Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

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The appeal of mysticism

Our family, like many others, are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (only nine sleeps until Guardians of the Galaxy II!) which, for the ignorant and uninitiated, are light hearted action films centred on a plethora of comic heroes. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Spiderman etc..

One of the latest heroes to be introduced is Dr. Stephen Strange, played by the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch. Strange is a brilliant surgeon who, having lost the use of his hands in a car accident, travels the world seeking a cure. He finds it, in the East, under the guidance of ‘The Ancient One’ who, alongside healing his hands, grants to him extraordinary mind-bending powers. It is great fun!

Dr. Strange is not alone in finding revelation in the East. Iron Fist, Netflix hero for a more adult audience, fell from a plane over the Himalayas and was rescued by Tibetan monks before learning amazing mystical things. Even Batman, in the DC universe, trained amongst the Eastern mystics. Tibet is clearly the place to go if you desire to wear underpants over your trousers and save humanity. Why am I telling you this?

Because the thought that Marvel might swap East for West, in search of mystical encounter, is laughable. Imagine Dr. Strange sat in the chancel of a typical modern parish. He would not find ancient mystical encounter but rather die of boredom. A curse on the Christian tendency of recent time to de-mystify its liturgy and buildings! What damage this has done. Why seek to secularise and seek worldly relevance instead of going further into the mystical realm? Isn’t that what faith is all about? I suspect the sort of hero the modern church would churn out would be an altogether different species…

Pope Benedict XVI stated that the great ecclesial crisis of modern time is the loss of our sense of the sacred. A theme oft repeated on this blog because I share this conviction. We are what we pray; and rescuing faith from the bland and mundane, from the protestantisation of modernists, is of vital importance. That which Benedict XVI began in his reform of the reform  (seen in the liturgical emphasis of the Ordinariate) now in danger of being undone under the present pontificate.

The success of Marvel tells us that mysticism is important. It still holds appeal to the modern culture. There is fascination, even yearning, for the supernatural. People are drawn to that which points beyond our knowledge and which can inspire awe. See how serious it is then, that since Vatican II, many set out to de-mythologise the church? Out went altar rails, the plainsong and haunting chants, the statues and Eastward facing altars; that which pointed beyond self and into the realm of heaven.

In came delight in the mundane. The building of hideous functional worship spaces, the use of ditties and infantile secular music that led to clapping glorias, the turning of priests to face people so that we only gaze on one another but never beyond ourselves. In short any sense of the supernatural evaporated and the evidence is seen in so many parishes today. We are left with a church whose tendency is to operate horizontally not vertically; a big NGO centred on the needs of man not on worship of God. People line up to receive the body and blood of Christ in obvious disbelief; they do not gaze in wonder but line up as if at a school cafeteria.

We have to stop treating the church like a political body or worldly institution- pretending there is creative tension between traditionalist and liberal, between warring factions centred on the views of man. We must encourage instead a unity stemming from firm supernatural faith; a belief in one church, one faith, one Lord!  That which brooks no compromise because it comes from the revelation of God himself. A fidelity to ancient scriptures and the teaching of the church in all ages.  It requires authentic worship. The sort we once did well but no longer bother with.

Because, until we restore these vital elements to the Church, Dr. Stephen Strange and all his friends, will continue to look elsewhere for revelation and meaning in life. So I continue to pray for the success of Pope Benedict’s reform of the reform.

This joyful Eastertide

It has been a glorious Holy Week and Easter at Saint Anselm’s. Here are a few snaps taken by a member of the congregation using a mobile telephone. The quality is therefore not great, but they do offer a little window into our recent devotions. So thank you Lydia! Above we see the holy oils being received on Maundy Thursday.

I preached the sermon on Maundy Thursday- it would appear with some wild gesticulation of the hands! The sermon aimed to show how Jesus did not only replace the Old Covenant Rite of the Passover with the New Covenant rite of the Mass but actually became the new Exodus for us.

