Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: November 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

By their fruits…

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Sometimes arguments break out within the body of Christ which cause division and, if not nipped in the bud, can even lead to to the scandal of schism. God’s desire is for his church to be one; but such divinely intended unity can only occur via shared proclamation of truth. It is threatened by acts of rebellion. What is needed then, above all else, is fidelity to the faith of the ages. A trust in what has been handed to us from the Apostles and not from the noise of the world.

Meanwhile the devil, father of lies, delights in disagreement and loathes the clarity of truth. Whenever truth gives way to subjective opinion in matters of morality- be assured his work is being done. Soon people pride themselves- not on steadfastness of faith- but the ability to doubt! They shun clarity, claiming it naive,  and worship ‘grey areas’ instead; a supposed hallmark of permissive sophistication. Or we might say that a blanket of confusion hides multiple sins.

This celebration of relativistic and pluralistic uncertainty, so common in the world, seems to have entered the life of the Church. Which is astonishing given that Christ chose to live amongst us precisely that his truth might be known not guessed at! The deposit of faith given because conscience is an unreliable guide in matters of faith. Which father would suggest a child simply follow their conscience because life is complex and there are no moral absolutes? Not a good one! The good father upholds virtue and helps children understand, clearly, the difference between right and wrong. And he welcomes inquisitive minds, never scolding anyone for asking a question, because explanation is ever needed where clarity is concerned.

What then to make of the Holy Father’s stubborn refusal -to date- to answer polite questions posed by Cardinals of good repute? Can there be an explanation besides a lack of satisfactory answer? Why does he press ahead with this agenda given that his synod already turned it down as being inconsistent with the faith of the ages? And why do those who defend the relativist agenda sink always to personal insult? Labelling orthodox voices ‘rigid and uncaring’? Is it really rigid or uncaring to believe that sound pastoral care cannot come at cost to doctrinal fidelity? Where is the mercy for those unconvinced by this agenda? It strikes me that a spiritual war is raging -and we who owe allegiance to Christ must stand by the truth of the Gospel.

But which side is doing God’s work? I would suggest it is easy to work this out in Christian disagreement. Look for those hungering for clarity and and be wary of those encouraging confusion. Look for those who uphold something different to the world not those who seek to change the faith to accommodate worldly thinking. But most of all just step back and observe; learn to judge by the fruit…

Because whenever Spiritual warfare breaks out truth is revealed in human behaviour. Ask yourself who is rational and and who is irrational? Who is polite and who is rude? Who is seething with rage and who is calm and prayerful? Who is making threats and insults and who is showing love to their opponent? Jesus told us we would know them by their fruit. And, if we view the current malaise through this prism of behaviour, a palpable difference emerge. It speaks volumes to me. One side seems politically motivated, the other concerned for the church. One is loved by the world’s media – the other by the most devout within the church.

The current crisis is deadly serious. Some say even more serious than the crisis of the 16th Century or the Arian heresy. So we must support, by prayer and by being vocal, those upholding truth against error. For what is coming into play is a clash between orthodox faith and a modernist revision of it. And if Rome falls, allowing just one thing in contradiction to scripture and tradition, the floodgates will open. We have witnessed this already in the Anglican communion.

NB: Oh and do not be deceived by the modernist line ‘this is a new work of the Spirit’. The Spirit is always cited by modernists because they know scripture, reason and tradition are against them. But there is no division in the Godhead. Indeed the very notion the Spirit might contradict the teaching of the Son is anathema.

A dark storm batters the doors of the church then and Christ will need those who stand in the light to repel it. Let us pray that clarity and doctrinal certainty will not be sacrificed in pursuit of a false understanding of mercy. And let us pray that the Cardinals of the church will stand by Christ with courage and save us from schism. The modernist heresy must be defeated. I am praying that the Holy Father will answer the questions posed and come down on the only side that will bring peace and unity. The side which leaves all things in harmony with the teaching of the ages. Let us all pray for him and for the brave men who have dared to challenge the thinking and agenda which is threatening Christian unity in our day.

The works have begun

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The plasterers have done a brilliant job this week covering both the central wall in church as well as the one in the Sacred Heart chapel. We now wait for the plaster to set and dry before we can paint, re-mount the furnishings and continue with the works. Perhaps Advent is a good season in which to find the sanctuary muted by necessity.

The rear wall in church will be coloured in the same blue/grey as the side walls in the sanctuary. The reredos and sacred images will then return to their places before a new gradine is constructed, to house the big six candlesticks and tabernacle. Then the altar will be raised up onto a stage. The end result should be much better with muted walls, less busy than the brickwork, ensuring the furnishings stand out. It should lead the eye to the altar and tabernacle- the heart of the church.

