Thursday, 26 July 2012

Tickets (with apologies to 1 John)

That of which we have heard, we have now seen with our eyes, we have looked upon and touched with our hands .... they have been made manifest, and we saw them and we testify to them, and proclaim that they have life (though perhaps not eternal) .... that which we have seen and heard we now proclaim also to you that you might have fellowship with us ...

Olympic and Paralympic tickets. Not mine, I hasten to add, someone else's, and I saw and touched and photograhed them yesterday. I was child-sitting while Mum plus one went in to Stratford to queue for an hour or so to collect some of these tickets. No time to post the photograph at the moment, but might do at some point.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day for Life: care for the body

The fuss over the theme for this year's Day for Life has reminded me of a piece of work that I did some years ago now. This work looked in a detailed way at the different aspects of the Church's mission with regard to healing. In one section I argued that the Church was committed to the care of the physical body, particularly of the person coming to the end of their life, because that provided a testimony to her belief in the resurrection of the body. As the last sentence of this section suggests, the call to value the physical body in the light of the resurrection of the body represents a theological principle for the provision of bodily care for the person coming to the end of their life, and so for the opposition of the Church to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The mission of physical healing is often undertaken in the light[1] of death or serious suffering.  For the Christian, the ministry of health care takes place in the context of the mystery of sin and redemption, of suffering and death. 

“…especially when faced with the mystery of physical and spiritual suffering and death - we must preach ‘Christ crucified’ and with the words of the prophet Isaiah teach people to turn their gaze to Christ who was ‘wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities’.  This truth is the central point of what we would call drawing near in dialogue to, and the real accompanying of, sick people and all those who suffer (and in a special way the dying), aware that only in the passion and death of Christ, and as we will see below, in his glorious resurrection, is it possible to discover a ‘why’ for these dramatic companions of the human condition..”[2]

Health care ministry is undertaken in the light of the resurrection - that is, in the hope that the body cared for in its suffering now will be raised up in glory in the future.  When healing occurs, it is a very visible testimony to this hope in the resurrection of the body.  When healing does not occur, the care shown for the body of the sick person, that is also a care for the very person himself, remains a witness to the faith of the Church in the resurrection of the body. 

“On caring for the sick, you know that one day they will discover the attention now being given … This weakened and broken body we now care for with veneration will rise again, glorious and radiant.  The traces of our affection and attention will remain thereupon forever.”[3]

This understanding of health care as being undertaken in the light of the resurrection of the body gives a rich meaning to the care of those who are terminally or chronically ill.[4]

[1] Faith in the resurrection prompts the use of the word “light” rather than “shadow”.
[2] Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno “Palliative Care in the Light of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord”, in Dolentium Hominum: Church and Health in the World  No.58 (2005 n.1) p.64.  See also Oswald Gracias “Identity in Faith in Catholic Hospitals”, Dolentium Hominum: Church and Health in the World  No.52 (2003) pp.86-92.
[3] F S Aguilara in “Christian Attitudes in Care for the Elderly who are Terminally Ill”, Dolentium Hominum: Church and Health in the World  No.29 (1995 n.2) p.23.
[4] It also represents a positive statement of the Church’s teaching that euthanasia and assisted suicide are not morally permissible.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Olympic Village a hive of debauchery? (at least according to the Guardian)

If a double page spread in today's Guardian (G2 section) entitled "Party hard and do some groping", and bordered at the top and bottom by sets of coloured condoms arranged to look like sets of Olympic rings, is anything to go by ......
.... then the strap line of the Day for Life being marked by the Catholic Church over the opening weekend of the London Olympics might just have something to say to the zeitgeist:
Use your body for the glory of God (1 Cor 6:20)
The Guardian have not got the article on their website - they have edited it from another on-line source, who have it, so far as I can tell, behind a pay wall. A flavour:
It's clear that, summer or winter, the games continue long after the medal ceremony."There's a lot of sex going on," says women's football goalkeeper Hope Solo, an American gold medallist in Beijing in 2008. "I'd say its 70% to 75% of Olympians," agrees US world-record-holding swimmer Ryan Lochte, who will be in London for his third Games....Some (athletes) swear off sex until their events are done; others make it part of their pre-event routine.
The Guardian article suggests that it takes an order for 100 000 condoms by the Games organisers to meet the expected demand. It rather reminds me of the story I heard once of a Personal Development Curriculum (PDC) department in a school rather apologetically alerting their colleagues in other departments that they were going to be doing sex education with the pupils that week and that, if any condoms turned up inappropriately in lessons or around the school, could their colleagues please take them off the pupils and return them to the PDC department. I wonder whether the Olympic athletes will, in reality, have much the same sense of things to do with condoms as these pupils seem to have had .....