Then came the washing of the feet. Which I explained to the congregation has historically been linked with the institution of the priesthood, hence our choice of 12 men to represent the 12 apostles.

Father Nicholas was the celebrant on Maundy Thursday and I assisted him at the altar. After Mass came the stripping of the altars and sanctuary to the traditional psalm.

Then it was time for the watch and silent devotion. Which ran until Midnight and ended with a recitation of Compline by candlelight.

On Good Friday we gathered to meditate on the Passion. Mass began in silence the priests prostrate before the altar.

The choir were in magnificent form for the Triduum, leading the congregational singing and assisting with the worship.

The veneration of the holy cross is always a high point of the Good Friday liturgy.

On Holy Saturday we gathered outside of church to bless the Easter fire at the start of the liturgy. The Paschal candle was lit and carried by the Deacon in procession.

The sermon at the Easter Vigil is always the shortest of the year. It tends to consist of three sentences at most. The liturgy preaches its own message on this day.

After Mass the candle has to be carried to the font during the litany of Saints. Father Nicholas had to ensure the wax didn’t spray over the vestments as he wrestled it from the holder.

Last night we had over 100 people present for the Vigil and a similar number gathered this morning for the Mass and Baptism according to Divine Worship. We have been richly blessed this week. A happy Easter to all blog followers.

Holy Saturday at St. Anselm’s

Throughout Lent we prayed to God asking that our Holy Week services would be well attended and that he would bless them, so that those taking part would find their faith enriched and deepened. Those prayers are being answered and, thus far, it has been a really worthwhile holy week in Pembury.  Let’s keep it going!

This morning both priests are available to hear confessions from 9am until 11:30am. Meanwhile the church will be decorated and cleaned for Easter. Do pop along with a duster and some polish and join with the labour!

From 10am- 11:30am the Children’s Easter Workshop is being held. This is a time for our Sunday School children to come together for craft activities and the making of the Easter garden. You do not need to have signed up so just turn up! No chocolate yet but we might find some biscuits at the back of the cupboard….

This evening, at 8pm, we gather for our Vigil Mass of Easter. This is the jewel in the crown of the liturgical year and not to be missed. We light the pascal candle from the bonfire, hear readings from the old covenant gathered in the darkness and then the exultet proclaims the resurrection and Christ is risen! With fanfare the gloria is sung, we bless the waters of the font and end the celebration with a glass of fizz! (NB: this is an archive photo and I fully appreciate that in the year it was taken I somehow neglected to remove my biretta for the procession. Mea Culpa)

On Sunday morning we have a said Mass at 8am and then a joint Mass at 10am. During the 10am Mass we shall be baptising baby Sebastien, the second child of Olivia and Stewart Walduck

Good Friday

10am    Stations of the Cross for children

10:30am    Confessions

11:15am    Ecumenical Witness on the Village Green

12pm    Confessions

1:30pm   Stations of the Cross

3pm   THE GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY

6:30pm   Maria Desolata

Pray for the martyrs of Egypt

This dear little boy went to church on Palm Sunday to worship God alongside his family and community. He never made it to the dismissal at the end of Mass because his life was cruelly taken by wicked men. He is one of 44 martyrs of the Coptic Church in Egypt killed by Muslim fanatics in this latest terrorist attack. We must pray for them and those they leave behind.

The photographs are truly devastating and bring home the full horror of terrorism. Blood pools around pews, and a place of holiness is turned into a battle scene. People who gathered to praise God were left dead and/or traumatised. There are more pictures showing the dead, but I felt them too graphic to share. Too upsetting. but they tell the fuller story and point to the awful reality.

This week Cardinal Nichols travelled to Rome with Muslim clerics urging us to listen to the voice of Islam. That is to be applauded given the need for a working towards the building of friendships that will enable people of all faiths and none to live alongside one another with respect and love. But these photographs remind us of the greater need at present to hear the voice of the persecuted Church in the Middle East.

