Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

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.

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22 Comments

  1. David Knowles

    Fr Ed.,

    I’m sorry but I have to take issue with your theory about the reformation being the cause of wars in the 20th century. Granted it did cause instability really sparked religious wars.

    Prior to the Reformation we had the 100 years war with France. There was the wars to conquer Wales, several wars with Scotland, Italy was never at peace. There were wars between the Holy Roman Empire and France. The catholic crusaders raped and pillaged Constantinople and that good catholic emperor CharllesV sacked Rome itself.Thats to name but a few.

    The real cause of the First World War was the competition between the newly industrialised and empire – building European nations sparked by the tension between Austria-Hungary and Russia over the Balkans with the assassination of the heir to France Joseph at Sarajevo.
    As regards the Second World War, the first cause of that was the Treaty of Versailles itself with its punitive measures against Germany worsening its economic crisis. Fear of communism and bankruptcy encouraged the growth of fascism and anti-Semitism and gave rise to Hitler in Germany and Mussolini Italy.

    Neither Russia’s involvement in the Balkans prior to WWI, nor its revolution which paved the way for the rise of communism before WW2, resulting in the fascist reaction can be blamed on the Reformation which did not affect the Orthodox east.

    Neither the Catholic nor Orthodox churches are free from blame regarding the origins of anti-semitism in pre-Reformation times.

    • Admin

      Take all those points- and undeniably the causes are various and complex. Though I would argue the sack of Constantinople was an issue for the East not West- and actually served the same for the East by weakening confidence in Christianity and leading to resurgence of Islam in that area.

      • Pat

        Fall of Constantinople
        The situation was much more comples that folk think. There is a reasonable summary at:-
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Constantinople
        But, I came upon a reference some time ago (can’t remember were but I think it was in a TV documentary) to the effect that the then ambitious Patriarch, who wanted the See of Peter moved to Constantinople, advised his emperor to have nothing to do with Rome and the West. Despite that, some western kingdoms did make an attempt to help. It is also mentioned in various places that, on the evening before the fall, Orthodox and Latin clergy celebrated Mass together and that everyone asked the forgiveness of the rest for any slight or offence. In other words a form of unity was achieved and a noble end was reached.

  2. Fr. Ed this is all very well meaning, terribly romantic and quite stirring but a lot of it is complete historical tosh. Prior to the Reformation the idea of baptised Christians slaughtering each other was anathema? Really? To take but two examples out of hundreds have you never hear of the Wars of the Roses and Agincourt? Similarly the idea that family breakdown really only got going in the world wars is equally rubbish. Camp followers and abandoned wives and families feature regularly in any historical war you ever heard of.
    And the idea that a desire never to repeat genocide was causally connected to the sexual permissiveness of the sixties is cobblers and lack of joined up thinking on a breathtaking scale. Unless of course you are aware of sociological studies which bear out this theory. Because I have never ever heard of any.
    Did the Hindu and Muslim soldiers of the British Empire really die for the Judaeo-Christian culture? I am as keen as anyone to defend said Judaeo- Christian culture but really…
    Fr ed you can do a lot lot better than this. Everyone understands that you are very worried sbout current trends in church and society but to come out with this sort of stuff just makes you look daft and totally monomaniac such that you drag in anything and everything relevant or not which you think supports your own preoccupations. not only makes you look,

    • Admin

      I accept this was a sermon not an academic essay and therefore is not a space for footnotes, counter views etc… and of course there were battles prior to the reformation. But nothing like as happened in WW1 and WW2 when the West turned on itself in a hitherto unimagined way. And I think this has root in a Europe weakened by reformation and the loss of ecclesial authority this brought to Europe as a whole. As to your point about Hindu and Muslim soldiers joining Western forces- there will be many reasons why once a global conflict underway but the drive behind the allies was manifestly the defence of a Christian realm.

