Our readings at Mass this morning focus on the end times. In Daniel we hear of a terrible conflict between good and evil before the consummation of history. Jesus’ suggests this will occur when he returns to judge the living and the dead.

The return of Christ at the end of time has always captured the imagination. What will it be like? Whenwill Jesus return? Many have guessed but he himself says, “Nobody knows”So we would be wise to tell the loonies to get a grip. To stop obsessing and fussing about freemason plots to take over the world as predicted via visions of Our Lady of X! This sort of babble is widespread but often superstitious and unhelpful. God does not call us, with good reason, to be paranoid weirdos detached from reality like David Ike. He calls us to be Saints; our duty as Christians then is not to predict an unknowable future but to live lives of holiness in the present.

Living by faith in the present to ensure we need not fear the future is sage advice even if Armageddon doesn’t come on our watch. Because there are, in truth, two end times. An ultimate end times of the world none can know. But also an individual end time- the moment of our death. And again the Saints not the lunatics will be prepared for it. And that moment could come sooner than we think. Anyone of us could step in front of a bus tomorrow or have an undiagnosed condition that kills us by next week.

Are you ready for death? Are you ready to stand before God and be judged. Because, make no mistake, the bible is quite clear that judgement awaits. At the moment of death an immediate judgement takes place; the truly wicked go to hell, the truly sanctified to heaven. The rest, most of us probably, await a final day of judgment and must go through purgatory to enter heaven. These are the souls we pray for. So beware putting off repentance, confession, the healing of broken relationships; you may never get a chance again. Live today as if it is your last day.

I once counselled a man whose father died in a car crash when he was 15. The last words his father said, in a moment of petulance, “I hate you”. Words he almost certainly didn’t mean but which, nevertheless, cut into that son’s heart and soul for the next thirty years. Do your loved ones know you love them? Why maintain the petty feud with great aunty Maud…or whoever? Jesus says be ready- not because he wants us living in fear -but because he wants living by faith. For only those who live by faith fear nothing tomorrow!

And a good discipline is to consider what you will say when God asks you to account for your life? Many, I suspect, will feel embarrassed not because they were given over to evil, per se, but because they squandered a life being selfish and thoroughly boring. Will God be impressed that you never missed an episode of Strictly Come Dancing…whilst the hungry needed volunteers at the local soup kitchen? Will he delight in the hours spent manicuring your lawn that could have been spent volunteering in church, instructing the young, running a scout group, saving souls? Will he applaud the fortune spent on a hobby when children the other side of town went to school without coats in winter? Understand there is nothing wrong with nice lawns, favoured shows nor hobbies but if these are all we invest in something is very wrong.

A final thought. It is good to consider the end because, believe it or not, the end is what brings meaning to the present. Consider a football season; players look to the end – to the final league standing- for motivation. The promise at the ‘end’ is what spurs victory in the present. Theend doesn’t depress it inspires! Students also look forward – the promise of a degree and job at the end – motivates study. Unless they’re just there to drink beer and play rugby but I can’t think of who that ever applied to?!  So it is with life. The fact of our death should not depress but inspire us. Christians should delight in it- and feel so happy for those of us who do die, since our faith tells us that living for Jesus will bring us to his kingdom now and in the end.

So in this month of November, when consideration of the dead surrounds us, please be morbid- ponder your death very seriously. Make wills to protect loved ones. Plan your funeral. Bequest your inheritance. Could you leave our small parish a gift, a good charity, somebody deserving of help? And mend those broken relationships- with family, friends, and dare I say – with God too. So that when the end arrives you will be ready to greet it with joy assured of your eternal salvation.

When the Ordinariate arrived in Pembury, some years ago, we set up a steering committee and finance committee to oversee the life of the parish. They have worked well, in terms of ensuring we meet our canonical obligations, but there is scope for development to enlarge lay involvement in the life of our parish. For this reason we are erecting two new sub-committees, making three in total, and will be looking for volunteers to ensure they flourish in accordance with God’s will.

The committees will be ‘Finance and Fabric’  ‘Social and Fundraising’ and ‘Pastoral and charitable’.  The idea is for each to meet, act and then feed back to the steering committee. Each sub committee will have a clergy member. Below is a first draft of how the structures might work. These can develop over time as experience dictates.

Finance & Fabric 

To maintain oversight of parish bank accounts

To run stewardship campaigns & encourage congregational giving

To maintain buildings and set budgets for necessary work, including the presbytery

To be responsible for health and safety in liaison with Precision safety

To liaise with social committee on fund raising events.

To care for the church grounds and organise working parties

 

Social and fundraising 

To organise parish events- quiz night, bbq, etc

To run the annual pre-Christmas dinner

To consider other avenues of income

To organise refreshments on special occasions, eg.. Carol services

To look out for new people and include/involve them in planning events etc..