But we do not seem to hear them well. Perhaps it is because, in contrast to their oppressors, they are peaceful? Had this attack happened in Paris I  imagine our Facebook feeds would be full of flags and badges of support. Had the victims come from the ever trendy LGBT group the press would have done wall to wall coverage and encouraged appeals. But because these were unfashionable Christians at Mass the news only briefly registered. That is the norm, lamentably, for Christians in the Middle East who, despite having been almost driven to extinction in certain areas, cry out in need as the world looks on and does nothing.

We also need to talk far more honestly about the problems stemming from Islam. And it is Islam that is the problem not what apologists argue is ‘extremism’. For if I am ‘extreme’ in following a creed calling me to love neighbour as self and God above all things- well I will only shower blessings on the world. If, however, I am extreme in seeking the destruction of those I oppose, because there is no room for them in my creed, I become a dangerous despot. Perhaps this explains why so many terror attacks come from one particular source.

Fortunately the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, sensible seekers of God. As Cardinal Nichols helpfully reminded us. We need them to come to the fore. We must support them and vocally. But we also need call out the vile sub-section who take a literalist reading of the Koran and are a menace. As well as those who look the other way, stay silent, tacitly support etc. Which is to say you cannot keep claiming to be “the religion of peace” whilst watching your adherents carry out 90% of global terrorism. It will not do. Time to get your house in order.

Come on then Muslim leaders the world over- silence the hate preachers, stand up for peace and make cleaning up this grot your first priority! And come on leaders in the West- stop being scared to name this a Muslim issue. Stand wth the sensible Muslims and work together for peace. Enough of the bloodshed.

UPDATE: There is now some suggestion that the little boy in the first photograph was not in fact one of the martyrs. This does not change any of the facts in this post but I share that news in the interest of truth. Misinformation is always a problem in areas of war.

Journalistic integrity

The Mainstream media went into something of a meltdown following Brexit and Trump. For a time there was evidence of angst and soul searching;  how did we leave so many behind on our march into this brave new world? Surely only bigots hold views contrary to our own? Why have they not gone where we have pointed?  The elites seemed shocked that many, whilst afraid to question the zeitgeist publicly, nevertheless registered protest in the privacy of voting booths.

After shock comes anger. Meaning that instead of being correcting the media bias has actually worsened, with many articles now demonstrating a lack of journalistic integrity. Is a woman caught peeing on a golf course- ensure you tie it to Trump– though he had nothing to do with the story and how it unfolded. Have evil men in the Middle East sanctioned gas attacks on the citizens of Syria, be sure to finger Trump for that too. Is Theresa May cosying up to despots in Saudi Arabia? Never mind that most Prime Ministers were just as guilty of this in recent history- make out it is a novelty and blame Brexit! Even where facts are fair the tone is not.

Meanwhile men with real blood on their hands, Castro and Mcguinness, who sanctioned murder, torture and terrorism, are shown in a sympathetic light and afforded obituaries in which their historic crime is downplayed ensuring they are treated like respectable politicians. What does this say about modern journalistic integrity?Becuase, no matter how dangerous you consider Trump to be, how ill suited to a post requiring tact and diplomacy, whilst he has not himself sanctioned such evil then he must be the more credible politician. Yet he alone is held up as the devil incarnate whilst they are shown respect. How it stinks of personal agendas.

As you analyse the modern press, especially the BBC, it becomes clear that the only crime worthy of disdain is a counter to the cultural Marxism! Abortion- meh so what? And make sure you do not scrutinise the various allegations of sexual misconduct that haunt Bill Clinton. But do label Mike Pence misogynist if, in understanding he is a sinner prone to temptation, he refuses to meet women alone. This example is extraordinary. The man trying to honour his wife and remain chaste is castigated- the adulterous man with a string of allegations is deemed ok.

Why mention this on a Catholic blog? It is not because I wish to defend the political right. As it happens I am dubious of Trump and enraged by the anti-family Tory cuts that hurt the disabled and poor. No, I report this because I strongly believe  the current bias in the media must be named, shamed and overthrown. A free and honest press is a vital aspect of any civilised society whilst, in contrast, a media chained down by propaganda – of whatever hue- fails its citizens despite being a favoured tool of authoritarian and monstrous regimes.

