28 February 2009

Hey ho hey ho it's off on holiday we go.

This weekend, Oscott has broken up for the half term break, and on Monday a few of us are off to Poland for the week. If it's possible to stay in touch, then I will, but cannot be sure what Internet access will be like.

I see that Archbishop Orani João Tempesta, O. Cist. has been appointed to the Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro by Pope Benedict XVI. What with New York now filled by Archbishop Timothy Dolan then we just await news breaking of our own Westminster. Let's hope it's not whilst I'm out of the country! Somehow, however, I imagine we will not be out of the loop. Amazing how quickly clerical news can pass around the globe. Prayers offered for whoever the Pope appoints. Not an easy choice, I'm sure.

I'll say a special prayer for you all when I'm visiting Our Lady of Czestochowa. There's a good article all about the Black Madonna as she's known, here.

HOLY MOTHER of Czestochowa, Thou art full of grace, goodness and mercy. I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words and actions----my soul and body. I beseech Thy blessings and especially prayers for my salvation. Today, I consecrate myself to Thee, Good Mother, totally ----with body and soul amid joy and sufferings to obtain for myself and others Thy blessings on this earth and eternal life in Heaven. Amen.

27 February 2009

When is it right to speak out?

Over the last few weeks, I have been following the developments of various issues within the Church which have brought not a little embarrassment and controversy both within and without the Church herself. I am talking about the lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX bishops, the fiasco in the diocese of Linz in Austria and also the article in The Tablet about Fr Tim Finigan.

What has pained me, in all of this, is the way in which some Catholics, in particular, have generally been keen to put over quite negative and critical views of the heirarchy. Having taken one promise of obedience, and soon to take another at my ordination to the priesthood, clearly, I have been concerned as to whether I ought to comment on this blog, or to remain silent 'in print' as it were. Karl Rahner, the Jesuit theologian, said of obedience in regard to the priestly promise made; “real obedience includes the courage to be a troublesome subject”.

It is right, and proper, that we all engage in the debate and put over our views. No one seeks to silence or stop criticism of our leaders. Nor do we seek to prevent healthy dialogue that brings about a strengthening of our shared life in Christ. What is not helpful, however, is when we are so frustrated that we act uncharitably toward one another and effectively draw lines in the sand beyond which we are not prepared to go. There are, nonetheless, times when it is only right and proper that we speak out in the loudest possible terms when we see injustice and harm being done. It is, indeed, the responsibility of all the baptised who share in the prophetic mission of Christ, and to proclaim the Gospel.

It pains me to hear the anti-Semitic views of Bishop Williamson and I very warmly welcome the Vatican's rejection of his ambiguous apology. Ruth Gledhill makes the point that in our modern world we need to hear the rejection of the offending words themselves, not merely the apology for having spoken them. Nothing less than a total repudiation of his views will be acceptable, and if he cannot change his mind, to correct his prejudices, then he ought to remain silent and pray for the grace to see the truth.

Though these may seem like difficult times, when we argue with one another over the detail, and all seems doomed to failure: Let us pray in thanksgiving to God that we enjoy such things as freedom of speech, the education to form, hold and express opinions and the opportunity to share our religion, in season and out of season, with a world increasingly secularised. We must reject that which seeks to destroy rather than unite us.

A worried man

Today, I am feeling the pressure of blogging and worrying just where I will get the time to fit it all in. I apologise to those who look forward to updates on this site, if they have not been as often as you would like. Today, therefore, I am just going to ramble, and see what comes out.

As I am typing, in the background is my Archbishop, talking about the Walk With Me series of Lenten reflections. It's a way to update and also to write a blog entry. I suppose as close as I get to multi-tasking. Having just re-read that sentence, I ought to clarify that the Archbishop is on the itunes, not in my room, obviously! He is talking of conversion, and the need for continual conversion. How appropriate. Just today I was considering the need to pray regularly for a spirit of conversion, a prayer to be made hourly, in order that every moment is offered for the building of the Kingdom.

As Henry is writing on his blog, about reading the Introduction to the Devout Life,

Therefore, Philothea, we must enlarge our contrition as much as possible, so that it may embrace everything that is connected with sin.

If we don't approach life with a heart full of contrition, then how do we move toward the unapproachable light? Only with contrition can we learn to forgive ourselves and let His light shine in all the dark places, and then conversion begins to take place as we are born anew.

Talk of Henry; I am under pressure to produce the Dean's Diary. This is an article, which I need to write, to go into this year's Osctian magazine. They are available via our website, see my previous post about this. Henry is our most noble Editor for this year's production.

Tomorrow is an extremely busy day, culminating in a public talk by Gerald O'Collins SJ, here at Oscott. If you are in the area, then you would be most welcome to come along. It starts at 8pm, is free, and you don't have to book. We end with Compline, usually about 9.30pm. Fr O'Collins is talking about"What do we really owe St. Paul?" There is more information here.

With this in mind, I'm off to pray and prepare for the day ahead.

