Nightfever comes to London again on Sat 7th December – see the post here at Jericho Tree.
Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
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!
I had a ten minute interview with Jumoke Fashola on BBC London this Sunday morning. The topic was confession – what it means, how to go, and in particular why many Catholic churches are reporting an increase in the number of people going to confession over the last few months.
You can listen to the interview here, my bit starts at 3:08:40. [It's available until 14 Sept].
This is from the Telegraph article by John Bingham that got the discussion going:
An informal survey of clergy based in cathedrals across England and Wales found that two thirds had noticed an upturn in numbers taking part in the sacrament, something many of them attributed to a papal “bounce”.
The Church said that the greater willingness by people to “unburden” themselves and deal “issues” than in the past had also given the centuries old practice a new relevance for some, including those who might be put off by public services.
The polling of cathedral deans or priests-in-residence found that around a third had seen an increase which they attributed to a combination of the impact of the new Pope and the continuing impact of the Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain three years ago.
Respondents spoke of having to make special arrangements to accommodate extra demand for confession this summer.
One respondent replied: “Some people are coming in saying I don’t know what to say or do because they haven’t been since they were at school or for 30 years, and are asking for help with the words to say.”
Another said: “This summer there has been a marked difference in demand compared to last summer … We don’t usually offer confessions in August but have done this year.”
I was sitting on a bench in Battersea Park yesterday, opposite the lake. Two benches down, a woman took out a bottle of Brasso and a rag, and started polishing the brass plaque on the top of the back rest.
There must be thousands of these in the parks of London, but I hardly ever stop to notice them.
I got chatting to her. (The English ‘rule’ of not talking to strangers didn’t apply in this case because (i) we were in a park, (ii) she had a dog and (iii) she was doing something out of the ordinary!) She doesn’t polish every memorial plaque in the park. This one – the image above – is dedicated to a neighbour she knew very well. The neighbour’s relatives don’t live nearby, so she takes it upon herself to polish the plaque.
What a beautiful image of devotion to the memory of someone, like leaving flowers at a grave. I know that as Christians part of our remembering is praying for the repose of their souls. But in the wider secular context, these simple memorials and gestures are a simple way of connecting with the past and remembering those who have gone before us.
It’s a common question: what do you do at Mass when your children are unsettled – babies crying, toddlers toddling off in random directions, younger children talking or fighting or banging toy tanks and fire engines, older children perhaps reluctant to be there. I collated a few suggestions in the Ten Ten Parents Booklet last year.
A priest friend of mine, who works in a large parish just outside London, has been mulling over these things. After discussions with parents, parishioners, clergy and the parish team, they have put together this leaflet to distribute to parents. It’s always a difficult one this. How do you encourage people, and be clear about some of the expectations and boundaries within the Liturgy, without creating a list of pharisaical rules or being unsympathetic to the huge struggles of parents and families.
This seems like an honourable try to me. What do you think? Any comments or suggestions in the comments box please, and then you can help my friend develop this as it goes along.
For parents at Mass with babies, toddlers or children
The presence of so many parents at Mass with their babies and children is a real blessing for our parish. It shows how vibrant, joyful and alive our community is. Seeing so many families really warms my heart and gives me great hope for the future. So, a huge “thank you” to all parents with children who faithfully come to Mass. You are, indeed, the first and best teachers of your children in the ways of faith. You are doing a great job.
Sometimes parents ask me about what is the best thing to do if their baby or child is behaving in a way that is distracting to others. Having asked the advice of parents, priests and other parishioners, here are some ideas and practical tips that might help and support you:
1. Talk to your children about the parish church. This is a special place because Jesus is there. When we come into God’s house, this is “quiet time” where we speak to Jesus, our friend, in our hearts, as well, as with our prayers and songs.
2. Weekly Mass attendance is important. When attendance is irregular, broken or happens rarely, then it is more difficult for our children to develop the ways of behaving that are appropriate at Mass.
3. When you come into the church, why not bless your child with holy water or, if they are old enough, allow them do it themselves and learn to make the sign of the Cross? These simple rituals will help your child to appreciate that they are in God’s House.
4. Try to get to Mass a little ahead of time, so that you can settle your child for this “quiet time” with Jesus. If parents are rushing into the church at the last moment or arriving late, this is almost impossible to do. It can also be distracting for other parishioners who are trying to prepare themselves spiritually for Mass.
If we are flustered and distracted, our children will pick up on this. If we all work to create a prayerful and composed atmosphere in the church, this will help our children.
A little time before Mass spent preparing your child for the “quiet, special time” with Jesus will help them to understand that the church is a different place to their homes, the park or the school playground. It will help them to distinguish between ways of behaving that are appropriate to different places and circumstances.
Maybe you could kneel down together and say a simple prayer? You might read or get your child to read the words of the opening hymn and reflect on it? Or just sit, bow your heads and offer thirty seconds of quiet time to God?
5. At the church we have a family room where parents can take their children if they are very unsettled. Please make good use of it.
6. We all need to be sensible about noise at Mass. After all, this is public worship with children. But, we all need to be aware of where we are, the sacred things we are taking part in and to have a real respect for those around us. So, don’t rush to take your child out if there is some very “light” noise or murmuring, but if a baby is crying or a child’s behaviour is disruptive, take them to the family room, go into the lobby or, weather permitting, have a wander outside the church.
7. Some parents find sitting between their children helpful, especially if their children talk or tease each other.
8. Walking toddlers around the church during Mass can be distracting for the priest and the congregation. If your toddler is restless then take them for a wander outside the main body of the church.
9. One of the toilets has a changing table for babies if parents need to change nappies. Older children should be encouraged to go to the toilet before they come to Mass. Children going back and forth to the toilet disrupts a prayerful atmosphere.
10. If your child needs distracting give them a “soft” toy or for older children, colouring or religious books. Bunches of keys or “hard” toys made of plastic or metal being shaken, squeaked or banged on the floor can become very distracting. Why not put together a “Jesus” bag or rucksack that has a couple of things in them and becomes part of the weekly preparation for going to Mass?
11. It is perfectly acceptable to bottle feed infants or to give your child a drink of water, but the use of food snacks should be kept to a minimum.
12. Parents must consume the Body of Christ when they receive Holy Communion and NOT give it to their children to play with or eat.
13. After Mass finishes, why not visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with your child? If they are old enough, teach them to genuflect before the tabernacle and to light a candle. Then, give them a few moments in “quiet time” thanking Jesus for his friendship and love. These rituals will help your child to appreciate that the Mass is where we meet Jesus in a very special way.
14. After Mass, make sure you bring your children to high-five or say “hello” to the priest or deacon.
15. Coffee and juice are available after the “Family” Mass – this is a good way for parents to get to know each other and for children to make new friendships.
16. Can we strike a balance between an appropriate firmness so that our children learn proper behaviour at Mass and also a certain “light-heartedness”? If our children are to love their Catholic Faith, I think we can.
All families and children are welcome here in the parish church. I thank every one of them for being part of the life of our marvellous parish community.
May God richly bless and protect you and your children.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7221 2124.
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).
I posted a few weeks ago about Soldier to Saint, the contemporary drama by RISE Theatre based on the story of St Alban. See my earlier comments here.
I’ve just heard that the tour dates and venues have been publicised, so do see if you can get to one of the performances around the UK. See their site here. The dates and venues are copied below.
