Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Year of Consecrated Life (4): what is "consecration"?

I have already noted that the "consecration" of those who live the consecrated life in the Church is a greater specification  of their original baptismal/conformational consecration: The Year of Consecrated Life (3): consecration as a specification of baptismal grace . This post wishes to explore further the meaning of the word "consecration".

Fr Rene Laurentin wrote  a book, based on a previous course, which was published in French in 1991. It's French title is Retour a Dieu acec Marie: De la secularisation a la consecration - literally "Return to God with Mary: from secularisation to consecration".   In English, it has been published as The Meaning of Consecration Today: A Marian model for a secularised age. The book is particularly dedicated to exploring the place of Marian consecration in the Church. Chapter 4, however, entitled "They Mystery of Consecration" surveys and develops an understanding of the meaning of the term "consecration" in general.

In surveying the Biblical development of the idea of consecration, Fr Laurentin considers it to mean the movement of an object or person into the sacred domain of God. As such it involves an aspect of separation - nothing profane can touch a sacred object - and it involves an aspect of union with God - sacred things belong to God and are not to be used for other purposes. In the context of the Old Testament, Fr Laurentin observes:
Sacrifice, which is a consecratory act, involves these same two negative and positive aspects, separation and union, and also the same transference.
Fr Laurentin also points out that the Jewish prophets protested against a consecration that limited itself to the external forms and lacked the essential heart - the sacrifice of the heart in a turning towards God.

Still in the context of the Old Testament, it is persons (the high priest, first born males), objects and places (the tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem), and times (the Sabbath) that can be consecrated - that is separated from the profane and dedicated towards God. These consecrations are also expressed in signs (circumcision), that then in themselves become consecrated.

He suggests that Jesus left to his Church a much reduced ritual, comprising especially the Sacraments. Within this dynamic of consecration there is a "moment" in which God acts - it is the divine intervention which achieves a consecration that has been sought by the movement and desire of the person.

Fr Laurentin then devotes a section to considering the juridical aspects of consecration in the Church, noting an at times unclear use of the term. Usefully emerging in this discussion is a distinction between consecration as a divine act (the "inner meaning" for want of a better term, and denoting the action of God in the heart of the one who is consecrated) and consecration as a human act (the "rite" that is undertaken). It is the former which will fully realise the latter. The section concludes by citing canon 607 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law:
As a consecration of the whole person, religious life manifests in the Church a wonderful marriage brought about by God, a sign of the future age. Thus the religious brings to perfection a total self-giving as a sacrifice offered to God, through which his or her whole existence becomes a continuous worship of God in charity.
In his short theological analysis, Fr Laurentin follows St Thomas Aquinas in recognising that it is only persons who  are consecrated in the sense of being engaged in the life of God, and that places and objects are consecrated only with regard to their purpose.

The final section of this Chapter is entitled "The essence of Consecration":
Consecration properly so called is nothing else but divinization: the transformation of human life into divine life by the communication of the latter, offered to our participating liberty. This process is not a passage or crossing in the material sense form earth into heaven. Rather, it is a transformation, or transfinalization, or transfiguration of human life - a life penetrated, elevated, and supernaturalized from within by the gift of divine life, that is to say, by the love of God: his agape. It is given to us by means of consecration to know and love God as God, that is to say, by God's love, not by our own love.
God realizes this transformation by means of grace..... [(Grace] is a new actuation of the soul by God, by means of his own life. The actuation serves to raise human acts to God's level; it permits us to know and love God in himself, as if it were God himself knowing and loving himself in the interpersonal relation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. From this fact we come to know and love others also as God loves them - with and by him. It is in this way that the love of neighbour is to be identified with the love of God (cf Rom 12:9-10).....
By grace we pass beyond the order of natural and scientific knowledge in order to arrive at a connatural and existential knowledge of God, comprising a special wisdom, intuition and union. At the same time, eros (egoistic love) will be transformed into agape, that is, divine love, capable of loving quite gratuitously, as God knows how to love.... 
 A first observation to be made on Fr Laurentin's account is that the external form of the consecration is one thing, and its realization in the life of God-love another. The consecrated person needs to participate in their freedom in order that the fullness of this realization can come in to being.

