How to keep your faith at university: a homily by Fr Stephen Wang. See the post here at Jericho Tree.
Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
See this article by Fr Martin Boland at Jericho Tree:
I’ve just received this information from the Young Catholic Adults group:
During the weekend of the 18-20 October 2013, Young Catholic Adults will be running a national weekend at Cold Ash Retreat Centre just up the road from Douai Abbey (which was booked up this year).
* It will be include the following speakers:- Fr Goddard FSSP, Fr de Malleray, Fr. Pearson O.P. and Br. Gabriel O.S.B..
* There will be a Marian Procession, Rosaries, Sung/High Mass, Low Mass, Confession and socials.
* Gregorian Chant Workshops will also be running, this year led by the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge
Weekend rates: £99.00 for adults, £69.00 for Students and U/E ( weekends starts on Friday evening with supper and finish on Sunday after lunch.
Saturday night only – £60.00 for adults, £50.00 for Students and U/E Full Board
B & B – £35.00 for adults, £30.00 (for student – U/E) per day
Non – residential and full board – (Friday & Saturday) – £45.00 for adults, £40.00 for (for student – U/E) per day
Non residential (includes meals) – £30.00 for adults, £25.00 (for student – U/E) per day
Non residential & no meals – £20.00 for adults, £15.00 (for student – U/E) per day.
To download a booking form please see :- http://www.youngcatholicadults.co.uk/events.htm
For general enquiries about the weekend please ring Margaret on 07515 805015 or Damian on 07908105787.
How to get to Cold Ash Retreat Centre (near Thatcham, Berkshire)
Car – Roughly halfway between Reading and Newbury, Cold Ash Retreat Centre is within easy reach of these towns as well as London, Oxford, Bracknell, Winchester and Basingstoke. The A4 (Bath Road is a couple of miles and the M4 is just 4 miles away.
Trains – The nearest railway stations are Thatcham and Newbury, with a regular service on the line from Reading to Taunton. It’s just c. 45 minutes from London Paddington. The local railway station, Thatcham, is a couple of miles away (and has plenty of taxis available). Timetables and other information are provided by http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/.
Buses – Weavaway operates a bus service from Newbury Town Centre via Thatcham Broadway to Tilehurst, which stops at Cold Ash along the way.
I’ve been involved in a new Catholic website called Jericho Tree.
You can visit the site here. Do subscribe to the email list in the right-hand side-bar.
You can visit the Facebook page here. Please do publicise the site by liking the page.
If you’ve got any feedback it’s most helpful to leave it on the site itself - on the feedback page here.
Here is the blurb from the ABOUT page.
Jericho Tree is a magazine-style website bringing together articles and videos about faith, culture, lifestyle and news – from a Catholic perspective.
The title ‘Jericho Tree’ refers to the meeting between Zacchaeus and Jesus in Chapter 19 of the Gospel of St Luke. As Jesus enters Jericho, Zacchaeus longs to see him, but he is too short, and the crowds are too big. So he climbs a tree in order to get a better view.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
“When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
“All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’”
The idea is to create a forum for great Catholic writing, mainly from a UK perspective, but with some international contributors as well; and to link to other articles and videos that take a fresh look at the world from a Catholic perspective. Quiet a few people have promised to write, and a few have already started. We’ll see how it develops over the next few months!
Just to update you on the exterior of the chapel at Allen Hall: The scaffolding has now been taken down and the ‘new’ crucifix has been ‘unveiled’.
‘New’ is in inverted commas because it has simply been put back in the very spot where it was originally hung in the 1950s (see my previous post here); and ‘unveiled’ because this happened without much ceremony: I’ve been away for a few days and when I came back the builders had just taken everything down. Maybe we will have a proper unveiling ceremony when the new academic year begins in September.
Take a look at the photos here. You get the best view from the top of the bus.
Just an amusing beach anecdote from World Youth Day: I met one of our seminarians who has just got back from Rio. They had a fantastic time with the Westminster group. I said to him, ‘Where were you staying’? And he said, ‘On the beach’. So I said, ‘I know you were all on the beach, but where were you staying for the other days?’ And he said, ‘On the beach!’ It seems that the Westminster crowd, instead of slumming it in the suburbs, were in a hotel right there on the beach itself, and they slept out on the beach for the vigil not because they needed to but just to get the vibe.
Anyway, that’s not my beach quote. Apparently the pilgrims got chatting to an atheist at the airport on the flight out to Rio. It was a friendly conversation, but they spooked him when they said that there was a big Catholic festival in Rio and that lots of young Catholics were flying out to participate. His response: ‘Oh well, I’ll just avoid them by staying on the beach the whole time’.
That’s my beach quote!
Many, many congratulations to Krakow for being named as the host city for World Youth Day 2016. There are no hard feelings from us here in London and the UK: this is clearly the Lord’s will; Poland will be a fantastic host country; and we will be there in our thousands. I am already working out how many coaches we can get to go from the University Chaplaincy in London.
If you want to see the development of the WYD London 2016 idea, you can read my original post from last year here, and an update here. I’ll close the London 2016 Facebook event soon, in case it confuses anyone! But of course I couldn’t resist setting up a World Youth Day London 2022 Facebook event (there are 17 people going as I type now…).
Why 2022? Traditionally, World Youth Day alternates between Europe and outside-Europe. 2016 will be in Krakow. 2019 will probably be outside Europe. So 2022 will be the next chance for London and the UK to host WYD. Theoretically, there could be a gap of just two years between one WYD and the next (as there was between Madrid 2011 and Rio 2013), but personally I think three years is much better.
2022 seems like a long, long way away – but it gives us something to work on and look forward to for the next nine years.
As you can see from the photo, the chapel at Allen Hall is being refurbished. I wrote about this a few months ago. We have been using the upstairs chapel for the last few weeks; the main chapel is completely closed off for the building work.
What you cannot see very well – but do take a close look at the photo – is one of the most significant aspects of the refurbishment work. The huge silver crucifix, which originally hung on the outside of the chapel, and was then moved inside into the sanctuary a few years ago, has now been restored to its original position. If you peer carefully you can make out the figure of Jesus in the centre and the sun reflecting from his shoulder and head.
