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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Big skies

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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:

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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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Monday, 27 October 2014

Holiday time and visitors to Margate

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What a glorious day it was today in Margate! This week being half term, I have several visitors coming "Down to Margate (you can keep the Costa Brava...)" Fortunately it is starting off as a week of beautiful sunshine in which the old town and the harbour are at their best. Visitors quite understandably like to experience the excellent Ambrette with its well-deserved Michelin star so I am being spoilt.

The above photo was taken from the Harbour Arm just after ten to four, so about half an hour before sunset now that we are back to proper organic, natural, eco-friendly, astronomically correct, Greenwich Mean Time. (What exactly is the point of British Summer Time?) No messing with this photo: the rich afternoon colour is just as the mobile phone camera picked it up.

Excellent papal address at Synod conclusion

The Synod of 1980, that is. At the end of the Synod on the  family. St John Paul had this to say:
“So the Synod—when speaking of the pastoral care of those who after divorce have entered on a new union—rightly praised those couples who in spite of great difficulties witness in their life to the indissolubility of marriage. In their life the Synod recognizes that good news of faithfulness to love which has its power and its foundation in Christ. Furthermore, the fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and—against her rule—again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to Eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage—namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfill the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples—and when there is no scandal.”
That puts things well, both doctrinally and pastorally. Catholics can take this clear papal teaching as a good point of reference in the current discussion.

Thanks to a priest reader who directed me to the excellent Catholic Household for the above quotation. Do see their post John Paul II’s Ignored Synod Speech: 3 Highlights You Need to Read for further commentary and for the full text of the address of St John Paul at the end of the 1980 Synod.

It is also well worth reading Ross Douthat's op-ed piece for the New York Times: The Pope and the Precipice which is an intelligent and well-informed commentary. In his article, he says,
In the week since [the Synod] many Catholics have downplayed the starkness of what happened or minimized the papal role. Conservatives have implied that the synod organizers somehow went rogue, that Pope Francis’s own views were not really on the table, that orthodox believers should not be worried. More liberal Catholics have argued that there was no real chaos — this was just the kind of freewheeling, Jesuit-style debate Francis was hoping for — and that the pope certainly suffered no meaningful defeat.
In addition to the links provided, it will be of interest to readers from England that Cardinal Nicholls essentially offered the second of the above reactions in his Pastoral Letter on the Synod on the Family.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Attempts at arty photo manipulation, and a strange version of Margate rock

Harbour neon sm

With the Turner Contemporary at the harbour, and Tracey Emin as a home-grown celebrity, Margate is establishing a reputation as a mecca for enthusiasts of modern art. This is combined in a quirky mixture with a focus on retro-chic that makes the old town fun. I wondered how I might get into the arty culture, with the trauma of my third form art teacher's report etched on my psyche "Tries hard - but results not good."

So I thought that in the absence of artistic ability, I might use some of the effects filters in Paint Shop Pro. (I use that in preference to paying lots of money for Photoshop, but intend to get to know Gimp better.) Above you can see the harbour on an overcast day, and below is a part of Lombard Street in the old town with the Olde Sweet Shoppe, Beaux Interieurs, and the Lifeboat, one of the many micro-pubs in the area.

Old Town charcoal

A couple of weeks ago, the owner of Kiss me Quick, the seaside gift emporium on the parade, dropped in a sample of some special Margate rock - Chicken Balti flavour. I had a piece. It tasted of Chicken Balti.

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Heroes in the midst of knavish imbecility

Well that wasn't a very edifying spectacle was it, the Synod? An outrageously dishonest attempt at procedural manipulation at the highest level, publicly shoved into the turf nose-first by decent men who just couldn't stomach any more of it. Thanks be to God for Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Burke: at least we have heroes to sing of after the debacle. Which reminds me to revive the "Backbone Award" that used to feature on blogs.

I suppose in advance of the follow-up Synod, we now have to face another year of false hopes and unnecessary confusion over Christ's teaching on marriage and the family while the wrong targets are routinely chosen for praise and blame, promotion and demotion.

Sorry - I have been very busy with pastoral work, haven't much time to post, wanted to say something, and find it hard to be patient with what has gone on. I was glad to be able to quote Belloc recently to a concerned young man who had not heard his famous words:
“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine, but for unbelievers, here is proof of its divinity, that no merely human institution run with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight,”
For more reasoned comment than mine, you might like to read some other post-Synod articles. Sandro Magister has an excellent, though hardly reassuring summary report: The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants; Fr Ray Blake has a thought-provoking piece Was that why he was elected?; and Fr Z offers some helpful observations, concluding with an amazing twist after looking up the Lectionary for the date of the next Synod. See: Extraordinary Synod on Family is, thanks be to God, over.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Family Day at Ramsgate


A day for families, celebrating Pope Saint John Paul’s teaching on family life: Saturday 25 October, St Ethelbert’s Church, 72 Hereson Road, Ramsgate. CT11 7DS.

There will be talks for adults, teenagers and children, and games and activities. An opportunity to pray, meet and grow in fellowship with other Catholic families. Confession will be available. Please bring some food for the shared lunch. Starts at 10.15am with the Rosary; ends at 5pm with closing prayers, followed by the parish 5.30pm Mass.

I have two Masses, six baptisms and a convalidation that day, but I hope to get over for a brief visit in the afternoon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Richard Collins RIP


The family of Richard Collins have posted an obituary notice on his blog Linen on the HedgerowAnima eius et animae omnium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.

Last Thursday, Holy Mass was said in Richard's room. He died fortified by all the rites of Holy Mother Church, and his final moments were accompanied by his family praying the holy Rosary.

Richard was a fine Catholic man and I particularly appreciated his solid, sober and sensible contributions to various meetings of bloggers which he attended at some considerable cost and inconvenience.

His funeral will be celebrated according to the usus antiquior. As soon as I have details, I will post them here. In the meantime, please pray for the repose of his soul, pray for his family in their loss, and give thanks to God for the great good that he did for others in his life, especially through the apostolate of his blog.
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