The great Solemnity of All Saints is a holy day of holy obligation. This means that ALL Catholics should be present at a celebration of Holy Mass on this day. Where will you be worshipping? At St. Anselm’s we will be offering a Vigil Mass of All Saints this evening, 31 October, at 7pm. This will help those who are working or unable to make Mass for good reasons tomorrow to make the obligation.

Our main parish celebration of All Saints will take place tomorrow evening, Thursday, at 8pm with hymns and incense and special devotions. Mass begins at 8pm.

All Saints leads us into the month of November which, in church, is a month during which we are called to pray for the faithful departed and contemplate the four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. We shall be offering a special Mass for All Souls on Friday at 8pm, during which an opportunity will be made for the praying for your dear faithful departed. It is always a very poignant and moving celebration.

On Sunday 4th November, at 5pm, I shall be blessing graves in the local cemetery. Meet behind St. Peter’s Anglican church at 4:45pm if you have a grave you want to be blessed or if you simply wish to take part in this special devotion.

Today Mgr. Newton visited the Maidstone Ordinariate Group, based in the village of Wateringbury, to bless their new hall. When the group first entered the Ordinariate they had their own pastor, the wonderful Fr. Paul Gibbons, but old age and ill health mean he is no longer able to serve in active ministry. Since his retirement the group has come under the pastoral care of St. Anselm’s, serving as our daughter parish, and our clergy have been celebrating Mass as they await the appointment of a new pastor. It is hoped that this will be Revd. Alastair Ferguson, formerly the Anglican vicar of Withyham, whose papers are being processed in Rome. He will join the team of clergy at St. Anselm’s, but have oversight of the Maidstone Group, should his application prove successful. The close arrangement works well.

The chapel of our Lady at Wateringbury is one of only a couple of buildings used for Ordinariate worship in the U.K. which is not owned by the local diocese. In fact it was built by group members Robin and Christine, in the grounds of their house, a couple of years before the Ordinariate was launched simply because they felt God calling them to do so. That calling has born fruit and the Sunday 11am Mass is now supported by a small but faithful congregation which numbers around 30 most weeks. Today well over 60 gathered for a Divine Worship Mass of Our Lady on Saturday celebrated by Mgr. Newton who also preached.

After Mass the congregation moved into the newly constructed hall for the blessing followed by a magnificent luncheon. Work on the hall began in February and it took some 70 days to complete. Robin, a builder and carpenter, worked hard almost every day on construction. He should feel proud of his effort yet if you try and congratulate him he humbly claims the glory belongs to God who has been close to him since a heart attack several years ago. Not bad graft for a man in his seventies!

A very happy and holy day then for the good people of Maidstone. And it was also a good day for the well wishers from Pembury who were present. The Ordinariate may be small and lacking in resources but it is certainly doing great things at the local level. Pray for the group at Wateringbury and especially for Revd Alastair Ferguson as he awaits his news from Rome. All being well his ministry will be a  great blessing to the group- as they will, in return, be a great blessing to him.

Cognitive dissonance is a term given to people living in a state of mental conflict which is, often, a cause of deep unhappiness. The obese person opening crisps despite wanting to lose weight is a perfect example. On the one hand the brain tells them to eat the delicious crisps but on the other they know it is hindering the desired weight loss. Only when they choose to merrily embrace fatness or else give up crisps can inner harmony be found. Otherwise self loathing is likely.

Now this is an ecclesial blog so let us leave corpulent crisp eating clerics to one side and ask a more pertinent question. Are we living at a time of crisis within the church because too many of her leaders are living with spiritual cognitive dissonance? That is to say; have lost personal belief in the supernatural reality of the church but nevertheless continue as clergy because the institutional life of the church feeds their material need. Such clerics would be deeply conflicted souls and likely to exhibit unhealthy behaviour. To use the analogy of Christ they would be like whitewashed sepulchres. Externally appearing as Christian men of virtue but inside dead and given over to ways of thinking at odds with the Gospel of Christ.

