a parish priest and a father. Here is the itinerary for the next 48 hrs…

6:00am – Woken by over excited children wanting to open Advent Calendars

7am -out in the garden butchering pheasant for tonight’s supper. Thanks to Father Nicholas for the gift of game at yuletide!

8am- Write this blog article whilst eating toast!

8:30am – Open church. Morning prayer and enjoy the calm before the storm…

8:45am – Available for confessions throughout the morning. There is usually a steady stream. When not in the confessional: help parishioners erect the Christmas trees and decorate, change altar frontals and linens, set up crib, set out vestments, arrange the flowers, clean, polish the brass and make the church look magical.

12pm – Hospital visits

12:45pm – Home for lunch. Grab costumes, scripts et al for Nativity play

2pm- Rehearse over excited children for Nativity Play which forms the heart of our….

3pm – Crib service in church for families. Carols, blowing on of the tree lights, candlelit procession to the crib.

4pm- Clear up and set up the church for…

5pm -Vigil Mass of Christmas. Our first major service especially suitable for those who cannot come out late at night. Mass ends with a visit to the crib.

7:30pm – Dash home to help children put out their Christmas stockings. Read them ‘A night before Christmas’ (and try not to mist up….I fail every year)

8pm – make mackerel pate with a glass of something alcoholic in hand

8:30pm – supper and a little down time.

10pm- Open church for choir practice. Prepare everything for Midnight Mass.

11:30pm – Midnight Mass begins. The jewel in the crown of the liturgical season…

12:45pm – Crack open the bubbly and toast the Nativity with parishioners!

1:30am – wash up and clear glasses. Close church.

1:45am – ensure Father Christmas enjoyed his mince pie and shot of whisky! Ensure stockings deliver promise…

4am- woken by over excited children because Father Christmas has visited……tell children to go back to bed

4:15am- explain to children it is STILL not morning…

4:20am – Still not morning. Get a little grumpy. Complain about lack of sleep and too much bubbly

5am- cave in, take children downstairs and open stockings

6am – breakfast and lots of caffeine..

7am- open one main present (the rest wait till after lunch)

7:15am – assemble toys, insert batteries etc…

9am- morning prayer

10am – Solemn Mass of Christmas morning

12pm- home to Christmas lunch. Open presents, play games, assemble more toys. Fall asleep somewhere.

Happy Christmas everyone. I hope yours is as fun as mine promises to be…

Support from on high!

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This week a copy of a letter arrived from our local MP, Greg Clark which should warm the hearts of all parish members:

I write in my capacity as the Member of Parliament for Tunbridge Wells to support Saint Anselm’s Church’s application for funding towards the refurbishment of their kitchen. I gather you should be receiving their application shortly, if you have not already done so. 

This application follows the building of a new community hall- attached to the church- which I understand is proving extremely popular. They would like to refurbish the existing kitchen in order to better serve the local clubs, groups and organisations which use this space however it is a project for which they lacked funds when building the hall. 

I urge you to look favourably upon this application. 

Yours Sincerely

Greg Clark

Let us hope his letter of support bolsters our application sufficiently that we might receive the funding we require. Mr Clark was not alone in supporting this application, in addition we also received a glowing commendation from our County Councillor Chris Hoare.

Here is hoping that the new year will bring with it a new building project!

We are what we pray…

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A wise priest once explained that ultimately ‘you are what you pray.’ At the time I did not understand his meaning but the older I get the more it comes into focus. If you attend Mass where there is authentic worship of the divine, you tend to take the faith more seriously than if your regular worship comprises less emphasis on God and more celebration of the gathered community. Here fidelity to tradition and scripture wanes, it is trumped by the desire to adhere instead to the trends of societal thinking; man before God as in this style of liturgy. What this tells us is that liturgy is of profound importance in shaping and forming the church. It should be a serious consideration of evangelists, teachers, bishops et al…

Divine Worship, the new liturgy issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship for use in the Ordinariate, is therefore important. It is going to shape what occurs within an Ordinariate setting. I am supremely confident it is going to prove good news for the wider church. Because Divine Worship is rich in meaning; its focus explicitly more cultic, which is to say it focuses less on applauding the people and more on worshipping God, than is the case with the present Novus Ordo.

