Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: November 2017

Advent Charity 2017

The Pastoral Committee of our parish, under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, met last week to choose our designated charity for this coming Advent season. The decision was far from easy as we had a shortlist of four excellent charities. All of which were deserving causes and all of which passed the litmus test we have in this parish of ensuring the money raised actually helps recipients and doesn’t just prop up the charity industry.

Providence Row are a London based charity who seek to help the homeless and vulnerable by offering an integrated service of crisis support, advice, recovery and learning and training programmes. The aim is to ensure that people who are often excluded from mainstream services gain the support and opportunities they need to create a safe, healthy and sustainable life away from the streets.

Providence Row is based in East London where they run a resource centre for those sleeping rough. A venue where breakfast, showers and access to IT is provided. They also seek to ensure access is given to mental health services to help damaged people find a way back into the community. Please give generously. A donation box will be situated within the Sacred Heart chapel throughout the Advent season.

A bad Sunday for universalists

This Sunday’s Gospel was hard hitting. We ended the liturgical year with our focus on the world which is to come not on this transitory life. And the message Jesus gave was clear; at the end of time we will all stand before the throne of Almighty God to face judgement. And this judgement, though merciful and just, will be bad news for certain people. Please God I am not amongst them. For those who rejected his divine will in this life will be banished to an eternity without him. Only the sanctified will go with Him into his heavenly kingdom.

Ultimately we choose which path not God. He simply honours what we choose in this life. A life lived in relationship with him is the key to salvation. Meaning those who honoured God and loved their neighbour can expect mercy to be shown to them. But the wicked and selfish ought to worry. God will not be mocked forever. And they will one day reap, Jesus suggests, precisely what they sow. There is no way to cheat this fact for he knows all the secrets of our hearts.

This notion of salvation and damnation, of heaven and hell, tends to jar with modern inclusive sensitivities. Nevertheless it is perfectly logical if you think about it. How would heaven remain heavenly if unrepentant sinners were granted access? Would you desire eternity alongside an unrepentant Saville or Stalin? If heaven is to be everything we hope for- all evil, vice and wickedness must be expunged. Which includes us- if our hearts have rejected God and turned rotten. And so we begin to see why engaging in the spiritual battle in this life is so important. We discern the pressing need to avail ourselves of the sacraments and live a life pleasing to God.

Yet this prime reason for living out the Christian life is in danger of being forgotten. Forgotten because a generation of modernist clerics, disliking the divine message at this point, have chosen to water it down. They teach instead that hell is just a euphemism and that God, being love, will eventually forgive everyone- yes even the fallen angels of the demonic realm including the devil himself! By what authority do they teach this? Certainly not from the lips of Christ- as the readings this Sunday make clear. Nor from the pages of scripture at any single point. One suspects then it might be from the the crazier parts of California during that balmy summer of love!!

It is a serious problem. For when Christians stop believing in hell they also lose the plot concerning salvation. Soon there is no mortal sin that could damn your soul to hell. There are only wrong decisions under some sort of therapeutic model of living. Very soon the point and purpose of Christian faith begins to crumble. The good news- that Christ came into this world to save sinners- becomes rather meaningless. For what does it really matter if we all get to go there in the end?

Make no mistake this is a big one. Indeed I suspect it is at the heart of all Christian malaise in the West in the 21st Century. Many are those who still want the trappings of faith, and who delight in their own romanticised fantasy Christ but who have, in truth, ceased believing in the pressing reality of the four last things. And from there flows all the moral confusion we witness at all levels of ecclesial life in our day. For if hell is not real- who are we to get hung up on mortal sins and private lives? Footnotes in Amoris Laetitia and all that….

Christ the King & Advent Carols

This coming Sunday is the feast of Christ the King. As ever the 8am will be a simple said Mass. But at the 9:15am Solemn Mass (divine worship) and 11am Sung Mass (nous ordo) we shall conclude our worship with benediction- falling to our knees in devotion before our King to  end the liturgical cycle of Sunday celebrations.

