Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catholic Underground

I'm looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible for the launch of Catholic Underground UK on Saturday. For more information take a look at this article by Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald. There's also a Facebook Group you can join. I was pleased to see that some of the comments are from young artists asking how they can audition for future events. That sounds really promising. Catholic underground UK has its own website so you can get a feel by visiting it yourselves.
However, there's no substitute for the real thing! So let's see you on Saturday. After Adoration and Vespers in the Church at 7.30pm we move to the hall for the evening's entertainment.

FROM JP II'S LETTER TO ARTISTS...

...WITH THIS LETTER, I TURN TO YOU, THE ARTISTS OF THE WORLD, TO ASSURE YOU OF MY ESTEEM AND TO HELP CONSOLIDATE A MORE CONSTRUCTIVE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ART AND THE CHURCH. MINE IS AN INVITATION TO REDISCOVER THE DEPTH OF THE SPIRITUAL AND RELIGIOUS DIMENSION WHICH HAS BEEN TYPICAL OF ART IN ITS NOBLEST FORMS IN EVERY AGE. IT IS WITH THIS IN MIND THAT I APPEAL TO YOU, ARTISTS OF THE WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORD, OF THE THEATRE AND MUSIC, OF THE PLASTIC ARTS AND THE MOST RECENT TECHNOLOGIES IN THE FIELD OF COMMUNICATION. I APPEAL ESPECIALLY TO YOU, CHRISTIAN ARTISTS: I WISH TO REMIND EACH OF YOU THAT, BEYOND FUNCTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS, THE CLOSE ALLIANCE THAT HAS ALWAYS EXISTED BETWEEN THE GOSPEL AND ART MEANS THAT YOU ARE INVITED TO USE YOUR CREATIVE INTUITION TO ENTER INTO THE HEART OF THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATE GOD AND AT THE SAME TIME INTO THE MYSTERY OF MAN. HUMAN BEINGS, IN A CERTAIN SENSE, ARE UNKNOWN TO THEMSELVES. JESUS CHRIST NOT ONLY REVEALS GOD, BUT “FULLY REVEALS MAN TO MAN”. IN CHRIST, GOD HAS RECONCILED THE WORLD TO HIMSELF. ALL BELIEVERS ARE CALLED TO BEAR WITNESS TO THIS; BUT IT IS UP TO YOU, MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE GIVEN YOUR LIVES TO ART, TO DECLARE WITH ALL THE WEALTH OF YOUR INGENUITY THAT IN CHRIST THE WORLD IS REDEEMED: THE HUMAN PERSON IS REDEEMED, THE HUMAN BODY IS REDEEMED, AND THE WHOLE CREATION WHICH, ACCORDING TO SAINT PAUL, “AWAITS IMPATIENTLY THE REVELATION OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD” (ROM 8:19), IS REDEEMED. THE CREATION AWAITS THE REVELATION OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD ALSO THROUGH ART AND IN ART. THIS IS YOUR TASK. HUMANITY IN EVERY AGE, AND EVEN TODAY, LOOKS TO WORKS OF ART TO SHED LIGHT UPON ITS PATH AND ITS DESTINY.

Saturday


I'm off to Oscott today and will be back tomorrow, but before going wanted to post about Saturday. In the morning Bishop Pat Lynch will be with us to celebrate the 10.00am Mass before we have the launch of our new diocesan Handbook for Parish Vocation Teams. Do join us if you can. The more the better!
On Saturday night we have the first Catholic Underground event. It starts with a Holy Hour in the Church here at 7.30pm followed by musical entertainment in the school hall. Again we hope lots of you will come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time to Party


The best place to celebrate your 21st birthday is most certainly in seminary! How can I say that with such certainty? Because on Sunday we had a tremendous party to celebrate John Watt's 21st. John may not be a Southwark seminarian - but we've kind of adopted him and he has joined us for many events not just here in Balham but also in Ars and on the Quo Vadis trip to Normandy.


John gets about quite a bit - as you can see from the evidence iced onto his birthday cake.
Happy birthday John!

Trip to Rome


How did you get on with the quiz? For more of the same, why not join Southwarkvocations for a pilgrimage to Rome to coincide with the end of the year of St Paul. For more information send me an email. Let us unlock the secrets of Rome for you.

For example: there are four rows of pillars supporting Bernini's famous colonade at St Peter's. Look carefully at the photo. How many can you see?

