Coinciding with the long hot days of summer, "the silly season," so called because of the lack of any real news - everyone is on holiday at this time of year - is already with us, if such stories as 'female Anglican priest "communicates" alsatian dog' or the recent ridiculous and quite meaningless Times poll (a representative sample of the unchurched?) on the inevitable ecclesiastical subject of the hour - at least for Anglicans, blinkered and insular lot that "we" are - are anything to go by.
And thanks to Ancient Briton for this. The last paragraph in the report about the love in between the equally revisionist Welsh and TEC primates is remarkable only for the sheer exuberance of its hypocrisy!
So, earth-shattering news being the only exception, it's time to close down the blog for the summer; normal service will resume (I hope) at the beginning of September.
At this point it's hard to sum up my own state of mind about our present situation and what the future will hold for us. Of course, psychologically, if not yet in physical reality, we have been saying our goodbyes to our present spiritual home for a while now. I fully expect that process of disengagement and discernment to continue over the months ahead, encouraged by the clear victory of our revisionist opponents in this part of the Lord's vineyard and cheered by the prospect (however long it takes for each one of us) of a wider and more apostolic unity.
I hope everyone will have the opportunity to pause, pray, reflect and even relax in the sunshine over the next few weeks or so before the chill winds of autumn begin to blow once again.
This is Pope Benedict, surely one of the most accessible and human pontiffs of modern times, speaking about the Gospel at last Sunday's mass - sound, sane, spiritual advice as always.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are now in the heart of summer, at least in the northern hemisphere. This is the period in which schools are closed and the greater part of the holidays are concentrated. Even the pastoral activities in parishes are reduced and I myself have suspended the Audiences for a while.
It is therefore a favourable time to give priority to what is effectively most important in life, that is to say, listening to the word of the Lord. We are also reminded of this by this Sunday's Gospel passage with the well known episode of Jesus' visit to the house of Martha and Mary, recounted by St Luke (10: 38-42).
Martha and Mary are two sisters; they also have a brother, Lazarus, but he does not appear on this occasion. Jesus is passing through their village and, the text says, Martha received him at her home (cf. 10: 38).
This detail enables us to understand that Martha is the elder of the two, the one in charge of the house. Indeed, when Jesus has been made comfortable, Mary sits at his feet and listens to him while Martha is totally absorbed by her many tasks, certainly due to the special Guest.
We seem to see the scene: one sister bustling about busily and the other, as it were, enraptured by the presence of the Teacher and by his words. A little later Martha, who is evidently resentful, can no longer resist and complains, even feeling that she has a right to criticize Jesus: "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me". Martha would even like to teach the Teacher!
Jesus on the other hand answers her very calmly: "Martha, Martha", and the repetition of her name expresses his affection, "you are anxious and troubled about many things; only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her" (10: 41-42).
Christ's words are quite clear: there is no contempt for active life, nor even less for generous hospitality; rather, a distinct reminder of the fact that the only really necessary thing is something else: listening to the word of the Lord; and the Lord is there at that moment, present in the Person of Jesus! All the rest will pass away and will be taken from us but the word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily actions.
Dear friends, as I said, this Gospel passage is more than ever in tune with the vacation period, because it recalls the fact that the human person must indeed work and be involved in domestic and professional occupations, but first and foremost needs God, who is the inner light of Love and Truth. Without love, even the most important activities lose their value and give no joy.
Without a profound meaning, all our activities are reduced to sterile and unorganised activism. And who, if not Jesus Christ, gives us Love and Truth? Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us learn to help each other, to collaborate, but first of all to choose together the better part which is and always will be our greatest good."
A couple of busy weeks ahead in the parish and then the Vendee beckons!
I've always associated this piece of music with long, sunny summer holidays.