This Wednesday I meet with Aidan Lee, our cantor and director of music, to plan ahead for the Advent and Christmas services. First up is the Advent Carol service to be held at 6:30pm on Advent Sunday. Containing all the great Advent carols and readings it is a great way of focusing on this important liturgical season before it gets squeezed out early by all the premature Christmas festivity of the modern world!

2017 is unusual in that the final Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. Whilst large city parishes have the luxury of being able to host multiple services that will be well supported, here in the village we need to be realistic. The plan is to hold a very simple Mass of Advent 4 at 9am on Christmas Eve morning- followed by the usual decorating of the church and time for confessions. We will then host our usual nativity service for small children and vigil Mass and Midnight Mass.

For full details of the Christmas programme – watch this space…

 

CCC at Walsingham

Early on Wednesday morning I travelled up to Walsingham to attend the annual colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. As ever it proved an uplifting and worthwhile use of my time. And the journey was wonderful too- the Norfolk countryside a blaze of deep oranges and burn yellows as leaves prepare to fall.

The colloquium began with an address delivered by Scottish prelate, Bishop Keenan. He gave an excellent summary of Pope St. John Paul II’s theology of the body- a timely reminder, in these days of confusion and controversy, of the Church’s historic and unchanging teaching on matters of faith and morality. After the address we recited the rosary and offered benediction before Mass and there was opportunity given, which I gladly took, for the sacrament of confession.

The evening proved a challenge to caterers due to a power cut which lasted from 8pm until 2am the following morning. The cooks did magnificently however and so we enjoyed a supper by candlelight followed by drinks and convivial conversation. The priests of the confraternity are always a jolly bunch.

The following morning we breakfasted after Lauds before gathering for the second lecture delivered by the Rector of the Shrine, Mgr. John Armitage. He was on superb form sharing his plans and vision for the restoration of the Shrine before charging us to continue upholding the faith for Christ with courage, zeal and determination. Drawing on the heroism of English martyrs he reminded us that the work of the church must continue, in good times and bad, through the faithful ministry of simple priests, missioners and evangelists on the ground. The message being to never give up or run away! God wins in the end.

We then gathered for Mass in the Shrine and that theme of fidelity, courage and commitment was taken up again by Bishop Keenan, on the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland, who encouraged us to support one another in fidelity to the faith. After Mass we lunched before Father John Saward delivered the final lecture on the Mother of God, the Beauty of Truth and Christ’s kingdom of love.

Sadly I had to slip away before this final address- so I very much hope it will be made public. I am told it was excellent. However my mother has had a knee replacement operation in recent weeks and I was determined to make the journey home to Sheringham to spend time with my parents before returning to Pembury this morning. The olds were on fine form and there was even time for a little father and son bonding at the local curry house in Sheringham! Carers deserve a little tlc…

A great fruitful week then and now it is back to the daily round and the parish. This weekend we are blessing graves after Mass on Saturday morning and have the usual schedule of services on Sunday. The final Ordinary Sunday before Christ the King ends one liturgical year and Advent is upon us. How can that be??!

Maureen Patterson RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Maureen, faithful member of this congregation, who passed away yesterday. Our love and prayers are with Christine, Pat and the family at this time.

Jesu mercy, Mary pray.

Remembrance

This morning Father Nicholas celebrated 8am Mass in the parish before heading off to remembrance day obligations elsewhere. Being a former soldier he is always busy on armistice day. Meanwhile I remained in Pembury to celebrate 9:15am and 11am Mass. Deacon Robert represented the parish at the civic celebration at the village war memorial. As you can see, from this fabulous photograph, he went for an understated sartorial elegance!