 

Pastoral and charitable

To decide the Advent and Lent charity

To oversee rota for sick communions and gather names of those requesting it

To consider outreach to local nursing homes etc

To check on those absent from mass to ensure they are well

To link with HOPE and other ecumenical events

 

Do consider joining a subcommittee. We need volunteers to ensure they work well.

Pembury village council deserve praise for the effort being put into the civic Remembrance celebrations this year to mark 100 years since the end of WW1. All over the village poppies have been appearing which make a real visual impact as you walk or drive along the village streets. They help to set the tone for Sunday’s special event when the uniformed organisations, local churches and members of the village will congregate together for an act of remembrance.

Those who attend Mass at St. Anselm’s are forewarned that the act of remembrance means roads around the village green will be closed from 10am until just before noon. If you need to get away you are advised to park well away from the green and avoid Lower Green Road altogether. This impacts on those leaving 9:15am Mass and those arriving for worship at 11am. Please note that, because I need to represent St. Anselm at the civic event, we are only offering Mass at 8am and 9:15am this week. The 11am will be a service of holy communion from the reserved sacrament led by our deacon, Robert Smith.

Not that I am advising parishioners to get away before or after Mass. For everyone is encouraged to stay on after the 9:15am Mass and join the special act of remembrance in the village. The BBC are sending a filming crew to record the event. Kent College are sending a choir to sing before the act of remembrance and afterwards a Tiger Moth plane is booked to do a poppy drop over the village. It should be memorable and poignant.

Things start at 10:30am – dovetailing well with the end of 9:15am Mass- leading up to the main act of remembrance at 11am. A wreath will be laid by myself on behalf of our parish and we will pray for those who have died in time of war at all of our Sunday services. This year will be special for us in St. Anselm’s as our newly acquired stained glass window, produced by the Pugin workshops, was produced in memory of Edward French who died aboard HMS Good Hope which was sunk by the German fleet off the coast of the Falkland Isles at the onset of the first world war. You can read more about it here

The Chapel of Our Lady at Wateringbury, home of our daughter parish the Maidstone Ordinariate Group, are holding a special ecumenical study day on Friday 30th November from 10am to 5pm. Billed as an opportunity to explore the real Christmas story before the frenzy begins it promises to be informative and worthwhile.

The day, organised by Revd. Alastair Ferguson, will be led by acclaimed biblical scholar, Dr. Margaret Barker. After reading theology at the University of Cambridge, Margaret pursue her research independently. In 1998 she was elected President of the Society for Old Testament Study. From 1997 she has been part of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s Symposium of Religion, Science and the Environment. In 2008 Margaret was awarded a Doctor of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research.’

In 2007 Margaret co-founded Temple Studies Group, with the late Bishop Geoffrey Rowell (Anglican), Professor Laurence Hemming (Roman Catholic) and others, to promote and enable study of the Jerusalem Temple.  In August 2018 she gave the Walsingham Assumptiontide Lecture, ‘The Titles of Mary: Evidence from the Jordanian Lead Books’.

Margaret is a mother and grandmother, a Methodist Preacher, and was involved for over 30 years with the work of a Women’s Refuge. She continues to spend a considerable part of the time on her research, as well as giving lectures and presentations across Britain, Europe and North America.

To book your place on this day telephone Denise Ferguson on 01892 838230

The programme for the day is as follows:

9.30 am Arrive
10.00 am Introduction: Our need to discover the real Advent and Christmas
10.45 am Isaiah and the Ancient Worldview
11.30 am Break
11.45 am The Christmas Story – 1
12.45 pm Lunch
2.00 pm The Christmas Story ‒ 2
3.00 pm Break
3.15 pm Looking afresh at some Advent and Christmas Carols
4.30 pm Advent Vespers of Our Lady

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself. We repeat these words of scripture at the start of every Divine Worship Mass. It is the central message of the Gospel passage this morning. But what is love?

That needs answering because the word ‘love’ is sorely misunderstood within modern culture; from where it is, so often,  presented to us as a sentimental feeling quite devoid of other virtues. Love is held to be ‘easily arrived at’ not ‘worked for at cost’ Love has been unmoored from old fashioned concepts that used to be associated with it, like sacrifice, self denial or self control. “All you need is love” sang the Beatles- as if loving is easy and our problems are solved by it in a heartbeat. What rot! To love sincerely is far from easy and requires all sorts of other virtues, like justice and hunger for truth. Which is why we sinners struggle to love, yes even a little.

Let us unpack in more detail the problem with love is presented as sugary feeling. First: feelings are horribly unreliable guides in life. This is one of the major problems for our age which has placed sentiment above reason. Feelings are not necessarily on our side. They can even lead us to imagine grave evil is good! Just ask the person embroiled in adultery who feels as if betrayal of their spouse and child is justified because, well, romantic feelings tell them so. Because the new love is thrilling and interesting whilst the old love is demanding and dull.