I am all for questioning Trump and Brexit. All for questioning the secular zeitgeist now quashing our culture and often proving balmy and cruel in pursuit of its favoured ideology of rampant political correctness.  Indeed I am for questioning anything but- and this is the crucial bit- only in love and respect and in fairness.  What we need is honest and healthy debate. An arena open to learning where the pursuit of truth is not strangled because those controlling the debate are skewing the outcome.  As was once the mainstay of British university life before we invented a need for safe spaces, cancelling debates and fearing alternative viewpoints. How will we ever learn to understand the other…if one side is always demonised and the other ever sold a pass?

It is, I believe, a deeply spiritual matter. For the further from our Christian roots we travel, in the West, the less freedom and democracy we are finding. Division and intolerance are very much on the rise. So is a shackling of the poor and a silencing of alternative viewpoints. No longer are we encouraged to think and speak our mind. This is an era of thought policing and intolerant attitudes; we are taught to  get in line and accept the consensus of the governing elites. Our educational system increasingly teaching us what to think not how to.  And should we dare question- then expect that shriek of outraged indignation, the use of the language of hate and the labelling that will make you a bigoted pariah.  No longer are we judged on what we do- as the pass sold to Castro and McGuinnes make clear. We are judged on what we think. Do we match up with what is expected of us or not?

The infantile myopic manner in whichTrump and Brexit were debated in the first place says it all. So does the violence which followed and the steadfast refusal, on both sides, to listen. Enough then of this snow flake generation and the increasingly intolerant drivers of society. Enough of cretinous ideologies and a rejection of who we really are and the values that made us. I want my old Britain back. The one that was truly liberal and which held to a basic sense of virtue and morality underpinned by Judeo-Christian philosophy.  Which, I strongly suspect, is what many of the voters were actually saying when they registered protests in the booths. Just dont expect the  leaders of this vacuous age to listen….I fear that isn’t part of the plan.

Can we win back the culture- which will take courage and an ability to stand aside from the herd? Or are we going to continue to sleep walk into an era of eroding personal freedom and become slaves to a narrow minded group of zealots? Is the age of journalistic integrity over or can we learn to unite once again? Can we resurrect the Britain of our childhood or have we become the very thing we once set out to defeat? These are serious questions.

The pendulum is swinging…

Here is an interesting fact that should not be dismissed as coincidence. The Dioceses which have most fully embraced the modernist zeitgeist are struggling to inspire vocations. But dioceses which have embraced a return to orthodoxy   experience resurgence in numbers entering seminary. Why is this?

If the lesson needed underlining, the truth applies also within the religious life. The communities which ditched habits and went trendy in the 70’s/80’s are decaying but those orders which retained (or returned to) orthodoxy flourish. And it isn’t a truth only ringing out across the Catholic world; within Protestantism studies show that the more biblically faithful a parish is, the more likely it is to flourish. Consider the Church of England which, despite a very modernist bench of bishops, would collapse without finances provided by thriving evangelicals. Across denominations then we tend to find a liberal leadership/vision out of synch with what is actually working on the ground.

Of course a loss of vocations and followers was never the intention of those whose revolution was to transform Holy Mother Church into something more appealing to a secular age; think of the lukewarm, seventies-esque model of churchmanship so dominant in the latter half of the 20th C. Those who took Vatican II and ran it into a place, neither authorised nor envisaged in the actual documents, imagined they were saving the church by making it more ‘relevant’ They believed (many still do) liberalisation to be a magic bullet for aiding Christ by softening the message of the Gospel and making it more appealing.