One or two people asked me to post this morning’s sermon. Here it is:

The remembrance day of my childhood is fading. As a boy those two world wars were alien to me but I could sense they meant much to my grandfather’s generation. There was an air of true solemnity when veterans uttered the infamous words- we shall remember. For them those wars were real. It was their friends and family who paid the price for freedom. For my children those wars will seem different again. A history lesson for the last WW1 veteran died in 2012 and many who served in WW2 have also died. The WW2 generation is fading from living memory. Why then continue to celebrate remembrance Sunday?

First because the war to end all wars was no such thing; people continue to die and suffer because of man’s inhumanity. Second remembrance is a time for reflecting on past mistakes to avoid pitfalls in the future. An aspect occasionally neglected; many recognise the horror of two world wars- but few realise their legacy on Western society. And so the present danger is we might then repeat those mistakes.

What lesson to take from two world wars? My first reflection is to ask if either would have happened but for the reformation? Now that might seem an extraordinary claim- until you consider how disastrous the reformation was in terms of a loss of  cultural identity in Europe. It caused an erosion of the faith that had historically bound Europe in peace. After the bloodshed of reformation Europe was left fragmented and divided. We have never really recovered; truth be told.

And the reformation left Europe rudderless; a church now deeply divided in the West lost credibility clarity and the meta narrative. Confusion ensued when myriad denominations began popping up- each contradicting the other. Christianity no longer spoke with one voice. And this inevitably led, in time, to the abandonment of faith altogether- the process of secularisation in Europe had begun.

It sparked a questioning of fundamental Christian principles. Darwin challenging belief that humans are embodied souls; suggesting we are but brute animals, the fittest of whom survive. Descartes thinking led to refusal of the existence of the soul altogether – intellect makes man; I think – therefore I am. Such philosophers were hitting out against religion- the unintended consequence of which was to strip man of intrinsic dignity and worth. No longer accountable to God, such thinking was then put into practice.

Thus in the concentration camp dominant Nazia exterminated weaker Jews. In the gulag man treated as nothing more than meaningless cells competing for survival. And sadly this evil did not teach us many lessons today. Witness 8 million abortions since they became legal. Clearly babies are no longer believed to have intrinsic worth or value in the womb- but are rather written off, in the name of liberation, as inconvenient cells.

And those wars had another corrosive effect. They contributed to the other scourge of modern time- family breakdown. Lengthy global war meant children deprived of fathers and wives of husbands (and husbands of wives) on historic scale. Infidelity- amongst men fearing the next bullet, and women abandoned -caused fracture in many a home. So when the families came back together, in the 1950’s, an era of false happiness dawned. A traumatised world playing at happy families. But beneath the smiles and newfound rock music lay shame and wounds. A western world was processing the terrible guilt of concentration camps and gulags. Of the destruction that ensues when you strip man of his intended dignity.

The result: people opted to put history behind them. They raised a generation of children to feel both entitled and permissive. Entitled because they were to be the architects of a new dawn for mankind- the world of modernisation. The spirit of the 60’s and 70’s was born. A time of confidence and hope for a brave new world.  Out with the stuffy old Church in with enlightened Hollywood. Goodbye crusty grandad and hello groovy kids. The foundations were thus set in place for the sexual revolution which continues to inspire that generation today who grew up to be our  modern Western leadership. The children of revolution.

The desire was healthy- who could resist bringing peace and love to the world? But the methodology flawed. Confidence was being placed in man not God. And when grace is removed from the human equation it never ends well; thus, in 2017, the modernisation project is fast unravelling. The wheels are coming off amidst rising greed, corruption and a total loss of confidence in big business and government.

We see further fragmentation of our Judeo-Christian culture as it is reduced to a secular wilderness; Trump versus Clinton, Remain versus Brexit, Catalan versus Spain; all around us is a new sense of hostility and division. So little seems to unite us anymore. Certainly not our faith – long since abandoned- nor family and community – eroded and broken by the zeitgeist. We have lost those things which once held us together in cultural terms.

So we now live in a moral and spiritual vacuum. And a cultural war arises between those who would  fill this vacuum . Three camps emerge- those who would return us to historic Christianity, those who would further secular grip and those who would introduce a radicalised Islam to Europe. The battle of Britain is on us again.

