Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: January 2018 (Page 1 of 2)

Candlemas

The feast of the presentation of Christ in the temple, also known as Candlemas, falls this coming Friday. There will be sung Mass at 8pm in St. Anselm’s followed by refreshments in the hall. Do please come and support our efforts to keep the feasts on their proper days. It so enriches our spiritual lives to maintain the proper rhythm of the church year.

The feast commemorates the moment that the infant Christ was presented, by Mary and Joseph, in the temple in accordance with Jewish law. He was presented to the old priest Simeon, who had been told, in a vision, that he would not die until he had seen the Messia. As Jesus was placed in his arms Simeon knew it was he and proclaimed that now, at last, he could die in peace for his eyes had seen salvation. A song of prophetic hope known throughout the Christian world today as the Nunc Dimittis. It is always recited at Evensong and has been fitted to some wonderful choral arrangements.

 

The Star baker is…

Whilst I was away covering Mass in Otford and Sevenoaks this morning the parish were busy raising funds for the new window and lighting fund between the morning services. Hayley was selling good quality ladies clothing and Rowena and Bea were selling a huge batch of delicious home made cakes. The cakes raised well over £100 so they are the St. Anselm’s official star bakers of the week! Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would be proud…

Over the Christmas period Gail Radley was also busy adding to those funds by cooking a special curry for a record club that mainly comprises members of our congregation. The members then paid what they might have expected to pay at a local indian restaurant and all funds went to church. It was a lot of work for Gail but she absolutely nailed it- delicious!

A huge thank you to all who help raise funds for the church, in whatever capacity, throughout the year. And to those who support by donating and purchasing cakes and clothes etc… It is hugely appreciated by the clergy and helps ensure we continue to flourish in accordance with God’s will. Not long now until the new window goes in…I am getting very excited!

Fashion Sunday

A reminder that between the 9:15am and 11am Mass this coming Sunday we have a special sale in the Hine Room in aid of our window & lighting appeal.  A range of good quality ladies clothes, many of them designer label, are available for purchase.

In addition, to ensure the non cross dressing men of the congregation are also provided for, we are selling cakes. So something for everyone! Bring your money to church and go home with something stylish, delicious or both!!

Congratulations Freddie!

Huge congratulations to Freddie de Tommaso who just won the 55th Tenor Venas competition in Barcelona. Freddie is training hard to become a professional opera singer and this prestigious award will really push him forwards in that noble quest. How proud his family must be to see him land this prize. Sixteen singers competed in the final having come through a pool of over 500 people from no less than 60 different nations. This was no walk in the park then.

Freddie is well known at St. Anselm’s as his family worship here regularly. Grandma, mum, auntie, brothers, nieces, all attend Mass, as does he when he is home. His father sadly passed away a few years ago but was famed in the town being the proprietor of  the excellent Signor Franco’s restaurant. Watching this video I was struck by how like his father he is becoming. A father who, with his own passion for music, would also have been immensely proud.

Well done Freddie! May you be richly blessed and may you keep your feet on the ground as you (hopefully) rise to stardom in the opera world!

A problem for the post-conciliar church

When the Second Vatican took place it was said that the windows of the church were being opened. The idea being that fresh air was desperately needed within a church stuffy, remote and in danger of losing credibility. This may have been an obstute observation. I suspect it was but am too young to remember. It matters not;  the problem never was that observation but the reaction to it which later emerged.

See what the church actually needed was a fresh humble approach. Out of touch clerics needed to become approachable to the people of God whilst nevertheless remaining utterly faithful to Christ. The church needed priests who took the faith seriously but not, so much, themselves. Men able to preach with zeal yet laugh at themselves and present a merciful face to the world.

What was delivered instead, perhaps because pride ever runs deep in the clerical realm, was the polar reverse; clerics who continued to take themselves seriously but the faith not so much! Instead of reforming themselves they deviated from the documents and embraced a liberal agenda to reform the faith in the hope this might appease the world and bring about a renewed populism.

If you doubt this consider the arrogance of those who dismissed abused children or who pushed, often by force, for the modernist agenda; the ripping out of altar rails, loss of reverence , etc.. The faithful did not ask for modernism, nor did Vatican II call for it, but that is what they got and many went along because they were faithful. Others, let us be reasonable, embraced the reforms genuinely believing they were healthy. Probably the majority of clergy and faithful were decent and well meaning. The problem is that it has not worked because the wrong reform still took place. They were misguided and so an emptying of pew and seminary followed. One reaps where one sows.

Decline is ever the cost of theological liberalism. Once God’s authority is declared out-dated, it gives way to man. With scripture no longer deemed reliable who but theological experts can guide us? So they an assume authority to become arbiters of divine truth. They decide who is worthy or not of sacramental life via process of accompaniment. They explain which texts no longer mean what they say and which are binding. The experiment of at least a century now.

