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Monday 27 August 2018

A visit to Scandinavia

Stave Church interior near Oslo, Norway. Smallest altar rail in the world, I think!
In Bergen, the old capital, with daughter Annie --
her great grandmother was born in Norway.

Entrance to Stave Church
Rural Norway in August 2018
Bergen Harbour from the top of the funicular

Good to know.
"The Scream" . . . circa 2018

Time for a Munch

. . . or two
Beautiful Stockholm (Venice of the north) on the way
to the royal chapel where Swedish kings and queens
have been buried for generations next
to the old palace.

Yes this is where the remains of "the big guy" lie 

Like England, Catholic churches are now
the property of the state Church of
Sweden (Lutheran in this case).

Homily: Trinity XIII B, August 26 - As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

As for me and my house.  We will serve the Lord.    Joshua 24

The Twelve Apostles in today’s Gospel are asked to make a choice—either to believe and accept the New Covenant that Jesus offers in His Body and Blood, or to conform to the ways of the world: serving the gods of material wealth and power.

Their choice is prefigured by the decision Joshua asks the Twelve Tribes to make in today’s First Reading. Joshua gathers them at Shechem—where God first appeared to their father Abraham –  promising to make his descendants a great nation in a new land.  And he issues a blunt challenge—either renew their covenant with God or serve the alien gods of the surrounding nations. He proclaims in the famous phrase: As for me

The crisis over abuse in the Church faces us with a similar choice.  We too are being asked today to decide whom we will serve.  Is it expediency and denial or allowing the light of truth lead us towards the standards of care and Christian life that we were baptized into. 

For the past four weeks we have been presented in the liturgy with the mystery of the Eucharist—a daily miracle far greater than those performed by God in bringing the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

God has promised us a new homeland and eternal life, offering us bread from heaven to strengthen us on our journey and to heal us, the Body of Christ – the Church. 

Jesus has told us that unless we, together, eat His Flesh and drink His Blood we will have no life in us. That is, we must truly participate in his Life – loving and serving the most vulnerable amongst us.

In the nineteenth century an English priest summarized his ministry this way:

"My own firm conviction, after more than fifty years' experience as a priest . . .  is, that we shall never gain the enthusiastic love of our people for their Mother Church, or secure their fidelity to her, until we bring them to realize that the Catholic Church is God's own creation for the promotion of [God’s] greater . . . glory and the salvation of souls – that the Holy Eucharist is Christ's own appointed act of worship and means of close communion with Him . . .  It is because our people have lost their grasp of these great truths that they are so easily alienated from the Church, and become a too ready prey to every new thing . . .  which the cunning craftiness of man may invent."
George Rundle Prynne - An Early Chapter in the History of the Catholic Revival by A. Clifton Kelway

Jesus warns that there are those amongst his followers who do not believe and so it is today. True belief entails proper behaviour. Our faith is measured by what we do as much as by what we say.  Those whose behaviour betrays Christ must be dealt with. They must be removed from positions of authority and allow the light of truth to shine in the Church.

It is a hard saying by Jesus, as many murmur in today’s Gospel. Yet Jesus has given us the words of eternal life and gives us his Body and Blood.  We must collectively affirm in both words and action that, as Peter says, Jesus is the Holy One of God, who handed himself over for us and who gives His flesh for the life of the world.

We are committed to one another in the Body of Christ and must do all we can to eradicate the abuse of young and vulnerable people by those who profess with their lips but do not conform their lives to serve the Body of Christ – the Church.

Today’s Epistle tell us that Jesus gave us his Body and Blood that we might be sanctified, made holy, through the water and word of Baptism by which we enter into the new covenant. Through the Eucharist, Jesus nourishes and cherishes us, making us His own flesh and blood, even as husband and wife become one flesh.

God feeds us and strengthens us to love and serve his divine will and to serve and protect those most vulnerable in the house of faith.

