Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: May 2017

The same but different

I found the recent meeting of Donald Trump and Pope Francis fascinating. For I cannot think of another meeting in which we were presented with two characters simultaneously so different and yet so similar!

Different because politically one stands on the right and the other, though he should be politically neutral, is very much on the left. Different because one is a thrice married playboy billionaire and the other a celibate member of a religious order. Different because one was formed amidst the revolutionary junta of Argentina whilst the other is American to the marrow of his bones. Different because one seems to favour a globalist outlook and the other is fiercely nationalistic. And yet….(though it will doubtless ranckle those whose narrative is neatly divided into ‘people I love’ and ‘people I hate’)

Both are popularists whose charisma carries the crowd. Both egotists whose personality drives their message. Both shoot from the hip and are thus prone to verbal gaffs and lack of clarity. Both run roughshod over established protocol and largely ignore historic procedure. Both rule with an iron fist and opt to elevate loyal friends to an inner circle whilst demonising those they disagree with. Both are marmite figures whose tendency is to a division of opinion not harmonious agreement. And both are anything but dull.

How I would love to have been a fly on the wall when they met. The liberal left predictably delighted in one photograph of a scowling holy father at the photo shoot, whilst conservative voices delighted in shots of them laughing together. But photographs in the press do not tell a story. I wonder if they connected due to similarity of leadership style or clashed over ideological belief? Perhaps we will never know. But it certainly intrigued me.

10 new deacons!

Some truly wonderful news for the Ordinariate and for the wider Catholic church. On Saturday 17th June ten men will be ordained as transitional Deacons to serve the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK.

The Ordination Mass will take place at St James, Spanish Place and the ordaining bishop will be George, Cardinal Pell, who will be assisted by Mgr Newton.   The Mass, celebrated according to the Ordinariate’s distinctive liturgy Divine Worship,begins at 11:30am and all are welcome to this celebration

Our candidates for Ordination to the Diaconate on 17th June are the following men.  Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare for their ministry in the Catholic Church.

Jonathan Creer and Thomas Mason, both seminarians at St Mary’s College Oscott;

David Prichard and David Hathaway, both attached to the Ordinariate mission in South Wales based at Newport;

Michael Ward, an expert on C.S. Lewis who teaches part time at Blackfriars and will assist Fr Daniel Lloyd with the Ordinariate group at Holy Rood Oxford as well as in the wider Catholic Parish of North Hinksey;

Leonard Cox, former vicar of St Peter’s Greets Green, will be assisting Fr Simon Ellis at St Margaret Mary Perry Common;

David Jones, former vicar of St Luke’s Jersey who will be assisting in the Nottingham Ordinariate mission;

Timothy Boniwell, formerly an Anglican hospital chaplain who will be assisting with the Ordinariate mission in Coventry with Fr Paul Burch;

Cameron MacDonald and Simon Beveridge  from Scotland who will be assisting Fr Len Black with the Ordinariate in Scotland.

Dehumanisation causes violence not religion!

We witnessed evil at play in Manchester this week. Children and young people targeted by a depraved man. What darkness must have infested his soul to lead him to this demonic conclusion. And after the prayers and tears a nation is, again, left aghast. Why? Why must we endure these ever frequent horrors of terrorism? Why so much bloodshed and hate?

The answer is, of course, complex. And to answer satisfactorily we must explore various strands that combine to produce the modern terrorist. One strand is undoubtedly Islam itself. Because, leaving aside the millions of peaceful followers which are to its credit, a question remains; why does Islam so dominate the landscape in the production of hate crazed lunatics?

With over 90% of terrorist activity stemming from the Islamic world- there is much for the Muslim community to ponder in seeking a solution and answer to this question. Apologies if this question offends politically correct sensibilities but it is reasonable. And my own Muslim friends acknowledge it. How might we stand by these, the decent Muslims, to denounce the wicked in their ranks? A subject I have written about in a previous post

We must also acknowledge the influence of politics. For there is no doubt that the rise of Wahabi fanaticism is linked to Western meddling in the Middle East. How the media demonise refugees whilst failing to acknowledge that the West created these refugees thanks to bombs we dropped. You cannot wreak havoc and not expect backlash. And as we tend wounds and bury our dead we in the West might ponder how such carnage is now daily reality for Middle Easterners. Why did the Arab Spring, so lauded by the Western press, turn into a desolate winter of suffering not a summer of liberty? Is it not because our real intentions were centred on greed not decency?

Finally let me put a silly (but widely held) supposition to bed. One rife on social media. Namely that religion is to blame for violence. This argument will not do because it does not stand to reason. Firstly because most every conflict was started by politicians not priests.  Religion is just a convenient banner to justify brutality theft and dominance. Only a cretinous grasp of history would deny this.