I would argue that evidence for this theory is compelling- indeed it makes sense of what we witness today. It explains why certain clerics seem desperate to water down traditional faith in a quest to embrace the secular consensus. It explains why certain clerics seem more passionate about left wing politics or homosexual activism or ‘what yoof want’ than in living and preaching a life of authentic holiness.It explains why bishops seem silent when faith is attacked yet vocal on issues like the environment.

It also helps us understand the shameful double lives, the abuse and corruption that seem so widespread. Because the person who preaches a faith they no longer believe in is living a manifest lie. And, thus conflicted, will inevitably look outside of faith for something to fill that void of emptiness. To compound problems many will not even admit the lie, will not admit the loss of faith they experience. Such people will grow to be troubled and confused. And this might explain why they become so very hostile to those who still possess the thing they lost. We begin to understand the labelling of people who retain supernatural faith as nasty or rigid, etc..

Might modernism itself even be a manifestation of wholesale cognitive dissonance?  After all modernist worship is centred on downplaying supernatural aspects of faith for that which is entertaining and populist. The mystical realm denied- consider the bizarre hatred of the extraordinary form though it fed the saints throughout the ages. Consider the love of all things trendy – from the rave in the nave to those dire schmaltzy choruses. Consider the ripping out of altar rails and high altars- that encouraged us to kneel before God. Consider the erection of carpeted stage areas on which the community can gather in celebration of self.

Yes I believe cognitive dissonance is widespread and at the heart of most church problems in our day. Clearly what is needed is true faith in Jesus Christ and true worship centred on supernatural faith- to help reconnect a lost people back to the God who calls them. Pray for those whose faith has grown cold.

Next Saturday, 27th October, we are holding a working party at church following the 9am Mass. With autumn in full swing there is plenty of work to be done in the churchyard; gathering leaves and chestnuts, clearing out the gutters, cutting back overgrown branches, checking the state of the roof etc… There are also plenty of jobs inside with brass to be polished, general cleaning and tidying up. I plan to clear out the store cupboard (again!) and will be after volunteers to take items to the tip. Hopefully you will not need to get your hands quite as dirty as I did when planting the Blackthorne as above.

The industry will end in good time for those attending the blessing of the new parish room in Wateringbury to get there. So why not make a day of it? But even if you cannot make the visit of the Ordinary to Wateringbury do feel free to come and lend a hand at church in the morning. As the old saying goes; the more, the merrier!

Long time readers of this blog will remember that, in August 2016, we introduced an 8am Said Mass on Sundays. The purpose was to create a slot in which rugby playing children, and the parents who coach them, could get to Mass on Sunday morning. You might also remember that my reasons for doing this were largely selfish. I wanted to ensure my own son, Benny, could attend Mass and play rugby on Sunday morning. And as you can see from the picture above- he is doing precisely that!

It was for this reason that I was firmly committed to offering this extra mass even if it proved to be unpopular and ended up with just myself and him before the altar. In terms of my expectations I maybe hoped for a handful of faithful worshippers each week as tends to be the case for 8am Communion services in Anglican churches.

God had other plans. And within a few weeks we had to move out of the Sacred Heart Chapel because numbers were improving. And this growth has continued and this morning, for the first time, we reached an impressive 50 worshippers of all ages! What is more amongst the 50 were half a dozen boys who play for Tunbridge Wells Rugby Football Club- all of them kitted out and ready for action. Today being the Blackheath Tournament.

How wonderful to have all these people through the door before either of our principal services were offered. It seems the 8am Mass is here to stay.

This Sunday is the Harvest Festival at St. Anselm’s. The Harvest festival has links to many different cultures and faiths for the obvious reason that being thankful to God for the food we produce and eat comes naturally to those who have experienced hunger. Historically a good harvest was the difference between life and death, sickness and health for communities. One only need consider the suffering of the Irish during the potato famine or think of the harrowing images on our televison screens whenever famine strikes. How easy it is to take for granted the ability to put food on our table.

