Monday, 17 November 2014

The Destiny of Humanity: On the Meaning of Marriage | Part 1 of 6 of The Humanum Series

Today the Humanum colloquium got underway in Rome; the three-day gathering of scholars and religious leaders from numerous countries and faiths will focus on the theme “The Complementarity of Man and Woman.” Sponsored by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the colloquium opened Monday morning with an address by Pope Francis (full text here). Other speakers scheduled for the coming days include Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, Sr. Prudence Allen, Dr. Russell Moore, N.T. Wright, Rick Warren, and Archbishop Charles Chaput, as well as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh scholars and leaders.

The Humanum colloquium also features the premiere of six short films focusing on different aspects of marriage as the foundation for the family and for society. The first two of those six are below.




Friday, 14 November 2014

Advent Reflections on EWTN




The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is a Catholic TV channel based in the US. It can be accessed by Satellite TV or a live stream on their website www.ewtn.com. The new School of the Annunciation, based at St Mary's Abbey, Buckfast, was invited to provide four priest to give addresses for each of the four weeks of Advent. The first is Abbot David who is well loved by many of us in Buckfast Ordinariate Group not least because he befriended us when we made our journey from the Church of England. Secondly Fr Tom is resident at the Abbey and well known for is lively and engaging style. Fr Guy Nicholls is an Oratorian Father and very well known for his calm and erudite delivery. The runt of the litter is the fourth offering from me, but my prayer is somehow it will help to highlight the Ordinariate's involvement with the School of the Annunciation.

The schedule:-

ADVENT REFLECTIONS 

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT: REPENTANCE IS THE ESSENCE OF CONVERSION
Abbot David Charlesworth, O.S.B. of Buckfast Abbey talks about the importance of personal conversion as the means for getting ready for the coming of Christ.
Sunday, 11/30 07:30 AM  Sunday, 11/30 03:30 PM  Tuesday, 12/02 07:00 PM  Thursday, 12/04 09:30 PM

SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT: PREPARING TO WELCOME CHRIST
Fr. Thomas Regan, O.S.B. talks about the message on the need to prepare well in order to properly celebrate Advent and Christmas, by putting Christ at the heart of Christmas.
Sunday, 12/07 07:30 AM  Sunday, 12/07 03:30 PM  Tuesday, 12/09 07:00 PM  Thursday, 12/11 09:30 PM

THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT: REJOICING WITH MARY IN THE COMING OF THE LORD
Fr. Guy Nicholls offers a meditation on the third Week of Advent, inviting us to prepare our hearts like Mary to rejoice in the coming of the Lord.
Sunday, 12/14 07:30 AM Sunday, 12/14 03:30 PM Tuesday, 12/16 07:00 PM Thursday, 12/18 09:30 PM

FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT: HOPE IN THE WORD MADE FLESH
Fr. Ian Hellyer offers a reflection on the fourth week of Advent, witnessing that hope is at the heart of Advent, found ultimately in the Word made Flesh.
Sunday, 12/21 07:30 AM  Sunday, 12/21 03:30 PM  Tuesday, 12/23 07:00 PM

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Esse et Amor (Being and Love)

The wedding in Cana
In trying to get my poor head around Catholic teaching on marriage and sexual ethics, I have tried to summarise it in the following way:

The understanding of the human person as a creature of God and made in the image and likeness of God is a fundamental aspect of Catholic anthropology (the understanding of what it is to be a human being). Being made in the image of God affords the human person a dignity which is fulfilled in his calling to divine beatitude. He is not just an animal that responds to his natural inclinations but possesses a dignity pointing towards something that transcends those inclinations. As God is Trinity which ineffably expresses both Being and Love*, so the human person is called to find beatitude through both life and love, both body and soul. He is a creature of great capacity and potential. In his God-given freedom of will, the human person either does, or does not, conform to this great good that God has promised and is corroborated by his moral conscience. Catholic teaching on marriage and sexual ethics proclaims this great good. To separate the unitive from the procreative, which all forms of sexual immorality do in one way or another, is a sin against the inner life of the human person made in the image of God who is Trinity (Esse et Amor). To act as if these were separate is to go against God’s calling and is opposed to our dignity as made in the image of God.

Without an understanding of Catholic anthropology the foundational teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexual ethics cannot be understood. While of course someone may choose to accept the authority of the Church, they will not understand why the Church proclaims what she does. When the Church’s teaching is challenged, how can someone make a reasonable defence of their chosen behaviour? The proclamation that the two inseparable goods of marriage and sex are the unitive and the procreative, informs all the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexual ethics. Every form of sexual immorality is opposed to this integrity of the unitive and procreative. Understanding Catholic anthropology, that human beings are made in God’s image and called to Beatitude, is fundamental because the inseparable goods of marriage and sex (unitive and procreative) are reflections of God Himself who is revealed as Being and Love (Esse et Amor).