27 Jun 8.00pm ST ALBANS Ss Alban & Stephen Church E-mail: email@example.com Call: 01727 854596
28 Jun 7.30pm TUNBRIDGE WELLS St Augustine’s RC Church Call: 07776 143237
30 Jun 7.00pm BRISTOL St Augustine’s RC Church Tickets available on the door
04 Jul 7.30pm HODDESDON St Augustine’s RC Church Call: 01992 440986 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
05 Jul 7.30pm READING OLOP & Bl. Dominic Barberi RC Church Buy online: s2sreading.ticketsource.co.uk
06 Jul 7.30pm PORTISHEAD St Joseph’s RC Primary School Email: email@example.com
10 Jul 7.00pm TORQUAY St Cuthbert Mayne School E-mail: Call 07906 234210
11 Jul 7.30pm FALMOUTH St Mary’s RC Primary School E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Call: 01326 312763
12 Jul 7.30pm PENZANCE St. Mary’s RC Primary School E-mail: email@example.com
17 Jul 7.30pm RUISLIP Most Sacred Heart Church Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Call: 07966 529703
18 Jul 7.30pm REDHILL St Joseph’s RC Church Call: 01737 761017 (Mon to Fri, 9am – 5pm only)
19 Jul 7.30pm YATELEY St Swithun’s RC Church Call St Swithun’s: 01252 872732 / Call: 01276 34208
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 Books, Spirituality, tagged Blessed Sacrament, conversion, Eucharist, faith, Francis of Assisi, Franciscans, liturgy, passages from the bible, poverty, reverence, scripture readings, St Francis of Assisi, suffering, trauma, violence, war on May 16, 2013 | 9 Comments »
When we were on retreat recently I was reading Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, by Augustine Thompson, OP. It sets out to be a historical reconstruction of his life, based on a huge number of historical studies over the last few decades. It’s not written with a destructive spirit, as if Thompson were trying to debunk the often beautiful mythology that has grown up around St Francis over the years. But it is trying to discover the authentic heart of the man, and the life that is presented here is both simpler and much more complex than the standard biographies that are based uncritically on much later and less reliable sources.
Many things struck me and stayed with me: How Francis’s conversion was inseparable from his first-hand experience of war, violence and imprisonment when he went to battle as a young man; the relationship between psychological trauma and spiritual awakening and healing.
Those beautiful stories about Francis walking into a church and hearing the gospel call to poverty and radical discipleship are true. But they were not the scripture readings of the liturgy of the day. There was a tradition of Christians coming to the priest for guidance, and asking him to him to open the scriptures three times at random, and in this way picking three passages from the bible that would somehow cohere and provide direction for the one who asked. This is how the Lord spoke so powerfully to Francis about the call to evangelical simplicity and obedience.
How difficult his gradual conversion must have been for his family. His father comes across not as a worldly tyrant but as a concerned father who doesn’t know how to react to his son’s apparent psychological disintegration and the consequent implosion of his family business.
How unsure Francis was about his new way of life. It’s very clear from this reconstruction that when he first went to see the pope to have his ‘rule’ approved he had no intention to preach. The preaching mission came from the pope, and he followed it obediently.
It’s true that poverty was a central theme in Francis’s vision and lifestyle. But according to Thompson it was not the theological key. Francis, according to the historical sources, spent far more time preaching and teaching and sometimes writing about the Holy Eucharist and the Catholic priesthood than he did about poverty. He was captivated by the idea that Christ was present in our midst in the Mass and in the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacles of every Catholic church throughout the world. He showed the utmost respect to Catholic priests, fully aware of their weaknesses, because he believed that they represented Christ sacramentally for the Christian faithful.
He was horrified when he came across a church or chapel that was in a state of disrepair. It he found any altar linen that was dirty he would take it away to wash it. If he found any sacred books that contained the scriptures discarded on the floor he would put them in a more worthy place. When we hear that Francis was called to rebuild/repair God’s church we often think that this was a metaphor for a spiritual renewal of the church, which of course it was in many ways. But we forget that Francis’s first concern, which never left him, was to make the actual church buildings into sacred spaces that would be worthy for the liturgy and the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
And I learnt how much Francis suffered, especially in the last years of his life through sickness. I knew this already, but the extent of the suffering comes across in this biography: the discomfort, the heartache, the sheer agony that Francis often lived through. He was a broken man at the end, but a man fully alive. The joy and the simplicity are there, but in this book they shine out of a very earthy humanity.
I’m not saying these are the central themes of the book or of St Francis’s life. They are just some of the ideas that made an impression on me that hadn’t come across so strongly in other biographies I’ve read. It’s a fascinating book – do read it yourself.
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.
A couple of years ago I saw a production of Soldier to Saint by RISE Theatre at a youth retreat. It is one of the most powerful Christian dramas I have ever seen, bringing to life – in a contemporary setting – the story of St Alban, our first martyr.
I was delighted to hear that the play is being revived again this summer, and on tour round the UK from 28th June – 12th July 2013. The reason I’m blogging now is not to invite you to the shows themselves (I’ll post the venues and dates later on), but to see if your parish might be interested in hosting one of the performances. It’s a wonderful opportunity for inspiring parishioners in their faith, and for evangelisation and outreach. All the details are below, with the contact email at the bottom.
After a successful London run in 2011, RISE Theatre is reviving its ground-breaking one-act play Soldier to Saint, bringing this challenging & thought-provoking drama to the very heart of your community!
It is the year 2020 and London is in crisis. As Christians are forced into hiding and rioting hits the streets, a soldier – John Alban, strikes an unlikely friendship with a fugitive priest, a friendship that could cost him his life.
For such a time as this, John Alban must now make a choice between his old way of life or following a new path – a path that will change his life forever.
Performed by RISE Theatre, Soldier to Saint brings to life the inspirational true story of Saint Alban, England’s first Christian martyr – a compelling tale of courage, friendship and sacrifice.
RISE Theatre would like to bring this inspirational play straight to your doorstep, offering your community a unique way to explore the journey to faith.
BOOK NOW: Limited Tour Dates available from 28th June – 12th July 2013.
If you would like to host Soldier to Saint at your church, or for more information on cost, please contact Stephen at email@example.com
See there website here, which has a short video on the homepage, and more details about the tour.
I was in Leeds last week, leading a study day for some of the clergy there. The topic was ‘Prayer in the Catechism’, looking at the history and theology of Part 4 of the Catechism, and sharing some practical tips about how to use this in teaching and catechesis.
The text from the Catechism is here (the first section of Part 4 on Christian Prayer).
Here is the audio of the three talks if you are interested.
Talk 1: The importance of Part 4 (Christian Prayer) in the theological structure of the Catechism.
Talk 2: The history and structure of Part 4
Talk 3: The theology of Part 4
I’m half-way through a lovely book by Leo Maasburg called Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait.
It’s an easy read, being simply a collection of anecdotes and stories. Here is the blurb:
Mother Teresa’s life sounds like a legend. The Albanian girl who entered an Irish order to go to India as a missionary and became an “Angel of the Poor” for countless people. She was greatly revered by Christians as well as Muslims, Hindus and unbelievers, as she brought the message of Christian love for one’s neighbor from the slums of Calcutta to the whole world.
Fr. Leo Maasburg was there as her close companion for many years, traveling with her throughout the world and was witness to countless miracles and incredible little-known occurrences. In this personal portrait of the beloved nun, he presents fifty amazing stories about her that most people have never heard, wonderful and delightful stories about miracles, small and great, that he was privileged to experience at Mother Teresa’s side. Stories of how, without a penny to her name, she started an orphanage in Spain, and at the same time saved a declining railroad company from ruin, and so many more.
They all tell of her limitless trust in God’s love, of the way the power of faith can move mountains, and of hope that can never die. These stories reveal a humorous, gifted, wise and arresting woman who has a message of real hope for our time. It’s the life story of one of the most important women of the 20th century as it s never been told before. Illustrated with photos.
This story really struck me, about the generosity of a newly married couple, told by Mother Teresa herself:
I never forget, some time ago, two young people came to our house and gave me lots of money. And I asked them, “Where did you get so much money?” And they said, “Two days ago we got married. Before marriage, we decided we will not buy wedding clothes. We will not have a wedding feast. We will give you that money.”
And I know in our country, in a Hindu family, what that means, not to have wedding clothes, not to have a wedding feast. So again I asked, “But why? Why did you do like that?” And they said, “We loved each other so much that we wanted to share the joy of loving with the people you serve.”
How do we experience the joy of loving? How do we experience that? By giving until it hurts. [p.68]
I’ve blogged before about the Wedding-Industrial Complex and the pressures on engaged couples to create the perfect wedding. This is such an impressive story because it is not about trying to fight the system for its own sake, but about being motivated by love to see things in a different perspective, and discover possibilities others would never have dreamed of. What a great way to start your marriage! (I hope/trust that the parents approved of the decision!)
