Thursday 28 February 2013

"If it's not of God, it's not going to happen."

Was delighted to see, in the BBC coverage of Pope Benedict's departure from the Vatican, an interview with Fr Bede Rowe, whose blog A Chaplain Abroad is always worth visiting.  He is from Middlesbrough but is a priest of Clifton diocese, and for a while he was assistant priest at St Gregory's in Cheltenham.  He is at present the chaplain of the Chavagnes International College.  He is very committed to the Traditional Latin Mass, and offered it at St Gregory's at the beginning of January.

Fr Rowe's manner was excellent throughout the interview: he struck exactly the right note. The interviewer raised the usual questions about women priests, and about moral issues such as contraception. The interview closed with his very straightforward answer that if these things were not of God, they would not happen.  Well said!

A strange day

Went to Cheltenham today, intending to spend half an hour at St Gregory's church before the Blessed Sacrament in Solemn Exposition, to pray especially for Pope Benedict and for a holy and lion-hearted successor.  They always have Solemn Exposition there on Thursdays, from 10 to 3, and had advertised it as usual in the parish newsletter.  But sadly, when I arrived, I found that there was no Exposition.  I don't know the reason; perhaps the clergy had all been called to Clifton Cathedral for the Mass being offered there this morning in thanksgiving for the Pope. 

Instead of my half-hour of contemplation, I prayed the Stations of the Cross. They are particularly fine in St Gregory's, and very moving.  I was strongly aware today that right to the end Our Lord Jesus was being abused and mocked.  And it seems to be that way too with the closing days of this pontificate.

The Catholic Herald is doing a live blog of this last day.  I will close with this little item, which I found very poignant:
11.58 Earlier this morning Pope Benedict XVI said farewell individually to cardinals, heads of various Vatican departments and Mgr Guido Marini, the papal master of ceremonies.
What a star Mgr Marini has been, in the best sense of the word!  Not flamboyant, but good, and anxious to give the greatest dignity to the papal liturgies. I hope he continues in his post in the next pontificate.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

To quote The Most Sarcastic Priest in Ireland: "I'm reeelly enjoying this..."

Do you mind if I ramble a bit?  I can't really get my head round all the things that have been going on since the Holy Father announced his abdication.  Mulier Fortis says pretty well exactly what I am feeling. Father Blake has just published a heart-rending post about all the filth that has been bubbling up in the Church.  It has been going on for a long time, but I can't help thinking of Pope Benedict having pulled the plug on his pontificate, and instead of the water going down the plughole, all sorts of unmentionable and smelly stuff is welling up from the U-bend, requiring vigorous work with a plunger followed by strong disinfectant.  If only it were just a sweet little frog, instead of an ecclesiastical version of the plagues of Egypt.

I thought it a bit odd when it was reported that the Pope had directed the cardinals who had investigated and reported on the Vatileaks scandal to reveal its contents to the rest of the cardinals on 1st March. I read somewhere that the only copy of the report was to be locked in his safe, in his apartment.  But what if the Camerlengo seals the apartment, in accordance with custom, with the document still in the safe?    As to its being the only copy, surely thare is at least a memory stick or whatever they are called, or preferably more than one, secreted in suitable places?  You see how my mind is starting to show the strain ...

But back to my point. It occurred to me that the Pope did not seem to have given his request legal force. Since his pontificate will end on the evening of 28th February, how could his direction be insisted upon after that date?  Could the investigating cardinals decide not to do it?  Could the rest of the cardinals - or the most influential among them - refuse to have it revealed?

But since then we have learnt from Rorate Caeli and others that this communication to the cardinals will not now happen, and that the whole matter will be handed on to the new Pope.  Several bloggers have expressed the concern that as a result one of the culprits may end up being elected Pope.  As if it isn't already enough of a shambles!  Oh boy, lots of prayers going up from this corner of Gloucestershire ...

Natracalm is very good; also St John's wort*.  Just thought I'd mention that.

*Update:  Very good point from John-of-Hayling : "Careful with St John's wort - it is contraindicated with a number of prescription medicines!"

