Procedamus in pace

 

And so we stand at the opening of the Year of Faith.

We look in anticipation and we offer our prayers. We pray that this will not be another celebration to throw on the heap of our memories, but a moment of conversion, of penance, of commitment.

On Monday our Holy Father explained to us that the new evangelization depends on our love and on the fire in our heart.

The Gospel is the word of God; Jesus Christ is the embodiment of this he is the final Word of God. This is why it is called Good News, it is God who communicates with us and weaves us in communion with his life as Trinity. This is what must set us on fire, a fire that according to the prayer and wish of Jesus must spread and set alight humanity. The new evangelization is the response of faith of each Catholic to the call of the Lord Jesus, a call and a relationship that must set the individual on fire with love and joy and faith.

We are the Church, formed by God through the prayers of the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary as they waited on God in the Upper Room, brought alive by the fire and wind that spreads it of the Holy Spirit.

In listening and praying with Scriptures in our hands together with the whole Church we accept that holy fire to set us ablaze with love and the wind, to spread that call from God around us. People must see Jesus in our life; why are we so busy hiding this light under the bushel?

He who is Love has called us into this Love, in professing our faith we give ourselves in total surrender to this Divine and Eternal purifying Love.

During this Year of Faith, may we listen afresh to this Good News, may we live it to the full and may we bring it’s light in every corner of the World.

 

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Of a saint and beads

The month of the most Holy Rosary opens with the feast day of the Little Flower – St Therese of Lisieux. Her childlike confidence in God and nobility of heart led her to emerge from the silence and hidden mansions of the cloister to be one of the brightest stars of Carmel. A name which by itself brings consolation to many Christians who surrounded by the tentacles of the present life still aspire for the childlike simplicity of the one who extolled the beauty of the Little Flower. May her teachings and her prayers continue to lead us up Mount Carmel, the figure of Christ himself. May we all share in her peace, her love and her smile.

The encouragement and warmth given to us by St Therese are attitudes which we can foster deeper within us during the month of October as we use daily our Rosary beads. For some of us in the Ordinariate the Rosary is not a new prayer, we bring it back with us from where it originated. My Anglican Spiritual Director used to remind me that when some Anglicans complain that we are introducing popish devotions such as the Rosary, we should always gently remind them that the Rosary came about before the split, whatever that meant. In my last post as an Anglican I inherited a Rosary group, small but faithful. The Walsingham cell also had opportunities where the Rosary was recited. I am more then certain that the Rosary helped us in the period of transition, that it was a shared heritage that enabled us to find in our new and true home a familiar landscape that made us feel more settled.

I am writing this to show the tenderness of Mary in preparing the way for some of us to be in union with the Holy See. For us she was truly the Star of the Sea that led us in a safe and true harbor built on the Rock. Let us use this month to fall back into that habit of holiness of praying the Rosary daily and using our beads. On the train, during a walk, on the bus or wherever we may be the Rosary beads are a sign of witness, a small start in the constellation of the New Evangelisation.

The Rosary and the Little Flower, what a good start for this month which will see the beginning of the Year of Faith.

Here in Westerham, the Rosary will be recited daily during the month of October.

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St Michael the Archangel

Join me in entrusting to the care of St Michael all the efforts we are putting in this fast approaching Year of Faith. May it be a true springboard for the much needed New Evangelisation.

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Pilgrimage and patrimony

Saturday 15th September saw the pilgrimage of the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham to Walsingham. The National Shrine of our Lady just outside Little Walsingham was overflowing with people. Several priests led by the Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, led a moving Sung Mass of our Lady of Sorrows. The liturgy was truly noble in its simplicity and simple in its nobility. The hymns were well chosen as was evidenced by the devotion in the singing. I found the homily truly inspiring and hope that it will be made available for many to read and ponder. The pilgrimage to Little Walsingham was joyful and blessed by the sun, it was a pity that those of us in front could not hear the leader reciting the Rosary, but I assume that it is difficult to achieve that. Arriving in Little Walsingham to the hymn of our Lady we were welcomed in the Anglican Shrine and led into sprinkling by the altar of the Mysteries of Light in the gardens as the Anglican Shrine Church would not accommodate the large number of pilgrims; ten priests administered sprinkling. It was good to be part of this, an event that brought Ordinariate folk together from all over the country – Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Ps 133:1.

