There is Mass, as usual, at 7pm this evening despite the inclement weather. I do however urge people (especially those who no longer bounce as they once did) to be cautious, especially when driving.

If, like me, you dislike snow and prefer to hunker down at home in front of a roaring fire with a little whiskey and your Lent reading, take comfort in the fact that our younger parish members are having enormous fun! Sledging, snowballs and snowmen are the order of the day in our household. Benny taking pride that he beat the teenagers down the hill in Pembury woods this afternoon. It would seem the heavy bones of a Tomlinson lineage, when combined with fearless stupidity and the small stature of an eight year old lad, created something of a cannonball effect..

Scandinavians, northerners and Americans will scratch their head at the following fact. When it snows in Southern England almost all the schools close and those that are open accept that few will be there! This is because it is not economically viable for the South to invest in snow tyres, gritters et al – not when we only get a few snowy days per year. Thus the children are enjoying extra time at home- or more accurately messing about outdoors in an infantile manner. And as you can see from the snowball thrower of last year- it isn’t only the children…

 

A couple of people have asked me to reproduce Sunday’s homily on the Christian need for a transfigured vision of life.

To understand the transfiguration we should revisit an incident in the Old Testament, involving the prophet Elisha. It is in 2 Kings. Israel is at war with Aram so Elisha uses prophetic power to reveal the enemy plans. Understandably news of such supernatural meddling irritates the King of Aram who dispatches troops to surround Dotham, where Elisha is residing, in the hope of capturing him. His crack troops surround Elisha’s dwelling in the cover of darkness.

In the morning as Elisha’s servant looks out, he panics, realising they are horribly outnumbered. But the prophet himself is surprisingly calm and says “Don’t be afraid. Those with us are more than with them.” The servant isn’t reassured, the mountain is crawling with troops, so Elisha prays, “Lord, open his eyes”. God grants the servant a vision; in which the hills are seen full of chariots gathered protectively around Elisha. A bit like the ghost army in Lord of the Rings. Not only was the prophet safe but the invading army puny next to the invisible power of God. Depsite external appearances God was very much in control.

The Transfiguration occurs when Jesus’ enemies are closing in. When, from all earthly perspective, Jesus is defeated. So the disciples, like Elisha’s servant, are anxious and losing faith. In the moments leading up to the transfiguration Jesus had asked. ‘Who do people say I am” Peter had given the right answer –God- but then displayed his wavering faith when Jesus warned about his suffering and death. Peter protested; “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Jesus had to repremand Peter for forgetting that the suffering was part of God’s plan. What Peter needed, like Elisha’s servant, was divine vision. An unshakable faith that simply knows, despite everything, God is in control. So Jesus grants the lead apostles a vision of his risen glory, the transfiguration, the only time we see Jesus as he is. And he provided this glimpse of his divine nature to save them from that awful defeatist view we tend to have in life when we lose sight of God’s power and majesty.

Listen hard to scripture today. For- like Elisha’s servant and St. Peter- you and I are being called to keep the faith at a time of crisis, of doubt and confusion. When the friends of God can seem few but the enemies legion. Outside the church our culture has clearly abanonded the Christian faith that formed it; leading to widespread immorality, corruption, worldliness and spiritual and material poverty. That is bad.

What is much worse is that within the Church too there is evidence of crumbling faith in God’s providence. Disagreement arises, Cardinal contradicts Cardinal, why? Because the heresy of liberal modernism attempts to overthrow the true faith of the ages. An attempt that will ultimately fail, for God really is sovereign, but until the crisis is defeated it remains the gravest Christian scandal since the Arian heresy.

And just as the first apostles abandoned Christ at his hour of need, when crisis struck, leaving only a handful at the Cross; so priests and bishops and lay folk today abandon Christ in the face of modernism. Some by being complicit in the attempt to change the faith to suit man’s agenda, others by being cowardly and silent. And so those who should defend the faith instead cave in to the Spirit of the age; to a false ecumenism, to a watering down of doctrinal truth to appease secular thinking. Objective answers to reasonable questions are dodged via subjective appeals to a misguided sense of mercy. God’s truth plays second fiddle to “being nice”. And thus the church becomes luke warm and loses credibility, clarity then unity. Chaos and confusion ensue.

Sadly, this abandonment seems to have reached the highest levels of the Church. For what else could give rise to so many stories of deep corruption and vice in the Vatican and all those truly filthy scandals involving clergy? How dangerous bishops become when they lose zeal for the Gospel and fidelity to Christ! Bad enough that they become secular managers of what should be spiritual and ecclesial institutions, worst still they open themselves to spiritual attack, to the assaults of the devil, to the wrongful thinking of this world. Then hearts turn to vice and political agenda- often both. So beware the modern heretics who twist what was ever taught and known by the faithful. Beware the seductive attempts to justify sin and bypass any need for amendment of life. Beware those who would have you think that grace is not enough for us to live a good and godly life. Do not listen to them.