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Meanwhile the Sacred Heart chapel will be painted in a deep burnt red. Against which our beautiful new reredos, creating by C. H. Ashbee a contemporary and friend of William Morris, will stand out. It is going to look magnificent. And, as if all of this is not enough, the kitchen is also progressing nicely (photographs to finish) and should be in full working order in time for the pre-Christmas lunch on the 10th December. Lots for us to be thankful for then and lots to be grateful about. Watch this space for completed images.

The Silence

Martin Scorsese has directed a film, starring Liam Neeson, centred on the martyrs of Japan and the spread of the Gospel in that place. The trailer is certainly very good and this one certainly has my interest piqued… Let us hope it proves to be a fair and decent devotional film.

A lay retreat

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A special retreat for lay people is being organised at the Catholic Shrine in Walsingham by the Ordinariate. It will begin on Friday 10th March at 4pm and end on Sunday 12th March after lunch. Those resident on the retreat will be staying in the new accommodation located at the Dowry on the High Street. The cost is £150 per person (full board) and the retreat conductor will be Revd. Dr. Stephen Morgan.

To book: send £20 non-refundable deposit- with name and address to: Ordinariate Lay Retreat, 56 Woodlands Farm Road, Pype Hayes, Birmingham, B24 0PG.

The balance needs to be paid by the 1st March and cheques are made payable to Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Enjoy!

Advent Charity 2016

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This coming Sunday, at 6:30pm, we shall be hosting a special ‘Advent Carol Service’ to mark the beginning of the Advent season. All the favourite Advent hymns/carols will be sung and the readings will focus attention on the great advent themes.  We will also set up our donation box in church and pray for God’s blessing upon this year’s Advent charity- the Angel Tree.

The Angeltree project, an initiative of the ecumenical Prison Fellowship Organisation,  supports prison families by providing a way for incarcerated parents to give Christmas presents to their children. Local volunteers raise funds and work with churches and prison chaplains to buy and deliver these presents. As long as a prisoner is allowed access to their child, prisoners can apply for a gift to be sent. Each gift is sent as though from the parent and is accompanied by a personal message written by the parent for their child.

This is such important work. Families, especially children, suffer greatly when somebody is imprisoned. Anything we can do to hold such families together is important. And because I travel to East Sutton Park Prison every Wednesday, where I serve as the Catholic chaplain, I can personally guarantee that the donation will be sent direct to where it is needed most. Please give generously.

Power only to serve

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The fairytale Aladdin centres on the discovery of a magical lamp which produces an all powerful genie. Yet, despite the power the genie possesses, the wretch is a slave. He must grant the wishes of any master and is utterly bound by the magic of the lamp. At the end of the Disney Movie he is set free by Aladdin both from the power and bondage. He cannot have the one without the other. Take note.

This image of the genie is helpful in explaining papal infallibility.  A pontiff has power but only at service of the church. No Pope may change teaching at whim or to pursue political outcomes. In fact a Pope may only speak infallibly when the new teaching is in line with scripture and tradition. When it is a natural development not an innovation. Church teaching, like the arm of a child, develops but it cannot change into something different. Infallible teaching exists to end confusion and settle important matters. When a Pope speaks ex cathedra he declares definitive teaching. But it is a rigorous process and has only, actually, occurred twice. Once when Pope Pius IX ruled on the Immaculate Conception and later when Pope Pius XII settled the matter of Mary’s Assumption into heaven.

This week something HUGE blew up in the Vatican. For the first time since 1330 the Holy Father has been formally questioned by a number of Cardinals. They have produced questions to which they demand CLEAR answers. The questions centre on the vague text of the controversial document Amoris Laetitia; which has caused confusion in the church for it reads more like an Anglican document designed to appease all views than a Catholic document seeking clarity. The pastoral fallout has been a predictable free for all, some clergy handing out communion to divorced and re-married, others refusing. None can deny clarity- in the face of this contradiction in practice- that clarity would be helpful.

To date Pope Francis has ignored the request. It seems his personal desire- the intended reason for the ‘Year of Mercy’ and ‘Synod on the Family’ -was to change teaching in regard divorce and re-marriage. But such change has proved hard. The Synod refused the modernist desire because it could not be defended by scripture and tradition. And this, I suspect, is why the holy father has contempt for traditionalists at present whom he labels ‘rigid’. Well now the ‘rigid’ (others might say ‘faithful’) Cardinals are demanding he does not bring about his desired change deviously or by the back door. Such power is not his to exercise.

