Monday, 14 September 2009

Feast of the Exaltation of Holy Cross

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, marking the date of the dedication of the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 335. The feast itself really celebrates both the original finding of the true Cross by the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great in 326, and most especially its recovery from the Persians by the Emperor Heraclius in 628.

For traditionalists of course it has an additional particular significance as the date that Summorum Pontificum came into effect two years ago.

And on this later event, I invite you to do is to join me in the following Novena of the Holy Cross, starting from today, for the unity of Catholics:<

Jesus, Who because of Your burning love for us willed to be crucified
and to shed Your Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us and grant the petition we ask for,
the unity and healing from all wounds of Catholics, especially those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

We trust completely in Your Mercy.

Cleanse us from sin by Your Grace,
sanctify our work,
give us and all those who are dear to us our daily bread,
lighten the burden of our sufferings,bless our families,
and grant to the nations,
so sorely afflicted,Your Peace, which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Your Commandments
we may come at last to the glory of Heaven.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Cluny 2010

Today marks the start of celebrations of the millenium of the founding of the Monastery of Cluny located in Burgundy. The Monastery was destroyed by the French Revolution - the remnants of its Paris townhouse were subsequently turned into a (very nice) Museum of the Middle Ages. But from the time of its founding in 909 or 910 up until the Revolution it was a crucial force in Christendom.

The monastery was founded by William I of Acquitaine, and enjoyed the benefit of series of very long lived, saint-abbots (Pope Benedict XVI spoke about one of them in his last General Audience). It served as a force for reform both of monasticism (at its height the Cluniac Congregation included 825 monasteries, all directly dependent on the mother house), and the Church and society more generally. It was a particularly important support base for the reforms of Pope Gregory VII.

Cluniac monasticism stressed the moderation of St Benedict's Rule rather than ascetic extremes (though the Cistericans twelfth century critique of Cluny is clearly vastly exaggerated) - and its most well known feature was its strong liturgical focus. Central to its raison d'etre was the new emphasis in the earlier middle ages on the importance of the intercessory prayer of monks.

The Monastery itself became enormously wealthy - it accumulated perhaps the largest library in the West, and its Church was certainly the largest until the construction of the new St Peter's in the sixteenth century.

As for the celebrations of its foundation - the official "Cluny 2010" website states:

"In 909 or 910, a Benedictine abbey was founded at Cluny, in Burgundy. 250 years later, the abbey was at the head of approximately 1,400 Cluniac establishments in western Europe. This heritage network, now a cultural route of the Council of Europe, is to celebrate this anniversary in a variety of ways throughout the year.The 2010 programme for Cluny is made up of large events marking the whole period of celebrations and numerous smaller projects. They are to be held from September 2009 until December 2010 so as to establish a gradual build-up at Cluny and throughout the whole network of Cluniac sites in Europe.The majority of the larger events have a singular character: festive, popular, interactive and mainstream for some, more educational for others. They unite different forms of activities and entertainment specially conceived for the occasion."

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Latest year of the priest message

From the National Catholic Reporter:

Cardinal Hummes to Priests: Stay Close to Christ
Posted by Edward Pentin
Thursday, September 10, 2009 12:34 PM

"Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has warned against priests who have an “insufficient and superficial” encounter with Jesus Christ, saying this can turn their ministry into a “kind of clerical profession” in which they carry out their duties “like officials.”

...The priest, Cardinal Hummes added, must...Be a man of love, of brotherhood, kindness, forgiveness and mercy to all,” he continued.

....However, the cardinal stressed “we must not lose heart or be afraid of today’s society, or simply condemn it. Be pastors and lead the community: this is identity that Christ has created and to which the priest must look.”

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Pope on the hermaneutic of continuity and priestly formation

The Pope has made some important remarks in the last few days, in the context of the ad limina visit of the bishops of Brazil.

The official English version (I've been wondering whether I should learn Croatian, Portuguese or one of the other shall we say less commonly standard languages for which texts appear on occasion quite quickly on the Vatican website) is not available as yet, so here are the key parts courtesy of Zenit.

