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Thursday 23 October 2014

I am transfixed by David B. Hart's book GOD: BEING, CONSCIOUSNESS, BLISS

This American scholar, intellectual and convert to Orthodox Christianity offers the thoughtful atheist, as well as Christians and others, a profound reflection upon the reality of God far removed from the Dawkins- style arguments which fluctuate between the petulant and the irrationally ferocious.

Hart has a turn of phrase and vocabulary that make Conrad Black look like a piker. Almost overly articulate, his razor-sharp logic is expressed along with a profound respect for revelation, properly understood. His deep erudition allows him to explore how, in his words, "Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience."

Hart readily admits that his audacious project in this book risks losing the sympathy of readers both rationalist and fideist because he is intent upon showing, as Pope Benedict would agree, that reason and revelation are, in the end, one and the same thing in the unity of God.

This is not a work of apologetics so much as a re-presentation of what the classical traditions of all major religions and philosophy have meant by "God" as opposed to the straw man that Dawkins and company have been raging against. In its place Hart presents the transcendent vision that is at the base of all cultures, art and achievement in history.

Or, in Hart's own words:
"What is certain is that, to this point, most of the unquestionably sublime achievements of the human intellect and imagination have arisen in worlds shaped by some vision of transcendent truth. Only a thoughtless person can possibly imagine that the vast majority of those responsible for such achievements have all clung pathetically to an understanding of the transcendent as barbarously absurd as the one casually presumed in the current texts of popular unbelief."

The reviewer, Damon Linker, in the online magazine THIS WEEK says to critics who question that people have or now do actually hold Hart's profound view of God:
"[This view of God] is found, in varying forms, in the work of Christian (Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas), Jewish (Maimonides), and Muslim (Avicenna) theologians, as well as numerous Hindu and Sikh sages. All of these sundry thinkers, and many others, describe a God who is (in Hart's words) "the infinite fullness of being, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, from whom all things come and upon whom all things depend for every moment of their existence, without whom nothing at all would exist."

Essentially, Hart is saying to skeptics: Go ahead and burn the straw man but when you want to have an adult conversation - - come on in!

Monday 20 October 2014

Pope's Final Address to the October 2014 Synod on the Family

Excerpts from Pope Francis' address to the Synod Fathers addressing issues relating to the indissolubility of Christian marriage, family life and relationships.

Pope Francis with Msgr Newton, Ordinary of the UK Ordinariate

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit 
. . . Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. 

There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people; moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. 

[This is a]  journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

 - One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

 - The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

 - The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

 - The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

 - The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally, I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. 

And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. 

The Wedding Feast at Cana

This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” 

Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

Beatification of Blessed Pope Paul VI

Excerpts from the homily by Pope Francis:

We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s" (Mt 22:21).

Goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

Certainly Jesus puts the stress on the second part of the phrase: "and [render] to God the things that are God’s". This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises.

God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us "new". A Christian who lives the Gospel is "God’s newness" in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this "newness"!

"Rendering to God the things that are God’s" means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.

Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavour to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.

In these days, during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, we have seen how true this is. "Synod" means "journeying together". And indeed pastors and lay people from every part of the world have come to Rome, bringing the voice of their particular Churches in order to help today’s families walk the path the Gospel with their gaze fixed on Jesus. It has been a great experience, in which we have lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.

For the gift of this Synod and for the constructive spirit which everyone has shown, in union with the Apostle Paul "we give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers" (1 Th 1:2). May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey which, in the Churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown (cf. 1 Cor 3:6).

On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: "by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society" (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo).     

When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

In his personal journal, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: "Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour" (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121). In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

Paul VI truly "rendered to God what is God’s" by devoting his whole life to the "sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ" (Homily for the Rite of Coronation: Insegnamenti I, 1963, p. 26), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be "a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation" (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue).

Monday 13 October 2014

THANKSGIVING - “On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for the people a feast.”

 The annual celebration of Thanksgiving in North America arises from our desire to give thanks to God for providing "the fruits of the earth" as they are termed in the Offertory Prayers at Mass. Our Lord’s parable in the Gospel today (Matthew 22:1-14) is an outline of God’s provision for eternity – our salvation history. 

In the Parable, God is the king (Matthew 5:35), Jesus is the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15), the feast is the salvation that Isaiah prophesies in today’s First Reading. The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God’s servants, the prophets (see Isaiah 7:25).

For refusing repeated invitations and even killing God's prophets, Israel has suffered; its cities have been conquered by foreign enemies and the nation has, at times, been enslaved.

Through all this, as the Gospel affirms here and elsewhere, God has been sending new servants and now apostles, to call not only Israel, but all people – the good and bad alike – to the feast of the Kingdom of God. 