Second feelings are not fixed and therefore untrustworthy. Feelings are fluid being dependent on things like mood; hormones, the weather, our health can all alter how we feel in any given moment. Just ask the depressed parent who, in time of darkness, feels no love for child or spouse but who, six months later, when fully recovered, is horrified by the memory because love was real only horribly obscured by mental illness.

Third: human nature is notoriously fickle making us feel, quite illogically, more love for some than others. If I meet a man in Tunbridge Wells rugby club tie I would be more friendly, on the whole, than if he wore an Ipswich town football shirt. My feelings about sport impacts on how I subconsciously judge people. If I gave you a second hand jumper, you might thank me. But, be honest, would you wear it if I then revealed it had belonged to Fred West when he killed his poor victims. Your feelings would probably lead you to ditch the clothing, even though it is, ultimately, just a jumper.

So love as sentiment is a rotten guide. We cannot live detached from reason. Clearly when Jesus commanded us to love God and neighbour he was not asking for sentimental mush. Which is my beef, incidentally, with so many ghastly Christian choruses- most are sentimental rubbish that sound as if they were written by Barry Manilow! A better guide to sincere worship of God is St. Paul who, when writing about love, was careful to present it alongside other corresponding virtues- faith and hope. Paul was saying love requires other virtues to be true. That we cannot ultimately love, of our own volition, without possession of wider virtues. If you doubt that open your eyes to a world full of broken families, broken promises and broken people. Consider a church broken because so many who have spoken of love and mercy sentimentally ignored the other virtues like justice, chastity, humility, obedience, etc..

So St. Paul explains that love is something to be worked at over a lifetime not arrived at easily. A point G. K. Chesterton drove home when he said the happiest men are not those who married the women they love but those who learnt how to love the women they married. It works the other way round ladies! Who pushing beyond sentimental feelings accepted the graft of true and dutiful caring. Seen here love is an unsexy nursing of a spouse with dementia, or an unromantic forgiving of the person who hurt you, or the offering of kindness to a spouse you would rather, if given over to your feelings, bury under the patio!

We begin to see love is neither fuzzy nor sexy nor in anyway linked to what MTV sings about interminably. Love is a project of hard work that takes a lifetime to achieve and which is perfected, so often, via friendship with God. For God is the source of love. Without him, and most of us live the majority of our life without him, we struggle to love. Our efforts are enfeebled. Which is why I prefer the Mills bros to the beatles; they sang you always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all. Whatever love is – it does not come naturally to us. We are too prone to selfishness. We are too prone to error. Making love a gamble requiring forgiveness on both sides. And it really does require heroic effort, lots of prayer and the mastering of unreliable feelings, of fallen tendencies, of sin.

Which isn’t to say the ungodly cannot find love. Anyone can virtuously work at relationships and be rewarded by God. It is to say love is hard because so many things in this fallen world will test it to breaking point; rebellious children, demanding parents, unhappy spouses, unreasonable bosses; yes, consider reality not fantasy, you soon see that sentimental love won’t  cut it. The real thing requires selflessness. But let us not end on a miserable or pessimistic note. For, despite all this, love is still possible. We can find it if we know where to look.

Where do we find true love? We find it in the lives of saints who, having achieved sanctification, shone amidst the darkness. Who loved in a world obsessed by love but in which there isn’t really much love to be found. Do you want to love? Do you wish to be loved? Turn to God, become a Saint. Then, I promise, love will flow into your heart as never before, to the point it overflows from you to the people around you. In the end we can, none of us, give to others what we do not have our selves. And unless we have love to give- we will struggle in life. Come fill up your hearts at this altar each day.

The Catholic Truth Society have produced a Sunday Missal for use with Divine Worship, the liturgy of the Ordinariate. The Missal provides all the propers (prayers) for Mass as well as the Sunday scripture readings which are provided, very helpfully, in the RSV Catholic edition; the translation approved for Ordinariate use.

Priced at £29.95 this Missal would be a great gift/purchase for anybody who regularly worships within the Ordinariate and beyond. It is beautifully bound and produced with ribbons to mark out pages. The artwork is first rate and the fonts are easy to read. To pre-order a copy follow this link. How useful to be able to reflect on the Sunday readings at home, before and after Mass, and use them as an aide to study and prayers.

Without opening a can of worms regarding the failures and merits of biblical translations; the RSV is, in my opinion, far superior to the widely used Jerusalem translation translated from French in the 1960’s.  As just one obvious example the Jerusalem bible informs us “Happy are those who mourn”, which would strike anyone with even a cursory knowledge of bereavement counselling as dubious, whereas the RSV translations translates it “Blessed are those who mourn”, which makes much more sense of Jesus’ meaning. We are moved at once from mere human sentiment to a proper sense of grace and holiness.

I have already pre-ordered my copy. Well done to CTS for producing what will be a useful and precious resource for those Ordinariate parishes who makes use of Divine Worship as is the desire and intention of our superiors in Rome.

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!