Friday, 3 April 2015

The very crux of our faith - the movement of the biggest story of all

On this Good Friday we enter into the greatest of mysteries and the very crux of our faith. And it is about the triumphant movement of the biggest story of all – the story of the human race. 

In the origins of the human race we were created in goodness and love. Originally God made us in His own image and likeness. We lived in complete harmony and freedom. Made with freedom to love or not love, we were tested and alas failed the test. Satan tempted Eve, and then after Eve had fallen, she tempted Adam who also fell. Our ancient human ancestors fell from grace and innocence. The consequences of this fall were sin and death. We now did not freely delight in doing the good; instead we delighted in doing what was wrong. All the children and descendants of Adam and Eve suffer from this. And the fruit of this is all the evil we see in the world.

And we all inherit from our ancestors this propensity towards sin, which means in the end, death (real eternal death).  And so of course we need saving – we really, really need salvation, because, otherwise, all there is, is death for eternity (that’s what we call hell). So we need lifting up from this original sin and all our sins.  And the story of our salvation is a movement. It is a movement of descending and ascending, as St Paul puts so beautifully in his Philippian hymn (Phil 2:1-12).  God descends and becomes Man, that by our union with Him, we might ascend from our fallen state, and enjoy everlasting life (which is what we call heaven). 

That sounds great until we realise the price of the descending.  For the healing to happen, Christ must enter obediently into the heart of our problem. The heart of our problem is sin. The only perfect, good man must submit Himself to become the victim of injustice, hatred, untruth, disobedience and evil – the whole gamut of our fallen nature – that He might enter even into death itself.  By facing death in obedience, in truth, in righteousness, in total goodness and in perfect love, He is able to conquer death; to conquer evil; to conquer our fallen-ness; to conquer sin. This is how the victory occurs and it is wonderful but it is also awful at the same time.

Christ our God became the Priest and Sacrifice in the great Mass offered for us on the Cross, and His death, made present in every Mass thereafter, brings us the grace of this victory, and indeed the grace through all the Sacraments.

And so we rejoice this day in the Triumph of the Cross of our Saviour Jesus Christ.  We glory in His victory, yes bought at such an awful price, yet a wondrous and glorious and entirely complete triumph over sin, death and evil.  Our Enemy is defeated and we rejoice! It is truly a Good day.

Fr Ian

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Can it ever be a bad thing for a Catholic to receive the Eucharist?

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” 1 Cor 11:27

I remember talking to a group about how to prepare to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, when someone said that surely it was never a bad thing to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist? Well St Paul disagrees! The offending Corinthians were guilty of overeating, drunkenness and discrimination against the poor. This was sufficient for them to be in a state of mortal sin and therefore the act of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ became an act of sacrilege and self-condemnation. So indeed there are circumstances when receiving the Lord in the Eucharist is a gravely immoral act.

St John Chrysostom says, in his commentary on Corinthians, that receiving the Lord unworthily is an act equivalent to the soldiers who crucified our Lord! They spilled His precious blood but did not drink it. His blood was made to pour forth but it was not for the Eucharist.

So how do we make sure we are not like the crucifiers of Jesus by receiving the Eucharist unworthily? The simple answer is that we need to take seriously our preparation for the Eucharist. And the bottom line is that if we are aware that we have committed grave sin then we should not receive the Eucharist until we have gone to confession. This is the teaching of the church.

St Paul reckoned that sinning in this sacrilegious way resulted in the Corinthians received divine judgement through their weakness, sickness and in some instances even death (1 Cor 11:30).

On this day when the Church celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, let us renew our practice of preparing ourselves to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Let us examine ourselves and if our conscience convicts us of grave sin then let us refrain from receiving the Eucharist as an act of love towards our Lord, and let us hasten to the confessional to be reconciled and enter into the joy of the Lord.

Thanks be to God for His inestimable Gift.

Fr Ian

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Anointed with costly ointment

Jesus had been anointed with the costly ointment, oil of nard, by Mary of Bethany*. When that had occurred some of the disciples, and in particular Judas Iscariot, had complained that this was an over the top gesture towards Jesus. The cost of such ointment was estimated at over 200 denarii – and we get an idea of how expensive that was if we realise that 1 denarius was the day’s wage for the average worker. So the ointment of nard cost the wages of a worker for 200 days. So Judas and some of the others rebuked Mary for “wasting” this on Jesus, suggesting that it be sold and the money given to the poor.