26 February 2009

If pride were not a sin, then...

... I'd tell you all about my paper for the STB.

Thanks to all who have been praying for those of us undertaking the, what seemed like mammoth, task of writing the final paper for the STB from Leuven.

It has been printed and will be handed in later today. We don't get a result for a few months.

Enormous thanks are due to my promoter, Fr Richard, who has been invaluable throughout. I'm sure it has been like pulling teeth for the poor man.

We have just a few more modules of study to complete and then the final examination in June of this year. All being well, the three of us will be awarded the qualification in early June.

Men leaving Oscott for the priesthood have a degree from Birmingham University (BA Hons.) and from Leuven University (STB). It seems tough on the intellectual front, but this is only one of four strands of our formation. The others being spiritual, pastoral and human. For a good synopsis of it all, read Pastores Dabo Vobis, by Pope John Paul II. He says it better than I could.

Walk with me...

Some of the students from Oscott have helped CJM Music record a series of podcasts to accompany the Walk With Me series of Lenten prayers.
You do not hear my dulcet tones, happily, but having just listened to Ash Wednesday's offering, you are in for a treat if you take the time to follow the links and listen up.

To go directly to CJM's link, press here.

There is, of course, a booklet with daily prayers and reflections which you can use too. These are available widely across the Archdiocese in every Catholic Church. To find you nearest - follow this link.

Have a blessed and refreshing Lent.

25 February 2009

Lenten Reading

Those pesky boys at eastangliaseminarians have beaten me to this post! I had planned to wax lyrical on the merits of St Francis de Sales classic, Introduction to the Devout Life. At Oscott, we have begun a communal reading of this excellent spiritual reading during the season of Lent. That is, to say, we are reading it individually on a daily basis to a communal plan, in order that we will individually and communally benefit. Go read my brothers' in Christ version of the account; it's better and offers a free sample each day throughout the season.

24 February 2009

Way too tired

Pleased as I am to report that my essay has finally, and only just, been sent to the printer; I am simply to tired to update the blog right now.

Some news, that will follow, in the next day or so...

Excellent news on the appointment of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as the new Archbishop of New York. I say Dolan for pope, and you heard it here first!

Great exhibition at St Chad's cathedral including a facsimile copy of the Turin shroud. All being well, I will be able to get down to see it in the next day or so and will write more then.

Prayers are much in need for Fr Tim Finnegan, he of The Hermeneutic of Continuity fame, after being savaged somewhat by The Tablet.

Stay strong in your faith, and pray often.

23 February 2009

We're nearly there....

Just a brief update. As many will already be aware, some of the brothers have been busy writing up an extended essay as part of our STB degree from Leuven University.

I'm pleased to report the final mile is to be had, though to be fair, for some of us this mile will be harder than all the others.

The essay is virtually complete, thanks to my two fantastic editors, and almost ready to be published.

Deadline of Saturday, 28th, will soon pass and life can resume some form of normality.

Heaven, sweet Heaven.

21 February 2009

Golden anniversary for Bishop Pargeter

Early this morning, before the sun had reached more than an inch of so over the horizon, the whole community began an epic journey. We staggered from the refectory door towards the outside world with a top secret and highly sought after mission of merrymaking on our minds.

Through the realm of the clerical whisper we had come to know of a most special and exciting anniversary occurring on our watch. Bishop Philip, our most noble and revered regular raconteur, was celebrating 50 years, to the day, from his own memorable ordination to the sacred priesthood. Our task, should we chose to accept it, was to go by stealth, appear upon his lawn, and in loud and celestial voice sing Ad Multos Annos.

The objective clear, we traversed the grounds, fighting back all manner of wildlife and headed straight for the gates to the most dangerous of all places, outside. Upon reaching the world, we perambled, because by now we were waking from our slumber, crocodile fashion along the pavement. Like children on our annual school trip to the library, we approached the pedestrian crossing. We were not fooled by the allusion of traffic lights giving safety, rather we stormed the road and held our heads high, oblivious of any would be traffic that might seek to plough us down. We knew well the danger of the roads.

Upon reaching our target, we reformed outside the gates before, like the peasants about to storm the Bastille, we grew in our shared mission that we might be strengthened in our resolve. There was no going back, and there were no hostages to be taken, with one voice we were to be heard choralling around the world. We would not fail.

The rector knocked upon the door and we held our breath. Would his Lordship be home, who would answer the door, were we to fail at the last? We were not. After much delay and nervous tittering from the crowds, the door creaked slowly open and suddenly, without warning we broke into song. And, boy, were we good. On note, in tune and pitch perfect. We sang like angels.

Hoorahs said, greetings expressed and thank yous over, we made the return journey. The fear of the roads, the roar of the traffic and the untold possible dangers of the outside world were as nothing. We were going home and faced far more terrifying a challenge. Some of us had Ken's class! Good luck, men, may the Lord send his angels to carry you lest you stumble.
Happy Anniversary, Bishop Philip.