Listen instead to the Gospel this Sunday in Lent! Which teaches us to stand firm and trust God even when it appears he is defeated. And realise that he never is defeated because God is soveriegn and his truth does not change from one generation to another. But to appreciate this life giving fact you must first learn to look at this world with transfigured vision. With eyes of faith that are able to behold those chariots surrounding Elisha, that Jesus was working out salvation as he hung on a cross. You must learn to see beyond the temptations and agendas of this fallen world to the life of grace and truth.

Lent is for turning away from sin and being faithul to the Gospel. So don’t get hung up on politics, in this world or in the church, we will not be judged on these transitory things which are, in truth, beyond our control. Pray for those who will be. What we will be judged on is this: our response to Jesus and his word. On willingness to choose a transfigured view in life. The sacrifice and love we show to our families, friends and enemies. For such is the fruit of obedience to his eternal Word. Such is the life that a transfigured view demands of us- especially in times when the church is in crisis.

This is the message of scripture for today; keep your head when all around are losing theirs. Keep your faith when all around are losing theirs! Remain faithful even when all around are abondoning Christ. A hard choice certainly. But worth it because it is the narrow road by which every saint and martyr rejected this world, took up across, shone with virtue and inherited the crown of eternity.

The Catholic Truth Society are producing a new Ordinariate study Missal containing all the content of the larger Missal. All the texts for use in Ordinariate worship have been approved and promulgated by the Holy See under the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and are made available here, for the first time, in a hand held book perfect for personal study at home, for travel and for those in the pews who like to follow the texts visually.

There is only going to be a limited run on these books, which will cost £65. To pre-order your own copy visit the CTS website using this link.  

In the wake of a monstrous scandal at Oxfam I again urge people to watch Poverty Inc. it is time to re-think our attitude to donating to large corporate charitable organisations. Far too many are run for profit first and have become part of the problem not the cure.  When your own eye watering salaries and investments rely on poverty it hardly motivates you to eradicating it and, instead, you tend towards an approach of ever sticking plasters on the problem instead of rooting out the real causes. When charity turns into a profitable business it is bad news for the poor.

What we need do is lobby and fight hard at governmental level to create fair and level playing fields in the third world. We need to encourage entrepreneurs to establish themselves o the ground and create long term jobs and prospects within those communities to provide salaries, tax revenue and hope for the future. We need to abolish restrictive legislation that makes it impossible for the little man to compete with corporations. We need to admit that the rich nations wilfully keep the poor nations down. We need to direct almsgiving to small charities on the ground that can show they are tackling the problem of poverty and not contributing to it.

Last month there was an outcry, rightly so, when seedy businessmen held a charitable event at which young ladies, often willingly it must be said, were employed and used as little more than objects for titillation. There has also been scandal in hollywood where young people have been subjected to abuse. Why has there not been a huge outcry at the news that Oxfam workers used the people they were meant to care for as prostitutes? I think it is far more monstrous- for those poor women were hungry, frightened and in desperate need whilst the men who used them were holding all the aces. It is time we stopped backing unethical charitable businesses in which the benefit to the poor is hard to discern.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. At St. Anselm’s Sung Mass is at 7pm during which the imposition of ashes takes place. Although Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation it is an important day in the liturgical calendar and all Christians who take their faith seriously should make every effort to attend church on this day.

Then begins the Lenten observance as we prepare ourselves spiritually for Eastertide. During Lent Catholics are encouraged to go to confession and do penance, give alms to the needy fast that we might build up self discipline and learn the value of mortification and take on additional devotional reading and prayers.

To help parishioners at St. Anselm’s make full use of this penitential season we will be offering Stations of the Cross on Sunday evenings at 6:30pm. Each week we will use a different set of meditations. We shall also hold adoration after the 9am Mass on Saturdays. Confession is, as ever, from 6pm-7pm each Wednesday and by appointment. Do not let this vital season pass you by…

 

This evening (Tuesday 13th February) my wife, Hayley, is giving a talk to the Pembury Trefoil guild about her work as a painting restorer at the National Gallery in London. The guild have kindly said non-members are free to attend the talk- which is about the conservation and restoration of easel paintings.

The talk begins at 7:30pm at St. Anselm’s. Why not come along and swell the number? I know it will be worth your time.

This weekend, it being the start of half term, the family travelled to Sheringham to spend time with my parents. As you see from the photograph above, we also spent time with Charlie who is a little large for a lap dog. It doesn’t seem to stop him! 

An afternoon beach walk, in nearby Mundesley, proved too much temptation for the boys…despite a temperature of barely two degrees. Brrr!! Soon it was not only shoes but trousers which were sodden. The fools even sitting in the sea at one point. Still it proved a lesson in ‘actions have consequences’ and, before long, they were travelling home giggling and adorned in various bits of dirty PE kit which, fortunately, we found abandoned in the boot from the previous day.

The girls were more sensible.

On Sunday morning, knowing Father Nicholas and Deacon Robert were competently covering services in Pembury, we ventured to Our Lady and St. Joseph in Sheringham; a two minute walk from my parent’s home. As you see it has a wonderful interior filled with ecclesiastical treasures.

