Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: June 2017

A new group for St. Anselm’s

St. Vincent de Paul was born in 1581 in Gascony and ordained in 1600. In 1617 two events changed his life. After hearing the confession of a dying man he resolved to preach about Christ’s promised redemption and, later that year, after appealing for help for a poor sick family he saw many local people bringing them aid. This inspired him to found the Ladies of Charity (AIC),  devoted to-person-to person help. Many other Vincentian organisations followed. He died in 1660 and was canonised in 1737.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 by a group of students in Paris. They were challenged to serve the poor of the city and, inspired by the example of St Vincent de Paul,  served the local population face to face, as part of their spiritual formation. In 1844 a group of men came together in London and started the first group here in Britain. Since then the SVP has worked the world over to bring help to the poor and the marginalised via face to face contact.

St. Anselm’s once ran its own branch of the SVP but, after it grew too small to be sustained, it folded and the remaining committed members moved over to the Tunbridge Wells chapter. But it was always hoped that we might re-visit it and breathe new life into our local chapter here in Pembury. Now is the time!

I was therefore delighted when my daughter, Jemima, joined a branch of the SVP at school. She became a ‘Mini Vinnie’, the charming name given to junior members. And, having drawn inspiration from her involvement at school, she feels called to re-launch and lead the St. Anselm’s branch and re-establish its good work.

To this end she is inviting people to attend a taster session this coming Saturday morning. Coffee and cake will be served and people will be asked to consider becoming formal members. The group will meet monthly, on a Saturday morning, for devotions and refreshments, to consider how to best help the local needy.

Could you come and support her this Saturday morning? The meeting will aim to be brief and will take place following the Mass at 9am.

First communion & Confirmation

Petertide is ever the time for ordinations, confirmations and first communions. And Saint Anselm is busy getting ready for our own celebrations which will be taking place on Sunday July 16th.

On that day the 8am and 9:15am Mass will be said and the principal service will take place at 11am. The celebrant will be Mgr. Keith Newton. During the service several children will be admitted to holy communion for the first time and we may have a couple of adult confirmations. (Some of the confirmation candidates are being confirmed at a later date).

After the service we will be holding our annual parish summer BBQ. People are asked to donate £5 to cover the cost of meat and pudding and to bring with them a salad or pasta dish for the table. We will be running a bar and a barrel of beer has already been ordered. Because catering is aided when we have a good idea of numbers- please do sign up for the BBQ as soon as possible.

Prayers urgently needed

Poppy, aged 3, is the grand-daughter of one of our parishioners and she was flown to hospital late last night with bleeding on the brain. She slipped into a coma and has undergone emergency surgery.  It is touch and go at the moment and prayers are very much needed. For her and for her and for her young family.

Priest friends please offer up Mass where able. Lay friends please offer devotion and a decade of the rosary. Let us storm heaven and pray for her healing.

Update: Sadly little Poppy passed away. Please pray for the family and ask God to gather her close to his sacred heart.

A glorious Ordination day

The beautiful church of St. James, Spanish Place in London was the perfect setting yesterday for the ordination of 10 transitional deacons to serve the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Sadly Cardinal Pell, who was due to celebrate, had to withdraw on grounds of health  so we were very grateful that Oratorian bishop, ++Byrne, was able to step in at the last minute. Both the Ordinariate and the Oratorians in England are children of Blessed J. H. Newman, and both delight in a celebration of English spirituality, so the transition was seamless.

The ten deacons will serve in settings throughout the U.K. and this was a landmark day because two of them, Thomas Mason and Jonathan Creer, are the very first men to have been ordained having been trained solely within the Catholic fold. The other eight having previously served as ministers within the Church of England.

The choir and organist were first class and really helped set a tone of reverence and majesty. Howell’s Collegium Regale the chosen setting which put the hairs up on the back of the neck at times. The Mass was, of course, celebrated according to the Ordinariate’s own rite- Divine Worship- and the congregation was healthy.

Credit must also go to the servers, who conducted themselves with dignity and honour suitable for the celebration. They included Pembury’s own Peter Ditchett who travelled down early in the morning to make the rehearsal. Also in attendance were several seminarians who have studied alongside our candidates. They seemed to heartily approve of the liturgy!

