Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: October 2017

The present crisis in a nutshell

Forgive me for beating my favoured drum but this needs repeating ad nauseam.

The church is currently split between those who imagine conforming the church to the ‘Spirit of the age’:

  • brings greater credibility/relevance and leads to growth.

And those who believe conforming the church to the ‘Spirit of the age’:

  • erodes credibility and authority and leads to decline and fracture.

The evidence is with the latter group. The power with the former.

For evidence consider the liberalisation of Anglicanism which has led to a such  toxic climate that members of that communion no longer stand together- even at the altar! What was a united body has been reduced, by the modernist experiment, to an umbrella organisation for bitterly divided factions.

Should the Catholic church take the same road, and many of the current hierarchy seem to desire this, the result will be no different. Schism is the only possible endgame when current praxis and historic doctrine are brought into conflict.

SHARED PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH GUARANTEES UNITY- not touchy feely half truth designed to make faith palatable to the world. No matter how clever the sophistry provided to hold such compromise together. That is why liberal congregations are dying, losing vocations and closing parishes. But orthodox congregations experience growth where enabled to flourish.

Alas, many in ecclesial authority today are the instigators of the 60’s and 70’s modernist experiment. And having given their entire lives and ministry to said experiment, they are now too blind/ stubborn to concede its obvious failure. So they continue to marginalise/undermine authentic Catholicism- the expression of faith that works- and strain every sinew encouraging change that the magisterium does not allow- the expression of faith that always flounders.

That, in a nutshell, is the crisis of the church in our day.

Shoebox appeal 2017

We are going to support the shoebox appeal again this year as a parish. It is such a simple but effective way of showing care to those living in poverty and sharing the good news of Christ’s birth in a way that reflects an authentic Christian outlook.

The deadline for receiving the boxes is 7th November. The boxes we fill as a parish will then be added to those being organised by the children and families at St. Augustine’s school. They will then be collected by the organisation running the programme and driven to Albania in time for Christmas.

There are six steps to filling your shoebox. Forms are available in church.

  1. An obvious first step is to source an empty shoebox.
  2. Wrap shoebox in festive wrapping paper.
  3. Pack the box with suitable items
  4. Fill out form to inform if box is best for child, man, elderly etc…
  5. Add a donation – at least £3 to cover postage.
  6. Deliver the box to church or St. Augustine’s school

The best items to pack are soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, hat, scarf and gloves, socks, small toys, sweets, stationary, etc…

Guest preacher

I am delighted to announce that, this coming Sunday, Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke will be our guest preacher at the 9:15am and 11am Mass. Do spread the word locally and make sure you get there. He is an absolute gentleman and always, in my opinion, worth listening to. Beneath the bushiest eyebrows in Christendom lies a towering intellect and great sense of humour.

Fr. Sherbrooke has overseen the transformation of St. Patrick’s Church in Soho. Today that church is an impressive hub of activity – offering all night adoration to the passing night life, running activities for the homeless, teaching the young, etc.. The church has also been transformed architecturally and is now a dignified and beautiful worship space. Do call in if you are ever in that part of London. It stands on the corner of Soho Square.

Tolpuddle nuptials

Congratulations to Tom Davis, one time member of our parish, who married his bride, Eireana in the ancient church of St. Andrew’s, Tolpuddle on Saturday. The two now fly off to Italy for honeymoon and I am sure the entire congregation here, and all readers of the blog, will join me in praying that their future life is a happy and fruitful one.

The service was interesting professionally as it was conducted according to the Apostolic Pentecostal tradition, to which Eireana belongs. A liturgical expression, it is fair to state, at the opposite end of the liturgical candle to St. Anselm’s. It wasn’t quite enough to raise aloft the arms of Fr. Leviseur or myself… though we might have raised an eyebrow; stiff and boring English gentlemen, like us, never were suited to charismatic worship!

After the service the guests travelled to a superb venue to enjoy a delicious wedding breakfast, and evening’s entertainment. Above you see a good photograph of the couple ruined by some grandad in a bib. Does he look a little familiar to those of us in Pembury?

The venue was Athelhampton House, a gorgeous 15th Century residence in Dorset. The food really was first rate and so were the musicians. And as the evening drew to an end it was delightful to enjoy time away from children and parish to sit in the gardens with Hayley, chatting, as we gazed up at the night sky in all its magnificence. No matter how many years married – we need such time together.

As you see below the one obvious flaw is that the guest list could have been pruned. That grubby white feather, christened Macaroni, having been located in the grounds where Father and I took a tour of the gardens before dinner. Dickens anyone? I had planned to wear my own clerical frock coat but, can you believe it, it seems to have shrunk in the wardrobe over the last year….