      • You may think that Father but there is little evidence for it. But, even more to the point, this was again with the very greatest of respect a sermon which was, in my view, completely inappropriate for Remembrance Sunday and, if I had been in your congregation, I would have had no hesitation in telling you so. Not only is it historically inaccurate on a startling scale both as to wars in the past and the consequences of wars in the future but it is polemical and, at least at the start, sectarian.
        Any non Catholic hearing it would have been in grave danger of gaining the impression that the the reformation and hence themselves were directly responsible for two world wars, that sex is somehow tied up in it all and that’s something that the Catholic church is constantly banging on about and’ that we need to have a pop at Muslims.
        I was at Walsingham yesterday. We had a young non Catholic friend with us who was educated in an Anglican public school with a strong CCF tradition. He came to Mass with us largely out of politeness I think? I susoect he has always thought that Cathoics were a bit odd and a bit unEnglish. The mass there was a superb example of what a Catholic Remembrance Day Mass should be. A full requiem large chunks of it chanted in Latin. A poppy cross on the violet lectern hanging. A superb sermon on the Christian remembrance of the dead and the need to pray for them, acknowledging explicitly but without point scoring that this was rubbished at the reformation. The singing of “I vow to thee my country” , then, at the end, a two minutes silence followed by two verses of the National Anthem. I suspect our friend who knows a bit about history as well, came away with many of his prejudices such as they may have been weakened if not dispelled. Do you the think you could have aid the same Fr. If he’d heard your sermon instead?
        Finally the assertion you have made that the drive behind the conflict was manifestly the defence of a Christian realm is also rubbish (certainly in ww1 which as David points out was a direct cause of ww2.)

        • Admin

          I passionately believe that the loss of Judeo-Christian culture and faith has been devastating for Western society. I also believe a sincere work of unity is needed if that faith and culture is to be reclaimed. How can the church speak to the world if she cannot agree amongst herself? And, if you dont mind me saying, I would not be so daft, were I protestant, to think a general criticism of the reformation and its effect on history was in any way a personal attack. That would be as daft a conclusion I would have thought. But if a challenge is there for us to work harder at unity – fair enough say I.

          • Well father nothing in what you said was a challenge towards unity unless i missed something and your linking of the Holocaust and the sexual revolution is not only utterly unsupported by anything except your own wishful thinking but manages to be insulting to Jews as well.
            The loss of the Judaeo Christian culture is indeed a problem but you are wholly misguided in my view and indeed I think the views of all reputable historian as to where you lay the blame for that.
            I am getting more than a bit excited about this sermon Father not just because it is so totally inaccurate in history but also be sue Catholics in this country have spent centuries shaking off the charge if being unEnglish and disloyal. Remembrance Sunday us about remembrance of the dead and paying tribute to their sacrifice not about getting on your soapbox. The clue is in the name. Walsingham managed it brilliantly in a totally Catholic manner.; that you an ex anglican should have so stupendously buggered it up is nearly criminal.

          • Admin

            Firstly I think the revolution of the 60’s is very obviously linked to the wars. Why else did people rise up and do away with the past and its moral and spiritual teaching in such number? Quite clearly the horrors of genocide in the 20th Century so disturbed people they felt the past had nothing to teach them.
            Secondly if you think remembrance is not for reflecting on what pulls us apart into violence or else holds us together as a society- words fail me. What else are sermons for but preaching?
            For the record we did not shirk what you claim- vestments were black, a poppy wreath lay before the altar, we held a minutes silence during the canon of the mass and ended with the National anthem and prayer for England. The only complaints have been yours.

        • Steve G

          Mary,

          I am beginning to suspect we are “Yorkie” near- contemporaries. We share a love of the Metaphysical Poets (A’ Level Eng. Lit, Joint Matriculation Board c. 1966?). My sinister liberal leanings notwithstanding, “I Vow To Thee My Country” never fails to reduce me to tears. I too would have walked out of this, frankly, demeaning sermon.