Having been accompanied by my daughter, Jemima, I sat in the congregation tokeep her company. Given how roasting hot the summer heat was this came as something of a blessing. It also allowed me to take the odd photograph to share with you. After Mass she demanded that Father Nicholas and I should take her for pizza and ice-cream at a local restaurant. It wasn’t a hard sell and a perfect way to end a very pleasant and significant day.

Ten new deacons is something worth celebrating within a church facing a crisis of vocations. And another sign of God’s continued blessing and abundance where the faith is not compromised but celebrated with vigour and passion. Long may it continue!

The right response

Much has been written in the wake of the appalling tragedy in London which saw the poorest residents of the richest borough suffer due to impoverished that proved totally inadequate when fire came raging. It seemed more akin to a Dickensian horror story than a credible news account from the fourth richest nation in 2017. But then that is part of the problem here. The nation’s wealth is not being shared fairly but tends to only benefit the very richest.

Predictably some have used the occasion to spew forth party political bile, playing one party leader off against the other. I find that distasteful not least as press photographs so rarely give insight to reality. Others have whipped up a mob to protest the injustices ravaging society.  Those injustices certainly need to be dealt with but I am never sure angry mobs do much good. How then should we respond?

I believe the most important thing that could (and should) come out of the horror is for the government to take a hard look at the housing crisis. For too long the market has been out of control in Britain and it is at the very heart of most divisions within society. And whenever a building site crops up today you know what is on offer will not be proper homes with gardens, in which families might thrive, but the falsely titled ‘luxury flat’. Cheap built boxes barely big enough for two in which couples must struggle to raise a family. It comes at terrible cost on many levels.

Yet the short term benefit of financial profit, for builders and investors, ever trumps the long term societal benefit of healthy families. High rise flats have been proved to be disastrous for those who live in them. Nobody wants them. So why do we keep constructing them? This article makes the point forcibly.

Because the market has been artificially inflated, via stubborn refusal to build proper housing for families, demand has outstripped supply for too long. This has led us backto a Victorianesque era of crippling rents and sometimes nasty landlords. And it ensured one generation grew rich at the cost to those beneath them. How was this situation allowed to develop whereby the elderly luxury cruise industry is booming as young families line up at food banks.

You might imagine property would at least be passed down upon death but one look at recent seismic changes in provision of care for the elderly disavows you of that fact. Here is another crisis in the making. The trend being for the pulling down of conventional affordable care homes in favour of building swanky new ones, the sort which charge literally thousands a week for care. How is this justifiable? Often it would be cheaper to stay in the best hotel in town.

Thousands are charged to the residents who sell the home to cover the cost. Yet those working in these places are, I can assure you, on minimum wage. I visit them weekly. And with a handful of staff for whole floors of residents it soon becomes clear that an eye-watering profit is being made by somebody in the equation. But it is manifestly not the children of those elderly who cannot care for them themselves because two incomes are now needed to maintain their own mortgage! So it is that the family silver is handed over to the few and people remain beholden to the state and employer. We all know paying for the elderly is a serious societal problem but does anyone else smell a rat in regard to the increasing costs involved?

I think it is a scandal crying out to heaven. For how much does it cost, truthfully, to provide three meals a day, a few hot drinks and to assist people with washing and cleaning? Yet thousands are charged and so the wealth gained by the boomer generation disappears. Which only adds to the increasing division in society, the widening gap between have and have nots. The inability of choice for one adult to stay at home and thereby make the family the place where people are cared for.

If we care about society, not just profits, this all needs to be dealt with. We must start building affordable and decent family housing. We must lower the amount of take home needed to pay rents and mortgages. We need to make the State smaller and the family home much stronger. A situation which is nigh on impossible with the current ratios of wages and costs for the average family.

Yes sorting the housing problem would be in the national interest. The flames pouring over the risible tower in London made that clear. There is simply too much wealth disparity between rich and poor, state and family, old and young. Lets build with fervour and supply that demand. Lets start thinking about how we make society as a whole richer and not just the few at the top.

They came from afar!

On Tuesday the little quais-parish of St. Anselm in Pembury welcomed visitors from afar to the daily celebration of Mass. From Precious Blood, London came several LOG’S (Ladies of the Ordinariate Group) led by the ever cheery and energetic Dame Joanna Bogle. They particularly enjoyed hunting out the wonderful hassocks which they helped create for our sanctuary and Sacred Heart chapel.

