Of Communion and Communities

Words are not merely labels. They deliver concepts and images that guide and steer us through life. A fragmented society tends to devalue words so as to, even unconsciously, threaten the concepts it dislikes.

Take the word community. Once it meant “two or more people who freely choose to live together in order to pursue a common purpose”. After the Blairite years that word has been certainly devalued to such an extent that before brandishing it out we need to be careful at what various people are understanding exactly when they hear that word.

A community today can mean a neighbourhood, which alters the definition to its core. This kind of community must be defined as “two or more people who for various reasons happen to live next to each other and maybe are trying to form some common ground”, like a campaign for better street lighting.

A community today can also mean a pressure group, or even individuals around the globe who through the new means of communication promote or defend a common cause, like a “virtual community to promote stamp collecting of a particular region”; or a pressure group community like the LGBT Community.

This different and new definition of community is being applied willy-nilly to various organisations and institutions, even to Christians. We hear of the Catholic Community or Faith communities.

Engaged in the New Evangelisation this new way of being community is not a great help. This word is so overused that it has become tired. It is a given that when applying for grants or permissions the word “community” has to appear to earn you extra leverage. I asked some young people recently what image does the word community bring to their mind and they replied that they thought of an old-fashioned basic and almost adequate village hall, which they really would rather not frequent.

Here is where an important word comes in. Communion. Communion is not to be defined against community. Communion is the salt for communities, the leaven for them if they so wish. Communion enlightens communities and attracts members of communities to enter into communion. The creed speaks of communion not community. Communities need leaders; communion needs servants engaged in the washing of the feet. Even when stretched to the limits the bonds of communion do not break, even if they are deformed. At the heart of community is an ideal. At the heart of Communion is a person: Christ. Community relies on individuals, Communion relies on becoming one: the sharing of one bread and one cup that makes us one…

Maybe we have focused for too long on community rather then communion. Sometimes Christians allow the secular world to set their agenda. This means that we react rather then respond and contribute. Communion has an agenda, a Divine one. It is the agenda of Truth and Love and Faithfullness.

There is no way one can say something deep in these few lines and this forum. It is just a humble and rough pointer. These are just words; but words bring up images and concepts that help us on the Way.

As we approach the month of May, I look to Mary the Star of the New Evangelisation and ponder to see how she lived out this Communion.

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St George and the New Evangelisation

The celebration of the glorious Martyr St George is a day that fills us with courage and renewed hope in prayer.

St George stood up for what he believed and paid the ultimate price.

St George protected the Church of Christ (represented in the legend by the princess) against the assaults of sin, evil and the impious (represented by the dragon). The Victory of George is that he stood fearlessly in front of what others trembled before and this came from the conviction that the Risen Lord is with him.

Let us ask God through the intercession of our patron saint, to give us the courage to stand up against all those who today want to push aside the contribution of Christianity. Let us stand fearlessly in front of the powers of this fleeting world; knowing that behind us stands the power of Love shown forth so gloriously in the Resurrection of the Lord, the God of Truth.

Our new evangelisation has to be rooted in this trust and reliance on the Risen Lord. It is not the panic of searching for new words or methods, but the complete trust on Christ and his word. It is the gentleness of seeking the positive light of our Catholic Faith and before all else of living it, starting from the kneeling position.

This feast of our Patron calls us to stand on the side of Light, the Easter Light, to kneel in prayer, to engage our minds in the study of Holy things; in other words it is a call for us to step out of the slumber and apathy that we are becoming accustomed to and like St George and with St George to stand up for Jesus.

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One year on and many blessings!

For us at the Sevenoaks Ordinariate group tomorrow is an important day. Not only is it the feast day of St Anselm, Bp & Doctor; it is also our first anniversary since we became Catholics in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. What a year of blessings and adjustments it has been! We are still discovering the joys of being Catholics and finding our way how to live our charism, a gift that the Holy Spirit has granted us through the Church in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

As a group we are looking forward to see the ways and paths in which we will be directed, so tomorrow is not only a day of thanksgiving but above all a day of prayer, as we renew our trust in the Risen Lord with joy.

What better way to celebrate this then the ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of Deacon James Bradley.

Even though James was with us in Sevenoaks for a short time we think of him with thanksgiving. He was a good companion for all of us in our journey of faith.

We wish Deacon Bradley, and Deacon Daniel Lloyd, all the blessings from heaven as they will be conformed to Christ the Eternal High Priest tomorrow in London at 10am. We surround them by our prayers as they become priests forever!

Ad Multos Annos James and Daniel, we know that you will be richly blessed and that we, and so many others, shall be blessed through you.

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Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, et ibi ecclesia vita eterna

Seven years ago today saw the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the successor of St Peter. As soon as the votes were counted and Ratzinger was elected, an appointed cardinal moved in front of him and asked him if he accepts the election: Acceptanse electionem de te canonice factam in Summum Pontificem? (Do you accept your canonical election to Supreme Pontiff?) As soon as the candidate accepts, if already a bishop, is Pope; if not he assumes this supreme office as he is ordained.