The generosity of Mary reveals how much she values Jesus. For her, no gift is too much for her Lord and Saviour. This is in complete contrast to Judas Iscariot who not only betrays Jesus but does so for money. He only values Jesus at thirty pieces of silver, which is the price of a slave (Ex 21:32).

What do we give our Lord? How generous are we? Or are we grudging in our gifts? Perhaps we think our Lord does not need our gift, and there are better uses for it? There is a world of difference between the giving of Mary and Judas. So how willing are we to give generously to our Lord? Let us not give a gift like Judas.

Fr Ian

* Although Matthew does not reveal who anoints Jesus and merely says “a woman” (Mt 6:7), in John’s gospel we hear that it was Mary of Bethany who anointed Jesus, and it is primarily Judas Iscariot who objects.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Why has the Ordinariate bought a church when we already have plenty of Catholic Churches here?

This is a question that has been addressed in various ways to the Torbay Mission, after they began fundraising to buy a former Methodist chapel in Torbay. I would like to respond to this question and offer my own thoughts as an aid to understanding.

Just recently, I was at a study weekend and met there an American lady who asked how the Ordinariate was doing in this country. I explained that quite a number of Catholics had expressed their concern that we were buying property. She said that she thought that was strange. In her home town within one square mile are four catholic churches: an Eastern-rite Catholic church, a church run by Franciscans, a Church known as the Irish Church, and another known as the Italian Church. She said everyone understands we are in full communion with each other yet have different cultural expressions of our Catholicism, and even have a separate rite (as in the case of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church). In a way this is what the Ordinariate Church in Torbay will be; a different cultural expression of Catholicism, that will compliment not conflict with the existing provision.

Eastern Rite Catholic Bishops

I suggest that the Ordinariate needs to run churches in order to be able to fulfil its mandate and calling. This has already happened in the Archdiocese of Westminster and the Archdiocese of Southwark where parish churches have been handed over to the pastoral care of the Ordinariate. So the Ordinariate provides clergy and serves the local Catholics in their own distinctive manner. This has added to the diversity of what the Catholic Church offers the faithful.

The Ordinariate was established as a way of responding to the teaching of Vatican II in its documents on the Church and Ecumenism (Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio respectively). It is also a logical development of the work of dialogue (especially ARCIC). Amongst other things, in Lumen Gentium the Vatican II fathers addressed the issue of the status of bodies of Christians outside the full communion of the Catholic Church. The Council affirmed the three bonds of communion in the Church, namely the shared faith (guaranteed by the magisterium), the shared sacraments, and, the participation in the hierarchy of the Church (not least being in full Communion with the Successor of Peter). Separated Christian churches are Christian bodies that only partially share in those things. The Vatican II fathers recognised that separated Christians did have good things of grace and holiness in their lives as Christians. They also endorsed a form of ecumenism which would help our Christian brothers and sisters to grow in understanding Catholic truth, the fullness of which could only be found in the Catholic Church.

Building on the teaching of Vatican II, the official dialogue with Anglicans began with ARCIC. Over the years ARCIC met to discuss various matters of faith to try to find common ground and to understand more clearly our differences.

Significantly in their Common Declaration of 2 October 1989, Pope St John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie, added a further dimension when they stated in a common declaration:

Against the background of human disunity the arduous journey to Christian unity must be pursued with determination and vigour, whatever obstacles are perceived to block the path. We here solemnly recommit ourselves and those we represent to the restoration of visible unity and full ecclesial communion in the confidence that to seek anything less would be to betray our Lord's intention for the unity of his people. …The ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also about the sharing of gifts.
Ever since the reformation, individual Anglicans had sought to be restored to “visible unity and full ecclesial communion”. Perhaps in England one of the most well-known was Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman? But for some time groups of Anglicans have been petitioning the Holy Father for corporate reunion; to be united not as individuals but as a body. Not obviously the whole of the Church of England, but groups of Anglican clergy (including bishops) and their people. This is something the American Catholic Bishops responded favourably to in the 1990s with their Anglican use parishes (it has to be said that the English Bishops resisted this idea preferring that Anglicans be received individually). However Anglicans continued to petition the Holy Father for corporate reunion rather than individual reconciliation. As one former Anglican Bishop (now a monsignor) put it, “We asked for something Catholic (i.e. corporate reunion) and we had been only offered a Protestant answer (individual reunion)!” Eventually the Holy Father could no longer ignore the requests and he (Pope Benedict XVI) tasked the CDF with finding a way of responding positively. So after much secret discussions (with a number of Anglican bishops) the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, was published that enabled a new type of unit (known as a particular church) within the church where Anglican clergy and their people could come into the full communion of the Catholic Church, and yet retain their identity as groups.