Celibacy is in the air again. Or rather, Cardinal O’Brien’s recent comments have stirred up a debate about the obligation of celibacy for Catholic priests in the Western Church.
I thought I’d copy here a personal reflection on celibacy, and then some historical notes. The personal reflection is from something I wrote for the BBC News website three years ago; and the historical sections are copied from a recent post by Fr Tim Finigan.
This is the short piece I wrote for the BBC:
On 13 July 1997 I made a lifelong commitment to celibacy. In a chapel overlooking Lake Albano on the outskirts of Rome I promised to remain unmarried ‘for the sake of the kingdom and in lifelong service to God and mankind’.
I had a real sense of peace that day, but a few months earlier I had been in turmoil. I knew all the theory: Catholic priests were following the example of Christ; celibacy gave you a freedom to serve others, etc. But it hadn’t become real for me.
I was wrestling with all this one afternoon that spring. I realised that I had been seeing celibacy in negative terms: ‘No’ to marriage, ‘No’ to sex, ‘No’ to children – when in reality it was a profound ‘Yes’. It was a way of putting Christ at the centre of your life, of giving your whole heart to those you would serve as a priest. It was a way of loving others with a generosity that wouldn’t be possible if you were a husband and father. Celibacy wasn’t a negation or a denial – it was a gift of love, a giving of oneself, just as much as marriage could be.
My experience over the years has confirmed this. Yes, there are practical aspects to celibacy. You’ve got more time for other people, and more time for prayer. You can get up at three in the morning to visit someone in hospital without worrying about how this will affect your marriage. You can move to a bleak estate in a rough part of town without thinking about how this will impact on your children’s schooling.
But celibacy is something much deeper as well. There is a place in your heart, in your very being, that you have given to Christ and to the people you meet as a priest. You are not just serving them, you are loving them as if they were the very centre of your life – which they are. I think Catholics sense this. They know that you are there for them with an undivided heart, and it gives your relationship with them a particular quality.
It’s true that you can’t speak from experience about every aspect of human life. But you gain an awful lot of understanding from sharing in people’s lives over the years. Husbands and wives will confide in a sympathetic priest. You end up drawing on this experience as you preach and counsel people. Besides, people want a priest because he will show them the love of Christ, and not because he has lived through all ups and downs that they live through.
There are struggles. Times of loneliness; sexual desires; dreams about what marriage and fatherhood would be like. I don’t think most of this is about celibacy – it’s about being human. The husbands I know struggle with the same things, only they dream about what it would be like to have married someone else! What matters is trying to be faithful, instead of pretending that another way of life would be easy.
You need balance in your life, you can’t be giving all the time – this was emphasised in our training. You need affection and human intimacy. I’ve got some wonderful friends. I get home to see my family every couple of weeks. I escape to the cinema now and then. And I pray. Not to fill the gaps, because some of them can never be filled, but because the love of Christ is something very real and very consoling.
I’ve been incredibly happy as a priest over these twelve years. I don’t think about celibacy a lot now – it’s just part of my life. But I’m aware that it gives me a freedom of heart that is a unique gift. It helps me stay close to Christ, and draws me closer to the people I meet each day.
And these historical comments are taken from Fr Tim Finigan’s post, “Some notes on clerical celibacy“:
In the synoptic gospels we hear of how Our Lord cured Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from fever. In the discussion of clerical celibacy, this text is routinely brought out as a knock-down argument. The apostles were married so why can’t priests marry? Oddly, though, we never hear anything of St Peter’s wife, or indeed of any of the wives of the other apostles.
“Then Peter said: Behold, we have left all things, and have followed thee. Who said to them: Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (Lk 18.28-30)”
This suggests the possibility that St Peter had in fact left his family to follow the Lord. Such a course of action would be unacceptable in our time, but in the culture of Palestine in the time of Our Lord, the extended family would mean that it was possible.
Then we come to St Paul’s injunction in 1 Timothy 3.2 that the Bishop should be the husband of only one wife. It would be improbable to suggest that St Paul was dealing with a problem of polygamy. Much more likely he was saying that the Bishop should not be someone who had married a second wife after his first wife had died.
These indications from scripture are tantalising but need further illumination. Fortunately, there have been a number of studies that have cast light on the historical practice of the Church, arguing that the discipline of clerical celibacy is of apostolic origin.
Christian Cochini presented the historic debate between Bickell and Funk over certain key texts from the Council of Nicea, the Council of Elvira and others. He also exhaustively examined all of the cases from the first seven centuries of the Church’s history which were relevant to the issue of clerical marriage. His work supported the thesis that there was an apostolic rule of continence for those clerics who were married and that the legislation of the Church against the clerical use of marriage is witness to this ancient tradition.
Roman Cholij examined in particular the Council in Trullo of 691, concluding that the Council’s permission for the clerical use of marriage was an innovation, giving rise to the legislative anomaly in the East (and occasionally in the West) whereby married men may be ordained but ordained men may not marry. This law, which is still a part of modern codes of canon law, makes little sense apart from the historic rule of continence…
Cardinal Stickler’s brief account is a most useful summary of the case for clerical celibacy. He notes that there have been a number of important recent studies devoted to the history of celibacy in both the East and the West, and that these studies have either not yet penetrated the general consciousness or they have been hushed up if they were capable of influencing that consciousness in undesirable ways.
This unfortunately remains the case as articles continue to appear without finding it necessary even to address the research of these scholars.
The later imposition of a rule that clerics should be unmarried was a recognition of the growing impracticality, with the development of marriage, and the problems of inheritance, of ordaining men who had been previously married, even if there were a rule of continence. It obviously makes sense today when people would find it hard to understand a system in which men who are married would be expected to change and live a life of continence…
Throughout the history of the Church, the discipline of clerical continence or celibacy has been transgressed by some clerics. The Church has consistently fought to reform the life of clerics in the face of immorality which has been greater at some times than others. Today we live in a time when reform is needed again. We should remember that when St Charles Borrommeo went to Milan, the vast majority of his priests were living in concubinage – and he reformed his diocese. The Council of Trent was largely successful in reforming the clergy.
At the present time, we should give thanks for the faithfulness and purity of most students and young priests. They have been formed at a time when appallingly bad example has been given by some of their senior brethren. They have reckoned the cost and turned into the storm with courage and resolution. Let us pray that they become the vanguard of the new reform of the clergy, following in the footsteps of their forbears in the counter-reformation and at many other times in the history of the holy Roman Church.
ReferencesCholij, R. Clerical Celibacy in East and West Gracewing. Herefordshire. 1989Cochini, C. The apostolic origins of priestly celibacy Ignatius. San Francisco. 1990Heid, S. Celibacy in the Early Church. Ignatius. San Francisco. 2000Stickler, A. The case for clerical celibacy Ignatius. San Francisco. 1995
Posted in Culture/Arts, Spirituality, tagged cathedrals, culture, evangelisation of culture, faith, Fr Christopher Jamison, gospels, St Mark's Gospel, St Teresa, St Teresa of Avila on January 25, 2013 | 8 Comments »
Every month in the seminary we have a Day of Recollection: a brief moment of silence and retreat, from supper on Friday until the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. It’s not a long time, but it means that we are forced to put the brakes on every few weeks, even in the middle of a busy term; and a lot can happen in 24 hours if you really give yourselves over to the silence, the times of Office and Exposition in the chapel, and the reflections that are offered by the retreat giver.
Last weekend we had Fr Christopher Jamison lead the Recollection, the Benedictine monk from Worth Abbey who is now Director of the National Office for Vocation. I won’t even try to summarise the talks he gave (which connected the writings of Cassian and the Desert Fathers and Mothers with our own spiritual lives). A number of thoughts stayed with me, including what seemed to be a throwaway line about St Teresa of Avila.
Fr Christopher was talking about the famous ‘different ways of collecting water’ metaphor in the Autobiography of St Teresa. And just by way of background, he spoke about how he had come to know the Autobiography not as a monk, but when he was an undergraduate studying Spanish at Oxford. Why was this masterpiece of the spiritual life on the curriculum at a secular university? Because, he explained, it was the first major literary work in Spain to use the ordinary language of ordinary people to describe the everyday occurrences of ordinary life. OK, you can hardly call St Teresa of Avila ‘ordinary’; but the autobiography, as well as being a guide to the mystical life, is one of the clearest, funniest, wisest, most honest and compelling accounts of what it is simply to be human, to get through a life, to get through a day. And – this is the point – it was one of the first.