Secondly if religion were the cause of violence you would produce peace if it was removed. But Pol Pot, Stalin and every other dictator prove, beyond doubt, this is fantasy. History demonstrates atheistic regimes, if anything, produce more death not less. So how can it be religion? So where might we look for peace? Is it even possible given that humanity is the problem not religion?

The answer does exist, though its implementation seems unlikely at present. It can be discerned when we ponder an interesting fact. That the secular atheist has more in common with the militant terrorist than any authentic Christian. I say ‘authentic’ because nominal Christianity, though widespread, is a total sham, it is simply secular atheism wrapped up in Christian clothing.

See both the terrorist and secularist deny that life is sacred. Both endorse, albeit in slightly differing ways, the right to choose- who is worthy of life and who is not. The former dehumanises and then discounts ‘filthy infidels’ where the latter opts for unwanted children in the womb. But both play the same philosophical game. Both claim a right to state which life is worthy and which is not for their own gain.

If you doubt that secularists do this; explain why a foetus of 24 weeks is termed a ‘premature baby’, and given care, on the ward where parents desire the child. But in a different room of the same hospital a foetus of the exact same stage is washed down the sluice every day and deemed to be medical waste? Dress it up however you want, justify it as you like. Nevertheless when you endorse abortion you embrace a philosophy of winners and losers- one in which equality does not exist and death comes at the hands of another.

Whereas the true Christian (and to be fair those of no faith who see the importance of upholding the dignity of life) cannot play this game because they reject the atheistic claim that man is merely a clump of cells fighting for dominance, in the same breath that he/she rejects a fanatics claim that God only loves those of pure creed. Rather the Christian espouses a firm belief in human beings as embodied souls of infinite worth to God. And it is this belief – and this belief alone– that has the capacity to bring peace on earth. A consistent, uncompromising pro-life narrative. Whereby every one is held to be valuable and worthy of dignity from conception to the grave. No exceptions. Life is sacred.

So peace is possible but only if we embrace a belief in the sanctity of life and refuse to dehumanise others. Alas then that both the present Western culture and the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world are a long way from that position at present.  I guess we better prepare to deal with more of the inevitable fallout then, the fallout that comes when humanity is in denial of its true identity. When we refuse to accept that we are all children of God, and brothers and sisters one of the other.

FAO Low Mass attendees

Please be aware: there is no Mass this coming Friday at St. Anselm’s as I am attending an important meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in London. Alas this fact was no highlighted on the parish bulletin-so please spread the word!

Furthermore I will be taking my post-Easter break from Monday 29- Saturday 3rd June inclusive; so there will be no weekday services during half term.

Normality resumes at Pentecost on the 4th and there is Low Mass today, tomorrow and on Saturday of this present week.

May celebrations

Today we held our May Fayre and, given the recent downpours, were extremely fortunate with the weather. As you can see above I greeted visitors to the parish at the entrance way selling ice-creams, which were especially popular with the children. The children also enjoyed the face-painting along with a couple of adults!

Whilst I was scooping out the ice-cream, Father Nicholas was busy running his ever popular gin stall. For a small donation he concocts all manner of interesting drinks. He even invented a new cocktail which he called a Hayley! And, I have to say, it was tasty indeed!

Here we see Brian receiving a lengthy lecture on the best way in which to enjoy the aforementioned beverage.

Inside the Hine Room stalls were laid out with the usual fayre fun; bottle tombola, guess the sweets in the jar, etc. We are most grateful to all who helped man them and set them up.

Above we have the jewellery stall and below the chocolate lucky dip.

And nobody went hungry because we had a fab team in the kitchen. Trudi and Sue being joined this year by some of the Indian ladies in our congregation. They had produced curry, rice and samosas for all to enjoy. The food was absolutely delicious and many people took some home in plastic containers. Yummy!

As you see below the food, the gin, the ice-cream and the fun all brought smiles to faces. It was a cracking fayre which really brought our people together. Regardless of financial gain, which will be totted up later, it was a most worthwhile event. Thank you to everyone who was part of it.

Tomorrow we continue the celebrations with our May Devotion. Both main services will end with a procession of Our Lady and Benediction. A great weekend for the parish.

Sevenoaks Ordinariate re-launch

Yesterday evening, for the first time in history, Mass according to Divine Worship, the liturgy of the Ordinariate, was celebrated at St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic church in Sevenoaks. It was the perfect setting for a re-launch of the Sevenoaks Ordinariate, now under the umbrella of St. Anselm’s in its role as a Minster. And thanks to the kind and generous welcome of the Sevenoaks priest, Fr. David Gibbons, himself a former Anglican, St Thomas’ now becomes home to the group which meets alternate Thursdays at 7:30pm.

