Sunday 11 January 2015

A startling absence of a Christian presence today

The victims of the recent terrorist attack in Paris were commemorated this evening with a silent walk and demonstration beginning outside the Senedd (the Welsh parliament) building in Cardiff Bay [Report here] The event was  organised by French ex-patriates living in the Welsh capital and  this evening’s rally was joined by First Minister Carwyn Jones, the Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb, chair of the Muslim Council of Wales Dr Saleem Kidwai, Rabbi Michael Rose from Cardiff United Synagogue, South Wales Police Commissioner Alun Michael, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, AMs and city councillors..
About 1500 people were present, including many individual Christians but, we are told by one of those who was there, there was not a single 'official' representative of a Christian Church or ecclesial body.
What on earth will this conspicuous absence - and deafening silence- say to the public at large and to those who were prepared to make the effort to be there - that the Church does not care, that we have nothing to say, or that we are completely irrelevant now to the culture to which our leaders cosy up at every possible opportunity?
We can, of course, spare the time and change our busy schedules to build altars out of silly boxes in Llandudno ... or anything else we could care to mention.
And,  if there had been no official invitation, would it not have been possible to attend and walk anyway - conspicuously and dressed appropriately? 
Or don't our Christian leaders (or rather their well paid PR and press officers) read the newspapers and social media or watch television? Perhaps they should ...

And, this time, those who criticise demonstrations of this kind are mistaken on one point: this is nothing like the hysteria surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales - a robust public defence of our traditional liberties (however flawed the Charlie Hebdo victims might have been or abhorrent their views) is something far more significant than that rather bizarre episode - not that our politicians seem willing to understand that, or anything other than the supposed need to exploit the situation in order to grab more surveillance powers for the State ..... ...

Jehan Alain: Prière pour nous autres charnels

Alain's setting of words by Charles Péguy
L'Ensemble Vocal de Saint François Xavier, Baritone solo : Jean-Philippe Biojout

"Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour la terre charnelle,
Mais pourvu que ce fût pour une juste guerre.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour quatre coins de terre.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts d'une mort solennelle.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans les grandes batailles,
Couchés dessus le sol à la face de Dieu.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts sur un dernier haut lieu
Parmi tout l'appareil des grandes funérailles.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour des cités charnelles
Car elles sont le corps de la cité de Dieu.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour leur âtre et leur feu,
Et les pauvres honneurs des maisons paternelles.
Car elles sont l'image et le commencement
Et le corps et l'essai de la maison de Dieu.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts car ils sont revenus
Dans la demeure antique et la vieille maison.
Ils sont redescendus dans la jeune saison
D'où Dieu les suscita misérables et nus.
Heureux ceux qui sont morts car ils sont retournés
Dans ce premier terreau nourri de leur dépouille
Dans ce premier caveau, dans la tourbe et la houille.
Heureux les grands vaincus, les rois désabusés."

Saturday 10 January 2015

The future of the Church

This was posted today on the blog Vultus Christi, under the heading 'The real crisis has scarcely begun'
I will reproduce it here in its entirety - it will already be familiar to some -  as it gives the best possible riposte to to those who now seem to see the future of the sacred ministry in terms of a kind of corporate managerialism, and are prepared to spend huge sums of money in order to re-train their clergy to perform tasks far better performed by others. The author? One Fr Joseph Ratzinger ....  
"The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.
To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered. If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!
How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but but the priest who is no specialist; who does not stand on the sidelines, watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of men, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge a Church that has lost much She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she loose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision . As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death."
Published as Faith and the Future [Ignatius Press]

Friday 9 January 2015

Yes, brothers - despite all

The murdered editorial staffers at Charlie Hebdo [here - for latest news] were my brothers, clearly not because of any shared 'enlightenment' values or any tradition of religious faith, but simply because of our common humanity, a humanity assumed by the Divine Logos. 
This, despite the magazine's often deplorable opinions, is enough to condemn their slaughter at the hands of those whose 'god' and whose 'prophet' is believed by many to be above and beyond reason [see here for the words of a true prophet of our times]

We pray for all the people of France, for the security forces, for those who have lost their lives - including those who are so deluded that they take the lives of others in the name of their religion....

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Having helped create this monstrous evil, we have compounded our folly by a failure to defend - against all its adversaries - that most fundamental of our liberties ....

Tuesday 6 January 2015

It should now be of little surprise to anyone,

[edited - link restored - links seem to be causing problems at the moment, as are other computer issues]  some might now be forgiven for thinking, that many of those prominent Anglo-Catholics who were most expected to join the Ordinariates have - so far - hesitated to do so. 
One possible reason (perhaps) is explained here, by one whose intellectual courage and theological consistency has never been in question.... 
"....There is an apocryphal tale that B Pius IX once said Io sono la Tradizzione. I thought of that the other day when I read a report that Cardinal Marx had said that, for him, "it is incomprehensible how the Synod Fathers are more bound to Tradition than to the Pope".
Really? Talk about letting Cats out of Bags!
I would like to be quite clear about this. I belong to Christ's Church Catholic as defined by Pastor aeternus of Vatican I (Joseph Ratzinger summarised it so lucidly) in which the Pope is not an absolute monarch but is the Guardian of the Sacred Tradition received from the Apostles. I have no desire to belong to somebody else's "Catholic Church" in which Tradition and Pope are seen as competing alternatives, and in which safe and wise Corporation Men who know what's good for their health prioritise Pope above Tradition. Not even if that "Church" is led by such luminaries as Marx and Kasper.
Later this month, we shall observe the Church Unity Octave, sometimes known nowadays as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I do not know how seriously the Marxes and the Kaspers nowadays take Christian Unity. If Cardinal Marx's enthusiasm for the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation is a good basis for guesswork, 'Ecumenism' is, for many such, going to mean cosying up to liberal Protestantism with its multiple apostasies. But, in my own experience of Orthodox Christians, the message that full communion with the See of Rome actually means Sacred Tradition being replaced by the Absolute Power of whoever happens currently to be the Roman Pontiff ... or, even worse, by sectional interests able to get their hands on the levers of power and to manipulate the Papacy so as to promote their own innovatory agendas ... is precisely the sort of message that would confirm their very worst suspicions about the errors of "Papalism"....."
From this vantage point I have no way of judging the accuracy or otherwise of the analysis, but it is, though, of no comfort at all to those of us who remain behind in whatever ecclesial funk holes are left to us for the time being - conveying only a sense of the gathering darkness ..... wherever one seems to look ....

Saturday 3 January 2015

From the Eastern Mountains ...

An Epiphany hymn from the English Hymnal, with words by Godfrey Thring and set to the tune King's Weston by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Sung by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge directed by Richard Marlow - from the excellent CD  'A Vaughan Williams Hymnal