Her faith, in other words, didn’t just use one element of the culture to communicate itself, it almost singlehandedly created a new form of culture, a new genre, to express something that couldn’t be expressed in any other way. It’s like St Mark (if he was the first!) deciding to write a ‘gospel’ when there was no such thing as a gospel before then. It’s like the Cathedral builders of the Middle Ages searching for new forms of architecture that could express the Christian mystery in ways it had never been expressed before.
These people, and many more (please add your own examples from other centuries) were not just using the culture, they were transforming it; they were inventing new forms of culture in order to communicate the faith that had already transformed their own hearts and vision.
We often talk as Christians about being more engaged with contemporary culture, or about allowing the Christian culture we have inherited to have a greater influence on the culture of the contemporary world. The harder and more interesting question, however, is whether it is possible for us today to create new forms of culture in order to express and share our faith. What are some examples today? What are the signs or even the seeds of this renewal?
Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Spirituality, tagged Adam, Day of Judgement, fear, fears, Garden of Eden, God, innocence, judgement, love, nature, Providence freedom, psychology, the Fall on January 10, 2013 | 11 Comments »
What is the root problem for us as human beings? What is the root problem at the moment of the Fall itself, and in our daily personal struggles? Sin? Disobedience? Selfishness? Alienation? Pride? Possibly all of these.
But St John, in Chapter 4 of his First Letter, points to something else: Fear. It takes us right back to the Garden of Eden, just after the Fall, when the Lord God goes searching for Adam. And when he speaks to him, Adam replies: ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself’.
St John is very simple: ‘In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love.’ And he even sees the defeat of fear as a sort of test for whether we are ready to enter heaven or not. He writes, ‘Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgment without fear’.
Is he being harsh and unrealistic? Is it fair to say that fear is a sign that we are not loving? At one level, this doesn’t ring true. Fear, as a human instinct, as a response to difficulties and dangers, seems to be natural and unavoidable; it’s part of a healthy physiology and psychology.
But many of our fears have other causes that are not so innocent, even though they may feel very normal and natural. We are afraid because we can’t get our own way; or because we are too attached to something and scared of losing it; or because we are worrying about what others think of us; or because we won’t trust God and hand over our future to him. These are unhealthy fears, and they stop us loving God and loving others.
Here is a tip: If you notice that you are afraid of something, big or small, don’t just ignore it. Stop. Reflect on it; pray about it; try to see what is at the root of the fear. Very often, this will be a moment of grace; it can lead you to see an area in your life where you are not free, not yet willing to trust God. It can reveal the extent to which you are still hiding, like Adam in the Garden – unable to trust others, to trust the Lord, to trust in his Providence. It can allow you to hear a very personal call from the Lord, to come out, to meet him. And that can lead you to a new step of faith and a new kind of freedom before the Lord.
Yes, perfect love casts out fear. It’s also true that fear, and facing the roots of our fears, can lead us to a deeper love.
(But don’t misunderstand this and get over-analytical! It doesn’t mean that every time we are afraid it is our fault or a sign of sin…)
I’m onto my third ‘best worship songs ever’ triple-CD in the car – the latest being The Best Live Worship Album…Ever!
This has two of my all-time favourites. I can’t find the same live versions on YouTube, so here are two alternative studio versions.
First, Majesty (Here I am) – not the hymn you often hear in Catholic churches, but the Delirious? song.
Second, There is a Day by Phatfish (I think…). It takes ten seconds to start – be patient!
Posted in Religion, Spirituality, tagged breviary, Catholic priesthood, chastity, confession, discernment, Divine Office, Eucharist, Mass, obedience, poverty, priesthood, priests, promises, purpose, religious vows, servanthood, service, vocation on November 5, 2012 | 7 Comments »
As part of the vocation leaflet project, I was asked to write about the meaning of the Catholic priesthood in 1100 words. When you have so little space, it really forces you to think, and work out what seems most important!
This is what I came up with:
The Catholic priesthood is an extraordinary vocation. Every Christian is called to bring the love of Christ to others. The ministerial priest, through the sacrament of ordination, is called to show that love in a special way.
His vocation is to preach the Gospel and teach the Catholic faith; to lead God’s people in love, as a shepherd, as a spiritual father; and to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, ‘for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ’s people’ (Rite of Ordination). His whole being is transformed, so that he can be an icon of Christ for others, filled with the Holy Spirit, and a minister of grace.
Catholic priests are ordinary men who never lose their humanity. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They have different backgrounds and personalities, different strengths and weaknesses. Yet they have all been called like the first disciples: ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Mt 4).
This is not just an ‘external’ call to do something for Jesus, but an invitation to draw closer to him and share his life more intimately; just as the Apostles, before they were sent out to preach and heal, spent time with the Lord in friendship.
Many priests belong to religious congregations. As monks, friars or missionaries they take the three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their ministry is defined by the particular work of the congregation.
The diocesan priest, however, commits his life to serving the Church in his local diocese. It’s a ‘geographical’ commitment to work with his bishop and serve the people of this local area, usually where he has grown up or come to work or study. He is a ‘secular’ priest, which means he lives ‘in the world’ rather than in a monastery, sharing closely in the lives and experiences of others.
Some of the great priests of recent centuries have been diocesan priests: for example, St Francis de Sales, St John Vianney, Blessed John Paul II.
In practice, most diocesan priests live and work in parishes. This is their ‘default’ ministry, where their heart lies. They work in collaboration with their brother priests, with laypeople, and consecrated men and women; caring for the parish together, supporting each other.
Parish ministry is incredibly varied. In a single day a priest might visit children in the school, bring Holy Communion to the sick, support a bereaved family, help a couple prepare for their wedding, hear someone’s confession, prepare sandwiches for the homeless, and lead a sacramental programme in the evening. And so much of priesthood is simply being with others – sitting, listening, talking, praying.
The heart of each day is the celebration of Mass, when all these concerns are offered to the Father in the Holy Sacrifice, and the priest leads his people in worship, repentance, thanksgiving and intercession.
Some diocesan priests work full-time in more specialised ministries, for example, as chaplains in prisons, hospitals, universities or the armed forces. Some even work abroad as missionaries – a reminder that every priest is called to evangelise.
All diocesan priests make three promises. They promise obedience to their bishop, to take up whatever ministry he asks. This helps them to be open to the pastoral needs within the diocese, and it stops them getting attached to their personal preferences. It keeps them humble, open and generous-hearted in the service of the Lord.
They promise consecrated celibacy – to remain unmarried for the rest of their lives. This allows a priest to give himself to Christ with an undivided heart, and to love others with an inner freedom and an extra generosity. Even though many Eastern Catholic Churches have a different practice, for Catholics in the Latin (Western) Church celibacy is central to the vision of priesthood as a life of total self-giving.
Finally, they promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully each day. By praying this ‘Prayer of the Church’ at the appointed times, they sanctify every moment of each day. They centre their lives on prayer, praying for the Church and for the whole world.
With these three promises the diocesan priest is rooted in Christ. He is free to follow the Lord, wherever he is sent; free to give his life in love and service. His priestly heart, like the heart of the Good Shepherd, is completely dedicated to God’s people.
The priesthood brings incredible joys, especially in seeing God’s grace transform people’s lives, and in the special bonds that are formed with laypeople and brother priests.
There are also real difficulties and challenges. These can be in the spiritual life, in ministry, or in the ordinary human struggles that afflict everyone at different moments: tiredness, loneliness, stress, failure, sin. Like every Christian, the priest tries to live through his difficulties with faith and hope, staying close to the Lord, trusting in him.
How do you know if God is calling you to be a diocesan priest? First, the basics: only baptised men can become Catholic priests. This is not a form of prejudice or sexism, it is the Church being faithful to Christ and to the Christian Tradition, where only men are appointed to stand ‘in the person of Christ the Head’ as Catholic priests. Women with a genuine call to ministry and service in the Church will find that fulfilled in other ways instead.