There is a temptation to list the names of the athletes who are quoted in the Guardian article, but it is not clear how far most of them actually participated in the fun and games they describe.  That many are Americans is because the original source article was written and published by an American on-line magazine. The Guardian article doesn't suggest any sense of shame on their part, but their reticence, or the reticence of the author of the article, does suggest some sense of a boundary being transgressed. And whilst the Guardian article appears to want to give one impression of what happens in the Olympic Village, I am quite sure that many of the athletes just have far more sense than to behave in the way being described. The Day for Life theme has a chance to affirm these athletes in resisting the pressure of the culture being created around the Village.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Olympic Torch Relay 2012: Barking and Dagenham

I think something of the atmosphere of the Olympic Torch Relay has communicated itself through the media coverage. This morning the Relay was at the end of my road so, after putting my lunch in the oven on a timer, off I went. It is/was definitetly a "not to miss". I walked to the northern end of Dagenham Heathway, past gathering crowds lining the road along which the Relay was to pass. There was a very real sense of people gathering from the neighbouring streets to watch the Torch go past their own patch.

We were blessed with beautiful weather (though a couple of policemen I spoke to were finding it too hot in all their equpiment and would have preferred it to be raining!) and it being a Sunday, so lots of people turned out. The length of the route meant, though, that the pavements were not over-crowded. I then walked back to the Civic Centre, and waited to watch the torch pass Becontree Heath leisure centre. It was fascinating to watch the crowds re-gather at this point some 60 minutes or so after the Torch first passed, on its way to the Dagenham Town Show (it did a short double-back on itself to head up Whalebone Lane South).

I understand that the route through the neighbouring borough of Havering was also well lined later in the day. By that time I was back home, taking my lunch out of the oven....

So far only photographs from the morning have been posted; I assume more will follow.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Two Clare's separated by 800 years

Zero and I recently paid a visit to Assisi (during the same week as the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin - it's our excuse, anyway). The town has been marked by a celebration of the 8th Centenary of the consecration to God of St Clare of Assisi, a celebration that has not really been much noticed in England.

We arrived in the evening of 9th June, and so missed out on an event held that day under the auspices of the Focolare Movement: Clare of Assisi and Chiara Lubich: Two Charisms in Communion. The particular prompt for the event was the dedication of a square near the Basilica of St Francis to Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare.

The following paragraph from the report on the Focolare website struck me in particular. It is worth recalling that the official title of the Focolare is "Work of Mary". This reflects a line of thought which suggests that the Virgin Mary represents a figure of all that is charismatic (ie individually given gift) in the life of the Church.

Moreover, charisms are means for the emergence of the feminine. So it was for these two Clares: Clare of Assisi was able to receive approval for her “Highest Poverty” by the Holy See. Clare (Chiara) of Trent introduced into the Church the great novelty that the president of an ecclesial movement, containing all the vocations, will always be a woman. The accomplishments of Chiara Lubich’s charism are exquisitely secular (like the Economy of Communion), showing how much the charisms of the past and present are like the flywheels, that gradually lead us to a society that is more “humane and beautiful”.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pope Benedict XVI in Frascati: the value of the Council