A second observation is that it is based on a particular understanding of nature and grace. The polarities of separation (from the world) and union (with God), and of transformation of the human into the divine life are dependent on this understanding. One can acknowledge that the profane from which one moves away is not profane in the sense of having a complete lack of any divine presence; but nevertheless it is less than being directly God himself.

A third observation is that the characteristics that Fr Laurentin finds in the Old Testament accounts - separation and union, the consecration of places and times, the consecration of persons and the existence of consecrating signs - can all be recognised, in a different way, in the life of the monk or enclosed nun of today. The life of a consecrated religious in an apostolic society will perhaps lose something of the element of separation, though not altogether, though their life should retain a consecration of place (the chapel) and time (hours of prayer). For the consecrated person living in the world, the reflection on how these characteristics are relevant to their consecration, if at all (it may be that they are superseded in a certain purity of consecration) is more complex.

And a final thought: if you do have access to Fr Laurentin's book, do read the parable of the "Orbit of God" at the end of this chapter, in which he uses the idea of planets in orbit around the sun and electrons in orbit around the nucleus to develop a way of presenting the notion of consecration.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Vera and Edith

As Zero and I walked down Victoria Street after seeing the film Testament of Youth recently, I observed that I thought Vera Brittain had a somewhat similar personality to that of Edith Stein. They both enjoyed a certain severity of character combined with a capacity to feel very deeply. And as I made this observation, I realised that the similarity extended to them both being very determined young women, in particular with regard to their academic desires. Oh, and do see the film - it is very beautifully made and striking in its portrayal of characters and events.

I later remembered that Edith had also volunteered as a nurse during the First World War, though her experience in that regard was significantly different than that of Vera. Their motivations for volunteering, though, were quite similar - a certain restrained patriotism and a sense that they could not do otherwise when people they knew were serving in their respective armed forces. Edith, like Vera, also lost friends to the war, perhaps most notably Adolf Reinach.

Edith and Vera were contemporaries in another sense, too. They both embarked upon university studies when there were still barriers to women in academia. Edith was blocked from habilitation at Gottingen because she was a woman, prompting a strong letter on her part to the minister of education at the time. That resulted in a letter to German universities pointing out that being a woman was not a barrier to habilitation, too late to help Edith. Somewhat analogously, Vera began her studies at Oxford at a time when women could study at the university, but not actually take the degrees they earned there.

At the time when their lives were most alike, Edith shared a lack of religious belief (against the background of her Jewish family) with Vera.

By the time I had recognised these parallels between Vera and Edith, certainly as far as their younger lives were concerned, I remembered something else.

Just as Vera had written a memoir - Testament of Youth - Edith had also written a memoir - Life in a Jewish Family - though its account is cut short in 1916, a result of Edith's arrest by the Germans in August 1942. Though the motivation for writing was very different for the two, nevertheless the timescale covered and a certain similarity of experience makes them kindred texts.

So, not having read Vera Brittain's book before seeing the film, I am now engaged in a parallel reading of Testament of Youth and Life in a Jewish Family.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The right to blaspheme - a new right for France?

Isabelle de Gaulmyn has an interesting observation following the recent attacks in France: Le droit au blasphème, nouveau droit français?

Her post points out that one cannot accuse a person who does not hold to a particular religious belief of blasphemy against that religion - blasphemy is a concept that can only apply to those who hold the religion that has been so offended. In pluralist societies the notion of blasphemy does not make any sense in positive law or in a discussion of public rights. Ms Gaulmyn ends her post as follows:
Drôle de glissement qui sous prétexte de ne pas reconnaitre un traitement de faveur aux religions, leur inflige un régime particulier, et qui protégerait l’injure au prétexte qu’elle concerne le religieux. Le droit de critiquer et de débattre existe en France pour toute institution, et donc aussi pour les religions. Et c’est heureux ! Mais celui d’insulter n‘est pas plus recevable pour les religions que pour la politique ou la culture, par exemple. Ce n’est d’ailleurs pas seulement une question de droit. Mais simplement de vivre ensemble…
[It is a funny notion which, under the pretext of not recognising a special treatment for religions, imposes on them a specific regime, which will protect insult on the grounds that it is about religion. The right of challenge and of debate exists in France for all institutions, and therefore also for religions. And it is as well! But the right to insult is no more acceptable for religions than it is for politics or culture, for example. It is not only a question of right. But simply of being able to live together ....]
It is worth reading some of the comments on the post too. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Will they never be satisfied?