Second, you need to have an open heart as you discern your vocation. Any Catholic man who is single and unsure about his future should be able to say, ‘Lord, what is your will for my life? What are you calling me to do?’ What matters is to be open to God’s will, and to pray for his help and guidance.
Third, there are some common signs of a priestly vocation. These include: a simple desire to be a priest or to do the things that priests do (celebrate Mass, preach, pray with people, serve others, etc.); an admiration for priests you know; a sense of being pulled or pushed into the priesthood; suggestions from other people that you might make a good priest; and a desire to pray more and to take your faith more seriously. A feeling of unworthiness can be a sign of humility before such an awe-inspiring vocation; and even a desire to marry, sometimes, can point to a fatherly heart that may be fulfilled in the celibate priesthood – if these other signs are there too.
Finally, you need to talk to someone. There is only so much thinking and praying you can do on your own. This might be a trusted friend or relation, or a priest you know, and ultimately the Vocations Director in your Diocese. Don’t be afraid. The Lord will guide you.
[You can buy bulk copies of this leaflet here at the CTS website.]
Posted in Religion, Spirituality, tagged careers, Catholic priesthood, Catholic Truth Society, Christianity, consecrated life, diocesan priesthood, discernment, faith, jobs, marriage, meaning of life, priesthood, purpose in life, religious life, religious vocation, vocation, young people on October 31, 2012 | 1 Comment »
The National Office for Vocation, in association with the Catholic Truth Society, is publishing a new series of leaflets about the different Christian vocations. Take a look at the CTS website here for more information.
They should be very useful, not least because of their size and cost (and of course they are beautifully produced and full of inspiring stories and information!): You get a pack of 25 leaflets for £5.95, so it is easy for a parish or school to splash out, buy a few packs, and distribute the leaflets to various groups without worrying about breaking the bank. Or as an individual you can keep a few in your pocket and hand them out to people on the bus or tube as a form of evangelisation!
You can also see the new site about religious life from the National Office for Vocation, which also has a micro-site about religious life for 10-16 year olds!
Posted in Psychology, Religion, Spirituality, tagged Carmelites, chastiry, consecrated celibacy, Dominicans, English Dominicans, evangelical vows, friars, Gospel, Jesus, monasteries, monks, Notting Hill Carmel, nuns, obedience, poverty, priesthood, religious life, sisters, vocation, vows on October 4, 2012 | 5 Comments »
I was at Blackfriars in Cambridge for Mass last week, which is the novice house for the Dominican Friars of England and Scotland. It was a joy to meet the four new novices over coffee afterwards, just a couple of weeks after they had arrived and exchanged their everyday clothes for the Dominican habit.
And a few days before I happened to be visiting the Carmelite sisters in the monastery at Notting Hill, London. Three women have begun their postulancy here over the last few months, with another due to join them this autumn.
So that’s eight new religious vocations this year in just two random houses! Something is certainly stirring in vocational terms in this country at the moment.
Something is speaking to people: about the value of religious life, the beauty of the evangelical vows (of poverty, consecrated celibacy, and obedience), the importance of prayer and community, the urgency of mission (whether the mission of apostolic work or of monastic prayer), and the adventure of giving your life without reservation to Christ in these particular ways.
Religious life, of course, is not the only way of giving your life to Christ; but to those who are called it becomes a way of living their faith and embracing the radicalism of the Gospel that seems to make sense of everything they have believed and desired before.
If you want to learn a bit more about the Dominicans or Carmelites, I’ve copied a few paragraphs below.
First of all, take a look at this video from the English Dominicans:
This is from the Irish Dominican website:
Dominican friars are engaged in an incredible spiritual adventure: living from the passion for the salvation of souls which, eight centuries ago, set fire to the heart of St Dominic and to the hearts of his first companions. This haste to announce the Gospel in truth produces three characteristics in a Dominican friar.
Men of the Word
A primordial taste for the Word of God marks Dominican friars. The Word demands to be meditated ceaselessly and lived without compromise. Never satisfied, the brothers take every opportunity to promote and engage in the study of the Word of God.
Concern for the poorest found in the compassion of St Dominic and of his brothers a never ending response. No element of human existence is foreign to Dominicans. Mercy is the path, the tone and the mystery of the friar preacher. When making his commitment to live as a Dominican friar, a brother’s reply to the question “What do you seek?” is “God’s mercy and yours”.
Proclamation of Christ’s Good News in poverty
The original preaching of St Dominic while in contact with Catharism impressed upon the friars that the proclamation of the Gospel could be done only through authentically evangelical means (see the Gospel according to Mark, chapter six, beginning at verse seven). Joining others and understanding them imposes a lifestyle like that of the apostle: a life that is lived in common and one that is itinerant.
In practice, such a lifestyle is lived as a “religious life” with its own essential characteristics: the four elements particular to the friars preachers.
Animated by the rule of St Augustine, the friars live together the same call coming from the one person who calls: Christ. Living as brothers, they strive to love each other, to forgive each other and to live the Gospel in community before living it outside the community.
To pass on to others what we have contemplated
Preaching finds its vitality in a life of prayer which is both personal and in common. Preaching, when at its best, is a truly contemplative act. The brothers are called to be simultaneously contemplative and fundamentally missionary.
Poverty, obedience and chastity make us men who try to consecrate ourselves for the adventure of the Kingdom of God.
All our personal, community, intellectual and spiritual energy makes us useful for the souls of others, whether they be near to us or far away: useful by our word and by our example
We are consecrated for the proclamation of the Word of God, proclamation which is done using all the means available to us: preaching, confession, teaching, publishing, spiritual accompaniment, humble presence… Preaching animates what we do or what we live, to the point that our communities (“priories” or “convents”) have been called the “holy preaching”.
And this is from the Notting Hill Carmel website:
The mission of the Carmelite is to enter, by the total gift of herself, into the saving mission of Christ, who gave himself for us that we might come to a fuller life in God, and who said: Love one another as I have loved you.
The Carmelite is one with all people, everywhere, those who believe, those who search and those who do not know that they are searching, and she identifies with all that is great and worthy of humanity’s endeavour. Yet she is called to a way of life that is in many ways counter-cultural: to live quietly, against the background noise of the city; to live simply and sparingly in an increasingly wasteful age; to live hidden and unnoticed in a competitive society; above all, to live lovingly and generously in an aggressive and violent world.
In her contemplative prayer, the Carmelite carries the needs and hopes of every person before God, lifting the face of humanity to the Father and opening her heart to be a channel of his outpouring love for all.
Carmelite spirituality is profoundly contemplative, born in the hermit tradition and nurtured by the two famous Spanish mystics, St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. It is rooted in the word of God, having had its beginnings in the land of the bible. The earliest Rule instructs us: “In all you do, have the Lord’s word for accompaniment”. The biblical figures of Mary and Elijah are our first inspiration. The prophetic message of Elijah encourages us to proclaim in our own times: “He is alive! The Lord God in whose presence I stand”; and Mary teaches us how to make ourselves fully available to God.
The Church’s liturgy creates the framework of our lives. Seven times a day we come together to pray the psalms, hear the word of God and intercede for the manifold needs of the world, especially for those intentions that have been entrusted to our prayer.
Prayer is Carmel’s particular form of service to the church. We spend an hour each morning and each evening in silent prayer. These times of special openness to God nourish an entire life of prayer that tends towards God in everything.
The measure of silence and solitude necessary for a sustained life of prayer is balanced by the demands of building real community, so that this biblical, contemplative, ecclesial, Marian spirituality becomes also a spirituality of communion.
For the followers of the great Carmelite teachers, the essence of prayer is relationship. This means intimate, personal relationship with God, honest relationship with oneself, and an inclusive, all-embracing relationship with the whole community and the whole wide world.
These are just two examples of religious life in this country. Let’s hope that these houses, and many others, can continue to grow and flourish.
Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Spirituality, tagged alone, being single, consecrated life, couples, discernment, happiness, husband, loneliness, marriage, religious life, sing;e, vocation, wife on September 28, 2012 | 5 Comments »
Helen Croydon’s article about why she isn’t interested in getting married got me thinking again about the meaning of being single for a Christian man or woman.
