Thursday, 27 December 2012

Benedict XVI: a happy Christmas to you and your families

“Veritas de terra orta est!” – “Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12).

The Pope's Urbi et Orbi message:

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!

In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: “Truth has sprung out of the earth”. Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future: “Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps” (Ps 85:11-14).

Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth have indeed met; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary” (En. in Ps. 84:13).  (the rest of the article)

Come and see the nativity scene in St Peter's Square here and here.


Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury: (Midnight Mass)
Across the centuries Christians have gathered amid the winter darkness and the shadows of night to welcome a Saviour who has been born for us (Luke 2:11). No matter how profound the darkness, how disturbing the shadows all the faithful have recognised on this night: “a great light has shone,” in the words of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah (9:1) that “God’s grace has been revealed,” in St. Paul’s words, “and has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Titus 2:11); and have heard tonight the timeless message of the angels: “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people” (Luke 2:10).

Past generations have gathered in this Cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them. We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity. These inhuman ideologies would challenge, in the name of progress, the received Christian understanding of the sanctity of human life and the family. Winston Churchill, Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, a man without clear, religious belief himself, saw in this deadly struggle nothing less than the defence of Christian civilization. The alternative he vividly described as a dark age made more protracted by the perversion of science. I would appeal to our political leaders this Christmas to similarly glimpse these deeper issues where respect for the sanctity of human life and the authentic meaning of marriage as the foundation of the family are threatened.  (the rest of the homily)

Archbishop Nicols attacks governments' gay marriage plans:  report from BBC

and High Court Judge criticises governments' plans for gay marriage   report from BBC

Archbishop Di Noia  on a seldom sung verse of the carol "Joy to the world"  here
   (Fr Coilin and I met him in the Autumn - he was very good then)

Friday, 21 December 2012

Only in self-giving does man discover the breadth of his existence

In his speech to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI reviewed the apostolic journeys he made in the past year, with a special emphasis on World Congress of Families in Milan. The Milan meeting, he said shows that "the family is still strong and vibrant today" but he added "there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations -- especially in the western world". The Pope recognized the widespread refusal in today's world "to make any commitment" as one of the biggest challenges to family life. Only in self-giving, noted Pope Benedict "does the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child ...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Newtown priests harassed

Elizabeth Scalia, a renowned Catholic blogger in the States, exclaims on her blog, "What the hell is wrong with these people?" She is responding to the reports that the two Catholic priests ministering in Newtown, where the dreadful murder of young children occurred, are being subjected to harassment!

In the face of unimaginable evil there many stories of people of faith and people of no faith together doing whatever they can to help in some small way. Yet in the midst of this there are people who want to do whatever they can to hurt the work of these servants of the Church who are doing what they can for people.

Here is a letter from Fr Suarez's sister (the young priest pictured above). Fr Suarez assists Mgr Weiss (also pictured) in the parish of Newtown.

My friends,
All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.
Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now…. Monsignor … is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…. The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.

My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.

I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:
Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.

But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?”

H/t Thomas Crowe, who adds:
“…I was in seminary for one year with Father Luke Suarez, parochial vicar at St. Rose of Lima parish in Newtown, Connecticut. He is one of the gentlest and most generous souls I’ve known. As I remarked on Facebook when I saw the below picture, I had never seen him without a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye until this picture…”

Let us remember to pray for Mgr Weiss and Fr Suarez as they not only face the difficulties of ministering to grieving parents and loved ones, but also combating this harassment.

Holy Land Pilgrimage in 2014

Members and supporters of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are being invited to attend a Holy Land pilgrimage in 2014. 

Led by Fr David Lashbrooke, a member of the interim Governing Council of the Ordinariate, and Derek Vogt - who has some 25 years of experience of Holy Land pilgrimage - the journey will seek to explore the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the very place where he lived and died.

As well as the daily celebration of Holy Mass, there will be plenty of free time for reflection and a glimpse of local culture and customs. 

The pilgrimage will take place from Thursday 8 May to Monday 19 May 2014. For more details, please contact Derek Vogt by email ( or telephone 01392 271943.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Prefect speaks about Ordinariates

Archbishop Gerhard Müller

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, who was recently appointed as the Prefect (head) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has given an interview to Catholic Herald journalist, Mary O'Regan. Archbishop Müller and the CDF oversee the Personal Ordinariates.

Here is an extract from the interview, which looks specifically at the Personal Ordinariates:

As Prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Müller is responsible for the implementation of the apostolic constitution  Anglicanorum Coetibus. He was keen to talk about the great benefits which have come to the Church through the inclusion of these communities of Anglicans, with their pastors, into Catholic life. Commenting on the ecumenical dimension of the personal ordinariates, he said:
 “It’s not only the will of the Holy Father, but it is the will of Jesus Christ that all the baptised are drawn together into full visible communion. In this way Anglicanorum Coetibus is both a fruit of the ecumenical dialogues of the last 40 years and an expression of the ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement. 
Archbishop Müller (Photo: CNS)“What we notice particularly from the clergy who are applying for ordination in the various ordinariates is that there has been a rediscovery in some Anglican and Protestant circles of the importance and the necessity of the papacy in order to maintain the authentic link with biblical Christianity against the pressures of secularism and liberalism. Many of those who have entered into full communion through the ordinariates have sacrificed a great deal in order to be true to their consciences. They should be welcomed wholeheartedly by the Catholic community – not as prodigals but as brothers and sisters in Christ who bring with them into the Church a worthy patrimony of worship and spirituality.”