This is not to bash the Novus Ordo. It can be celebrated with reverence and beauty and sincere emphasis on God. However it is ambiguous which is its downfall; it can just as easily be celebrated badly. And who hasn’t experienced this? The celebration wherein music is no longer ecclesial but secular and in which there is little emphasis on God at all. One Ordinariate priest even encountered John Lennon’s “Imagine there is no heaven” being played by a worship band during as administration of communion took place.

Now given that we are what we pray, such abuses cannot be ignored. But sadly they often are. I would go so far as to suggest the PRIME REASON there has been a major decline in faith and praxis in the last half Century centres on shoddy liturgical life. A folky, de-masculinised and poor liturgy does not inspire. Hence the loss of so many young people, the emptying of the seminaries and the poor level of knowledge one often encounters today among the so-called faithful. It is serious.

We begin to see, I think, why Pope Benedict XVI made liturgical reform a central aspect of his pontificate. It would explain why he encouraged wider tolerance for the Extraordinary form and why he implemented a New Translation of the Novus Ordo; a reform containing more explicit prayers and clearer emphasis on the need for liturgical not secular music.

I believe Pope Benedict wanted to set the church on the right path to enable her to begin to correct her widespread liturgical abuses. Certainly he spoke of how Vatican II was not faithfully implemented. And we find his finger prints all over the Ordinariate project whose obvious gift to the wider church is Divine Worship- a way of celebrating Mass in the vernacular but with all the dignified ceremonial of the Extraordinary form. Does this Mass better reflect what the fathers of the Second Vatican Council actually desired? I passionately believe this to be the case.

But if you are still struggling to accept my suggestion that liturgy forms the church, and not the other way round, let me finish by way of example. In the present Novus Ordo the penitential rite merely requires us to “say sorry” but does not clarify what this means in practice.

Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge ours sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

Compare this to the invitation given in Divine Worship which spells out what sorry entails. We are explicitly told about a need for amendment of life on our part and the desire to walk in God’s ways. Mercy is still on offer but it is not cheaply given.

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith, and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees.

The scandal of the recent Synod on the Family was not in written word, the final document is solid, but in the beliefs expressed by modernist Cardinals during the process. A large swathe of German prelates, for example, clearly believe adultery should no longer be a bar to communion. And a recently elected American Cardinal claims personal conscience alone should dictate our moral state. How did these men, who are meant to be guardians of the faith, reach these un-Christian conclusions? Why are they not being disciplined? What makes them think mercy can be divorced from justice and served up without the necessary conversion to Christ and divine revelation? Is it because they are what they pray?

Which is to say the call to penitence within the Novus Ordo suggests, as long as we are in some vague sense sorry, we can be admitted to the sacred mysteries. But in Divine Worship it comes over differently. Here there is less wriggle room for sinners. We are told we must show forth in our lives a clear intention to follow the commandments of God…faith and works are needed, the Catholic position, not faith alone being the Protestant option.

See how Divine Worship (and the Extraordinary Form it must be said) call rogue modernists to account in a way the Novus Ordo does not? I believe this sort of example which can seem subtle, even insignificant, on the surface, is of the deepest importance. Hence liturgical reform has been central to the mission here in Pembury and elsewhere within the Ordinariate. We Ordinariate folk sincerely believe solemnity, beauty and awe, alongside robust preaching and a clear expression of the faith, are vitally important evangelistic tools for the 21st Century. And our mission is to inspire others to embrace the reform of the reform; to return a sense of true reverence to worship. As mentioned before it is perfectly possible for this to be done with the Novus Ordo- this is something open to all- but only if the desire is there.

We are what we pray and sincere worship is how we form sincere Christians. Reverential and obedient worship will form reverential and obedient Christians. Haven’t we had enough of half hearted and compromised Christians, so common in our day? But what else could be formed where the liturgy has come to be chaotic at best and deliberately compromised at worse?

We are what we pray The issue isn’t only corporate but deeply personal. How do you approach God’s throne? Do you seek out places where worship is conducted with dignity or put up with poor liturgy without challenging those who serve it? We must all demand the best for God. Not only in our lives but also in our worship. And like our lives we will never achieve what we should liturgically- but therefore the intention and effort become all the more important.

