Friday, 2 November 2018

Children of men

P.D. James' novel presented a dystopian Britain with no children. The film based on the book showed graphically a Britain which was losing all hope because it had lost its children. The sad truth is that people do not generally realise that Britain is in reality losing its children, as are many Europeans.

Couples are delaying having children and many are not having them at all. Overall this means the average number of children per female head of population is below replacement level (1.7). As we are living longer because of the success of medicine, it means that this low birth rate is economically disastrous. Where people are free to move across country borders then this has meant that richer countries tend to drain poorer countries of their most enterprising and brightest citizens. The richer country replaces the 'lost' children with other country's children. This masks the problem of course and is very unfair for the poorer countries.

Some governments are waking up to this. Just recently I have read of two: Hungary and Italy.

Italy's populist government plans to reward parents who have a third child by awarding them a piece of land, in a bid to reverse the country's plummeting birth rate.
The plan, cooked up by the far-right League and included in the draft budget for next year, would see the state hand over parcels of agricultural land for 20 years to parents who have a third child between 2019 and 2021.
'They say that Italians have few children and that something is needed to turn the trend around,' said agriculture minister Gian Marco Centinaio.
'That's why the ministry wants to contribute, favouring rural areas in particular, where people still have children,' he added.
Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe. 
Last year, about 464,000 births were registered, a record low, leaving Italy with a significantly older population and a demographic time bomb.

Meanwhile in Hungary the government has begun surveying households asking how they can help them have more babies:

The Hungarian government wants to reverse its own demographic decline the old fashioned way: by making it easier for the nation’s own citizens to have bigger families.   more... 

Sadly something similar has been happening amongst many Catholics since the rebellion against Church teaching on artificial contraception, after St Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae. The rebellion against the Church's clear teaching has meant catholic families having fewer children. Fewer children has also meant fewer priests and religious. And I would suggest it has also had a spiritual impact because the great sin of rejecting the teaching of the Church has meant a loss of faith and many Catholic children choosing to lapse as they grow older. What I wonder is whether the hierarchy of the Church is going to wake up to this and start encouraging Catholic couples to have more children?

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Good news! A people's missal is here!

It is wonderful news for the Ordinariates that now a people's edition of the mass, propers and lections is available in this SUNDAY MISSAL - at an affordable price too. Well done to CTS for doing this!

One of the things about our lectionary is that we use the RSVCE edition of the Bible, which personally I have found to be a much better translation of the Greek & Hebrew than the usual lectionary used in England and Wales. The RSV was always the reference for our translations when I was learning NT Greek. So I am really pleased the laity have a handy edition so they can meditate on the lections before and after Mass.

The other, but often overlooked thing, are the Propers of the Mass. These jewels for meditation are offered to us at each mass. I personally find they frequently speak to me some important word from the Lord. Sadly they are too often neglected and perhaps regarded as optional dressing to the mass. This is wrong. In the Liturgy God reveals to us His Word and not just in the lections but also the propers. They also have the advantage of being short and just begging to be used in meditation at a quiet moment of the day.

If you want to order a copy from CTS then go here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Slipper chapel at Walsingham

Climbing that mountain - reflections for All Saints

Reflections on the Solemnity of All Saints

Trying to live the Christian life is frequently likened to climbing a mountain. In the gospel for All Saints we hear our Lord delivering his main teaching about discipleship from a mountaintop. It is not easy being a Christian, and it is like climbing a mountain. But why?
A whitewashed tomb
As we listen to our Lord it becomes clear that Christ wanted disciples that were not just obedient to laws but who were virtuous. He did not want followers who just kept an outward observance of the Law of Moses. Our Lord was interested in the heart not just visible actions. He was therefore interested in what precedes our actions; He was interested in the source of our actions - the source of our thoughts or motivations. The Christian life is hard because we not only have to strive to do the right thing, but we must also strive to think the right thing and desire the right thing. Our Lord’s greatest criticism was not directed towards those publicly regarded as sinners, but to those whose sin was hidden by outward righteousness. He called them whitewashed sepulchres! Outwardly they seemed clean, but inwardly they were dead!

In the Sermon on the Mount He sets out His moral teaching (i.e. how we are to live) based not merely on outward adherence to God’s laws, but a much more demanding teaching based at the level of the heart. The heart, in the Christian sense is not the seat of our emotions, but it is the mysterious centre of our being where our will is located, and from our heart issues thoughts and desires. We could put it this way, healing our heart is central to becoming the disciple Christ wants us to be – it is central to becoming a saint!

Let us think about a moral command like: do not steal. When morality is brought to the level of the heart, then we are guilty of theft, not just when we perform the action of stealing something, but from the moment we consent to the thought of stealing something. Once we give our will to it in our heart, then we have broken the commandment and committed a sin and possibly a grave sin. We may not ever actually steal anything physically speaking, but by consenting to it in our hearts we have broken the commandment – and this is a very grave matter in most circumstances. The same principle applies to all the commandments. Remember what our Lord taught about adultery? Someone commits adultery by consenting to it in their hearts. Consent is the crucial thing. The moment we say ‘Yes’ to a sinful idea, a sinful thought, a sinful desire, then we have crossed the line. Of course, thoughts come to us, even our Lord was tempted, but the moment we consent in our hearts to that sinful thought we commit that sin, we break that commandment.

Today we remember the Saints in glory. The innumerable hosts of Saints in heaven whose names we do not know. And it can seem that their holiness is very far from us – it seems we are at the base of the mountain, and they are at the top. So it is important that you understand one very important thing: we cannot reach the top by our own effort! The reason our Lord makes such high demands on His disciples, on you and me, is that He provides us with something that is key to climbing the mountain. He provides us with one of two key things to healing our hearts: grace. The other thing is our repentance – we must decide to repent.

So let us climb that mountain towards the Saints with both feet: one repentance and the other grace. Amen.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)