It was great to meet so many friends, also from our Anglican past. As always Bishop Lindsay Urwin is a delight to meet and so refreshing. His welcome, as ever was warm and genuine. It was also good to meet Anglicans who live in Walsingham, and I was pleased to feel that after a year from the brothers and sisters taking different paths there are clear signs of acceptance and understanding, hopefully a sign of better things yet to come in accepting and honouring each other.

During the pilgrimage I could not stop reflecting on our patrimony. The Mass was straight from the Roman Rite, no rubrics or ceremonial that departed an iota. It ended with the consecration of the Ordinariate to our Lady, something that we were not used to in our Anglican days but which was so so right, in fact the highlight for me. What is our patrimony then? I enjoyed reading the Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente” of Pope Benedict XVI promulgated, the day before our pilgrimage, in Lebanon. In its opening paragraphs the Pope writes that the rites of the Eastern Churches belong to the patrimony of the whole Church of Christ, in this Church shines forth the tradition coming down from the Apostles through the Fathers, and which, in its variety affirms the divine unity of the Catholic Faith. (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 6 and CCEO, 39)  The mention of the Fathers is key for me. The Church of England since its 1549 liturgy, departed from an approved Catholic rite, to something that could accommodate a variety of views, as all the controversies of the late Victorian era regarding worship attest. When through Bl J H Newman and the Oxford Movement luminaries, the Fathers were rediscovered with zest, the second generation of Tractarians became known as Ritualists. The discovery of the Fathers led to a return to a liturgy that is more consonant with the Faith Catholic. This happened in stages or according to different temperaments. In places it focused on vestments, in others manual acts, others in new liturgies and in other places still a combination of two or more of these. The study of the Fathers led to liturgical reform in the CofE. A liturgical reform paralleled by a theological reform which reached its zenith in theologians like Mascall.

This is the patrimony that as Anglicans we held in the CofE. Using the Roman Rite or Anglican liturgies that so influenced by the Tractarian Movement led to similar rites and the centrality of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Using that patrimony in the changing CofE, as I saw it, made us a distinct part of that church, maybe numerically small but not insignificant. However, for me it felt like singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. So it was an organic development for some in that movement to accept with great joy the most generous offer of the Holy Father, as now we could cherish and uphold the Catholic rites resulting from the discovery of the Fathers in their own landscape.

I am often asked if the Ordinariate will grow and florish. I always reply that the definitive answer must be given in at least fifty years time. But living this pilgrimage and sharing in its joys I can see that the shoots are there, the acorn is well embedded, the ground fertile. May God’s will be done.

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Ordinariate Pilgrimage to Walsingham

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On Saturday 15th September 2012.

Noon – Angelus and Solemn Mass at the National Shrine

2:30pm – Holy Mile and Rosary Procession to the Anglican Shrine.

3:15pm – Sprinkling at the Anglican Shrine

Pilgrims are invited to bring a picnic lunch.

This pilgrimage will be led by Monsignor Keith Newton.

ALL WELCOME!

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Pentecost

The Holy Spirit descended on the Church on the Day of Pentecost, He has remained with His Church ever since.

On this day we come face to face with the reality of the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit with us. We realise that it is He that bonds us together; He that made us Christians; He that makes possible our sacraments and our prayers to happen. It is from Him that our holiness as Church comes from and our personal holiness as members of the Church is a sharing in His life.

He is the water that gives life, the breath that gives us existence. He turns the barren font into a continuous fresh supply of saints, He changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ, He makes priests out of ordinary mortals, He strengthens the weak, He forgives sinners, He makes available in the here and now the oblation offered once for all upon the cross, it is He who makes two persons in one in the sacrament of marriage. It is His indwelling with us that makes us His temples; it is He who constantly makes possible transfiguration and fills us with joy and peace, that joy and peace that the world can not give and that the world can not take away. O Holy Spirit how can we ever repay you? How great is your constant love!

Devotion towards the Holy Spirit is central to the Christian soul. The only approach we have is that of openness. In humility and repentance we await patiently for His touch. He is ready to come and hallow our existence if only we open up the doors for Him. How many times during a single day do we invite the Holy Spirit to come? How many times during the day do we trust Him and ask his wind and fire to blow and lighten up?

The Holy Spirit is the perfect guest that we can ever have. He is gentle and fills the soul with sweetness beyond compare. His work in us shows us how much we can really do and how much we are worth. We are worth all the blood shed on Calvary, a blood which through the Holy Spirit continues to be spilled for us every day on the altars.

The Holy Spirit, when asked in humility and sincerity, comes in loaded with gifts. Not the gifts we hope and aspire for but the gifts that He knows we need. He awakens the gifts that were already given to us but that we had not discovered and gifts that we were hesitant to admit we have busy as we are to do our own will rather than that of the Father.