The demand comes because, after the failed Synod, the modernist camp (who refer to themselves as Mafia) changed tack. The Pope praised voices that encouraged a liberal interpretation but without explanation. In effect  a nudge and a wink was given now that formal declaration proved impossible. The hope being that praxis could do what doctrine could not. But even this approach is failing as the worried Cardinals, in love, have taken their concerns for the church into the public domain.

The warning is clear;  if teaching is not clarified officially, and via correct process, the Cardinals will move to declare the document heretical and begin proceedings to challenge current papal authority. Gloves are off as four  brave Cardinals attempt to show the world that political tactics must not frustrate Catholic process. Pope Francis must show how these changes are faithful to the teaching of the church or retract them. It is an historic moment as Cardinal Burke is amongst the most senior Canon Lawyers in the world.

All of this infighting is upsetting but it isn’t new. And amidst the chaos it is very comforting to note how the defences are actually working. We have been here before in history and there is every reason to believe truth will ultimately emerge victorious as it did after the Arian crisis. It is ever clearer that the Pope himself is having to learn a lesson. He is a genie; a servant not master of Catholic teaching. No matter what he attempts the settled doctrine will frustrate him, if he is being innovative, and call him back to Christ. And that, I think, is a wonderful lesson for all Catholics to observe.

The modernist camp will now put up a good fight- popularism and modern culture is on their side (witness the Tablet refer to Catholic doctrine as ‘old fashioned teaching and a request for simply clarity as ‘a trap’!)  but as the storms of modernism crashes against the barque of Peter so it looks likely that the gates of hell will not prevail.  We who wish to be faithful must pray for our Holy Father and for the brave Cardinals who seeking clarity on our behalf. For only clarity will allow the truth of Christ to emerge.

A good motto for seekers of truth then; never be frightened of clarity and always doubt the motives of people who are. I hope and pray Pope Francis will come out and clarify teaching and show that this was all just a misunderstanding.

Exciting opportunity at St. Anselm’s

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Tom, our lovely director of Music, is relocating to Bournemouth after Christmas due to work commitments and changes in his private life. There is some good news in this for him personally and he goes with our best wishes, our thanks and our prayers. However….it does leave us short of an organist/director of Music for the second time in as many years! So if you know of anybody who might be available to play the organ on Sunday please get in touch.

The good news for any incoming musician is that our previous post holders have been very happy in their time here. We have a close and genuinely welcoming community and are enthusiastic about liturgical music. Our musicians are therefore valued! An advertisement will appear once I have met with the parish treasurers and wardens to set a budget for renumeration. But if anyone wants to get in early and speak directly- my telephone number is 01892 825009.

Of Poppies & Speakers

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Remembrance Sunday is always kept with dignity at St. Anselm’s. We hold a minute silence during the prayers for the departed in the canon of the Mass and we end the service singing the National Anthem and offering the Prayer for England before the shrine of Our Lady. The vestments and altar frontal turn black, as they did on the feast of All Souls. And this year I was sporting a very fine Poppy indeed, hand crafted by Emma Spink of Rebel Crafts, a friend from childhood days, now also living in Pembury. Each year she sells these in aid of the Royal British Legion. This year she has raised over £400 which must have involved a lot of needlework!

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The next event at Pembury is this coming Wednesday when Fr. Hunwicke of the Ordinariate will speak to us on the theme “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake’. Low Mass 7pm, refreshments after mass and the talk at 8pm. I encourage you to attend if at all possible as Fr. Hunwicke is a delightful speaker. I am looking forward to it immensely.

The poppy in the shadow of Brexit and Trump

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My sermon for Remembrance Sunday 2016