The complete interview may be read here.

What is CDF? The CDF is a sacred Congregation of the Roman Curia and is the oldest Congregation. It stands for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As the name suggests it has particular care for the faithful communication of Catholic doctrine. The Holy Father, was the Prefect of this congregation before he was elected Pope. It also has oversight of the Ordinariates established by Pope Benedict.

What is the Roman Curia? This is the central administrative apparatus of the Holy See. It works, in obedience to the Pope and Catholic teaching, to make sure the entire Catholic Church functions according to its aims. It is normal for every Roman diocese to have its own curia which performs a similar function within the diocese. You can find out more here.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012



A group of Anglican nuns from the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) in Wantage, Oxfordshire, are to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church in January 2013. Eleven sisters from the historic Anglican community will join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the structure established by Pope Benedict XVI to enable groups of Anglicans to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church whilst retaining elements of their liturgical, spiritual, and pastoral heritage. The group includes the Superior of the community, Mother Winsome CSMV. The eleven CSMV sisters, will be joined by Sister Carolyne Joseph, formerly of the Society of St Margaret in Walsingham, who joined the Ordinariate in January 2011. These twelve sisters will initially be established as a Public Association of the Faithful within the Personal Ordinariate. They will be known as the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary and will continue in their work of prayer and contemplation, whilst retaining certain of their Anglican traditions and practices. Foremost amongst these is the tradition of English plainchant for which these sisters are well known.

After consultation with Church of England authorities it has been decided that the sisters will move from their convent in Wantage and, after reception into the Catholic Church, will spend a period of time with an established Catholic community. Following this, the newly established Ordinariate community will seek to find a suitable new home.

Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said,
“The Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage has been at the heart of the Church of England’s Religious Life since the mid-nineteenth century. The contribution of the community to the life of the Anglican Communion has been significant, not least through the community’s care for those marginalised by society in Britain, and also in India and South Africa”. 
Speaking of the decision of the sisters to enter the Personal Ordinariate, Mgr Newton continued, “Those formed in the tradition of the Oxford Movement cannot help but be moved to respond to Pope Benedict’s generous invitation to Anglicans. The sisters have always prayed for the unity of Christians with the See of Peter, now this is to become a reality for them by means of the Ordinariate. We are truly grateful for their faith, courage, and resolve”.

The community has been in discernment about the way forward since the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009. Mother Winsome CSMV, the Superior of the Community, said,
“We believe that the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity. The future of our community is a fulfilment of its origins, and as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham we will continue with many of our customs and traditions, whilst also seeking to grow in Christ through our relationship with the wider Church”. 
One sister, who was ordained in the Church of England and is now to be received as a Catholic, said,
“The call to Christian unity must always be the primary motivating factor in the decision of Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church. Anything which impedes that process cannot be of God, and so must be set aside to achieve this aim, which is the will of Christ”. 
 Those members of the community who will remain in the Church of England have expressed their admiration and respect for those who have taken this decision. In a short statement they said, 
“Whilst remaining committed to their Religious vows in the Church of England the sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin wish the sisters joining the Ordinariate every blessing on their new life in the Catholic Church, and respect the integrity of their sense of call”. 
The Community of St Mary the Virgin was founded by the Reverend William John Butler and Mother Harriet CSMV as one of the first communities of nuns in the Church of England since the Reformation. Under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary the community has engaged in charitable work throughout the Anglican Communion, whilst maintaining a balance with the life of prayer.


On behalf of Buckfast Ordinariate Group we offer thanksgiving to God for your courage and pray that suitable premises will be found. We are sure you will be joyful in entering the full communion of the Catholic Church, and be a wonderful praying heart in the Ordinariate. Deo gratias.

Queenship of Mary

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Bishop Egan speaks against David Cameron's plans

Bishop Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth has issued the following statement in response to the Prime Minister's comments on the issue of gay marriage:
from Independent Catholic News, Sunday 9th December 2012

David Cameron has said that he is an enthusiastic supporter of marriage and that he does not want "gay people to be excluded from a great institution." Yet however well-intentioned, and despite huge opposition from Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, by attempting to change the natural meaning of marriage, he seems utterly determined to undermine one of the key foundations of our society.

Such a change is of immense significance. By this change, he is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.

To "extend marriage to gay people", he intends to impose the will of a tiny minority on the vast majority. If the prime minister proceeds with his intentions, he will pervert authentic family values, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behaviour of future generations. He will smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.

Of course, we will need to wait for the results of the current consultation-exercise. But in the meantime, I would like to ask Mr. Cameron: What about my rights as a Christian? Will you exempt the Church, its resources and property, from having to support your harmful ideology? Will Catholic schools, societies and institutions be free (and legally safeguarded) to teach the full truth of Christ and the real meaning of life and love?

The institution of marriage has its ups and downs, but will we ever forget that it was the leader of the Conservative Party who finally destroyed marriage as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between a man and a woman?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Make straight the highways

John son of Zechariah, the prophet of God, who dwelt in the desert wilderness, is starkly contrasted with all the contemporary powers – the great names of his time, and that place. The tetrarchs of Galilee and of the regions of Iturea, Trachonitis, Lysanius and Abilene are mentioned; all very impressive of course. Much more impressive, Tiberius Caesar; who was surely the most powerful man of the time? And his Governor, Pontius Pilate, is also cited – whose name will become infamous later in the gospel – and indeed even later through the Creed. Impressive though all these powers might be, St Luke bids us listen not to any of them, but to this other man, John. Surely if we could have seen him the least impressive of men? He had no material wealth: he wore a simple camel-skin, a leather belt, a staff; and we know, he ate locusts and wild honey. He was a man who was on the edge of human society – in fact, who had deserted human society in preference for a lonely existence in the wilderness. Why should anyone take any notice of him? What possible contribution could he make to anyone's life?