Pope Benedict with Her Majesty during his Apostolic visit to England & Scotland

This retaining of their identity within the Ordinariate would enable members to respond to what Pope St John Paul II and Archbishop Runcie had expressed in their common declaration: “The ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also about the sharing of gifts.” The sharing of gifts now became a realistic possibility with the creation of the Ordinariates. It was now possible for Anglicans to become Catholic and to hold on to traditions that were compatible with Catholic magisterial teaching. These could include liturgical patrimony, pastoral practices, attitudes to mission, spiritual tradition etc. Not only could they find a home in the Catholic Church but from there they could be shared with their other Catholic brothers and sisters. This would be something to enrich the Catholic Church.

So you might begin to see how the Ordinariates are a fulfilment of the teaching of Vatican II without denying the errors of Protestantism declared in the Council of Trent. In the creation of the Ordinariates, mother Church has enabled groups of separated brethren to find a familiar home within the Catholic Church. She has called the Ordinariates to become a home from home for Anglicans who seek full communion. Of course she does this without compromising the three bonds of communion (faith, sacraments and communion with the Pope). Mother Church also gives more to Anglicans becoming Catholic, than they are able to bring with themselves, for she gives them the fullness of the grace available, the illumination of magisterial teaching and the communion of a truly universal Church. However the Ordinariates have a vision and a mission, and it is this that really requires them to be able to have distinctive church communities.

So when in Torbay the Methodists decided to sell off one of their chapels an opportunity arose. The market value was extremely reasonable and with the chapel came great facilities. The Torbay Ordinariate Mission saw in this opportunity a chance to be able to live out Anglicanorum Coetibus, the teaching of Vatican II on the church and ecumenism, and the various teachings and declarations by popes and Archbishops of Canterbury.

I would suggest therefore that local Catholics need not feel threatened or upset that Anglicans, who have become Catholic in the Ordinariate, have sought to fulfil their calling through the conversion of a Methodist Chapel into a Catholic Church of the Ordinariate.

This new Church will not be in competition with the Catholic Diocese but complimenting it through offering distinctive liturgy, a different approach to living as a Christian community and being a place where Anglicans can find a home from home. And in no way should anyone think that the Ordinariate is suggesting that all Catholics should be doing it this way, but simply there is room enough for a different and distinctive expression of Catholicism that is faithful to the magisterium of the Church, makes available the sacramental life of grace for all Catholics, and which is undoubtedly in full communion with the Holy Father.

As the Papal Nuncio reminded us at the Ordinariate’s Chrism Mass (2015), communion is a significant part of what the Ordinariate is about, and communion is the first stage of mission. We must grow in unity which is a gift of Christ and His prayer of Maundy Thursday. As Christ said at Easter, “As the Father sent me, so I send you”. Mission begins in the relationship between Christ and His Father, the communion of the Trinity. In the Trinity there is diversity of Persons within the complete unity of being, so also in the Church, there is legitimate diversity of expression within the unity of the Church, a unity of faith, sacraments and hierarchy.

Please then pray for the Ordinariate and support us in whatever way you can. We, clergy and people of the Ordinariate, have faith in this new way of doing ecumenism and the vision of Pope Benedict, and seek to fulfil it alongside our brothers and sisters in the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales. We delight to assist the dioceses of England and Wales in whatever way we can be helpful, but we also have a particular calling within the New Evangelisation, as part of the conversion of England under the name of Our Lady of Walsingham and under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Jesu mercy; Mary pray.