Even when Pope Francis preaches Humanae Vitae ...... see here to gain an understanding of the context, or here for in-depth analysis, and the original text here (scroll quite a long way down); here (again, scroll down to find the paragraph referring to Paul VI)...... and don't forget the meeting with the association of large families in December (here) ......... they can't be satisfied.

H/T Jackie Parkes for the image

Monday, 19 January 2015

Paris, Francis, Dave, NIck and Eric - a retrospective for Charlie

With the passage of time since the events in Paris, and the on-going discussion in the news media and among political leaders, it has become possible to ask more searching questions about the extent to which the right to freedom of expression extends.

I think, for example, that to see the overwhelming response of the French people (and others) in the huge march through Paris and in other gatherings throughout the country, as being in support of freedom of expression understood as the freedom to give offence may be an oversimplification. There was a moving account in the BBC Radio 4 coverage of the march of a Muslim family who had brought along buckets and buckets of white roses (one suspects they ran a florists shop!) to give out to those they met at the march; and of the Jewish marcher who, receiving a flower, then embraced the family as "selfies" were taken. What were their motivations? Anxiety about the freedom of Charlie Hebdo to give offence or an anxiety for friendship with their neighbour? I suspect that an intuition in favour of reconciliation played a part for many; and an intuition in favour of a freedom in the face of, not so much terrorism, as a style of totalitarianism that Islamist terrorism represents.

The statement issued by SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, articulated a motivation in favour of freedom as it condemned the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and placed that attack against a wider background:
As communicators we reaffirm our commitment to work for a culture of peace which respects the life and dignity of everyone. We also reiterate our support for the fundamental principle of freedom of expression and for all those journalists around the world who face the threat of death or injury in carrying out their profession.
We call on all people of good will to join together to help build a world where those of all cultures and faiths may live and work together in peace.
Pope Francis was perhaps in a unique position among world leaders to be able to  draw attention to the limits that should apply to freedom of expression. His "punch" was very widely reported. In summary, though the law might not proscribe actions that are gratuitously and cynically offensive, and that as a matter of prudence in the protection of the right of freedom of expression, nevertheless those who publish materials or speak have a responsibility to conduct themselves with a respect towards the beliefs of others. Blog-by-the-Sea captures much of this: Free Speech and Respect for Diverse Religious Beliefs (and follow her first link to a Yahoo News livestream of how news organisations have reacted after the Paris attacks).

I don't think Nick Clegg and David Cameron have really understood the issue involved. I heard the former on Radio 4 speak in terms of a "right to give offence"; and more recently the latter has spoken on American TV of a "right to cause offence about someone's religion" in a free society, and that in such a society we have to accept that "newspapers, magazines can publish materials that are offensive to some, so long as it is within the law". Their far too ready assimilation of the right to freedom of expression to a right to give offense is unhelpful to say the least. Equally unhelpful is the unstated presumption that it is the law of the land that defines the boundaries of the rights accruing to the human person.

[See also Catholic Voices reply to some of the UK news media coverage of David Cameron's remarks, and of Pope Francis' original words as mediated by that coverage: David Cameron's missed opportunity to agree with Pope Francis.]

Eric Pickles letter to Muslim leaders has received criticism. It strikes me as being somewhat patronising - and arrogant at the same time. "British values are Muslim values".... err, no, if British values include the right to give religious offense as propounded by the leaders of our coalition government. The letter clearly shows a lack of appreciation of how a religious faith will view its relationship to wider society and to the instruments of state.

