31 January 2010

Happy Anniversary

It is, perhaps, not the done thing to draw attention to oneself. Nonetheless, I want to share with you my first anniversary of blogging. Looking back over the records I see that my first blog, my 'virgin blog' I think I called it, was on 29 January 2009. There you have it.

Missed the anniversary by two days, but those who know me will know that this is not atypical. Happy Anniversary, not least to those faithful followers who have been there throughout the journey. God bless you one and all. What a journey and it's only just begun!

At the risk of becoming maudlin, we'll leave it there, huh? Probably best.

29 January 2010

The death of Our Lord

Today, as is common when praying the Divine Office for Fridays, I have been contemplating the first Good Friday. Particularly, I have been thinking and praying about suffering and not least those who suffer unjustly. Then I came upon this image on the blog maintained by Father James Farfaglia. You can read his blog here. What struck me about the image is the harsh reality of the scene depicted. Jesus' eyes are focused and yet seem bereft, lost, uncomprehending. Sad.

Why do bad things happen to good people? At seminary I was once advised that when you can say nothing constructive about suffering, then it's best to remain silent. There's truth in this, of course, but still our hearts question the justice of suffering. May God be with those who suffer this night and may He comfort them in their darkest hour. May He send his Angel to guard them and protect them and may they come safely home to the love of God.

28 January 2010

The Dumb Ox

Getting toward the end of the day and having sought the intercession of the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, it was good to read an account of St Thomas as the Dumb Ox by Lawrence Lew OP over on that fab blog; godzdogz. In regards to the size of St Thomas, Lawrence write the following which I know will be of interest to many Oscotians!

The first thing that strikes us when we look at someone is their appearance. The rounded face and large stature which the artist has given to St Thomas is one that is almost immediately recognizable, and it is similar to one of the earliest paintings of St Thomas. There is a certain verisimilitude in such depictions of the saint, for according to contemporary accounts, Thomas was noted for his height and bulk. So, his mentor, St Albert the Great, famously called him a 'dumb ox', on account of both his size, we suppose, and also of his quietness in class. Later in his life, a Cistercian priest commented that Thomas was "large and heavy and had a bald forehead", and indeed, Thomas' own student, Remigio of Florence, says that he was "very fat". St Thomas' biographer, Tocco, also mentions that he was "large in body" with a "large head", and adds that he had thin blonde hair. This physical characteristic and his height are both thought to be derived from his noble Norman ancestry.

Makes for a refreshing change!

27 January 2010

Holocaust Memorial Day

Let us not forget.

Oscar Romero

It seems that the Salvadoran bishops are 'pushing' the cause for canonisation of Oscar Romero, the assassinated Archbishop of San Salvador. Zenit has the story here. The current Archbishop is reported as calling for increased private devotions to Romero. Now, I'm not sure if this blog counts as private or public but save to say he features in my prayer life regularly. "The truth is that we have seen little private devotion and, on this point, it is fitting that there be greater devotion. There can be no public devotion for a person whose cause is being studied in the Vatican, but there can be private devotion, and it is fitting that it increase," the Archbishop added.

If you consider his intervention may be of help in your prayers then please consider asking him to intercede. I've been asking him to intercede for the people of Haiti, and for all those who needlessly suffer because of the poverty they experience. Knowing something of his background and the remarkable life and witness he led after being elevated to Archbishop it seems to me that he has some affinity with the poor. He's a good man to intercede.

Wikipedia, that bastion of authority, reports: Many suspect that the delay in the declaration of heroism and martyrdom is due to the fact that Romero is closely tied to, but not directly involved with, the liberation theology movement espoused especially by the Jesuits of Latin America. The charge has been dismissed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who have pointed out that Romero has not yet met certain criteria to move on to the next levels of the inquests, processes which have historically taken decades to roll into motion.

Five years before his assassination, Romero wrote to Pope Paul VI calling for Josemaria Escriva to be canonised. He wrote: Most Blessed Father, I humbly repeat my petition for a quick opening of the cause for the beatification and canonization of Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer, for the greater glory of God and for the edification of the Church.

Oscar Romero: “We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” Are these the words of a saint?