          First and foremost it demeans the fallen. For forty-plus years I have observed a minute’s silence, not in a church or public place but in a martial arts dojo. We stop chucking each other around and – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Rastafarian, agnostic and atheist alike (this is Birmingham after all) – kneel silently and remember their courage and sacrifice, each in our own very different way. That is what Remembrance Sunday is for. The fallen and those they left behind – and only they – are whom it is all about.
          Many of my fellow aikidoka would I imagine have been thinking about their ancestors and co-religionists who were for so long airbrushed out of the narrative – not just those from the British Empire and colonies. A staggering number of North Africans died at Verdun and elsewhere while serving in the French army. Do we not owe them a place in our thoughts and prayers?

          The sermon demeans history. Just because one is not being “academic” does not confer carte blanche to hijack history or to make it up. Fake history is every bit as insidious as fake news – perhaps more so in that myth frequently outlives fact. The “Blood Libel” and the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” are two examples.

          It demeans – and I knowingly risk the blue pencil here – both the congregation and the priest. Is no topic, commemoration or setting, however inappropriate, to be spared from this Procrustean bed of anxiety and neophobia? Even Procrustes, having made his bed, had the common sense not to lie in it himself.

          Mary, I empathise completely with your attempts to disengage from what the record books may yet record as the world’s longest battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. Yes, standing safely on the other side of the ropes, I couldn’t resist a couple of sneaky jabs myself. Reading this blog, particularly of late, I wonder if I am not part of some slavering crowd watching the theological equivalent of naked mud wrestling – “Oh this so terrible. Why am I here?”/”Wow! What a peach of a punch!”.

          I wonder too exactly what the promoter gets out of it? Not money, for sure.

          All of which leads me back (at long last) to George Herbert: “Love bade me welcome”. Where is the love and where is the welcome? Your “young” man was fortunate to have spent Armistice Sunday in your company. Had he attended a different church the answer might well have been, “Not here. Not here.”

          Best wishes. Peace.

          • Hi Steve. Yorkie definitely. JMB yes but 1977 I am afraid…
            Re the discussions with Pam there comes a point when you can’t continue to waste your efforts with someone who I suspect has been so ruined by over scrupulous and actually incorrect teaching that her mind is closed. Sad but true.
            Re Fr. Ed I think you are being unfair however . He runs a good entertaining and thought provoking blog and he can’t help it if occasionally the odd loony shows up. Indeed it is to his credit that he appears never to have censored or edited comments no matter how combative or, frankly, sometimes bizarre. Which makes it all the more unusual that I have really crossed swords with him about this sermon which is as you point out is made up history. The comment he makes above about the sexual revolution of the 60s being very obviously linked to the horrors of war is far from obvious and if it is then Fr. Ed will no doubt be able to produce a historian who says so
            We obviously have to behave as charitably as possible and I will freely admit to being , like Fr. Ed, a bit hot headed at times. But I think it is telling that for the first time I can ever recall he has now edited his original posting to remove one of his most palpably ridiculous claims which was that, prior to the reformation, it would have been anathema for baptised Christians to go round slaughtering one another.
            Father Ed I stand my ground in everything j have said. This sermon was unworthy of you not just because it was riddled with factual untruth but also because it wasn’t really about Remembrance at all. Instead it reflected your own oft repeated concerns about the nature of modern society and the possible retreat of the Church In face of that particularly as regards sexual morality. I would not have gone so far as to have walked out had I been present but I would have told you in no uncertain terms at the church door what I thought. And I don’t care if mine was the only complaint.

          • Admin

            fair enough

        • David Knowles

          Mary,

          My wife and I were there at that same Mass yesterday!
          There were some people behind us sitting near the front at the right, not far from Our Lady’s statue. A young man in that group did not go to communion but he sang very well and I suspect he was an Anglican.

          • I think that was us David! My husband was the guy in the wheelchair in the aisle? The young man is my daughters boyfriend.

  3. Continued …obsessive by a,so a trifle lame

  4. David Knowles

    Mary,

    Yes, your husband was wearing a uni or college scarf and my wife picked his mass sheet up for him when it fell on the floor. We were right in front of you and we actually exchanged the sign of peace! What a beautiful daughter you have.