The problems of a vast country

After his opening welcome, the Pope started off with some sentiments that will have resonance for Australia's bishops, on the problems of ministering over vast tracts of territory, and dealing with an occasionally hostile state:

"...In fact, only God's great heart can know, keep and govern the multitude of sons and daughters that he himself engendered in Brazil's immense vastness. In the course of our conversations these days, some of the challenges and problems you are facing have come to light, as the archbishop of Campo Grande mentioned at the beginning of our meeting. We are impressed by the distances that you yourselves, as well as your priests and other missionary agents, have to cover to serve and pastorally encourage your faithful, many of them affected by the problems proper to a relatively recent urbanization, in which the state does not always succeed in being an instrument for the promotion of justice and the common good.

Do not be discouraged! Remember that the proclamation of the Gospel and adherence to Christian values, as I stated recently in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" "is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development."....

The importance of good priestly formation

In our days, and concretely in Brazil, the laborers in the Lord's field continue to be few for a harvest that is large (cf. Matthew 9:36-37). Despite the shortage we perceive, the adequate formation of those who are called to serve the people of God is truly essential.

For this reason, in the context of the current Year for Priests, allow me to pause today to reflect with you, beloved bishops of Western Brazil, on the most important task of your episcopal ministry, which is fostering [the vocation] of new pastors.

Although God is the only one able to awaken in the human heart a call to the pastoral service of his people, all members of the Church should question if they see and feel the profound urgency of this mission and have a real commitment to it.

One day, when some of the disciples were hesitating, noting that there were "still four months to go" before the harvest, Jesus replied: "I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for the harvest" (John 4:35). God does not see as man does! The haste of the good God is dictated by his desire that "all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

There are many who seem to want to live the whole of life in a minute, others who wander in tedium and inertia, or abandon themselves to violence of all sorts. Deep down, these are no more than desperate lives that look for hope, as demonstrated by an extended, though at times confused, need of spirituality, a renewed search for points of reference to take up again the journey of life.

The disastrous secularization of the Church post Vatican II

Esteemed brothers, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, some interpreted the openness not as a demand flowing from the missionary ardor of the Heart of Christ, but as a step toward secularization, perceiving there certain strong Christian values, such as equality, liberty, solidarity.

They showed themselves ready to make concessions and discover areas of cooperation. We witnessed the interventions of some ecclesiastical officials in ethical debates, which responded to the expectations of public opinion, but which failed to speak of certain essential truths of the faith, such as sin, grace, theological life and the last things. Without realizing it, many ecclesial communities fell into self-secularization.

Hoping to charm those who were not joining, they saw many of their members leave, cheated and disillusioned. When our contemporaries come to us, they want to see something that they do not see elsewhere, namely, joy and the hope that springs from the fact that we are with the Risen Lord.

But things are changing for the better

At present there is a new generation born in this secularized ecclesial environment who, instead of looking for openness and consensus, see how the gap between society and the positions of the magisterium of the Church, especially in the ethical field, is ever greater.

In this desert lacking God, the new generation feels a great thirst for transcendence. It is the young men of this new generation who knock on the door of seminaries, and who need to find formators who are true men of God, priests totally dedicated to formation, who give witness of the gift of themselves to the Church, through celibacy and an austere life, according to the model of Christ the Good Shepherd. Thus, these young men will learn to be sensitive to the encounter with the Lord, in daily participation in the Eucharist, loving silence and prayer, working first of all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Beloved brothers, as you know, it is the bishop's task to establish the essential criteria for the formation of seminarians and priests in fidelity to the universal norms of the Church: It is in this spirit that reflections on this topic should be developed, [which was] the objective of the plenary assembly of your episcopal conference last April. Certain of being able to count on your zeal in regard to priestly formation, I invite all bishops, their priests and seminarians, to imitate in their lives the charity of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, as the holy Cure d'Ars did. And, with him, may they take as model and protection of their own vocation the Virgin Mother, who responded in a unique way to God's call, conceiving in her heart and flesh the Word made man to give him to humanity....."

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The purpose of a Catholic funeral

I hope to have some photos from the Solemn Pontifical Requiem sung for Mrs Marian Scarrabelotti in Canberra yesterday shortly, but thought in the meantime I'd draw your attention to a couple of excellent posts on other blogs that gone up on the subject of the purpose of a Catholic funeral.

