Friday, 5 July 2013

Lumen Fidei - an encyclical from Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

Today was all about two Popes! (1) Pope Francis & retired Pope Benedict were together consecrating the Vatican to St Michael the Archangel ; (2) An announcement was made that two Beatified Popes (Bl John XXIII and John Paul II) will be canonised ; and (3) An encyclical was given to the Church from Pope Francis the fruit of the writing of two Popes! What a wonderful day!

You can download the encyclical here for free in a number of formats.

St Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of trouble

An Evangelical Preacher arrested in Wimbledon because someone is "offended"

Tony Miano, was arrested by Police on the streets of Britain because he had "offended" onlookers when he had said that sexual immorality was a sin, and had listed homosexual behaviour as sinful. An onlooker phoned the Police and he was arrested! This is an example of where we have come to in Britain today! If people are offended when we name homosexual behaviour a sin in public, then we can be arrested?

While this sort of street preaching is not my style, nor a strategy that I think is effective, I do defend the right of people to be able to preach on our streets. And of course if indeed someone is inciting others to hatred then that is wrong. But how is simply stating what one believes to be sin, offensive? It is quite incredible where we come to in Britain and to actually see it on the screen:

Watch from 8 minutes in if you do not like the music, and to hear his teaching about sexual immorality that is so offensive.

Mr Miano was later questioned in custody, but an inspector later determined not to proceed, and he was later released from custody. One of the peculiar things that happened was that he was handed a Bible while he was in his cell!

The Telegraph reported it here

The Archbishop Cranmer blog gives a transcript of the police interview here

The Vatican is consecrated to St Michael the Archangel

How wonderful to see our Pope and the Pope Emeritus together again!

(Vatican Radio) To the joy of Vatican City State workers, Friday morning Pope Francis was joined by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the gardens for a ceremony during which the Holy Father blessed a statue of St Michael Archangel, at the same time consecrating the Vatican to the Archangel’s protection.

Following a brief ceremony, Pope Francis addressed those present noting how St. Michael defends the People of God from its enemy par excellence, the devil. He said even if the devil attempts to disfigure the face of the Archangel and thus the face of humanity, St Michael wins, because God acts in him and is stronger:
"In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael - which means "Who is like God" - is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him. "

"We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day. "

Text from page vaticanradio
of the Vatican Radio website

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

"Strange notions" dialogue with Atheists

This blog, dedicated to intelligent debate between atheists and believers, has been set up by a young Catholic blogger, Brandon Vogt, and looks well worth following especially if you are fed up with the heated debates which do not seem to get us anywhere. Here is the introductory trailer:

You can find the blog here:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

"We just have to keep living the truth and teaching it to our children."

Sweet Basil Diner

This is a heart-warming blogpost, and probably the most important point, for parents especially, are the last two sentences.

From Stacy Transancos' blog (on science, theology and mountain life):

The two lifelong friends chatted in the booth of the Sweet Basil Diner, with their mothers and siblings, anticipating waffles and chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancakes.

“What should we name our first born?” They agreed on “Bacon.”

In the years they’d known each other they’d gone from wanting a million babies, to hoping for ten, or six, or four. It wasn’t a fixed number. They just knew they wanted babies, and lots of them. They’d discussed what type of business to run, and had even started to plan a honeymoon. Disney World? Permission from the little girl’s father had been asked, but not yet granted. Someday.

The little boy had called her his “life” for as long as the two could converse. He’d made it known early and had never wavered. Of course by “life” he meant “wife”, but what’s the difference? He’d worried she’d meet someone else, she’d worried whether she could get married sooner than eighteen. And so they had planned, still do plan, and plan to plan some more. How could she find anyone better? No one else in the world has called her his “life” since she was three years old.

It breaks my heart to think that even as I write this sweet little story, there are people who would reel at parents entertaining such a notion. They’re so young! What if they don’t marry? That’s not the point; the point is, they know what marriage is.

