Saturday, 16 March 2013

Journalists, the Cardinals and the Devil

The Vilified

Today our new Pope spoke to a group of people I would not have guessed he would have spoken to: journalists... yikes!

Secular journalists are, on the whole, a vilified breed (at times justly so), some branches of the religious press we consider are even worse (they should know better), and just a few are decent religious journalists. For me, those of The Catholic Herald are some of the decent ones! But of course this vilifying is not of what did our Pope Francis do?

Many told us that Pope Francis is media shy, but today he granted an audience to over 5000 journalists and their families. Our Pope of surprises strikes again! Here are just a couple of quotes that are interesting:

We aren’t called to communicate about ourselves, but on this trinity of truth, goodness and beauty...
Your work needs study, sensibility, experience like all other professions, but needs to also give special attention to truth, goodness and beauty...

My ears pricked up because these themes are of course ones that our last holy Father emphasised time and time again, and are, I think, crucial in our understanding of the New Evangelisation. Inviting journalist to effectively be part of this work was a master-stroke.

Last summer my attention was drawn to these three 'transcendentals', as they are known, when we listened to Prof Tracey Rowland speak to us about the Ordinariate and the New Evangelisation. 

He also explained how he came to choose "Francis" and also the implications of this for the Church, especially our call to serve the poor.  ( For more go here.)

Cardinals at the Clementine Hall

I keep on returning to Pope Francis' talk to the Cardinals in the Clementine Hall. During it he spoke warmly of the spiritual patrimony of Pope Benedict XVI, and rightly pointed out that we will all continue to benefit from it. He drew attention to the action and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Conclave but also through all the work of the Church, reminding us that although the Paraclete gives us different charisms he also draws us together in unity. Where the Spirit is, there is harmony.

Pope Francis addresses the cardinals this morning

I also loved the way in which he acknowledged age in the company of Cardinals, but also said that like good wine, those who sit on the seat of wisdom need to pass this on to the young.

The full text can be found here.

The Devil
The other thing I've noticed is that our new Papa is not afraid to mention the Devil. Not that our previous Holy Fathers eschewed mentioning him, but it might be just me but it does seem the Devil has been mentioned several times. In the Clementine Hall he said:

Let us never give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil tempts us with every day. Let us not give into pessimism and let us not be discouraged. We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelise, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Christian truth is attractive and convincing because it responds to the deep need of human existence, announcing in a convincing way that Christ is the one Saviour of the whole of man and of all men. This announcement is as valid today as it was at the beginning of Christianity when the Church worked for the great missionary expansion of the Gospel.
These are wonderful words we shall need to keep reminding ourselves of. The Devil will of course be trying to have a go at anything that is building up the Church. While we know that the Devil cannot have final victory, nor that he will prevail over the Church, nevertheless we need to make sure that we keep up the prayer, as our Holy Father keeps inviting us to do.

We could do much worse than try to follow Pope Francis' lead and pray the Rosary each day - or as much of it as our circumstances will allow.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Quotes from Pope Francis

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Photo: CNS)
Pope Francis photographed when a cardinal

The Catholic Herald has done a fabulous job of collecting together some quotations from our new Pope, which are well worth reflecting upon.

As one might expect there is some very mixed coverage of our new Pope. The worst of it based probably on slender evidence. I would appeal therefore for people to ponder words that he has actually said.

The other important factor is that we need to remember the conclave was not a political event/activity, it was a spiritual one. So we need to remember that the Holy Spirit has a significant hand in all this. Beware going against the Spirit of God!

In his own words:

Speaking to Vatican Insider last month:
Benedict XVI has insisted on the renewal of faith being a priority and presents faith as a gift that must be passed on, a gift to be offered to others and to be shared as a gratuitous act. It is not a possession, but a mission…

We need to come out of ourselves and head for the periphery. We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But is the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one…
We seek to make contact with families that are not involved in the parish. Instead of just being a Church that welcomes and receives, we try to be a Church that comes out of itself and goes to the men and women who do not participate in parish life, do not know much about it and are indifferent towards it. We organise missions in public squares where many people usually gather: we pray, we celebrate mass, we offer baptism which we administer after a brief preparation. This is the style of the parishes and the diocese itself. Other than this, we also try to reach out to people who are far away, via digital means, the web and brief messaging…

The cardinalate is a service is, it is not an award to be bragged about. Vanity, showing off, is an attitude that reduces spirituality to a worldly thing, which is the worst sin that could be committed in the Church. This is affirmed in the final pages of the book entitled Méditation sur l’Église, by Henri De Lubac. Spiritual worldliness is a form of religious anthropocentrism that has Gnostic elements. Careerism and the search for a promotion come under the category of spiritual worldliness. An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth… Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them.

For more click here.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Habemus Papam! We have a Pope!

His Holiness Pope Francis

Thank you Heavenly Father for our new Pope.
The Ordinariate in the Southwest pledge our prayers and support.

A momentous day, with the election of the first Jesuit as pope, the first Latin American pope, the first pope from the southern hemisphere and the first non-European for 1,200 years, the first chemist pope and the first Pope Francis.

Family and evangelisation

Last Saturday I went to the Westminster Diocese' day conference on the Family and Evangelisation. The principal speaker was Bishop Laflitte, who is Secretary to the Pontifical Council for the Family. Here is his address:

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Conclave has begun! Let us pray!

