Thursday, 16 February 2012

Father Hunwicke on Councils and The Council

Father* Hunwicke has re-published his series of blog posts from 2011 on the significance of Vatican II, with reference to earlier Church Councils. They are a splendid read.

*John Hunwicke lives at present as a lay member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I intend to continue referring to him as Father, as a personal honorific, in acknowledgment of his many years of ministry in the Church of England.

“The Council” 1
Councils (2)
Councils (3)
Councils (4)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Passing on a Meme from Mulier Fortis

Ttony of The Muniment Room has tagged me for Mulier Fortis’s "meme" about books to put on Kindle. I don’t have a Kindle, but our house is groaning with real books. I imagine some of the books I would recommend aren’t available in Kindle editions, but here is my attempt at a Fantasy Kindle list. I’ve kept to fiction, and a balance of heavy-ish and light.

C S Lewis: That Hideous Strength. A near-futurist novel about totalitarianism in post-World War Two Britain, the sinister powers behind it, and the small group of people who are drawn into the battle against them.

R H Benson: Lord of the World. This is a fascinating mixture of a novel. I love its Edwardian futuristic imagination, especially the author’s descriptions of flight. There is one such passage, set in the Alps, which is tremendous. An interesting feature is the things Benson assumed would still be in place: the glory of the Church’s worship; the royal houses of Europe; Palestine as a peaceful, forgotten backwater. Some of the scenes, in particular those involving the main female character, are very powerful and moving. All this, wrapped up in an old-fashioned Ripping Yarn.

Finally, as a busman’s holiday for a busy teacher, Miss Read’s Chronicles of Fairacre, comprising her first three Fairacre novels: Village School, Village Diary, and Storm in the Village. A pleasant escape into the rural world of the 1950s.

I think I’ll tag The Reluctant Sinner, Pastor Emeritus, and Fr Henry of Offerimus Tibi Domine.

Apparently I have to include Mulier Fortis's rules, which are:

"You post the rules and a link back to the person who tagged you.
You also tell them that they've been tagged on their own blog, rather than just hoping they'll discover it for themselves.
Then you decide what three books are essential reading for anyone with a Kindle. Reasons would be good, but not essential.
Then you tag five people."
However, I’m sure I have already broken them, and in any case I am finding them a bit complicated for my non-technical brain.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A few more thoughts about the Catholic card

My post on 5th February about the new “I am a Catholic” card had a welcome visitor in the comments box. He is Mr Brian McMahon, who is a candidate in training for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Westminster. He has an interesting blog, Cursor Mundi, which I cordially invite my readers to visit.

I confined myself to thanking Mr McMahon for his comment, because I thought I would need some time to reflect on it. He makes a number of points, in a very friendly spirit. His comment is, I would guess, a pretty accurate rendering of what was probably in the Bishops’ minds when they were working on this project. I’d now like to add some reflections to what he has written.

The wheel has been invented, and well done to whoever invented it. But if it doesn’t work, it needs modification. The card looks very attractive; but its list of faith-statements strikes me as weak, and in one instance - "Celebrate the sacraments regularly" - inaccurate. Inaccurate in rather a complex way: it seems like a stringing-together of words at a brainstorming session, which when joined together become incorrect and even meaningless.

I believe the text of the card matters, because the substance of words matters, in the sense of their weight and meaning. In such a small space every word should count, in terms of attracting the reader - including the young reader - to Christ, His Church and the sure path to eternal life She offers.

However simply expressed, the message surely has to be both theological and catechetical, albeit in concentrated form. Teaching about God, giving a reason for the hope that is in us, as Catholic Christians, should be at the heart of it. I don’t think the Bishops’ card has achieved this. I hope they will treat this production as Mark I, and not as the last word in this very good initiative.

You will by now have gathered, Mr McMahon, that your contribution has provided me with valuable encouragement to further thought on this subject. God bless you in your studies, and in your future ministry.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Ttony on the National Pastoral Congress of 1980

After a break from blogging, Ttony of The Muniment Room has stormed back with this tremendous account of the National Pastoral Congress, which was held in Liverpool in 1980. He writes about its preparation, its chief players, and its consequences for the Catholic Church in England and Wales. If you did not know about this before, it will help you to understand why we are where we are.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 and final

How Did We Get Here (Sources)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The "I am a Catholic" card

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun (frivolous word! but I hope you will indulge me) with this idea of the “I am a Catholic” card, which was the subject of my post on 3rd February. It’s really commendable that the Bishops of England and Wales have embarked on this initiative. The Catholic Herald has the details, and the wording, which, for convenience, I have transcribed here:
As a Catholic, I,
[insert your name]
am called to:
Share with others the joy of knowing Jesus Christ
Celebrate the sacraments regularly
Love my neighbour as myself
Use the gifts that I’ve been given wisely
Forgive as I have been forgiven

In the event of an emergency please contact a Catholic priest.

According to the Herald, the other side “has a quote from Blessed John Henry Newman, focusing on the call to serve and affirming that everyone has a mission.”

A few commenters thought that the wording could have been better chosen. David suggested that others might like to produce their own versions, in no more than 50 words or so, and encouraged parishes, groups, and individuals, to do this. “The more the merrier,” said ms Catholic state; and I think that’s a very good idea.

The Bishops’ version is a valiant start. More could be done, though, to utilise every scrap of the space - that of a credit card - to maximum effect. This would give them more scope for composing short, pithy statements of what it means, specifically, to be a Christian of the Catholic Church, rather than, say, a broad-Church Anglican or other Christian. In addition, we need to take account of the important point made by the commenter Andrea Hyde, that some Protestant Christians have the strange idea that Catholics are not Christians.