As for me and my house.  We will serve the Lord.    Joshua 24

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Homily: Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, London -- August 19, 2018

“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”    Proverbs 9

It is a privilege to join you today in this historic church now in the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. 

The Wisdom of God has prepared a feast for us.  

Many of you will have heard innumerable times the fact that the wise and scholarly Blessed John Henry Newman assisted at Mass here soon after he was received into full communion with the Catholic Church. 
Blessed John Henry Newman
Today as we reflect upon what communion with Christ and his Church means to us today, I would like to recall another lesser known churchman who, though not a scholar, celebrated the wisdom of God in his life and work. 

Later in life, he too was received into full communion – I speak of Father Bernard Walke of St. Hilary, Cornwall near where Jane, my wife, and I were just visiting in St. Ives.

Some of you may know, better than I, the remarkable story of Fr. Walke, and of his wife Annie and of their years serving in St. Hilary Parish. 

The parish became renowned for its sacred Christmas plays broadcast to national acclaim on the BBC over 80 years ago.  These broadcasts made the parish not only widely known at the time but, sadly, they were followed by a brutal vandalization of the Anglo-Catholic parish. 

Fr. Walke had worked in the parish for years restoring Catholic faith and life with the help of inspired artists, including his wife Annie Walke and writers who worked together with dedicated local folk amidst bitter prejudice.  

In this struggle they achieved a remarkable communion in the Lord which transcended many of the prejudices of the day.

Bernard Walke, by all accounts, was one without guile; a man who loved people and animals - even donkeys - along with all God’s creation. 

He gently dealt with those who often behaved like the donkeys, stubbornly resisting the beauty and truth of Catholic life and faith.  Yet Bernard, Annie and the faithful persisted in their service of and communion with the Incarnate Lord who is present every day in the Mass, in the Blessed Sacrament reserved and in those who are in need.  As the first reading today puts it “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here.”

Fr. Bernard ministered faithfully with the people of St. Hilary for over 20 years. He often travelled the parish on his beloved donkeys and at Corpus Christi, at the Feast of the Assumption and on other occasions he and the people would process with the Blessed Sacrament – children and others including the occasional donkey, following.  

Sundial at St Hilary

Accounts by Frank Baker and other authors record a childlike quality in Bernard. He walked with our Blessed Lord – as he invariably referred to Jesus – seeking to bring others into communion in the Body of Christ. It was as though he saw them through the luna of the monstrance as he walked in the Corpus Christi prosession. Fr. Bernard saw all being drawn to the Lord of life; the bread of life beckoning to all who are hungry for the truth.

Today we hear in the readings the paradoxes of our journey in faith: wisdom and foolishness, hunger and being satisfied, fear and courage. 
Sacred Heart Chapel, St. Hilary
The story of the vandalization of St. Hilary’s is capped by the account of Fr. Bernard pleading with the vandals to allow him to remove the Blessed Sacrament before they destroyed the stone altar.  As he left the church, holding the the consecrated bread of the Blessed Sacrament aloft, it was reported that parishioners who had gathered, lined the path from the church dropping to their knees as Fr. Bernard passed holding, with total reverence, the sacred body of our Blessed Lord  under the form of bread, the Lord's body once again scorned and rejected by humans but beloved of the faithful.
St Hilary of Poitiers blesses the site of St. Hilary Parish Church 
One of the chancel paintings depicting Cornish saints.
The Gospel exhorts us to become like children (Matthew 18:3–4) to hear and accept the invitation to the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.  In every Mass the folly of the Cross is represented and renewed as we are offered deeper communion with our blessed Lord in his Body.

To the world, it is foolishness to believe that the crucified Jesus rose from the dead and is truly present with us and for us in the sacrament of his body and blood.  For many today, as for the crowds in today’s Gospel, it is foolishness—maybe even madness—to believe that Jesus can give us His Flesh to eat and so allow us to enter into communion with God, the Holy Trinity. 