What I think Nick, Dave and Eric need to give far more thought to is exactly how the relationship between religion and a free society is to be articulated, be that at the level of the individual religious believer who might be "radicalised" (their term, not mine) or at the level of religious communities as a whole. And so far, I don't think they have even recognised the question.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Pope Francis in Sri Lanka and the Philippines

I have not been able to follow Pope Francis journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines as closely as I would have liked.

Catholic News Agency have good coverage at their page dedicated to the visit: Pope in Sri Lanka and the Philippines 2015 , Pope in Sri Lanka - Latest News and Pope in Philippines - Latest News . The Vatican website has a page dedicated to the visit, though the links to the English language texts from this page are not complete at the time of my posting: Apostolic Journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

As I often suggest, I think it is valuable to read the original sources, and to read them whole not in part. One can often find that the headline picked out by one or other media outlet fails to do justice to the whole and, indeed, sometimes misrepresents the very point that it picks out.

There is a full transcript of the questions and answers with journalists on the flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines here, for example. The items that have caught my attention from this interview:

The answer to the question about the forthcoming encyclical on man's relationship with the created world: I was struck by the range of consultation behind the encyclical, by the reference to the writings of Patriarch Bartholomew and Romano Guardini and by the issues of deforestation and lack of crop rotation cited as examples that Pope Francis has considered. There does not seem to me to be anything here indicating the kind of adherence to climate change as an ideology that has been decried by much of the speculative media coverage of the forthcoming encyclical.

Pope Francis' response to being given an image of St Therese of Lisieux: this is at the end of the interview, and reported more fully by Abbey Roads here with a link to CNA News/EWTN.

Pope Francis' reply to a question about a commission for truth and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, following the civil strife there: It is fascinating to read Pope Francis' account of his meeting with the President of Sri Lanka, of how the President spoke of creating "harmony in the people" and of his affirmation that "we must touch peoples hearts" to achieve peace. It reminded me of Pope Francis influence for peace in the Middle East in meeting with the President of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Territories.

Catholic News Agency are carrying a report of Pope Francis' address during a meeting with families in Manila (though with a mistranslation which uses the word "professors" where the original text is "confessors") under the title Paul VI was right to warn against contraception, Pope Francis says. This report highlights Pope Francis' praise for Pope Paul VI's teaching in Humanae Vitae. An unremarked aspect of the controversial-for-some relatios of last October's Synod was the clear presumption in favour of the teaching of Humanae Vitae, with no suggestion being made that that teaching should be overturned. The full text of Pope Francis' address is at the Vatican website, and reading that text, the following passage also struck me. Pope Francis was speaking in the context of the way in which St Joseph was twice guided in his dreams by angels:
I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dream about their baby. Am I right? [Yes!] They dream about what kind of child he or she will be... You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies. So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!
How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!

Isn't Pope Francis just wonderful!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A brief thought on Charlie

Some Catholic comment has argued that, from a Catholic point of view, "on n'est pas Charlie": see here, for an example.

In quite a thoughtful way, and responding to much the same evidence base as those who have argued that they are not Charlie,  Humblepiety answered the question Je suis Charlie? in the affirmative.

This post at First Things also gives some insight into how the French themselves have reacted to the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo: My Life with Charlie Hebdo. It is also interesting to read the message to the Catholics of Paris published today by Archbishop Vingt-Trois, published here at La Croix.

At one level, the discussion can be held at the level of the legislation in force in a country. Charlie Hebdo 's cartoons are, by all accounts, quite offensive to those who practice the Catholic faith in France as much as some of them have been to Muslims. But a country where the language of religious offense has been enshrined in positive law is Pakistan .... where the blasphemy law does in effect lead to very significant religious persecution of both Muslims and those who live out other religious beliefs.

In the more secular countries of the developed world, the language is that of discrimination and protected characteristics, with actions that disadvantage someone who manifests a protected characteristic being the subject of civil or criminal sanction. There is also a category of legal provision with regard to harassment and the giving of offence. The risk with this situation is that reasonable manifestation of an opinion differing from the prevailing social consensus can be construed as harassment or offence thereby particularly restricting freedom of religious expression in (relatively speaking) secularised societies.