Within the Catholic church there is no official harvest feast but accommodation is made for this celebration via additional texts at the back of the Missal. In the Ordinariate we delight in keeping harvest for it is an obvious part of our Anglican patrimony. There really is something quintessentially English about singing about ploughed fields and scattered seeds having walked to church on an Autumnal Sunday with golden leaves crunching underfoot. We are fortunate on these isles to have clearly defined seasons of the year to celebrate.

The feast as we celebrate it today, with processions of offerings and hymns such as ‘all good gifts around us’ came into being in Victorian times. This was a time when, despite the industrial revolution, many people in the parishes still earned their crust from the land. Today fewer people farm the land, most of our food comes from abroad, but we do still owe a debt of thanks to God for what we eat and for those who help produce it.

Harvest also helps us to consider the needs of others especially those less fortunate than ourselves. We live at a time when food poverty is on the rise in Britain. Many households are suffering today due to inadequate wages compared to the high cost of living and the result has been the emergence of food banks. I find this scandalous and governments and business need to be challenged. Nobody working full time should struggle to provide a home for their family and food for the table.

The food we gather at Mass this Sunday will be sent to the Pembury food bank and distributed to local families. Please bring non-perishable goods to church with you for the procession and blessing of gifts.

Here is last Sunday’s sermon. The Gospel text was Mark 10:2-12

God created them male and female 

Increasingly well intentioned but moronic Christians are seeking to join the trend of virtue signalling by draping rainbow flags in churches and on altars. It is unbelievably wrong headed. Not that caring for people with same sex attraction is wrong. Quite the opposite. We must be welcoming and compassionate to such people. It is wrong because that rainbow flag symbolises more than compassion having become the defining symbol of a radical modern ideology- one rooted in the sexual revolution and based on secular notions of political correctness. And the problem for Christians, at least those with a brain, is that this ideology, favoured by political elites, stands in stark contradiction to the teaching of Christ on matters of sexual morality.  It refutes not only the Christian view of sex but, perhaps more importantly, our very understanding of what it means to be human.

Scripture teaches we were created male and female. You heard it from the lips of Jesus in the Gospel this morning. A truth not dependent on faith or belief or opinion but writ large in the natural law. There are over 1500 scientifically determined differences between men and women. Meaning you can dig up even skeletons and know the sex with certainty. Christians believe this difference is intentional and divinely inspired. Men and women were created – as part of God’s plan- as a unity in distinction; philosophical language meaning two halves of an intended whole. The two shall become one flesh. Equal in terms of dignity and worth- feminism has that right- but with intended differences that need to be acknowledged and celebrated. Christianity further suggests that man and woman complete each other and God’s blessing of this completion is seen via their unique potential for the creation of new life. A truth being denied when newspapers claim Tom Daley and his male partner had a baby. No; they took a baby from its biological mother to raise as their own; the difference is all important in discerning truth about the human condition.

The rainbow movement, the new ideology of the world, challenges Christian concepts on marriage because it is centred on radical individualism not organic family life. Historically, when were a Christian culture, we enshrined marriage out of respect for the needs of children. But today such privilege is denied because all couplings, even thruplings, are treated as the same. Thus the needs of children take a back seat to the romantic demands of adults. The truth that mum and dad bring something unique to family life is eroded, even lost.  And men and women are not even being encouraged to come together in trust and love in our society as they should be. Instead we see everywhere an attack on the nuclear family. In the media we hear only of that tired cliché of a battle of the sexes. Is it any wonder, when men and women are pitted against each other in this way, that tension increases, dissatisfaction is heightened and divorce rises. Why do we buy into this language of war? Sorry but I do not believe God’s plan for our human flourishing involves breakdown of the family and conflict/competition between the two halves of the intended whole.