Yesterday's Requiem

Yesterday's Requiem was, from my perspective at least, pretty close to the ideal Catholic funeral; a most solemn and splendidly stark affair.

It was conducted in Canberra's vastly improved cathedral, with black vestments, black altar frontpiece and all due ceremony, all very well executed. The celebrant was Bishop Jarrett of Lismore, with Fr John Parsons as deacon, Fr Glenn Tattersall as sub-deacon, Fr Define FSSP as Assistant Priest, and Fr Popplewell FSSP as first MC. All of the FSSP priests currently in the country were present, and other priests were also present, all very good to see.

The choir, comprised of local and interstate singers, was conducted by Hugh and Maria Henry and featured chant propers, Victoria's Requiem, the Lobo motet highlighted in my previous post.

And the bishop gave an excellent homily before the Mass started, touching on, amongst other things, the nature and purpose of a Catholic funeral (but I'm afraid I didn't take notes or obtain a copy). A few recent blog posts touch on some of the same issues.

Modern conceptions of what a funeral should be

The most important purpose of a Catholic funeral (after of course the worship of God) is to pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased. No matter how subjectively certain we may be that the person concerned is in heaven, the Church's teaching is that we should assume that they are in purgatory - for if they are, they can no longer do anything for themselves, and urgently need our prayers; and if they are not, our prayers will surely benefit some other poor soul.

By contrast the typical modern funeral - of which a classic example one gathers was the recent funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy - instantly canonises the deceased, and "celebrates their life". Aside from potentially costing the deceased much pain in purgatory, it fundamentally undermines what should be a time of reflection for us all, for the implicit message of this approach is surely that heaven, hell and purgatory do not really exist, and all that counts is the visible works of this world.

Bring back the Dies Irae

Jeffrey Tucker has written a nice post on this on the New Liturgical Movement website, entitled Bring back the Dies Irae. He starts off by explaining why eulogies are generally prohibited:

"...There are many reasons for this ban, but one reason is to put a stop to the tendency of all eulogies to state with certainty that the person who died is in Heaven right now. Of course we cannot know this. It is outrageously presumptuous of us to pretend to know the mind of God and the eternal destination of the recently deceased. Why do we so badly want to do this? Is it because we want the best for the person who died? Certainly but the Church encourages us to pray for the dead to fulfill this pious impulse. [This is the crucial point - traditionally, a funeral is not about reassurance for us but about concrete work we can do for the souls in purgatory].

Another reason, perhaps the real reason, is actually more selfish. We are trying to comfort ourselves, give ourselves assurances that we are in God's good graces and so should have some sense of certainty about our own eternal destinations. We are declaring ourselves to be Heaven-bound and thereby shielding our own eyes from our sins that have stained our souls and might have separated us from God. We are seeking comfort not in truth but in the tapestry of myths that we are weaving about ourselves: all sins aside, we all deserve salvation and we are going to get it..."

Tucker goes on to make the point that the famous sequence, Dies Irae has some important messages for the living:

"Of course none of this makes any difference. The eternal destiny of the dead is not up to us. Neither will our own fates be of our own making after the day of wrath. That's an interesting phrase, isn't it? The Day of Wrath. There is a hymn that was once prescribed as part of every Requiem Mass, from at least the 13th century. Without debate and without explanation, it was removed from the Missal of 1970, so that several generations have Catholics have never been exposed to its terrifying truths. The Church has known that we want to avoid the truth when we face the death of others; we were given this hymn, the Dies Irae, to remind us of what death should teach the living. The chant tune itself is still with us, appearing in movies and popular culture and even in video games.

The music is ominous, even astonishing. The words are even more so. It contains such thoughts as:

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

In English verse:

Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.

Followed by:
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

In English verse:

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

So you can see what is being addressed. This is a song about the dead, yes, but mostly it is song directed toward the living. We need to hear this because society will not tell us these things...."

Tucker makes the point that this is a fundamentally counter-cultural message, challenging assumption of our society that things are under our control rather than God's. Do go and read the whole thing.