Here are some provisional ideas for my personal “I am a Catholic” card.
The size of a credit card is only 8.5cm by 5.3cm, less a small margin all round; therefore everything that is not essential must be excluded.
Both sides should make an impact.
Personally, I would not use one side for the Newman quotation. Instead, I would devote that side to something like the following, in large bold lettering:

This could be accompanied by a small picture of a crucifix in one corner.

The other side would then be fully available for the most concise essential statement of what it means to be a Catholic.
Apart from the small crucifix on the “I am a Catholic” side, there should be no other illustrations; they take up valuable space.

David’s idea of about 50 words has gone out of the window, even if I don’t count the headings; but I have managed to fit onto one side what I hope are the basic things one would want to say to an enquirer.
Anything I have omitted (mistakes excepted) is, I hope, implicit in what is included.
I hope these short statements are intriguing enough to prompt the reader to say “What does this mean?” or “But what about…?” and so to lead that person to learn more.
This is a tall order. But my first thoughts are along these lines:
As Catholics, we believe in
- One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- Jesus Christ, our Saviour
- The Catholic Church, founded by Him to guide us
We are called to
- Love God completely
- Be good to all
- Live a moral life
- Turn from sin, and ask God’s forgiveness
We are drawn close to God
- In the Holy Mass and Sacraments
- When we pray
- When we read the Bible
And when this life is ended
- We hope for happiness with God forever.

I've run through the Creed, and looked at the chapter headings in my Penny Catechism; and I hope I've included everything that absolutely had to be included. I hope that it also sounds attractive.

Picture from, via Google Images

If I am injured or taken ill,
please contact a Catholic priest.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Olive-Tree Baptismal Font

There have been some reports and comments in the Catholic blogosphere about the new olive-tree baptismal font in the Sistine chapel. I haven't read all of them, but those I have seen were not at all keen.

Like others, I was concerned at the thought of a dear little chubby arm being stabbed by one of those alarmingly prickly-looking leaves. The design does however make the foliage lower at the front, in fact below the rim of the font, which reduces the risk somewhat.

I rather like the design. It's certainly modern, but it is a realistic representation of the natural appearance of an olive tree.

More importantly, it recalls - deliberately, I suppose - the olive tree to which St Paul refers in his Letter to the Romans. I published a post in June 2010, on the subject of the olive, in the so-called prophecies of St Malachy, and in the Holy Father's words at Ben Gurion Airport at the end of his visit to Israel in May 2009. With this new font, Pope Benedict appears to be emphasising the idea of Baptism as our grafting into the olive tree, which also awaits, in God's good time, the grafting back of its natural branches.

Pictures via Google Images, from (1) and (2) - neither of whom liked the new font.

Friday, 3 February 2012

The Catholic Faith as a Mini-Saga

From a comment by David under a Catholic Herald article: “Bishops to distribute cards to Catholics declaring their faith”:

These cards are a good idea. The wording is rubbish! So what's to stop a parish producing its own -similar in size and layout, but with better wording? Bearing in mind the constraints of space on a credit-card sized space, Let's have a competition on here for the best wording - leaving the top and tail alone I reckon that's about 50 words. The Catholic Faith in 50 words - now there's a challenge ..

... to which Ms Catholic state adds:

I totally agree with your last point that parishes...and in my mind individuals too....can produce and distribute cards and leaflets according to their consciences.....and distribute them where they will. The more the merrier .

Some years ago, the Daily Telegraph held a mini-saga competition. A mini-saga was a complete story, told in just 50 words. I think extra words were allowed for the title. Some of the entries were very clever. I had a go at one or two stories; not to send in, because they weren’t very good; but it was challenging and satisfying to do them. If you have ever tried writing a sonnet, your experience has probably been quite similar. The mini-saga is a sort of equivalent in prose. It forces you to pare everything down until what remains is pure, concise and essential.

I think I may try my hand at this 50-word statement of faith; but it will probably be far more difficult than it looks. Please don't expect to see the results on this blog; I'd be far too embarrassed!

Picture from via Google Images

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Prophecies of Simeon and Anna

You may find, as I do, that in reading and re-reading the Gospels, you grow to love certain characters who appear quite fleetingly but to great effect.

I am thinking just now of Simeon and Anna, who appear in Chapter 2 of St Luke’s Gospel, in his account of Jesus’s presentation in the Temple. Verses 25 to 35 refer to Simeon, and verses 36 to 38 to Anna.

It’s interesting that the words of Anna, who is specifically described as a prophetess, are not recorded. Luke says, simply, that “she gave thanks to God, and spoke of Him [of Jesus] to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Simeon, while not actually called a prophet by Luke, brims over with prophetic words that are both beautiful and ominous. He utters the famous words, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” – he who had lived to a very great age with the Divine promise that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. He speaks of Jesus as the Lord’s salvation, as a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and as the glory of Israel. He tells Mary of the sword that will pierce her heart.

Simeon and Anna complete the small but wide-ranging group of witnesses to the Incarnation, birth and infancy of Christ. Zechariah and Elizabeth, a priest of the Temple and his wife, share in that extraordinary time at the very beginning. Their own longed-for child, John, leaps in Elizabeth's womb at the sound of the voice of Mary, who is already, to Elizabeth, "the mother of my Lord". The shepherds, in all probability quite poor and uneducated, and ranging in age from boys to old men, visit the new-born Jesus. The Wise Men, exotic foreigners, Gentiles, practitioners of strange sciences, bring expensive gifts full of meaning. And finally we meet two very old saints, prophets, in the great Temple of Jerusalem. They are really a cross-section of human life, greeting Our Lord at the start of His earthly journey; and how wonderful that is.

Picture from via Google Images