The setting was perfect because this is a church whose art and architecture is dedicated to English Saints. Accompanying St. Thomas, above the altar, stand St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More  (proudly sporting Canterbury caps!) alongside St. Edith (I think!). I am personally delighted to celebrate Mass here because I have a strong devotion to St. Thomas of Canterbury having served my title as an Anglican curate at a church dedicated to his honour in Brentwood, Essex. Here is a favourite photograph from those days which another cleric, now of the Ordinariate, is clearly visible; the wonderful Fr. Bob White who was a superb training incumbent.

Amongst the congregation last night were friends from St. Anselm’s and from the Maidstone Ordinariate Group. They too have agreed to come under the umbrella of the newly conceived Minster for the West Kent Area. They will be visited by a priest of St. Anselm’s on the last Sunday of every month. This ensures we are present amongst the smaller groups and able to offer support where necessary. They in turn can visit the larger church in Pembury on high days and holy days. By standing together we become stronger. And with three active priests and a deacon, as well as  a priest and deacon in formation, we are blessed in terms of clerical help.

So lots of good news to celebrate in this season of Easter. The next meeting of the Sevenoaks group is on Thursday 26th May. So any Catholic wanting to celebrate the Ascension on its proper day is very welcome to join us at 7:30pm! It will be followed by refreshments in the parish room.

Back to Pembury and this Sunday we continue to thank God for the great English Saints as we celebrate our Patronal festival. The feast of St. Anselm actually fell on the Friday of the Octave of Easter- so we have transferred it to this Sunday. He will be honoured at all three Masses on this day.

One Pope or a million Popes?

How different Anglican difficulties look from outside not within!

The latest difficulty, and it is explosive, being the rogue consecration of a curate in Newcastle conducted by the clergy from a break-away Anglican body in Africa. A provocative power play undertaken by Conservative Evangelicals who are simultaneously dismayed at the position of the Church of England hierarchy on matters of sexual morality and feeling marginalised where preferment is concerned. So they are now ‘making their own bishops’ in clear opposition to Downing Street and Canterbury. And what is that but schism?

Were I still Anglican I would undoubtedly be getting my knickers in a twist at the impossible ecclesiology of it all. How can you have bishops ‘created by faction’ each out of communion with the other? But then the Church of England invented this messy scenario when, facing similar schism over women priests, it created flying bishops for Anglo-Catholics; those consecrated not for the ministry of the whole body but to cater only to a subsection within who might otherwise leave.

So this is a continuation of a theme, the difference being permission was not granted. Doubtless it will lead to conflict; but then conflict has raged in the Church of England ever since it embraced the modernist mindset. How could it not? You may opt for fidelity to the Gospel or to the Spirit of the Age but to attempt both is madness. Political game-playing, masterful fudge and subterfuge might dupe people for a while but eventually trajectory becomes obvious. And it is now so clear, to all but the wilfully blind, which path the Church of England is on. You do the maths; there exist just a couple of conservative Evangelical bishops (suffragans) and just a smattering of Anglo-Catholics meanwhile the diocesan appointments are mainly liberal. We might consider how the appointment of +Philip North was blocked from the diocese of Sheffield.

So it was always going to happen. Not least because beneath the presenting issues of women priests and gay partnered clergy is really a battle for the soul of the Church of England. A battle of fidelities. And the Evangelicals are not stupid. They know that unity is only hanging by a thread since the liberals emerged, bloody but victorious, from battle with Anglo-Catholicism over women priests. They also know that if they allow the liberals to recover then they will be the new targets. So they throw down the gauntlet and fire the shot across the bows. And what is the modernist hierarchy going to do. Does it cave in and thus lose ground ideologically or does it take up the gauntlet and do battle? Which would be folly financially given that, unlike the defeated Anglo-Catholics who were spirited but impoverished, the Evangelicals rule over the biggest parishes. I sense a mexican stand off….

I began the article stating things look different from without than within. That is because- from outside- one easily discerns the problem here is -again- one of authority. The curate-bishop of Newcastle is only doing what Henry VIII  did before him! Because when the C of E rid themselves of one pope they created a million new ones; which explains why schism after schism after schism has ever defined the protestant landscape. Movements rise and fall but always the body fails. The original spirit of rebellion has never been quashed. The absence of authentic authority being the Achilles heel of Protestant theology.