Let our constant prayer be: Veni Sancte Spiritus!

Please keep in your prayers the seventeen new deacons that this morning received the Order of the Diaconate at Westminster Cathedral for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. We wish them well as they prepare to be ordained priests in the coming days and weeks.

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Flower Festival at St. John the Baptist, Westerham

Flower Festival at St. John the Baptist, Westerham

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Ascension?

The feast of the Ascension must be the feast of the dignity of the human existence. This day offers us an expanded reality – the earthly experience is lived in the light of heaven, we live in the light of what we hope for and by our life (witness) we anticipate that hope.

At the heart of the Ascension of the Lord is the word GO. He sends the eleven ad mundum. How unreasonable of the Lord. With all the heavenly hosts at his beck and call he sends these eleven on their own. But are they? The Lord asks them to stay put awhile and wait for the Spirit, which will enable them to witness. The other side of the word Go is Witness. And the eleven managed, not in their own way or time, but they did, and that is why I am writing these words and you are reading them, because they did. Today it is our turn to go and witness. You feel inadequate? We are in good company. Recall Benedict XVI on the day of his election as successor of St Peter; he termed himself inadequate too.

Today the Lord asks me and asks you to go and witness; we too have received the Spirit. We are sent out to cast out devils, that is win over temptation and undermine the structures of evil; we are sent with the gift of tongues, that is we carefully weigh our words and skillfully prepare to speak up for our hope. We are sent out to pick up snakes: those tormented by envy, to withstand deadly poison: that is the hatred poured out for what is true, right and honourable. We are sent to heal the sick: to stand by those who are finding it difficult at this time, both individually and as Church.

As Gerhard Lohfink writes we can only understand Ascension through the idea of witness. When we witness we cease believing in the Ascension as we start experiencing it.

 The story of the Ascension, with its parallels in the Elijahan narratives, seems to uphold the view of a three-story world: the underworld, the world and the heavens. As this was the human and scientific experience of the first century world, which we hold no longer, then some dismiss the whole narrative of Ascension. Why is it that some are so hasty and impatient? The fact of the Ascension, just like Genesis, proclaims not a scientific understanding of the world. What this event proclaims is the total range of human experience. On Holy Saturday the Lord descended to hell; the inferi, the underworld. There he experiences the lonliness and the pain of rejected love, depths of human experience that are experienced by all. In his thirty-three years of earthly  life the Lord shared the experience of every day life. Today, in the Ascension, the Lord shows that through union with God our possibilities are endless; we are called to be part of Divine life. Why do we choose hell, an enclosure into one’s own being, when we can be in heaven the state of fulfilled love!

So Ascension is the Alpha and the Second coming the Omega. In between is the time of sitting at the right hand of the Father. It is the time of the Kingdom being offered to all and many will embrace it. Under Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father and moved by the Holy Spirit this is the time to GO and Witness. The hidden Christ, hidden by the cloud of glory, is made manifest through our witness; our mission brings exaltation; reveals glory.

Today eternity and time meet, we live here in time but also in the divine dimension already. Our God hears and answers patiently and gently. He entrusts himself to you and to me as we proclaim the true and only dignity of human existence.

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What kind of empty hand?

There is in man a restlessness that is destructive. Knowing to satisfy curiosity rather then seeking Truth; working simply to earn money rather then to contribute in bringing order over chaos; expanding for self-interest rather then for the sake of Beauty are just a few examples.

Restlessness might be a fundamental sin of our time. The multiple channels on TV, the myriads of subjects on any search engine, just help not only to give us a wider perspective and induct us as members of the global village; they provide a wide platform for our innate restlessness, to switch from topic to topic, from thought to thought, from work to work without pondering, evaluating, taking in and offering a contribution.

Restlessness does not allow some to enjoy healthy friendships; it harms families and sadly, destroys marriages. Restlessness is not dedication or hard work as the devil would like us to think. Restlessness is impatience, a showing forth of the fact that deep down we are not at harmony, we are empty. Restlessness leads to all sorts of spiritual and material damage that would need several of these blog posts to skim the surface.

