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Monday 29 July 2013

Anglican implications of the new papal encyclical LUMEN FIDEI

For Anglicans and others seeking meaning in their lives through the light of the faith this letter from the Holy Father is an opportunity to deepen what is already shared with all Catholics. This encyclical is an illumination of the complementarity of reason with faith. 

Addressing Enlightenment, modern and post-modern critiques of faith, the encyclical refers to Rousseau, Nietzsche and other critics of Christian faith. The Pope expands the conversation of faith with reason through references to science, sacred Scripture, the Fathers, philosophy and literature from Dante to Dostoyevsky.

The Encyclical lays out a universal claim which will appeal to many who see the emptiness of secularity and the dead-end that the spirit of the present age is leading to in some dying branches of Christian society -- those that once held to apostolic faith and order.

Pope Francis, using the theological insights of his predecessor Pope Benedict, collaborates to lay out markers on the path of faith for those who are seeking to find or deepen faith as well as 
for those who are involved in promoting the New Evangelization. 

This magisterial teaching expresses the importance of faith through which we may perceive the transcendent love of God reaching out to us in the person of Christ as opposed to self-willed narratives of individualism or putative self-illumination. Lumen Fidei states: 

"The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: In a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love. 

. . . . Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment and that a vision of the future opens before us      . . . . We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness. Dante . . . describes that light as a 'spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers' . . .

Echoing the language and reasoning with faith found in Chapter 5 of John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, the encyclical builds on the writings of Newman which have so profoundly influenced Benedict's theology over the decades since Vatican II.

In an age which is paralyzed with cynicism and wedded to the cult of individualism, the clear announcement of God's incarnational love and the possibility of a personal relationship with the divine persons of the Triune God through the Body of Christ - the Catholic Church - is a clarion call to those who are floating on a sea of hopeless unbelief, fear or isolating spiritualities which look only within.

Rich in its references to classical thinkers, the papal letter also challenges the easy assumptions of the "New Atheism" while warmly affirming the sacramental life which nurtures those seeking meaning and fulness in an outward-looking life of love and service.

As the universal pastor, the Holy Father offers his reflections on the path of collaboration with God in the ministry of his one universal and apostolic Church. It is a message of  welcome to all and a message which affirms the truths which both natural law and reason express in the many human traditions that reflect, in different ways, the one true light.

Many Anglicans, Protestants and others adrift on what some have called a "Sea of Faith" are looking for a sure harbour within which families and individuals can be nurtured after voyages that so many have found are uncharted and often misdirected.

In this encyclical which completes a cycle based upon the three theological virtues (love, hope and faith) begun by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Holy Father affirms that all relationships are truly seen only in the light of God's trinitarian self-giving love which sheds light on the path to hope and love, a path which all human individuals and societies must seek using reason in the light of faith.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

EVANGELIUM - - A course designed for those exploring the Catholic Faith -- offered again in Toronto this September.

It is a new day. Anglican Ordinariate parishes and missions in the UK, Canada and the USA have adopted a fresh approach to catechesis and reception as part of the New Evangelization.

Evangelium is a programme developed since 2007 as a way of exploring four areas of Catholic faith: creeds, sacraments, morals and prayer. Aimed particularly at young adults the course is flexible, uses audio-visual as well as print material and is designed for those who are already baptized Christians exploring the Catholic faith with a view to reception into full communion.

In line with the updating of the norms of Anglicanorum Coetibus by Pope Francis, baptized people (Catholic or Protestant) who have not received the Catholic sacraments of Confirmation (anointing or sealing in the Holy Spirit) and First Communion may be received into full communion in the Anglican Ordinariates as full members of the Catholic Church in communion with Rome.

Baptized people are not required to take the full RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) in the Catholic Church because RCIA is designed for catechumens i.e. those who have not been catechized or baptized.

Evangelium is designed to be used flexibly and will be offered over about eight weeks at St Thomas More (STM), Toronto Anglican Use, meeting in Sacré-Coeur Church (Sherbourne at Carlton). This is the second time that the course will be offered by STM beginning this August. The group will meet beginning September 8 from 12:30 - 1:30 pm Sundays just before the Sunday Sung Mass at Sacré-Coeur.