26 January 2010

New Translation of the Roman Missal

It's been fascinating to follow the debate about the new translation of the Roman Missal. We had an ongoing clergy training day back in the autumn which was excellently presented by Mgr Bruce Harbert, a priest of the Archdiocese who was heavily involved in it's transmission with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, known as ICEL.

America Magazine, on 14 December, carried an article from Father Michael Ryan arguing that we ought not to rush into publication citing various problems as he saw it. He posed the question: What if we just said, “Wait”? This was followed swiftly by a website asking people to sign a petition. You can read the article in it's entirety here.

Needless to say, there was an even swifter response to begin an alternative website entitled “We've waited long enough!” This week, America Magazine has an article by Fr Peter Stravinskas in response to the above article from Fr Ryan. You can read Fr Stravinskas' article here.

Both articles come with comments, too, which in themselves make for interesting reading. If this is your thing, then you have perhaps already read all about their view points. For me, I think it makes for interesting debate, but ultimately it seems the bishops have spoken and perhaps we ought now to be getting on with the job in hand. Perhaps flippantly, yes, but sincerely meant, at our training day my thoughts were simply - give me the book and I'll say what is written!

25 January 2010

Fr Roger Peck

What did I do on a busy Sunday afternoon? Went to a really wonderful ordination in Leamington Spa. Read more about it, courtesy of Peter Jennings, below.


Archbishop Bernard Longley during the Ordination of Fr Roger Peck

Archbishop Bernard Longley ordained Fr Roger Peck to the Sacred Priesthood during an uplifting two-hour ceremony at Saint Peter Apostle Church, in Royal Leamington Spa, on the afternoon of Sunday, 24 January. It was the first time the new Archbishop had administered the Sacrament of Ordination in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Fr Roger Peck, aged 43, was born in Birmingham and brought up in Halesowen, in the parish of Our Lady and St Kenelm. He worked in IT as a computer programmer with Book Club Associates based in Swindon, before he studied for the priesthood at St Mary’s College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary.

Archbishop Longley has appointed Fr Roger an Assistant Priest at St Peter’s, Leamington Spa, where he had been Parish Deacon since September 2009.

During his homily on the theme “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me”, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “In the Sacrament we celebrate today our Lord shares his own priesthood with the friend who is in our midst, Deacon Roger Peck.

“The readings remind all of us of what it means to be a disciple of Christ, sharing his anointing through our baptism and therefore sharing his mission. For everyone who has been called to the priesthood there must already have been a deepening awareness of what is means to be a disciple in the Church today. As priests we have already experienced discipleship in our own lives and we are called to discern and encourage it in the lives of others.”

Speaking directly to Deacon Peck, Archbishop Longley said: “Roger, by this sacrament you become the gateway for many to the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. Through your words the Word of God is preached and its meaning made plain. Through your anointed hands the healing and forgiveness of God change the lives of others. As you act in the person of Christ his body and blood bring peace and salvation to his faithful people.

“When we met recently you spoke to me of some of the influences for good in your life, coming at times when you least expected them. In particular you recalled your cycling accident on a dangerous bend of the road. This eventually opened your eyes to the value of priestly ministry in the hospital where you recovered, which gave you time and space to reflect and pray. May your priestly ministry always bring Christ’s healing touch, and the insights of the Holy Spirit to others.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham emphasised: “The priest must become a living icon of Christ – especially at Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – so that through him the sphere of God’s influence may grow in human hearts and in the world at large.”

He continued: “Roger, you have spoken to me of your desire to play your part in the new evangelisation needed so much, especially by young people today. You recognise the need to evangelise the imagination and all aspects of our culture in order to communicate the Gospel. May your priestly life offer opportunities for that desire to become a reality as you work alongside others, priests, religious and lay faithful in the years to come.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “It is the desire of Christ that the good news, liberty and new sight he was himself anointed to bring, may reach others through the anointing we will witness today. We are grateful for this gift to the Church. Pray for Roger that the years of his priesthood may be long and fruitful, and that he may always bear witness to Christ in whose anointing he shares today.”