My own thoughts on the question have focussed on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration reads:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The presumption of much of the discussion about Charlie Hebdo has been that the material it publishes falls under this provision of freedom of expression, understood as conveying a right to say and publish pretty much anything that one wishes - regardless. I am not sure that the specification of the right contained in the last clause of Article 19 does in fact convey such a right.

Article 12 of the Declaration reads, with italics added to indicate the element of the Article relevant to the present discussion:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
In the light of Article 18's assertion of the right to freedom of belief and practice for both individuals and communities, I would suggest that attacks upon the honour and reputation of a religious community would equate to attacks upon the honour and reputation of the individuals who are members of that community and so fall under the provision of Article 12. [This is reinforced by recalling that the immediate historical context of the UN Declaration was the events of the Second World War and the Nazi persecution of Jews and other minority communities.] Understood in this way, Article 12 provides a boundary within which the freedom of expression asserted in Article 19 should be exercised. Catholic commentators are, in effect, suggesting that the material published by Charlie Hebdo goes beyond this boundary in attacking the honour and reputation of members of religious communities.

The significance of considering the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that the rights enshrined there arise from the nature of the human person; they are, in the words of the preamble to the Declaration, "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family". The positive law of a country does not convey those rights; rather, it should protect them. In addition, the language of the Declaration is not that of a particular religious community that, when projected into positive law, undermines the freedom of others; and neither is it the language of a secularised liberalism that risks undermining genuine freedom of expression of information and ideas.

Certainly those who were killed in the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo were subject to a breach of Article 3 of the UN Declaration, which asserts the right of everyone to life, liberty and security of the person. Those who carried out the attack committed a quite heinous crime against the human persons of their victims.

But, though a certain allowance has to be made for the particular genre of journalism that comes under the heading of "satirical journalism" and that, of its nature, gives rise to some degree of offense when you are yourself its particular target (cf the reaction of Eve-Alice Roustang linked above), one can debate whether or not Charlie Hebdo is an authentic representative of the freedom of expression as articulated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Oui, on est Charlie (cf Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme Article 3), mais - peut-etre oui, peut-etre non - en meme temps, peut etre on n'est pas Charlie (cf Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme Article 12).

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Year of Consecrated Life (3): consecration as a specification of baptismal grace

Let me start this post with a couple of anecdotes. From time to time I attend Mass at St Patrick's Soho Square. On one such occasion, having been asked to do one of the readings, I noticed that those asked to do the second reading and bidding prayers were, like me, using Magnificat to aid their participation in the liturgy. From time to time, I am sure that I share the experience of others in meeting a Catholic who has a more than typical awareness of (not the same as perfection in, I hasten to add!) what is involved in living a Christian life. Enquiry not infrequently reveals that they have gained that awareness from participation in the life of one or other of the new ecclesial movements. On the one hand this suggests a certain inadequacy in parish life that is in itself unable to form such stronger Christian living; but on the other hand, rather than necessarily indicating an inadequacy, it indicates that a certain "more" is needed for a vivid living of a Christian life.

The primary consecration of the faithful, and that which is most represented by parish life in its celebration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Holy Eucharist, is that of the sacraments of initiation. As Lumen Gentium n.10 (cf also  Apostolicam Actuositatem n.3 in particular reference to baptism and confirmation as the basis of the office of the lay person in the Church) teaches:
Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men, made the new people "a kingdom and priests to God the Father". The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God, should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them.
We can suggest that this baptismal/confirmational consecration represents a seed that needs to grow throughout a subsequent living of the Christian life, and that it therefore requires a "more" in order to achieve its fruition. That "more" can be expressed, and is lived, in many different ways in the life of the Church; but what each of those ways has in common is that they are in some way a more specific manifesting or expressing of the consecration first received in baptism and confirmation. In the anecdote above, that particular specification of baptismal/confirmational consecration comes about through experience of the charism of an ecclesial movement. When Pope Francis, and his predecessors, speak of the need for a "personal, living relationship with Christ" they too are speaking of a greater specification of the original consecration of baptism and confirmation which do, indeed, themselves involve a relationship with Christ. Marian consecration is to be understood in this way, too, as is the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" of the Charismatic Renewal.