Yet it was he, John son of Zechariah, whom God chose to be His spokesman, His prophet. In fact John was to be the last of the line of great prophets. The word of God came to John in the wilderness – and John emerges to proclaim God's word to all people in the region. St Luke explains who John is, and his great significance, by quoting Isaiah. “A voice cries in the wilderness...” John is the voice that Isaiah prophesied. John is a great prophet and that means his vocation is be the voice, the voice that speaks the word of God, and that alone.

At times we might speak the word of God, but we so often clutter God's word with our own words. We hear God's word at times, but we also clutter it with our thoughts and the noise of the world. John in the desert found the outer stillness, and in prayer found the inner stillness, that meant when he heard the word of God, he knew it for what it was, but most importantly, proclaimed that word and nothing else. This is what made him a great prophet. And it is also why people listened to him. They heard not John son of Zechariah – but a voice that spoke with authority. Through John, they heard God.

When we hear God's word we have a choice: ignore it or be changed by it. There is no alternative. God's word always achieves its purpose in us, which is not to leave us as we are, but to transform us. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be made low, winding ways be straightened and rough roads made smooth.” John was not called to be a town planner or civil engineer, of course! This refers to us; to each of us. We are to make smooth the way for the Lord within us. We are crooked, we are filled with valleys and mountains and hills, that all need smoothing. John, we are told, proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is the making smooth, and preparing the way for the Lord.

Without it, without making the path smooth by repentance, the Lord when he comes will not reach the places He needs to reach for our salvation. John came first, the fore-runner, to prepare the ground, so hearts were ready to respond and welcome the Lord, when He came.

We too must remember the lesson. We must remember that we are called to holiness – to repentance, to conversion of life, to make straight the highways for God within our hearts.

St Paul in his letter to the Philippians, describes this straightening of the road: “My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more, and never stop improving your knowledge, and deepening your perception so that you always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness...”

If we think, “well I am moderately good, not too bad, I haven't robbed a bank recently, I haven't murdered anyone...I haven't been too bad”; if we think that, then we are ignoring the word of God. Isaiah says “make straight”, not make it a bit straighter! As St Paul exhorts, we must strive for purity and be blameless.

This is really for the same reason John was a great prophet. His heart was made pure through his desert years, so that nothing got in the way when the word of God came to him; and nothing got in the way when he answered the call to proclaim the word. This is what God wants from us; for us not to get in the way. But we do get in the way ; which is sin.

Our work as Christian is to grow in love for one another, and to grow in knowledge and perception, so that when temptation comes we can discern clearly what it is we must do or not do. Growing in charity, and growing in knowledge are the two things we therefore need to be about. It is not sufficient to just fulfil our obligations. We must grow in community and fellowship, supporting one another, and finding opportunities to show our love for one another. The reason for this is not to save ourselves, but as Isaiah states clearly, that all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pope addresses the Venerable English College

Chapel of the Venerable English College, Rome

On Monday this week, Pope Benedict received in audience a visitation of bishops, priests and seminarians from the English College in Rome. The Venerable English College is a Seminary charged with formation of clergy for Britain, that can boast to being the oldest surviving English institution outside of England. The audience with the Holy Father was part of a year long celebration of its 650th anniversary. Here is the address which he gave:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the Apostolic Palace, the House of Peter. I greet my Venerable brother, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a former Rector of the College, and I thank Archbishop Vincent Nichols for his kind words, spoken on behalf of all present. I too look back with great thanksgiving in my heart to the days that I spent in your country in September 2010. Indeed, I was pleased to see some of you at Oscott College on that occasion, and I pray that the Lord will continue to call forth many saintly vocations to the priesthood and the religious life from your homeland.

Through God’s grace, the Catholic community of England and Wales is blessed with a long tradition of zeal for the faith and loyalty to the Apostolic See. At much the same time as your Saxon forebears were building the Schola Saxonum, establishing a presence in Rome close to the tomb of Peter, Saint Boniface was at work evangelizing the peoples of Germany. So as a former priest and Archbishop of the See of Munich and Freising, which owes its foundation to that great English missionary, I am conscious that my spiritual ancestry is linked with yours. Earlier still, of course, my predecessor Pope Gregory the Great was moved to send Augustine of Canterbury to your shores, to plant the seeds of Christian faith on Anglo-Saxon soil. The fruits of that missionary endeavour are only too evident in the six-hundred-and-fifty-year history of faith and martyrdom that distinguishes the English Hospice of Saint Thomas à Becket and the Venerable English College that grew out of it.

Potius hodie quam cras, as Saint Ralph Sherwin said when asked to take the missionary oath, “rather today than tomorrow”. These words aptly convey his burning desire to keep the flame of faith alive in England, at whatever personal cost. Those who have truly encountered Christ are unable to keep silent about him. As Saint Peter himself said to the elders and scribes of Jerusalem, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Saint Boniface, Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Francis Xavier, whose feast we keep today, and so many other missionary saints show us how a deep love for the Lord calls forth a deep desire to bring others to know him. You too, as you follow in the footsteps of the College Martyrs, are the men God has chosen to spread the message of the Gospel today, in England and Wales, in Canada, in Scandinavia. Your forebears faced a real possibility of martyrdom, and it is right and just that you venerate the glorious memory of those forty-four alumni of your College who shed their blood for Christ. You are called to imitate their love for the Lord and their zeal to make him known, potius hodie quam cras. The consequences, the fruits, you may confidently entrust into God’s hands.