Congratulations Tom and Eireana- God bless you both.

8 points to ponder

Here are eight things I wish Western Christendom would ponder for the sake of its soul and the Gospel.

1: The passion, death and resurrection of the Lord make clear: there is no crown without a cross. So if your faith isn’t leading to self sacrifice and personal struggle…you are doing it wrong. Stop seeking a broad path that, scripture warns, cannot lead to God. It is akin to joining a gym but refusing to break sweat.

2: Liturgy should be focused primarily on God. Hence where it celebrates self or man it is not only indulgent but deadly. Worship should be reverent, sacred and oriented on the divine. So can we leave the Spirit of the 70’s behind us, with all its banal melodies and theologically fuzzy messages? It is beyond time to restore beauty and dignity to the sanctuary. To demand high standards of all. For where this is done- there we witness revival!

3: Doctrine requires clarity. The Western church has invested much time and energy transforming faith, from something radical and demanding into something wet and easy going, with one result; epic failure. A faith overly nuanced and subjective is soon rendered meaningless. Hence data shows that those who liberalise faith are only one step from losing it altogether; their children tend to lapse in great number. Christianity is centred on objective truth not subjective opinion.

4: Seeking cultural relevance is no priority for Christians. We must seek God’s admiration. Not least when the culture around us is degenerate and opposed to our beliefs. “Opening windows to the world” seemed wise to liberal Christians in the 20th Century, they made it the abiding priority, but it proved akin to a submarine opening windows to the sea. Our faith always was counter-cultural so stop watering down moral teaching. Try and live it instead. You cannot be faithful to the teaching of the Gospels and the sexual revolution- no matter how hard you try!

5: Obedience isn’t optional. A pick and mix philosophy is fine for confectioners but  folly for the faithful. So if you claim to be Christian… but don’t accept points X. Y or Z- you delude yourself and make yourself the god! The arbiter of truth. Rejoice then if you disagree with aspects of the teaching but obey anyway; here is proof  you are not about the business of transfering your own image and agenda onto the divine.

6: People are not attracted to weakness. Just look at the reputation of poor old Tim Farron- once he conceded faith to the vox populi!  Contrast that with the respect gained by Rees-Mogg when he stood firm to his theological principles. We need bishops (and priests) who are authentic successors of apostles, like St. Paul, Fulton Sheen, Newman et al, not the effeminate, smooth vanilla businessmen who dominate episcopacy today. Who are so often silent when they should stand up for Christian truth with zeal. Who was it said that every crisis the church endured has been a crisis of bishops?

7: We must look outwards not inwards. Salvation of souls is a priority but urgency has been lost where the claptrap of universalist thinking dominates. Lay ministry has become a buzz word to encourage stealing priestly function for the empowerment of self. When the authentic lay role is not to swan around the sanctuary as a faux priesthood but to go out into the world and preach the good news; to build faith in the home and work place and maintain its voice in the public square. The church is not a club but a mission. So where are the missioners?

8: We cannot be silenced by personal limitations or a desire to be polite. So learn to take risks- to take your faith seriously but your self not seriously at all. Laugh at the pathetic witness you are when you rely on self! Rejoice at how much God achieves when you unite your will to his. And do not let the enormity of the task slow you down. If you start inviting people to church and speaking about faith then you probably wont save the world. But if you save one person- it is worth it. To do the work of evangelism makes a difference and it is time we took that work seriously at every single level of the church.

Off to Otford

The Sevenoaks Ordinariate Group has been meeting at St. Thomas’ church in Sevenoaks on alternate Thursday evenings. But this will not be possible over the coming months when the church is used for catechesis of first communion candidates. There are an army of them- well done Sevenoaks parish!

So the Ordinariate group is on the move and will now meet at the Catholic church in the village of Otford. A setting akin to Pembury which, I suspect, will prove a better fit not least as the smaller size of venue will afford greater intimacy. Also I have long held an inexplicable hunch that it is where the Sevenoaks group is meant to be. Certainly it was where the Group was originally invited to settle, though that didn’t work out at the time.

Divine Worship Mass will be offered this coming Thursday at 7:30pm. The doors will open from 7pm for those who wish to pray before hand. Everyone is welcome to attend and my thanks to Deacon Robert for organising the transition smoothly- what an asset to have a deacon- and to Fr. David Gibbons at Sevenoaks for continuing to support us in friendship. (NB: He is not to be confused with Fr. Paul Gibbons who leads the Maidstone Ordinariate – as is frequently happening!)

