Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Since you asked nicely...


Another Margate sunset photo. Yesterday (24 Nov) at 4.30pm.

Christ, lawgiver in his own right


The Holy Father made clear his desire to hear opinion on the subject discussed in the recent Synod, and five cardinals, along with several other scholars, responded to that invitation by writing articles for a collection: "Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church" edited by Robert Dodaro OSA.

The other day I decided that it was high time I read this book. On downloading it to my Kindle, I realised that the article on the biblical data was written by Fr Paul Mankowski SJ, and having enjoyed several pieces by Mankowski before, I turned to his article first. I was not disappointed: he draws on his extensive knowledge of biblical languages and culture to offer a masterly guide to the teaching of Our Lord on divorce.

In addition, I highlighted one passage for its concise and forceful statement of the significance of the "but I say to you" passages in the sermon on the mount:
The sermon (Mt 5-7) presents Jesus as a new Moses or, better, a Moses to end Moses, for he is not merely a transmitter of the law but a lawgiver in his own right—not standing in obedient alertness on Sinai but seated on the mountain and declaiming his commandments in the first person, saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. . . . I say to you” (5:17-18; RSV-2CE), announcing paradoxically that the Mosaic laws still have force, but that their force henceforth resides in his person, that their original function—namely, of connecting God’s chosen people to the God who did the choosing—has been accomplished and replaced by his own activity.
Here is a link for "Remaining in the Truth of Christ" at the UK Amazon:

If you want to see another article by Mankowski on an important topic of current debate, see his "Old Testament Iconology and the Nature of God" which was included in Helen Hull Hitchcock's "The Politics of Prayer" published by Ignatius in 1992 (page 151ff.) When I tried just now, the following link got me the article in Google Books. It is erudite, witty and devastating.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Big skies

SSAG 002

My Lady Chapel is photogenic. Following the example of a tweeting visitor, I took the above photo which also features one of the fine votive candle stands.

I was actually asked for some more seaside photos by a kind reader, so I am happy to oblige. At this time of year, the "big skies" can be full of interest, not only on account of the varied colours, but also because of their rapid changes. A completely overcast sky can change to bright blue and back again in an hour, something that seems to be happening most days at the moment. Here is the harbour at low tide under an uncertain sky in mid-change:


And viewed here on a calm late afternoon while I was walking back from the station:

Harbour sky

I suppose there could be some Church-related metaphor there, but that really wasn't the point.

In the past week, I have been formally inducted as parish priest by the Episcopal Vicar, and informally inducted by enjoying my first Christmas Fair. I hope I manage to get to grips with what needs to be done for Advent and Christmas - I am looking forward to that in my new parish.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Catholic Dilemma 286: Difficulties in saying the Rosary

My friend is urging me to say the Rosary but I find it very difficult to concentrate. Aren’t these devotions optional? Should persevere with it?

It is true that outside the sacred Liturgy, we are left free to pray in different ways. However the Rosary does have the recommendation of Our Lady herself at Lourdes, Fatima and on many other occasions, and has been encouraged by the saints and most of the Popes of the past 500 years. Therefore I would encourage you to persevere.

The Rosary combines both vocal and mental prayer. At times, we might focus on the words of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be, repeated lovingly as to a dear friend. We are also invited to ponder the great events of Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection, raising our minds and hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving, and drawing new resolve for our Christian lives. Both the vocal prayers and the mysteries on which we meditate, draw us directly to Christ. Our Lady does not ask for attention for her own sake but for the sake of her Son. In any kind of prayer we are prone to distractions. The Rosary can make these more obvious, leading us to try (though always in tranquillity of soul) to resist them, to bring our cares to Jesus, and to turn our attention gently away from ourselves and back to Him.