But even a cursory look at recent church history shows the vision flawed. A focus driven by the trends of man, not the timeless truths of God, only led to a church which struggles to convince. And so the modernist experiment weakened faith and also desecrated buildings. Looking back it is hard to perceive as wisdom the decision to rip out altar rails, discard sacred images and teach a fuzzy left wing ideology in place of solid doctrine. As novelties like Fair trade Sunday have replaced devotions like regular Benediction so emphasis on the supernatural has given way to something clubby and often naff; a church that celebrates the gathered community because it struggles to look beyond itself to God.

We are left with a painful truth, perhaps too painful for many of the current Episcopacy who were the original holders of this modernist vision. Much of the direction taken by the church in recent years has proved questionable at best. Far from halting decline modernist approaches have accelerated it. And now we reap where that experimentation sowed… hence the widespread closure of parishes, the empty seminaries, emasculated priesthood, poor liturgy and countless young people switching off from faith altogether and pursuing a secular life. And the loss of vocations which chief modernist Cardinal Marx is now lamenting even though his favoured eccliology created the problem! Men will not sacrifice much for a church lacking supernatural emphasis that ever bends the knee to moral relativism..

“Project Modernity” has failed.  Is it not OBVIOUSLY  time then to end it?

Pope Benedict XVI thought so. Hence he encouraged us to revisit the documents of V2 and counter the errors that later took place. He wanted an embrace of the council alongside appreciation for what went before. The creation of a church able to speak to the world of today, but also reconciled to the church of the ages; renewal not rupture. And the Ordinariate was amongst the first fruits of his effort at revival. The reform of the reform, in the few years it was practiced, bore fruit. There was a renewed confidence in the church in the wake of Pope Benedict’s visit to England. Bishops began to think differently. Blogs sprang up, vocations were rising…but then came a moment of shock which threatens to turn back the clock.

I speak of the abdication of Pope Benedict which continues to fuel rumour. Did he jump or was he pushed? Did left wing activist George Soros, as Wikileaks claims, influence the change of direction? Was it linked to the lavender mafia and wolves of whom Benedict spoke in the run up to his abdication? I have no idea and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The change of direction happened. A radical change of papacy took place which saw a clear resurgence of the 1970’s old-guard, the return of Kasper et al whom Benedict had put out to pasture; the very modernists whose revolution was thwarted. We witness, for now, a laying aside of ‘the reform of the reform’ and a return with gusto to ‘project modernity’.

It is this key change which gifted the world a Pope whose every gesture hints at relaxation not revival of Catholic teaching; dare I suggest he delights those outside the faith but divides the adherents within it? The secular realm and voices on the left cheer loudly, as do protestants and atheists alike..and of course all who sincerely love ‘Project modernity’ ..but scratch the surface and all is not rosy. The Curia is rumoured to be at civil war, Cardinals contradict one another and there is a clear sense of chaos and confusion at play. And many who felt encouraged and emboldened under Benedict now feel dismay.

What to do amidst such political upheavals and confusion? I suggest we who minister at the grassroots, who believe in the proven reform of the reform and not in the failed project modernity, must not be too depressed or cowed. Let us take up the gauntlet laid down by Pope Benedict and pledge our future to building up the faith on that model which works, not on the tired model which doesn’t. Our focus should not be on the harvest being gathered in the present but on the laying down of new vines that can be harvested in the future. Bees may buzz loudly at the end of the summer but they will make way for a new generation.

The pendulum is swinging then and grass roots growth suggest the right course to follow is that of orthodoxy. We have a Gospel to proclaim, parishes to build up and the great news is…..God is blessing abundently those who set about this work boldly and with fidelity to the faith of the Apostles. Let us be amongst them.

Mothering Sunday

It is Mothering Sunday today and we give thanks for our own Mothers, for Mary the Mother of God and for the Mother Church. Here at St. Anselm’s we will also be praying for our new link groups in Maidstone and Sevenoaks. At the end of each Mass we shall hand posies of flowers to the ladies in the congregation and between the 9:15am and 11am Mass a cake sale is being held by the Sunday School children to raise money for our Lent Charity- Aid to the Church in Need.