So within a few weeks, when the scaffolding is taken down, this fundamental symbol of Christian faith will be giving witness to all those who come down Beaufort Street – especially those on the upper deck of the many buses that pass here every hour. What a wonderful sign of the New Evangelisation, and of the renewal that has been taking place at the seminary over the last few years, that the Cross of Jesus Christ is no longer hidden away in the chapel but brought out into the public square. (And don’t worry – we have a new hanging crucifix being designed to replace it inside the chapel).
There are quite a few retreats, conferences and prayer festivals coming up this summer for young Catholics who fall roughly into the ’16 to 35′ category. I’ve copied below details about just four that I have come across recently. If you know about any others please add them into the comments. If you are bored, rich, and slightly too fervent for your own good, then I think you can manage to go from one to the other almost without returning home.
The video here is for World Youth Day Rio:
Bright Lights 2013: World Youth Day @ Home, 26 to 29 July
Brightlights is an annual Catholic young adults festival open to anyone between the ages of 16- 30. In the past 13 years it has grown from being a diocesan festival to serving most of the South East of England and further afield.
In 2013 we are joining forces with many dioceses to give you an experience of World Youth Day at home.
The theme of World Youth Day this year is ‘Go and make disciples of all peoples – Mt 28:19’.
This theme will be explored through the weekend with talks from world-class speakers, workshops from international organisations and a wide choice of seminars.
Please see the World Youth Day Rio website for a discussion of the theme:
The Faith Movement, Summer Conference, 29 July to 2 Aug
“Friendship with God – the Meaning of Following Christ “
Woldingham School, Surrey. . Monday 29th July – Friday 2nd August 2013
Age range: 16-35
Five days of talks, discussion, prayer and socialising.
The full cost of a booking for the 2013 Conference is £155 with a reduced student/unwaged rate of £130. The cost includes full board with all meals. As ever we rely on the generosity of benefactors to be able to provide a reduced student rate and therefore we would encourage those who can afford to pay a little extra to be as generous as possible.To enable everyone to have an opportunity to attend further subsidies can often be arranged for those in genuine financial hardship. Should you wish to be considered for a subsidised place please telephone 0141 945 0393,email us or contact Ann McCallion at 9, Herma Street, Cadder, Glasgow G23 5AP.To avoid disappointment you are encouraged to book your place as soon as possible. Places will be allocated on a strictly first come first served basis. The Booking form is to be found below and Absolutely no places will be booked without a completed booking form. To avoid delay, e-mail the form to us. Once your booking form has been received you will be sent the programme for the Summer Conference and an information sheet with all the practical and travel details you will need.Closing date for Bookings – Monday 15th July 2013
( Places reserved but not paid for by this date will be offered to people on the waiting list.) .Scottish Coach details can be obtained from Ann McCallion
Explaining the Catholic Faith in the Modern World
THE 6TH ANNUAL EVANGELIUM CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD 2TH – 4TH AUGUST 2013, THE READING ORATORY SCHOOL
Young adults (18 to 35) are invited to attend the sixth Evangelium weekend residential conference on the theme of explaining the Catholic faith in the modern world:
- dynamic talks by excellent speakers
- mix with other young people who share your faith
- discuss and talk informally with our speakers
- daily Mass and eucharistic adoration
- opportunities for confession
- relax in the beautiful grounds
- opportunities for sport and evening entertainment
The Conference is organised by the Evangelium Project and sponsored by the Catholic Truth Society. Confirmed speakers for 2013:
Rt Rev. Mark Davies – Bishop of Shrewsbury
Fr Jerome Bertram – Oxford Oratory
Dr James Bogle – Chairman of the Catholic Union
Joanna Bogle – Writer and BroadcasterDr Alan Fimister – International Theological Institute
Fr John Hermer – Lecturer in Sacred Scripture, Allen Hall Seminary
Fr Marcus Holden – Maryvale Tutor, Custodian of the National Shrine of St Augustine, Ramsgate
Fr Reto Nay – Founder of Gloria TV
Dr William Newton – International Theological Institute
Fr Andrew Pinsent – Faculty of Theology, Oxford University, and formerly a Physicist at CERN
Fr Nicholas Schofield – Parish Priest, Historian and Archivist of Westminster Archdiocese
Dr Joseph Shaw – Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University
Fr Ed Tomlinson – Priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
Sr Mary Trinity – Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT)
Youth 2000, Walsingham Festival, 22 to 26 August
GET READY FOR
The biggest annual Catholic Youth Event in the UK… Get ready for a fresh experience of faith and friendship… Get ready for Kingdom Come @ Walsingham: Sunshine, Tents, Adoration, Worship, Engaging talks, Silence, Saints, Workshops, Sports and more. Join over 1,000 young adults 16-30 to experience the love and power of God in your love, as we pray: Your will be done God!
The event is primarily for young people between the ages of 16 and 25, although it is open to young adults up to aged 35. All under 18 year olds will need a completed parental consent form which will be available in the next few days, and send in along with your donations.
The Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham, Norfolk, NR22 6AL, UK
There will be separate free accommodation available for men and women – you just need to bring a sleeping bag, roll-mat and wash kit.
Suggested donation is £100 per person to cover the cost of the retreat (this includes all meals / refreshments, accommodation, a small donation is offered to the speakers and workshop leaders, equipment, insurance and resources).
Further Information: email: email@example.com or call 020 7221 2124.
It was good be at the Installation of Bishop Alan Hopes as Fourth Bishop of East Anglia on Tuesday. What a magnificent Cathedral they have in East Anglia; it’s hard to believe it was built just to be a parish church.
The heart of an episcopal ‘installation’ is just that: you install the bishop, you put him where he is meant to be, like a household appliance or a new piece of computer software.
The ‘place’ where he is meant to be is the cathedra, the bishop’s chair, which signifies his authority as the chief shepherd and teacher within the diocese. A cathedral, remember, is not just the biggest or most beautiful church in a diocese, but the one that contains the cathedra; and in Rome, for example, it is therefore St John Lateran and not St Peter’s.
The photo shows Archbishop Vincent Nichols addressing Bishop Alan just after he has been led to the cathedra.