The consecration, as consecration, represented by the profession of the evangelical counsels is one manner, with a particular excellence, of this specific living of the consecration first received in baptism and confirmation. Speaking of religious life, Lumen Gentium n.44, says:
Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God. However, in order that he may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles, which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship. By his profession of the evangelical counsels, then, he is more intimately consecrated to divine service. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

It's Silly Season for Catholics who Bash Francis on Climate Change

It's Silly Season for Catholics who Bash Francis on Climate Change is a much more sensible comment on the apparently forthcoming encyclical than some that are doing the rounds. Do note that Pope Francis follows both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II in speaking of environmental concerns.
I maintain that we look very silly in criticizing the Pope for how or what he says, when he has not said it yet. So let's just wait and see. It should at least be obvious, by now, that no good comes of letting the secular have all the lines when it comes to environmental issues. If we want a pro-life message to be part of the conversation on environmental policy, then the Pope must speak.

An open letter to the Bishops of England and Wales (by way of reply)

As you will be aware, Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum established that there should be two forms of celebration of the liturgy in the one Roman Rite. The one, termed the "ordinary form", is that according to the Missal of Pope Paul VI, and its two subsequent editions published by the authority of Pope John Paul II. The second, termed the "extraordinary form", is that according to the liturgical books of 1962, published at the authority of Pope John XXIII. At the time of the publication of Summorum Pontificum, and in the time immediately following, there occurred an effort from some quarters to actively promote and extend the frequency of celebrations according to the extraordinary form. At the present time, it is again being suggested that such celebrations should be actively promoted, even in places where no request or desire for such celebrations is expressed.

It is of note that, though Pope Benedict must clearly have anticipated, in writing his letter to bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum. that the number of celebrations in the extraordinary form would increase as a result of the motu proprio, there is nothing in that letter which advocates a promotion and extension of those celebrations to places where no manifest desire for such celebrations exists. The circumstances which the preamble to Summorum Pontificum itself, and the letter, describe are circumstances which justify a "clearer juridical regulation", to quote Pope Benedict.

The attachment to the extraordinary form is not commonly encountered in the majority of Catholic life, and is usually a manifestation of a very specific liturgical and spiritual style. It is therefore the considerations of Pope Benedict's letter that refer to the relationship of the extraordinary form to the celebration of the ordinary form that are of relevance to the majority of Catholics, rather than the wider promotion of the extraordinary form. I would suggest therefore that the Bishops Conference should give attention to:
The conditions that Pope Benedict identified as ensuring that the Missal of Paul VI is able to unite parish communities: the celebration of the ordinary form of the liturgy with reverence, that is, with a deliberately nurtured sense of the sacred rather than of the mundane and every day; and the celebration of the ordinary form in a manner faithful to its rubrics
The various aspects of mutual enrichment between the extraordinary and ordinary forms: the unification of the calendars for both forms, which will then enable the inclusion of the new saints and prefaces in the celebration of the extraordinary form and avoid the situation where on the same day very different feasts might be celebrated depending on the form used; the promotion of the use of Latin in the celebration of the ordinary form.
 It is in considerations such as these that the spiritual needs of a major part of the Catholic faithful will be met, rather than by the attempt to spread the celebration of the extraordinary form to places where there is no expressed need or desire for it. This would also be in conformity with Pope Benedict's intention, expressed in his letter to bishops, to respond to situations where there is an expressed desire for the extraordinary form and thereby arrive at "an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church".

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Epiphany 2015

The custom of marking the entrance to our homes with the numbers/letters "20+C+M+B+15" is gaining ground in Britain, as the large numbers collecting blessed chalk at the end of Mass this morning demonstrated. It at once marks the names of the three magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. It can also be understood as a blessing prayed upon the house over whose door it is inscribed. But I think, too, that if gains a richness by reference to some words of the Gospel for the Solemnity of the Epiphany (Mt. 2:11):
... and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.
The inscription invites us to make our homes places in which the Lord is worshipped, and reminds us as we come and go from our homes of that invitation to adore the Lord. It also extends that invitation to those who might be visitors to our homes. Last June or July, it was my postman who mentioned to me, as he delivered a parcel, that he had found out what the inscription stood for.
Less reverently .......
In the weeks leading up to 30th December, there were some 50 Paddington Bear statuettes to be found in locations around London. Though all the same shape, they were variously decorated to designs by a number of the famous and good. They accompanied the release of the film Paddington.The photo below is from Paddington Station itself.