A parish priest on Fr Z

And Fr Z explores some of the same issues, drawing on an email from a parish priest on the Kennedy funeral. I've extracted what I think are the key points:

"Catholic Funerals are not about the person’s past achievements. Since Holy Mass is part of it, first of all, the Funeral is about worship of God.

Secondly, it is a profession of our Catholic Faith...

Thirdly, Holy Mass is offered for the repose of the deceased immortal soul and asking God’s mercy on him.

Fourthly, we pray for the consolation of those who mourn.... "

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Reading the book of Job

In the breviary, the first week of September marks the start of reading the Book of Job, a particularly timely text on the meaning of suffering.

And in the Monastic Office (though not I think the Roman), the last responsory of the first nocturn today is a text that is often sung at funerals, Versa est in luctum. The words mean as follows:

My harp is tuned for lamentation,
and my flute to the voice of those who weep.
Spare me, O Lord,
for my days are as nothing...

Here is a you tube verse of the setting by Alonso Lobo (1555-1617), and written for the funeral of Phillip II of Spain.

And they'll know we are Christians by our love....***

***This is an amended version of a post that stirred up something of a hornets nest....I've deleted the original comments made on this post since the text has changed substantially, but have to some extent reflected some of the comments received in this redraft, and so my thanks to those original commenters.****

A week or so ago I wrote on the unforeseen effects of the changes to the liturgy on our sense of the nature of God.

Today, however, I want to focus on the other side of the coin, namely our sense of community, because although I think the more explicitly 'horizontal' rituals of the novus ordo Ordinary Form mass fail to achieve that sense, I do think there is a genuine problem that at least some of the reformers were legitimately trying to address.

The sense of community and the liturgy

My starting point is this. Blogger Joshua of Psallite Sapienter recently put up a post on the transcendentals that is well worth reading, noting that his own primary focuses and sources of attraction were truth and beauty. But I think it is important to remember that though truth and beauty attract some, so too does the good. Throughout history, many people have been attracted to the faith by the example of strong Christian communities exercising charity towards each other and towards those it comes in contact with. And conversely, quarrelling communities repel outsiders and undermine the practice of those within them.

The first point to make is that a sense of community doesn't just happen in my view: it has to be worked for.  Most of us today live in suburbs with little sense of neighbourliness or community - and many of our churches are the same.  Creating a real community requires leadership and discipline.

Secondly, I don't think personally that the solution to building a strong sense of a supportive Christian community that fosters our faith and the pursuit of holiness necessarily lies in tinkering with the liturgy of the Mass itself. Communities were built and thrived in the Church for centuries without the use of concelebration, the modern version of the sign of peace, or other such pale signs.

Let me clear that it is not that I think that these new rituals are invalid.  I personally find them rather jarring, but I'm all for diversity and perhaps they work for some and have some place.  I don't however believe we should over-invest in them, trusting that they can in themselves create a sense of community that would otherwise be lacking.  And I certainly don't think that the choice not to adopt them should be interpreted as a rejection of the wider Church.  For the reality is that most novus ordo parish communities are no more thriving models of the works of charity than most traditionalist ones are.

The solution in my view lies rather in developing a strong vision of what a parish or community should look like and do, and consciously striving to realise that vision with the help of grace. We can build a sense of community liturgically through the Mass and Divine Office, and outside of this through a rich devotional life, and through active engagement on key causes including works of corporal mercy. We can connect ourselves to our local diocesan Church through participation in its structures and activities.

In my view, we clearly do have to consciously pay attention to this aim: it is not enough to construct beautiful liturgies, or hold orthodox views. Charity, in the end, is the most important of the virtues.

And they'll know we are Christians...

There is a particularly atrociously saccharine modern 'hymn' which claims that Christians will be known for their love - to each other (and others). In many ways it is a silly sentiment, since true Christian love can often come across to modern eyes as quite counter to what our society thinks of as love. Christian love need not be cloying or sentimental.

And there is a reality about the fallen human condition that leads us to quarrel: read the New Testament books carefully and you will quickly realize that the early disciples were often a fractious lot, and that quarrels rent the infant church at frequent intervals. The subsequent history of the Church reinforces this diagnosis.