This text gives you a flavour of this central moment:
The Archbishop leads the Bishop-Elect to the cathedra and says:
In the name of God, I, Vincent Nichols, Archbishop and Metropolitan of Westminster, do install you, Alan Hopes, Bishop in this Church of East Anglia. May our Lord Jesus Christ watch over you now and always.
The Archbishop installs the Bishop in the cathedra.
The Archbishop presents him with the Book of the Gospels saying:
Bishop Alan, receive this Book of the Gospels and preach the Word of God to the Church of East Anglia, teaching always with zeal and love.
The Archbishop then presents the Crozier to Bishop Alan saying:
Bishop Alan, at the wish of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, you have assumed the pastoral charge of the Church of East Anglia. I hand you this Crozier, the sign of the shepherd’s office and ministry. May the Lord sustain you in your care for the people of the Diocese.
Posted in Religion, tagged cardinal avery dulles, Catholic Alpha, Catholicism, Catholics and Evangelicals, Christianity, Evangelicalism, Evangelicals, faith, HTB, Jesus Christ, mission, nicky gumbel on July 15, 2013 | 7 Comments »
I’ve been very conscious of increasingly strong links between Catholics and evangelical Christians at various levels. The recent HTB Leadership Conference made a big impression – whether it was the high-profile plenary interview between Nicky Gumbel and Cardinal Schönborn, or the conversations between ordinary delegates about faith and mission. And you could even say that the warmth and commonality between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby is another ‘Catholic-Evangelical’ signal.
If you are interested in following up this topic, and in case you have never seen it, take a look at this agreed statement that was made a long way back in 1994, Evangelicals & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium. A couple of weeks ago I heard George Weigel mention the text, and then a friend from the Ordinariate brought it to my attention as well. Something is in the air!
Here is the ‘We Affirm Together’ section from the Evangelicals & Catholics Together document. You can see the full list of participants at the bottom of the statement. Catholic representatives included Weigel himself, Cardinal Avery Dulles, and Cardinal (then Bishop) Francis George.
Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final affirmation that Christians make about all of reality. He is the One sent by God to be Lord and Savior of all: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4) Christians are people ahead of time, those who proclaim now what will one day be acknowledged by all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2)
We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the love of Christ, for we together say with Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2)
All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have not chosen one another, just as we have not chosen Christ. He has chosen us, and he has chosen us to be his together. (John 15) However imperfect our communion with one another, however deep our disagreements with one another, we recognize that there is but one church of Christ. There is one church because there is one Christ and the church is his body. However difficult the way, we recognize that we are called by God to a fuller realization of our unity in the body of Christ. The only unity to which we would give expression is unity in the truth, and the truth is this: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4)
We affirm together that Christians are to teach and live in obedience to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God. We further affirm together that Christ has promised to his church the gift of the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth in discerning and declaring the teaching of Scripture. (John 16) We recognize together that the Holy Spirit has so guided his church in the past. In, for instance, the formation of the canon of the Scriptures, and in the orthodox response to the great Christological and Trinitarian controversies of the early centuries, we confidently acknowledge the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In faithful response to the Spirit’s leading, the church formulated the Apostles Creed, which we can and hereby do affirm together as an accurate statement of scriptural truth:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Saturday was an extraordinary day. Eight deacons were ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in Westminster Cathedral: Oscar Ardila, Jeffrey Downie, Fortunato Pantisano, Giles Pinnock, Martin Plunkett, Jeffrey Steel, Martin Tate and Mark Walker. Seven are from Allen Hall Seminary in London, one is from the Beda in Rome; all are for the Diocese of Westminster.
Fr Mark Walker is from my home parish in Harpenden, and it was a particular joy to be back home on Sunday morning to join him at his first Mass in the parish church of Our Lady of Lourdes.
If you haven’t been to an ordination before, the text below gives you a flavour of some of the prayers and promises from the rite:
14. Then all sit, and the bishop addresses the people and the candidate on the duties of a priest. He may use these words:
This man, your relative and friend, is now to be raised to the order of priests. Consider carefully the position to which he is to be promoted in the Church.
It is true that God has made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ. But our High Priest, Jesus Christ, also chose some of his followers to carry out publicly in the Church a priestly ministry in his name on behalf of mankind. He was sent by the Father, and he in turn sent the apostles into the world; through them and their successors, the bishops, he continues his work as Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Priests are co-workers of the order of bishops. They are joined to the bishops in the priestly office and are called to serve God’s people.
Our brother has seriously considered this step and is now to be ordained to priesthood in the presbyteral order. He is to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd in his ministry which is to make his own body, the Church, grow into the people of God, a holy temple.
He is called to share in the priesthood of the bishops and to be molded into the likeness of Christ, the supreme and eternal Priest. By consecration he will be made a true priest of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, sustain God’s people, and celebrate the liturgy, above all, the Lord’s sacrifice.
He then addresses the candidate:
My son, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. Share with all mankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believer, and put into practice what you teach.
Let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the people of God. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ, so that by word and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church.
In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ. Your ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it with Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through your hands. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ.
When you baptize, you will bring men and women into the people of God. In the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. With holy oil you will relieve and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world. Remember that you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God. Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own.
Finally, conscious of sharing in the work of Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church, and united with the bishop and subject to him, seek to bring the faithful together into a unified family and to lead them effectively, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served by to serve, and to seek out and rescue those who were lost.
Examination of the Candidate
15. The candidate then stands before the bishop who questions him:
My son, before you proceed to the order of the presbyterate, declare before the people your intention to undertake the priestly office.
Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral order as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock?
The candidate answers: I am.
Bishop: Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down to us for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ’s people?
Candidate: I am.
Bishop: Are you resolved to hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience as the Apostle urges, and to proclaim this faith in word and action as it is taught by the Gospel and the Church’s tradition?
Candidate: I am.
Bishop: Are you resolved to maintain and deepen a spirit of prayer appropriate to your way of life and, in keeping with what is required of you, to celebrate faithfully the liturgy of the hours for the Church and for the whole world?
Candidate: I am.
Bishop: Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the gospel and explaining the Catholic faith?
Candidate: I am.