Pope Benedict XVI has paid a visit to Frascati, celebrating Mass on there on Sunday. The homily preached on that occasion (no English translation yet available) has attracted comment for reasons of Vatican politics (it expresses confidence in Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, one of Pope Benedict's closest collaborators are time when Cardinal Bertone is seen to be under criticism) and for reason of its coincidence with the general chapter of the Society of St Pius X (its affirmation of the importance of the documents of the Second Vatican Council was seen as a statement of principle in respect of the discussions between the Society and the Holy See which was one of the subjects being discussed at the general chapter).
There is a third interesting point.
Il vostro Vescovo mi ha informato circa l’impegno pastorale che maggiormente gli sta a cuore, che è in sostanza un impegno formativo, rivolto prima di tutto ai formatori: formare i formatori. E’ proprio quello che ha fatto Gesù con i suoi discepoli: li ha istruiti, li ha preparati, li ha formati anche mediante il «tirocinio» missionario, perché fossero in grado di assumere la responsabilità apostolica nella Chiesa. Nella comunità cristiana, questo è sempre il primo servizio che i responsabili offrono: a partire dai genitori, che nella famiglia compiono la missione educativa verso i figli; pensiamo ai parroci, che sono responsabili della formazione nella comunità, a tutti i sacerdoti, nei diversi campi di lavoro: tutti vivono una prioritaria dimensione educativa; e i fedeli laici, oltre al ruolo già ricordato di genitori, sono coinvolti nel servizio formativo con i giovani o gli adulti, come responsabili nell’Azione Apostolica e in altri movimenti ecclesiali, o impegnati in ambienti civili e sociali, sempre con una forte attenzione alla formazione delle persone.

[Your bishop has informed me about the pastoral effort that he has at heart, which in susbtance is an effort for formation, dedicated first of all to those responsible for formation: to form those responsible for formation. This is exactly what Jesus did with his disciples: he taught them, he prepared them, he formed them also through a missionary "apprenticeship", that they might be gradually able to assume the apostolic responsibility in the Church. In the Christian community, this is always the first service that leaders offer: on the part of parents, who in the family have a mission of education towards children, we think of parishes, which are responsible for formation in the community, of all priests, in their different fields of work: all live with a first importance an educative dimension; and the lay faithful, in addition to the role of parents already mentioned, are involved in the service of formation, with young people or with adults, as leaders in Azione Apostolica and in other ecclesial movements, or working in civil and social environments, always with a strong attention to the formation of persons].
It does seem to me that Pope Benedict has a very clear view of the importance of the documents of the Second Vatican Council for the life of the Church in our times, and his statements about this need to be read alongside his suggestions of a "hermeneutic of continuity" with regard to the Council. The acceptance of the teaching of the Council in this sense seems to me vital for a correct understanding of Pope Benedict's intentions with regard to the Year of Faith.
 I Documenti del Concilio contengono una ricchezza enorme per la formazione delle nuove generazioni cristiane, per la formazione della nostra coscienza. Quindi leggetelo, leggete il Catechismo della Chiesa cattolica e così riscoprite la bellezza di essere cristiani, di essere Chiesa di vivere il grande «noi» che Gesù ha formato intorno a sé, per evangelizzare il mondo: il «noi» della Chiesa, mai chiuso, ma sempre aperto e proteso all’annuncio del Vangelo.

[The Documents of the Council contain an enormous richness for the formation of new generations of Christians, for the formation of our consciousness. Therefore, read them, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and so rediscover the beauty of being Christian, of being Church, of living the great "we" that Jesus has established on himself, to evangelise the world: the "we" of the Church, never closed, but always open and committed to announcing the Gospel.]
But an orientation towards "forming those responsible for formation" suggests an interesting orientation of this perceived importance of the teaching of the Council in the light of the forthcoming Year of Faith.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Inspired by the Rule of Carmel

Saturday last was not a day for visiting anywhere in Kent - it rained, and, at least according to a road sign on our way to Faversham, the Kent County Show was closed.

Faversham houses the national shrine in England dedicated to St Jude. The parish attached to the shrine is in the care of the Carmelites, (O.Carm variety). Of interest on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are four icons in the shrine dedicated to people inspired by the rule of the Carmelite order. They are featured at the bottom of this page. Best known among these are perhaps Blessed Titus Brandsma and St Edith Stein.

I also found it striking to look at the three windows described on the page under the heading "The stained glass in the outer shrine area". It is unusual to see a representation of God the Father such as that shown in one of the windows. Working from right to left, one sees this image in a relation to that of the Virgin Mary overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and bearing the Son and then in relation to the image of the Resurrection of Christ. Together, they offer the mystery of salvation history in a Trinitarian and Marian perspective. On the web page, only parts of the windows are shown, so I post below full images of the windows. The full images contain details not visible on the web page.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

"And he would much rather a child not be conceived than aborted."

In a post entitled Cameron takes on the Pope, His Grace offers some discussion of Catholic teaching (and practice/non-practice of that teaching) with regard to contraception.

