Monday, 29 October 2012

Christ our King

In our Extraordinary Form Mass yesterday morning we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. This is a Kingship that goes unrecognised by some governments and even by some Catholics. We seem happy to sing ‘Hail Redeemer, King Divine’ or the more contemporary ‘Majesty’, but I wonder how well this is translated into everyday life. Andrew spoke in the previous post about catholics with a small ‘c’; Catholics who have consciously rejected the Church’s teaching on contraception, abortion, cohabitation, pre-marital sex  –in short, anything that is contrary to the secular culture in which we live and which secular ‘wisdom’ proposes as ‘good’.

Yet what is good is determined by God alone, and is summed up for us in the Ten Commandments which form the basis of the moral law. I suspect that too many folk view the Commandments as a set of rules God devised to test us, rather than –as I see them- a reflection of God’s nature by which He seeks to keep our character conformed to His. As individuals and as a society we ought to seek that conformity. Governments may well have the responsibility of making prudential judgements on practical matters such as how much tax is to be collected and by what methods; how education is to be organised; how healthcare is to be arranged, but they do not have the authority to decide the moral law. Unfortunately this seems to be how they are perceived today, both by governments themselves and by much of the public; both seem to equate making something legal with making something right and good. Abortion, contraception, same-gender unions etc, may all be granted legal status by a government, but are not thereby made good; they remain contrary to the law of God. Governments and individuals who reject God’s laws in these areas overstep their authority on the fallaciousness of today’s relativism: “Nothing is always right or wrong; true or false; what is true for you may not be true for me”.

There is an intrinsic contradiction in such relativism since it claims that “it’s true that nothing is true”. As such, relativism provides no foundation upon which to build a civilised society since it allows for everyone to determine one’s own morality, thereby removing from society any authority to promote right or prohibit wrongdoing. Even a democracy where the majority vote holds sway cannot be claimed as the arbiter of right and wrong, justice or injustice, for majority opinion can change and revert back again; it is unstable and as such, quite unable to be utilised as a means of determining right from wrong.

Politicians, courts and individuals who seek to make or hold contraception, abortion, same-gender unions, cohabitation etc legal, would do well to remember that there is a law-maker above us all, and to whom we must one day give an account. He who placed the laws of physics in creation also placed a moral law in the heart of man -both are ignored at our peril. The celebration of Christ the King should remind us all that we do not reign supreme; God does, and that those who exercise authority in the world -or in the Church- do so under Him. Their responsibility is certainly great, but it is just as certainly limited.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Catholic or Not?

All Christians are joined by Baptism to the Catholic Church, but not all who call themselves Catholics are Catholics, since not all of them accept and practice the Catholic Faith in its entirety.
The truth is that Christ established one Church which He founded on Peter, the rock (Matt.16:18); and it is to this Church alone that He gave the Sacraments. Baptism is one of those Sacraments and as such, all who are Baptised are baptised into the Church governed by Peter and his successors, there being one ontological change associated with baptism; one grace which fills us, and one Church into which we are incorporated, either formally as Catholics or informally as Protestants. The rite for the reception of a convert testifies to this in that it brings separated brethren into full communion; as long as the person was validly baptised with water and the Trinitarian formula no ‘second Baptism’ is given; they are recognised as having been in some, though imperfect, communion with Christ’s Catholic Church.  
This doesn’t mean we should be unconcerned about those not in full communion with Peter, for they are –though unaware of it– deprived of the fullness of grace and Truth which is found only in the Catholic Church (the Seven Sacraments, the infallible Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, a complete Bible, the spiritual writings of the saints).  Indeed we should long for those outside full communion to come home and be fully nourished, and should work for their return home. To borrow an analogy from a friend of mine, ‘which of us sitting down to beef and potatoes beside a poor man with tomatoes on toast wouldn’t offer to share our meal with him?  We wouldn’t dream of saying, “Well, I don’t feel too bad because at least you’ve got something to eat”’.
The point is that as baptised people we are in one of three states: we are either sincere Protestants who repudiate the authority of the Catholic Church per se; Catholics who trust the Church and submit to her teaching in both will and intellect, or catholics with a small ‘c’ who reject the Church’s authority and are therefore informally Protestant. It is not good enough for such catholics to say, “I consider myself Catholic but I respectfully disagree with the Church on some issues. I don’t believe contraception is intrinsically evil...that the Pope is infallible” etc. Such persons are protesting against the Church and her teaching, which is to protest against Christ, cf. Lk.10:16; they are rejecting two thousand years of teaching guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn.14:25-27). It is God with whom they have their disagreement, not an earthly institution.
Sadly this rejection is too often the case today.  How many of us know people who are nominally catholic, yet reject articles of the Faith or concrete moral teaching that they haven’t fully studied or understood, or which conflict with their lifestyle choices and personal desires? I find it disappointing to note how many Catholics I know who, when challenged on the Faith, say “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask a priest” or worse, “I’m not sure I believe it myself”, and yet have no hesitation in dogmatically declaring on their own authority that the Church is wrong on contraception, abortion, same-gender marriage etc –despite two thousand years of Church teaching on these issues under the formal guidance of the Holy Spirit. Any call to come home during the new evangelisation then, is and must be addressed first of all to catholics with a small ‘c’, and only then to our separated brethren.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Vatican II and the Synod on the New Evangelisation