Last Monday we celebrated Pope Benedict’s 85th birthday, we celebrated his gifts, intelligence, holiness and humility: his personal attributes that make him so dear.

Today we celebrate the office not the person. I feel uneasy when someone starts to praise a Pope as if to say that this one is so much better then the other one. Those elected to the Papacy are chosen by God just as we have been chosen to be disciples of the Lord: warts and all. We are all “work in progress”; popes included. The Pope is Peter; that is what we celebrate today. Seven years ago today this gift was renewed to the Church: “Where there is Peter there is the Church, and where there is the Church there is eternal life”, (Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, et ibi ecclesia vita eterna), goes a good saying attributed to St Ambrose. Today we celebrate our union with the Pope – our union with Peter. In these last 2000 years Peter had many faces and many temperaments, but he is still here, to guide and lead us. The Pope is the foundation stone of the Church and, throughout the centuries and up to the end of time he will be there suffering with the Church and rejoicing with the Church and governing the Church entrusted to him by Christ.

Today spare a prayer for the Pope, that God may grant him long life, wisdom, strength and holiness to continue ministering to us the Petrine Office as co-operator of the Truth!

As they say elsewhere: Viva il Papa!!!

 

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Nearer my God to thee!

The Holy Week and Easter liturgies are always a strong spiritual time that stretch to the full those who lead and partake in them in equal measure. That is how it should be.

The Easter Vigil is the central liturgical action of the year which releases the energy to the Church in order to continue its salvific work for the next twelve months or so. These liturgies need careful and prayerful preparation. Temptation suggests in the ears of the weak that this is fussiness and OTT; the liturgies are not ours to fiddle with. Liturgies are received from the Universal Church and by fitting oneself, or stretching oneself to fit in that canvas, is the way how we re-live the Paschal Mystery. This mystery cannot be lived on our own terms or opinions, however good they may be.

I had the privilege of being part of a hard working team composed of people of various competences to celebrate the Mysteries of this past Holy Week. From musicians, singers, servers to flower arrangers all play their part in the unfolding of the drama, but these preparations need to be done prayerfully and professionally. This hard working team enabled the people of God in this part of the kingdom to flock to the liturgies and by Easter Sunday to hear people say many positive things amongst which: “It felt that I have really been to Jerusalem” and “This was the best Easter of my life”. Thanks be to God.

Impromptu, unprofessional liturgies will not do and cannot do. If it is in the Liturgy that we come face to face with the Risen Lord, and it is, how can we take it lightly, or how can we take seriously those who accuse others of being slaves of rubrics. To imply that the Holy Spirit does not operate in the official liturgies of the Church is tantamount to blasphemy. To make excuses that some rubrics are too complicated for simple parishes might be shorthand for laziness.

Liturgy needs prayerful people both to administer it and to receive it more fruitfully; it was Aquinas who said that the Mass celebrated by a holy priest is more fruitful (magis fructuosa). When was the last time that you have prayed for the priest that celebrates the liturgy in your Parish? When was the last time you crticised him? Please pray for those who celebrate the liturgies, for those many people who enable their celebration and for all those who partake. It will make a big difference. It will enable us to stretch out to God.

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A week end pilgrimage in Walsingham

This was the first time I led a pilgrimage in Walsingham as a Catholic priest. Forty assembled at the Parish Church in Westerham for Mass and the blessing of pilgrims and off we went to the holy place.

The Administrator of the Anglican Shrine, the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin made us most welcome and spoke to us movingly on Friday after Supper.

On Saturday, we made our way to the National Shrine where we had Stations of the Cross followed by an excellent Pilgrim Mass in the Chapel of Reconciliation. After a rest we walked the holy mile reciting the Rosary that ended with sprinkling at the Anglican Shrine. After Supper we went to the Catholic Parish Church for adoration, benediction and candle lit procession to the outdoor image of the Blessed Mother in the grounds of the Catholic Accommodation Centre. Later that night we joined our Orthodox brethren at the village of Great Walsingham for part of the Easter Vigil celebrations. It was truly an ecumenical day.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we started the day by joining in the Parish Mass at the Catholic Parish Church and after lunch we walked to the National Shrine where Monsignor Andrew Burnham led the Divine Mercy devotions.

Back to the village, we found the coach waiting to take us back home, all content for a spiritual weekend at the feet of Mary.

For a number of pilgrims this was their first time in Walsingham, it was a joy for the veterans to see these people exploring and cherishing all the new experiences they sampled; and many of them already booked for next year!