Archbishop Nichols addresses the Holy FatherYour first task, then, is to come to know Christ yourselves, and the time you spend in seminary provides you with a privileged opportunity to do so. Learn to pray daily, especially in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, listening attentively to the word of God and allowing heart to speak to heart, as Blessed John Henry Newman would say. Remember the two disciples from the first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, who followed Jesus and asked to know where he was staying, and, like them, respond eagerly to his invitation to “come and see” (1:37-39). Allow the fascination of his person to capture your imagination and warm your heart. He has chosen you to be his friends, not his servants, and he invites you to share in his priestly work of bringing about the salvation of the world. Place yourselves completely at his disposal and allow him to form you for whatever task it may be that he has in mind for you.

You have heard much talk about the new evangelization, the proclamation of Christ in those parts of the world where the Gospel has already been preached, but where to a greater or lesser degree the embers of faith have grown cold and now need to be fanned once more into a flame. Your College motto speaks of Christ’s desire to bring fire to the earth, and your mission is to serve as his instruments in the work of rekindling the faith in your respective homelands. Fire in sacred Scripture frequently serves to indicate the divine presence, whether it be the burning bush from which God revealed his name to Moses, the pillar of fire that guided the people of Israel on their journey from slavery to freedom, or the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost, enabling them to go forth in the power of the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Just as a small fire can set a whole forest ablaze (cf. Jas 3:5), so the faithful testimony of a few can release the purifying and transforming power of God’s love so that it spreads like wildfire throughout a community or a nation. Like the martyrs of England and Wales, then, let your hearts burn with love for Christ, for the Church and for the Mass.

When I visited the United Kingdom, I saw for myself that there is a great spiritual hunger among the people. Bring them the true nourishment that comes from knowing, loving and serving Christ. Speak the truth of the Gospel to them with love. Offer them the living water of the Christian faith and point them towards the bread of life, so that their hunger and thirst may be satisfied. Above all, however, let the light of Christ shine through you by living lives of holiness, following in the footsteps of the many great saints of England and Wales, the holy men and women who bore witness to God’s love, even at the cost of their lives. The College to which you belong, the neighbourhood in which you live and study, the tradition of faith and Christian witness that has formed you: all these are hallowed by the presence of many saints. Make it your aspiration to be counted among their number.

Please be assured of an affectionate remembrance in my prayers for yourselves and for all the alumni of the Venerable English College. I make my own the greeting so often heard on the lips of a great friend and neighbour of the College, Saint Philip Neri, Salvete, flores martyrum! Commending you, and all to whom the Lord sends you, to the loving intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you.

Vatican information service 

Earlier, the Duke of Gloucester had delivered the following message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

The Duke of Gloucester delivering the message from the QueenIn 1362, English residents in Rome established a ‘Hospice of the English’ to care for English pilgrims. The Royal Arms of King Henry IV still adorn your walls to mark the 50th anniversary of that foundation and the close relationship with the Crown. The English Hospice was the origin of what has now become the Venerable English College, following its re-foundation by Pope Gregory XIII in 1579.

The presence of the Duke of Gloucester at your Martyrs’ Day Feast in this 650th anniversary year is a sign of the strength of the relationship between the United Kingdon and the Holy See. It is also recognition of the high esteem in which the Venerable English College is held as a training ground for pastors, priests and future leaders of the Catholic Church of England and Wales. You have always served as a generous and hospitable home away from home for generations of visitors to Rome, even in the most difficult times.

My good wishes go to you all, alumni, staff and students of the Venerabile, past, present and future, for your continuing prosperity.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nothing like judgement to focus the mind!

Hope, Charity and Faith
Advent is the quintessential season of hope. What is hope? Hope is one of the three virtues mother Church calls 'theological virtues': the others are faith and love. Through the growth of these three virtues we grow in knowing God. Faith and love are perhaps easier to understand; so what do we mean by hope? Hope has been described as faith directed towards our future. What hope is NOT, is a vague sense of optimism – hope is very firm and a strengthening virtue, and often depicted pictorially by an anchor; in other words hope helps us to weather storms and keep us steady. Hope is faith directed to the future that is promised through Christ, our future salvation, and the promise of heaven. Through our life in Him, we know that despite adversity in the present, if we remain faithful we have a future in Christ that cannot be taken away. So because Christ's ultimate victory is assured we have an anchor hold on that future, when in the present we may be blown around by the storms of life.

So on this Advent Sunday let us turn our minds towards the future, towards the End things. Amongst the End things we need to consider is what we call Judgement – Final Judgement. What do we mean by it? How does it effect us? Does it give us any hope or indeed joy?

As Christians we do not believe that we are all inevitably going to the same place. If it were inevitable, then we would not need a saviour. But we do need salvation. Our Lord taught that there is an awful choice between two alternatives: that we are always choosing between life and death, light and darkness, and good and evil. We have freedom of will, and we can choose between these two alternatives throughout our lives.