It has been recalled on Rorate that the day after his election, in his Urbi et Orbi radio message, Pope John-Paul II said there were things which were “implicit” in the texts of Vatican II:  “those things which lie hidden in it or—as is usually said—are ‘implicit’ may become explicit in the light of the experiments made since then and the demands of changing circumstances.” This is an incredible statement, allowing for, as it does, an unending life for Vatican II. It also allows for a particular slant to be given to the words of Cardinal Daneels that Vatican II is actually the ‘Vatican III’ some have called for:

Occasionally here and there, the idea is put forward about the desirability or even the need for a Vatican III ... is not the full realisation of Vatican II the real Vatican III for right now?
Lecture, 18 October 2012, St George’s Cathedral, Southwark.

Is the Cardinal seeking to read “the implicit” in Vatican II, or is he seeking a full and faithful implementation of Vatican II in line with Tradition? I hope it is the latter. After all, if Vatican II can become Vatican III, it can also become Vatican IV, Vatican V, Vatican VI and so on until the world ends, so that no other Council is ever necessary. It is absurd that such a non-stop Council exist. I am of the opinion that it is now, more than ever that we need to return to the actual texts of Vatican II (and, if there are any, to the ‘implicit meanings’) and read them and only in the light of Tradition. Why? Because the texts must surely express the mind of the Fathers, and that mind must be in line with what the Church has always believed, otherwise the Faith has been ditched in order to create a new religion. I thus hope and pray then that the Synod for the New Evangelisation and the Holy Father require a faithful reading of the text itself.

But what about the words of John-Paul? Is this a Pope saying that there are indeed hidden messages in the text of a Council? Even if he is, we do well to remember that what is implicit in the texts must be consonant with what is explicit, otherwise the texts are in contradiction to themselves and thereby stripped of all value, for it is the devil that speaks with forked tongue, not the Holy Ghost. If Vatican II and the current Synod are to be a success, it will be necessary for the Synod and the Holy Father to require a totally faithful reading of the actual texts of Vatican II.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Joy or Hope for the Easter People during the Year of Faith?

The quote from St Augustine, “We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song” inspires us to be a people with a mission to spread the joy of The Faith. There is nothing wrong with this in principle; we ought not to be people who give way to sadness and despair even in the midst of great tragedy. But I wonder if there is not a problem in the way the phrase is sometimes handled.  It seems to me that a focus on joy (as commonly understood) rather than hope, produces problems, particularly since the word ‘Alleluia’ does not mean ‘joyful’ but ‘Praise God’; which is to say, at all times and in all circumstances trust and thank God.