The veterans of two world wars did not fight for a secular Europe with a love of pornography, vice and tawdry self indulgence. Nor for an extremist Islamic vision. They died to protect the Judeo-Christian culture that forged this land. To protect an England we are in danger of selling down the river without a fight today. Will you fight to protect the Christian heritage now under attack? Not with bullets but love. Not with weapons but prayer. Will you put on the armour of Christ? Will you shrug off complacency and burn with love for the Gospel?

We so desperately need people to take up this cause and live lives of authentic holiness and radical witness. To shine as Christ’s light amidst the darkness lest the darkness overthrow us and our historic legacy and culture is lost.To win the battle of Britain we must build up the one true faith- in our homes, in our workplace and in our daily lives. We must give our lives to Christ afresh.

Blessing of graves

Grave stones in the snow in balck and white

The annual blessing of graves will take place, a week today, on Saturday 18th November. Those wishing to attend can either meet at St. Anselm’s church at 10am or at the graveyard, to the rear of St. Peter’s Anglican church, at 10:15am.

November is always a month within the Catholic church when praying for the departed takes on a special significance. It is the month in which we keep All Souls Day and also Remembrance Sunday. The latter will be kept this coming Sunday. I am grateful to Deacon Robert who will represent the parish at the civic service, whilst I fulfil duties at St. Anselm’s, and lay a wreath on behalf of the Catholic community in Pembury.

November is also a good time to recall that official Catholic teaching stress the four last things. Death, judgement, heaven and hell. On death we face immediate judgment and those souls which chose to abandon God will go to hell. Those souls which achieved sanctification will be sent to be with the Saints in heaven. For those who died in a state of grace but who did not achieve sanctification on earth there is purgatory. A time when souls are purified prior to the last day and final judgement. These are the souls we pray for.

Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord. And let light perpetual shine upon them.

If you want a more detailed explanation of Catholic belief in purgatory then this is a good place to start.

Otford calling

A reminder that the Sevenoaks Ordinariate group gathers this evening at the Catholic church in Otford. All are very welcome to join us at 7:30pm.

When the persecution comes…

One of my favourite Catholic writers is the American professor Antony Esolen. He is a man of deep faith and searing intellect whose grasp of the English language, and appreciation of literature, make him always worth listening to. He recently wrote an excellent article pondering the different responses people tend to have when the church is in crisis. Here is the beginning of the article and a link to it in full.

I know there are plenty of Catholics who are, in one way or another, looking forward to the relentless institutional persecution that is coming our way unless we surrender the One Thing Needful to the secular left, and that is the family-destroying and state-feeding beast called the Sexual Revolution, with its seven heads and ten horns and the harlot squatting atop it. As I see it, these Catholics belong to four groups.

Will you be a persecutor? A quisling? An avenger? Or a soldier? Find out by reading the rest of the article over on Crisis

Parish logo

 

It has taken a while but I have settled on a logo design for the parish. For this I am indebted to Renata Pantone, a parent at St. Augustine’s school, who located a little known but rather wonderful sketch of St. Anselm produced by Frederick Wilson in 1912. Doesn’t our patron just exude dignity in this image?

The original image is owned by the Met museum in New York but in the public domain. The sketch was produced to enable a stained glass window to be placed in St. John’s Chapel in the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The idea is to use the image in a variety of ways within our parish. It will form the header on our website and a smaller version, encased as above, will be placed on letterheads and service sheets, etc… A little tightening up may take place but this gives you the general idea, I think, of what we are trying to achieve.

Choosing the logo was not easy as we received several fantastic entries from parishioners and well wishers alike. Thank you to everyone who contributed. Many of these were artistically more interesting/ambitious than this but I just felt this made the best overall graphic image and elevated our parish patron.

The colours of brown and green will be adopted to accompany the logo-  reflecting the natural setting of our village parish with its beautiful grounds and church yard.

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