Nonetheless, there is a certain element of truth that underlies that song, for Our Lord does enjoin us to love and serve one another.

He does tell us that when we have quarrelled with our brother we must reconcile before presenting our offering at the altar.

Above all, Our Lord stressed that we must forgive others their trespasses against us; forgive them if necessary, seventy times seven.

Traditionalist quarrels

Let me put it bluntly. How can we claim that traditionalism and the traditional liturgy is a path to holiness when we seem so often at war with each other: appearing quick to pass judgment and think the worst of others; appear hard and unforgiving; and are reluctant to let go of past real and imagined hurts and slights?

I've been loosely associated with the traditionalist movement for a long time, but only in the last few years have I become more closely involved. And as I've become more involved I've been reminded why I stayed on the periphery for so long.

Amongst the laity, some are still acting on disputes amongst ourselves going back twenty years or more.

When newcomers to the mass they are immediately subjected to diatribes on assorted gripes and weird theories.

When new devotions or practices are introduced, rather than being supportive of the efforts to respond to pastoral needs, they are attacked.

And those who should be leading us by example too often seem to be doing quite the opposite.

I am repeatedly scandalised by what I consider to be intemperate attacks by one group of traditionalists on another on blogs, websites and conversation. It is one thing to have and debate legitimate differences of opinion on matters of style, tactics or strategy. But we often seem unable to 'agree to disagree' on matters that are not matters of the faith.

Similarly, while we all resent examples of what seem to be persecution or at least extreme unhelpfulness by our novus ordo colleagues, I do wonder how much of this we bring upon ourselves. I know of many cases where the traditionalist caravan has rolled into town paying no heed to local sensibilities. I know of several cases of apparent disregard of the normal protocols governing operation in a diocese or community other than one's own.

It's not all bad of course. Some communities are doing great things in terms of providing support for their members, and engaging with the wider community.  But for every positive action taken, a group of naysayers arise and start murmuring and sniping.

Ghettos, subcultures and personalities

Now its true that minority movements inevitably start from behind.

Let me share with you a quote in a slightly different context from Tracey Rowland's book Culture and the Thomist Tradition After Vatican II which I think is worth reflecting on:

"In the context of educational institutions, Russell Hittinger has observed that what is billed as the uniquely Catholic component of the institution usually turns out to be a 'weird little subculture, like the bar in Star Wars, that has little connection to any sociological reality beyond the gates of the campus'. To Hittinger's observations may be added the fact that the kinds of people who are attracted to marginalised subcultures are frequently people with psychological disorders. As a consequence, an interest in religion becomes associated with dysfunctionality and irrationality..." (p60)

I will admit to a degree of naivity on this subject.  I'd always taken the view that traditionalism was the hope of the Church, and the time has now come to take what we have preserved and re-evangelize the Church using it.  But perhaps the reluctance of many traditionalists to engage with the wider Church reflects an unconscious realisation that we are in fact in the quarantine ward of the hospital, gifted with the traditional mass because we need more intensive measures to fight the diseases that afflict us....

Either way, with Summorum Pontificum, we don't have to be or act like a marginalised sub-culture any more. And that means learning a whole new set of behaviours.

Towards healing

So let us all consider what we can do to build a stronger sense that we all share a common cause, and common aim even if we differ on the means to achieve it.

Let us all consider what it truly means to share a common faith.

Let us rediscover the norms of common courtesy.

Let us pray for healing of the sick.

Let us put aside the past and start again.

Let us pray and act for unity in Christ.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The otherness of God

I guess I've always kind of known this, but in the last few days I've really been confronted with the effects of a liturgy that focuses on solidarity with each other rather than bridging the divide between heaven and earth.

I've had a few interesting conversations with a lapsed Catholic, who baulked at attending a Latin Mass because they would be "unable to participate".

Yet somewhat perversely, that person's concept of God is as something utterly other and alien, a being who has nothing in common with us in the way he thinks or acts.

And I'm forced to conclude this denuded concept of God may well be the direct result of the novus ordo liturgy as typically experienced (I put in this qualification because it is possible for the novus ordo, when celebrated with all due ceremony, to achieve similar effects to the TLM; but it almost never is performed this way).