The first problem is that it by-passes the fact that we preach an incarnate Christ who for our salvation “accepted death, even death on a cross” (Phil.2v8); it does not fully take account of the fact that “we preach a Crucified Christ; a scandal to the Jews and a folly to the gentiles” (1.Cor.1v23). In the second place, it all but by-passes the need to participate in the Cross by uniting our sufferings to those of Christ Crucified; to “fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Col.1v24). And, one might add, for the sake of the world.

Taking ‘Alleluia’ at its scripture meaning of ‘Praise God’, then whether we are experiencing the joys of life (an anticipation of the joy of heaven?) or the sorrows of life (sharing in the Cross which leads us to heaven) we should be able to say fiat voluntas tua: “Thy will be done” and thereby sing ‘Alleluia’ (give praise to God). Sadly, the Easter ‘Alleluia’, is, I think, sometimes mishandled. Inside the liturgy it produces a lex orandi by which we are treated to nice, jolly celebrations of the giftedness of the community; outside the liturgy, it seems to require an emotional rejoicing with a joyful exterior like some sort of Glee Club, which is not what the biblical word commands. Such a joyful disposition is certainly out of place at the bedside of a dying loved one, especially when the loved one is a child. In such circumstances the presentation of a Saviour who stands some miles down the road saying “cheer up! All will be well when you get here!” can be an irritation rather than a consolation. I remember during my time in secular employment (in the late 70’s and early 80’s) and among non-Christian family friends of that time, that Christians with a joyful disposition were dismissed as “not living in the real world but having their head in the clouds with angels playing harps” –presumably because they had devoured the opiate of the people, as Freud termed religion.

I wonder then if what is needed is not so much a disposition of joy but of hope. The world in which we live is indeed filled with the Light of Easter, but light casts shadows, and the shadow from which the Light of Easter cannot be separated in this world is the shadow of the Cross; a Cross which is our hope, but not necessarily our joy: Our Lady did not stand at the foot of the Cross with St John rejoicing and singing joy-filled psalms (which is how some want the Cross to be commemorated at Mass, making the Sacrifice secondary to the fact that it is being pleaded by the Risen Christ Who, never the less, stands in heaven as the Lamb slain cf. Rev.5v6).

When people are suffering through illness, harmful relationships, armed conflict, poverty, natural disaster et al, they ask “Where is God in all of this?” To say “He is waiting for you down the road” does not really speak of God’s incarnate love for us. It rather presents Him as distant; uninvolved, and I would not be surprised if presenting Him this way I was rebuked for dismissing the person’s suffering. To say “He is on the Cross with you and holds out hope to you” is, in my experience, less likely to irritate those who suffer. Explaining that situations in this world (as well as bodies at the end of the world) can experience resurrection, provides hope -and a joy which might include but which goes beyond the mere emotion of joy. I therefore expect I will be focusing in this Year of Faith in providing a catechesis that brings hope. “We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering brings patience; patience brings endurance, and endurance brings hope. And this hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom.5v3-5).

Monday, 15 October 2012

God's Pharmacy

I was sent this in an email by a cousin of mine and I thought it was worth sharing...

God’s Pharmacy
It's been said that God first separated the salt water from the fresh, made dry land, planted a garden, made animals and fish....all before making a human. He made and provided what we need even before we were born. These are best and more powerful when eaten raw. We're such slow learners. God left us a great clue as to what foods help what part of our body! This is God's Pharmacy! Amazing!

1. A sliced Carrot resembles the human eye including the pupil, iris, and radiating lines. Science indicates that carrots help protect the vision, especially night vision.

2. A Tomato has up to four chambers and is commonly red. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and helps prevent heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer and more. Tomato juice can also reduce the tendency toward blood clotting.

3. Grapes hang in a cluster that resembles the shape of the heart. The stronger the color of the grape is, the higher the concentration of phytonutrients. Grapes prevent heart disease and reduce platelet clumping and harmful blood clots. 

4. Walnuts resemble the brain, mimicking the wrinkles and folds of the neocortex. Research suggests that walnuts may reduce the risk or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.  The high concentration of omega-3 fats in walnuts promotes healthy brain function.