Bishop: Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of his people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?
Candidate: I am, with the help of God.
Promise of Obedience
16. Then the candidate goes to the bishop and, kneeling before him, places his joined hands between those of the bishop. If this gesture seems less suitable in some places, the conference of bishops may choose another gesture or sign.
If the bishop is the candidate’s own Ordinary, he asks: Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?
Candidate: I do.
If the bishop is not the candidate’s own Ordinary, he asks: Do you promise respect and obedience to your Ordinary?
Candidate: I do.
Bishop: May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.
As I think about starting my new work in university chaplaincy, I’m even more interested than I was before about what it’s like to be a young person in the UK today, what questions young people have, and what they do or don’t believe.
So I was drawn to the headline on the YouGov site: ‘British Youth Reject Religion’. I’ll copy the main points below and you can come to your own conclusions:
Religious figures have the least influence on the lives of young Britons – and more say religion is a force for evil than a force for good
In the 2011 Census, 59% of the population described themselves as Christian and only a quarter reported having no religion. But a new poll of young people for the Sun by YouGov finds that the place of religion in the lives of young Britons is smaller than ever.
YouGov asked 18-24 year olds which figures have influence on their lives, and religious leaders came out on bottom: only 12% feel influenced by them, which is far less than even politicians (38%), brands (32%) and celebrities (21%).
The reputation of religion amongst young people is actually more negative than neutral: 41% agree that “religion is more often the cause of evil in the world” and only 14% say it is a cause for good.
When asked if they believe in God, only 25% say they do. 19% believe in some non-Godlike “spiritual greater power” and a further 38% believe in no God or spiritual power whatsoever.
Amongst believers, the most represented denominations are Church of England (13%), then Roman Catholic (9%) and Muslim (4%).
The low influence of religious leaders doesn’t surprise me, because so few young people have real human contact with them. But I’m really taken aback by the 41% agreeing that “religion is more often the cause of evil in the world”.
Transfigured in Christ
Exploring Monastic Theology – Retreat for Young Adults
@ Worth Abbey Benedictine Monastery
28th August – 1st September
Four days of study, prayer and community alongside the monks of Worth Abbey and members of The Wellspring Community. With talks and study, structured around participation in the monastic rhythm of prayer, and space for reflection in the beautiful surroundings of Worth Abbey.
For more than 1500 years, the 6th Century Rule of St Benedict has inspired Christian living in the Western Church, informing a range of Catholic spiritualities, monastic, priestly and lay. At the heart of the Rule is a vision of our human potential transfigured in Christ. This invitation to “share through patience in the passion of Christ, that we may also share in his Kingdom” (RB Prol.) is the subject of these study days in monastic theology and spirituality for young adults. Monastic spirituality is grounded in a profound realism about our human condition, but never loses sight of the “loftier summits” (RB 73) to which Christ both summons us and accompanies us. The Prayer of the Church (Opus Dei), Holy Reading (Lectio Divina), the practice of Mental Prayer, and the key theological themes of the monastic tradition in the West will form the substance of this weekend of reflective living, praying and studying together with the monks of Worth Abbey.
Only £120 for students/unwaged, and £150 for waged.
For more information, see here.
To book, complete and return this form (return address is on the form).
The online Guardian site has a Guardian Witness project: “Share your view of the world: your chance to have videos, photos and stories featured on the Guardian”. It’s a kind of democratic journalism – a simple and uncensored way of uploading your own perspectives on a given topic, onto an elegant Pinterest-style site.
One of the current topics is “Your Church Congregation”. There are 293 contributions as I write. You have until Friday 28 June to upload images from your own church. Why not add your own? It’s a great way to share the life of your own community; and at the very least it will help Guardian readers to appreciate (in case they don’t already) how alive our Christian churches are.
This is the spiel:
Who are the Christians in Britain today? On any given Sunday, there will be at least 2.5m people in churches of various sorts, but each congregation tends to be an island with little contact with others. So, we want you to share your photographs and videos of your own congregations, everywhere from converted units on an industrial estate to magnificent medieval cathedrals.
Posted in Religion, tagged Augustine Di Noia, Catholic Church, evangelisation, faith, Jesus, Jesus Christ, pluralism, relativism, religious pluralism, salvation, truth on June 15, 2013 | 13 Comments »
Is it possible, in these pluralistic times, to claim that Jesus Christ is the unique saviour? Well, of course I think it is. Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, however, gave a wonderful anecdote about how difficult it can be to proclaim this – even to Christians.
Archbishop Di Noia is Vice President of the Pontifical Council ‘Ecclesia Dei’ in Rome. He was in London last week to speak to the clergy of Westminster Diocese at our annual summer gathering.
He was reminiscing about when the document Dominus Iesus was published in 2000 by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. The US Bishops’ Conference was given an embargoed copy of the text a couple of weeks before, and they gave it to Di Noia to ask what he thought of it, what he thought the public reaction might be (within and outside the Church), and how he thought they should prepare themselves in anticipation. He had some kind of advisory role there at the time.
So he read the document, and his reaction was (I’m quoting from memory): “There’s nothing particular striking or controversial here; nothing that isn’t in the Holy Scriptures or the Documents of the Second Vatican Council. I doubt it will get much attention. No action needed…”
Perhaps he was naive, but he himself admitted that he was completely unprepared for the forcefulness of some of the negative reactions. At the end of the story he quipped, with a smile: “I nearly lost my job”.
You can read the document here. The core is simply a re-statement of mainstream, historic Catholic belief that Jesus Christ is the unique saviour and that the Catholic Church has a unique place in God’s plan of salvation.
Dominus Iesus is a lot more inclusivist than many people think. It leaves open the hugely important questions about how people might be saved without an explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ or an explicit faith in him, and the different ways in which people can be related to the Catholic Church and share in the salvific communion that she mediates in history.
But it refuses to let go of these core beliefs which we receive from the Scriptures and the Tradition. What’s fascinating is to see how much these once uncontroversial beliefs challenge so much of what is taken for granted in the contemporary secular worldview, and how they even give many Catholics pause for thought.