Some would say that parents should be teaching them about finishing college and dating enough people, or that having lots of children is selfish on this overpopulated planet. Others would shame the parents for promoting patriarchy and misogyny, teaching a boy to be controlling and a girl to sell herself short so she can be a breeding machine. There are even some who would say that such parents teach these kids a false and bigoted idea of marriage, that there is no inherent difference in a male and female, that marriage is not really about a man and a woman planning to be a father and a mother. Whatever.

No matter what disordered things people say, children know the truth and if that truth is allowed to bloom, they won’t grow up to forget it. Marriage cannot die, for it lives in the hearts of children with mothers and fathers who love them. We don’t always have to win arguments or win court cases. We just have to keep living the truth and teaching it to our children. They’ll take it from there.

The Reform of Catholic Worship

There has been a conference in Rome on the Liturgy at which our Ordinary delivered an address, and at which he was presented with a pectoral cross for his work for the Church. The following video encourages us to improve the Novus Ordo liturgy to make it more mystical and therefore also more appropriate for evangelisation.

As Fr Ed says on his blog, commenting on the words of Prof Tracey Rowland, that beauty is extremely important not only for ourselves (it guards againsts worship becoming boring) but also because it speaks a language of the heart to those who do not yet believe. Experience of beautiful and mystical worship has an effect that transcends human words and thoughts.

She said, “To evangelise post-modern people [the Christian narrative] has to appear to be something starkly different from the secular culture they imbibe which is a culture parasitic upon the Christian tradition but completely decadent.” This is something we have to really face up to in the Church. The assumption held by so many at the moment is that 'we need to be like the culture we live in' in order to attract. But the opposite appears to be the case. Where there is growth, whether in religious orders or new ecclesial movements, it is where people do not fear to live the Faith counter-culturally. 

Sri Lankan Cardinal, Malcolm Ranjith, spoke to Catholic News Service about the need for mystery in worship:

One of the things we need to overcome is our personal tastes in worship. Whether we like folk music, rock, classical, jazz or blues, the Church's worship is not the place for it. Copying musical forms from the world and importing them to Christian worship may seem a strategy to 'bring people in' but it does not work. The Church never does this sort of music as well as the world does it! So it always sounds wrong. Whereas the Church has its own music which is totally different to all the different forms found in the world. It sounds different. It works differently. And it is solidly based in the faith of the Church for centuries and centuries. It is also the form of music recommended most heartily by the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium) - Gregorian Chant. This is not an issue about taste, it is about worshipping in the way the Church recommends - which means it is the way the Holy Spirit guides us. It is also counter-cultural and has the capacity to attract and protect the mystery of worship.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Recommended Summer Reading

I recommend the following for members of the Ordinariate this summer. 

1. "Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony - The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham" (Gracewing) - available through amazon.
This book is by Fr Aidan Nichols, OP, of course! He is a great friend to Ordinariate and not least in his vision of the Ordinariate in the evangelisation of England. Here in this little book he sets out the history leading up to the formation of the Ordinariate, Pope Benedict's vision, the problem of the Liturgy and the Mission. It is a slim volume (82pp) with fairly large print so can be tackled even by the reluctant reader.

2. "The Realm - An unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England" (St Pauls, 2010)  
- available through amazon
If you liked Fr Aidan's book above then I recommend you then read this book, which puts it all in a slightly larger framework. It is very readable and combines an historical analysis of our culture and suggestions for the strategies of Evangelisation.

3. "Evangelical Catholicism - deep reform in the 21st century church"
This is George Weigels new book which elaborates on his thesis that the Church has moved into a new era in which the evangelisation strategy of Counter-reformation Catholicism no longer is appropriate nor effective. He discerns that what is needed is Evangelical Catholicism which he explains in detail in the book. Again it is available through amazon. (I downloaded the Kindle version which only set me back £9.59 which is a bargain.) At 304 pages it is the longest read out of the three books but nevertheless well worth it.

Path to Unity involves Self-emptying

“Who do you say that I am?”

That there were different rumours surrounding Jesus' mission can hardly be surprising given the amazing affect He had upon people; whether it was through His healing, exorcism, or His teaching. It is a tribute to the Hebrew pysche that all these things led them to ask a question about Jesus' being. “Who is He?” not just “What can He do for me?” For they thought He might be “John the Baptist” or “Elijah” or another prophet. That the rumourmongers got it wrong does not take away they were asking the right question.