Benedict hits the nail on the head

Speaking to the members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Pope Benedict said, of his time in seminary, "there, in profound dialogue with Christ, our desire to be deeply rooted in him was strengthened. In those years, we learned to see the Church as our own home".

Here am I, almost at the end of my time in seminary, and when I hear these words, they make such sense. It is true, over the year, I have very much come to see the Church as my home. In fact, I was just talking to the Rector about this very issue, recently.

I encourage you to read the Pope's word, which you will find here, reported by zenit.org.

He also said, "On the other hand, the need for priests to address the challenges of today's world must not lead to the abandonment of a painstaking discernment of the candidates, or the neglect of necessary -- even rigorous -- demands, so that their formative process helps to make them exemplary priests." It is true we need to be tested, but always in a spirit of love, that we might grow and flourish. Demands which leave people dejected and feeling ill-equipped are, probably, not that helpful. It's good to be put through our paces from time to time.
Boy, we can do some moaning, though!

20 February 2009

Nose to the grindstone

If you happen to be reading this blog, might I impose on a few minutes more of your time?

Would you be kind enough to offer up a prayer for my intention, which includes by brothers, Paul and Roger. We all have our work cut out finishing off essays due in very shortly.

Sadly, as the hours tick by, the words of Ignatius are so relevant and apt. Work as though all depends on you, pray as though all depends on God.

Oh, and if you have a 12,000 word essay already written on the nature and mission of the ordained priesthood, do please forward it.

Blessings upon you and sincere thanks, for all your prayers, not only in regards this most pressing issue.

17 February 2009

New Acolytes for the Church

Since I will have little time to blog tomorrow, let me take this opportunity to congratulate Phil Bowen, David Doran and Michael Glover, who will be instituted as Acolytes at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Philip Pargeter this evening.
All three are training for the catholic priesthood at Oscott, and are for the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Acolytes are mentioned as a minor order (along with porters, lectors, and exorcists) as early as a letter of Pope Cornelius to Fabius of Antioch in 252. They were also mentioned in Cyprian's writings. They assisted deacons or subdeacons at the preparation of the table. Later they carried candles in processions. In Rome they carried fragments of the bread consecrated at the papal Mass to other churches. In the late middle ages, when candles began to appear upon altars, they lighted the altar candles. Eventually lay servers or sacristans performed duties earlier associated with acolytes, and the order of acolyte was normally conferred upon a candidate for priesthood in the course of his training.

Pope Paul VI issued a Motu Proprio, Ministeria Quaedam, in 1972 in which he said the minor orders were now to be called ministries and two, namely reader and acolyte, were to be preserved in the Latin Church. The acolyte is appointed in order to aid the deacon and to minister to the priest, to attend to the service of the altar. Additionally, his role is to distribute communion as a special minister when the ordinary ministers (deacon and priest) are not able to do so.

An acolyte has, in the past, been described as being like an angel, so I like to think we now have three new angels in our midst.

Well done, lads. We are all proud of you.

The 'God' Particle

It's a mystery to me. Could someone, please, explain the Higgs boson thing that the BBC are talking about?

It seems the race is on between the Cern's Large Hadron Collider and the American Fermilab to find the so-called God particle. It would appear the Americans have improved their odds from 50-50 to as much as 96% now. Just how do they work out this figure? 50-50 I get; there are only two runners in the race, but 96?

The wonderful line, which I loved, in the BBC report reads:

The particle, whose existence has been predicted by theoreticians, would help to explain why matter has mass.

Can we assume, then, that whatever this Higgs thing is, it will have the ability to explain to us WHY matter has mass? And is this mass like we who go to church have mass? If it is, then I think we might be able to rally and save a lot of money looking for the God particle since most of us know it's already on the altar. Further more, could we not talk of he rather than it, since God is whole and complete in himself?

Forgive me, if these comments seem irreverent, but I do wish the BBC would be clear in saying that the scientists will be discovering how, and not why.

16 February 2009


An Obituary printed in the London Times - Interesting and sadly rather true.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;- Why the early bird gets the worm;- Life isn’t always fair;- and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Thanks, The Midnight Chronicles, for this. Entirely Athanasius' work, not mine.

Think about it

15 February 2009

The journey to health, begins with your mind.

Ruth Gledhill, writing on her blog, speaks of the need "to face up to the inevitable and split my blog and personal Twitter accounts" and I see where she might be coming from. In writing my own blog, and indeed my twitters, too, I have decided that they remain very much 'public' in so much as they are who I am. Of course, I moderate myself, as you might expect. This raises an interesting point, considering Ruth's extensive quote of the Dalai Lama, which I also quote here:

'For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.

'From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.

'The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.

'As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but every one who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind!

'Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, that is we can develop both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.'

Surely, if we encourage some 'split' between the private and the personal, then we encourage, or at least risk, a sort of schizophrenic approach to our lives. That we can do and say and be one thing to most people and yet something very different to those closest to us. The difference can be such that we end up bearing little similarity between the two, or fail to realise the huge impact one on the other. For example, we might publicly condemn extra-marital sex and be engaged in such an affair ourselves. If others look to us as an example, then we must ensure that the private is as close as possible to the public. Or, indeed, that the public reflect the private.