[Scandal, in its original Greek context, does not mean a situation where some moral wrongdoing has taken place, but something that 'causes you to stumble': that stops you in your tracks, that trips you up, that makes you think, that challenges you, that 'scandalises' you in the sense of overturning all of your preconceptions about a given situation.]
Book now for this new production from Ten Ten Theatre. This is from their website:
Kolbe’s Gift is a full-length play written by David Gooderson which tells the story of two men, Fr Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, and Franek Gajowniczec, a Polish soldier, whose lives crossed in the most extraordinary way in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941. Spanning three decades, Kolbe’s Gift will be produced by Ten Ten Theatre with a cast of seven actors at The Leicester Square Theatre in Central London for one week only in October 2013. With many enriching events surrounding the production, it promises to be a theatrical event not to be missed.
“This place is not simply a concentration camp. It’s a laboratory dedicated to the destruction of human identity. It is the gospel of hate, which can only be defeated by the Gospel of Love.”
In 1941, Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe entered the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
A gifted man, Kolbe was the founder of monasteries in Poland and Japan, produced a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million, and formed an international movement to help bring people to the Catholic faith. Then, a chance encounter with an ordinary soldier, Franek Gajowniczec, led Kolbe to an extraordinary act – walking away from all that he had and could have achieved.
David Gooderson’s powerful play tells the true story of these two men. One became feted across the globe. The other faded into obscurity. This is their story.
Tickets priced from £12.50 – £20.00 can be booked through the theatre box office on 08448 733433 or via their website.
There is also a booking page here at the TenTen site.
Spirit in the City takes place in central London from Wednesday to Saturday this week. See the website here, and I’ve copied the full programme below.
There is a wonderfully creative YouTube video doing the rounds, with ‘graphic novel’ images of a woman’s search for meaning and how she stumbled across Spirit in the City taking place.
Wednesday 12 June 2013
|A dazzling opening show in the Leicester Square Theatre.
6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX
|Click here for more details and to book your tickets.|
Thursday 13 June 2013 – St Patrick’s, Soho Square
|13.45-18.00||Sanctuary in the City: adoration in the church & street outreach|
Evening Programme, St Patrick’s, Soho Square
|19.00||Praise and worship &
London Premier of ‘Child 31′ by Grassroots Productions
Talk by Magnus McFarlene-Barrow, Founder of Mary’s Meals
|20.00||Marian street procession followed by night prayer and social|
Friday 14 June 2013, Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place
|12.15||Mass followed by adoration|
|13.15-17.30||Sanctuary in the City: adoration in the church, street outreach and workshops|
Evening Programme, Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place
|19.00||Prayer, music, talk by Fr. John Armitage|
|20.30||Eucharistic street procession from Notre Dame de France to Corpus Christi followed by a time of adoration, benediction and night prayer|
Saturday 15 June 2013
Leicester Square Gardens & Notre Dame de France
|13.00-20.00||Live entertainment and street festival
* Stage programme with LIVE music
* Prayer Tent, adoration
* Reconciliation tent
* Information stalls
* Prayer Chair Ministry
* Activities with face painting and more!
|18.00||International Mass in Notre Dame de France|
|20.00||Close of programme in Leicester Square Gardens|
Posted in Religion, Spirituality, tagged adoration of the blessed sacrament, Blessed Sacrament, Blessed Sacrament Fathers, Corpus Christi, litany, Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament, St Peter Julian Eymard on June 2, 2013 | 5 Comments »
We had a mini-procession of the Blessed Sacrament here at the seminary yesterday, at the end of the Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi: from the chapel on the first floor, along the corridor, down the main staircase, and into the garden. There was a beautiful temporary altar set up in the centre of the garden, with the rose bushes behind.
There is a four storey block of flats overlooking one side of the garden. I’ve no idea what the neighbours thought, seeing the whole seminary and assorted guests kneeling before the monstrance at 7.15 in the evening.
We prayed a beautiful litany that I had never come across before: The Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament, composed by St Peter Julian Eymard, the founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. Here it is, copied from the Catholic Culture website:
Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. R. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, R. have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, R. have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, R. have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Eternal High Priest of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Divine Victim on the Altar for our salvation, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, hidden under the appearance of bread, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, dwelling in the tabernacles of the world, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, really, truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, abiding in Your fulness, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Bread of Angels, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, with us always until the end of the world, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, summit and source of all worship and Christian life, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, sign and cause of the unity of the Church, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, adored by countless angels, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, spiritual food, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, Sacrament of love, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, bond of charity, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, greatest aid to holiness, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, gift and glory of the priesthood, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, in which we partake of Christ, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, in which the soul is filled with grace, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, in which we are given a pledge of future glory, R. have mercy on us.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
For those who do not believe in Your Eucharistic presence, R. have mercy, O Lord.
For those who are indifferent to the Sacrament of Your love, R. have mercy on us.
For those who have offended You in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, R. have mercy on us.
That we may show fitting reverence when entering Your holy temple, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may make suitable preparation before approaching the Altar, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may receive You frequently in Holy Communion with real devotion and true humility, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may never neglect to thank You for so wonderful a blessing, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may cherish time spent in silent prayer before You, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may grow in knowledge of this Sacrament of sacraments, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That all priests may have a profound love of the Holy Eucharist, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That they may celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with its sublime dignity, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may be comforted and sanctified with Holy Viaticum at the hour of our death, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may see You one day face to face in Heaven, R. we beseech You, hear us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, R. spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, R. have mercy on us, O Lord.
V. O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine,
R. all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
Let us pray,
Most merciful Father,
You continue to draw us to Yourself
through the Eucharistic Mystery.
Grant us fervent faith in this Sacrament of love,
in which Christ the Lord Himself is contained, offered and received.
We make this prayer through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
Posted in Relationships, Religion, tagged Alpha Course, Catholic, Catholic Church, Christopher West, church growth, churches, commitment, Fatima, fervour, HTB, leadership, Our Lady of Fatima, salvation on May 18, 2013 | 3 Comments »
It was good to be at the HTB Leadership Conference on Monday and Tuesday. They filled the Albert Hall, and still managed to sell a few hundred extra tickets for the overflow venue at Holy Trinity Brompton Road.