God as utterly other

For the Catholic, God is surely Other and yet not. We are created in his image after all, sharing in common free will and the capacity for understanding. His Spirit resides in each of us and sustains us; without his continuing care we would cease to exist.

St Teresa of Avila talked about prayer as a conversation with a friend. Though he is infinitely above us, we can thank him for his gifts, ask him for the things we need, and seek to get to know him better. The purpose of our lives, after all, is to know, love and serve him, using this life to ensure we will be with him forever.

Like a friend, sometimes he is able to accomodate the things we ask for - and sometimes his own plans make granting that request impossible. Yet still we know that we can ask.

Piercing the veil

Many catholics (and others) however have been infected by Eastern ideas of God as utterly other. For them, prayer may assist us in "coping" with what life flings at us, and finding peace with it, but it doesn't have the capacity to fundamentally change either ourselves or the world. And for them, heaven is not a place where real physical bodies (Our Lord and Our Lady) exist, but some kind of mysterious state.

The traditional liturgy, by contrast, focuses on piercing the veil between heaven and earth: it emphasises the vertical, the worship of God, with angels climbing Jacob's ladder between heaven and earth, and the priest acting 'in persona Christi'. It builds on the Jewish idea of our liturgy being an earthly reflection of the heavenly, most clearly reflected in the descriptions of the Book of Revelations.

The use of Latin, the haunting chant, the elaborate rituals all remind us that God is infinitely more than us; to some degree an alien other. But the constant pleadings of the texts of the Mass, the careful and repeated attempts to approach him humbly remind us that he is someone we can know, albeit in a limited way, and approach if we do it properly.

By contrast the novus ordo liturgy, with its rather more prosaic approach and language, its signs and symbols such as the communal love fest at the sign of peace, seems to sub-consciously emphasize that we are on our own as far as God is concerned, and need to rely on each other rather than him. The liturgy shorn of all of its fear and trembling, its repetitions and halting restarts, says not (as its originators perhaps hoped) that we can approach God confidently, but rather that there is nothing to approach.

So how do we recover the sense of the sacred? How do we recover the notion that God is a real person, not some vague, utterly alien presence? That heaven is a real place, worthy of being strived for?

The resacralizing the liturgy, combined with some solid catechesis, is essential.

And we need to pray hard for the conversion of a lost generation.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Australian Catholic Students Association Conference

Thanks to Roman to alerting me to some youtube videos of the recent ACSA Conference, and providing some background on liturgy at the Conference.

Three Masses were said in the ordinary form and one was said in the extra ordinary form.

On July 10th there was a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit for the opening of the conference said in the ordinary form, verus populum with the benedictine arrangement, the introit was sung according the Anglican use gradual.

Later that day, a votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament was sung in the extraordinary form, which was followed by Benediction and all night adoration.

On 11th of July, there was the reception of the Icon of our Lady Seat of Wisdom and a votive Mass said in her honour by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore Diocese, ad orientam, with the introit likewise sung according to the Anglican use gradual.

Finally, on the 12th of July, Bishop Jarrett again celebrated Mass ad orientam, this time with all the propers chanted and the asperges sung from the Anglican use gradual. The General intercessions were also chanted.

Here is the video of the Extraordinary Form Mass as a taster:

Marian Scarrabelotti RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Marian Scarrabelotti, who died late on Wednesday night of cancer.

Marian (together with her husband Gary, editor of the journal Oriens) was a well known member of Canberra's (and Australia's) Traditional Latin Mass community. She was a practicing clinical neuropsychologist, and active in many spheres, including as a member of the Board of Sydney's Campion College. I'll write more soon.

Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Episcopal nuns signing up

It's always nice to have a good news story! Here from The Catholic Review:

Episcopal nuns to be received into the Catholic Church

"By George P. Matysek Jr.

After seven years of prayer and discernment, a community of Episcopal nuns and their chaplain will be received into the Roman Catholic Church during a Sept. 3 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien.

The archbishop will welcome 10 sisters from the Society of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor when he administers the sacrament of confirmation and the sisters renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the chapel of their Catonsville convent. Episcopal Father Warren Tanghe will also be received into the church and is discerning the possibility of becoming a Catholic priest.