Archbishop Longley was the Principal Celebrant at the Mass of Ordination together with more than 40 priests, including Mgr Canon John Moran, Vicar General; Mgr Mark Crisp, Rector of St Mary’s College, Oscott; Fr John Cross, Parish Priest of St Peter’s and Fr Mariano Tarrosa, Assistant Priest.

The sanctuary looked magnificent adorned with flowers, and the music, beautifully sung and led by the choir, included the Gloria from the Missa De Angelis, and the Communion Motet, Ave Verum by Sir Edward Elgar, adding to a memorable occasion for the parish.

The first reading, from the Book of Nehemiah, was read by Mrs Nuala Scarisbrick. The second reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians by William Peck, Fr Roger’s older brother. The Gospel was sung by Deacon Michael Collis.

The singing of the Litany of the Saints, that included an invocation to St Roger Blessed Dominic Barberi and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was followed by the Laying-On of Hands and Prayer of Consecration.

Archbishop Bernard Longley and the priests present laid their hands on Deacon Roger Peck. This was the moment that the grace of Holy Orders was requested and conferred by the power of the Holy Spirit acting in the Church.

The Archbishop of Birmingham prayed the Prayer of Consecration. Fr Roger Peck was vested with his priestly vestments – first the stole and then the chasuble, before the Archbishop anointed the palms of his hands with the sacred oil of Chrism. The choir sang the Veni Creator Spiritus.

A chalice filled with wine and a paten with the communion bread were brought up by Fr Roger’s parents; his father Windsor, who was born in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, and his mother Rosa. They presented the gifts to Archbishop Longley who handed them to Fr Roger. The Archbishop greeted Fr Roger with the Kiss of Peace, and all the priests present did likewise as a sign of welcome and acceptance into the sacred priesthood. Fr Roger said one of the prayers during the Canon of the Mass.

After the final blessing Archbishop Bernard Longley and Fr John Cross, Parish Priest presented Fr Roger Peck with a special Blessing from Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his Ordination to the Priesthood. As he held the framed Blessing Fr Roger was greeted with warm applause from his brother priests, and the packed congregation, including his parents, family and friends, some of whom had travelled from the Falkland Islands to be present.

During a buffet reception in nearby Leamington Spa Town Hall Fr Roger Peck said a heart-felt thank you to his parents and family before cutting three special cakes to mark the occasion.

The Ordination Mass of Fr Roger Peck was, in the words of Archbishop Bernard Longley: “An important moment in the life of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.”

Fr Peck celebrated his first Mass in the parish church at noon the following day, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Bernard Longley, who celebrated the seventh anniversary of his Episcopal Ordination by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Conner in Westminster Cathedral on 24 January 2003, Feast of Saint Francis De Sales, flew to Rome for the Ad Limina Visit of the Bishops of England and Wales. Archbishop Bernard was only Installed as Archbishop of Birmingham on 8 December 2009, so he does not have to present a report about the Diocese for two years – this will include new ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood during that time.

24 January 2010

The Word of God

Nehemiah Chapter 8 - Bible study commentary, notes, questions, and comments

Su Wk 3 Yr C

“Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.” These words were spoken by John Calvin. At the end of a week devoted to the unity of all Christians it seems appropriate to quote a man so enmeshed in the Reformation of the 16th century. This is what we are engaged in right now. We are listening to the Word of God and we are celebrating the Sacraments instituted by Christ. We are the Church. We are the body of Christ of which St Paul speaks.

As we listened to our first reading from the Prophet Nehemiah, I was minded very much of the liturgy of the Word. As Ezra read, the people listened to the Law. We today also need to read God’s law. In those days before the printing press, copies were hard to come by, so the law was read publicly. New Testament examples record it being read regularly in the synagogues. We should also read it, and we have the advantage that we can easily possess our own copies. Today we are giving a copy of the bible to each and every child who is preparing for their First Communion. This is the value of having the word in writing, but we must realize the value of reading and studying it. This is why we, as parents, will help our children to come to know the Word of God in their own lives.

In the time of Ezra the people paid attention. We should do the same. Attention is hindered by day-dreaming, whispering, joking, playing with babies, even, dare I say, reading the newsletter! Note that, even though the session was lengthy (morning till midday), people still were attentive. They did not complain that they could not absorb any more after a certain length of time, as some complain today. If they could listen and benefit for that long, why can’t we?