You cannot force friendship

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You can force anybody to be your slave; but you cannot force anyone to be your friend. This fact must be grasped to understand God; especially regarding how he relates to us in life. See God wants us to be his friends not his slaves, that is why he never forces himself on us. It is why he gave us freedom to choose. Even to the point of accepting our decision, should we take it, to reject him and live instead for this life only or even to op for evil and vice. He honours our decisions. God could force himself on us, of course, but he doesn’t because he is not in any way abusive. And, besides, this wouldn’t then be an authentic friendship at all.

For this reason Christ’s birth did not mean there WOULD be peace on earth, only that there COULD be. Which is to say he came to bring all the necessary ingredients and recipe for our human flourishing, but the success is entirely dependent on man’s willing co-operation. Thus if there is no peace on earth this Christmas it is not a reflection on God but man. A sign we continue to reject his offer and the teaching he gave us. A sign that we choose self destruction instead. Ultimately God was not born that we must love him, only that we may love him, if we so choose. If we take up this extraordinary offer of friendship.

But even if man wants to be God’s friend there are problems. First because, by definition, God is completely beyond our knowing. How can mortals relate to Him? A chasm surely exists between heaven and earth which man can only grope towards. Second any friendship must be unbalanced. Foe we are not equals. Hence other, in most other religions and especially paganism, focus is on bargaining with God- or the Spirits- for power; to heal, curse or bless. But scripture says, no, our God of love isn’t interested in pleading. The point made in our second reading for this Sunday; God does not desire sacrifice. Which is to say even a healthy religion fails if it is reduced to our merely begging for benefit. Because God wants more for us. He wants us to approach  in love not want. A relationship of trust not a master/servant deal.

It was to answer these twin problems, the separation between us and God, the lack of balance in the relationship, that Jesus was born in that stable in Bethlehem. At that moment the chasm between God and man was bridged; for now we may relate to him as one of us. Secondly this humbling action corrected any possible imbalance. He came to us as a fragile and vulnerable child, as an equal. This point is made in our first Reading; “You, (Bethlehem), the least of the clans of Judah out of you will come…” Such is the humility and wisdom of God; see he knows, for us to be true friends, we must approach the eternal throne in love not in a lust for power. And this also explains, of course, why there are no gains for Christians in the life of faith, we carry a cross not a bucket of gold. By making sacrifice and suffering part of the deal God is ensuring we follow him through choice not for selfish gain.

So because of Christmas we really can be God’s friends. But what does this mean in reality? It helps to simply consider friendship itself.  Friends take joy in one another’s company. Do you love being with God- time before the Sacrament, worshipping in Church? Friends make time for each other. Do you make time each day for God? And do your prayers reflect a loving relationship and not just a list of demands? Friendship means sharing values. Do you turn from sin and respect his revelation? Scripture says obedience to Christ’s teaching is the proof that we love him.

As we break down what it means to be a friend, and attribute it to God, we see what it really means to be Christian. It means building a relationship of love and trust with him- as we would anyone else we adored in life. And if it takes dedication to build real friendship on earth, why expect it to be different within the life of faith? Of course it will be costly. Of course we will need to change. Friendship requires sacrifice on both sides and is often proved by trials. Which is why rugby players and soldiers are so often closely bonded. They fight together and have each others backs. Do you stand up for Christ? Or do you abandon him the minute you leave church?

This  consideration of friendship leads us to Mary. For she was the first to approach God as a true friend. She surrendered to him out of love, not servile fear or desire for power. Gabriel did not force her to accept God’s demand, he came with a genuine question and gave her the chance to choose. And her decision to say yes to God was very costly. It led her to become a refugee and even to witness the brutal murder of her child. Truly it was not for her worldly gain and so her love was proved. And for that reason she was blessed, and enabled to bring forth Jesus Christ to the world. The peasant girl with a heart of love for Christ became the Queen of heaven!