Bella Roma

Last week I was in Rome but didn't have internet access and so wasn't able to blog anything. I was encouraged to meet our seminarians and see that they are getting on well. It was also good to visit the English College - where I trained - and to witness first hand the tremendous restoration work that is taking place there. I also visited the Beda and met with the faculty. I had time to do some shopping and, of course, to catch up with numerous friends. Even so there were many people I did not see - so apologies if you were left out!

For those with eyes to see Rome is a tremendous place for the Englishman to take a stroll and be reminded of his homeland. I'm sure many readers of this blog will know Rome well, so here's a little quiz for you...



Where would you find this little plaque that marks a property of the English College now lost because a former Rector didn't collect the rent?



Our Quo Vadis Group meets in St Osmund's Church in Barnes. But where would they find this ancient image of St Osmund?




Who paid for the restoration of this monument to the Stewarts?



One cherub hold the sceptre and and another the crown she never wore. Who was Maria Clementine?


When did this building stop being the British embassy and where is it to be found?



This monument to the Catholic son of the great anti-slavery MP is found in a particularly beautiful Roman Church. Any idea which one? And what current connection does it have with England and Wales?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Romeward Bound


Tomorrow I fly out to Rome where I will be staying at the Venerable English College until Friday. It will be the first time in many years that I've stayed there. In the past I've always stayed with Italian friends. This time, however, I am going out on an official trip to visit our three seminarians in Rome.
I hope to catch up with some other friends while I'm out there and I have one or two tasks of a sartorial nature to perform. Importantly I want to visit a few places where we might be able to stay with a group of seminarians and those thinking of the priesthood. It need to be relatively inexpensive - any ideas? The plan is to go out some time in late June.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Back to the Parish


Today we had an exciting day in the parish. Fr Augustus went with the Confirmation Group for a Day of Recollection at Aylesford Priory. They left quite early and got back late evening after a stop over for a spot of bowling. The Year 7 children had their sponsored walk to Westminster Cathedral (stopping for some football in Battersea Park). They were raising money for a specific project of Aid to the Church in Need. I don't know how much they raised yet but I hope, for their sake, it was a respectable sum - they put a lot of effort into it.
After the morning Mass and confessions I had two rounds of baptisms. We now have so many baptisms that we have had to increase the available times. In addition to Sunday afternoon and during the late morning Mass on Sundays, we offer a further two slots on Saturday mornings.
The last baptism was a little bit late so I relied on a visiting seminarian to put things away for me as I dashed off to New Malden to give a couple of talks at the Study Day for those doing the Maryvale Catechists' Course. Then it was back to the parish for the evening Mass.
Sometimes lay people wonder what we do all day. Some even think our life must be boring! It's not. To be a priest is a wonderful vocation with each day bringing its own specific joys and excitements.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Home Soon

I'm back on the train heading south towards London and taking advantage of internet access to post a few photos from my stay in St Andrews. On Wednesday night a very impressive thirty five students turned out to hear the talk "Aids, Condoms and the Catholic Church". As usual in the questions I was asked what I would say to a couple where one was HIV - would I tell them they couldn't use condoms? Expecting a hostile audience I base the talks on published research and statistics.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its bulletin publishes a report that claims "consistent condom use among heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV reduced the risk of HIV transmission". However, what it actually reports is an average 80% reduction with best and worse cases scenarios ranging from 35%-94%. So my answer to the question is always the same: that scientific research says there's up to a 65% chance of transmitting the virus to your spouse. Let couples have that information before they make any decisions. If a couple are going to play Russian Roulette with HIV/AIDS let them at least know the odds! (I should add here that the study in question is referring to 'perfect' not 'typical' use of the condom, i.e. when nothing as gone wrong).
I enjoyed the evening very much. Overall the response was very positive. Using such evidence to defend the Church's teaching is a good way of entering into a dialogue with young people who do not necessarily share our faith. I always add a little section at the end on the Theology of the Body in the hope that some may be led on to think more about the Church's understanding of human sexuality.

On Thursday I prepared a couple of Moral Theology talks for Saturday. I've been asked to speak at a study Day for those doing the Maryvale Catechists' Course. The first talk is an introduction to Moral Theology and the second is a defense of the Church's teaching on contraception. I'm very conscious that some of these catechists will be instructing teenagers for confirmation and preparing couples for marriage so it is important to equip them to understand and explain these important areas of Christian life.