Our life in Christ is, after all, a very open relationship with our Saviour. Clearly, we want to keep some aspects of our life private. Is it really necessary that another person need know all in my life that I am ashamed of? Well, no, it is not. But if that shame impacts on how I treat others, or infringes on my ability to love the other completely, then yes, others do need to know of it (even if not the details) in order that the light of Christ shines forth.

I offer up a prayer, that all may know the peace of Christ in their life, and may have the strength and courage to believe them self a child of God, wholly wonderful in all aspects of their life.

14 February 2009

Children and the Tridentine Mass

Reading Andrew M Brown's article in this week's Catholic Herald, A wonderful way for children to encounter God, I was fascinated by his comments:
Really, this Mass is a wonderful way for children to develop a relationship with God. And children have a capacity for apprehending mysteries that can elude the rest of us.
How often do we think about how children experience the divine? What occurs to them during mass? Just how does the Lord talk to them at this time? I recall a priest with whom I was on placement saying, when a child cried out during mass, how wonderful to hear the children talking to God. In an instance it took the embarrassed parent from social leper to the centre of the focus of those gathered in a positive and inclusive way.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not all for screaming children, running around and participating in the liturgy in whatever fashion they like. No, this is disruptive and not helpful to maintain a prayerful atmosphere. When we engage children during our schools outreach programme each summer, one of my favourite prayer activities is a guided meditation. We get the children to relax and encounter the risen Lord in a loving and supportive way. Many, many teachers, and indeed children themselves, respond that this is a wonderful way to use silence to pray. The children respond incredibly favourably.

We have much to learn of the mystery of God from children. Let's all encourage them to be full partakers in the liturgy and I have no doubt they will be teaching us our own wonderful Tradition in due course.

Dom Andrew strikes again.

It is third time lucky for our Brother Andrew, as he makes it to his third blog entry on this site. I don't believe I have written about anyone else quite so often.

It appears that Andrew is the new darling of the media, with his latest entry appearing in the Hereford Times. They have a short video, under seven minutes, of Dom Andrew's Solemn Profession. It really is worth a look, not least as you get to hear the voice of an angel. Andrew sings, too!

Do make sure to look soon, as I don't know how long it will appear as their headline video.

You also get to see many of the community of Oscott too, including me.

Look out during the singing of the Suicipe. An interesting choice of background. Am I mistaken or do we see the first station of the cross as Pilate washes his hands of the matter? Is this some sort of message, brother, as you sing: “Accept me Lord, as you have promised, and I shall truly live!” What could this mean?

Well done Brother, and watch out Dominic (who I notices manages a cameo role in the production). Surely our local hero will be on the national news soon enough.

We are all so proud of you, Brother.

13 February 2009


Writing for zenit.org, Elizabeth Lev gives a wonderful reflection on the role that David has as an emblem for the city of Florence, in Italy.

David has always been one of my heroes. Plucked from obscurity to lead an heroic life, though thoroughly human and weak, he leads his nation to greatness through many a trial. Elizabeth writes that "David too, flush with victory over Goliath, could not see that his real opponent, sin, would soon fell him".

This reminds us that we are always prey to fall when we rely on our own strength and not that of God. He can do that which we cannot. I love the reading for night prayer, Tuesdays, from 1 Peter.

Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith.
It evokes strong images of lions and battles and victory and overcoming all enemies with nothing more than the still small voice of calm, a voice echoing faith in Christ. In order to show that faith requires that we turn to Christ and beg his mercy for those times when we have failed to allow our still small voice of calm to win out amidst the chaos of our lives.

And to the fore comes David again to teach us: But David, again calling on God's grace, offered one more heroic example: repentance. Seeking God's forgiveness.

Thank you, Elizabeth.

12 February 2009

Oscott Goes Up To Town.

Tuesday saw the whole community at our seminary go 'up to town', as someone on our coach says is the common phrase nowadays, meaning to go down to London. We went with the principle aim of visiting the impressive Byzantium exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Though not really my cup of tea, even I could not fail to be impressed with the sixth century Antioch Chalice, on loan from the Met in New York. The academy's website details:
After its discovery in c.1911, the silver gilt artifact was believed to have been the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.

Though not the purpose of our visit to this fine institution, I did rather enjoy a short time in the remodelled 18th century fine rooms! Exquisite and a wonderful space to boot. If you have the chance, go and see Frith's, Private View at the Royal Academy. It is a wonderful oil painting of late 19th century figures who were most unlikely to ever be in the same room at the same time! Oscar Wilde stands almost next to Lily Langrty and a few feet from Gladstone, whilst a portrait of Disraeli hangs in the distance. Worth the visit for this alone.