Friday 15 February 2013

Courage and Frailty

Following my post about St Peter walking on the lake (Matthew Chapter 14), here are a few more thoughts on the weakness of this great soul.

In Chapter 2 of his Gospel, St John tells us that Jesus "never needed advice about any man; He could tell what a man had in him."  That is the Jerusalem Version.  In the RSV, it is written as "He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for He Himself knew what was in man."  Two vivid renderings.  Christ knows each of us better than we know ourselves.  He knew His adversaries, who prompted the words just quoted. He also knew Peter, and knew his weaknesses.

Peter's relations and fellow-workers had known him for much of their lives, and probably had a good idea of his temperament.  But never in their dreams could they have imagined such an illustration of that combination of inspired insight, courage, rashness, and sudden quailing and collapse, as was displayed by their friend when he challenged the Lord to bid him come to Him on the water.  If they had had a fairly good idea of him before, they had a far clearer knowledge of him after that hair-raising episode. 

It was after that incident, when Peter's fellow-disciples had had the opportunity of seeing Peter's flaws displayed in the most spectacular manner, that Christ chose to bestow on him, in their presence, the greatest commission imaginable.  In that light, we hear Jesus speaking, in Matthew Chapter 16:
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon-Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
What varied personailities have held the office of Pope since St Peter!  And in our day, when we can learn so much more about each of our Popes, and their individual strengths and frailties, how conscious we are of these variations, and indeed these weaknesses.  Pope Benedict XVI, a Pope who has acted with great courage - for example, in promulgating Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus -  is leaving us; that is, leaving the office of Peter.  He leaves on the grounds of his frailty.  We can guess at its nature, but we do not know for certain.  Perhaps we will learn more at some future date.  But whether we do or not, this thing is happening. 

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Coincidences can be spooky, while remaining just coincidences.

Let me say that I make no judgment at all of Pope Benedict's decision to abdicate.  Church law allows the Pope to do so. He prayed.  He thought deeply about it.  He gave pointed hints, judging by his particular attention to Pope Celestine V in 2009 and 2010.  Finally, he decided.  Goodness, we shall miss him!  God bless and inspire the one who will follow him.

Here is a funny little story of what happened to me on the evening of that staggering day.  I took up my Bible to read a chapter of the New Testament, as I do every day.  There is no plan or selection to it: I plod along, taking each chapter as it comes.

It happened to be Chapter 14 of St Matthew's Gospel, in which I read:
Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me."  Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Monday 11 February 2013

The Deathbed of a Pontificate

When we receive the stunning news that a person whom we do not know personally, but who is very important to us, has died or has only a short time to live, the sense of personal shock, distress and lowered spirits is surprisingly similar to the more intense sorrow of actual or approaching personal bereavement.  A somewhat paler version, but of the same type.

In the case of dear Pope Benedict's declaration of abdication, at least he himself will continue his earthly life, with whatever degree of frailty. The Church will be spared the machinations of the last years of Pope John Paul II's reign.  On the other hand, who knows what great and valiant things might have been achieved by our present Pope, if he had decided to soldier on for a little longer.  We will never know.  We are where we are, and we move on from here.

Still, it feels like an approaching death.  And of course it is: the death of a Pontificate.  A momentous thing.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

My pro-SSM MP did not abstain: he was at a meeting

An update on my previous post.  I emailed my MP to thank him for abstaining on the SSM vote, and received the following reply:
Martin did not abstain on the equal marriage bill last night. He did not vote as he had an important meeting with constituents in Cheltenham on the effects of the government’s welfare reforms. This meeting had already been rearranged once and had to go ahead. Martin remains 100% in favour of equal marriage and will vote for the bill at all its subsequent parliamentary stages and looks forward to it becoming law.

My MP, a supporter of SSM, has abstained in the vote

David Lindsay has published the SSM voting data for Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs. My MP, the Lib Dem Martin Horwood, had expressed his support for the Bill – please see my recent posts about it. I don’t know the reason for his decision, but I am very pleasantly surprised.