I also got the chance on Thursday to talk with a couple of lads considering priesthood. Please keep them in your prayers. It was a beautiful day and I was able to see a lot more of the town than on previous visits and discover a few interesting facts. Near St Andrew's at Leuchars is a big RAF base currently taking delivery of the Eurofighter. Of course, during the Second World War, lots of Polish pilots were stationed up here so I shouldn't have been surprised to see the following memorial in the town:


Until the Protestant Reformation St Andrews was a great place of pilgrimage and even today its three principal streets lead to one place the great Cathedral where the Shrine of St Andrew was preserved. Unfortunately this is all that remains to greet a wannabee pilgrim today:


Although it is everywhere, St Andrews does little to recall its Catholic past. A few streets and buildings might bear names like 'Greyfriars' but no plaque recalls the fact that this is all that is left of the Dominican foundation in the City:


For many centuries the City was without a Catholic Church and every attempt to acquire land to build one was blocked by the local authorities. Eventually however, someone left land and planning permission was given to build St James, a very attractive little Church on the Scores just be the famous golf course. The parish priest of St James is also the Catholic Chaplain to the university. This year he celebrates his golden jubilee of ordination: ad multo annos!

Perhaps some of the antipathy towards Catholicism can be understood when we consider the fury with which the Reformation took hold here. Sadly the resident bishop, Cardinal Beeton, was hardly a model of virtue. This is the Church from which Knox preached his famous sermon that so enflamed the mob with iconoclastic (and murderous) fervour that they stormed out to destroy the Cathedral and then hang the unfortunate Cardinal from the balcony of his episcopal palace:


The University was founded in 1410 (or 1413 depending on which account you take). I hadn't realised that in the Great Western Schism Scotland sided with Benedict XIII. Some of you may remember that I posted about Papa Luna earlier this year. The crescent moon in the university coat of arms reflects this association between Benedict and St Andrews. Indeed for the eagle-eyed you can see it in other places as well. This photograph is of a ruin in the area of the theology faculty.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the Train

I'm currently on the train on the way to Leuchars. We should soon be arriving at Edinburgh. Apart from resisting the complementary Apple & Blackberry and Chocolate Chunk and Pecan handmade biscuits (Lent) I've been able to get some work done, catch up with Facebook and look at one or two blogs. I've also, of course, been able to pray the Rosary and the Office and do some spiritual reading. I've got iBreviary - an online version of the Office which avoids the need to carry bulky books in my luggage.
I'd forgotten how lovely the Scottish countryside is - we are travelling through small towns and villages and it is still winter but even so, every now and again there are breath-taking views. I'm currently looking over to some snow-covered hills. It really is very pleasant.
I'm not really a fan of public transport - I'm sure London traffic would flow better if we banned all the buses! -  but I'm impressed by the train to Scotland. Clean, comfortable seats, good food (I went for a toothsome Caesar Salad), and as much coffee as you can drink. It does help that I've got six seats to myself (spoke too soon we've arrived and two have just been taken), giving me plenty of space to rehearse tonight's presentation.
On the way this morning I met a journalist who writes for the Guardian and took great pleasure in telling her the title of tonight's talk. When asked, 'Oh is that still an issue?' I was able to reel off a few facts that left her a bit startled. She is someone I know and a practising Catholic but she didn't seem to want to take them up for her column but perhaps one day people will begin to see the inherent contradiction in government policy.


PS
I it just me or has anyone else noticed that people on public transport are always just starting a book - no one is ever at the end just about to finish?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Archbishop Kevin


A click on the 'world map' associated with the Site Meter on this blog shows that we have readers from all over the world - including one or two places where Christianity is suffering persecution. Whoever you are, this post is just a request that you remember in your prayers our Archbishop. About a year ago he underwent a triple heart by-pass - no easy operation for anyone. In October he had knee replacement surgery on one leg which went well. Yesterday he was scheduled to have the second knee replaced. It has been a long, hard slog for him, and he still has a long period of recuperation to get through.
No one likes being in hospital or being sick. Please remember him in your prayers.

St Augustine


I have been a great fan of St Augustine since I studied Patrology at the Augustinianum in Rome. My tesina for the licenciate was on the "Rhetorical Structure of the De Mendacio" which was fascinating not least because the text gives a Patristic example of a moral absolute. If I ever came to do a doctorate I would try to show that it the text that so upset St Jerome and led to their falling out. St Augustine is always a great read although - sadly some priests have perhaps been put off because of the seemingly interminable readings from his sermon on the Shepherds that appears each year in the Office of Readings. I have to admit the English translation is pretty dull. If you can, read it in Latin so that you can also savour the beauty of his prose!
Anyway, I digress, as Ronnie Corbett used to say. Tonight I was in Hammersmith to give a talk to the Vocations Community affiliated to the Augustinian Community in Hammersmith, run by Fr Stefan Park OSA. It was great to have supper with the six members of the community and then to talk to them afterwards about vocation and vocations discernment. I forgot my camera, but some photographs were taken and I'll upload one when it is sent on to me.