For me there were several moving moments during the week-end. I mention only two for the sake of brevity. At the Orthodox Church the lights were dimmed as we progressed in the readings of Scripture. When complete darkness engulfed us the priest came out holding one small candle asking us all to approach it and partake of the light of Christ. In a few seconds the whole church was engulfed in a warm glow of light highlighting faces of disciples of the Lord in 2012. We then moved around the church, taking the light outside to enter a building radiant with light and adorned with an exquisite icon of the Resurrection. For three times the priest came out of the iconostasis and in English, Greek and Russian proclaimed that Christ is risen. For us in the Octave of Easter it was truly magical to share in this intense moment of faith of our brothers and sisters. Walking back to the Little Walsingham the biting cold wind stopped and we were all enjoying the mild, wonderful night with the words Christ is Risen ringing in our ears and delighting our hearts.

The other moment was the privilege I had in sitting in the confessional for two hours at the National Shrine during the Divine Mercy devotions. While those in church where living the devotion I was humbled in experiencing it face to face each time I pronounced the words of absolution. How careless of us when we do not take this great sacrament with true disposition of heart. It really is a miraculous sacrament.

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Sancte Pater – Ad Multos Annos!

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Why Tenow8?

In a handful of words canon 1008 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law encapsulates the nature of priesthood.

can 1008: By divine institution some among Christ’s faithful are, through the sacrament of order, marked with an indelible character and are thus constituted sacred ministers; thereby they are consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they fulfil, in the person of Christ the Head, the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling, and so they nourish the people of God.

This canon tells us that Holy Orders are of Divine origin. What a wondrous mystery, priesthood is a gift from God given to his people. In the sacrament of orders, some of Christ’s faithful are marked, consecrated and deputed with a character that cannot be taken away. In this consecration, bishops and priests act in the person of Christ the head as they exercise the further gifts of teaching, sanctifying and leading. And all this not for power in the earthly terms but in the sense of that magnificent moment of washing the feet. The nature of priesthood is to nourish God’s people, to save souls.

In 2009, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, modified this canon so that the distinction between the three orders, and especially that a deacon does not act in the person of Christ, is made clear. It does not take anything away from the beauty of the original canon; parts of it now to be found in the new third part of canon 1009.

Modified 1008: “By divine institution, some of the Christian faithful are marked with an indelible character and constituted as sacred ministers by the sacrament of holy orders. They are thus consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they may serve the People of God by a new and specific title”

1009§3: “Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity”.

Hence the new name of this blog, after canon 1008, or Tenow8. Called to nourish and serve, the thoughts appearing here are thoughts of one who, although very unworthy, has been chosen, called and consecrated to act in the person of Christ the Head.

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Change and decay…

I see that there are are only two possibilities in life, it is change or decay. Change might be unsettling as new and most probably uncharted waters have to be crossed, but this is the only way to grow and mature and deepen ones experience of life. I think how different it would be if countless Christians did not accept the newness of the Gospel of Christ and how different it might be if all Christians accepted and embraced such life changing values with joy and no hesitation. Once we stop changing we start decaying, generally when our body is lifeless. I see it that our call is to be changed “from glory into glory”; not our glory but His.

This blog has been veering slowly to the stage of decay. It was not that I was not interested in continuing it though I thought long and hard if it was the time to let it go. Since Ash Wednesday I was swamped with things, positive things that I would like to share briefly.

Two priests from the Ordinariate have been sponsored by the Catholic Conference of Bishops in England and Wales to go to Leuven and do the distance course JCL. It is a specialisation in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. I say by distance as the requirement is to attend for two and a half weeks twice a year and follow lectures in between on video link. There is a lot of written work to be produced and also examinations to attend. I have to say that I feel honoured to be one of the two chosen, and that although time is at a premium I will serve the calling on me that the Church has made to the best of my ability.

On returning from Leuven it was half way through Lent. Books had to be printed, and as the translation of the Liturgy is new much typing had to be done. For Holy Week, my first as a Catholic priest, I was richly blessed spiritually and in all other manners. The church was full for all the Triduum celebrations. There are plenty of photographs on the Parish website here. It was a privilege to receive two new adult members into the Catholic Church via the Ordianriate and to baptise the son of a couple that were in the original group when we entered the Catholic Church last year.

Now I am looking forward to our pilgrimage to Walsingham, it leaves tomorrow and returns late on Divine Mercy Sunday. Please spare a prayer.

I decided to keep this blog going. I chose change and not decay. Like prayer, when it goes slow it is an indication from above to look at the structures. I applied this to the blog. It will be my thoughts and it will go under the name of Tenow8. More about this in a future post. I have the joy of serving the Catholics of Westerham and those of the Sevenoaks Ordinariate while being a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This is where the journey has taken me, and in this blog I will try to share it with you. To you all a truly holy Eastertide!

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of Marriage

A very positive and clear letter from the leaders of English and Welsh Bishops was offered to all Catholics in England and Wales last Sunday.

Affirming the importance of marriage as the foundational institution of society for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children, our bishops are upholding the correct understanding of marriage as only possible between a male and a female.

A good way to take this affirmation and make it our own is to sign the petition organised by coalition for marriage which you can find here. Let us stand for this honourable and noble estate which is marriage and firmly and respectfully protest against anyone who attempts to tamper with marriage.

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