Yet more sinister: the new ideology doesn’t stop at attacking family life. It now challenges our identity. Children are being taught, as part of the National Curriculum no less, that gender is not fixed but fluid; determined by sentiment not reason. A direct contradiction to our Gospel today. And no dissent is brooked in the imposition of this insane modern narrative making school increasingly uncomfortable for our Christian children. Any who dare question the rainbow philosophy are quickly shut down and labelled haters. They are told it is healthy to self identify using labels, most based on adult sexual proclivity, with an infamous letter. LGBTQI. The use of which erodes our understanding of the human person. Sorry but we are embodied souls precious to God not vacuous being defined solely by something as shallow as out sexual preference. I am not an H. You are not a B, L or G. We have to hold to a deeper and richer sense of personal identity rooted in our intrinsic worth.

Now I have compassion for transsexuals. They are troubled people who need our support and sensitivity. But this does not mean we abandon reason in pursuit of kindness. And who says it is kind, anyway, to deform people’s bodies via drastic surgery and artificial hormones? I mean we would not dream of helping an anorexic, who self identifies as fat, by endorsing a diet! We would not aid the man who identifies as Nelson by cutting off his hand! So why are we treating this particular psychiatric condition as if is normative and encouraging children to collude in it? Ever since we encouraged trans activism in our schools the number of children identifying as the wrong gender has increased by thousands of percent. What in the name of God are we doing to impressionable young minds and vulnerable people? I have a name for it- it is called child abuse. Government backed and systematically rolled out though it may be.

As Christians we are called to be inclusive and merciful. And in fairness I think we always have, on the whole, welcomed the divorced, homosexuals, transexuals-everyone. We always have understood that we, are all of us, sinners in need of forgiveness. We  always have understood that preaching an ideal does not mean we will all manage to reach it. What we have not done is change our teaching to endorse an anything goes mentality on morality and it is, in truth, this that enrages our foes who have a liberalising moral agenda. Hence all the rhetoric of nasty uncaring Catholics so skilfully espoused by the new ideology and the mainstream media. Hollywood pedophiles, like Roman Polanski, are misunderstood whilst nuns are only wicked tyrants fit for horror movies.

So we must continue to preach our welcome, mercy, love and forgiveness. But not to the point of endorsing the radical secular individualism that threatens family life. So please put your rainbow flags in the dustbin and dust off your rosary instead. Because Christian marriage remains for us, at least, the foundation of family life. The place in which children are raised and nurtured in accordance with God’s will. So that that which God has joined together no man (or philosophy or ideology) can put asunder. With courage and determination let us resist this new ideology come what may and stand with Christ. Our Saviour who said marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation for family life. Not because he was mean or limited by the wisdom of his age. But because he was God and knows what will help us to flourish – as individuals, as families and as a society.

EWTN have released a video in which the excellent Raymond Arroyo interviews Cardinal Mueller. The Cardinal bravely speaks about the handling of the abuse crisis in a helpful and honest way and says some very important things. I especially welcomed his suggestion that rules need changing to enable the CDF to investigate, without papal approval, Cardinals and bishops accused of grave sins. If you have a half hour to spare this would be a very good use of that time. It really does shine a light on many of the current controversies and helps us understand them better. The video is below. The interview takes up the first half hour of the programme.

 

Here is the sermon I preached last Sunday on the theme of sin.

Our Gospel is uncomfortable this morning because it centres on a modern taboo; the notion of personal sin. Our culture no longer wants to believe in sin. We may speak of ‘bad personal choices’…but woe betide the person mentioning judgement let alone those horribly un PC topics Jesus raises- damnation and hell. Western Christianity in the 21st Century, which reflects too much the prevailing culture, has frequently become a comfortable and unchallenging place where nobody is held accountable. Might this be part of the reason why perverted and corrupted clerics seem to retire in comfort and are left unpunished? Nobody must pop the modern liberal fantasy that we may do exactly as we please. So sin is off the menu..even though the devastation it causes is all around us.