Those interested should have a look at the link below and contact us by using the e-mail address at the bottom of this blog or visit the STM website or Facebook page:

Evangelium Course

STM Toronto Ordinariate


Saturday 13 July 2013

The New Evangelization of Canada

The same must be said for Canada. The first Christians to come to North America were Catholics. Arguably the first Canadian civilization fashioned by the French along with many of the First Peoples was in the Catholic communities in Acadia and Quebec.

So where does the Anglican and Protestant influence come in? With regard to the role of Protestantism Father Nichols explains:

"Protestantism was central to the attempt to remake English identity under Elizabeth Tudor; to the reaction against the Catholicizing tendencies of the Stuarts after the Restoration of the monarchy; and to the project of welding England and Scotland together as a united “Britain” over and against France, after the union of Parliaments at the beginning of the 18th century."

But the almost 1,000 years of Catholic Christianity that preceded any of that are responsible for the origins of the English literary imagination, for the principles of the common law, for the concept of a covenanted people under God which permeates the induction of a sovereign, and for the range of virtues which have been commended -- and sometimes practiced -- in English culture and society. 

What the faith of the Catholic Church can offer today is an intellectual, moral, and imaginative framework for the salvaging of these virtues, and their re-energizing by sacramental grace." 

The 'Protestant Principle' did indeed influence the formation of Canada as a country in the Western tradition of common law and parliamentary responsible government.  This influence was based, however, on the foundation laid over a millenium by the metaphysical principle of English Catholicism up to and including the 15th and 16th century exploration of the 'New World'.
Fr. Nichols goes on to explain why the current mixture of Catholic demographics within the UK and, by extension, other Western countries poises Catholicism to transform culture. 
" The example of the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England shows the efficacy of a missionary scheme that combines representatives of the indigenous population with canny outsiders. 

To convert or re-convert a culture one needs both the long, instinctive familiarity of the native, along with the more detached and objective critical gaze of the newcomer. 

In contemporary English Catholicism, there is a “native” community consisting of the descendants of recusants, converts and the anglicized Irish, along with a potpourri of recent, or fairly recent, immigrants from many parts of the world. 
As a reservoir for mission, that recreates the successful Dark Age formula." 

Think now of the Catholic Church in Canada as opposed to Protestant and other bodies and their varying and changing positions on the issues of the day.  
During the  years between 1845 and 1960 a number of Britain's leading artists, intellectuals and public figures became Catholic (Newman, Manning, Knox, Chesterton, Waugh etc.). Asked  what can be done to attract similar conversions
Father Nichols says: 
" The remarkable number of conversions of major or relatively major figures in the period . . .  is to be explained by their common perception of Catholicism as a presentation of truth, goodness, and beauty that was at once a powerful philosophy, a comprehensive ethic, and a vision of spiritual delight. 

. . . .  'So where does that leave truth?' -- echoing of fashionable human rights discourse -- 'So where does that leave goodness, at any rate in terms of a comprehensive ethic?' -- and liturgical banality -- 'So where does that leave beauty and spiritual delight?'

What the Church can do today is to reform herself by repeating like a mantra the words “only the best will do”: the best intellectually, morally, aesthetically." 

As in the UK, Catholics in Canada need to focus on the essentials for the new  evangelization to be effective. Father Nichols insists:

 " The single most urgent need is the re-launching of an adequate doctrinal catechesis at all levels [in light of the relativism purveyed by liberal Protestantism and the secular media]. Putting anything else first is like trying to make bricks without straw." 

Father Nichols goes on to outline three  possible responses to the growth of modern Arianism, Islamization and secularism. Paraphrased and adapted to the Canadian situation here is the gist of what we might take from his analysis of the parallel situation in the UK.
The possible responses are:
1) The first is communitarianism, which allows each faith-community (or non-faith community) its own version of public square, and seems to be the road along which many Anglicans, Protestants and some secularists would travel. 

He says, however, that communitarianism means the (further) inner disintegration of the Western cultural system. 

2) The second is a secular liberalism that would privatize religious aspiration in order to leave the public square clear of all religious claims. 

But that means the increasing exhaustion of the moral capital of the historic patrimony of the culture, the shrinking of the metaphysical imagination in public life and a declaration that agnosticism is now the religion of the State. 

