Thursday, 12 December 2019

Back to the Future for Renewal of the Church


Bishops and parish pastors each have their own vision for a ‘renewal’ of their Diocese or parish. In our own Diocese we have gone from erecting ‘Pastoral Areas’ with one Bishop to establishing to ‘Parish Partnerships” with his successor –partnerships which, even after a five year project, turned about to be little more than re-organising the boundaries of the ‘Pastoral Areas’ and renaming them ‘Parish Partnerships’ -especially since we had already been directed to share resources between parishes when we were Pastoral Areas. In reality, neither Pastoral Areas nor Parish Partnerships were anything more than a reorganising of boundaries and the encouraging of cooperation between parishes as the number of those attending Mass, seeking baptisms and marrying declined while the number of parishes and convents closing increased. In fact, the programmes we have put in place over the years have been nothing more than a way to manage decline, not a way to build and renew.

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have always said that the programme which needs to be put in place is a return to the teaching of the Catechism in the schools and from the pulpit; ensuring the liturgy is celebrated according to the rubrics, and a promoting of authentic lay ministry via the Legion of Mary (which focuses on the Spiritual works of Mercy) and the SVP (which focuses on the Corporal Works of Mercy). I do not want to abandon that programme, but something needs to precede it: spiritual renewal.

It is past time to have all parishes re-establish weekly Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and a daily Rosary before Holy Mass. Any renewal that does not place Christ and His Holy Mother at its heart is bound to fail, for Christ in the Eucharist is the source and summit of the entire Christian life, and therefore essential in bringing about true renewal. Once renewal of the spiritual life and doctrinal formation of the people has taken hold we can refocus the people of God on those ministries upon which we will be judged according to Mathew 25: the spiritual and corporal works of mercy –easily achieved by establishing the Legion of Mary and SVP in every parish. 

This all sounds like a return to the past doesn’t it? Perhaps it is, but the path we took in 1965 to create a bright new future has not worked: it precipitated a rapid decline in marriages, baptisms, and priestly and religious vocations. Some folk –lay and ordained- profess the renewal brought about by Vatican II has been a great success. What they mean is we have created inauthentic roles for the laity wherein they ape their shepherds by a myriad of committees and groups wherein they engage in parish management and pastoral care (shepherding). As a result, we have brought about in the people of God a feeling (or belief?) that to be one of the sheep in God’s flock is just not good enough. Truly, the only way forward for the renewal of the Church is the go back for the sake of the future: back to correct doctrinal formation; back to a liturgy focused on the propitiation of God and the demonstrating of his triumph rather than continue a liturgy that focuses on celebrating and affirming the people, with the re-establishing of the SVP and Legion of Mary so that the people of God can make The Faith their own by the living out of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and thereby grow in holiness ready for the event of Matthew 25.

10 comments:

  1. I do so agree Father. I was received into the Church in a time of full churches - several Masses in one parish on a Sunday, weekly Benediction with a sermon (how I miss that)and I belonged to the Legion of Mary too.
    I have clung on by my fingertips through all the changes over the years and have been so lucky in finding a parish with a good holy orthodox Priest where we are able to receive Holy Communion on our knees and on the tongue once more and where his homilies are inspirational and instructive.
    For several years I was able to attend 6 EF Masses a month too although due to my own territorial PP having moved on and who I term my 2nd parish priest not being in the best of health this has now dwindled to one a month in a neighbouring town.

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    1. Thank you Pelerin. Sorry for the late reply. have a blessed Christmas, a blessed 2020 and beyond. Sad to hear the availability of the TLM is reduced for you. We await the stirring of the Holy Ghost who will make all things new by returning to the past! God Bless.

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  2. Thank you Father. That is the best and most sensible thing I have read in 50 years.

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    1. Thank you Terry. I do hope we see the renewal take real shape in our lifetime, but i think God has longer-term plans -by God's grace, we will see it from heaven!
      Sorry for the late reply. May you and yours have a blessed Christmas, a blessed 2020 and beyond. God Bless.

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  3. How apposite at tis time when we have a new orthodox bishop who does nor look down on celebrations of Holy Mass in the EF but rather embraces it by celebrating himself as he did last Sunday at St J's. But we need more & I & a number of others have contacted Bishop Robert seeking the introduction of the traditionalist orders to the diocese & especially in our largest city of Newcastle upon Tyne. With the moving out of the Dominicans & the emptiness of St Michael's, now would be the ideal time to invite either (or both?) the FSSP & ICKSP into the city. Previously they were offered a redundant church on the Headland in Hartlepool but they need a vibrant city parish from which to spread their charism. In the not too distant past Masses in both Newcastle & Gateshead were well supported & yet now it seems to be thought that a new Mass in Newcastle would simply draw a congregation from Gateshead - o ye of little faith!!

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    1. Thank you David. I was not able to get to the Mass at Gateshead but prayed for its success. God bless our new Bishop and our Diocese -we may only be one small star in a dark cosmos but there are a few shining lights here and there and we can grow; after all, light always dispels the darkness. Have Blessed Christmas, a blessed 2020 and beyond.

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  4. Very true. We need an authentic and sacred liturgy AND doctrinal formation. Otherwise the Church will continue to decline

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    1. Thank you Paul. Its orthodoxy and orthopraxy that we need and which will renew the Church, backed up by prayer and sacrifice. have a blessed Christmas. and a blessed 2020 and beyond.

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  5. Hopefully our new bishop will have ideas which will strengthen the diocese especially the more traditional arm & (IMHO) this will be achieved by persuading younger priests to learn to celebrate the EF Mass & to do so for the benefit of the laity. It has to be said that our younger priests have, perhaps, been put off celebrating the ancient Mass of the Church because our diocesan leaders have not had the will (or ability?) to celebrate this Mass. There can be little doubt that leadership has a great deal to do with how others work & with Bishop Robert's obvious love of the EF Mass this should encourage our younger priests & persuade the not so young to bring it to the people throughout the diocese.

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    1. I have high hopes that our little Traditional light will sweep away more of the darkness from the world and from the Church. God Bless.

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