Our society, and alas many in the church, trundle along playing a modern form of the emperor’s new clothes. Sins are obviously there but we ignore them. Which only worsens the human condition and decays the culture. Because sin is not, in truth, just a theoretical thing, some archaic notion to be dispensed with at whim. It is a concrete reality that must be dealt to enable human flourishing! So sins left unchecked lead to breakdown and misery. That is the truth. Unacknowledged sin festers like cancer in the soul – it rots our sense of self-worth and encourages humanity to hide from God. We then morph into creatures of the dark not the light- hitting out at beauty, truth, purity and holiness. So let me be frank- we who love Christ must not only breakdown this modern taboo and talk about sin we must deal with it. A message the Vatican must grasp if it is to regain even a shred of credibility in the wake of the abuse crisis. A crisis in which many abusers are still left unpunished.

Scripture says if we say we say we have no sin we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. We all have a dark side. We all need forgiveness. And we ignore sin at our peril. Jesus counselled taking drastic action. Wrench sin out at the root. Don’t let it fester. He makes the point by warning of dire punishment awaiting those who abuse others, especially children- ‘they would be better thrown into the sea with millstones around their neck.’ Those outraged at clerical scandals do well to hear what God will do with those creeps in the fullness of time unless they come to true and sincere repentance!

Jesus’ voice in the Gospels is never that of of someone taking sin lightly. He never suggests we downplay it or sweep it under the carpet. Jesus uses the Greek word ‘skandalon’,translated “obstacle”. A skandalon was “the bait stick used in a trap”; laden with goodies it operated a spring luring prey to destruction. We all have skandalons. Temptations leading to certain downfall. Jesus is clear- flee the stick that lures! Each must locate it first. For each it is different. I have zero desire to gamble- but over indulgence in beer is a serious temptation! So we must find what causes us to stumble- and offer it to God for healing. The need for regular formal confession is spelt out. Sin will devour us unless we deal with it honestly in prayer.

Jesus’ advice is practical. If what we look at causes us to sin. Rip out your eye. Not literally but metaphorically- don’t look at that thing anymore! We might consider pornography or shop windows that encourage wasteful spending. If what we touch leads us to sin. Don’t touch it! If the places we go to lead us to sin, Don’t go there! Whatever our stumbling block is, be it passive, as with self indulgence or negativity, or active, as with abuse and bad temper, attack it at its root. Persistent problems require desperate measures. And there is only one cure. Jesus whose mercy is found in the confessional and in the fulness of faith. Not some watered down version.

Jesus wants to bring us healing. But we have our part to play in the process. We must learn to hate sin not delight in it. The prospect of confession may be daunting, but better to go limping into heaven than leaping into hell. God can only operate on our souls- if we offer them to him in humility. Unless we cooperate with God and take his teaching seriously- we are not in the place of where forgiveness can occur. And the implications then are grave- as Jesus spells out for us this morning.

How are you doing in your struggle with sin? What trips you up? Seek God and get real! Stop going softer on yourself than you do on other people. Stop pretending sin doesn’t exist or matter. Stop convincing yourself hell is not real or empty – nowhere in scripture is such nonsense suggested. For the biblical God is not some laid back hippy who cares little of justice. He wants integrity of faith. Heaven would not be heavenly if unrepentant sinners- say Jimmy Saville- were to share it with us. Nor would it be heavenly if you enter without grace and riddled with sin. So God will bar us from entering on the final day of judgment if we chose to reject a life of grace here on earth. You might find that inconvenient, even uncomfortable, but it is, I promise you, what the bible has to say on the matter.

Do you understand now why we all need confession? Do you see why we must take our faith seriously and strive to remain in a state of grace.  And do you see why we need the faith of apostles not the bastardised watered down form being pushed on us by modernists in our day. Don’t get comfortable with sin. That’s the world’s way and a path to damnation. Look instead with the eyes of Jesus and learn to hate sin and rip it out of your life for the sake of your soul.Confession is from 6-7pm on Wednesdays or by appointment.