Embedded image permalink

After a very solemn procession of Cardinal electors making their Oaths before God and on the Gospels, the doors of the Sistine Chapel have now been closed, and the time of prayer, discernment and decision has come to our fathers, the Cardinals of the Holy Catholic Church.

The Conclave has begun!
Let us pray, let us pray!

Catholic Herald Conclave page

Vatican Player

ROME REPORTS  Youtube channel

Fr Ian Hellyer

Also an article well worth reading as it is so refreshing coming from the secular media: Julie Etchingham on ITV News at Ten .

Monday, 11 March 2013

Laetare Sunday - The Parable of the Two Sons

Mass begins each week with a verse from Sacred Scripture. Mother Church provides this for us, for our nourishment – although in recent decades we have commonly replaced it with a hymn or a ditty or something. I make a point when I reflect on the readings for a homily, to begin with that verse. Mother Church provides it for our nourishment, why should we neglect it as if she would give us something we do not need? And this Sunday, which we call Laetare Sunday, begins with “Laetare” - which in English is, “Rejoice”.

Rejoice Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.

It is a beautiful verse from Isaiah calling on us to rejoice with our mother the Church, and to drink from her 'consoling breast', that is to joyfully feed from that which she provides for us.

So we come to our mother the Church joyfully for food. And what food does she provide for us today?

We are fed today with possibly what is the literary highpoint of gospel writing; what we call generally the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Unfortunately by calling it that name, we reveal a lot about ourselves, because by prioritising one of the sons and side-lining the other, we kind of say that really the parable is about the very wicked son; and the other son, well, he's just a bit grumpy. In fact the parable is the parable of the two sons. Both sons represent immature ways of relating to God (to quote the Pope emeritus). It is very important that we realise that both are wrong; both are sinful but in very different ways; both are immature but in very different ways.

The first son thinks he knows best. He doesn't want to hang around at home wasting his time, so he commits a dreadful sin. He dishonours his father; he demands his inheritance there and then: he effectively says, I wish you were dead. This is an incredibly wicked thing to do and would have seemed even more wicked at the time of Jesus. It would have been the height of disrespect. And then, he travels to a foreign land and his life then dissipates in dissolute living, until eventually he has nothing. His fall is very great, but it has the virtue of shaking him up and brings him at last to his senses. He now realises his sin. He exemplifies the folly of rebellion. He is immature through rebellion. He goes against his father to the very extreme, and then falls, and then repents.

The second son, who has remained at home and who has not disrespected his father, who has been obedient, who has not lived a dissolute life, who has worked steadily at home, is nevertheless equally immature in his relationship with the father. His obedience is childish. He thinks himself superior. He doesn't remain at home out of love, he remains at home to be different to his brother, to be better than his brother... And we can see that he has become filled with pride. When his brother returns, he is not pleased at his brother's repentance (unlike his father). The elder son is envious. He is sorrowful at another person's good. He is immature. He is full of his own merits.

We call the parable the prodigal son because, partly at least, we would rather not hear the second part about the elder son. In fact, the elder son, despite the fact he has not sinned in obvious ways, he has not sinned in lurid or scandalous ways, he has not publicly humiliated himself, despite all this, he is in fact in a much more difficult sinful position. He doesn't believe he needs forgiveness. It is clear now that this parable is a warning to the religious, the pious, to those who practice their religion meticulously, who are careful not to cause scandal … but are doing it out of childish obedience.

This parable is perhaps the highpoint of gospel literature not least because it announces the truly astounding love of the Father. The Father's love is greater than our wretchedness – the parable portrays this very, very beautifully, with wonderful detail. The bit which I love is when it says “while he was still far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity...” An extremely moving and touching detail. The father sees him coming and goes out to meet him. You can sense in this the enormous compassion and eagerness to have his son return home.

The Father's love though, is greater also than our own merits. For us to enter into a mature relationship with God we need to appreciate that we can do absolutely nothing to earn His love for us. Very beautifully the father says to the elder son, “My son”, despite the atrocious thing the elder son said, “all these years I have slaved for you!” How could it be slavery? It was slavery in the elder son's heart! But tenderly the father draws him out of his anger, pride and envy, and says “all I have is yours”. To enter into a mature relationship with the Father is not loss of freedom (i.e. slavery) but in truth the greatest freedom of all.

As we grow in maturity in relationship to our heavenly Father, we grow to love obeying Him and His commands, it gives us delight, in fact it gives us joy. Today is Laetare/rejoice Sunday and we rejoice because we know our Father in Heaven. Our Father has created us out of free, unselfish, love, and has created us to be free – that is with a conscience that suffers when we get lost, and is joyful when we return.

The world has twisted our notion of freedom – that somehow we express our 'freedom' when we rebel and do our own thing, and sees obedience as a slavery, as the elder brother did. What the world has done is to mix up freedom and license. Often the world is talking about licence to sin, rather than freedom! Christ Himself reveals to us that freedom is found through obedience to the Father who love us, and whom we freely and lovingly obey, and do so in joy. And that is where freedom is, in the joy. It is not in the knowledge that I can chose to sin if I want to! Sin is always slavery, is always misery and suffering in our conscience (however well it is hidden), and is far from freedom. To be free is to be in a mature relationship with the Father as His adopted sons and daughters, delighting in doing what He asks of us, delighting in lively virtues growing in us, and not being afraid. That is freedom and that is living in love and that is what causes us to Laetare/Rejoice. IH

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)