This is an image of the Church.  In other parables, Jesus speaks of a field sown with both wheat and weeds, or the Church as a fishing net that catches good and bad fish. (Matthew 13:24-43, 47-50)
In the parable today, all are invited, but many reject, ignore or scoff at the grace of the King who invites them.  What do we make of this?

Two things at least:  Salvation is intended for all.  Secondly, we must choose to accept the invitation to grace.  What we need to show acceptance is a wedding garment – a thankful and responsive heart.

We have all been called to this great feast of love and thanksgiving for it is in the Church, where, as Isaiah foretold, the veil that once separated the nations from the covenant of Israel has been rent, torn open, the dividing wall of enmity has been torn down by grace through the saving blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-14).

This means that all people are equal in the sight of God and so all are invited to the feast, but we must accept and prepare for the feast – put on a wedding garment i.e. present ourselves as guests – those who have received and responded to the gracious invitation of God by both the conformity of our lives to the grace of God and our acceptance of other guests who are there by the same grace which comes from God and not by any merit that we may think we have.

St. Francois de Laval (bishop) and St. Marie de L’Incarnation (educator) were remembered in Rome by Pope Francis at a Thanksgiving Mass. They are amongst the messengers and guests of God’s grace.

As Psalm 23 affirms the Lord has led us to the feast, refreshing our souls, spreading the table before us in the Eucharist – the true feast of Thanksgiving. And St. Paul tells us in today’s Epistle with the glorious riches of Christ, we will find supplied whatever we need – both a wedding garment and the grace to love all others who are also invited to the Feast.

In the rich food of Christ’s banquet, he offers us the bread of his own body and the choice wine – his blood. Here we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem, when God will destroy death forever (Hebrews 12:22-24). Are we ready, dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness? (Revelation 19:8)

“On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for the people a feast.”

Isaiah 25:6-10 Psalm 23:1-6  Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20  Matthew 22:1-14

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Newman's Second Spring

The seasons turn and so, once again this October 9, we celebrate Blessed John Henry Newman. 

As Fall advances, the days shorten in the Northern Hemisphere as the year nears its end. Newman deeply sensed an ending as he closed the door to his Anglican past and brought with him his English and Anglican sensibilities into the full communion of the Catholic Church in October 1845. 

In God's economy, as in the natural order, Fall is followed by Winter and then comes Spring.

This past Spring as it slowly dawned in the northern climes, I re-read, Ian Kerr's magisterial biography of Blessed John Henry Newman and was made more aware than ever of the long, cold, waiting winter that Newman faced in many aspects of his life and ministry; in particular the cultural and social winter he experienced from 1845 well into the 1870s.  

Kerr's work concludes with Newman's recognition by Pope Leo XIII. He was finally created a Cardinal when in his 80s.
Pope Leo was someone Newman had met years before. With the creation of John Henry Newman as a Cardinal Priest, Catholics finally began to understand that Newman was not a theological liberal come into the Catholic Church to disrupt it. In fact, he wrote and fought against liberalism and secularism in Britain while at the same time insisting that the laity find their role and voice in the reception of doctrine. His efforts to further the cause Catholic education of the laity were starkly opposed to the ideas of Gladstone and others who were paving the way for further secularization.
St. Mary's, Oscott

Newman gave his famous "Second Spring" sermon of July 13, 1852, in St. Mary's, Oscott, at the first Provincial Synod of Westminster. What he called "The Second Spring" referred to the re-establishment of Catholic bishops and dioceses in England after 300 years of expulsion which had followed over 1000 years of Catholic faith and practice throughout the British Isles from the fourth to the sixteenth centuries.
             Newman and his Personal Oratory near Birmingham

He selected a passage from the Song of Songs which was later so beautifully set to music as one of the 'Lady Motets' by the great Canadian Anglo-Catholic composer Healey Willan: "Rise Up My Love, My Fair One'.

"Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For the winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land." Cant., ii. 10-12.

In his stunning prose, Newman begins by affirming the the message of the resurrection implicit in nature  . . .

"The sun sinks to rise again; the day is swallowed up in the gloom of the night, to be born out of it, as fresh as if it had never been quenched. Spring passes into summer, and through summer and autumn into winter, only the more surely, by its own ultimate return, to triumph over that grave, towards which it resolutely hastened from its first hour. We mourn over the blossoms of May, because they are to wither; but we know, withal, that May is one day to have its revenge upon November, by the revolution of that solemn circle which never stops—which teaches us in our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair . . ."

On the human and moral level, he continues . . .

"So is it, too, with our moral being, a far higher and diviner portion of our natural constitution; it begins with life, it ends with what is worse than the mere loss of life, with a living death. 

How beautiful is the human heart, when it puts forth its first leaves, and opens and rejoices in its spring-tide. Fair as may be the bodily form, fairer far, in its green foliage and bright blossoms, is natural virtue. It blooms in the young, like some rich flower, so delicate, so fragrant, and so dazzling. 