IH

* "Being" revealed to Moses at the burning bush: "I AM WHO I AM"; and "Love" revealed through the New Testament and summed up by St John as "God is Love". These two revelations are the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Why celebrate the feast of a building?

Lateran Basilica

Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran. So perhaps we should ask why do we commemorate the dedication of a church building, and one that happened in fourth-century Rome? For us in the Ordinariate it is probably a feast that we were not used to celebrating as Anglicans.

So why? First, because St. John Lateran is no ordinary church—it’s the cathedral church of the Pope and still known as “the mother of all the world’s churches.” It is dedicated to Christ our Saviour and Saint John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist. It is the place where the Pope’s Cathedra is housed – the chair which represents his authority given to him by Christ. It is the oldest of the papal basilicas and it is, I believe, the oldest church in the West – consecrated in 324 AD.

So one of the things this feast points to is the unity we all enjoy together as Catholics. Catholics are found all over the world, from many nations, from many different cultures, from many different language groups, all with our local customs and traditions. But we are all united by one Faith and one Baptism and all recognise the authority and unifying importance given by our Lord to the Apostle Peter. So this feast also reminds us of the common respect we Catholics have for the Pope, who is the successor of St Peter, the Rock of the Church.

But more than that, because God has from all time intended the church building to be a symbol of His Church and our bodies. This is what the readings for today’s feast invite us to consider. God’s prototype for the church is the Jerusalem Temple, described in this week’s First Reading and Psalm. It is God’s “holy dwelling,” site of His presence in our midst, source of “living waters”—of all life and blessing.

There is a tendency today for people to say that Church buildings do not really matter that much. They are just convenient places to assemble for collective worship. And people will also add that it would be better to spend surplus cash on the poor rather than spend it on fancy buildings. This way of thinking is understandable on the surface, but scratch it a little deeper and we find the argument crumbles.

This way of thinking largely since the 1960s has been fashionable and has seen Catholic churches being built that are very functional, bare and unadorned. Paradoxically while spending on church architecture has decreased, spending on people’s own homes has increased. Our own residences have become more and more luxuriously kitted out, but Catholic church’s over the time became more and more spartan and cheaply made. St John Vianney was a great example to us, he never neglected the poor, but neither did he neglect his church, the vestments and the holy vessels of the altar. His home consisted of a simple chair and table, very little else. But delighted spend what money he had on beautiful chalices and vestments to honour Our Lord, while not neglecting honouring the Lord through supporting the poor.

Churches are reflections of the heavenly city where the eternal and perfect worship of God takes place by Angels and Saints; and we in the Mass participate in this heavenly liturgy which is going on in heaven. Our worship is imperfect, yet we, by grace, participate in this heavenly liturgy. Churches should then lift our hearts to think of heaven – they should not be mere functional buildings. They should be places of beauty and through symbolism point to the divine truth.

The Temple was the prototype for the Church building symbolising the “dwelling place of God Himself”. Our Church buildings are also the dwelling place of God as they house the tabernacle where our Saviour Jesus Christ is truly present under the sign of bread.

But some will say, didn’t our Saviour say He would tear down the Temple and rebuild it in three days – not replacing it with another building but His own Body in the Resurrection? Indeed that is the case, but that does not mean Church buildings are not needed or not important, but that they have a deeper meaning.

God intended the Temple to give way to the Body of Christ. That’s what our Lord’s words and actions in today’s Gospel are intended to dramatize. Christ’s Body is now the dwelling of God’s “glory” among us (see John 1:14). It’s the new source of living waters (John 4:10,14; 7:37-39; 19:34), the living bread (John 6:51), the new sanctuary where people will worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:21,23). By Baptism, we are joined to His Body in the Church (see 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The Church building points us to Christ’s Body, His living Temple, which is the whole Church, the Body of Christ. In our Epistle today, it says the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and makes us “God’s building…the temple of God” (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9). So in a way it is the other way round. We, the Body of Christ, members of the Church are to be made into God’s building!  But how can we imagine what that is if we have no inspiring buildings?

Jesus drove out the sellers of oxen, sheep and doves, signalling an end to the animal sacrifices that formed the worship of the old Temple. In the spiritual worship of the new Temple, we offer our bodies—our whole beings—as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). Like living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) built on the cornerstone of Christ (see Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11), together we are called to build up the new Temple of God, the Church.

There is a connection between our attitudes towards Church buildings, and our attitudes towards the Temple of our bodies, and also the Church as the Body of Christ. It cannot be too surprising that if our approach to these earthly Church buildings is very functional, then the way we treat one another starts becoming functional too. The temptation of thinking of others in terms of function only is very common in our time. People think of their bodies not as temples of the Holy Spirit, but as a biological machine to perform various functions for us, but equally something that can be disposed of when no longer useful.

It is also connected to the way we think of the Church – it very common to find Catholics talking about the Church as if it were merely a human institution that performs certain functions but which can be changed if we want it to do something differently.