Fight the new extremism

BBC news item has been posted which, on face value, seems like harmless fun. A poke at middle aged men and their dreary voting habits. Yet beneath the funny veneer lurks something chilling. A further demonisation of those who refuse to embrace the liberal agenda. ‘Centrist dads’ are to be mocked, apparently, because they “cannot come to terms with the world and politics changing.” What sort of change I wonder? And what makes it so true that resisting equates to not coping?

I fear it is but another example of illiberal liberalism; the denigrating of the alternative viewpoint. An attempt to shut down debate, via Big Brother mockery, adding to the erosion of freedom and expression so widespread in the UK today. Consider also the fallout from Brexit when a clear majority vote was not respected by the liberal elites; rather demands were made for a second vote because the ‘correct answer’ was not given. Those voting against discounted in the press as being bigoted, ill educated and unworthy of consideration. 

I am not demonising the left nor praising the right here. But suggesting the gravest danger to Western culture is coming from neither of those historically obvious places. Rather it stems from a more subtle menace infecting both parties today.  From the threat of an extremist neo-liberalism. That which compels leftist liberals to denounce voices that oppose them with the language of hate, and liberal conservatives to press ahead, without bothering to consult the electorate, with a total re-invention of marriage and the family. 

The BBC article, when you unpack it, is just a new insult, from liberal elites, for those who defy them. The neo-liberals, red or blue, cannot cope with alternative viewpoints anymore. Any disagreement defies rational explanation for they now sincerely believe themselves to be sole arbiters of truth. This is the very definition of extremism; to have become so convinced by your own rhetoric as to be a threat to liberty itself. You no longer listen to other views you simply trash them. Just witness how laws have been changed, in the last decade, to punish any who fail to bend the knee to the new neoliberal flag; the one painted in a rainbow. Even the ancient Judeo-Christian moral teaching which built the West is no longer to be tolerated but driven out. It is very much a case of ‘my way or the highway’.

In the 20th Century we witnessed two diabolic disasters. Right wing atheistic Big State philosophy taken to its ultimate conclusion in the Third Reich. Left wing atheistic Big State philosophy taken to its ultimate conclusion in the gulags of Socialist Russia. Both led to death and misery.  It seems we are now intent on completing the set and trialling Liberal atheistic Big State philosophy. What folly. I predict the result will be the same as in the former experimentation.

And of course that experiment is now in advanced stages. Hence the space for acceptable thinking narrows by the day and people only dare whisper criticism of political correctness for fear of who is listening. Nobody doubts the cost of not submitting to secular liberalism. But that is how extremist thinking works. First its followers encourage it, then, when it isn’t accepted, force it on us; by point of sword if necessary. So the grassroots of this nation – dare I say the centrist dads- need wake up before it is too late. Our grandparents and great-grandparents gave their lives in two world wars for liberty, democracy and freedom of thought and expression. What will we do to keep our nation democratic and free?

We need a Britain in which people can disagree so long as they respect one another without fear of reprisal. A place where people of no faith and all faiths can live. The Britain we grew up in- to put it another way. Not a world in which one acceptable view is presented to us from on high, via media, education and government, and all who fail to adopt it are driven to the margins.

Heave- ho!

Early this afternoon a goodly gang of St. Anselmites descended upon the parish of St. Thomas in Sevenoaks to claim ownership of an ancient font which, for many years, has been unused and weathered by the elements. Task one was cleaning with scrubbing brush and warm water. A task trusted to the children but watched over by Father Nicholas.

Then it was time for muscle. The chaps working hard for what proved the most taxing and ardous part of the afternoon. Moving the font, which weighs well in excess of 0.8 tons, to where it was needed. It was no easy task.

Having spent nearly an hour, rolling the font on a collapsing trolley to the side of the road, we finally managed to drop it into position on the ramps of the trailer. We then pushed it up the ramp and onto the trailer for transit. ~Then we headed for St. Anselm’s with gusto.

As we were man-handling font onto the trailer something extraordinary occurred. Adrian, who had sold us a font lid via Ebay, texted a message to state that he had, on whim, decided to drive from Mount Snowdon to visit us in Pembury!!??? Thereby ensuring the lid to the font arrived seconds after the font itself. The latest curious story, imbued with spiritual significance, that begs belief in the Holy Spirit as regards the growth of the Ordinariate in Pembury.

Having moved font and lid into place, the working party moved to the pub. Stories and laughter were shared and we marked another chapter in the evolution of liturgical life at St. Anselm’s. There is cleaning to be done but our humble little parish now has a font worthy of baptismal celebration; thanks be to God!

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