Generosity and lightness of heart and amiableness, the confiding spirit, the gentle temper, the elastic cheerfulness, the open hand, the pure affection, the noble aspiration, the heroic resolve, the romantic pursuit, the love in which self has no part,—are not these beautiful? and are they not dressed up and set forth for admiration in their best shapes, in tales and in poems? and ah! what a prospect of good is there! who could believe that it is to fade! and yet, as night follows upon day, as decrepitude follows upon health, so surely are failure, and overthrow, and annihilation, the issue of this natural virtue, if time only be allowed to it to run its course . . .

. . . Such is man in his own nature, and such, too, is he in his works. The noblest efforts of his genius, the conquests he has made, the doctrines he has originated, the nations he has civilized, the states he has created, they outlive himself, they outlive him by many centuries, but they tend to an end, and that end is dissolution. Powers of the world, sovereignties, dynasties, sooner or later come to nought; they have their fatal hour. The Roman conqueror shed tears over Carthage, for in the destruction of the rival city he discerned too truly an augury of the fall of Rome; and at length, with the weight and the responsibilities, the crimes and the glories, of centuries upon centuries, the Imperial City fell.

Thus man and all his works are mortal; they die, and they have no power of renovation . . ."

Then, with unquenchable joy Newman proclaims that something new is springing forth in the land:

"We should judge rightly in our curiosity about a phenomenon like this; it must be a portentous event, and it is. It is an innovation, a miracle, I may say, in the course of human events. The physical world revolves year by year, and begins again; but the political order of things does not renew itself, does not return; it continues, but it proceeds; there is no retrogression. This is so well understood by men of the day, that with them progress is idolized as another name for good. The past never returns—it is never good;—if we are to escape existing ills, it must be by going forward. 

The past is out of date; the past is dead. As well may the dead live to us, well may the dead profit us, as the past return. This, then, is the cause of this national transport, this national cry, which encompasses us. The past has returned, the dead lives. Thrones are overturned, and are never restored; States live and die, and then are matter only for history. Babylon was great, and Tyre, and Egypt, and Nineve, and shall never be great again. The English Church was, and the English Church was not, and the English Church is once again. This is the portent, worthy of a cry. It is the coming in of a Second Spring; it is a restoration in the moral world, such as that which yearly takes place in the physical."

Finally, he paints a word picture of the resurrected Catholic Church in England as a cathedral with its cloister, schools and residences built on a hill:

"And there on that high spot, far from the haunts of men, yet in the very centre of the island, a large edifice, or rather pile of edifices, appears with many fronts, and courts, and long cloisters and corridors, and story upon story. And there it rises, under the invocation of the same sweet and powerful name which has been our strength and consolation in the Valley. I look more attentively at that building, and I see it is fashioned upon that ancient style of art which brings back the past, which had seemed to be perishing from off the face of the earth, or to be preserved only as a curiosity, or to be imitated only as a fancy. I listen, and I hear the sound of voices, grave and musical, renewing the old chant, with which Augustine greeted Ethelbert in the free air upon the Kentish strand.

It comes from a long procession, and it winds along the cloisters. Priests and Religious, theologians from the schools, and canons from the Cathedral, walk in due precedence. And then there comes a vision of well-nigh twelve mitred heads; and last I see a Prince of the Church, in the royal dye of empire and of martyrdom, a pledge to us from Rome of Rome's unwearied love, a token that that goodly company is firm in Apostolic faith and hope. 

And the shadow of the Saints is there;—St. Benedict is there, speaking to us by the voice of bishop and of priest, and counting over the long ages through which he has prayed, and studied, and laboured; there, too, is St. Dominic's white wool, which no blemish can impair, no stain can dim:—and if St. Bernard be not there, it is only that his absence may make him be remembered more. And the princely patriarch, St. Ignatius, too, the St. George of the modern world, with his chivalrous lance run through his writhing foe, he, too, sheds his blessing upon that train. And others, also, his equals or his juniors in history, whose pictures are above our altars, or soon shall be, the surest proof that the Lord's arm has not waxen short, nor His mercy failed,—they, too, are looking down from their thrones on high upon the throng. And so that high company moves on into the holy place; and there, with august rite and awful sacrifice, inaugurates the great act which brings it thither. What is that act? it is the first synod of a new Hierarchy; it is the resurrection of the Church."