Jesus repeats himself with gathering intensity in the Gospel. Notice the repetition of the words “eat” and “drink,” and “my Flesh” and “my Blood.” To heighten the realism of what Jesus invites us to believe, St. John in these verses uses not the ordinary Greek word for eating but a cruder term, once reserved to describe the “munching” of donkeys.  This is the same realism that Fr. Bernard sought to bring to life in his Christmas plays and liturgical practice.

The foolishness of God, then, is wiser than human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18–25). In His foolish love, Jesus chooses to save those who believe that His Flesh is true food, His Blood, true drink.

Again, today in the liturgy, we are called to renew our faith, to forsake the foolishness of believing only what we can see with our eyes and to enter into deeper wisdom and communion with God and with one another as we share in consuming the very Body of Christ our Lord.

We approach, then, not only an altar prepared with bread and wine, but the feast of Wisdom, the banquet of heaven—in which God our Saviour renews the everlasting covenant and promises to destroy death forever (Isaiah 25:6–9).

Let us make the most of our days, as St. Paul says, always, in the Eucharist, giving thanks to God for every intimation of love and grace in the name of Jesus, the bread come down from heaven.

The Wisdom of God has prepared a feast for us. 

Proverbs 9:1–6     Psalm 34:2–3, 10–15     Ephesians 5:15–20     John 6:51–58

Sunday 5 August 2018

St. Thomas More and Religious Liberty

Fr. Raymond de Suza points to the clarity of vision that St. Thomas More gives to us.  In a recent article in the Catholic Herald he illustrates:
Thomas More was executed on July 6, 1535. At that time the liturgical calendar marked July 6 as the octave day for Ss Peter and Paul. In his last letter, written on July 5, More hopes for a speedy death, and notes that it is already the “[vigil] of St Peter”. No doubt it brought him consolation to know that he was executed for his loyalty to the Successor of St Peter on a feast of Peter himself.
So we can agree that St Thomas died for the divine constitution of the Church and the Petrine office, and for the indissolubility of marriage. Yet to understand him as a martyr for conscience does not diminish that.
When the American bishops first proposed an annual campaign for religious liberty to begin with the feast of Fisher and More – now observed on June 22, the date of Fisher’s execution – the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago made . . .  the point that Thomas More was not really a martyr for the rights of conscience.
But St John Paul II took a different view when in October 2000 he declared St Thomas the patron saint of statesmen and politicians, beginning his apostolic letter with the words: [The life and martyrdom of St Thomas More … speaks to people everywhere] of the inalienable dignity of the human conscience.
“What enlightened his conscience was the sense that man cannot be sundered from God, nor politics from morality,” the Holy Father continued. “And it was precisely in defence of the rights of conscience that the example of Thomas More shone brightly. It can be said that he demonstrated in a singular way the value of a moral conscience which is ‘the witness of God himself, whose voice and judgment penetrate the depths of man’s soul’ [Veritatis Splendor, 58], even if, in his actions against heretics, he reflected the limits of the culture of his time.”
Certainly in the 16th century our concept of religious liberty was not held by St Thomas More, nor anyone else. He did believe strongly in the liberty of the Church, from which religious liberty of individuals developed. The understanding of state and sovereign, amid the upheaval of the Reformation, was radically changing, and would continue to change as the Christian concept of the state as a sacral actor gave way to the modern state as a rival, not ally, of the Christian faith.
Every martyr dies for a particular issue. But fidelity to that issue to the point of shedding of the blood is also a heroic exercise of conscience. The same is true today when the rights of conscience are denied. The issue may be marriage, or the sanctity of life, or the sacramental seal of Confession – but it is also a violation of conscience.
One final thing [the words of St Thomas at his execution]: “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.” That’s the play A Man for All Seasons, not history. It’s a mistake I made until the recent exhibition on More in Washington revealed the truth – More said “and” not “but”. He died the king’s servant, and God’s. Just as he died for Catholic truth and conscience.
Fr Raymond J de Souza is a priest of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario.