Saturday, 17 February 2018

The question that is not being asked about the Tom Daley baby news

"Tom and Dustin are thrilled to share that they are expecting their first child in 2018".
No mention of the mother who is expecting to give birth to the child. One might expect, just as a matter of honesty in language, that coverage would report that a mother is expecting a child conceived on behalf of the all male couple.
Agree or disagree, it should be noted that our society accepts without question a world in which women can be used to give birth.... having been airbrushed out of the equation for the sake of promoting in the media a couple whose marriage was described by Daley only in December as "far from perfect".
Daley and Black are not the first high profile couple to do this.... 
But questions should be raised about babies becoming commodities, the result of transactions. 
Do read the full comment at Christian Today.

I have not followed it fully, but The Archers has a story line about a lady acting as a surrogate for a same sex couple. It will be interesting to see how far this story line explores the issues surrounding surrogacy.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12)

Pope Francis' Message for Lent 2018: full text here. It is worth reading the whole. It is hard hitting, not only for those who advocate for the "culture of death" outside the confines of the Church, but for those of us within the Church too.

Like Abbey Roads, I think the message reads as being very prophetic  - and I was particularly struck by the way in which Pope Francis refers to creation itself as a witness to the "cooling of charity":
More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10).  The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.  All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.
Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity.  The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest.  The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration.  The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.
Pope Francis' remarks about fasting are particularly strong:
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth.  On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure.  On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God.  Fasting wakes us up.  It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour.  It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
And, too, his invitation to those who are not Catholics to share with us the venture of the Lenten fast:
I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice.  Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family.  Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need! 
In a year in which the Catholic Church in England and Wales is holding a national Eucharistic Congress, we might pay particular attention the "24 hours for the Lord":
One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March.  In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

I was delighted to hear that the Trappist monks of the monastery at Tibhirine have been recognised as martyrs - a step that makes possible their beatification. They are among the "18 companions" of Bishop Claverie.

Also a great delight: the recognition of the heroic virtues of Madeleine Delbrel, included in the same announcement from the Holy See but which only came to my attention today.

Text of notice at the Holy See website.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Collect: Christ who prays and is also the prayer

Pope Francis is currently offering a series of General Audience catecheses on the Eucharistic Liturgy. I quite often wonder whether, in the ordinary practice of parish life, it might be more pastorally useful for priests to preach on Liturgical texts other than the Scriptural readings. Very often the ecclesial sense of a feast day is more readily perceived in the Collect or Preface than it is in the Scripture readings. English clergy at least seem to have imbibed from somewhere the idea that the homily is only to be based on the Scripture readings of the day. But the General Instruction of the Roman Missal n.65 actually reads (with my italics added):
The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of listeners.
Pope Francis General Audience addresses appear to offer a resource for this wider approach in preaching.

The most recent General Audience included a rather elegant observation on the Collect. As well as the easily recognised idea that, in this prayer, the celebrating priest draws into one the prayer of all those present, Pope Francis also commented on the posture adopted by the priest during the praying of the Collect (English translation is my own, as full English translation is not yet available on the website of the Holy See):
Il sacerdote recita questa supplica, questa orazione di colletta, con le braccia allargate è l’atteggiamento dell’orante, assunto dai cristiani fin dai primi secoli – come testimoniano gli affreschi delle catacombe romane – per imitare il Cristo con le braccia aperte sul legno della croce. E lì, Cristo è l’Orante ed è insieme la preghiera! Nel Crocifisso riconosciamo il Sacerdote che offre a Dio il culto a lui gradito, ossia l’obbedienza filiale.
[The priest recites this supplication, this prayer of collection, with extended arms and the attitude of the "Orantes", assumed by Christians from the first centuries - as the frescoes of the Roman catacombs bear witness - to imitate Christ with his arms open on the wood of the cross. And there, Christ is the "Orantes" and is at the same time the prayer! In the Crucified we recognise the Priest who offers to God the cult that is owed to him, to be exact filial obedience.]
The thought that, in the Collect, the priest represents both Christ as one who prays and at the same time the prayer offered is, I think, quite striking.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Three actions of the Magi

