Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: April 2017

We all face the Farron test at some point

As mentioned yesterday Tim Farron was hounded because of his faith and given an ultimatum. Bend the knee to the thinking of this world or stand up for Christ and face the consequence. To protect his career he caved in. I wonder if a cock crew? I pray the Lord will come to him, as he did Peter, and restore his profession of faith one day.

At baptism we make a vow to fight the world, the flesh and the devil. And at some point one of these will bring the battle to us. Every Christian must ultimately choose; fidelity to Christ or the fallen thinking of this world. To Christ or to distorted pleasures of the flesh. To Christ or a path of selfishness and evil. To be Christian involves taking up the cross but when the moment comes many discover it uncomfortable and heavy to bear. So they drop it.

At this point, knowingly or not, people opt for Christianity lite. An attempt to hold onto aspects of the faith but minus the cross. Following Christ on their terms or else the world’s terms but not his. Jesus might have said X about a certain moral issue but I believe it can and will be Y!! Passionate appeals seek to justify this abandonment of key aspects of faith, often centred on false understanding of mercy, but ultimately a price must be paid. That price is supernatural grace.

Which is why Christianity lite, some call it modernism or liberalism, fails to convince. Statistics show it ever leads to collapse and haemorrhaging of followers. Those on this path become ever more worldly and the teachings of scripture ever less relevant. The institutional life remains but with crucial gifts of grace lacking. You cannot serve two masters and Jesus is no longer being served. Your conscience and beliefs unseated him from his throne of glory when they trumped his Word.

This moment of decision comes with extra force to clergy because the devil delights in their ruination. And which cleric doesn’t face huge pressure to conform to the world? Do they preach the Gospel in fulness, and risk upsetting those uncomfortable with God’s truth, or water it down and become people pleasers/ smooth politicians? Too often today the wrong decision is made and, bit by bit, clergy lose supernatural grace. They wave goodbye to zeal and passion and become administrators and community workers, counsellors and confidants but no longer true and obvious servants of Jesus Christ. The interior light is dimmed.

It doesn’t take a genius to discern that this has been a particular problem for the church in the modern age. Taking up the cross within a culture of comfort is costly. So too many Christians opt instead to live lives barely different from non-believers. Few actually witness to the divine life of faith in Christ. We have grown accustomed to a weakening of supernatural faith. To a cheapening of fidelity. All in the name of ‘modernisation’ or ‘progress’. We have sold the pass where obedience is concerned. I have been guilty of this on many occasions, opting to be too much of the world and not enough of Christ. How about you?

The lax tendency of the modern age has gifted us an Episcopacy crammed with people pleasing politicians to replace passionate men of God. How it must wound Christ when he witnesses middle managers in position of spiritual authority who endorse environmentalism and favoured political causes but remain mute on matters of faith! Because God isn’t about tea and scones and being nice. He is about truth and the salvation of souls. He yearns for our drawing close to him not to becoming ever more distant.

So beware people pleasers. They are not authentic guides of faith in Christ. Look instead to those who have been sanctified; look to the life of the Saints! To those whose witness is powerful precisely because they present the faith without compromise and yet with so much love and light and hope! They show us that true faith, though it might challenge and bring suffering short term, is not rigid or uncaring but the only path to salvation and joy. It all needs rooting in Christ. All (not just some) for Jesus! So I end with a prayer:

Lord please raise up Saints for our generation. Men and women willing to take up the cross and fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. For faith is so seriously harmed and diminished when we seek to compromise with them. Amen. 

Christians need not apply

This week the ugly face of modern British bigotry was exposed. And again the intolerance came, not from Christian quarters as we are led to believe, but was aimed squarely at them. How the media gunned for Tim Farron over his personal views on sex. He was hounded aggressively until cornered then given a clear ultimatum: publicly endorse the moral values of the sexual revolution/gay lobby or face the consequences and be damned.