But why do we even have the Word of God? Well St Luke tells us clearly why in the Gospel. It is because others have written their account and it is so that Theophilus can understand why his faith makes sense to him. In our modern world we are overwhelmed with the information that is available to us. If you subscribe to Sky+, or perhaps use the Freeview service, you will have upwards of a choice of over 180 entertainment channels or 42 movie channels or 16 news channels or even 15 religious channels. It’s really important, therefore, that we know where we can turn to and find out above what really matters in life. Where do we go for reliable help to deal with the situation in which we find ourselves? There is only one source and that is Truth himself. We turn to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and God chooses to reveal himself through the Word of God. The bible, or the Book of the Church, is entirely inspired by God himself. Fact! It’s not someone’s commentary, it’s not someone’s opinion but rather it’s someone’s inspired wisdom.

The second aspect to Luke’s reason for writing is to help Theophilus. But who is Theophilus? Whilst it is true to say modern biblical study would point to several possible people Luke may have been addressing, our Tradition says that the name, which means Lover of God, or Friend of God, merely invites all those who fit the description to hear this account of the Gospel (and also the Acts of the Apostles). So if we are people who consider ourselves to love God, then we need to be listening to the Word of God. Not only because it instructs us, but because it will reveal to us the truth of the Faith which we have received from him who is the author of life. In other words, it will confirm us in our faith. Not that we wish to be fundamentalists, quoting chapter and verse, but because the truth we seek is there for all to find.

Let me end with a statement from the great Mormon, Gene Cook: There is no evidence of higher value or authority than the Word of God.

21 January 2010

Agnes and Agnus

Today, at Mass, we prayed for our new Archbishop, Bernard, on the feast of St Agnes. Archbishop Bernard will receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of Ss Peter and Paul later this year. As his predecessor, Archbishop Vincent, did last summer for Westminster.

We recalled that we are the lambs of Bernard, as it were.

20 January 2010

Vatican encourages priests to use the Internet

H2O news is an online news service bringing the Good News to the world. It began as a response to the Pope's call for the use of modern mediums of communication for the use of evangelisation, as detailed in his message for the World Communications Day in 2005. If you're not familiar with their service, I would encourage you to go online, investigate further and consider signing up. The service is available in nine languages.

Today they are carrying a report on this year's World Communications Day where the Pope will call for priests to consider the use of new media in their ministry of the Word. Many Catholic priest-bloggers will take some comfort from this, not least given some of the more negative comments about blogs in recent months. For my part, as a Catholic Priest, I'm pleased that between us we're heading in the correct direction. Helping to bring the Word to the World.

The Pope’s message for the 44th World Communications Day will be published on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. This message, which falls within the Year for Priests, has as its theme: “The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word.”

19 January 2010

Sermonising in The Times

Ruth Gledhill's report in today's Times "To some, sermonising is a sin, but Christians still value the preacher" had me in stitches with the line describing the best and worst of preaching:

The best are inspirational invocations on how to live a better life in the grace of God; the worst, soporific ramblings that remind the congregation merely of how uncomfortable the pews are.

Of course, one wonders where on the line one falls. Perhaps I'm guilty of soporific invocations.

Also, I ask my Catholic readers: do you agree with the findings of the report? Do you prefer your homilies to be less than ten minutes; educational rather than challenging and scripturally based? Do give your priest regular feedback on his homilies. We do appreciate constructive criticism. It is not, however, helpful to simply say "lovely sermon Father" and then not be able to offer specifics. Once I made the fatal mistake of asking someone who'd said "lovely sermon Father" by asking what specifically was lovely. Their embarrassed look rather suggested that perhaps the newsletter had been more helpful to them that particular week! I've seen him since, reading the newsletter whilst I preach.

100 lines, Father, on "I must be a little less soporific" by the morning please.

18 January 2010

Praying for Unity

On this day of prayer for Christian Unity I was very blessed to be able to visit Worcester Cathedral and specifically the chapel in the crypt, dedicated to unity. It is also possible, I discovered, to see part of the church built by St Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, almost a millennium old. A great day!