5. Kidney Beans, true to their name are kidney shaped. They provide nutrients that are helpful to the human kidneys. Kidney beans contain molybdenum, which helps sulfite oxidase to form and is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Animal research has shown that chronic renal failure has been associated with oxidative stress Sulfite-mediated oxidative stress in kidney cells.

6. Celery has a bone like appearance and is rich in silicon and Vitamin K, needed for healthy joints and bones.

7. Avocados were used by the Aztecs as a sex stimulant and the Aztec name for avocado was ahuacatl, meaning "testicle". An extract of avocado impedes the growth of both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate cancer cells.

8. Figs have a rich history and often been referred to as a sexual food, this is partly symbolic due to the appearance of the fruit. Figs are loaded with seeds and when halved, many note a resemblance to female genitalia. The Hindu name for fig is anjeer and research has shown that anjeer is helpful for sexual weakness. Figs have also been mentioned as a source helpful for male fertility and sperm motility. 

9. Oranges, Grapefruits and other Citrus fruits have been compared to the appearance of female mammary glands. These fruits contain nutrients that are helpful in the fight against breast cancer. 

10. Sliced Onions resemble skin cells and contain quercetin. Studies have shown when treated with a combination of quercetin and ultrasound at 20 kHz for 1-minute duration, skin and prostate cancers show a 90% mortality within 48 hours with no visible mortality of normal cells. 

11. Sweet Potatoes resemble the pancreas and have a low glycemic index count, which is beneficial for diabetics. 

12. Olives resemble ovaries and may help reduce hot flashes in women going through menopause. Research indicates that Olive Oil may reduce ovarian cancer by 30%. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Vatican II and the Year of Faith

Today we begin celebrating the Year of Faith and the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Pope asks that we renew our faith in light of that Council and the Catechism which followed it, but I wonder if we don’t first need to promote a correct understanding of the Council before we can renew ourselves in its light because, sad to say, it remains a source of division.

Surely we are happy to support Vatican II when read in the light of all the other Councils (the hermeneutic of continuity) since, being of the One True God who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb.13v8), it cannot contradict previous dogmatic teaching, only develop it; it can introduce new pastoral disciplines but not demand we unquestioningly accept those disciplines which are, after all, prudential judgments, not dogma.

Most sincere Catholics are likely wearied by folks on the extremes of the Vatican II debate; wearied by those who claim to support Vatican II yet will not live by its teachings and disciplines where those teachings and disciplines have a pre-1962 history, and wearied by those who reject it as inconsistent with pre-1962 teaching (if it were, would Archbishop Lefebvre have added his signature to its documents?).

What about a cursory, personal inventory of where we stand in regard to Vatican II; one understandable by the average Joe and the Prelate? I wonder if we could agree that:

That the Bishops rule the Church in union with the Pope: The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.

That the Pope remains superior to the Bishops both individually and collectively: The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church.

These are not contradictory positions: one subjugates Episcopal Authority, which the Pope has in common with every other Bishop, to Papal Authority, which the Pope alone possesses.

That laity are properly called to act in the world, yet can voice an opinion on Church matters and undertake ecclesial tasks: An individual layman, who must take on the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation led by the Gospel and the mind of the Church… is, by reason of knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which he may enjoy, permitted and sometimes obliged to express his opinion on things which pertain to the good of the Church.

That the ecclesial tasks undertaken by the laity are supervised by the clergy: Whether laity offer themselves spontaneously or are invited to act and cooperate directly with the hierarchy, they do so under the higher direction of the hierarchy itself (AA20 and 24).  

These are not necessarily contradictory statements either, but a recognition that while the laity can engage in ecclesial-centered tasks, they do so under the direction of the hierarchy since the authentic (proper) role of the laity is the renewing of the secular world with the light of the Gospel.

That the ordained teach and rule the people of God, and that they alone can confect the Eucharist: the ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people.