So may the prayers of Mary help us to spiritually prepare for Christmas. May she show us what friendship with God really means and may her prayers help us forge that one friendship in life that ultimately matters. Our relationship with God our father who created us and still calls us to be his friends. The choice is yours. Choose wisely…

Divine worship is here to stay

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Over the last few months we have been using Divine Worship, the new liturgy designed for the Ordinariates. It has been celebrated every Saturday at 9am and, more recently, at the 9:15am Sunday Mass too. Most people have been pleased with it or else haven’t noticed much difference! Former Anglicans tend to welcome the return of the Shaw musical settings; cradle Catholics tend to remark on the beauty and solemnity of the prayers. It takes them back to the Catholicism of their childhood, proof that this liturgy is helping connect the modern with the ancient. That being the authentic intention of Vatican II as Pope Benedict often reminded us.

The first week we used it things did not go to plan! We overrun considerably. It didn’t help that it was Antony’s final Mass and he gave us a sumptuous musical feast with all the bells on! But since then we have simplified things and it now runs at the required timescale of 1hr and 15 minutes. Proving a good fit for the 9:15am Mass. And now that it can be celebrated using the new Missal, a thing of beauty in itself, it adds to the sense of its importance in the life of the Ordinariate.

How could we ignore it and maintain integrity? It is not every day the Universal Church calls you to pioneer a new liturgy that you might reflect an authentic English spirituality and live out the call to Catholic unity! Naturally then we wish to be at the vanguard of blazing this trail. Not least because it affords us a very dignified and reverent means of celebrating Mass. In many ways it serves as a bridge, the best of two worlds, offering the accessibility of the Novus Ordo alongside the rich ceremonial of the Extra-ordinary form.

It has been decided, therefore, that Divine Worship will now become the norm at the 9:15am Sunday Mass; the Novus Ordo remaining the norm at 11am. Of course everyone is welcome at all celebrations for we are members together of the one Latin Rite, the same parish family living in communion with the Holy See. And that is where the magic of being part of the Ordinatiate is to be found. We have a distinct mission and charism but we are very much part of the whole. Proud to be serving the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Final report finally translated!

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The English translation of the final report from the Synod on the family is now available.

And it is a very good and encouraging document. Do take the time to read it carefully.

A fruitful Saturday in Advent

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Yesterday was a long but fruitful and enjoyable day for the parish. In the morning an amazing group of dedicated volunteers prepared a fabulous Christmas dinner which was served to the over 60’s from across the village at lunchtime. The food was absolutely delicious and one lady remarked that it was superior to the Christmas meal she had been served in a restaurant last year at the cost of over £60! So well done to the chefs! We also had the very best waiters and waitresses comprising of the younger members of our congregation.

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After lunch the children sang carols and the older residents were smiling and joining in. It was really good to bring the different generations together, that doesn’t seem to happen much in our society anymore. More is the pity. Then it was time for bingo with yours truly as the caller. I am assured that my jokes were worse than ever this year- but the poorer the joke the bigger the groans and chuckles it strikes me. Even the kitchen workers were smiling….

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After everything was cleared away and carried back to the church (we had to use the village scout hall this year as our kitchen is out of action) there was just time for ten minutes sit down before we gathered outside Tesco to sing carols. This was done alongside the other churches in the village and we were raising money for the local Hospice. It was a merry time and we were grateful to our new Director of Music, Tom Davis, who gave us musical accompaniment.

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After exhausting every carol in the booklet, and raising a lot of cash, we bid goodbye to our Anglican and Baptist friends and nipped into a local nursing home. This is a place I visit weekly to take the sacrament to those who cannot now get to church. Many residents here suffer with dementia yet everyone knew the carols and joined in with aplomb. One resident, normally locked in on herself, even took my hand and danced with me for “Ding dong merrily on high”. That said another warned me she had had enough of my cheek and that I would get the back of her hand if I was not careful! Oh well, you cannot please all the people all of the time!

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Finally a few of us collapsed into a seat in the Black Horse, which was heaving, for a well deserved pint. What a great day for our parish. One of the pleasing things in recent months is how together we seem to be at present. All our activities feel very supported with people pulling together as one. We now look forward to our Service of 9 Lessons and Carols next Sunday at 6:30pm. We encourage children to attend, in pyjamas is absolutely fine by us if the youngest are likely to grow sleepy, and they will be invited to sing together the first verse of Away in a Manger. Minced pies and mulled wine will be served afterwards.

The Year of Mercy in Lego

 

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