In 1959, Blessed John XXIII wrote an encyclical letter (Grata Recordatio) to the Bishops of the world. He began by speaking of the Rosary, and in the context of this call to prayer, spoke of his hope for the future, his prayer for rulers, and the danger of secularism and materialism. He closed by asking the Bishops of the world to recite the Rosary during October with particular devotion and to ask Our Lady to pray that the “forthcoming Ecumenical Council” would add “wondrous growth to the universal Church.” On the 50th anniversary of the Council, we could recall this intention of Blessed John XXIII, and ask that the Church might experience such a wondrous growth through the Year of Faith.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Bishop Athanasius, Cardinal Burke and St Basil

Bishop Athanasius Schneider is well-known for his excellent books Dominus Est: It is the Lord, and Corpus Christi: Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church in which he argues for greater reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and particularly for a return to the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the traditional manner, kneeling and receiving on the tongue. I heard him speak and had the privilege of meeting him in 2009 in Estonia and again earlier this year at a meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Bishop Schneider is a holy man and has a great love for the Church, the priesthood and the Blessed Sacrament, so it was interesting to read his reaction to the recent Synod in an interview that he gave to Polonia Christiana (H/T Rorate Caeli)

Bishop Schneider is a scholar of the Fathers and one can sense his lively shock at the similarity of our present situation with those that have gone before, notably the Arian crisis, in which the defenders of orthodox doctrine were labelled intransigent and traditionalist. He has an apposite quotation from Saint Basil the Great:
“Only one sin is nowadays severely punished: the attentive observance of the traditions of our Fathers. For that reason the good ones are thrown out of their places and brought to the desert” (Ep. 243).
The whole interview is worth reading because he does not stop with deploring the situation but offers sound advice on how we should respond.

Meanwhile, Gloria TV has a report on the presentation by Cardinal Burke in Vienna, of the German edition of the book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”, a gathering organised by Una Voce Austria. Cardinal Burke said that the Relatio post disceptationem issued half way through the Synod was “one of the saddest documents that I could imagine ever coming from the Church.” He continued, “Many of us were horrified with this idea that was presented in the report, that there could somehow be good elements in mortally sinful acts. This is impossible.”

It is extraordinary that highly-respected, transparently holy and pastoral Bishops and Cardinals are speaking in this way. Damian Thompson in the Spectator has a readable summary of the fault lines that are developing and warns, Watch out Pope Francis: the Catholic civil war has begun.

As a priest, it is a great consolation to see the leadership offered by Cardinals Burke and Pell, and by Bishop Schneider. We do not need to be disloyal to the Church, the Pope, or the College of Bishops to raise our voices in defence of dogmatic and moral truth concerning the human person, marriage and the family. Since the election of Pope Francis, I have included the collects Pro Ecclesia and Pro Papa in my daily morning prayers and will continue to do so.

Confraternity meeting and an amusing Church notice

Neil Addison, the barrister who is Director of the St Thomas More Legal Centre, came to speak to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy at St Patrick's, Soho Square on Tuesday. These meetings now involve a longer journey for me, but the Javelin train gets to St Pancras in just under an hour and a half so it is not too bad.

Neil gave us good advice on various legal issues that are likely to arise now for clergy. One of the most important things he recommended was that any organisation or terms of hire should include a statement that we will not do anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine. That is not a bad life lesson in general, of course.

After lunch and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we had an open discussion on the Synod at which it was good to learn from the wisdom of brother priests. As well as the formal business of these meetings, it is valuable to be able to spend time in the company of other priests. At lunch I was next to Fr Jeffrey Steel whose conversion story I followed back in 2009, Fr Hunwicke was there to offer wit and wisdom, Frs Pinsent and Holden of Evangelium, and many others whom readers will know of.

Priests who agree on doctrine find it easier to be blunt to each other, so one good friend said to me that he had seen enough holiday snaps from Margate and would I please blog some more serious stuff. Point taken! Actually it has been a bit chaotic trying to settle into a new place and learn how everything works, but I think (please God) that the flywheel is beginning to slow from its peak. Nevertheless, in addition to more weighty matters, the holiday snaps will probably keep on coming - Margate is a great place and very photogenic. Today, for example, there is a glorious blue sky and I am now going to nip down to the harbour for a sandwich.

At the door of St Patrick's Church, I was amused to see this sign. It begins with a warning that is sadly commonplace in city Churches, advising people to take care of their belongings - but Fr Sherbrooke has a great twist at the end.

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