And all the way from South Carolina in America came able musician, Steve Collins. He kindly played the organ before the Divine Worship Mass, and sang a beautiful hymn to Mary during communion, which he composed to the tune Woodworth; more usually associated with the hymn ‘Just as I am’. He is currently touring England and, being a member of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in America, wanted to see what has been happening here in Kent. He will also be present at the Ordination of ten new deacons for the Ordinariate on Saturday at the church of St. James’ in Spanish Place, London.

After Mass I gave a  talk, and shared photographs, about the activity of recent years. I myself found this worthwhile  as one tends to forget just how much has been achieved in Pembury, thanks to a wonderful congregation and friends from afar, in a short period of time. We have much to be thankful for and the evidence points to a God who rewards orthodox witness and multiplies that which is given to his glory.

After the talk tummies were rumbling- so we headed to the Camden Arms for some much needed sustenance. We were joined by St. Anselm’s parishioner Janet Ditchett who was a real help on the day offering lifts to the visitors and having earlier delivered local elderly penitents to the confessional.  A happy day.

Is the Spirit doing a new thing?

In his prologue St John states there existed, from all time, distinct persons within the Godhead. Love ever flowed from Father, to Son, to Spirit and back. God is relational at his core. This movement of love later flowed into creation. He wanted us to share the divine love and return it via lives devoted to him. That is what God desires. That we live by his love. A process we call sanctification.

But man has often refused and dragged creation down in the process. Through sin we witness a dislocation of God’s intended purpose. To heal this rupture God took residence in a Virgin womb and later won salvation on a cross. So we now live in a world where sanctification is possible but not guaranteed. The offer to live in God’s life is there but not many take it.

A fact obvious in a world where pain exists due to sin. War, poverty, cruelty, neglect, pornography, abuse; what are these but fruits of a stubborn refusal to love God above all things and neighbour as self? And I wish I could say sin only exists outside the church. But, as the vile abuse crisis made clear, it exists in the church as well. The grim reality being that saints are clearly very few in number.

More common are lukewarm Christians who seek to follow God but on their own terms.  Thus heresies beset the church in all ages. For what are heresies but the denial of what God has revealed? Always in the church is that seducing voice telling us to pick and choose what to emphasise-what to downplay. If the cross seems heavy, lighten the load.

Because the modern world is in thrall to the sexual revolution, today’s heresy tends to centre on personal morality. With many now claiming God, being merciful, doesn’t expect us to exercise control in matters of sex. Purity, celibacy and chastity have fallen from fashion, are no longer held to be achievable virtues but impossible dreams. Don’t worry, we are assured, the Spirit is ‘doing a new thing’; feel free to question scripture and tradition. For only when this narrative is swallowed can we embrace what the world demands; a celebration of Pride week, re-marriage of divorcees without annulment, living together before marriage, abortion, etc….

On Trinity Sunday, amidst clamour for change within the church, it behoves us to ask if the Spirit might be doing a new thing? Certainly concrete appeals fail, doctrine, scripture, tradition all deny the innovators, but what of that illusive Spirit? Might the Spirit be transforming hearts and minds to make the church more appealing to the modern age? Might it be time to shake of rigidity and join the party? Certainly we would gain popularity!

And, more importantly, how to test the claim? How to ensure the desired innovation is indeed an authentic movement of the Spirit and not just the will of modern man dressed up in theological language? Trinity Sunday is the answer. For the feast exists to remind us God is unity in distinction; three in one and one in three. Meaning there cannot be conflict in the Godhead…

So if the Spirit seems to suggest change contradicting the Son, we can say with certainty “this is not from God!” It simply cannot be the Holy Spirit- even if the Pope in Rome claims it so! No matter the seniority of those urging reform the claim hits the buffers. Why? Because Christ is the head of the church and could not ever contradict the Holy Spirit. God does not do U-turns.

Jesus and the Spirit cannot be divided for they are one. So the church is free to change her disciplines, from a celibate priesthood to eating fish on Friday, but she cannot change her established doctrines which have their root in the Gospels. All change must develop out of the established magisterium. We are called to be guardians of a deposit of faith not innovators of it.

So beware voices crying out for softening of established practice but without recourse to clarity of doctrinal teaching. Such voices must be resisted, I think, because they lead to a place where ‘what is taught’ and ‘what is practiced’ must stand in impossible contradiction and tension. And then, instead of ushering in a new movement of the Spirit, we end up with an obvious movement of the world. A loss for God’s revealed truth in favour of the thinking of the fallen world. It is nothing more than the ancient rebellion made new!