We were also able to have a tour of Westminster Abbey, which, strangely enough, I had never been to before. Overall, I was left with the impression that it was now something of a mausoleum housing the great and the good of post-Reformation Britain. Distinctly eerie and gloomy. Almost lifeless, if you'll excuse the pun. The place is, however, full of wonderful history. I had no idea that Elizabeth I lies atop Mary Tudor, nor indeed that Mary, Queen of Scots, lies buried on the opposite side of the chapel. Fascinating. The absolute gem, for me, was to visit the Shrine of St Edward and say some prayers. He's always been one of my favourites; a most English saint.

Finally, of mention, if not in fact the absolute spiritual highlight was to join the parish in celebrating mass at Westminster Cathedral. We were also able to have a few words with His Eminence, the Cardinal before our celebration. Again, more prayers to be said at the tomb of his predecessor, Basil Hume.

So, all told, a day of favourites, saints, humour, shopping (tea at Fortnum and Mason, don't you know), praying and communion.

St Edward, The Confessor. Ora pro nobis.

11 February 2009

What a waste of money.

Shocking news of the "first mass book-burning in the 21st century". This is the story, reported by Ruth Gledhill and Damian Thompson, of a four-volume encyclopedia which has been destroyed after its first print, for being too Christian. The title of the books? Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. You have to read this story to believe it.
Following a long, and costly, process to production, and following acclaimed reviews, there were complaints made that the series was too Christian in some of it's terminology e.g. using BC/AD instead of the secular BCE/CE. Also criticised was a need for more "material denigrating Christianity in some form or fashion.”

Sadly, it comes to be accepted that in our secularised part of the world, it's okay to attack Christians and demand a representation of history and culture. More shocking, however, is that these books couldn't have been given to people who can ill afford books. People, perhaps appreciative for the chance of an education, who are more than capable of making up their own mind. Unlike, it appears, the anticipated readers of the publishers of this series.
Shame on them, I say.

9 February 2009

Funny, no not really.

American Papist commented: I found this cartoon powerful. I'm inclined to agree.

Copyright, Artist: John Francis Borra, SFO

8 February 2009

If you have nothing to say...

...then say it.

I don't recall who said that, but today it has been on my mind. Having recently become a blogger, and spending not a little time surfing around on other peoples blogs, I decided to take some soundings and advice about what I could usefully blog about. Opinion is quite mixed on the merits of blogging, and I have been quite surprised in how much my opinion has changed in recent days.

Firstly, I was set against this concept of the modern media and, what I perceived at least, the need to be out there and telling your story. Like anyone really wants to know. This is a reflection of my own self-centredness. What I suppose I meant was I don't want to know. You know, it's really very interesting, what people write about. Secondly, the quality of blogs is very varied. Very varied indeed. Whether you think they are interesting, stimulating, boring, dull or just plain daft, they are people's stories and that makes them interesting.

One person said, to me, something like, never has so little been said by so many, and he is correct. There is, on the surface, a lot to get through. Many, many blogs and thousands upon thousands of words; more than you might imagine. I have to confess that I have spent far too much time reading blogs of late. Already I am starting to be quite fast to form an opinion that reading this or that is not a productive use of my time. What is productive time, though? And who gets to make the qualitative judgment?

Here our core values begin to kick in. For me, at least, that is a measure against which I judge my life to be useful or not. Asking myself the very simple question: Is this building the Kingdom of God? If yes, then carry on, but if no, then do something that is. You are either building or you are not.

Pope Benedict tells us to tell our stories, to share our values, and this is the proclamation of the Kingdom. This is building. The third mystery of light (as introduced by his predecessor) allies building with repentance. I am so very much looking forward to Lent for all sorts of reasons. Lent is a great time to take some space, to pray and to prepare for the coming of the Resurrection. This Lent I plan to do all three of these things. Do you? I wonder, what will you be doing for Lent this year?

Now, the logic of my opening statement is, of course, say nothing. To quote Ronan Keating, "you say it best, when you say nothing at all." Be still and let the Lord talk.

7 February 2009

Liturgy and Spirituality

Yesterday, I came across this post on a young Jesuit novice's blog. Have a read for yourself. I hope it gives you food for thought. Certainly, it's changed my views on what I'm doing in the liturgy. Go visit The City and The World, too, by Joe Koczera, SJ in the Bronx, NY.

As I expressed hopes of doing in an earlier post, I'd like to reflect a bit on a lecture that I heard Father Robert F. Taft, S.J. give last week at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. As is often the case with academic lectures, some of the most insightful and provocative things that Father Taft had to say came in his answers to questions posed after his talk rather than in the text that he had prepared for the occasion. To a question on the relationship between liturgy and spirituality, Father Taft had this to say:

Basically, the main problem of all liturgical theology is how do we justify the claims that we make for Christian liturgy? How can we say in the churches, the apostolic churches that have a high Christology – my Christology is so high it’d give you a nosebleed – a high Christology, in other words, which believes that Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God who became incarnate, as in the teaching of the ecumenical councils, that he preexisted before all time, and that Jesus Christ is the main protagonist, as head of his body, of our liturgical services – and that’s what gives them the reality that we assign to them.