So we latter-day Catholics in North America with roots in the ancient English Church are coming through our own winter, and we see signs of Spring across our own vast continent as the seeds of the Personal Ordinariates begin to grow.  And so we take heart from our great father in the Faith, and, as we  hope, some day soon to be recognized as a Doctor of the Church: Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Monday 6 October 2014

The Synod of Bishops on the Family 2014

There is much speculation and not a little prediction going on with regard to the Synod of Bishops now underway in Rome. Our first priority is to pray for the bishops that God's Holy Spirit will guide them in this important advisory meeting to shape the approaches that the Church will take in pastoral ministry to families around the world as part of the New Evangelization.
The Personal Ordinariates have a great concern for this outreach to families given our mandate to reach to individuals and families who may have celebrated Catholic baptism but are uncatechized.  
Our mandate at STM includes offering families through BALDWIN ACADEMY assistance with their schooling by providing tutoring and instruction in choral music. Naturally, our hope is to nurture children and their families in the fulness of the Catholic Faith.
Given these considerations it is important to be clear about what this synod and the upcoming October 2015 Synod on the Family may accomplish.  This is outlined in a recent thoughtful homily by Fr James Bradley in which he says:  
"An unfortunate and misleading media storm surrounds this sacred event, one which has already inflicted untold damage on the faith of not a few of the faithful. It is important for us to note, and to keep firmly in our minds, two salient points to which we may wish to refer back in the coming days.
First, it is important to note that there can be no contradiction between sacred scripture and the Church’s teaching. The Church, as the mystical body of Christ on earth, continues the mission of Christ in the world today, rooted in the faith of the apostles. Thus it cannot be said that the Church’s doctrinal teaching and the disciplines which flow directly from it are distinct from, still less opposed to, the message of the gospel. Nor can it be said that the scriptures, interpreted by the Church in a consistent and unambiguous way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or the Church’s doctrine that flows from them, is in some way opposed to reality of Christ’s actions or his message of hope and salvation to all.
Secondly, it is important to note that there can be no contradiction between justice and mercy. Any parallel between true justice and true mercy is a false parallel, at odds with the authentic person of Christ in whom, truly, ‘Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other’ (Ps. 85: 10). Indeed, it is Christ who gives us both the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in the opening words of his encyclical letter Caritas in veritate, ‘Charity in truth [. . .] is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity’ (CiV 1). True and pastoral care then, whatever situation befalls a person, is found not in avoiding the struggles of the cross but in embracing them in the life of Christ—in his passion and death—in order to share more fully in his resurrection and so to receive the balm of his mercy, and thus the fullness of life. As Pope Saint John Paul II teaches, ‘Human freedom and God’s law are not in opposition; on the contrary, they appeal one to the other’ (VS 17).
It is in this context that the third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops meets this week. Not to discuss, as one newspaper put it, ‘whether the church can change its doctrines’, but to come to a deeper and more profound knowledge of Christ and the life he demands of those, of us, who have chosen to leave everything and to follow him (cf. Lk. 5: 11)."
You may want to look at the entire homily at:  Fr. Bradley's Homily
Some will consider adding to our prayer, a pilgrimage to The 8th World Day of Families, to be held in Philadelphia from September 22-27, 2015 setting the stage for the General Synod on the Family, Pontificium Concilium pro Familia, Rome, October 2015.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Whatsoever is true and the Family of God - A Homily for Trinity 16 A

TRINITY 16 (Pr. 27 A Or Time)

“whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.”
                                                                                                                       Phil. 4

In the Gospel, Jesus uses the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach us about Israel, the Church, the human family and the kingdom of God.

The parable of the Vineyard of God in the Gospel acc. to St. Matthew depicts the owner as God and the house of Israel as the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted into a fertile land specially prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem and focused upon the sacred Temple dedicated to worship. Equally, the vineyard is the world, which God has given to us.

In the parable the vineyard produced no good grapes for wine, the wine that is a symbol for the joy of life God wills for all people.  So the vineyard was overrun by invaders, as Isaiah foresaw in the First Reading.

Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah’s words to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel’s leaders, the tenants in the parable, had learned nothing from Isaiah or from Israel’s history. Instead of producing good fruits, they expressed a kind of entitlement and ownership without reference to the fact that all we have is a gift from God and is meant for the good of the whole human family. We must treat all with justice - “whatsoever is just”.

The tenants killed the owner’s servants, the prophets, sent to remind us of our dependence upon the grace and love of God. In a dark foreshadowing of the attack upon the human family and of his own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants’ final outrage is to seize the owner’s son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls – an offense to God, to the human family and to the Kingdom of God. Because of this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, is taken away and given to new tenants.

Each person and family is a branch in the Lord’s vineyard, part of a family grafted onto the true vine of Christ (John 15:1-8), called to bear the fruits of righteousness in Christ (Philippians 1:11). We are meant to be the “first fruits” of a new creation (James 1:18), realizing that all we have is a gift from God and is meant to be shared with others for the good of the whole human family.

We need to take care that we don’t let ourselves or our families be overgrown with the thorns and briers of anxiety, entitlement, fear or violence. Today’s Epistle teaches us that together we need to fill our hearts and minds with godly thoughts which will lead to virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near in . . . .“whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.”             

                                   Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43