The constant bombardment of images and phrases, scraps of information thrown at us as if they were valuable or deep insights fuel restlessness. In reality they are money making sensational empty messages. There is no depth to these. More then ever before: “…lead us not into temptation…”

How countercultural of the Lord to call us to him while saying: Do not let your hearts be troubled! The world calls for restlessness, emptiness, and an empty pair of hands at the end of life: nothing to show for it. The Lord calls us to be and not to do. To be still and ponder and be effective in our solid and faithful and countercultural contribution and witness.  An empty pair of hands at the end of life soiled and marked with love, and work and thoughtfulness. The Lord himself will touch these hands and recognizing in them an extension of his tokens of love on his own hands will lead us to the many mansions prepared for us. He said so.

Restlessness? Not for me thank you.

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St Pius V, OP, Pope (1504-1572)

Born at Lombardy, 17 Jan., 1504 elected Supreme Pontiff 7 Jan., 1566; died 1 May, 1572. Being of a poor family he was taken in by the Dominicans, where he received a good education and was trained in the way of solid and austere piety. He entered the order, was ordained in 1528, and taught theology and philosophy for sixteen years. In the meantime he was master of novices and was on several occasions elected prior of different houses of his order in which he strove to develop the practice of the religious virtues and spread the spirit of the holy founder St Dominic. He himself was an example to all. He fasted, did penance, passed long hours of the night in meditation and prayer, travelled on foot without a cloak in deep silence, or only speaking to his companions of the things of God.

In 1556 he was made Bishop of Sutri by Paul IV. In 1557, Paul II made him a cardinal. In 1559 he was transferred to Mondovì, where he restored the purity of faith and discipline, gravely impaired by the wars of Piedmont. On the death of Pius IV, he was, despite his entreaties, elected pope.

He began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor. As pontiff, he practiced the virtues he had displayed as a friar and a bishop. His piety was not diminished, and, in spite of the heavy labours and anxieties of his office, he made at least two meditations a day on bended knees in presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He visited the hospitals, and sat by the bedside of the sick, consoling them and preparing them to die. He washed the feet of the poor, and embraced the lepers. It is related that an English nobleman was converted on seeing him kiss the feet of a beggar covered with ulcers. He was very austere and banished luxury from his court, raised the standard of morality, laboured with his intimate friend, St. Charles Borromeo, to reform the clergy, obliged his bishops to reside in their dioceses, and the cardinals to lead lives of simplicity and piety.

He worked incessantly to unite the Christian princes against the Turks who were undermining the Christian borders. In the first year of his pontificate, he had ordered a solemn jubilee, exhorting the faithful to penance and almsgiving to obtain the victory from God. He supported the Knights of Malta, built for them Valletta, the capital city of Malta and established in it the Mother Church. He sent money for the fortification of the free towns of Italy, furnished monthly contributions to the Christians of Hungary, and endeavoured especially to bring Maximilian, Philip II, and Charles I together for the defence of Christendom. In 1567 for the same purpose he collected from all convents one-tenth of their revenues. In 1570 when Solyman II attacked Cyprus, threatening all Christianity in the West, he never rested till he united the forces of Venice, Spain, and the Holy See. He sent his blessing to Don John of Austria, the commander-in-chief of the expedition, recommending him to leave behind all soldiers of evil life, and promising him the victory if he did so. He ordered public prayers, and increased his own supplications to heaven. On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, 7 Oct., 1571, he was working with the cardinals, when, suddenly, interrupting his work opening the window and looking at the sky, he cried out, “A truce to business; our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Christian army”. He burst into tears when he heard of the victory, which dealt the Turkish power a blow from which it never recovered. In memory of this triumph he instituted for the first Sunday of October the feast of the Rosary, and added to the Litany of Loreto the supplication “Help of Christians”.

He also reformed the liturgy, published a missal and an office book which was used in the Western Church from his lifetime up to 1969. Pope Benedict XVI has allowed the use of it again in 2007 as the extraordinary form of the one Western Liturgy.

Whilst securing the frontiers of Christendom and establishing excellent practice he died of gravel, repeating “O Lord, increase my sufferings and my patience!” He left the memory of a rare virtue and an unfailing and inflexible integrity.

He was beatified by Clement X in 1672, and canonized by Clement XI in 1712.

Saint Pius teaches us that a good life is accompanied by prayer and obedience to God and this leads us to take practical and concrete steps in promoting the kingdom of Christ here on earth. When we pray “thy kingdom come” we are also saying “thy will be done” in our lives and in the environment in which God has placed us to work, hopefully like St Pius, tirelessly for his kingdom.

O God, who in your providence raised up Pope Saint Pius the Fifth in your Church that the faith might be safeguarded and more fitting worship offered to you, grant, through his intercession, that we may participate in your mysteries with lively faith and fruitful charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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