I think there are two extremes to avoid. One is to say that being single is a meaningless transitional state of frustration and unfulfillment on the way to the endless happiness of marital bliss, priesthood or consecrated life. This is to define singleness negatively, as ‘not-yet-married’ (or ‘not-yet-whatever…’). The other extreme is to suggest that being single, in itself, is a Christian vocation which you are called to embrace wholeheartedly; because many people do not have a sense of being called by God to the single life, it’s just where they happen to be – and perhaps they are longing and praying to move out of it. So to define being single, without qualification, as a vocation, is not quite accurate or fair to people’s experience.
I had to think through some of this when I was writing my pamphlet on How to Discover Your Vocation. I thought it would be worth copying here the ideas I put together about the different meanings of being single.
The single life. People are single for many different reasons. If you are single at this moment, whatever the reason, you can believe that your life right now has immense value. Every person is called to a life of holiness, and in this sense every person who is single is called to live out their Christian vocation, wherever it might be leading them in the future. Your work, your study, your friendships, your care for your family, your service to others – these are all areas of life in which you are meeting Christ and bringing his love to others. Give thanks to God for your life and for the opportunities presented to you.
It would not be quite right to say that every single person has a vocation to be single, in the sense of a lifelong commitment – and we must be careful in the way we talk about the single vocation. It would be best, perhaps, to say that the single life is a concrete vocation only when it has been chosen as a response to a sense of calling; or at least when it has been willingly accepted as a long-term way of life in response to circumstances. This chapter lists some of the situations that single people find themselves in, and gives one or two thoughts about how to approach them.
Just getting on with life. Many people are single and happy about that and just getting on with life. You might be doing some fulfilling and worthwhile work. You might be hard at your studies. You might be involved in some all-consuming project. You might be too young or busy or distracted or happy to be thinking big thoughts about future commitments. That’s fine! Be happy and be holy. Just make sure that now and then you stop to think about your vocation as a Christian, and to ask the Lord in prayer if he has any other plans for you. You have every right to make the most of this situation, without undue anxiety – as long as you are open to other possibilities as well.
Those who are searching. Many single people are hoping to discover a more particular vocation and to make a lifelong commitment to marriage or priesthood or the consecrated life, but they are unsure about which one. Or they are clear about wanting to get married, but still looking for a husband or wife. Or they are dating and wondering if this is the right person. If this is the case, you can follow all the suggestions in this booklet about how to discern your vocation and how, at the right time, to come to a decision. Remember that your happiness does not just lie in the future. God wants you to find peace and to live a life of holiness in this present moment, even if your future is unclear. He wants you to trust him: to do everything you can, but to be patient as well.
Those who are struggling. Some people are single not through choice but through circumstances. They wish they were not single, but they cannot see any way out. Perhaps you are not drawn to marriage, or unable to find a husband or wife. Perhaps you want to be a priest or live a consecrated life, but you have been ‘turned down’ by the diocese or religious order. Perhaps you are caring for a sick relative or a child and you are not able to take on any other commitments. Perhaps you are sick yourself. There may be other difficulties in your life that make you feel you cannot pursue the vocation you would like to. Or perhaps you have a valid marriage, but are now separated from your husband or wife, without any apparent hope of reconciliation or of being granted an annulment; so that your day-to-day life is like that of a single person, only without the possibility of entering into a new marriage.
In all these situations it is so important to trust in God and to believe that he knows what he is doing with your life. There may be very real suffering and disappointment involved, and you can certainly hope and pray that the situation will improve. But you also need to accept that this is God’s will for you in this present moment, tocarry this cross with as much humility and love as is possible. Don’t give in to despair or self-pity. Live your Catholic faith, and trust that this is happening for a reason. Your vocation right now, without a doubt, is to show the love of Christ in these difficult circumstances. And through that love, if it is his will, he will lead you to a new stage, or help you to find new meaning in this present situation.
Committed to the single life. Some people have in effect made a personal commitment to lifelong celibacy, even without taking any formal vows. Some choose celibacy because they wish to give their lives in service to others, or because it allows them to follow a particular path in life. Some recognise that they are unlikely to get married, for all sorts of different reasons, and they willingly accept this and commit their lives to following Christ and living their faith as single people.
Those who accept the single life in this way, for whatever reason, can rightly think of this as their vocation – a call from God to live a life of holiness in this context, which will bear great fruit and will be richly rewarded. But perhaps we should not necessarily think of this form of celibacy as a lifelong vocation, because the circumstances might change. If you are single, and at peace about being single, but then something unexpected comes up, and you feel pulled towards another vocation – then you are perfectly free to look into that!
Consecrated single life. Some people do take lifelong vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, but continue to live and work in the world. Their vows mean that, in the language of the Church, they are living a consecrated life. Those who are consecrated have the assurance of God and of the Church that this is indeed a lifelong commitment and vocation.
What do you think? Does some of this help you to make sense of your single life – at the moment? Or do you have another take on what it all means?
Posted in Religion, Spirituality, tagged Benediction, Catholic Church, confession, conversion, Eucharist, evangelisation, Exposition, faith, holiness, joy, Mass, music ministry, prayer, silence, Transformed in Christ, Walsingham, Youth 2000, youth festivals on August 31, 2012 | 9 Comments »
I’ve just spent five days in a field a mile outside Walsingham, where the annual Youth 2000 summer festival took place last weekend. This little village, as one of the speakers said, is not just in the middle of nowhere; it’s on the very outer fringes of nowhere, and it’s a miracle that anyone gets there at all. (Apologies for this very London-centric view of North Norfolk…)
One of the young people arriving said they had got into a conversation in a shop on the way, and when they said they were going to a youth festival, the other person asked, ‘So who is headlining then?’ No-one could agree on the best answer: Jesus, the Bishop, or the Youth 2000 Music Ministry.
It’s a time of grace, of witnessing the beauty of the Christian faith, and of real conversion. It’s also a very ordinary experience of the Church, and by that I mean there is nothing extraordinary about the content of the weekend. It’s just Catholicism pure and simple. That’s probably why it ‘works’, and why it makes such a profound impression on people. The Eucharist at the very centre; dignified and joyful worship; devotion to Our Lady; the teaching of the Catholic Church presented in a straightforward, unapologetic, inspiring and practical way; the power of conversion through the sacrament of confession; the challenge of connecting faith with everyday life, study, work, relationships; the call to vocation, witness and service; prayer, music, food, fellowship, fun.
You see young people serving other young people, and witnessing to their own personal faith. It was striking, as well, how many people were here for the first time – brought by someone who had come before and wanted to share the experience. You see a wonderful integration of the different vocations of lay people, priests, and religious and consecrated people. One of the lovely small innovations this year was creating a cafe-style atmosphere in the dining tent, so that people could relax together in the evening when the services had finished. Another innovation was the hot showers!
It’s easy to make a list of all the events and activities that take place; it’s harder to describe the almost tangible sense of faith and spiritual joy that permeates the main tent when nearly a thousand people are there worshipping the Lord in silence or in song, or listening to the Word of God opened up for them, or hearing a teenager describe the moment when they really began to believe and to see their life changing through the touch of Christ.
There are many wonderful initiatives for renewal and evangelisation taking place within the Catholic Church in our country – this is just one of them. They all point to a genuine renewal in the Church, a sense that something important is happening, that lives are really being changed. The catechetical blog “Transformed in Christ” catches something of this in these reflections on the festival:
One of the beautiful things about Youth 2000 is that it brings you right back again to the fresh experience of conversion. It brings you back to basics – being simple and humble, open and intimate with Christ. It is so beautiful to see this journey beginning in young souls. I don’t have dramatic experiences of God’s love anymore like I did when I was going to retreats at 17 and 18. God needed to get my attention back then, and now my faith has deepened and strengthened, so now it is more a daily experience of his love in my life.
But on Sunday night, we heard testimony after testimony from young people, all aged between 16 and 21, of the powerful experiences of God’s love they had received through Confession and the Eucharist. They often articulated them nervously, but an authentic, unmediated experience of joy, peace and freedom from having just been touched by Christ, radiated from each one.