There were some very powerful talks and interviews; an incredible array of seminar topics; lots of prayer and discussion and networking; and some fantastic music from the Worship Central team. And there was, interestingly, a very strong Catholic presence: Cardinal Schönborn, for example, was one of the keynote speakers; Christopher West led a series of workshops over two whole afternoons about the Theology of the Body; and the Carmelite Church in Kensington was packed for the celebration of Holy Mass (followed by breakfast for all present), as part of the conference programme, on the Tuesday morning.
I won’t even attempt to summarise the content of the talks. The phrase that struck me most was from Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the States. It was a throwaway line in the middle of a very practical talk about creating a vision within your core team. Here is the line: “You know, we sometimes forget this: that it’s natural for churches to grow!” In other words, if a Christian community simply lives its faith to the full; if Christians simply become the disciples they are called to be; if we simply believe and pray and love and hope and serve as we are meant to: then of course our churches will grow. What should baffle us is not why they sometimes do, but why they usually don’t. As St Catherine of Sienna said: ‘If you become who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire’.
There was an intensity about the conference, a passion for souls, a Christian fervour, that you don’t often experience on an average Sunday morning. I was wondering to myself if this intensity was something attractive only to those ‘professional’ Christians (like myself) who sign up for conferences like this, and whether it might alienate ordinary Christians. But the conference started on Monday, 13 May, and I started to connect it with the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
In the morning, I had celebrated Mass in the local parish in Chelsea and given a short sermon. I spoke about Our Lady of Fatima’s passion for souls, the sense of urgency which she communicated to the three shepherd children, the seriousness of her message, and the unconditional commitment to the gospel message of salvation that she expected from the children and from every Christian. Then I walked up the road to the HTB Leadership Conference. When you see things from the perspective of the call to conversion and the invitation to salvation, there is not a great distance from Fatima to Holy Trinity Brompton.
Posted in Religion, Spirituality, tagged adoration of the blessed sacrament, Archbishop George Stack, Archdiocese of Cardiff, Catholic Church, Church in Wales, confession, Eucharist, faith, happiness, hope, Mass, mercy, Wales, Youth 2000 on May 2, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
It was good to be in Cardiff over the weekend for a retreat run by Youth 2000 and promoted by the Archdiocese. It even had the grand title of National Retreat for the Youth of Wales. I had to leave early on Sunday morning, but I heard that Archbishop George Stack was there to celebrate the final Mass and hear some of the testimonies from the young people about how much the weekend had touched them.
It was a great venue, St David’s Catholic Sixth Form College, not far from the centre of the city. We just managed to fit into the college chapel, instead of having to move into the hall. I don’t know the official head-count, but there were certainly over a hundred young people there for the reconciliation service on Saturday evening, so the total number of participants over the weekend must have been even higher.
It was a classic retreat format: Mass, talks about the faith, rosary, confessions, discussion groups, workshops about Christian life and discernment, testimonies; lots of free time and space for socialising and personal prayer; lay people, priests and religious men and women sharing their lives very naturally; good food, and great music. On top of this, part of the Youth 2000 ‘thing’ is having more-or-less perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the main chapel, so that the sacramental presence of Christ is at the heart of everything that happens.
The fact is that it ‘works’. I don’t mean there is some kind of magic formula that can guarantee you a profound spiritual experience or a radical conversion. I just mean that when the Catholic faith is lived joyfully and presented with real integrity, then it touches people. When you see the ‘wholeness’ of the Christian faith – teaching, sacraments, community – and when you see the way this faith transforms the lives of ordinary young people, then you can’t help being moved to question what is important and what this faith might mean to you.
It’s a beautiful thing to see the hearts of young people gradually open up to the Lord as a retreat unfolds; to see them drawing closer to Christ and to see the almost tangible effects of his grace on their lives – a sense of peace and spiritual joy, a knowledge of his mercy, a new sense of purpose, a desire to share their faith, a hope for the future.
Let’s hope there can be another retreat next year.
The next Youth 2000 retreat is the summer festival in Walsingham from 22 to 26 August – see here.
Posted in Politics, Religion, tagged Catholic Church in China, China, Chinese bishops, Chinese Church, Christianity in China, faith in China, persecution of Christians, pew research center on April 23, 2013 | 4 Comments »
When the Church, through the election of Pope Francis, seems to be moving west (from Europe to Latin America), it’s interesting to read Simon Scott Plummer on how it might actually be moving east.
In The Middle Kingdom’s Problem with Religion, Plummer writes about the staggering growth of Christianity in China over the last two generations, which some people are calling ‘the greatest revival Christianity has ever known’.
While church attendance continues to fall in the West and Christians are being driven out of the Middle East under Islamist pressure, China is moving in the opposite direction. In 2011 the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based think-tank, estimated that there were 67 million Chinese Christians, about 5 per cent of the total population. Of these, 58 million were Protestant and nine million Catholic. Their number exceeds that of members of the Communist Party (CCP).
A comparison with the situation just before the Communist Revolution — and even more so with that at the end of the Cultural Revolution — reveals the magnitude of change. In 1949 there were about three million Catholics and nearly one million Protestants. By Mao’s death in 1976 religion in China, including Christianity, appeared to have been snuffed out.
The rise in the number of Protestants, many of them Pentecostals, has been described as the greatest revival Christianity has ever known. There is even talk that by the middle of this century, Chinese Christians could outnumber those in the United States, at present more than 170 million and declining, making China the most populous Christian country on earth. The emergence of the Middle Kingdom as the second largest global economy is not the only story of explosive growth since Deng Xiaoping wrested power from the Maoists.
On the one hand, there is a kind of tolerance of Christianity; on the other hand, continuing repression.
Provided you are not seen by the government as disruptive, being a Christian is not difficult in China today. If you do step over that line, defined by the constitution as making use of religion “to engage in activities that disrupt public order”, the consequences can be harsh. The authorities believe in exemplary punishment, what a Chinese proverb calls “killing the chicken to frighten the monkeys” and, having identified a target, pursue it ferociously.