I rather like Pope Francis' homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany:
Three actions of the Magi guide our journey towards the Lord, who today is revealed as light and salvation for all peoples. The Magi see the star, they set out and they bring gifts....
Seeing the star. This is where it starts.....
Setting out, the second thing the Magi do, is essential if we are to find Jesus.....
Bringing gifts. Having come to Jesus after a long journey, the Magi do as he does: they bring gifts. Jesus is there to give his life; they offer him their own costly gifts: gold, incense and myrrh. The Gospel becomes real when the journey of life ends in giving. To give freely, for the Lord’s sake, without expecting anything in return: this is the sure sign that we have found Jesus.
In his discussion of "setting out", Pope Francis included the following:
Jesus makes demands: he tells those who seek him to leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home. Following Jesus is not a polite etiquette to be observed, but a journey to be undertaken. God, who set his people free in the exodus and called new peoples to follow his star, grants freedom and joy always and only in the course of a journey. In other words, if we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life.
The reference to the armchair put me in mind of Hans Urs von Balthasar's more forceful comment in the Preface of his short book about the significance of martyrdom in the Christian life, whose English title is The Moment of Christian Witness .
A criterion has a stimulating effect, even if one uses it only in a purely experimental way to exercise one's imagination. If you say to Georges Bernanos, "Come along with me. It's the Ernstfall - the crucial moment in Christian experience", the old grumbler will get up out of his armchair without so much as raising an eyebrow and follow you like a lamb. But if you go to Reinhold Schneider, the author of Winter in Vienna, and say the same thing to him, there is no telling what might happen. Whether you would finally manage to get any response at all from those who have been "demythologised" and converted to the world, I do not know. They have already explained everything away and are left with a merely symbolic belief in a message that they understand only by analogy. For them, both the belief and the message are worth dying for only by analogy, just as they consider their Christianity worth living for only by analogy to something else.

Monday, 1 January 2018

"Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life." UPDATED

This is the concluding paragraph of Pope Francis' homily at Mass on 1st January 2018:
Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep”, to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us. May the Mother, God’s finest human creation, guard and keep this year, and bring the peace of her Son to our hearts and to our world. And as children, with simplicity, I invite you to greet her as the Christians did at Ephesus in the presence of their bishops: “Holy Mother of God!”. Let us together repeat three times, looking at her [turning to the Statue of Our Lady beside the altar]: “Holy Mother of God!”.
The video of the Holy Father's Mass can be found on the Vatican YouTube channel here. The moment at which Pope Francis invites the congregation to join him in the acclamation "Holy Mother of God" occurs just after 37:00. You might also like to look at the ending of the Liturgy, with the singing of the Alma Redemptoris Mater, and Pope Francis venerating the statue of Our Lady and, as he leaves the altar, venerating the image of the Infant Jesus.

It is worth reading the complete text of the homily, as mainstream news media appear to be following the Associated Press coverage which represents only a small section of the whole.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Can personal values be detached from Christian belief? UPDATED

There is a passage in Romano Guardini's book The End of the Modern World where the author suggests that, when the sense of the personal value of human existence is separated from its roots in Revelation, though that sense of personal value may survive for a time, it will eventually fade. The passage occurs in section V of the last chapter.
Personality is essential to man. This truth becomes clear, however, and can be affirmed only under the guidance of Revelation, which related man to a living , personal God, which makes him a son of God, which teaches the ordering of His Providence. When man fails to ground his personal perfection in Divine Revelation, he still retains an awareness of the individual as a rounded, dignified and creative human being. He can have no consciousness, however, of the real person who is the absolute ground of each man, an absolute ground of each man, an absolute ground superior to every psychological or cultural advantage or achievement. The knowledge of what it means to be a person is inextricably bound up with the faith of Christianity. An affirmation and a cultivation of the personal can endure for a time perhaps after Faith has been extinguished, but gradually they too will be lost.....
Guardini identifies a dishonesty on the part of modern man:
Modern man's dishonesty was rooted in his refusal to recognise Christianity's affirmation of the God-man relationship. Even as the modern world acclaimed the worth of personality and of an order of personal values, it did away with their guarantor, Christian Revelation.
It is interesting to read this in the context of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks about the relationship between religion and political life at Westminster Hall:
The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.....
I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization. 
It is also interesting to read, or listen to, the Christmas messages of the leaders of the three major political parties in the same context. These messages can be found here: Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable.

In the cases of Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable, one is led to wonder whether they are in fact Christmas messages at all. The separation of human values from Christian belief is absolute. Guardini's critique applies in all its rigour.

Theresa May fares better in maintaining a connection between our country's "Christian heritage" and the values that are shared across society as a whole. One wonders whether, speaking in a more strictly individual capacity rather than that of a party leader, she might have maintained that connection more strongly.

One can notice the difference between these messages and that of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with its explicit affirmation of her Christian inspiration (at 6:24 ff).

Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi address also represents an example of human values that are firmly rooted in Christian revelation, with an affirmation of the incarnation of Christ preceding his survey of, and intercession for, regions of the world suffering from conflict:
Before the mystery of the Word made flesh, Christians in every place confess with the words of the Evangelist John: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).