3) The third is a recovery of the Judeo-Christian tradition as what is most foundationally form-giving in Western society and culture, while allowing that, on grounds of conscience, there are individuals and groups who cannot make that tradition fully their own. 
Fr. Nichols has set out a theological basis for the new evangelization in the West. His insights are critical to focussed and extensive re-evangelization in the UK, Canada, the USA, Australia, NZ and other societies built upon the foundation of Western Catholic Christianity.

Monday 8 July 2013

In the heart of Toronto our dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus must be in re-evangelizing!

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been important to many Anglo-Catholics  over the past few generations.  John Henry Newman had devotion to the Sacred Heart at the centre of his personal spiritual life and we find representations of the Sacred Heart in English Catholic as well as European and Latin American and many other churches globally. Indeed, the Sacred Heart is one of the most recognizable images of our Lord around the world.

For some Anglicans coming into full communion with Rome this may be a new window into the life of God. We in the Toronto St Thomas More community are fortunate to have been welcomed to the parish of Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart of Jesus) in the very heart of downtown Toronto where, with our French-speaking fellow Catholics, we are presented with the life of Jesus in this challenging way.

This focus on the humanity of Jesus as a corrective to some of the docetic tendencies of devotion led both St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Francis of Assisi to speak intimately of the passion and suffering of Jesus. The Sacred Heart gradually became a symbol of Jesus' suffering and love for humanity through his own sacred humanity.

In our Arian-inspired, if not totally secular, age the divine humanity of Jesus needs to be at the centre of our sacramental spirituality and action as Christians.

An early hymn to the Sacred Heart is Summi Regis Cor Aveto, believed to have been written by a Norbertine monk, Blessed Herman Joseph of Cologne, in what is today Germany, in the early 13th century.  The hymn begins: "I hail Thee kingly Heart most high." This is one of the first references in hymnody to the Sacred Heart.

Though some disdain devotion to the Sacred Heart as sentimentality, this focus on the divine humanity of Jesus has been, for Catholics, an important corrective to a purely intellectual or aesthetic approach to faith and liturgy. 

The Sacred Heart in Christian art is often represented as a heart shining with divine light depicted as a flame.  The Sacred Heart is pierced by a lance wound, recalling the lance to the side of Christ in his crucifixion. The heart is circled by the crown of thorns with a cross on top. Sometimes the image is shown shining from the chest of Jesus with his wounded hand pointing at his heart. The wounds in Christ's hands and heart, along with the crown of thorns, represent the passion and death of Jesus for us. The light of the fire represents the transforming power of divine love from the Light of the World.

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is on the Western Catholic liturgical calendar, where it was placed in 1856, and is celebrated 19 days after Whitsunday (Pentecost) on a Friday, always recalling the passion of Good Friday. The following Saturday which commemorates the Immaculate Heart of Mary recalls  St. Luke's affirmation that Mary kept the life and ministry of Jesus in her heart where she pondered these mysteries. So we must also ponder and pray these mysteries in the heart of Jesus and Mary in order that we may be given grace to live in the light of his love in action in a hostile world of individualism, atheism and moral decay.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart emphasizes the unconditional love, compassion and long-suffering in the heart of Christ for our humanity. The modern form of devotion to the Sacred Heart has developed from the accounts of the French sister Marguerite Marie Alacoque. In a mystical experience at prayer, she saw the devotion revealed by Jesus, and  this experience is depicted over the altar at Sacré-Coeur in Toronto.

As the Anglican ordinariate community of St. Thomas More takes shape we know that our martyr patron, devoted as he is to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will pray for all those who are drawn to the Church of  Sacré-Coeur and to the unity of faith in the heart of inner-city Toronto. His prayers will help guide us in our mission to make known the passion and love of our Lord through prayer and action and in reparation for the hostility to the divine heart of Jesus.

As Fr. Kenyon pointed out in his homily yesterday, we must be prepared to accept the disdain and rejection of our current culture and to stand with Christ in this day, bringing to others his message of love and compassion. Our mission of re-evangelizing as an act of reparation is in and from the very heart of Christ -- the Sacred Heart of Jesus.