It saddens me to see the Church of England divided. It saddens me that a body, once so gentle but broadly orthodox, is now modernist to the point that orthodoxy struggles to flourish within it. But then that is, in part, why many of us are now about the business of preserving the very best of Anglican patrimony but on a different shore. In that place where unity is secured upon the barque of Peter. Dare I suggest it will be here, in the Ordinariate, not within the rapidly mutating Church of England, that authentic Anglican spirituality will be located a generation hence?

 

Day pilgrimage to Ramsgate

The stunningly beautiful Shrine of St. Augustine of Canterbury,Ramsgate, designed by one of England’s most notable architects Augustine Welby Pugin, is the setting for this year’s day pilgrimage for the local Deanery of the Ordinariate (covering Kent and Sussex) which takes place on Saturday June 10th.

The plan is to gather for Mass on arrival and then enjoy a shared lunch (provided at reasonable cost) in the visitor’s centre. After lunch there will be time for a walk along the coast, or visitors can enjoy a tour of the site. The pilgrimage will end with veneration of the relics of St. Augustine. Please consider joining us for this day; not only because it will be personally enjoyable but also because it helps support the local mission of the Ordinariate. It should be a wonderful day out.

The Shrine, which has undergone massive re-development in recent years, is run by Fr Marcus Holden, a long time friend of our parish, who looks forward to welcoming us on the day. He writes:

The Shrine recalls England’s first missionary. Pugin’s magnificent personal church and burial place, dedicated to his patron St Augustine, became, on 1st March 2012, the official shrine commemorating the coming of the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxon peoples. St Augustine who landed near to Ramsgate, sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 597AD, is an inspiration for faith and evangelisation today. We invite pilgrims and general visitors to come to St Augustine’s to pray and worship, to enjoy the beauty of its architecture and to learn about the history of the early saints so closely connected with the identity of Christian England.

The May Fair

Yesterday evening a meeting was held in the Presbytery to plan for the coming May Fair. It will be held on Saturday 20th May at the church, outside on the paddock if the weather is clement and in the Hine Room if the weather is foul! Either way we have lots of fabulous things in store – so keep the date free and bring your friends and family. Fliers and posters will be handed out at Mass this coming Sunday.

Rumours abound that Father Nicholas might just revive the infamous gin stall… Regardless we still need more stalls and raffle prizes… a sign up sheet will be in place at church this weekend. And I am delighted to announce- due to my personal culinary tastes- that the Indian ladies of the parish have agreed to do the catering. Yummy!!

Laughter, ale and traditional worship!

The bank holiday weekend was delightful. Deacon Stephen Morgan was our guest and preacher, having travelled up from Portsmouth Diocese for some country respite. He delivered a truly excellent homily, as always, with heavy reference to the drinking of ale and the wisdom of St. John Chrysostom. There cannot be many Catholic village churches in England this weekend which boasted two priests and a deacon who, between them, have no less than three wives and ten children!

The good deacon arrived Friday evening and lodged, over the border from Kent in East Sussex, with Fr. Nicholas. The majority of Saturday morning was taken up with parish duties, not least Mass and our first communion course. It also involved the entertaining sight of Fr. Nicholas shopping for coffee filters in Tesco. Who else causes such consternation by fishing out coppers from his ancient purse and asking how much £4.68 might be in shillings and pence? Such impertinence should cause outrage but, amazingly, the reverse was true and he soon had shoppers and staff fetching him the best available deals on biscuits. These were added to the purchase and proved especially popular next day with both children and ordained deacons….

Justice came courtesy of our resident local bruisers. Here you see them administering a good beating, which did not let up despite his frequent cries for mercy. The only way he eventually found some peace was to send them into the garden with his dog, Aeschylus, to hunt for grouse or rabbits. None were found but it did create an enormous window of opportunity during which three country clerics, by virtue of canon law I am almost certain, felt obliged to enjoy a little gin.

In addition to the bullying of Fr. Nicholas the boys delighted in hearing updated accounts of more strenuous activity further abroad. The Tunbridge Wells 1st XV deserve fulsome praise having secured back to back promotions thanks to an extra time victory over Chingford. Elsewhere Deacon Morgan’s progeny performed heroically in battle re-enactment where he was playing the part of a Viking Warrior. He looked thoroughly convincing, as you can see, and my boys are now desperate to  watch this insanity unfold live in the near future. Perhaps they want to recruit him to their number?

After Mass on Sunday a splendid lunch of roast lamb was provided by the saintly Mrs. Leviseur. A herculean task given that five Tomlinsons were present in addition to the good deacon, Fr. Nicholas’s sister (almost as eccentric as he) and his daughter. Hearing Fr. Nicholas give earnest account of his honeymoon proved the entertainment and he had tears of laughter flowing down our cheeks. Weekends don’t come better than this. Now to parish duties for some much needed recovery!

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