I am not sure myself of the premise of this post - that Prime Minister Cameron did set about taking on the Pope - though His Grace has taken up an interpretation offered elsewhere in the blogosphere. Indeed, as reported in the Tablet, David Cameron's words could be seen as denying legitimacy to moves other than argument to pressure the Holy See on the question, something that might be quite significant given moves made by some to try and reduce the status of the Holy See at the United Nations, for example:
David Cameron was speaking yesterday at a London summit on family planning organised by Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft tycoon Bill. Mr Cameron was asked by a member of the audience how to put pressure on the Holy See to overcome its opposition to contraception.  
He said: "The answer lies in the strength of our arguments. That is the way to overcome arguments for doing nothing. If you give women the power to decide, the power to choose about their own futures: that is in the interests of their families, their children and their countries."
His Grace does demonstrate his usual acerbic wit, at the expense perhaps of both the Church of Rome and that of England, depending on the perspective of the reader:
Tony Blair challenged Pope Benedict XVI on homosexuality; David Cameron has chosen contraception. In each case, they appear to believe that centuries of Roman Catholic orthodoxy can be overturned by 'the strength of our arguments'. They mistake Rome's Magisterium for the Church of England's General Synod. The motto of the Church of Rome is 'Semper Eadem'; that of the Church of England is 'Argumentum ad Nauseam'.
But I fear His Grace also demonstrates a certain infelicity that is unusual for him (or is perhaps the Arch-episcopal tongue being placed just a little too subtly in the Arch-episcopal cheek?).
And that leaves millions of Roman Catholics all over the world somewhat at variance with their church on this matter. Everyone knows that the papal ban on artificial birth control is largely ignored, and many millions of otherwise sincere and obedient Roman Catholics long for a change of policy.
Now, the estimated number of Catholics in the world is about 1.2 bn, and growing by about 15 m a year. Does the millions at variance to whom His Grace refers therefore represent but a minority? And how does "everyone know" in any case? There certainly is a vociferous opposition to the Church's teaching by some; and, though the nature of the case means that the extent to which Catholics act contrary to that teaching might never be absolutely known, some there are that do act in so contrary a manner. But then the occurrence of theft in predominantly Catholic countries probably also tells us that many Catholics act contrary to the Church's teaching on that matter, too. The thief in his better moment will recognise the wrongness of his action; and perhaps, too, the contracepting Catholic couple in the depths of their hearts recognise an action contrary to Church teaching. Even less do we hear of those Catholic couples who are faithful to the teaching of the Church, but undoubtedly there are such couples and, on a world-wide scale, they should be numbered in the same millions to which His Grace refers in his post.

And presenting the question as a matter of "policy" that might be changed does, of course, contradict what His Grace has already said about the nature of magisterium for Catholic teaching.

I have added the italics to the extract that follows, though the other two sentences would also be worthy of comment:
His Grace, being Anglican, happens to believe that condoms save lives, especially in Africa. And he would much rather a child not be conceived than aborted. For these reasons, in this incontinent age of unrestraint, he believes that contraception should be accessible across the globe.
The italics do indeed ask a poignant question, a question that it does take some considerable thought to untangle. There are two questions here, not one. Is it right to contracept? An ethical decision made by a couple at the moment of intercourse. Is it right to abort? An ethical decision made (by a mother? by a couple?) once a pregnancy is known. Underlying a decision with regard to each of these questions one can see a likeness in intentionality (in the phenomenological sense of that term). The likeness in intentionality can be seen in the orientation (or not), the openess (or not), of the love of the couple expressed in the act of intercourse towards the life of a child who, in the one case, might come to have life and in the other case is already in possession of life. That intentionality is what is common to the decision whether or not to contracept or to abort; it is not that the decision in favour of contracepting represents a decision against aborting, or that a policy promoting contraception is therefore a policy that opposes abortion. The two elements of His Grace's suggestion do indeed need to be untangled.

And is it to much to challenge our age to become one that is continent and restrained?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Co-opted for a "cause"?