The liturgy was also pleasing. This did not surprise me as the priest, Fr. Denys Lloyd, a one time vice principal of Mirfield in Anglican days, was already known to me via the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Unfortunately he was ill on the day so his assistant stepped in. And again this was no stranger but a brother priest from the Ordinariate, Fr. Tim Bugby. It was good to catch up before and after Mass.

The church is not all that attractive externally but inside the architecture and fittings are first rate. Fr. Bugby informed me that many of the best furnishings were commissioned by the Stuflesser workshop in Italy. Meanwhile the altarpiece in the Lady chapel, seen below, depicts Our Lady of Walsingham flanked by Ss Thomas More and John Fisher. It is, in short, a fabulous church and certainly one of the most attractive Catholic churches of this period that I have encountered.

And it is not only the altar pieces that are beautiful. The Stations are magnificent too and come with a fascinating story. They were ordered in 1914 but never arrived because of the outbreak of war. And so they sat, impounded, for many years in the hold of a freight ship docked in Genoa. Fortunately, after the war, they were eventually tracked down and now serve as a memorial to the departed. They also serve as a timely reminder to us all that Lent is just around the corner…

Within the liturgical life of the Ordinariate the green of Ordinary time has already given way to purple. Not because we entered Lent early but because we keep the traditional season of “Pre-Lent” with the count down Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima. A season which, sadly, got lost within the Novus Ordo.

Sad because Pre-Lent serves as an annual reminder of the need to prepare- not only for Easter via Lent- but for Lent itself. If the penitential season is to be fruitful we need consider where to direct almsgiving, when to confess, what luxury we will forgo to develop self-discipline and we need to order the book for our extra devotional reading.

People sometimes ask me for ideas for Lent reading. This year I am happy to suggest the following books. I have tried to include easy reads and slightly more demanding ones but nothing too demanding. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section.

1. Leila Miller: Primal Loss (Easy read)

Seventy now-adult children of divorce give their candid and often heart-wrenching answers to eight questions about how divorce affected them. Their simple and poignant responses are difficult to read yet not without hope. Most of the contributors have never spoken until now. Despite vastly different circumstances and details, the similarities in their testimonies are striking; as the reader will discover, the death of a child’s family impacts the human heart in universal ways. Link here.

2. Thomas a Kempis: The imitation of Christ (easy read)

The Imitation of Christ, dating from 1418-1427, is surprisingly easy to read. It is also, perhaps, the most widely read devotional work next to the Bible. Many will have therefore read it before… yet I still meet Christians who have not heard of it. So if it bypassed you – read it this Lent! Apart from the Bible, no book has been translated into more languages. Link here.

3.  Dante: Inferno (tran. Antony Esolen) (a little more demanding)

Inferno is the first part of Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, revealing the eternal punishment reserved for such sins as greed, self-deception, political double-dealing and treachery. Antony Esolen is amongst my favourite Catholic writers and I heartily commend his translation. Link here.

4. Esolen: Defending Marriage: 12 arguments for sanity (medium read)

A compelling defense of traditional, natural marriage. Anthony Esolen-professor at Providence College and a prolific writer uses moral, theological, and cultural arguments to defend this holy and ancient institution, bedrock of society. He offers a stirring defense of true marriage, the family, culture, and love-and provides the compelling arguments that will return us to sanity, and out of our current morass. Link here.

5. Samuel Gregg: For God and profit (medium read)

One for the budding economist. From Christianity’s beginning, it has had a difficult relationship with money. Samuel Gregg underscores the different ways Christians have helped develop the financial and banking systems that have helped millions escape poverty for hundreds of years. But he also provides a critical lens through which to assess the workings-and failures-of modern finance and banking. Far from being doomed to producing economic instability and periodic financial crises, Gregg illustrates how Christian faith and reason can shape financial practices and banking institutions in ways that restore integrity to our troubled financial systems. Link here

The Catholic church upholds the dignity of every person from conception to the grave and is opposed to unnecessary violence in all forms. Meaning that whilst there is sometimes virtue in using force to defend ourselves and others from evil, there is never good reason for cruelty. A worthy reflection as we approach Good Friday when Jesus himself was subjected to violence at the hands of wicked men.

Freedom from Torture provides support to adults, young people and children who have survived torture, rape and organised violence. The organisation was established in 1985, and since then over 57,000 individuals have been referred for help. Many people are tortured globally each year and are targeted for a variety of reasons including ethnic origin, gender, religious, cultural or political beliefs. Many are tortured during conflicts around the world each year, where torture is used to instil a climate of fear and force people to flee.

Freedom from Torture seeks to help survivors of torture, and their children who have often witnessed violence, to heal and overcome the trauma they experienced.   A donation box will be situated in the narthex throughout Lent.

This coming Thursday we return to Otford, near Sevenoaks, to offer Mass according to Divine Worship.

Mass will be at 7:30pm and everyone is very welcome to attend. After Mass we will visit the Bull for a quick drink and a catch up. Why not come and join us?