This functionalist approach is not holy. God our Maker has given us our bodies not merely as functional machines, they are part of the gift of our being made in the image of God. Our outward bodies are fully united with our souls. What we do with our bodies will affect our souls. The two are one, just as Christ’s two natures, divine and human, are fully one.  Our bodies are sacred and imbued with a sacred dignity that cannot be taken away. And the Church too is no mere functional organisation; the Church is the mystical Body of Christ – it too is both visible and invisible, both human and divine.  All these things are beautifully connected together – this is why when we enter a beautiful Church which is configured to the truth divinely revealed to us, that our hearts are lifted to the Lord. We sense His Presence and we fall in adoration before Him. In that moment of adoration we become what God wants us to be, we are united to the Communion of Saints in heaven and to the countless hosts of Angels.

But lastly, as the Jerusalem Temple was, so the Church will always be: under construction—until at last it is perfected in the New Jerusalem, our mother Church, come down from heaven. So yes our bodies are not perfect and won’t be until the Day of Resurrection. So the Church is not perfect either and won’t be until the end of time. Nevertheless we look forward in hope to our coming Saviour Jesus Christ, knowing that by the Holy Spirit, and through His Grace, we are being made into the living Temple of His Glory.


AMEN.                   IH Nov 2014

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Thoughts about the family during this time of the extraordinary synod



As we approached the beginning of the time of the Extraordinary Synod in Rome I was mindful of Pope Benedict's counsel about Vatican II: that there was a council of the media, and there was the real council. One cannot fail to appreciate the truth of this especially as a convert, for one encounters more and more Catholics who say, "well that changed at vatican ii" but who haven't actually ever read any document of Vatican II! So I have taken with a pinch of salt most of the reports we have received about this synod. I am waiting for the true result of the Synod, which of course won't be produced until part 2 of the synod has happened next year.

I have however read about the press conference with 3 Cardinals and an Archbishop here and share, if it is an accurate representation, disappointment at an opportunity lost. We desperately need our Shepherds to proclaim with confidence to the world the good news of Catholic teaching on marriage and sex. They should not be reticent about this. But I sometimes wonder if they know that Catholic teaching is indeed good news.

I entered the full Communion of the Catholic Church only a few years ago. Part of my relief in making the journey from being an Anglican clergyman to being a pastor of the Catholic Church was that at last the truth that I wanted to proclaim in my preaching and teaching about marriage, family and sex would be the teaching of the Church in which I was ministering. That prospect filled me with joy.

As an Anglican clergyman whenever I spoke about abortion, marriage, family size, population etc I would frequently be greeted with scepticism or outright opposition, and most of the time, a silence that spoke loudest of all. Rarely would I find support. What I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church was an affirmation of what my wife and I had tried to live in our marriage, and I looked forward to being in full communion with the Church which had produced that Catechism.

Despite the ridicule, the 'jokes', and the embarrassment we obviously caused people, my wife and I have come to believe that the teaching of the Church regarding marriage and sexual morality is actually good news. Yet when expressing this belief amongst Catholics, including groups of Catholic clergy, too often I find people who are not so sure. There is a lack of confidence.

Only recently I spoke with a priest who essentially was trying to say we ought not to "burden" people with this teaching too much. My response was, "Well if you teach it as if it is merely a set of commandments, 'don't do that...' then of course it will come across as a burden. But we have the Catechesis of St John Paul on the Theology of the Body - we do not have to teach it merely as a set of commands." I went on to spell out why our culture is a culture of death and in part is because we have failed to proclaim the good news of the Catholic vision of marriage, family and sex. As a university chaplain I see some of the effects of this in the young men and women I try to offer pastoral care to. Whether it is the corruption of men's hearts because of a long-term use of pornography and masturbation, or women who have had multiple abortions; in every direction we see the terrible effects of a culture of death. What people need is the confident and joyful proclamation of the culture of life. The priest I spoke to was shocked. He had not thought about it in quite that way!

The Church has the treasure of the truth revealed by God for our salvation, and it is very good news - this includes the treasure of its teaching about marriage and about the most intimate part of marriage life, sex. This teaching is very, very good news! The Church needs to find those with a voice to proclaim this good news - perhaps this should not necessarily be cardinals and archbishops.

One of the most joyful experiences I have had in the Catholic Church has been on a campsite! For the last two years we have taken part in a camp for Catholic home-schooling families. It has been a very great privilege to offer mass at the home-schooler's camp. It is on such occasions that one can appreciate the very great joy of the Catholic vision for the family. Yes it is very hard work. Yes it means one has to renounce a lot of things for oneself. But isn't that the essence of caritas, of Christian love? Perhaps we home-schoolers should invite along some of our bishops and priests to see it too?

Sometimes I am referred to as Father Quiverfull! I don't mind. For Holy Scripture says, "Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them!" The Lord has truly blessed me with ten children. And I am very blessed to have discovered the very good news of the teaching of Holy Mother Church.

My prayer is that the Church will find the voice to speak this good news confidently and joyfully.
Fr Ian