For example, the Shouwang Church in Beijing, the largest of the unregistered Protestant groups in the city, has been hounded by the police over the past two years. Having been locked out of property it had either rented or bought, its congregation has been forced to hold services in the open air. Members have been arrested, evicted from their homes and jobs or deported to the towns from which they came. Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer, currently imprisoned in north-west China, has been in and out of detention since 2006. After one of his releases, he said he had been tortured and threatened with death if he spoke about what had happened.
Ma Daqin, the Auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai, has not been seen in public since last July, when he declared at his consecration that he was leaving the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to devote more time to the pastoral needs of the diocese. The CCPA and its associated Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China promptly withdrew recognition from him. The gravity of this case is that Ma’s appointment was approved by both the Chinese government and the Holy See, part of a slow rapprochement between the two sides which has now suffered a severe setback. Reversing it will be one of the toughest diplomatic challenges facing Pope Francis I.
The situation for Chinese Catholics is extremely complex.
The life of Jin Luxian, the 96-year-old Bishop of Shanghai, provides a fascinating insight into the Vatican’s attitude towards China under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. A Jesuit, Jin spent 27 years (1955-82) under house arrest, in re-education camps or in prison for being part of a “counter-revolutionary clique”. The devastating experience of the Cultural Revolution convinced him that the interests of Chinese Catholics were best served by co-operating with the government, so he became the CCPA-appointed bishop of China’s most populous city in 1988. The bishop approved by the Vatican, Ignatius Kung Pin-mei, who had been consecrated in 1950, found himself powerless in his own diocese after being freed on parole from a life sentence in 1985. He left to receive medical treatment in the United States and never returned. In 1979 John Paul II had secretly created him a cardinal.
However, the same pope tacitly approved the presence of papal representatives at Jin’s consecration as auxiliary bishop in 1985, and his successor, Benedict XVI, invited him to attend a synod in Rome in 2005, only to have the Chinese government turn down the invitation on his behalf.
The Vatican’s nuanced treatment of Jin recognises his outstanding success in making Shanghai once again the powerhouse of Catholicism in China. He has reopened more than 100 churches in the city, set up the most important seminary in the country, sent seminarians abroad to study, and created a diocesan publishing house and retreat centre. In considering the spiritual wellbeing of Catholic communities around the world, the Holy See thinks long-term and, in the person of Jin, appears to have concluded that his achievements outweigh his apparent disloyalty.
Nevertheless, the bishop remains a highly controversial figure, both within the Society of Jesus and among Christians in Shanghai. The first volume of hisMemoirs (Hong Kong University Press, 2012) is remarkable for its bitter judgment of Kung as someone who put local Catholics at risk by “mindlessly executing anti-Communist orders” at the instigation of the Holy See.
Divisions between the registered and unregistered churches are reflected in the Commission for the Catholic Church in China set up by Pope Benedict in 2007. On one hand are those advocating rapprochement with the government on the lines of the Ostpolitik pursued by Cardinal Agostino Casaroli towards the Soviet bloc after the Second Vatican Council; on the other, those who take a harder line. The present Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Hon, favours the first approach, his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the second. Pope Francis, a Jesuit, is likely to give China a high priority.
The most important thing I learnt about the Church in China when I visited the country a couple of years ago, apart from the vibrancy of its faith, is not to make simplistic judgments about the situation there or the incredibly complex decisions of conscience that Chinese Catholics are constantly having to make.
A new poster and prayer card have been produced by the National Office for Vocation. You can find the resources here. Here is the poster:
I like it a lot – it’s full of life and joy. No poster can tell the whole story of priesthood or religious life; but this captures something of the vitality and joy, of the ‘being for others’ and ‘being with Christ’, that is at the heart of these vocations.
You can download the pdf here and print copies at home. Why not stick a copy on the fridge door to remind you to pray for this intention over the next few days or weeks. And if you are feeling brave, why not put a copy on the kitchen window (facing outwards!), or somewhere equally public – it might get a good conversation going with the neighbours.
Vocations are increasing again in England and Wales for both religious orders and the diocesan priesthood
Posted in Religion, tagged brothers, Catholic priests, diocesan priesthood, discernment, enclosed nuns, monks, nuns, priesthood, priests, religious life, religious vocation, sisters, UK Vocations, vocation on April 20, 2013 | 7 Comments »
This report on vocations comes from CVComment, and brings together statistics recently released by the National Office for Vocation. I wouldn’t yet call it a vocations boom, but it is a definite and hugely encouraging upturn, as this graph about recent diocesan ordination figures shows.
Here is the full report:
New figures for 2012 show numbers of men and women entering religious orders have risen for the third year running, while ordinations to the priesthood have reached a ten-year high. There were 29 people entering religious life in 2010, rising to 36 in 2011 and 53 in 2012. Meanwhile, 20 men were ordained to the diocesan priesthood in 2011 and 31 in 2012, with 41 diocesan ordinations projected for 2013.
The ordination figures do not include religious men ordained to the priesthood, nor ordinations to the Ordinariate, of which there were 21 last year.
As these two tables show, current diocesan ordination figures (excluding the Ordinariate and the religious orders) are lower than the 1980s-90s, which were inflated by a sudden influx of former Anglican priests as well as the so-called ‘JPII bounce’ following the Pope’s 1982 visit…
It’s the religious order figures that strike me most: last year 53 men and women joined religious communities in England and Wales, the largest number in sixteen years.
[Note: the pre-1982 figures are being disputed/clarified! But it is the upturn in recent years that interests me most...]
[Another note: see this clarification here from CVComment. I have simplified the quotations above in response, so I think the stats in my present post are correct!]
Posted in Morality, Politics, Religion, tagged Cardinal Schönborn, communism, creative minority, culture, embryonic stem cell, ethics, ethos, evangelisation, Gospel, international theological institute, Pope Benedict, Pope-Emeritus Benedict, secularisation, secularity, society, stem cell research, witness on April 12, 2013 | 12 Comments »
I heard Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna give a talk in London recently. It was part of a promotional event for the International Theological Institute, an English-speaking centre of theology in Austria. See their website here.
He was speaking about the role of the Church in a Western culture that is increasingly secularised. He was somehow pessimistic and optimistic at the same time. I didn’t take detailed notes, so some of this might have my gloss on it.