If anyone is interested in spending a year in such a community - while continuing their day job - do get in touch. I'm sure Fr Stefan would be pleased to meet up with you.

UPDATE:
Here's the photo...




Where I will be tomorrow...

After the early morning Mass tomorrow I'll be catching the train to Scotland in order to give a talk to the students at Canmore - the Catholic Society - in the evening. I've been asked to speak again on the topic of "Aids, Condoms and the Catholic Church" which has proved very popular since I first gave it as part of the Theology of the Body Series at St Patrick's, Soho, last year.
I've also had a few requests for the "Charles Darwin and the Culture of Death" talk that got a mention in The Times a few Saturdays ago.
I'm hoping that the train journey will give me some time to work on a couple of talks I have to give in New Malden on Saturday afternoon. The Maryvale Catechists' Course is being run from there this year. I'm pleased to see that a number of parishes have followed the Holy Ghost example and are now offering it to parishioners in different parts of London. Although it's a home-study course there are termly study days and Birmingham is a bit far for many people to travel to these so it's better to offer them locally. On Saturday I have to give an introduction to Moral Theology which will be drawn largely from Veritatis Splendor and also an explanation of the Church's teaching on contraception which I will draw from my notes for marriage preparation.
Say a prayer the trip to St Andrew's goes well. Perhaps I will meet some potential vocations...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Consider Your Call


Consider Your Call is a series of monastic retreats for men to reflect on how God may be calling them to serve him, as well as to examine the implications and challenges of following such a call, and how to deepen the life of prayer.
The retreats take place at Downside Abbey and while some of those who take part may have pretty clear ideas about a vocation to priesthood, religious or monastic life others are only beginning to think about the personal implications of making faith the foundation of their lives.
The next retreat will be from March 20th - 22nd and will take as its theme: St Benedict - What does a 6th Century Saint have to offer us in the 21st Century?

For more information please contact Dom David Foster.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lenten Resolutions



People get very funny about their Lenten resolutions. Some are very secretive and get upset when asked what they've given up for Lent. I once heard one individual more or less accuse someone of being a heretic just because he asked about his resolutions. Some people set themselves resolutions which are impossibly high and inevitably get broken - while yesterday I was talking to a person who, after complaining that this year's resolution to give up chocolate was proving difficult,admitted that he didn't usually eat much chocolate anyway!
Of course we still hear people say that it is 'negative' to give something up and so they try to do something extra instead. I admit I find the claim that mortification is negative to be a bit irritating. We give something up in order to identify ourselves with Christ in his suffering: to be there for him. Is it negative to hold the hand of someone who is in pain? Is it negative to sit beside the bed of a patient in hospital? Is it negative to be there for someone in their agony?
At the beginning of Lent we are invited to remember that we are but dust and unto dust we shall return, and also that the task before us is to repent and believe the Gospel. The reality of death and judgement is an incentive for our conversion.
There are three aspects to our Lenten observance: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Fasting expresses particularly well our desire to turn away from sin and to make an effort to ensure that sin releases its grip on us. It need not just be in questions of food - although that prayer of the senses is a particularly apt one for this season - I have a friend who decided not to read his emails until after breakfast! Fasting helps us overcome our selfishness because it involves a turning away from our desires and pleasures and whims.
Almsgiving expresses our turning towards our neighbour. For some it just means financially supporting some good cause but it is surely more than that. We are called to love our neighbour and love is the gift of ourselves - not just our money. I think there is also a certain order in our almsgiving. How well do we give ourselves to our family members? When we go home are we looking for a chance to get onto the computer as soon as possible to check our Facebook messages, or do we give time to the people with whom we live. Do we talk to them, ask them questions, listen to what they have to say? Are we compassionate, understanding and whenever necessary forgiving? This is surely true almsgiving.
Prayer is, of course, our turning towards God. While we can all know what it is we may have given up, many people find it harder to come up with a Lenten resolution that will help them in their prayer. Perhaps we need to set aside a fixed amount of time for our conversation with God each day. It might help to get hold of a copy of Magnificat so that we can reflect on the readings and prayers of the Mass and so make our prayer more liturgical. Perhaps we simply need to empty our pockets and wallets and talk to God about the things we find there: the reminders of our daily living!
We should never lose sight of the fact that at the end of Lent what counts isn't how successful we've been keeping off the television or the chocolates. What counts is how much we've grown in our relationship with Christ.