Fr Ian Hellyer
Pastor of the Buckfast Ordinariate Mission

Tuesday of Holy Week

Judas betrays with a kiss by Caravaggio

The darkness around Jesus grows as we hear today of the betrayal of Judas and the cowardice of Peter.

It is important for us to realise that Jesus is not powerless against the growing evil intentions around Him. He could, as He tells us later in the Gospel, summon legions of angels to defend Himself. It is important for us to realise that Jesus chooses not to summon legions of angels; He chooses not to use force, of any kind, to defend Himself against the various attacks that are coming His way.

This can seem strange to us. We think it an obvious thing to use one’s power to defend oneself and avoid evil. But of course that is to think of just one’s self. Jesus, on the other hand, is on a mission and it is not about saving His own skin; it is about saving mankind! His mission is to face evil, to face betrayal, to face the cowardice of friends, to face false accusations, to face an unjust sentence, to face scourging, to face immense violence, and to face even death itself not with fear but with perfect love. He seeks not to avoid these things but to conquer them with love.

The darkness that is growing around Jesus is not just the darkness of human sin, human fear and human folly but also the darkness of the kingdom of Satan. It is Satan’s kingdom that is growing around Jesus in order to do away with God! Satan seeks to destroy God and all His Kingdom. And the only way He can do this is to pervert the hearts of men in their sin. In Peter’s heart is fear and Satan uses this to make Peter into a coward – Peter is not strong enough to resist fear, and so Peter ends up denying this man whom Peter says He is prepared to go to death for. In Judas is a heart of duplicity: he hides from the others his malice and evil intent, and for whatever reason he is willing to sell his loyalty to the enemies of his Master – and thus in Judas’ heart is a place ready for Satan to dwell. Satan enters Judas. Darkness falls all around.

The dimensions of the love of God are shown precisely by Christ’s acceptance of His suffering at the hands of evil men. This love of God cannot ever be conquered because it is divine. But Satan cannot see this! Evil men cannot see this! Men filled with fear cannot see this! Can we?

Love, perfect love, becomes a victim of all the schemes of wicked men, and becomes a victim of the kingdom of Satan, but remains true, remains unsullied, remains bright. And thus love conquers fear, hate, evil intent, violence, mockery, suffering and death itself. It does it not by human power but by human weakness re-made into the power of God. This path of self-emptying love is the path we are called to walk because by it we share in our Saviour’s victory.


Fr Ian

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Holy Monday - Chrism Mass

Please pray for the ordinariate clergy whose Chrism Mass is on Holy Monday at 11.30 in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, London. At the Mass we renew our priestly promises and commitment to serve the Lord and His people.

Clergy of the Southwest:

Fr David Lashbrooke, Fr Colin Furness, Fr Michael Galloway, Fr Anthony Cockram  (Torbay Mission & HMP Exeter and Channings Wood)
Fr John Greatbatch (Cornwall Mission & also Tavistock Parish)
Fr Ian Hellyer, Fr Robin Ellis (Buckfast Mission & also Plymouth University)
Fr Simon Chinery (Serving Liskeard et al)
Mgr David Silk (retired)

Thank you.

Palm Sunday at the Abbey

Prayers in the sacristy

The abbot blesses the palms

The procession through the abbey church

Approaching the high altar

Censing the altar

Kneeling at the passion narrative "...and he breathed his last".

Today I concelebrated with the Benedictine community at St Mary's Abbey, Buckfast, for Palm Sunday. Here are some of the colourful picture their photographer caught. Because of the inclement weather, the liturgy of palms began in the very 1970s Blessed Sacrament Chapel. We then processed through the abbey and then up the central aisle to the high altar for the Holy Mass. 

It was a great privilege participating in the mass,and I was particularly moved by the sheer beauty of the choir's singing. 
Processional:Gloria laus et honor tibi sit; 
Motet:Ingrediente Domino (Malcolm); 
Ride on, ride on in majesty; 
Offertory:My song is love unknown;
Motet:Timor et tremor (Lassus);
Communio:Sancte Deus (Tallis); 
Post-comm:Glory be to Jesus. 
Recessional:Salvator mundi (Tallis). 

Directed by Philip Arkright (Master of the music).Organ scholar: Philip Broadhouse. 

Very blessed.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)