The pessimism went like this, and he acknowledged that he was simply repeating themes elaborated by Pope-Emeritus Benedict over many years: There is no doubt that the cultural landscape in the West has become more secularised over the past fifty years or so. The Church seems to have less influence as a cultural and political force; and it has lost or is in the process of losing the big moral battles of the last two generations (abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, traditional marriage, etc).
On top of this, the Church itself has in many ways become more secularised. The ethos of many Christians (their attitudes and behaviour) is often not dissimilar from the ethos of the secular world around them. So the Church is both marginalised for being at odds with the culture, and ignored for having nothing significant to offer to the culture; it is both counter-cultural (in a way that is incomprehensible to most people), and yet too influenced by the culture to give a distinctive voice.
The optimism came as a result of the pessimism. Because the Church, in this analysis, has more or less failed in the mighty cultural struggles of the last fifty years, this failure gives it a new freedom to stop worrying about how influential it is on society and concentrate on just being itself and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Instead of trying to win a political argument, and putting all its energy and anxiety into resisting political and cultural change, it can choose to witness to the truth of Christian values on their own terms.
It’s as if we have been gripping the wheel too tightly, judging our worth by the measure of how effective our campaigns have been in particular ethical issues, of how many people we have managed to convince to change their views. Perhaps this is all misguided. Perhaps we should concentrate on purifying ourselves, and the witness we are giving, and leave the results to God. If the Church becomes less concerned about convincing the secular world, and at the same time less worldly herself, she will actually have more to offer the world in an authentic way.
Cardinal Schönborn quoted St Bernadette of Lourdes, when she was interrogated by the clergy and police after her visions, and one of them said to her, ‘You are not convincing us’. And she replied, ‘My job is not to convince you, but just to tell you’. It’s like Peter and John speaking to the elders of Jerusalem in Acts 4: ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’.
I’m not 100% sure about all this! Yes, Christians need to have the confidence to witness to their faith, without over-worrying about how this witness is being received. Yes, the Church needs to be purified, converted, and each individual Christian needs to become less worldly and more focussed on Christ and his teaching. Yes, if we fail to convince or even challenge the culture, we shouldn’t give up. This is all true, and makes sense to Catholics who are confident in their faith, and have the support of a strong Christian community.
But there are other concerns too. When the Church loses its influence in society, this effects in a negative way especially the many ordinary Catholics whose faith is perhaps less strong, who don’t yet have the inner spiritual resources to self-identify as a confident and creative minority: those on the edges; the lapsed; those without the energy or time to engage in questions about Catholic identity. When the Church is no longer a strong cultural presence, and when Christian institutions are not nurturing the faith of ordinary people in quiet but significant ways, then the moral and spiritual lives of many people suffer.
And I’m also concerned about this apparent failure to engage constructively with the culture. If we do have something to say, shouldn’t it make sense to at least some people? And if it isn’t making sense, shouldn’t we find better ways of saying what needs saying? It’s about the continuing importance of dialogue and cultural engagement.
To be fair to Cardinal Schönborn, he was not suggesting that we should give up on dialogue and retreat into a self-justifying mode of ‘witness’. Quite the opposite. He explicitly said that the Church should step out more freely to engage with the world, with a new confidence. That was his point. If we worry less about results and influence, if we are less afraid of being a misunderstood minority, we can be more truly ourselves, more faithful to the gospel, more creative, more engaged, and more interesting to those who are genuinely searching for an alternative to the worldliness around then.
I agree. Catholics sometimes need to be counter-cultural, in a joyful and confident way; as long as we remember that we are part of the culture as well, and we need to use as effectively as possible all the opportunities that we have to influence that culture, opportunities that come to us precisely because we do still belong to it in so many ways. Let’s not use the category of ‘witness’ as an excuse to opt-out or as a defence if our appeal to reason seems incomprehensible. We need to continue in the struggle to make the Christian message comprehensible – which it is.
It was interesting that the very last comment from the floor was about the fall of communism. It wasn’t really a question, just a statement that we should really be more optimistic, because the greatest threat to faith in God and Christian freedom of the last century has actually been overcome: communism. We forget, said the member of the audience, what a terrifying foe this was in Europe and throughout the world, how much harm it did to the Church and to Christian culture, and how much worse things could have become. And yet it did not prevail, in part because of the struggles of Christian men and women.
Cardinal Schönborn agreed, and thanked this person for ending on a note of hope. As if to say: yes, let’s be a creative minority on the ‘outside’ of the secular culture, but let’s not give up on using the influence we still have through our historical Christian presence and trying to transform the culture from within. Which is exactly what Pope-Emeritus Benedict said in his speech at Westminster Hall.
Saturday 20th April, 12.00 pm to 3.30 pm
Notre Dame de France church, off Leicester Square, WC2H 7BX
• Would you like to play a vital part in a unique event during the Year of Faith?
• Do you want to find new ways to communicate matters of faith in a relevant, dynamic way?
• Do you want to engage in the New Evangelisation in a practical way?
• Do you want to meet other young people committed in their faith and passionate about communicating it to others?
You are warmly invited to an exciting, one-off event with the Catholic, professional theatre company, Ten Ten Theatre on the afternoon of Saturday 20th April 2013.
We are delighted to be staging a brand new production of `Kolbe’s Gift’ – a thought-provoking and inspiring play by David Gooderson about the life of St Maximilian Kolbe. The play will be performed at the Leicester Square Theatre in October 2013.
We need dynamic, outgoing, passionate people who can communicate the vision for this play to others – if you think this is for you, then please get in touch with us about coming along on Saturday 20th April for a training day. You will then go out to the world and give a two-minute talk about the production in churches, prayer groups and other gatherings throughout London and the South-East.
On the training day on 20 April, you will discover more about Kolbe’s Gift and be trained in giving a short presentation about the play in parishes across the South East between April and July. You will have the chance to meet with other people excited about faith, the arts and evangelisation and have a free lunch!!
In return for speaking at ALL masses in at least one parish, you will be given a free ticket to a performance of `Kolbe’s Gift’ at The Leicester Square Theatre in October.
To register or for more information, contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0845 388 3162