See how the modernist approach turns us from God to ever greater clericalism! With doctrine a reference point only we are left at the mercy of experts. Disagreement between them means they jostle for power, of course, so the church also becomes political not devout. The faith bending to the world and dancing to the tune of factions. First this then the next. We see it in the liberal overthrow of classical Anglicanism. It now sows its division within the Catholic fold for we seem to be in thrall to pastoral ‘experts’ at present who expend much energy denigrating those who stand by traditional belief and compelling relaxation of conventional church teaching in the name of mercy. Why not a call to fidelity instead?

It would be wise to return to Vatican II. To read the documents afresh and contemplate where wrong turns were made in implementation. Which is what Pope Benedict suggested via reform of the reform, creation of the Ordinariate, Summorum Pontificum, a more faithful translation of the Mass, encouragement of ad orientem etc. Just don’t expect triumphant modernists to applaud for power is intoxicating and they, not the traditional Catholics, are the rigid clericalists.

God save us, again, from the folly of our fallen selves. Help us put you back at the centre of Christian dialogue and searching. May your eternal word and unchanging truths be our guide, not our human desires and political agendas, for without you we are nothing. And we only sow confusion and darkness where you bring clarity and light. Amen

It’s a girl!

Congratulations to Simi, one of the delightful Keralans who enrich our church community, on the birth of a baby girl, Agnes. I know the whole parish joins me in wishing mum, dad and daughter well in these first days and weeks of bonding and learning all about each other. A first child is a truly momentous thing…I often liken it to a wrecking ball that shatters your entire way of living; that something deeper, richer and more beautiful can then be constructed within the family home.

And what a namesake too. According to tradition, Saint Agnes (b. 291) was a member of the Roman nobility raised in an early Catholic family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of 13 during the reign of Diocletian on 21 January 304.

Agnes was a beautiful girl of a wealthy family and therefore had many suitors. Legend holds that certain young rich men, enraged by her decision to consecrate her life to religious purity and remain virginal, sold her out to the authorities as a follower of Christianity. There are lots of dramatic tales regarding the nature of her subsequent martyrdom but suffice to say this little girl laid down her life for God. 

Agnes was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome. There miracles began to occur to those who prayed at her tomb, including the daughter of the Emperor Constantine. St. Ambrose gave account of her life and commended her virtue. She is commemorated in the Depositio Martyrum of Filocalus (354)  and mentioned in the earliest Roman Sacramentaries. Agnes’s bones are conserved beneath the high altar in the church of  Sant’ Agnese fouri le mura  in Rome, built over the catacomb that once housed her tomb. Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the church of  Sant’ Agnese in Agone in Rome’s famous Piazza Navona.

Marriage on a whim

When two air stewards on the papal flight over Chile requested a blessing on their relationship Pope Francis opted instead to conduct an impromptu wedding. As senior legislator of the church he is able to bypass canon law in this maverick manner. But whilst the media delight in the feel good story, and the Holy Father presumably understands better than me, I confess it leaves me uneasy as it feels more ‘PR stunt’ than ‘properly conducted sacrament’.

Does this impromptu convalidation witness to the seriousness of holy matrimony? The wedding liturgy states – marriage must not be entered into lightly- yet this feels light given that we are told nobody expected it to happen. So unless this was a stunt, and the couple were secretly prepared, questions arise regarding discernment and validity. Were the couple suitably prepared? Did they feel able to say no after the Pope suggested it? And if the Holy Father did not know the couple – well how can he have discerned suitability? What if there were impediments? What checks were conducted?

It is being suggested the couple were ready because they were already civilly married. But the reverse seems true to me. For if they cherished Catholic teaching regarding marriage and family life and understood its importance- well then why neglect it to date? And whilst it is claimed the couple would have married in church but an earthquake thwarted plans… it is eight years since that earthquake!! Making this sound unconvincing as a reason for not having sought God’s blessing.

Finally the Pope himself is on record stating clergy are not exhaustive enough when it comes to marriage preparation. This event undermines that message profoundly. What would a bishop say if a priest married, outside of church and on the spot, a couple he met that day?  Quite often members of the traveller community demand on the spot marriage from me. How do I now explain this is not possible? They are not a group to be trifled with! Such example undermines clergy who must abide by rules.

Naturally I wish the couple well. And I don’t doubt the good intention of what was done. But it seems misjudged. Maybe I am a rigid sourpuss, and if so I apologise, but I cannot see how knee-jerk nuptials convey the true message of the church regarding Christian marriage.

St. Agatha’s, Portsmouth

Fr Maunder, fellow priest of the Ordinariate, has announced a special High Mass and procession at St. Agatha’s church in Portsmouth, where he serves, on February 10th at 11am. The Music will be Haydn’s Nelson Mass, led by an orchestra, and the homilist will be Rev. Fr. Bruce Barnes. There will be refreshments after Mass and all are welcome to join the congregation for this special occasion.