In other words, that we say that it is Christ acting through the indwelling of his spirit in the Church who is the main protagonist of the liturgy. It’s not the Church that does it, separate from Christ. Liturgical celebrations are celebrations of the entire body of Christ, and the main celebrant of the liturgy, so to speak, is Christ himself. But the point of liturgy is that we are supposed to become what we celebrate. The purpose of the Eucharist isn’t to change bread and wine into Jesus Christ, it’s to change you and me into Jesus Christ – that’s what it’s all about. We are supposed to become the word of comfort and forgiveness, we are supposed to become the bread of life for the world, we are supposed to become the healing oil – and by 'we,' I don’t mean just the ordained, [but] all Christians. So there’s no possibility of separating liturgy and spirituality.

Liturgy is simply the mirror of what we are supposed to be, so that when we leave the liturgical assembly, we are supposed to go out and be what it is that we celebrate. That’s why St. Paul never once uses sacral terminology, like 'sacrifice,' 'offering,' 'liturgy,' 'priesthood' and so forth for anything except Christian life in Christ. What we do in church is simply the initiation into, and the feeding, and the restoration, if it’s lost by sin, and the intensification through preaching and the sacraments of what we’re supposed to be. If we don’t become it, we might as well stay in bed on Sunday morning, because what we’re doing is just a comedy.

So liturgy and spirituality are one – they can’t be separated, can’t be separated, or if they are separated, then we have, we have sucked all of the meaning out of what the liturgy is supposed to be. So the purpose of liturgy is that we become that which it exemplifies. Liturgy holds up to us the model of Christian life. What’s the model of Christian life? What do we put on the altar? We put on bread that was broken, and blood that was poured out, as signs of what we are supposed to be. When we put the bread on the altar and the chalice on the altar as the signs which will become through the invocation of the Holy Spirit the body that was broken for us and the blood that pours out to – we’re saying, 'I’m doing this because this is what I know I’m supposed to be.' And if that’s not why we’re doing it, why bother? What good is it?

Father Taft's trademark frankness may be off-putting to some readers, but I think it's hard to contest the truth of his central thesis. Christian liturgy should offer a model for Christian living - that is, what we celebrate in the liturgy ought to be a part of our daily lives and not an escape from it. Father Alexander Schmemann made this point when he described Christianity as "the end of religion" - the end, that is, of a false separation between the sacred and the secular that allows believers to treat worship as something alien and removed from ordinary experience.

To be sure, the transformation of the gifts of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ is accomplished in the liturgy regardless of whether the communicants undergo the sort of inner transformation that Father Taft speaks of. Nonetheless, it is worth asking what meaning the Eucharist can truly have for those who receive communion but are not really open to receiving the grace that God offers to them through the sacrament. If your experience of the liturgy doesn't help to bring about a deeper transformation in your life, you may want to ask yourself why it does not.

More constructively, you may also wish to consider how you can make your experience of the liturgy more meaningful - not simply for you, but for those with whom you live. There is a lot more that could be said about this, but for now I'd simply like to give the readers of this blog an opportunity to sit with Father Taft's words and to reflect upon them as I have done over the past week. We would all be very fortunate, I think, if each time we took part in the liturgy we could truly say to ourselves, "I'm doing this because this is what I know I'm supposed to be." AMDG. (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.)

6 February 2009

The Shack

Everyone seems to be reading The Shack by William Paul Young. I cannot recommend it myself as currently it's only made it as far as my coffee table. Perhaps once I've read it, I can make judgment and let you know. I wanted to blog about it, though, as it's spreading like wildfire around this place. The blurb says:

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his great sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question, 'Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?' The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

If you have read it, or indeed if you are currently reading it, perhaps you would like to leave a comment. If anyone wants to borrow a copy, then let me know; it'll be three or four weeks until I get around to reading my copy.

Another fascinating point is the author's name. On some versions of the book he is listed as Wm Paul Young and others as William P Young. Does anyone know why the difference? I recall Iain Banks saying when he writes in one particular genre he uses Iain Banks, and another genre it is Iain M. Banks. Helpful for different audiences, but on the same book. I don't understand. Do enlighten us.

Well, enjoy The Shack and let us know.

Congratulations Canons

Archbishop Vincent Nichols admitted Canon Mervyn Tower, Parish Priest of St John the Evangelist, Banbury and Canon Michael Neylon, Parish Priest of St Austin, Stafford, as Canons of the Metropolitan Chapter, says our diocesan website.

Pictured (L-R) are Canon Mervyn Tower, Bishop David McGough, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Bishop Philip Pargeter, Canon Michael Neylon and Bishop William Kenny.

Congratulations to both, but especially to Fr Mervyn, who taught me several courses in Old Testament scripture study. The usual caveats apply, any ignorance is on my lack of attention and by no means his excellent skills as a Tutor. Fr Mervyn 'retired' from teaching at Oscott last year, again. Very sadly missed by all.