I am sure that, this hidden work of the Holy Spirit and the open response of each individual, young soul is the most precious thing in the whole Church, the whole world!
When I was 17 I didn’t quite realise how precious it was, and perhaps those young people who with such courage and faith got up to give their testimony, don’t either. No one gets to see these miracles within souls. The humility of the Lord in working in such a hidden way is exquisite. But this is exactly what is beautiful about being a Catholic – the joy of being touched by Christ. If we ever lose sight of that, we are lost!
Posted in Relationships, Spirituality, tagged Bruce Willis, commtiment, faithfulness, God, love, marriage, marriage rite, ritual, sacrament, symbolism, Unbreakable, wedding bands, wedding rings, weddings on August 27, 2012 | 13 Comments »
I was at a beautiful wedding recently, and I had a small moment of revelation about the meaning of wearing a wedding ring. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my understanding was turned completely upside down.
I’ve always thought that wearing a wedding ring was a sign of the commitment you are making to your spouse and to your marriage. Not to pretend that it all depends on you – because it’s about a relationship and a vocation, and about God’s blessing on that relationship. But to see the wearing of the ring as a constant sign of your own re-dedication and re-commitment to this relationship, and to make this continuing acknowledgement of your marital commitment public by wearing a ring. The ring becomes, as it were, a public profession of your marriage and what it continues to mean to you. This is why in those films (cf. Bruce Willis in the first scene of Unbreakable), when a husband meets a stranger on a train and starts plotting how he might hook up with her, he quietly slips his wedding ring off and puts it in his pocket.
But I heard the words of the wedding rite as if for the first time, and this is absolutely not what the wearing of the ring signifies. Here they are:
Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So the ring that is given is a sign of the love and fidelity of the one who gives it. The ring that you wear, that was placed on your finger by your spouse on your wedding day, does not represent your commitment to your marriage, your love for your spouse, your faithfulness to this relationship and to the vocation God has called you into, etc. It represents the commitment, love and faithfulness of your spouse to you.
The ring is not there, first of all, as a sign of your continuing commitment to this person (although of course it can come to mean that as well). It’s an ongoing reminder of the promise that the other person has made to you. It’s a sign of the covenant that your spouse has made with you, and that God has sealed, and that you have freely embraced and entered into. The same covenant that you have also made with your spouse.
I know this is obvious – I’m ashamed to say that I’d just never thought of it before. It changes things. I’m sure I’ve given lots of wedding sermons about looking down at the ring on your finger and choosing to live your marriage and love your spouse. It’s all true, in one sense. But the symbolism of the ring is not, ultimately, about your own efforts or decisions or commitments, it’s a reminder of the promise that another has made to you, and of the promise that God has made to you both. I know that life, and marriage, are not always tidy or easy, but I think there is a truth worth pondering here.
Do contradict me, and write in the comments what your wedding ring has meant to you over the years!
Posted in Culture/Arts, Psychology, Spirituality, tagged activity, calm, contemplation, Olympics, peace, racing, running, silence, speed, stillness, Usain Bolt, WB Yeats on July 31, 2012 | 3 Comments »
I’ve been involved in a couple of retreats recently, and one of the themes has been the importance of having a contemplative heart even in the midst of activity, of trying to keep an inner stillness even when you are racing around. Not always easy!
It was fascinating to read this Olympic piece by Andy Bull about the inner peace that needs to be present in great sprinters. At the 1972 Olympics the Ukrainian Valeriy Borzov, like Bolt in 2008, won the 100m and 200m double. In an interview recorded after his victories, Borzov revealed the favourite training exercise of his first coach, Boris Voitas.
We made paper tubes and Voitas would order us to run 100m holding them in our teeth. The one who did not bite or squeeze the tube was considered a sprinter. The rest were considered to be simply runners. This helped me develop the main quality of a sprinter – the ability to relax.
Bull goes on to explain:
Tension inhibits speed. The moment a sprinter starts to worry about what the man next to him is doing, his muscles tighten and he starts to slow down. Lewis was guided by the principle, taught to him by his coach Tom Tellez, that “human beings can run full speed for 10 metres”, which made it pointless to try and run flat out for the full 100. His rivals, he felt, were so obsessed with getting ahead of him at the start that they began to decelerate by the time they reached 90m, and would tighten up more as they felt Lewis come up on them.
“Don’t worry about anybody else in the race,” Tellez taught Lewis. “Just worry about what you’re doing. If they are ahead of you, don’t worry, just keep accelerating through 60m to 70m in the race, they will come back to you at the end.” Bolt has a similar approach. “Last 10 metres, you’re not going to catch me,” he says. “No matter who you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter how focused you are, no matter how ready you think you are, you’re not going to catch me.”
“In the 100m,” says Lewis, “a single mistake can cost you victory.” He was not talking about technique – Bolt’s, for instance, is infamously poor, with too much lateral movement, which pushes him sideways off the blocks rather than propelling him down the track – but the negative thoughts that slip into a sprinter’s head during a race. Take this example from the Briton Harry Aikines-Aryeetey at the recent European championships in Helsinki, when he found himself level with the eventual champion, Christophe Lemaitre, in the semi-finals: “I panicked a bit because I was actually with him until about 60m, and I was thinking ‘Oh my God, I haven’t been here for a little while – what do I do?’ I think I tensed up before the end.” He scraped into the final, where he finished fourth.
Bolt has never seemed to worry about anything much, least of all what anyone else is doing. Plenty has been said about the advantage his height gives him – his legs are so long that at full speed he covers 10 metres in three and a half strides. But it is Bolt’s temperament that really sets him apart. Pressure runs off him like water off wax. His shenanigans on the start line at the Beijing Olympics, when he struck poses and played up to the crowd and camera, showed a man at ease with himself and the situation he was in. His finish, when he was beating his chest as he crossed the finish line, was so insouciant that some athletes actually found it offensive.
I’m sure it applies to a lot of other things as well.
It reminds me of one of my favourite poems, by WB Yeats, Long-Legged Fly
That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.
That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on the street.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.
That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope’s chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.
Posted in Culture/Arts, Religion, Spirituality, tagged Byzantine chant, chant, Eamon Duffy, Islamic music, Marie Keyrouz, music, polyphony, Rachmaninov, sacred music, Western music on July 17, 2012 | 11 Comments »
I’ve been choosing some music that I can use during a retreat, to provide a bridge between the words of the input I’m giving and the silence of the time for personal meditation and reflection. I wanted to have a variety of styles, given the variety of participants. I’ve pretty much got the genres of Western polyphony and Catholic/Evangelical worship music covered by my CD collection, so it was good to explore some non-Western Christian music and take myself outside my comfort zone. Here are two of the pieces I chose.
You might say Rachmaninov is part of the Western canon, but in this setting of vespers he is part of a movement that is consciously trying to re-connect Russian sacred music with its roots in traditional Russian chant. This section is the Russian version of the Hail Mary, from All Night Vigil, Op. 37.
And the next piece, sung in Greek and Arabic, is an Easter Chant by Sister Marie Keyrouz, entitled “Christ is risen; in his victorious death he has given life to the dead…”
Sr Keyrouz, a Lebanese nun, is an extraordinary singer (lots of CDs on Amazon here). I first heard her music at a talk by Eamon Duffy, the Cambridge historian. He wanted to show how much of the culture and musical styles that we in the West might associate with Islam, in fact go back beyond the origins of Islam to a pre-Islamic culture. Many of the Eastern chants of Sr Keyrouz, he explained, would have stylistic roots – and possibly even some melodic lines – that stretch back to the 7th century and beyond. You certainly feel that you are being drawn into a profound and living tradition.
Posted in Culture/Arts, Religion, Spirituality, tagged Britain, Christianity, Danny Boyle, England, Glastonbury, Glastonbury Tor, Henry VIII, martyrdom, mythology, New Age, Olympic opening ceremony, Olympics, paganism, pastoral on June 21, 2012 | 3 Comments »
It’s interesting that Danny Boyle has chosen to put Glastonbury Tor at the centre of his Olympic opening ceremony, in his vision of a mythical countryside that will somehow capture the essence of ‘who we are’ as British people.