And the photo below, which I titled "Bear down", was taken during a meal out just before Christmas.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Pope Francis: homily for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

Aunty points out the teaching offered by Pope Francis in his homily at Mass on New Year's Day. The Vatican Information Service is carrying a full English text under the title Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother; the Catholic News Agency, to whom Aunty links, have a report under the title Without the Church, Jesus 'is at the mercy of our imagination,' Pope says.

Pope Francis has, I think, spoken on previous occasions of the motherhood of the Church; it is one of his favoured themes. Likewise, the idea that one cannot separate a relationship with Jesus Christ from a relationship to the Church is another of his constant themes. The two themes are brought together very beautifully in this homily. If one wishes to look for an example of a presentation of Catholic teaching in the form of beauty, Pope Francis' homily is an excellent example.

I was reminded as I read the full text of Pope Francis' homily of Pope Paul VI's decision to acclaim the Virgin Mary with the title "Mother of the Church" at the time of the Second Vatican Council. That decision was not without controversy at the time - the Council fathers had, in effect, chosen not to make use of the title - but has I, think, been borne out in the life of the Church since the Council. That Pope Francis readily refers to the title in his homily is very indicative of this.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Year for Consecrated Life (2)

A feature of the pontificates of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were the "Years of ...".  What Lumen Gentium n.22 expresses in juridical terms, this practice of calling years to celebrate a particular aspect of Catholic life manifests in the order of pastoral care:
The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.
The practice fascinates in another way, in that it is at one and the same time an exercise of a universal pastoral office, and at the same time it remains respectful of the autonomy of the local churches as to how they might celebrate the year.  One might better characterise it as a practice of communion than as a practice of authority.

Archetypal amongst these "Years of ..." are the three years of preparation leading up to the celebration of the Year of the Jubilee of 2000, and the Jubilee Year itself. The practice of a time of Eucharistic Adoration during the vigil before the concluding Mass of the World Youth Days - now the normally expected practise - first began in Cologne during the Year of the Eucharist.

It is opportune that a religious who is the Successor of Peter should call a year dedicated to Consecrated Life. It is unfortunate that the year is likely to be largely dominated by coverage of the Synods dedicated to the family. I am writing this post in the hope that it will draw attention to an ecclesial event of at least similar importance; it is intended to be part of a series of posts.

The National Office for Vocation in the UK has a page with links to resources related to the Year of Consecrated Life. The video at this page is, I think, well worth watching. Having recently read of the work being undertaken by Catholic sisters to support victims of people trafficking I was particularly struck by Fr Timothy Radcliffe's observations about the way in which religious can have an effective Catholic outreach to areas of life that others would find very difficult to enter. I have not looked at the further videos linked on Youtube or Vimeo (they may be the same as the video here). So far as I can tell (correct me if I am wrong), there is no suggestion in these resources of the kind of "temporary commitment" suggested in a Tablet blog post and which I critiqued strongly here.

The National Office for Vocation resources related almost exclusively to consecrated life as lived within a religious order. There are a range of vocations in lay life that involve the same form of consecration - the public and permanent profession of the evangelical counsels - as religious life. One of the most interesting aspects of this is the way in which a number of the new ecclesial movements - Focolare and Communion and Liberation are two prominent examples - have, as a natural part of their growth in the life of the Church, developed a core of members who live a consecrated life in the lay state. A largely hidden form of lay consecrated life is that of the order of consecrated virgins. I hope to post on these later in my series. What strikes me about these developments is that they represent a renewal of a sense of the value of the evangelical counsels, including that of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. A change to the discipline of priestly celibacy in the western Church would seem to go counter to this movement of the Spirit in the life of the Church.

Meanwhile: please take note that there is something else happening in the Church other than (the media version of) the Synod.