That the faithful, who exercise their priesthood by reception of the sacraments, unite their self-offering to the Sacrifice offered by the ordained: The faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity (the exercise of the royal priesthood)

These statements are not contradictory. Since the priesthood of the ordained and of the laity differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the exercise of their priesthoods differ.

That non-Catholics can be saved: Some, even many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, yet...

That it is only the Catholic Church which saves: Non-Catholic communities suffer from defects, and although the Spirit of God has not refrained from using them as a means of salvation [they] derive their efficacy from the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.

These are not contradictory statements but situate the effectiveness of non-Catholic religions in the context of the Catholic Church as the sole means of salvation established by Christ.

that the human person has a right to religious freedom; that this freedom means all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or social groups and any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his beliefs.

That all remain obliged to seek the Truth of the Catholic Church:  Religious freedom, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

These determine that while man has a right to religious liberty he still has the duty to seek the Truth and the One True Church of Christ which subsists [originates and permanently exists] in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.

That we are to follow our conscience: It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law; he is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his last end. Therefore, he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience nor prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.

That conscience must be formed in light of the Church’s authoritative teaching: It can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgements about acts to be performed or already committed; and that this ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a person takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin. Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and teaching, lack of conversion and charity can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

That the Pope’s teachings do not require ‘reception’ by the Church for validity: The Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, he confirms his brethren in their faith. His definitions are, of themselves and not from the consent of the Church, justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgement. Religious submission of intellect and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, and the judgments made by him sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.

That use of the vernacular is acceptable and useful: A suitable place may be allotted to the mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer”, but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of the Council’s Constitution.

That Latin is to remain in use even by the laity: Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. Wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of [the Council’s Constitution] should be observed. Gregorian chant, as specially suited to the Roman liturgy, and all other things being equal [one to another], should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

That the Missal, as promulgated in 1969 by His Holiness Pope Paul VI in order to give concrete expression to the liturgical decrees of the Council retains both the altar-facing position for the priest from the offertory onwards and the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, and therefore that these ought to be promoted in faithfulness to the Council, to the Missal, and to the memory and manifest intention of Pope Paul VI.

From the General Instruction:
Note No. 115 where the priest faces the people; No. 116 where he faces the altar, and No. 117 where Communion is obviously received on the tongue.

From the Rubrics of the Order of Mass
Note No. 133 where the priest faces the people and No. 134 where he turns back to facing the altar:

Have some of us wrong-footed ourselves in our walk with the Council?  It is my hope that the Year of Faith will help the whole Church to rediscover Vatican II in its continuity with Tradition. It was my hope the discussions between the SSPX and Rome would produce unity and a clarification of Vatican II's disputed and more difficult texts. Sadly that was not to be at the time.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Desperate Dan Finds His Eve!

We congratulate our Grounds and Buildings Manager –whom we have likened to Desperate Dan because of his build and beard- on his recent marriage. He, his wife and his family are a weekly sight at our Sunday Mass; one of them is particularly attracted to our biscuit tin (or rather its contents!).  Dan himself remains a figure often seen in our parish garden... though we want to be clear that it was not in the garden that he met ‘Eve’!
May God give His greatest blessing to them in their life together and to their families; may their spiritual lives flourish as beautifully as we hope to see the garden flourish under his care!

The Wedding was apparently enjoyed by all and a happy day followed a holy ceremony where sacred vows were exchanged, though not without a little nervousness from Dan –a solid build does not always mean we have no heart!

Paul and Victoria in Desperate Dan's Garden!

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Year Of Faith ... Thoughts and Tips -amended

Let us hope and pray that the Year of Faith produces its fruits. As we listened to today’s readings this morning we heard how God corrected Job’s reliance upon his own understanding. Father reminded us that we are to rely upon God and seek the Wisdom that sits by His throne, rather than rely upon our own understanding. Many Governments around the world today seem to rely solely upon their own understandings and secular education (and are not uninfluenced by strident lobbyists) to make and determine their policies and laws, hence their attempt to redefine marriage and their allowing of the killing of innocents in the womb –in numbers far greater than those who lost their lives in the Crusades, the Inquisition or, worse still, the World War II Nazi Regime or Communism. We badly need a Year of Faith in order to renew our grasp of God’s wisdom and our Christian courage so that we may transform ourselves, the Church and the world. A few suggestions given us recently may help...