The witch hunt was the more alarming given that Farron’s voting record proves he is no threat to LGBT causes. This was not about his being problematic but a test of his orthodoxy; when push came to shove would he side with the teaching of the faith, that sex has a procreative purpose and belongs in marriage, or concede to the secular consensus that sex is for gratification with no questions asked? The message  is crystal clear; a luke warm faith that bends to secular will is, just about, acceptable but a strong Christian faith is now anathema and will not be tolerated.

In the Early Church Christians were persecuted if they refused to bend the knee to the prevailing culture. The authorities tested commitment to inclusivity by demanding sacrifice on the altars of false gods. Today the test has resurfaced and Christians must bend the knee to the inclusivity of the sexual revolution or be shamed and excluded. Thus we have seen bakers, teachers, nurses, adoption agency workers, registrars, and now politicians, suffering if they refuse to submit. It isn’t edifying or very caring of Christians.

It was politically astute of Farron to concede but it deals another blow to Christian culture and the liberal health of our nation. A liberal country would be mature enough to foster a culture of respect in which people of different values work together despite disagreement. Space for mutual flourishing would be made. Instead we witness Christians frozen out unless they ‘get on message’. What an impoverishment as regards genuine diversity!

Of course a liberal society would also tackle bigotry. There can be no place for those endorsing hatred of either homosexuals or Christians. But just because a Christian believes sex cannot be divorced from the natural law/ its procreative purpose doesn’t make them a hater. Some Christians are gay themselves incidentally. So why take private matters into the public square? Why shame and exclude people of faith? Why do the very voices which would so strenuously denounce a Christian media which cornered homosexuals and demanded they endorse the biblical view only fall silent when the tables are reversed?

I am genuinely worried about liberal values in modern Britain. Increasingly we see bully boy tactics deployed and nothing is done when people of faith become the victims of hate. The media loves to suggest bigotry belongs with the Christians but reality looks different. Thirty years ago I would have laughed at the notion Christians would find it impossible to work in the public sector unless hiding their beliefs. Today it seems to be true. How illiberal certain liberals prove to be.

The appeal of mysticism

Our family, like many others, are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (only nine sleeps until Guardians of the Galaxy II!) which, for the ignorant and uninitiated, are light hearted action films centred on a plethora of comic heroes. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Spiderman etc..

One of the latest heroes to be introduced is Dr. Stephen Strange, played by the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch. Strange is a brilliant surgeon who, having lost the use of his hands in a car accident, travels the world seeking a cure. He finds it, in the East, under the guidance of ‘The Ancient One’ who, alongside healing his hands, grants to him extraordinary mind-bending powers. It is great fun!

Dr. Strange is not alone in finding revelation in the East. Iron Fist, Netflix hero for a more adult audience, fell from a plane over the Himalayas and was rescued by Tibetan monks before learning amazing mystical things. Even Batman, in the DC universe, trained amongst the Eastern mystics. Tibet is clearly the place to go if you desire to wear underpants over your trousers and save humanity. Why am I telling you this?

Because the thought that Marvel might swap East for West, in search of mystical encounter, is laughable. Imagine Dr. Strange sat in the chancel of a typical modern parish. He would not find ancient mystical encounter but rather die of boredom. A curse on the Christian tendency of recent time to de-mystify its liturgy and buildings! What damage this has done. Why seek to secularise and seek worldly relevance instead of going further into the mystical realm? Isn’t that what faith is all about? I suspect the sort of hero the modern church would churn out would be an altogether different species…

Pope Benedict XVI stated that the great ecclesial crisis of modern time is the loss of our sense of the sacred. A theme oft repeated on this blog because I share this conviction. We are what we pray; and rescuing faith from the bland and mundane, from the protestantisation of modernists, is of vital importance. That which Benedict XVI began in his reform of the reform  (seen in the liturgical emphasis of the Ordinariate) now in danger of being undone under the present pontificate.

The success of Marvel tells us that mysticism is important. It still holds appeal to the modern culture. There is fascination, even yearning, for the supernatural. People are drawn to that which points beyond our knowledge and which can inspire awe. See how serious it is then, that since Vatican II, many set out to de-mythologise the church? Out went altar rails, the plainsong and haunting chants, the statues and Eastward facing altars; that which pointed beyond self and into the realm of heaven.