The feast of the Trinity is a stern reminder; you cannot play one aspect of the Godhead off against another. God is unity in three persons. And if we want to be drawn into divine love, if sanctification of our souls, not appeasement of this world, is our desire, then it is He- not the world -we must listen to. No matter how much this witness might cost us. The Spirit is not for turning.

And the implication of this in our dealings with the world should be obvious. We can walk alongside people and offer the healing power of the confessional. We can seek to be merciful by making annulment procedures simple and free to access. We can ensure same sex attracted people- and indeed all people- feel valued, respected and wanted. We can work tirelessly to be compassionate and loving. But all of this must lead to an embracement not denial of the teaching of the Gospel. For this is our path, given by God himself, to sanctification. This is the Christian way and it never was easy and comfortable which is why the cross is our symbol. But those who ever embraced that cross discovered a prize worthy of true celebration.

Feeling glum on voting day

As Father Nicholas reminded us on Sunday- voting is important. Be that as it may I cannot remember feeling as disillusioned before heading to the voting booth. In more recent elections the problem was a lack of discernible difference between the main parties- now we have difference but both seem broken in different ways.

On the one hand there is a Conservative party offering a sensible handling of the economy but who seem in thrall to big business at the cost of the vulnerable. Too often recently I have counselled disabled and vulnerable people, and their relatives, whose lives are looking bleak thanks to very harsh cuts on budgets that support them. How can a nation that affords Trident and war abroad not have enough money to support the genuinely needy? My heart struggles with a Tory vote.

On the other hand we have a Labour party now run by an extreme socialist. It is all well and good producing a little red book crammed full of promises- but does anyone  honestly believe the money exists for this vision to be realised? History has proved repeatedly  that socialism fails and wreaks total havoc on a nation. My head struggles with a Labour vote.

Then there are fringe parties- none of whom speaks up for people of faith. Most are pressure groups compiled of the disillusioned. It leaves me wondering if the Monster Raving Loony Party are running?

Please God could you help us raise up sensible and caring souls to form a credible party? One based on level playing fields and free markets that is not in the pocket of the elites. One that genuinely serves the people not big business and which looks out for the vulnerable. One that might actually help heal the divisions in this nation.

It is time, I think, that Christians mobilised and got more laity involved in politics. We need to get our voice into the mainstream and start working for change. Could you stand for a party? We need sound people in every one. Come on lay people- what are you waiting for? Christians stand for election. Give us a better option.

Only 5 spaces left…

There are just five spaces left on the coach to Ramsgate this coming Saturday for the Kent Area Ordinariate Day Pilgrimage 2017. The coach leaves St. Anselm’s at 9:45am sharp and aims to return around 6pm. Each pilgrim will need to bring £5 for lunch and those travelling on the coach will need an additional £15 to cover the costs of hire.

The pilgrimage begins with Mass in the stunning setting of St. Augustine’s Shrine, built by Pugin, and close to where St. Augustine of Canterbury landed with the Gospels for his extraordinary mission; the reconversion of England.

After Mass we shall all enjoy lunch together (which is provided) before some free time for a walk along the coastal paths or further exploration of the surrounds. We will end with a talk from Father Marcus Holden, the Shrine priest and administrator, before opportunity will be given for veneration of the relics of St. Augustine.

This pilgrimage is made all the more special because the Shrine was only officially opened to pilgrims, following much restoration of buildings and vision, last week when Cardinal Pell was the guest celebrant. It promises to be a most worthwhile event- contact me if you wish to take part in it.

Catholics in India

The 5th annual St. Anselm’s summer holiday club, aimed at Primary School aged children, returns in 2017 with the theme ‘Catholics in India’. This follows on from ‘Catholics brave the elements in 2016, Catholics in space in 2015, Catholics under the Sea in 2014 and Catholics on Safari in 2013. Below are the children last year assembled with some craft.

This year’s club will be held from 24-26 July from 10am – 2pm. The cost is £15 for your first child and £5 for each subsequent sibling. If any family is experiencing economic hardship then speak confidentially with me and assistance will be found.

The club always involves much laughter, art, craft, games and worship. Places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. Those wanting to secure a place should speak with Hayley asap…

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