Fr Mervyn also led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last summer, on which I was lucky enough to be a participant. It was truly wonderful. Who knows, I may even publish an article I have written for the forthcoming Oscotian magazine, here on this blog. Copies are available via the Oscott Website.

It says:

[If you would like a copy] Then just send a cheque, made out to “Oscott College” for the sum of £2.50 (inc. P&P). If you would like to subscribe to the 2009 edition of the Oscotian Magazine please add a note to that effect. And send to: Oscotian Editor, Oscott College, Chester Road, Sutton Coldfield, B73 5AA, UK.

5 February 2009

Oscott in the Snow

Thought you might enjoy this rather wonderful picture of times past, or so it seems! Needless to say, prize for the best caption, on a postcard please.

100, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93.....

Today, I reach another milestone. It is one hundred seminary days left before I leave Oscott. So, happy 100th day to me!

Please don't think me unkind, but I will be very happy to leave seminary. In a good way, you understand. I think it natural that you ought to reach a point in your formation when you know it is right to leave and get on with formation in ministry. This is crucial; that formation continue once a man is ordained a priest. Obviously you don't have the luxury of 'practicing' any longer and there is no more 'chewing the cud' over theology (except with mates, hopefully) once you are out there in the real world.

The cosseted-ness of seminary will be gone and you stand or fall by your own action or inaction. More than ever you come to realise your total dependence upon God. To quote one of my favourites: "Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God."

Am I scared? You bet your life I am. It's a whole new chapter about to open up. I do tend to look forward, rather than back, but these have been happy times, sad times, heart-wrenching in part, exhilarating, formative and, above all, fast. Six and half years. It's hard to take it all in and boy what a journey.

Are you thinking about priesthood? Stop thinking, and get on with it. There really is no time to lose, at all. If God wants you, and you want God, then what have you got to lose? Already ordained? Well, enjoy it.

4 February 2009

Happy Birthday, Facebook

Catching up on the news, I came across a story celebrating facebook's 5th birthday. What caught my attention was the headline; 'Facebook changed my life' which seemed a little dramatic.

Heartily, I recommend it to you, though, as it tells of three people who consider the social networking site has changed their lives. Particularly interesting is the story of Lynne. 10 years ago Lynne lost touch with her daughter, who then had a child, and it is only through facebook that they have been able to talk again.

The 150 million users of facebook, including myself, clearly must be on to something.

Recently, I've started using twitter too. You can see my updates on this blog. When friends have been asking me about the difference, I quote a tweet: facebook is for friends you used to know, twitter is for friends you want to get to know. Implying that facebook is the past; twitter the future. Since I tend to look to the future, generally, it might seem preferable to be using twitter these days. Who wants to view life through the rear-view mirror, right?

When I reflect, we need both the past and the future to live the present. It is important we know our roots and from whence we came in order that we can make reasonable plans for the future. We can take comfort in knowing that before we were born God had plans for us and no matter where we go He has been there already.

Fast Becoming The Fashion

Fasting, it seems to me, just is not the same as it was when I was growing up.

As a child, I loved the sense of giving something up for Lent. To be honest, it was not so much the thought of uniting myself with others less fortunate, as much as it was with developing a self centred pride in overcoming my own weakness. It's a vicious circle since this very act becomes, in itself, a weakness.

Friends have described me as being "utterly determined" when I want to be. Some might even say stubborn. Who, me? For this reason, giving something up for Lent is relatively simple, for me, when I want it to be. There's the rub - when I want it to be.

Pope Benedict's words on fasting at the Papal audience yesterday are fantastic. Take a minute or two to read them. As I prepare to take on the mantle of Priesthood, then I would do well to listen to His Holiness and realise that fasting, indeed, "helps believers to prepare to do the will of God." It is not about me, but others: developing in me a "welcoming and attentive attitude towards [my] brothers and sisters."

So, with three weeks to go, what am I going to give up for Lent?
Suggestions on a postcard.

3 February 2009

You're 'avin a larf...

In line with the last two posts, here's another in my triptych of saints.

Today, via the Curt Jester blog, I came across a newish website dedicated to saintly humour. As the site says:

LOLSaints was created in early 2009 by Jeff Geerling in response to a Twitter posting by CurtJester.
It's aim is:

Every day, we'll be posting a new saint, along with a quick and easy-to-digest bio of that saint. (This site is obviously indebted to I Can Haz Cheeseburger?, a site which rose to Internet stardom quite a while ago due to their very funny LOLcats pictures.)
So, if you want to have a laugh, then join in and maybe even offer a posting of your own.

Something to brighten our lives.

The Aquinas offering appeared on January 24th, obviously!

St. Blaise

I read
On each February 3 the blessing of St. Blaise is given: two candles are consecrated, generally by a prayer, these are then held in a crossed position by a priest over the heads of the faithful or the people are touched on the throat by them. At the same time the following blessing is given: "Per intercessionem S. Blasii liberet to Deus a malo gutteris et a qouvis alio malo." ("May God at the intercession of St. Blaise preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil.")