In came delight in the mundane. The building of hideous functional worship spaces, the use of ditties and infantile secular music that led to clapping glorias, the turning of priests to face people so that we only gaze on one another but never beyond ourselves. In short any sense of the supernatural evaporated and the evidence is seen in so many parishes today. We are left with a church whose tendency is to operate horizontally not vertically; a big NGO centred on the needs of man not on worship of God. People line up to receive the body and blood of Christ in obvious disbelief; they do not gaze in wonder but line up as if at a school cafeteria.

We have to stop treating the church like a political body or worldly institution- pretending there is creative tension between traditionalist and liberal, between warring factions centred on the views of man. We must encourage instead a unity stemming from firm supernatural faith; a belief in one church, one faith, one Lord!  That which brooks no compromise because it comes from the revelation of God himself. A fidelity to ancient scriptures and the teaching of the church in all ages.  It requires authentic worship. The sort we once did well but no longer bother with.

Because, until we restore these vital elements to the Church, Dr. Stephen Strange and all his friends, will continue to look elsewhere for revelation and meaning in life. So I continue to pray for the success of Pope Benedict’s reform of the reform.

This joyful Eastertide

It has been a glorious Holy Week and Easter at Saint Anselm’s. Here are a few snaps taken by a member of the congregation using a mobile telephone. The quality is therefore not great, but they do offer a little window into our recent devotions. So thank you Lydia! Above we see the holy oils being received on Maundy Thursday.

I preached the sermon on Maundy Thursday- it would appear with some wild gesticulation of the hands! The sermon aimed to show how Jesus did not only replace the Old Covenant Rite of the Passover with the New Covenant rite of the Mass but actually became the new Exodus for us.

Then came the washing of the feet. Which I explained to the congregation has historically been linked with the institution of the priesthood, hence our choice of 12 men to represent the 12 apostles.

Father Nicholas was the celebrant on Maundy Thursday and I assisted him at the altar. After Mass came the stripping of the altars and sanctuary to the traditional psalm.

Then it was time for the watch and silent devotion. Which ran until Midnight and ended with a recitation of Compline by candlelight.

On Good Friday we gathered to meditate on the Passion. Mass began in silence the priests prostrate before the altar.

The choir were in magnificent form for the Triduum, leading the congregational singing and assisting with the worship.

The veneration of the holy cross is always a high point of the Good Friday liturgy.

On Holy Saturday we gathered outside of church to bless the Easter fire at the start of the liturgy. The Paschal candle was lit and carried by the Deacon in procession.

The sermon at the Easter Vigil is always the shortest of the year. It tends to consist of three sentences at most. The liturgy preaches its own message on this day.

After Mass the candle has to be carried to the font during the litany of Saints. Father Nicholas had to ensure the wax didn’t spray over the vestments as he wrestled it from the holder.

Last night we had over 100 people present for the Vigil and a similar number gathered this morning for the Mass and Baptism according to Divine Worship. We have been richly blessed this week. A happy Easter to all blog followers.

Holy Saturday at St. Anselm’s

Throughout Lent we prayed to God asking that our Holy Week services would be well attended and that he would bless them, so that those taking part would find their faith enriched and deepened. Those prayers are being answered and, thus far, it has been a really worthwhile holy week in Pembury.  Let’s keep it going!

This morning both priests are available to hear confessions from 9am until 11:30am. Meanwhile the church will be decorated and cleaned for Easter. Do pop along with a duster and some polish and join with the labour!

From 10am- 11:30am the Children’s Easter Workshop is being held. This is a time for our Sunday School children to come together for craft activities and the making of the Easter garden. You do not need to have signed up so just turn up! No chocolate yet but we might find some biscuits at the back of the cupboard….