In our own age I wonder if the rumourmongers would ask that question – I fear that the majority would prefer “What can He do for me?” We live in a technological age where function is regarded above who we truly are. And according to the teaching of Bl Pope John Paul II this reveals a very significant fault-line. For utility is the opposite of love. Utility, or the priority of function over being, opposes real love. For real love is not about using someone. Love is divinely revealed to us most fully in the Incarnation – as St Paul put in his letter to the Philippians, “He did not cling to his equality with God but emptied Himself...” God shows that the epitomy of love is found in self-sacrifice – as our Lord echoed in His teaching that “greater love has no man than this, that he give up his life for his friends”.

And this is the basis, not only of the Incarnation of course, but the life of the persons of the Trinity. The three Persons of the Trinity exist together in unity not through using one another but by emptying themselves in Love. The Father so loves the world that He gives up His only Son. The Son has nothing of Himself but receives everything from the Father. And the Spirit teaches nothing of Himself but passes on all that the Father reveals to Him. This principle of love through self-emptying, being the basis of life in the Holy Trinity, means that it is the principle of love and life for us as well. This is because, human beings are made in the image of God, and now united with Christ, yearn for a life that is a life of self-emptying love – it is the way we are made. Our hearts remain restless until they find their rest in God the Trinity.

In contemplating the nature and vocation of the Ordinariate recently, I have been struck by how often this Trinitarian theme is realised in our life together. The path to real Christian unity, that is, full Communion, has involved us in self-emptying in various ways. We have had to empty ourselves of pride, and launch out into the deep in faith. We have had to leave behind securities and friendships. We have had to face criticism both from old Anglican friends but also some of our new Catholic friends. In receiving the teaching authority of the Catholic Church we have had to accept that, except for Baptism and Holy Matrimony, the sacraments of the Anglican Communion do not possess the fullness that we once thought they did, not least in our Confirmation and Ordination. We have had to accept the newness of the Ordinariate as our new home, that it is not fully formed yet and that many in the Catholic Church do not understand it nor see the excitement of the vision behind it. The very nature of the Ordinariate, alongside Dioceses, also witnesses to unity in diversity, that is based in our Trinitarian Faith. Just as the Persons of the Trinity remain in complete union with each other, they also retain their identity as unique Persons. Our identity as being of the Anglican Tradition has not been obliterated by absorption, so that we gradually lose our Anglican ways because inevitably there is little opportunity to live it out in a diocesan parish. All over the country Catholics that were formerly Anglican have come to Ordinariate worship or other events and said something along the lines, “O at last! How wonderful to be here! We have missed this so much!” Whether it is to do with hymnody, reverent worship, or the seeing of parish life as a community, there are good things missing from life in the Catholic Church that former Anglicans miss.

The origin of the Ordinariates is in the generosity of the then Pope Benedict who recognised that Anglicans had precious treasures which the Catholic Church could benefit from.

But we have realised not so much that we have treasures but that the Catholic Church has many more treasures for us. We have learned that being in the full Communion of the Catholic Church, in full Communion with the successor of Peter, far outweighs any gifts we can bring. That in the light of entering into full Communion we have received greater clarity of our Faith and a fuller reception of grace, than we had ever known before. Not of course that we reject everything we knew before, but in the light of being in full Communion we see more clearly the treasures we had as Anglicans and that sometimes we didn't realise we had them!

No doubt rumours abound about the Ordinariates, not least on the internet. Some might be positive, some negative. But we must not be disturbed by rumours. We must rest in who we are, by God's grace. We are members of the Ordinariate which is of the Holy Spirit. It is something much greater than any of us, or even the sum of us all. In St Paul's words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The Ordinariate is, I believe, God's initiative for the recovery of unity so that the Church can be more effective in its witness to the world. Let us then be confident and filled with joy for God has called us together for this work, and though the way of the Cross involves self-sacrifice, we know through experience, that self-emptying bears much more fruit than we can imagine. 
[A sermon preached on 23rd June 2013 - Trinity 4 C - by Fr Ian Hellyer]

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)