Judgement on the evil choice is not to be considered to be an arbitrary act of God – but as the consequences of our own choices. Judgement, in the Christian sense, is as much consequences of evil choices we have made freely, as an act of God. How is this?

All of our actions can become habitual – they can become habits. We can develop good habits, and we can develop evil habits. Habits form into a settled character. If we have evil habits, then we settle in an evil character; if we have good habits, then we settle in a virtuous or good character. As time goes by, these become more and more fixed in us, until we die.

The thing to remember is that death does not take our character away – whether good or evil. If a person's character is shaped by lust, pride, hatred or falsehood then at death these remain. Death sets us naked before the presence of God's holiness. In God's presence no habit of sin, no sinful character, no vice is hidden – all is revealed for what it is. This is judgement. It is the Day of truth, where nothing is hidden.

In Scripture the experience of coming into the presence of God is expressed as fire. Not that God is causing us pain, but that all that is sinful character within us is incompatible with the holiness of God. God cannot change. God cannot accommodate that which is determined for evil, and bring it into union with Himself!

Freedom of will is a terrible thing! The consequences are that God respects our choices. Habits of sin, which is evil, breeds an evil character, and can lead us to ruin. Consequences! Judgement! So our Lord warned us over and over again to watch ourselves, to pray for strength, and to be ready to stand in righteousness before Him. St Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to:

...confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of God the Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints...

So in Advent we are exhorted to pray, to be faithful, to wait patiently, to be virtuous, and to repent. Our Lord repeated again and again, “Repent and believe”. He wasn't saying that for effect. He meant it. Our core work in this life is to “Repent and believe”. And the good news is that He has given us the means of doing this. He forgave sins, and gave His power to forgive to the Apostles and their successors. We are only to confess with a sincere heart and with remorse, for us to be forgiven – for us to be made righteous.

So in this season of Advent let us take to heart the call to be ready for our Lord's coming, to confirm our hearts in holiness, to respond to the call to repent. Going to confession in this light can be a joyful thing. For having made ourselves right with God, our hearts can have hope and the deep joy that comes from knowing that in Christ all shall be well.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Meetings ... !

One of the very great things that has happened since becoming a Catholic priest (in contrast with my ministry in the Church of England) is that there has been far fewer meetings to attend. It is not that I disliked the people at the meetings, nor that I was uninterested in the business of the meeting, but rather that the 'meeting' seemed to take over and was less a means to an end, but for its own sake. Perhaps it is a defect of my memory, but I cannot really remember a meeting when the outcome was something that dramatically advanced the aims and purposes of the Church.

In this interesting video of Fr Robert Baron, he reflects on the great meeting of Vatican II, but how the Church has mistakenly, since then, tried to perpetuate the spirit of this meeting in the myriad of committees and meetings that has blossomed since the 1960s. He suggests that this is one reason why the Church has neglected evangelisation - it has been in committee instead!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


The Advent Anthems

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
invites you to join members of the Ordinariate for their
Sunday 16th December 2012
Catholic Church of the Holy Angels
Chelston, Torquay

psalms , carols , lessons and benediction

followed by mulled wine

(choir rehearsing from 4.30pm)

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Day of Cloistered Religious

The Holy Father calls on us to remember contemplative nuns both in our prayers and in our pockets:

"At the same time, I renew my invitation to all Christians to not forget to give cloistered monasteries the necessary spiritual and material support. Indeed, we owe so much to these people who devote themselves entirely to prayer for the Church and for the world!"

Here in the Southwest we have a contemplative community of nuns called the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in St Mawgan, Cornwall. In the following video clip they are appealing for help.

It is easy to forget the needs of such communities that embrace a life of evangelical poverty for our sake and who depend on our generosity. Hearing the Holy Father's request, perhaps we should consider making a gift to this community?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

State of the Ordinariate Address in the USA

The following video is of the Ordinary of the Chair of St Peter, Mgr Steenson, giving the "State of the Ordinariate" address to the US Conference of Bishops. It is followed by questions asked by bishops. It is well worth watching.

The least surprising headline!

"Pope's third book on Jesus reaffirms virgin birth"

Surely this has to be the least surprising headline around at the moment?

Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary Georg Ganswein poses with a copy of the Pope's book "The Childhood of Jesus" during a presentation in Vatican November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi Devotees of Pope Benedict's two volumes on Jesus of Nazareth will be pleased to hear of the publishing of the third and final volume: The infancy narratives: Jesus of Nazareth.

No doubt it will be another international bestseller, but there will be no prizes for guessing that the Holy Father supports the teaching of the church, i.e. he supports the truth of the Virgin Birth!

 More here. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Brethren denied charity status over communion


From the Christian Institute: The right of churches to decide for themselves who may attend Holy Communion is being challenged by the Charity Commission. The Commission has refused to register a Plymouth Brethren group because its Holy Communion services are for members only. This would have a huge impact on the group’s tax relief and would also have other implications.

Elders from the Plymouth Brethren gave evidence on the matter to a parliamentary select committee last week.During the evidence a letter from the Commission’s head of legal services emerged claiming that churches cannot be assumed to be acting for the public good. It said: “This decision makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England.”...

Talk about confusion...


Colleen Francis made himself right at home in the locker room at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. The forty-five year-old student showered, used the sauna and walked around naked in front of the other people using those facilities.

Now if you’re having trouble squaring the name “Colleen” with the male pronoun “himself,” you’re not the only one. Those present in the locker room also had trouble with the combination that the locker room in question was the women’s room and “Colleen” is anatomically a male.