This evening, at 8pm, we gather for our Vigil Mass of Easter. This is the jewel in the crown of the liturgical year and not to be missed. We light the pascal candle from the bonfire, hear readings from the old covenant gathered in the darkness and then the exultet proclaims the resurrection and Christ is risen! With fanfare the gloria is sung, we bless the waters of the font and end the celebration with a glass of fizz! (NB: this is an archive photo and I fully appreciate that in the year it was taken I somehow neglected to remove my biretta for the procession. Mea Culpa)

On Sunday morning we have a said Mass at 8am and then a joint Mass at 10am. During the 10am Mass we shall be baptising baby Sebastien, the second child of Olivia and Stewart Walduck

Good Friday

10am    Stations of the Cross for children

10:30am    Confessions

11:15am    Ecumenical Witness on the Village Green

12pm    Confessions

1:30pm   Stations of the Cross

3pm   THE GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY

6:30pm   Maria Desolata

Pray for the martyrs of Egypt

This dear little boy went to church on Palm Sunday to worship God alongside his family and community. He never made it to the dismissal at the end of Mass because his life was cruelly taken by wicked men. He is one of 44 martyrs of the Coptic Church in Egypt killed by Muslim fanatics in this latest terrorist attack. We must pray for them and those they leave behind.

The photographs are truly devastating and bring home the full horror of terrorism. Blood pools around pews, and a place of holiness is turned into a battle scene. People who gathered to praise God were left dead and/or traumatised. There are more pictures showing the dead, but I felt them too graphic to share. Too upsetting. but they tell the fuller story and point to the awful reality.

This week Cardinal Nichols travelled to Rome with Muslim clerics urging us to listen to the voice of Islam. That is to be applauded given the need for a working towards the building of friendships that will enable people of all faiths and none to live alongside one another with respect and love. But these photographs remind us of the greater need at present to hear the voice of the persecuted Church in the Middle East.

But we do not seem to hear them well. Perhaps it is because, in contrast to their oppressors, they are peaceful? Had this attack happened in Paris I  imagine our Facebook feeds would be full of flags and badges of support. Had the victims come from the ever trendy LGBT group the press would have done wall to wall coverage and encouraged appeals. But because these were unfashionable Christians at Mass the news only briefly registered. That is the norm, lamentably, for Christians in the Middle East who, despite having been almost driven to extinction in certain areas, cry out in need as the world looks on and does nothing.

We also need to talk far more honestly about the problems stemming from Islam. And it is Islam that is the problem not what apologists argue is ‘extremism’. For if I am ‘extreme’ in following a creed calling me to love neighbour as self and God above all things- well I will only shower blessings on the world. If, however, I am extreme in seeking the destruction of those I oppose, because there is no room for them in my creed, I become a dangerous despot. Perhaps this explains why so many terror attacks come from one particular source.

Fortunately the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, sensible seekers of God. As Cardinal Nichols helpfully reminded us. We need them to come to the fore. We must support them and vocally. But we also need call out the vile sub-section who take a literalist reading of the Koran and are a menace. As well as those who look the other way, stay silent, tacitly support etc. Which is to say you cannot keep claiming to be “the religion of peace” whilst watching your adherents carry out 90% of global terrorism. It will not do. Time to get your house in order.

Come on then Muslim leaders the world over- silence the hate preachers, stand up for peace and make cleaning up this grot your first priority! And come on leaders in the West- stop being scared to name this a Muslim issue. Stand wth the sensible Muslims and work together for peace. Enough of the bloodshed.

UPDATE: There is now some suggestion that the little boy in the first photograph was not in fact one of the martyrs. This does not change any of the facts in this post but I share that news in the interest of truth. Misinformation is always a problem in areas of war.

Journalistic integrity

The Mainstream media went into something of a meltdown following Brexit and Trump. For a time there was evidence of angst and soul searching;  how did we leave so many behind on our march into this brave new world? Surely only bigots hold views contrary to our own? Why have they not gone where we have pointed?  The elites seemed shocked that many, whilst afraid to question the zeitgeist publicly, nevertheless registered protest in the privacy of voting booths.