St Blaise, pray for us.

Patron Saint of the Internet

As I am sure you already know, John Paul II, nominates St Isidore of Seville as patron of computer users and the Internet. This, I thought, is common knowledge. Not until someone recently suggested the Vatican appoint a patron did I bother to find out why he is the best for the job.

It seems his system of writing is closely matched to the way the Internet works. Particularly funny, I thought, was what Peter Jones had to say, writing in The Telegraph, about Isidore's works.

Derivations apart, it was lifted from sources almost entirely at second or third hand (the Romans had been writing encyclopedias since the 2nd century BC), none of it
checked, and much of it unconditional eyewash - the Internet, in other words, to a T.

St Charles Borromeo parish, in Picayune MS, tells us that it was through a commission from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications that Isidore was eventually identified the best man for the job!

St Isidore, pray for us.

2 February 2009

Shoe's Away

I was amused to read of a protester who threw his shoe at the Chinese Prime Minister. Is this not the same action a protester used against President Bush during his visit to Iraq last year? I wonder, is this the new form of protest? Should I be going out and buying spare shoes just in case. One never knows and it is best to be ready.

These are serious issues against which people, rightly, protest. I'm neither in favour of the war in Iraq, nor the plight of our brothers in Tibet. However, it was interesting to see that the shoe thrower in the Bush case sought asylum in Switzerland, and it spawned a massive surge in orders for the shoe manufacturer, Bayden Shoes, and led to art on the matter in Tikrit. The sculpture was, sadly, torn down the following day on order of the authorities. It was placed in an orphanage and felt not suitable matter for children, that being it was a political statement. Shock that children may form views of their own not in keeping with the authorities!

So, what might we expect from Mr Wen's shoe thrower? The mind boggles. It is Britain, after all, so we might perhaps see some new recipe from Delia or the like.

As for Mr Wen, well perhaps in the future, as he tours around the world, he might like to be accompanied by a dozen or so highly discreet gaurds in tracksuits. It worked for the olympic torch.

Truly we live in a topsy-turvey world.

1 February 2009

Examen Prayer

As I mentioned in the previous post, we have enjoyed a Jesuit led day of recollection. During the day, one session included a detailed look at the Examen Prayer, THE Jesuit prayer. A book highly recommended on the subject is by Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., who leads retreats on the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. Fr Tim is also a much sought after spiritual director. The cheapest place I could find the book was with The Book Depository at £8.71 with free delivery. It is also available on amazon, as you would expect.

You may also want to look at the Oblates of the Virgin Mary website, from which I quote:

Inflamed with the spirit of an apostle, Venerable Bruno Lanteri founded the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in 1826 in northern Italy. He taught the Oblates to examine attentively the "signs of the times", to better guide men and women to find the answers they seek in Christ. The vision he lived is the vision we embrace.
Interesting that Ven. Bruno should be seeking the signs of the times given the recent anniversary of Bl. John XXIII calling the Second Vatican Council.

Enjoy the book!

Coldest Winter in Thirteen Years

Today, we have been led in a day of recollection by Fr Ron, a Jesuit at Manressa House, the novitiate in Birmingham, who prepared us for our forthcoming Lenten retreat. The Lenten retreat will also be led by the Jesuits, though, in fact, I will be on placement in Wolverhampton at this time.

As I looked out of the window during lunch, I noticed the first snows beginning to fall. Against the back drop of a lush green Lebanon cedar tree, the drifting snow was magnificent. The snow was falling in that wonderful wistful way in which it rises and falls with the air currents. The way that Hollywood film makers like to portray snow in those family Christmas movies. Immediately, I was transported back to my childhood. To the joy of playing outdoors, of dreams yet to be fulfilled and of wonder that such beauty could mask the whole world.

We read that it will be the coldest winter in thirteen years. With Britain set for heavy snowstorms coming in from Russia. The elderly, or those who are homeless, perhaps looked upon the same snow I was marvelling at, and were filled with fear and terror for the coming days. Certainly, I worry for my own family and those elderly people I know, and hope that they will be warm and safe.

I thank God for the wonder of creation; for the joy of seeing the snow, most especially when I am warm indoors, and I pray for the coming of the Kingdom, when we will care for the elderly and the homeless and those who suffer in the winter. What can I do to alleviate the suffering I see around me? How I can help bring the warmth of Christ's love to those who despair?

Recently, someone asked me about the new translation of the Roman Missal. The American bishops conference website has it available to study the texts here. This is the copy of the 'white book', that being the one approved and copyright to ICEL and includes Parts of the Order of Mass.

Also of interest may be the English and Welsh bishops conference's Liturgy Office who produce a newsletter four times a year, called Liturgy Newsletter, which 'does exactly what it says on the tin' to paraphrase Jewson.

The bishops conference will vote on the translation of the next six books of the missal at their Low Week meeting.


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