Have you heard of Godwin’s law? It is the law that the longer an internet discussion progresses, the higher the chance of Hitler or Nazism being cited! And often it is the person who first cites Hitler, out of context, ‘ you are a Hitler/you Nazi!’ who loses the debate; because this is a sure sign they have stopped listening and reasoning and engaging with their opponent and are now simply wanting to denounce. You are, in a tactic so favoured within the modern world, attempting to close down debate by hate labelling and shaming. See everyone knows Hitler was guilty of despicable hate crime and so his name is synonymous with all that is ugly and vile about the human condition. And this tendency to hate label those we disagree with presents the real problem, I think, for us to ponder this Remembrance Sunday. Because all too easily we fall into a trap of self congratulation and romanticism; correctly remembering the fallen and praying for their souls but then incorrectly assuming we are somehow detached from the evil. That the baddies are ever the ‘other ones’.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory the media went into melt-down. And- on both sides of the political spectrum- people fell for Godwin’s law. I am no lover of Trump or Clinton; in my opinion they should have been locked in a cell together and better candidates found, but it saddened me i how quickly voices- on all sides – fell into hatred and shaming of other. How quickly modern secular elites forget that Hitler actually started on the left but then moved to the right. The point being that his evil was not born of his party politics- it dwelt in his rotten soul. Or consider how both left and right today back wholesale abortion- even though the concentration camps began life as abortion clinics, which progressed to offer euthanasia to the sick and frail, then to the disabled and finally to all considered inferior: Jews, Christians, homosexuals, gypsies, etc… I am not hitting out at the left or right then; but both. Because the obvious truth that emerges as you survey the aftermath of Trump and Brexit is how divided nations become when opposing parties prefer finding fault in others rather than seeking to learn from others. When they forget virtues such as kindness and humility and point fingers quite oblivious of those pointing back at themselves. This is the path to death, to the sowing of fear and hatred; the demonisation of those we disagree with. That my friends is how war begins. And look how ugly people have been on all sides when it comes to loving our neighbour as ourself?

Scripture says do not look to the princes of this world. It is sage advice. You will find no salvation or lasting joy in any political party. Politicians are, in truth, as fallen as the rest of us; often more so because power is destructive to the soul unless tempered by grace and humility. Understand party politics is a secondary issue. What matter is the state of your soul- your tendency towards love and compassion and kindness? Why are we so quick to condemn today? Why do we look to ourselves and our fallen political ideologies for salvation not to God? Maybe that is the problem. That nations losing their faith have no God to turn to for hope- only their own fallen agendas? But man cannot save man from himself.

No; it is only when we admit -in humilty- that we each carry the stain of this world within our fallen nature- that we might then see how to heal the world. Self-entitlteld shrieking is not going to do it. It is only when we get on our knees and admit our need for God that, as a priest, I believe there is any hope of salvation from ourselves. How but by grace can we throw over the devil and all that blights us? What was it but the Christian faith and grace which built our civilised West? So until we do bring people back to God on their knees, we must expect chaos. It will get worse not better I predict. The pointless suffering continues.

People seem SO shocked at the threat of the collapse of Western establishment and democracy. I am not remotely surprised. Because the further from our Christian roots we travel, the more certain of failure we become. WITHOUT GOD WE CANNOT FLOURISH OR BE FREE! As we have hollowed out our churches and society for half a century, paying only lip service to the revelation of faith and celebrating self, so our collapse into chaos was guaranteed. Again- Without God man can neither flourish nor be free. Unless we obey his command -to love our neighbour and not destroy him- we have no hope of happiness. For it is only when we recognise the divine presence in each person that the dehumanising of others ends. No longer do we rip them from wombs, pile them in prison camps or leave them in poverty and squalor, or wage war against them. We begin, instead to do the work of the Kingdom, turning the other cheek, feeding the stranger, caring for the widow and orphan. It is only when we see others as our brothers and sister in Christ that we build up the common man. Only then we forgive others because we know we are in need of forgiveness our selves. And God can and will forgive. But only if we turn to him.

Today is a strange day then. We gather with solemnity to respect the fallen of two world wars that are fast disappearing into history, even as the world seems determined to repeat the very mistakes that led to those awful wars. The civic realm – the leaders of our nation- will recall today, with lumps in throats no doubt, the poppies blowing on flanders fields but tomorrow they will return to waging and profiting from war in the Middle East and to putting profits over people and ignoring the cries from Mosul, Allepo and those parts of the world in which, to its shame, the West has meddled at terrible cost. There is a rank hypocrisy at play as we pray for the souls of all who have fallen in time of war.

As Christians I think we are wise to simply do that. To pray for all whose lives have been cut short by the inhumanity of others. To pray for an end to war. To pray for those who serve in our armed forces. To pray for a much needed revival of faith. And we need to understand the pressing need in 2016, to lead ourselves and others back to God, on our knees before it is too late and the madness occurs all over again. Then we must be the change we want to see. We must work to stop the hated, fear and loathing witnessed in our culture when votes don’t go the way we like. We must show love and appreciation of those we bitterly disagree with. You can disagree and still share a beer you know? The world seems to have forgotten. But do it because we clearly need more decency, kindness, gentleness in this world today that we might bring some real and lasting peace and joy.

Lord have mercy on us sinners…

Happy birthday Margot Hoare!

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Today a very special celebration took place at Saint Anselm’s church. One of our most stalwart and devout parishioners, Margot Hoare, was the guest of honour at a surprise party laid on by her wonderfully large and eccentric family. There were even relatives over from her native Canada! It was a very happy occasion.