Holy Week 2017 at Saint Anselm’s

This Sunday has a trinity of titles; it is Lent IV, Refreshment Sunday and Mothering Sunday all at once! We shall be marking the lessening of the Lenten feast at its half way point, when purple vestments give way to rose, in two ways. First the Sunday School will be holding a cake sale in the hall between the 9:15am and 11am Mass- to raise funds for our Lent Charity. Secondly we shall be distributing posies to the ladies of the congregation to mark Mothering Sunday.

Then the final push towards Calvary begins. This year the latter half of Lent will prove especially challenging for Catholic families, given the sad fact that our secular regime has determined the Easter holidays shall occur in the last two weeks of Lent?! It doesn’t sit well at all with the rhythm of church life and times of fasting, devotion and alms giving will inevitably wrestle with the need for family days out and even breaks away from home. Meanwhile the Easter octave- when our children should be enjoying family treats and having fun- will be spent back at school. How I lament it. But there it is and we must do our best to accommodate it.

It is therefore especially important this year that we mark the celebration of Holy Week and Easter in the diary, protecting those times we will give to God on what is the major celebration of the church year. As ever I urge parishioners to attend the entire Triduum- the Mass of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the Good Friday liturgy and the Easter Vigil on the night of Holy Saturday. Together these services are the jewel in the crown of the liturgical church year.

Palm Sunday:

Low Mass 8am

Procession of Palms and Solemn Mass 9:15am

Sung Mass & blessing of palms 11am

Mon Holy Week:    

Chrism Mass* 11:30am

(*at Church of Assumption, Warwick St, Soho)

Tue Holy Week:    

Said Mass 7pm

Wed Holy Week:    

The Service of Tenebrae 7pm

MAUNDY THU:   

MASS OF LAST SUPPER 8pm

(with footwashing, followed by Watch till Midnight)

Compline 11:30pm

GOOD FRIDAY:   Stations of the Cross for children 10am

Ecumenical witness on village green 11am

Confessions 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Stations of the Cross 1:30pm

THE GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY 3pm

Maria Desolata 6:30pm

HOLY SAT:

Children’s Easter Workshop 10am

Confessions 10am- 11:30am

THE EASTER VIGIL 8pm

EASTER DAY:      

Mass of the Dawn 8am

Mass of the Day 10am

Stations of the Resurrection 6:30pm

Great news from America

I am delighted to share with you news regarding the Ordinariate in the United States of America which I have taken from the latest newsletter:

The highly successful parish of Our Lady of the Atonement along with its flourishing school were yesterday, by decree of the Holy Father, transferred from the Diocese of San Antonio to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

The parish was the first established under the Pastoral Provision provided by Pope St John Paul II in 1980 to allow former Episcopalian ministers to be ordained as Catholic Priests and to retain some elements of their Anglican heritage.

Under its founding Pastor, Fr Christopher Phillips the parish has gone from strength to strength, and grown phenomenally from very humble beginnings. The church has been a centre for the beautiful expression of Anglican Use liturgy and its school is both highly regarded academically and a shining example of a distinctly Catholic school.

When Fr Phillips was suspended from his ministry by the Bishop of San Antonio, who cited concerns that ‘expressions in the life of the parish … indicate an identity separate from, rather than simply unique, among the parishes of the archdiocese’, there were fears that the distinctive Anglican Patrimony of the Parish and School would -at the very least- be watered down. The decisive action of the Holy See has put an end to such fears and the parish is now looking forward to its future as an Ordinariate Parish.

The action of the Holy See not only boosts the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter by bringing to it a flourishing church, school and a fine example of missionary work. It also demonstrates the continuing commitment of Rome to the enduring and independent role of the Ordinariates within the life of the Catholic Church.

MY COMMENT:

I am delighted with this news. Many Ordinariate priests have struggled to fulfil the task given us by the Holy See where diocesan bishops have not been as helpful as they might be in enabling us to flourish. This case sets a strong precedence and is another clear sign of the commitment of Rome to the Ordinariate vision.

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