Thus when he showers, sits in the sauna, and walks around naked, Francis is exposing himself not only to his fellow students but students from local high schools and families who also use the college’s swimming pool and locker room. Thus, among the females he has exposed himself to are minors, some as young as six.
If you’re wondering, “Why doesn’t someone stop Francis,” well, they tried to, and that’s when the story became surreal. The swimming coach from the local high school and the mother of one of the team members called the police. When the police arrived Francis informed them that he was a transsexual and that, under Washington State law, he was entitled to use the women’s locker room.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, well, it worked. The coach apologized and the college informed parents that state law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “gender expression or identity,” tied their hands. The best they could do was to provide screens for those made “uncomfortable” by Francis’ presence.

See all the article here

The examples of Faith from the two widows

Fr Ian writes:
As we imagine the scene at the treasury of the Temple, we ought to try to imagine perhaps someone giving to the Church, perhaps our congregation today. How would we respond if someone walked in and dropped in a fat cheque? How would our response differ to, say, a child putting in their week's pocket money? Would we treat them differently? I suggest most of us would.

The truth our Lord reveals is that God sees things very differently. Our Lord would assess any gift on the basis of the degree of sacrifice involved, and the degree of generosity. St John Chrysostom, commenting on this said, “Our Lord paid no attention to the amount of money but only to the abundance of her generosity.” What the Lord looks for is our generosity. So it might be a worthwhile exercise imagining our Lord watching us as we give – what would he say of us? Well the truth is, that our Lord knows the secrets of our hearts now, and He is aware of the truth of the matter. There is perhaps nothing like the issue of money to crystallize our commitment to something.

Central in this concern for generosity is what we might call today 'detachment'. How detached are we from our wealth? To what extent are we ruled by our wealth? How free do we feel towards our wealth – beyond providing for our basic needs? How much of a hold does our wealth have over us?

The Beatitudes of the gospel call us to blessedness through being 'poor in spirit'. This isn't to do with whether we are economically poor or not, but how detached we are to our wealth. Blessedness, or eternal happiness or joy, is reached through a detachment to wealth.

People become attached to wealth because they believe it can provide them with the security they need. This is in fact the opposite to the Christian way. For a Christian finds security not in material possessions but in Christ. The Christian does not build up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can corrupt, but builds up treasure in heaven. It might seem we can buy security and happiness, but sooner or later we must all learn that we cannot take it with us! Christ alone can give us eternal happiness (which is what blessedness is) and eternal security (which is salvation) ; we in fact depend on His great generosity bestowed on us – He asks us to be as generous with others.

So the issue we are addressing is not just to do with how much we give to Church, but the attitude of our hearts. Do we have hearts formed by habits of miserliness, that is grudging, or that is over cautious? Because this will not only affect the way we give money, but also the way in which we give ourselves to Christ. How wholeheartedly have we given ourselves to Christ? How much have we held back? How generous are we in giving our lives, our time, our energy to Christ? If He stood before us in bodily flesh would you give all, or be reserved? Are there no-go areas in our lives, where we are not prepared for Christ to enter?

These are the things that matter in the Kingdom of God. What matters to God is not the quantity but the quality of the spirit in which we give. Do we give as generously, as He has given to us?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Saint Ralph Sherwin


St. Ralph Sherwin

English martyr, born 1550 at Rodesley, near Longford, Derbyshire; died at Tyburn, 1 December, 1581. In 1568 Sir William Petre nominated him to one of the eight fellowships which he had founded at Exeter College, Oxford, probably acting under the influence of the martyr's uncle, John Woodward, who from 1556 to 1566 had been rector of Ingatestone, Essex, where Sir William lived. There Blessed Ralph took the degree of M.A., 2 July, 1574, and was accounted "an acute philosopher, and an excellent Grecian and Hebrician". In 1575 he fled abroad and went to the English College at Douai, where 23 March, 1577, he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Cambrai. On 2 August, 1577, he left for Rome, where he stayed at the English College nearly three years, becoming leader of the movement, which placed it under the supervision of the Jesuits. On 18 April, 1580, he set out for England, a member of a party of fourteen; at Milan they were guests of St. Charles for eight days, and Blessed Ralph preached before him. On 9 November, 1580, he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he converted many fellow prisoners, and on 4 December was transferred to the Tower, where he was severely racked, 15 December, and afterwards laid out in the snow. The next day he was racked again, after which second torture he "lay for five days and nights without any food or speaking to anybody. All which time he lay, as he thought in a sleep, before our Saviour on the Cross. After which time he came to himself, not finding any distemper in his joints by the extremity of the torture." After a year's imprisonment he was brought to trial, on an absurd charge of treasonable conspiracy, in Westminster Hall 20 November, 1581, and being found guilty was taken back to the Tower, whence he was drawn to Tyburn on a hurdle shared by Blessed Alexander Briant. He suffered very bravely, his last words being, Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus!

Music in the liturgy for our sanctification

Monday, 5 November 2012

Faith in God is the Christian response to death

The commandment to Love

 The Commandment to Love

Throughout the history of the Old Testament, Israel was able to discover that God only had one reason to reveal Himself to them. They discovered only one motive for God to choose them from among the peoples as His special people. And that reason, and that motive, was sheer, gratuitous love.