There was a flurry of posting around the blogs yesterday after the announcement of the appointment of Mgr Egan, presently Vicar General of Shrewsbury Diocese, as the new Bishop of Portsmouth. It is, of course, a newsworthy appointment. The Catholic Herald reports the appointment here in a very helpful way, though some of the comments to the original post seem to be trying to co-opt the Bishop-elect to a particular cause in favour of the Extraordinary Form (with an implied "hurrah") or, in another case, to co-opt him to the cause of "going back" to pre-Vatican II days (with a loud "boo"). John Smeaton definitely undertakes an exercise in co-option of the Bishop-elect to his criticism of the retiring Bishop of the Portsmouth on the question of stances with regard to Humanae Vitae. There is an amusing mistake in the announcement as posted by the Vatican information service:
The bishop-elect was born in Altrincham in the diocese of Chester ...
One is not sure whether the officials at the Holy See have confused an English county with a Roman Catholic diocese, or, perhaps more or perhaps less understandably, confused a Church of England diocese with a Roman Catholic diocese! Perhaps the answer lies in carrying out a search on for the word "Cheshire"....

Because my own diocese is currently awaiting the appointment of a new Bishop (I look out at avidly each day), I have been thinking about what it must be like to be a new Bishop and what it is that constitutes the essence (in the phenomenological sense of that word) of the office of a Bishop. The formulation I have got to is that of seeing the Bishop as a "successor of the Apostles", a formulation that would scare me stiff if it was me being the subject of it.

 Bishop-elect Egan expressed it in his statement yesterday as:
It is with trepidation and yet with profound trust in the loving mercy of the Sacred Heart of Christ. ...I look forward with joy to working with my fellow priests and with all who minister in parishes, schools and in other contexts, caring for the people of God. May we all together be in the closest communion of heart and mind with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, and faithful to his call to new evangelisation. ...The ministry of the Bishop, as the chief shepherd, priest and teacher of the flock entrusted to him, involves carrying the Lord’s Cross in a particular way.
The comment on Bishop-elect Egan's appointment that is closest to my own thoughts is that by Fr Hugh at Dominus mihi adjutor: New Bishop of Portsmouth appointed! (though, again, some of the comments do a bit of "co-option" of the Bishop-elect). The analysis of the Bishop-elect's statement offered by Fr Hugh is, I think, very prescient and helpful. Fr Hugh does not use the term, but can we see in Bishop-elect Egan's words a pastoral expression in the office of the Bishop of a "theology of communion", with everything that that implies for the situation of the Church as the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council approaches?

Any new Bishop is appointed to the office of Bishop, an office that does have implications for different aspects of the life of the universal Church and of the local diocese, and therefore an office that has implications for what one might term ecclesiastical politics. But the office of Bishop cannot and should not be reduced to particular causes in ecclesiastical politics. Reflecting on the situation of my own diocese, the most unhelpful thing that could happen when the appointment of the new Bishop is announced, something which would risk undermining his ministry with regard to the unity of the diocese before it begins, is that he should be co-opted by the media in support of this or that or another ecclesiastical cause.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Eucharistic Procession at the Dublin Eucharistic Congress

I have just watched this video of the procession during the recent Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

"Are you willing to offer yourselves to God?"

For the second year in the programme of preparation for the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima, the chosen focus is the first apparition of the Virgin to the three young visionaries. The theme is taken from the words of the Virgin to the children: "Are you willing to offer yourselves to God?"