Mother Christina Christie, superior of the religious community, said the sisters are “very excited” about joining the Catholic Church and have been closely studying the church’s teachings for years. Two Episcopal nuns who have decided not to become Catholic will continue to live and minister alongside their soon-to-be Catholic sisters.

Members of the community range in age from 59 to 94. “For us, this is a journey of confirmation,” Mother Christina said. “We felt God was leading us in this direction for a long time.”

Wearing full habits with black veils and white wimples that cover their heads, the sisters have been a visible beacon of hope in Catonsville for decades. The American branch of a society founded in England, the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor came to Baltimore in 1872 and have been at their current location since 1917.

In addition to devoting their lives to a rigorous daily prayer regimen, the sisters offer religious retreats, visit people in hospice care and maintain a Scriptorium where they design religious cards to inspire others in the faith. Throughout their history, the sisters worked with the poor of Baltimore as part of their charism of hospitality. Some of that work has included reaching out to children with special needs and ministering to AIDS patients. Together with Mount Calvary Church, an Episcopal parish in Baltimore, the sisters co-founded a hospice called the Joseph Richey House in 1987.

Orthodoxy and unity were key reasons the sisters were attracted to the Catholic faith. Many of them were troubled by the Episcopal Church’s approval of women’s ordination, the ordination of a gay bishop and what they regarded as lax stances on moral issues. “We kept thinking we could help by being a witness for orthodoxy,” said Sister Mary Joan Walker, the community’s archivist. Mother Christina said that effort “was not as helpful as we had hoped it would be.”

“People who did not know us looked at us as if we were in agreement with what had been going on (in the Episcopal Church),” she said. “By staying put and not doing anything, we were sending a message which was not correct.”

Before deciding to enter the Catholic Church, the sisters had explored Episcopal splinter groups and other Christian denominations. Mother Christina noted that the sisters had independently contemplated joining the Catholic Church without the others knowing. When they found out that most of them were considering the same move, they took it as a sign from God and reached out to Archbishop O’Brien.

“This is very much the work of the Holy Spirit,” Mother Christina said. The sisters acknowledged it hasn’t been easy leaving the Episcopal Church, for which they expressed great affection. Some of their friends have been hurt by their pending departure, they said. “Some feel we are abandoning the fight to maintain orthodoxy,” said Sister Emily Ann Lindsey.

“We’re not. We’re doing it in another realm right now.” The sisters have spent much of the past year studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They said there were few theological stumbling blocks to entering the church, although some had initial difficulty with the concept of papal infallibility. In addition to worshipping in the Latin rite, the sisters are expected to receive permission to attend Mass celebrated in the Anglican-use rite – a liturgy that adapts many of the prayers from the Episcopal tradition.

Mother Christina said 10 archdiocesan priests, including Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden, have stepped forward to learn how to celebrate the Anglican-use Mass. The sisters expressed deep affection for Pope Benedict XVI. The pope exercises an authority that Episcopal leaders do not, they said. The unity that Christ called for can be found in the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope, they said. “Unity is right in the midst of all this,” said Sister Catherine Grace Bowen. “That is the main thrust.”

The sisters noted with a laugh that their love for the pope is evident in the name they chose for their recently adopted cat, “Benedict XVII” – a feline friend they lovingly call “His Furyness.” "

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Bishops resign in the diocese of Scranton

There's an interesting item over at Fr Z on the resignation of both the auxiliary and bishop of Scranton, PA (Bishops Dougherty and Martino). Scranton, you might recall, is the diocese in which the FSSP originally had its American seminary and still has its headquarters.

Bishop Martino seems to have been conservative rather than particularly sympathetic to the traditionalist cause (a number of traditionalist religious communities previously based there have decamped or been closed down under his regimen). The bishop was, however, outspoken on an number of key issues such as abortion, and in the process seems to have antagonised his clergy and laity. Some commenter's on Fr Z have suggested that the problem was not what he said, but his tendency to leap first without doing the necessary preparatory work.

The bishop himself said:“there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development, he continued, “has caused him great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.”

Interesting times.