Tuesday, 25 January 2011

'You start Saul, and end up Paul'

I recently found a choral piece based on the story of Saul's conversion by the contemporary American composer Z. Randall Stroope. 'The Conversion of Saul' is set for double choir and is an impressive concert piece. The recording linked to here is one of the better ones (there are a few pre-recorded versions, but the videos are a little full-on...) 

The opening section of Stroope's piece evokes Saul's relentless persecution of the Christians. The choir sings 'Caedite, vexate, ligate vinculis!' Vinculis, condemnate vexate! (Saul! Murder, harass, bind into chains! Saul! Chain, prosecute and harass!). The tight rhythms of the repetitive chanting and percussive foot-stamping are swiftly, though gently replaced by the more sustained second section in which we hear  the  words 'Why do you persecute me, Saul? Why? Fall down on your knees, turn hatred into love. Turn darkness into light. Bow down, Saul! Bow down, Saul!'

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Ordinariate: Anglican Ponderings

Well, “hurrah” for the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. The happy birds ‘Te Deum’ sing! The Women’s Guild offers its sincere congratulations to the first priests of the Ordinariate: Father Andrew Burnham and Father John Broadhurst, and to the new ordinary, Father Keith Newton. Our prayers are also offered for those involved in setting everything up and for all those preparing to enter the Ordinariate this spring in the ‘first wave’ (eagerly clutching their yellow and white surfboards). There is much to come: sacrifice, uncertainty, trepidation; yet also, of course, a profound sense of joy and excitement.

In the midst of all this change, it is important to remember that between those now preparing to enter into the full communion of the See of Peter and those remaining in the Church of England (either in the short or long term) there needs to be meaningful and generous-spirited discussion, and mutual support. On one level, decisions such as whether or not to seek to join another denomination are reliant on a spiritual exploration of the Lord’s will for us. They involve prayer and the humble entreaty of the Lord to make His will known. Yet they also involve intellectual consideration, both of the history of our position - its development over the centuries and recent decades - and the realities of the present situation.

It is in this context of intellectual enquiry and exchange that rhetoric becomes most important and also, potentially, most problematic. Misunderstandings and mistakes abound – indeed they are propagated by people who, dare I say it, really ought to know better. They are frustrating because they are rehearsed over and over again and rarely challenged, at least with any real success. I offer three examples. Firstly, the ‘Church of my Baptism’ line. The Church of my Baptism is not the local church I attended when I was baptised. It is not the Church of England. It is the Universal Church: The Body of Christ. Secondly, the use of the terms ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’. There is more than a tendency to regard the Ordinariate as a last-ditch option when all others in the Church of England have been exhausted. To have argued consistently for full visible unity, but to view the Ordinariate as ‘Plan B’ seems, forgive me, more than a little perverse. Indeed, I wonder what ‘Plan A’ might be… In any case, the use of these terms is confusing and unhelpful. Thirdly ‘seeing the Synodical process through’. I’d wager that most people peddling this line aren’t convinced that it’s an effective way of governing a church anyway. Waiting for Synod to act in order to ‘keep people safe’ seems very odd. Maybe it’s just me.

One of the things I find most frustrating about the structure of the General Synod, is that debates are rarely that – they involve a variety of people simply ‘having their opinion’ at each other, rather than engaging in genuine debate and discussion. As I have written previously on this blog, whatever one concludes about the legitimacy of a democratically elected Synod as a means of deciding the doctrine of the church, something as significant as the salvation of our souls seems too precious, too fundamental to be decided by ‘debate’ which is unworthy of the name. Similarly, when we discuss and debate the value of ‘staying’ or ‘going’ as it is increasingly viewed, the debate, the intellectual exchange and understanding appears frequently to be lost. It is not simply a shame – it is an outrage.       

This division of Anglo-Catholics/Anglo-Papalists/High Church Anglicans and the like into ‘stayers’ and ‘goers’ at the present time is, of course, understandable. Yet it also seems to be dissolving at times into a competition to decide who’s ‘worse off’. For those immediately joining the Ordinariate there is uncertainty as a whole host of questions are as yet to be answered: ‘Where will clergy of the Ordinariate live? Where will they minister? Who will pay their stipend? Where will laity worship?’ For those staying behind there are similar questions: ‘Will Synod find an adequate means with which to respect the wishes of ‘traditionalist Anglicans’ who, for various reasons, do not wish to enter into communion with the Holy See?’ To suggest that either side is enjoying ‘calmer waters’ is to miss the point. Indeed, it is foolish and wrong for either side to convince themselves that they have it worse, or that the grass is necessarily greener on the other side. We must all recognise that, whichever path we choose in the coming weeks and in the future, our prayers for our Christian brothers and sisters are required of us. At the ordination of Fathers Andrew, Keith and John to the diaconate last Thursday, the preacher, Father Tony Philpot said of Blessed John Henry Newman that the ‘demands of the Gospel had become irresistible to him’. If we call ourselves Christians, then this much we must know, and we can do nothing else, than to be obedient to Christ’s call to prayer .   

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy Holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Big Society?

I was interested to receive a number of emails last week drawing my attention to the Missionary Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda. As someone interested in this sort of thing, I'd like to find out more. Not least, because the information so far available is rather confusing, even contradictory (allowing for the fact that, according the website : "further details about the Society and its life will emerge in the comings months" and "a group has been asked to do some theological reflection about the identity of the Society, its common life and the way it might have the potential for ecumenical dialogue directed towards the goal of full visible communion with the rest of the Church catholic"). So, with my best wide-eyed, imploring gaze I'd be grateful for comments, thoughts, concerns and even answers.

"What's it all about then, eh?"

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Papal Visit!

Well, the Pope has touched down on British shores and it's all go! This is truly an historic occasion and a comfort and joy to a great number of us at this time. Details of the visit may be found here, and if you want to follow the action online then I suggest you find your way to EWTN where there is good coverage of the visit.

There has been a great deal of vitriol directed at the Holy Father and so I urge all our readers to pray for Pope Benedict, and for Catholics everywhere. Most particularly, let us pray for the conversion of England the unity of the Church throughout the world: 

God our Father, shepherd and guide, look with love on Benedict, your servant, the pastor of your Church. May his word and example inspire and guide the Church, and may he, and all those entrusted to his care, come to the joy of everlasting life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Saturday, 24 April 2010

Prayers for the Holy Father

Today is the 5th anniversary of the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI.
I imagine that many readers of this blog, on whichever side of the Tiber they find themselves, have particular reason to be thankful for this Holy Father.
Our priests need our prayers more than ever at the moment, and the Pope in particular, who is the focus of a lot of undeserved hatred.
One way to ensure that we pray is to combine our prayers with others. The institute of Christ the King is preparing a spiritual bouquet and encouraging people to join in offering a novena for Pope Benedict.

It can be found here: http://www.institute-christ-king.org/bouquet/

Friday, 16 April 2010


Procrastination is a terrible thing. You know you ought to be working, but the lure of constantly checking your emails, Facebook and the limitless possibilities of Google is too great. Still, this morning's foray into the virtual world has produced this: the joys of knitting.

Adorning (?!) an altar in an unnamed church:

Another treat (for those with an extended coffee/lunch/tea break) is the Catholic Knitter's Blog, which amongst other things recommends a 'Knit to Pray' scheme: .

Another excellent link - and indeed an excellent blog - is The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies who engaged in the campaign 'Scarves for Priests'.

And finally, a useful list of different charitable ventures which make use of knitting skills far and wide.

May Saint Fiacre, patron saint of knitters, pray for all knitting endeavours!