After shock comes anger. Meaning that instead of being correcting the media bias has actually worsened, with many articles now demonstrating a lack of journalistic integrity. Is a woman caught peeing on a golf course- ensure you tie it to Trump– though he had nothing to do with the story and how it unfolded. Have evil men in the Middle East sanctioned gas attacks on the citizens of Syria, be sure to finger Trump for that too. Is Theresa May cosying up to despots in Saudi Arabia? Never mind that most Prime Ministers were just as guilty of this in recent history- make out it is a novelty and blame Brexit! Even where facts are fair the tone is not.

Meanwhile men with real blood on their hands, Castro and Mcguinness, who sanctioned murder, torture and terrorism, are shown in a sympathetic light and afforded obituaries in which their historic crime is downplayed ensuring they are treated like respectable politicians. What does this say about modern journalistic integrity?Becuase, no matter how dangerous you consider Trump to be, how ill suited to a post requiring tact and diplomacy, whilst he has not himself sanctioned such evil then he must be the more credible politician. Yet he alone is held up as the devil incarnate whilst they are shown respect. How it stinks of personal agendas.

As you analyse the modern press, especially the BBC, it becomes clear that the only crime worthy of disdain is a counter to the cultural Marxism! Abortion- meh so what? And make sure you do not scrutinise the various allegations of sexual misconduct that haunt Bill Clinton. But do label Mike Pence misogynist if, in understanding he is a sinner prone to temptation, he refuses to meet women alone. This example is extraordinary. The man trying to honour his wife and remain chaste is castigated- the adulterous man with a string of allegations is deemed ok.

Why mention this on a Catholic blog? It is not because I wish to defend the political right. As it happens I am dubious of Trump and enraged by the anti-family Tory cuts that hurt the disabled and poor. No, I report this because I strongly believe  the current bias in the media must be named, shamed and overthrown. A free and honest press is a vital aspect of any civilised society whilst, in contrast, a media chained down by propaganda – of whatever hue- fails its citizens despite being a favoured tool of authoritarian and monstrous regimes.

I am all for questioning Trump and Brexit. All for questioning the secular zeitgeist now quashing our culture and often proving balmy and cruel in pursuit of its favoured ideology of rampant political correctness.  Indeed I am for questioning anything but- and this is the crucial bit- only in love and respect and in fairness.  What we need is honest and healthy debate. An arena open to learning where the pursuit of truth is not strangled because those controlling the debate are skewing the outcome.  As was once the mainstay of British university life before we invented a need for safe spaces, cancelling debates and fearing alternative viewpoints. How will we ever learn to understand the other…if one side is always demonised and the other ever sold a pass?

It is, I believe, a deeply spiritual matter. For the further from our Christian roots we travel, in the West, the less freedom and democracy we are finding. Division and intolerance are very much on the rise. So is a shackling of the poor and a silencing of alternative viewpoints. No longer are we encouraged to think and speak our mind. This is an era of thought policing and intolerant attitudes; we are taught to  get in line and accept the consensus of the governing elites. Our educational system increasingly teaching us what to think not how to.  And should we dare question- then expect that shriek of outraged indignation, the use of the language of hate and the labelling that will make you a bigoted pariah.  No longer are we judged on what we do- as the pass sold to Castro and McGuinnes make clear. We are judged on what we think. Do we match up with what is expected of us or not?

The infantile myopic manner in whichTrump and Brexit were debated in the first place says it all. So does the violence which followed and the steadfast refusal, on both sides, to listen. Enough then of this snow flake generation and the increasingly intolerant drivers of society. Enough of cretinous ideologies and a rejection of who we really are and the values that made us. I want my old Britain back. The one that was truly liberal and which held to a basic sense of virtue and morality underpinned by Judeo-Christian philosophy.  Which, I strongly suspect, is what many of the voters were actually saying when they registered protests in the booths. Just dont expect the  leaders of this vacuous age to listen….I fear that isn’t part of the plan.

Can we win back the culture- which will take courage and an ability to stand aside from the herd? Or are we going to continue to sleep walk into an era of eroding personal freedom and become slaves to a narrow minded group of zealots? Is the age of journalistic integrity over or can we learn to unite once again? Can we resurrect the Britain of our childhood or have we become the very thing we once set out to defeat? These are serious questions.

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