It was out of love that God never stopped saving them and pardoning their unfaithfulness and sins. Ultimately it is the reason for His greatest gift: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

This is of course our perspective with hindsight, it wasn't necessarily the perspective of all Jews at the time of our Lord. When therefore a scribe asks a question of Jesus and asks what is the first commandment, and Jesus gives the commandment to love, it wasn't necessarily an answer that everyone would have agreed with. So Jesus commends the Scribe for recognising this fundamental reality. While every Jew no doubt recognised the necessity of loving God with all one's heart and soul and strength; not everyone would have understood that this also implies love of all human beings. And even the suggestion that we should love our neighbour, could have meant to only love fellow Jews. For Christ however it is clear that the love of neighbour means, the love of everyone, even our enemies.

St John, in his epistle, goes even further, when he says that God is love. God's very being is love. In time the Church would say that God is an eternal exchange of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, calling this Trinity. God's very being is not solitary, is not aloneness – God's being is trinitarian, a perfect interchange of three Persons in perfect relation, in perfect love.

Some might say that this is all very fine, what a nice image of God, but does it make any difference? It could all remain theoretical, unless we also acknowledge that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. This is a fundamental principle for Jews and Christians. What we believe about God has a direct effect on the way we understand human beings and how we behave towards one another. Being made in the image and likeness of God, and God being an eternal interchange of love, means that for human beings our destiny is an eternal interchange of love. We are made out of love, we are made for love, to be loved, to give love, to find meaning in love and to worship our God who is perfect love, and walk the path that leads to eternal love.

So the commandments are summed up in two of the commandments from the Law of Moses, but both are bound up together: the love of God and the love of neighbour. Unless we love God with all our heart, soul and strength, that is with our whole being, we will not know who God is. For God can only be approached by love. We do not grow closer to God by walking. We grow closer to God, and know God, through love. And we cannot truly say we love God, if we do not love our neighbour, love all those who are made in the image of God. The two are bound up together.

Love, then is the very heart or core of our Faith. St Paul tells us that of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the greatest is love. The three virtues Faith, Hope and Love are the three crucial things we must grow in to make us fit for Heaven, but the greatest, as St Paul says, is Love.

Finally we have to of course remember that love is not just sentiment – Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he give up his life for his friends.” We are called to give up our lives for love, out of love, in love for this is the nature of the Trinity – each Person gives all for the sake of the other. God empties Himself to be born in human flesh. And we are called to do the same. Our Lady, the first disciple, emptied herself in order to respond in love – Be it unto me according to thy will. And likewise are we called to empty ourselves for love. Amen.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Fr Baron reflecting on his visit to England

Fr Robert Baron reflects on his visit to England and draws out the importance of religious liberty which both Protestants and Catholics are having to defend against a secularising culture.

Monday, 15 October 2012

What a fantastic weekend in Maryvale!

Sacred Heart Window

I have just had a weekend at the Maryvale Institute, and what a wonderful and hopeful experience it was.

The Maryvale Institute is an international catholic distance-learning college for catechesis, theology, philosophy and religious eduction. Maryvale House was for a time the home of Blessed John Henry Newman, and also a shrine of the Sacred Heart.

I stayed at Maryvale for what seems on the face of it the most dreary of reasons: a research methodology course. This is a requirement for the MA in Pastoral Theology that I am studying.

So what was so incredible about the weekend? It was the people and the place.

The Institute is international, and around fifty of us gathered, not just from England, but other parts of the world. There were about a dozen priests, religious sisters, a monk, and lots of enthusiastic lay people. It was a joy to meet them! How wonderful and stimulating it is to be with people who are so fired up by their faith. Fired up, but also willing to study with rigour. It was also very apparent that it was not a place just for the 'intellectual type', if you know what I mean. It was not a group of people who just liked intellectual challenges and could have done an MA in anything, but ordinary people who wanted to make the effort of deepening their understanding of the faith. And Maryvale helps us to do that. It was a glimpse of the wider church, of diverse people with many different gifts and character, all pulling together and supporting one another, and all searching for what God wanted them to be doing in His Church.

Maryvale House is also a very special place to be. I suspect there are two reasons for this. First that Blessed John Henry Newman lived and prayed there for a number of years. The altar in the chapel was where Newman celebrated his first mass in England after ordination in Rome. The aims and objectives of the Institute fit in very well with Newman's vision that I am confident that this is because of his prayer. The second reason it is a special place is because the Bridgettine nuns who live there and provide hospitality are also contemplatives. Their prayer, at the heart of the house, means it is a real living house of prayer. They sing their offices beautifully and showed wonderful care for us all. There is beauty and joy at the heart of the house.
And now we have heard (Dr Carolyn Farey received message from pope) that one of the member's of staff, Dr Carolyn Farey, received a message from the Holy Father himself on behalf of all those who transmit the faith! A tremendous honour for her, but also one for the Institute and its work. Her colleague, Dr Petroc Willey, is also in Rome as one of the other 'experts' working with the bishops on this Synod about New Evangelisation.

Caroline Farey in RomeAs you can tell I would recommend the Maryvale Institute for anyone who wants to deepen their faith. There are all sorts of distance learning courses ; why not look at the website and see if there is one for you? Maryvale website

There will also be an opportunity early in November for people to meet with Carolyn as she will be visiting Torbay. More details soon.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Pope Benedict XVI 'Being tepid is the greatest danger to Christians'

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass to open the synod yesterday (Photo: CNS)
Pope Benedict XVI has said that to evangelise means to help people understand that God himself has responded to their questions, and that his response – the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ – is available to them as well.
Our role in the new evangelisation is to cooperate with God,” the Pope told more than 260 cardinals, bishops and priests who are members of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation. “We can only let people know what God has done.