Since faith, self, Church and society are not renewed by Papal Proclamations decreeing a Year of Faith but by the practical appropriation of such proclamations, we have to do things in this Year of Faith if it is to achieve its purpose. Some practical things we can do as part of our personal programme are:

·         Three Fundamentals:

1. Increase our prayer
2. Increase our fasting
3. Increase our almsgiving

·         Three Public Actions:

1. Wear a crucifix in public
2. Make the sign of the Cross before and after meals at home and when out
3. Say ‘Oh, God bless you’ instead of ‘thank you’

·         Three Personal Building Blocks

1. Read the Catechism (or Credo and Lumen books) to build/consolidate knowledge of the Faith, and the lives of the saints so as to be inspired and guided by the holy rather than the merely educated: Introduction To The Devout Life (St Francis de Sales) Story of a Soul (St Therese of Lisieux) Confessions (of St Augustine) Dark Night of The Soul (St John of the Cross) Uniformity with God’s Will (St Alphonsus Ligouri). Leave behind theologians; go for the spiritual Masters
2. Order our prayer life: a set time which no one and nothing disturbs
3. Begin/return to attending weekday Mass and Sunday Devotions.

No pain; no gain; no exterior change, no interior change.

Let us seek change within ourselves in order to change society, that the Lord may not say to anyone, ‘Alas for you... you shall be thrown down to hell.

As a young person I hope we are treated to more solid teaching and more dignified worship than we have had during my 20+ years. I was on my way out of the Church before I discovered the Catechism and the Extraordinary Form after leaving school; the former helped me to value the Faith, the latter to appreciate liturgy in both Forms. Certainly the predominance of social-justice issues rather than relationship with Christ (from which justice should spring); of relativist teaching rather than the Deposit of Faith, and of hand-clapping, dancing and pop music Masses rather than worship and supplication of God -all of which were no doubt seen and given to us as “consonant with the youth”, actually did nothing to help me or my peers remian in or value the Faith. A 95% lapsation rate of school leavers has resulted from all of this in the last 40+ years, yet our leaders don't seem to grasp or even consider that they might have got it wrong. As young people at school we happily went along with these undemanding things, but by High School many of us were quietly laughing at it all: it was infantile and lacking in meat and challenge. It was, in fact, the Church badly aping the world. Well, we might well have had thousands of youngsters through our youth programmes, but these youngsters aren't committing to Christ in His Church at the end of it. They leave school to stand on street corners, frequent the pubs and enjoy free-floating relationships. Pray to God for a successful Year of Faith.

Father Dickson writes:

We want to add for the purposes of clarification that:

·         This post does not blame teachers or youth workers for the lapsation of the youth; it ends saying the youth are distracted by the attractions of the world. We recognise the sincerity and hard work of our youth workers and teachers, and are sorry if any have felt offended.
·         We here and now record our opinion that dramas, pop-style music and such like can be useful in paraliturgies. Indeed both ‘the collar’ and ‘the tie’ are happy to promote and attend such paraliturgies, and would like to see more of them so that Holy Mass can be left to convey the sense of the holy, rather than a sense of the theatre.
·         The post does proffer that since the lapsation of the youth over the last forty years has not been stemmed by their engagement with youth ministries, that our youth workers/leaders try a different approach: sacred-style Masses and clear, doctrinal teaching. These can easily run alongside very imaginative paraliturgies. It can’t harm to try, can it?
·         We also recognise the need to help young people ask questions of The Faith in order to deepen their understanding of it and thus “give a reason for the hope that is within” (1 Pet.3v15). This post only points out that educational material of the relativist, subjective type (‘The Church says....Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer’) has not proved useful in bonding the youth with Christ in His Church.
·         We affirm that social justice is an essential part of living out the Gospel (cf. Matt.25v31ff), but suggest that when presented with the subjective, relativist thrust of today’s world in educational materials, the revealed nature of The Faith can be lost –especially on life and marriage issues, even though Objective Truth arises within the Person of Christ and leads back to Him.
·         It is true that many of us enjoyed what was given to us at school but despite this, the circle of people with whom we have mixed did dismiss it all very easily (i.e., ‘laugh at it’). It would be interesting to know how many young people in year 12 and above attend Mass of their own volition. I suspect that in many places the numbers might be even less than 5%.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Forest Murmurs, ad-orientem and Vatican II