The home page of the official website of the shrine at Fatima introduces this theme. It strikes me that this choice of theme has a resonance with the Year of Faith that will begin in October 2012. Particularly interesting to read in this regard is the (long) interview with the President of the organizing committee of the Theological-Pastoral Symposium held in June, theologian, professor and researcher from the Portuguese Catholic University, Isabel Varanda. The idea that it is Christ who both fully reveals God to man and reveals man to himself, that man is the "way of the Church", as expressed in this interview, is one of the fundamental insights of the Second Vatican Council, an insight to which Pope John Paul II was a key contributor. Some extracts follow, but it is worth reading the whole:
Yes, I believe that Jesus is the foundation. 
Jesus Christ, true God – entirely divine and true man – fully human, is the fullness of revelation: total revelation of God and total revelation of the human being. As John Paul II writes in his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, Jesus Christ reveals Man to Man himself. Through Christ, with Christ and in Christ, we enter the depth of the mystery of life and of the ultimate vocation of each one of us, which is to be children in the Son. Isn’t it true that, without this dimension of filiation, the ideal of fraternity has no basis nor does it have support?.....  
The offering of oneself is not quantifiable; it is not measurable; it is not subject to be valued by the concrete effects or results of the offering. It has to do, fundamentally, with each one’s discernment regarding the understanding of oneself as a gift for himself and for others. During the Symposium, we will be able to reflect, with the help of a doctor, of a priest and of an officer of Caritas, specifically in the first panel of the program, on the “possibilities and equivocations” of the offering of oneself. The problem will be retaken by a second panel, but through the prism of education, meant here not as synonymous of instruction, but rather as the “integral development of the person: which challenges the offering of oneself places in education, be it in the family, the school, the Christian community or in the social milieu? ....  
The question ["Are you willing to give yourselves to God?"] runs the risk of being left without an answer at a time when God isn’t appreciated, but, on the contrary, is forgotten and even abandoned. The God of Jesus Christ has been left abandoned; abandoned by the world, abandoned by His closest family, the Christians. The Church of Jesus Christ herself, often and in many ways, seems to have abandoned God when she supposedly spends her energies with the things of God, but forgets God in the process. I would dare say that the Church of Jesus Christ is going through a process of secularization of herself. This secularization of the Church, although it is an extraordinary source of dynamism and incarnation, can lead to the dilution of the identity of the Church of Jesus Christ, by not taking sufficient care of her foundation and by not being sufficiently attentive to the possible atrophy of her heavenly and eschatological dimension. If we leave the perimeter of security and comfort of our usual places of celebration – already with a marginal faith – it is worth to take a look at the outside, at those who stay outside, at those who do not want to come in. Then, wandering around, we are struck by the same shock: God has being left abandoned.  
The time has come for believers to take care of God. If not the believers, who will do it?
This is the context of the urgent invitation to a new evangelization. As you well know, next October there will take place in Rome the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The central theme of its agenda is symptomatic: The new evangelization for the imparting of Christian faith. Also in October, on the 11th, there will take place the official beginning of the Year of Faith. These are two important events for all Christians to tune in. Who knows if these two great ecclesial events won’t be a new wake-up call for our spent and tired faith to listen to the Gospel? Who knows if we aren’t then apt to announce to the young a “faith that makes us live”?  
There come to mind those words of Benedict XVI in his homily during the inauguration of his Pontificate, reminding us of John Paul II: “Be not afraid of Christ! He doesn’t take anything away; He gives everything”. I can’t pass up either the words of John Paul II, in 1979, in the first Encyclical of his Pontificate: “the fundamental task of the Church of all times and, particularly, of our time, is to direct the look of human beings and the conscience and experience of men towards the mystery of Christ, to help everybody to be familiar with the depth of the Redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Redemptor Hominis, n. 10).
 As in the first year of preparation, the shrine has prepared a "pilgrim itinerary" for those who visit the shrine during the year. It centres on the square (as it is now, but not as it was at the time of the first apparition) built at the site of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. It moves from the nativity scene facing the chapel of the apparitions, by way of the tombs of the visionaries to the chapel of the apparitions itself, suggesting prayers and reflections for each place in the itinerary. The leaflet for the itinerary can be downloaded from the shrine website.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Two more things that have passed me by .... St John Vianney, Invocation

This weekend I find myself reflecting again on two events that have happened without my really noticing. As it turns out, the two events are connected.

The first event is the visit of the relic of the heart of St  John Mary Vianney to the north-west of England, and to Birmingham. Details of the visit, and associated resources, can be found at the website of Shrewsbury Diocese.

The second is the annual Invocation 2012 festival at Oscott College, Birmingham. This event is aimed at young people and intends to encourage them in discerning their vocation in the world and in the Church. It is characterised by the presence of young priests and religious and by the presence of representatives of some of the new orders and religious communities. The home page of the Invocation website is here. The link to the visit of the relic of St John Mary Vianney is that the relic was brought to Oscott College as part of the programme of the festival.

To try and capture something of both events, I link to the text of the address delivered by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury at the Invocation event. Two points that I particularly noticed about this address were the way in which the origins of the priestly vocations of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were cited as examples for the young people listening, and the confident and strong affirmation of the value of the ordained priesthood that is drawn from the words of St John Mary Vianney.

It is also interesting to note the way in which the words of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are cited by Bishop Davies. There is nothing dogmatic or authoritarian about this. The Holy Father exercises a pastoral office towards the whole Church through annual messages such as those for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. However, that exercise of a universal office is not in conflict with the exercise of a local pastoral office by the Bishop of a diocese, and the use by Bishop Davies of citations of the words of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI indicates the way in which the two offices act in communion with each other.