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The celebrations began with a special Sung Mass in Church. We used the propers for the celebration of the family and various members of the family read the lesson and led the intercessions. Father Nicholas then said grace before a super lunch which was all the more remarkable for having been prepared in our stripped out kitchen that is still awaiting its refitting. Blame the supplier…

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Several people asked for a copy of the sermon – so I reproduce it here. A happy birthday to Margot. They don’t make them like that any more..which is a tremendous shame!

Emile Zola, writing about the beauty and intended dignity of family life, tied it to the fruitfulness of the earth when he wrote:

Mathieu was ninety years old and Marianne eighty-seven, when their three eldest sons planned that they would celebrate, the seventieth anniversary of their marriage, by a fete at which they would assemble all the members of the family. It was no little affair. When they had drawn up a complete list, they found one hundred and fifty-eight children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, without counting a few little ones of a fourth generation…And where at the farm could they find room large enough for the huge table of the patriarchal feast they dreamt of? The spring that year was one of incomparable mildness and beauty. So they decided that they would lunch out of doors, and placed tables in front of the old pavilion, on the large lawn enclosed by curtains of superb elms and hornbeams, which gave the spot the aspect of a huge hall of verdure. There they would be at home, on the very breast of the beneficent earth, under the central and now gigantic oak, planted by the two ancestors, whose blessed fruitfulness the whole swarming progeny was about to celebrate 

Isn’t that wonderful? It reminded me of Margot’s “swarming progeny” in recent weeks as they have organised today’s celebration; not a wedding anniversary but certainly the celebration of a matriarch on the occasion of her birthday!

Zola, like so many thinkers in history, but sadly too few today, understood the intended dignity of family life. It is, in accordance with God’s will, the cornerstone of any healthy society. Indeed so very central to God’s plan is the building up of strong marriages and families that without them society fails. That has been proven in history time and again. When a culture grows decadent and turns its back on the family in favour of self… it falls. It is almost as if it is God’s great joke; that every family, from its most irritating mewling brat to its most eccentric great aunt or uncle or the weird nephew who picks his nose in public, ends up better as a whole than any one of its imperfect parts? We see God’s blessing on the family when noting that wherever marriage or family holds together – there everyone finds something worthy of praise and admiration.    

This point was not lost on one of the great priests of the 20th Century. A man who inspired Margot’s faith. Who would have noted with deep admiration, I think, how she has held her large, (dare I say eccentric?!) family, together by her prayers. St. Jose Maria Escriva. He wrote

“I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth mere, my children, on the horizon but where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives…”

Isn’t that another wonderful quote. We have a name for this deep wisdom that encourages us to find God in the little things of ordinary life. The domestic church. And when it comes to building up the domestic church the woman whose life we celebrate today has been not only heroic, but even Saintly.

Oh we could talk about Margot’s skills with needle and thread, her building up od a successful business, we could recount numerous humorous tales – I can speak of her papal impression in the middle of an airport- all that comes with luncheon I suspect; but her great achievement- which needs proclaiming from this pulpit- is one that modern society, in its folly, might miss. Why? Because it no longer values family life as it should. Yet Margot has been a really devoted wife, mother and a friend to other wives and mothers. And there is no greater vocation on earth than that. There may be equal vocations, lived in habit or collar, but none is as important. My mantra is: we will not heal society until we heal the family. And we will not heal the family until we heal the church. And we will not heal the church until we heal the liturgy! In the end it boils down to the quality of our prayer life. And Margot has excelled at being a woman of prayer and devotion.

What the Church needs today is not skilled preachers or engaging teachers. It is not charismatic evangelists or brilliant clergy. Lord save us from the experts! What it needs are saints of the domestic church; people willing to live simple lives of faithful obedience- living for others more than self. People who will show, by example, the sanctity of family life- of marriage- the importance of faith in the Lord. We need witnesses. Western culture is no longer listening but people do take note of examples of holiness. Will still pause if confronted by the real thing.

And Margot is the real thing. A devout Christian who exudes virtue, who raised her family in the faith and prayed for them and still prays for them. What they do with that gift is now up to them. But she has done her part for God; she is, before all else, an exemplar of living faith. Now being modest all of this is likely lost on her. She won’t realise how inspirational her witness has been; to other mothers, to friends in Opus Dei and to those of us here at St. Anselm’s. But Margot- we really do thank God for you. Even if you are only human and have a glaring and obvious flaw- your support of Ipswich Town!!

Margot I thank you, sincerely, for your example of faithfulness and obedience. You are a much valued matriarch in the Lord. May our Lady, another mother and matriarch, pray for you.

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