Father Michael Brown at Forest Murmurs says his Blog has been described as ‘against Vatican II’ because he supports the ad-orientem orientation for Mass. I think this lacks knowledge of Father Brown. It is also a strange criticism to make because the Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI was promulgated specifically in order to give final form to Vatican II’s liturgical insights, and it has always foreseen the use of the ad-orientem orientation in its rubrics and in its General Instruction as the norm. While celebrating facing the people was and remains a legitimate option, it was not given to replace the norm. So celebrating facing the altar, as I habitually do, cannot in any way be construed as not being in line with Vatican II. It is just not in line with the over-use of the option to face the people –which can be seen as betraying a sense in the celebrant that it is the people who are to receive the focus at Mass, not God.

I realise the Second Vatican Council remains a point of dispute for many, and really can’t understand why we allow this to continue. As a convert I never knew the pre-Vatican Church and happily accepted that while all faiths should get along and work together, the Catholic Church was still the one true Church with a Divine mandate to present itself as such to all nations until the end of the world. I happily accepted use of both the vernacular and Latin; I happily accepted that I was to make the faith present in my family, workplace and social life while functioning as a Reader and Pastoral Council member. I did not see two sides to the Church. Indeed I am unhappy when I see someone ‘boxed’ and labelled, with all they say and do viewed through a single narrow lens. Let us be clear: anyone who claims the Council changed the Faith itself has simply lost the Faith, since we have a Sacred Deposit to which we cannot add and from which we cannot subtract; conversely, anyone who refuses to develop the Faith dismisses the doctrinal clarifications issued from Nicaea to Vatican I. I personally think Vatican II is still very much in line with Tradition when read in the hermeneutic of continuity, though I am just as convinced it has been read from a hermeneutic of rupture and consequently, not always well implemented. I admit I am concerned that we might have a problem in that we taken the people of God away from their authentic vocation as the leaven in the world so as to sit them on committees and stand them on sanctuaries, thereby creating a second problem of giving the impression that the Church is a democracy. Not only does an over-emphasis on ecclesial roles for the laity devalue their authentic vocation as the leaven in the world, but it is, I think, a major cause of the fall in priestly vocations. After all, why be a celibate pastor when one can be a married lay-leader?

That our liturgy and catechesis has gone astray is recognised by a growing number of people and bishops throughout the world. The USA is marching way ahead of us in the UK on this point; we still have too many Masses with gimmicks and accretions; too many concrete celebrations where Redemptionis sacramentum is ignored; too many where we focus on lifting the emotions with gimmicks, slide shows and pop music rather than on the feeding of the spirit with sound preaching, the sense of the sacred and heavenly chant. Further, we still have too many people ‘discipleing’ the times rather than discerning the times; times which are promoting subjectivity and its deviations from Objective Truth. Do such folk fear challenging the secular world lest they appear backward? Perhaps. But it is only 50 years since the close of the Council, and all Councils take a good long while to be properly assimilated. Pendulums swing, and the first swing is always away from the centre; it will take a while for the swinging to settle down, and we should not be so naive as to think that we are the generation that has finally brought that swinging to an end. It continues, but it is beginning to settle. I think a genuinely humble, open-minded reading of the Council in a spirit of Faith and obedience could bring left and right, traditionalist and modernist, liberals and conservatives, back to the single label of Catholic. For this we long. For this we must pray. And Lord, the things we pray for, give us the grace to labour for. Amen.