St. Agatha’s isn’t only a parish in which sumptuous worship is offered to the glory of God. This year they helped launch the Robert Dolling project which aims to use a converted double decker to provide help to Portsmouth’s rough sleepers.

Speaking about the project Fr. Maunder commented: “When I heard about this incredible community based project, I knew this church could help by providing a base, because we are close to an existing group of rough sleepers and have the space to accommodate it….What has been particularly impressive is the energy and support…received from local people, organisations and companies. It has been a real team effort” 

 

 

Father Robert Dolling was priest of St Agatha’s between 1885-1895. A great social reformer he frequently challenged authorities to do more to improve the lives of his parishioner’s, including the appalling state of their housing, which he described in a book, Ten Years in a Portsmouth Slum, published in 1896.

And Fr. Maunder’s other claim to fame? He helped source the beautiful Ashbee reredos, now situated in the Sacred Heart chapel in St. Anselm’s Pembury, for which I am eternally grateful. Do pop along to St. Agatha’s festival if you can.

Special collections

Monsignor Newton has written a pastoral letter, to be made available this Sunday, in which he calls for additional fundraising for the Ordinariate via three official second collections to be taken each year.

Around the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury a collection will be taken to support the Ordinariate Clergy training fund for Ordinariate seminarians who do not have access to many of the established diocesan funds set aside for this purpose. I shall write more extensively on this need nearer the time.

Around the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham a collection will be taken to support the Ordinariate Clergy relief trust. Despite working full time in diocesan settings and parishes our clergy are not entitled to the usual perks enjoyed by diocesan clergy; private health packages and pensions. With no historic legacies and funds this is a daunting challenge.

And, close to 15th January (the founding of the Ordinariate) a collection will be taken for the Ordinariate Families Fund. To that end we shall take a collection in Pembury this coming week.

Mgr. Newton writes “Those of our clergy with families suffered particularly when they gave up their Church of England posts. There was the move from their family home to accommodation that might not be particularly satisfactory for family life or in very good repair. There was the disruption to schooling or extra cost of getting children to new locations. Less obvious was the loss of access to sources of additional support  available to clergy in the Church of England.  There are no such funds for Ordinariate Clergy families.  The Ordinariate Families Fund seeks, in a small way, to begin to fill this gap.”

These collections will, at present, occur only in the few parishes where the Ordinariate is present- but I urge supportive clergy and parishes to join us! Finance is a particular challenge for us having been required to start what is effectively a non-geographical diocese from scratch and having left behind our buildings, legacies, pensions and funds.

Imagine if the entire church in England and Wales were to get behind such an initiative…one can but hope! Until then we appeal to friends and supporters. Blog readers can send donations via myself or head office at Golden Square. 

Frankincense

As a strong devotee of good aesthetic in worship I am delighted that incense was used to worship Christ from the first moments of his appearance on earth. The need for wholesome worship is paramount. Upholding a sacred liturgy is not optional but essential to the health of faith here on earth.

Devotion should be the first priority of an authentic Christian life. Our communal worship should be oriented to God not man. There should be space for silence, mystery, majesty and awe; a clear emphasis on the beauty of holiness. It is no coincidence that when God himself gave instruction for building a Temple in the Old Covenent- he demanded the  finest materials, the best of what we have, that worship might inspire and lift the human heart. That we might materially witness to its true spiritual value at the heart of the community.

Sad then, that in so many places today, a dumbed down liturgy prevails; one almost entirely focused on human agendas and politics. God can seem squeezed out- an optional extra. This modernist approach leads to lack of mystery and majesty and awe. In the worst cases the sacrament hard to locate amidst furniture that is functional and dreary. An oft banged drum on this blog because I sincerely believe second rate worship lies at the heart of the crisis of supernatural faith today.

How can we discern the living God if no space is being given for majesty and awe, silence, reverence and epiphany? A liturgy stripped to the lowest denominator has leads only to decline. It is no coincidence seminaries and pews emptied as Vatican II was deliberately misconstrued (by political movements) leading many to discard altar rails and sacred images et al. A process of desacralisation. So much damage was caused where the priest, against V2 rubrics understand, turned from facing with us into the great mysterious beyond to create, instead, a circle of people looking inwards at themselves!

The sense of a mysterious realm beyond us- from which irrupts the Word made flesh- quickly evaporated. Soon worship became third rate community entertainment. The incense and sacred music was packed as secular ditties began to dominate. Vestments became ugly and cheap. Sloppy trainers replaced smart shoes. The cost on faith has been tremendous. The magi, in presenting incense to the Lord, call us back to authentic worship. Pray therefore for a reform of the reform; the reintroduction of all that was lost during the harrowing stripping of the altars that devastated worship in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Which is not to suggest you cannot have dignified and beautiful worship at Westward facing altars, you can, but it is to suggest much has been lost which should have been cherished and valued.

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