    • Mary B

      Thank you David! Yes that was him. University of Reading btw. My brother in law was there as well and my son (who is also a top singer I should say with maternal pride; he has just left a school with a very strong musical tradition where he was a principal chorister and sang solos in St Peters on a choir tour a couple of years ago). How strange but also fortuitous! Well, if this spat about Fr. Ed’s sermon has had one good outcome it is this. For that if nothing else thank you Father!

  5. David Knowles

    Fr. Ed.,

    I mentioned the sack of Constantinople because it perfectly illustrates a situation where babtised Christians slaughtered other baptised Christians. The desecration of Hagia Sophia, convents and monasteries, the murder, rape, theft of holy relics, had a devastating effect on the Orthodox psyche resulting in an aversion to Catholicism that even today is a massive obstacle to re-union.
    Not to mention the fact that the Latin Church sat back and watched the fall of Constantinople in1453 ! A bit of assistance to that massive bastion of Christianity might have prevented the Ottomans reaching the gates of Vienna. Lepanto was a hundred years too late!The what ifs of history prove it indeed to be an art and not a science.
    II have to agree with Mary and Steve that you have indeed overstepped the mark in your Remembrance Day sermon. It was not the time or the place to make the points you made which took away from the significance of the day.
    You are quite entitled to preach as you see fit and to defend our Jeudo- Christian heritage but perhaps you should resist the temptation to use every possible occasion as a vehicle. By the way, is black still a liturgical colour? I suppose I’m nit picking but purple seems a bit gentler. Black is just so……erm…… black! I remember in the 70’s we quite neatly got rid of our black vestments by burying the parish priest in them.
    I bet your glad that Mary, Steve and I are not waiting for you after Mass!!

  6. Steve G

    Mary,

    First, my heartfelt apologies for presuming to add at least ten years to a lady’s age!

    Second, I readily acknowledge Father Ed’s willingness to stay the blue pencil and to take criticism “on the chin”.

    I do, at times, find his utterances unduly strident and unfocused – as in this instance – so, like you, make no apology for making my feelings known.

    If Father Ed has “tuned down” his post – as much an issue of style and context as of substance – I am more than happy “to rest my case”.

    Best wishes

    • Mary B

      I think that’s very fair Steve ( no offence taken BTW!).

      I entirely accept that Fr. Ed is so bruised by his time as an Anglican when, over a period of a very few years, what had seemed immutable certainties (and I don’t mean about peripheries like the language of celebration or the style of church furnishings, but, as we know, essential core Christian doctrines) were ditched wholesale that he is naturally fearful, perhaps, about developments in the Catholic Church. This leads him on occasion to say and do stuff which would be better unsaid/undone.

      As I have made clear I am not overenamoured about some of these developments myself and I have serious reservations about some (but, again, not all) features of this Papacy.

      But what I would say to Fr. Ed is this ain’t the C of E. The Catholic Church has the divine guarantee. It will always survive and, in the end, triumph. So yes, Father, worry for the short term, even, if you must, fear for the medium term, but be assured for the long term. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.

  7. Lee Williams

    I won’t mention the rather flaky factual and historical basis of this sermon, others have done this.
    However, you don’t seem to mention Jesus Christ once. No Jesus no sermon as an elderly priest used to say to me.

  8. Tony Hill

    I know what Fr. Ed is getting at and he is absolutely right in one particular matter: we have another holocaust upon us, of course, in the form of industrialised abortion, systematically aided by the State. The Catholic Church has been consistently at the forefront of what I consider to be the single greatest fight of the age and pro-life agnostics like me, and many other persons of good will and of all faiths, will look to gather around the banner insofar as they recognise the vileness of the act.

    Opposition to abortion is the one thing that consistently tempts me and other lapsed Catholics of my acquaintance to return to the Church, despite our unbeliefs and failings, because I can think of no more fundamental cause nor one in which I can more easily recognise a possibly Satanic involvement.

    Anyway, I understand the plea to put on armour. For now, it matters not who made it.

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