17 January 2010

Can a lover of the Tradentine Mass be compared to a buyer of Ann Summers?

Greg Watts, who taught me a course on the Media at Oscott, suggests on his blog that those who are obsessed with silk and lace are, perhaps, best fulfilled in an Ann Summers shop. This is not, I think, an entirely ridiculous suggestion and would make for an interesting debate. Perhaps best I say no more than this. It is, after all, a Sunday.

What attracted me to Greg's post, however, was the tale of his encounter with a seller of Marian items outside Westminster Cathedral. He recalls:

I remember once talking to a man who had erected a temporary stall selling holy medals, prayer cards and books about the Virgin Mary near Westminster Cathedral. I listened to him as he told me that Our Lady had said that she wanted Mass only to be celebrated in Latin.

"That's strange, " I said.


"Well, it's just that I always thought Our Lady spoke Aramaic."

Thank you, Greg, for the wry smile I now wear!

16 January 2010

Climate Change

Su Wk 2, OT, Year C

Do you know what I wish? What I wish above all things: To be a little more honest in my care for the environment. To be not only worried about what we are doing to the planet, but turn that negative concern into positive action. I have to be honest here. When I heard about the terrible scandal of the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia scientists, I immediately thought it proved that all this nonsense about climate change is just that: Nonsense; no sense at all; just someone’s opinion. Not even based on scientific fact. Anyway, if the planet is undergoing ‘global warming’ how come it’s been so cold? Why has there been so much snow? I was reading an article in the newspaper recently asking this very question. There is a difference, I read, between weather and climate change. They are not the same thing! NASA says “the difference between weather and climate is a measure of time.” Just because it snowed last week doesn’t mean our actions are not over heating the planet!

The prophet Isaiah, we hear, is still ‘banging on’ about Jerusalem. He tells us he ‘will not be silent’ and ‘will not grow weary, until her integrity shines out’. He sounds a little like those environmentalists who will not be silenced until we all start listening and acting. Until we all do just a little something to help protect the world which God created. Our bishops have asked us, today, to remember peace. This is Peace Sunday, and there is a prayer card available to all. The Pope, in his message for World Peace, says simply “if you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.” I’m beginning to think it’s gone past thinking about it, talking about or even contemplating it. What we need now is action. Let’s get on with protecting creation. Let’s be proper stewards of creation as God asked us to do way back in the beginning. There’s nothing new here. Like Isaiah, we cannot stop until the beauty of creation shines out; until the will of God is fulfilled.

God’s will being fulfilled is precisely the point that John makes in his telling of the Wedding Feast of Cana. There are many, many rich and wonderful allusions, in this passage of scripture, to the price Jesus will pay to redeem our sins. Is it not strange that he should speak of his mother as ‘woman’? Surely Jesus would say, “mum, my hour has not yet come”, until we realise that John’s next reference to Mary with this title of ‘woman’ is at the foot of the cross when she will witness more surely what her Son’s hour means. Woman, this is your Son, he will say as the full price of his hour is made clear: his passion, death and resurrection. The fruit, of course, of He who is, is wine in plenty. Both the prophets Amos and Joel speak of wine in plenty during the Messianic times. Think, for a moment, about the quantity of water that has been transformed into wine. We hear that there were six jugs of thirty gallons. That is over 1400 pints, or the equivalent of over 600 bottles of wine. That’s a pretty big wedding and not bad for a small village in Galilee.

At the wedding feast there is one person who is the key for us to consider, today. Is it Jesus, the miracle worker? Is it Mary, the woman who intercedes for us? Is it the servants, those who carry out the instructions of Jesus? No, it is the steward. The steward is the one who determines that the first of the signs has been enacted. If we are to be, as we were created so to be, the stewards of creation then we are the ones who are to determine if peace is reigning? We are the ones who the pope is encouraging to protect creation in order that we can cultivate peace. So for me, my wish is to be a little more honest in my care for the environment; to turn my negative concern into positive action. I wonder, what is your role as a steward of creation? How are you to live out your role as the bringer of peace?


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