You can read this in many ways – and I’m sure all will become clear when the ceremony unfolds. On the one hand, Christians should be delighted that a place full of such Christian significance – both in myth and in history - takes centre stage at the Olympics. Glastonbury is where, so the legend goes, Jesus once walked with Joseph of Arimathea. The tree that grew from Joseph’s staff and became the holy thorn is a central part of the Olympic set – linking Jesus’s own supposed international travels with those of the Olympians. And Glastonbury Tor itself has been a Christian shrine for centuries – an outpost of the local abbey, that then became a place of Catholic martyrdom and witness when Richard Whiting, the Abbot, was hanged there for refusing to follow King Henry’s religious reform.
On the other hand, Glastonbury is at the heart of the mythology of pagan Britain, and has become a centre of New Age spirituality and the occult. And surely it is no accident that St Michael’s tower, which dominates the Tor, is completely absent from the models presented to the public by Boyle recently. So I don’t think this will be a nuance-free celebration of the Christian roots of British history and culture.
Paul Kelso writes about Boyle’s presentation:
Revealing details of the opening scenes of a ceremony that will be watched by more than 500 million people, director Danny Boyle said he was creating a vision of the “mythic” British countryside that he hoped would capture the essence of “who we are”.
The main stadium will be transformed into a meadow, with landscaped real grass laid over the infield and a game of cricket unfolding in one corner. The theatrical maxim of not working with children or animals will be thoroughly ignored, as 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs feature in the opening scene.
At one end of the stadium work is already under way on a replica of Glastonbury Tor, with an oak tree on top instead of the chapel that stands on the real thing.
In front of the Tor will be a mosh-pit, decorated with the recognisable Glastonbury flags, where up to 100 members of the public will be allowed to stand.
At the other end of the stadium, beneath a giant bell, will be the posh-pit, which will also include members of the public, and reflect, Boyle said, the spirit of promenaders. In between will stand four maypoles, each styled as the national flower of the home nations, a rose, a thistle, a daffodil and flax. Overhead on the model unveiled on Tuesday were model clouds, one of which Boyle said would deliver rain “just in case it doesn’t rain anyway”.
The National Trust, which runs the Tor, explains it’s Christian significance:
For centuries, Glastonbury Tor has been one of the most spiritual places in the world. For many Christians, the Tor was a very important place of pilgrimage.
People have always flocked here to soak up the history surrounding this special site.
Joseph of Arimathea
Some believe that Jesus visited his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who came to the Mendips to trade in lead and silver.
The story goes that when Joseph was walking on Wearyall Hill and planted his staff into the ground, it took root. It grew into the holy thorn, which is still there today. This was a sign to him to build a church on this site.
The church was made from wattle and daub, and was the first church in England. It’s now known as Glastonbury Abbey. The thorn blooms at Christmas and at Easter time.
The Holy Grail
Legend has it Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail with him after the crucifixion. He hid it in the cavern underneath Glastonbury Tor, which caused two springs to form.
You can fill up bottles of water from this spring today at Chalice Well Lane.
It’s said that Joseph of Arimathea brought his sister, Anne, to Israel, where she gave birth to Mary.
Jesus wanted to see the birthplace of his grandmother, so he came to Britain with Joseph of Arimathea.
It’s also said he came to Glastonbury and walked among ‘England’s green and pleasant lands.’
St Patrick visits the Tor
St Patrick is also said to have spent some time at the Tor, as a hermit before he moved on to Ireland.
The Tor quakes
There’s evidence that monks were living on the Tor as far back as the 9th century.
We believe the monks came from the local abbey, to be in solitary reflection at the Tor.
At this point, the church would have been wooden. A stone church was built in the 12th century.
After an earthquake in 1275, the church fell down. In its place a much smaller and sturdier building was put up.
St Michael’s Tower was added later and still remains one of Somerset’s most iconic symbols.
Dissolution and danger
Pilgrimages to the Tor continued, but became more difficult due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII.
The abbot of the abbey, Richard Whiting, refused to swear his allegiance to Henry. As a consequence, he was hanged from Glastonbury Tor.
His body was then quartered and sent to Wells, Bath, Bridgwater and Illchester. After this, the church fell into disrepair. Its stone was removed, and only the tower remains today.
And if you want to read Simon Jenkin’s guess at where this is all really going, click here.
What was going on? I am reliably informed that this is all a highly crafted – and risky – bit of spin. Two weeks ago Boyle gave a totally different interview about the ceremony, splashed by the Hollywood Reporter. It made no mention of sheep and meadows but said Boyle was “partly inspired by Frankenstein”, about whom he directed a play at the National Theatre last year. The ceremony would be “more like a cauldron, with all the people hovering over and around you.” This implies that something terrible is going to happen to the sheep – and explains the last-minute dropping of pigs as allegedly vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The countryside set was a feint, inducing critics into taking it at face value and “the show”, thus to make the eventual spectacle more shocking. This explains otherwise inexplicable references to The Tempest, William Blake and Frankenstein, which are guiding the subsequent “acts” of Boyle’s show. The second act is a total contrast, the dark side of Blake’s vision, a tableau of storm clouds and satanic mills, of industrial Britain as a place of noise and filth, suffragettes and striking miners.
This is to be followed by a pastiche of cool Britannia. James Bond helicopters zoom up and down the Thames while 900 nurses dance in glorification of the NHS and hi-tech “best of British” products. It sounds like loyal workers dancing in honour of a North Korean “dear leader”. We are told that 10,000 people have needed 157 rehearsals to get the scenes right, and threatened with dismissal if they reveal what they are doing to outsiders or to other parts of the show. The set for prancing nurses at Dagenham is guarded like Guantánamo Bay.
The contents list for all might be a script for the BBC satire, 2012. It is a politically correct miasma of Shakespeare and Frankenstein, Trainspotting and Slumdog, humour and irony, ploughmen and miners, all summoned by a gigantic bell, strangely in honour of Caliban. It is as if Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver were asked to cook the same casserole in the same kitchen. The music is by Underworld, who wrote for Boyle’s Trainspotting and Frankenstein. Paul McCartney will rasp the closing number. This could hardly be further from Tuesday’s vision of Delius and Vaughan Williams. In other words, the countryside was an ironic hors d’oeuvre, to be exploded and splattered over the face the Olympics.
Posted in Religion, Spirituality, tagged Allen Hall, calling, celibacy, formation, freedom, God, happiness, Holy Spirit, love, obedience, prayer, priesthood, priests, seminary, seminary formation, study, vocation on June 11, 2012 | 7 Comments »
Yesterday on Radio 4′s Something Understood Mark Tully looked into seminary life, past and present. John Cornwell reflects on his experience in ‘junior seminary’ many years ago, and I try to explain what things are like today at Allen Hall. You can listen here – the programme is available online until Sunday 17th June.
Here is the blurb:
In Something Understood this week, Mark Tully is intrigued by life in a Roman Catholic seminary. How are young men trained for the priesthood?
At Allen Hall Seminary in the busy heart of London, Dean of Studies and Formation Advisor Father Stephen Wang explains the need for his students to train for their pastoral role within the Catholic community. Seminarians at Allen Hall spend much of their time in local parishes, schools and hospitals preparing for life as a Diocesan priest. And yet it’s also crucial that they have the quiet, contemplative space they need to develop spiritually. They must become men of God and men of communion.
Mark explores the history of the seminary system, with readings from Anthony Kenny and Denis Meadows, and hears music written by ancient monks in isolation. He speaks to writer and academic John Cornwell, whose own time at Upholland Seminary in the 1950s left a strong imprint on his spiritual life. The Junior Seminary system he experienced from the age of 12 no longer exists, but John believes that there are still serious flaws in the way the Catholic Church trains its priests. He argues that seminarians are too separated out from the world and from the people they are destined to serve once ordained.
Ultimately, becoming a priest requires huge dedication – what Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe described as a ‘falling in love’ with God. Perhaps what is also needed is a balance, between the prosaic and the spiritual, between being within the world and being apart from it.