In a 21-minute, off-the-cuff reflection during morning prayer at the synod’s opening session today, Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of prayer in the Church’s push for a new evangelisation, the meaning of evangelisation, and sharing the Gospel through both proclamation and charity.

The Pope examined the use of the word “evangelion”, the Greek term that is the root of the English word “evangelisation”, and which is itself translated as “Gospel”. In the Book of Isaiah, he noted, the Hebrew equivalent of the word describes “the voice that announces a victory, that announces goodness, joy and happiness”, transmitting the message that “God has not forgotten his people”, and that he intervenes with power in history to save them. In the New Testament, the Pope said, “evangelion” is the good news of the incarnation of Christ, the coming of God’s son into the world to save humanity.

For the people of Israel suffering under Roman rule, it was truly good news that God spoke to his people and came to live among them, the Pope said. News of Jesus’s birth was the answer to those who questioned whether there really was a God; whether he knew his people and the circumstances of their lives; and whether he had any power to change their situation.

People today have the same questions, the Pope said: “Is God a reality or not? Why is he silent?” When Christians evangelise, they must remember that their “faith has content”, and that what they believe and seek to share with others is outlined in the Creed, he said. They must use their intelligence to reflect on the tenets of their faith and use their mouths to proclaim it. Because faith isn’t an abstract notion, Christians also must live their faith and share it with the world through acts of charity and love, the Pope said.

Being tepid is the greatest danger for Christians,” he said. “We pray that faith becomes like a fire in us and that it will set alight others.

The synod formally opened on 7th with a Mass in St Peter’s Square. During his homily, Pope Benedict said that the “Church exists to evangelise” by sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard of Christ, strengthening the faith of those who already have been baptised and reaching out to those who “have drifted away from the Church”.

At various times in history,” he said, “divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in the church’s evangelising activity”, as happened, for example, with the evangelisation of the Americas beginning late in the 15th century. “Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the good news,” the Pope said.

The modern effort to proclaim salvation in Christ to the modern world found “a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council”, which opened 50 years ago on Thursday, October 11.

The Pope said the synod was dedicated to helping people strengthen their faith and to helping those who have drifted away “encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life”.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Maryvale experts responsible for Catechesis on family and on the Catechism

First thing on Tuesday morning members of Maryvale’s Catechetical team attended Mass in the grottos of St Peter’s amidst the tombs of the Popes on the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman.  This was taken as a great blessing on the work of Maryvale at the Synod and into the future.

The big news we have from the Synod is that the experts were allocated their areas of responsibility, in particular which paragraphs of the Synod’s documents they are responsible for.

Dr Caroline Farey is responsible for para 111, Catechesis on the Family, the transmission of the faith in the family.  Dr Petroc Willey is responsible the paragraph dealing with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its use.

In practice, this means that Petroc and Caroline have to listen to the 45 or so interventions made by the Bishops each day and note any reference, comment, suggest, that relates to their paragraphs.  At the end of each day Caroline and Petroc have to write a one page summary of the most important points made about the Catechesis on the Family and the Catechism of the Church.

(Last week Dr Caroline Farey gave a day of lectures at Buckfast Abbey to the Ordinariate Clergy.)

Pope: Homily for Synod opening


 On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation open during the celebration of Mass in St. Peter’s Square before a congregation of thousands. During Mass, he also proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church.
Below the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily, Sunday October 7th, 2012:

 With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforced by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I give a cordial and grateful welcome to you who have come to be part of the Synodal Assembly, in particular to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and to his colleagues. I salute the fraternal delegates of the other churches and ecclesial communities as well as all present, inviting them to accompany in daily prayer the deliberations which will take place over the next three weeks.
The readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word propose to us two principal points of reflection: the first on matrimony, which I will touch shortly; and the second on Jesus Christ, which I will discuss now. We do not have time to comment upon the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews but, at the beginning of this Synodal Assembly, we ought to welcome the invitation to fix our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, “crowned with glory and honour, because of the suffering of death (2:9). The word of God places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery. In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace. I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelization, and its relation to ordinary evangelization and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania. It is against this dynamic background that I like to look at the two radiant figures that I have just proclaimed Doctors of the Church, Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific “branches” developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other. 

The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelization is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). The saints are the true actors in evangelization in all its expressions. In a special way they are even pioneers and bringers of the new evangelization: with their intercession and the example of lives attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they show the beauty of the Gospel to those who are indifferent or even hostile, and they invite, as it were tepid believers, to live with the joy of faith, hope and charity, to rediscover the taste for the word of God and for the sacraments, especially for the bread of life, the Eucharist. Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians. Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life. 

At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church.

This summary of the ideal in Christian life, expressed in the call to holiness, draws us to look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelization and to recognizing the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion. The best path to the new evangelization is to let ourselves be reconciled with God and with each other (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). Solemnly purified, Christians can regain a legitimate pride in their dignity as children of God, created in his image and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and they can experience his joy in order to share it with everyone, both near and far.Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust the work of the Synod meeting to God, sustained by the communion of saints, invoking in particular the intercession of great evangelizers, among whom, with much affection, we ought to number Blessed John Paul II, whose long pontificate was an example of the new evangelization. Let us place ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization. With her let us invoke a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that from on high he may illumine the Synodal assembly and make it fruitful for the Church’s way ahead.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)