Tuesday, 24 December 2019
Tomorrow we celebrate a great event; the birth of God-made-man in the flesh of Blessed Mary, Ever-Virgin. It is a great thing we do, to celebrate His birth, but I would prefer that these celebrations were nine months earlier, that we might be reminded that life begins not at birth but at Conception. For nine months Our Lord was hidden from view in the womb of the Virgin, for it was truly God who was living and growing there; uniting to the Divine nature the nature of Man, that man might be redeemed by the Divine: “Unto us a child is born; a son is given…and His name will be Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9v6), thus dear St Joseph was told, “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are name Him Jesus, for He is the one who is to save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1v20,21). The depths of this great Mystery of the Incarnation may never be fully grasped in this world.
We may wonder too that the very DNA of Mary, Mother of the God-man, will taken up into heaven when her own life was over; that her Divine Son would welcome her into heaven in full recapitulation of all that was done by Adam and Eve from the very beginning, saying as He receives His Holy Mother: “At lasts this is flesh of My Flesh; Bone of My Bone”. No wonder the angels bow down as she enters heaven, for the flesh and blood she gave to Christ is now assumed into heaven -and His bodily glorification is somehow more complete, with every shred of His DNA being glorified.
Sadly the word around us does not recognise the great Mystery that is brought before us on Christmas Day: the birth of the Man-God. For the worldly soul, Christmas may be acknowledge as having come from Christianity, but has become for them no more than a celebration of family and a time of jollity. We Catholics on the other hand, rejoice that the uniting of the nature of man with the Divine Nature makes mankind children of God; the family of God. We Catholics therefore go beyond jollity to exultation and deep spiritual joy. For we shall look upon the crib and remember why Our Lord came to us: This is how much He loves us: that he came to a suffering, dying world as one of us; came to suffer and die with us and for us, that He may rise again and make death the door to eternal contentment and joy. As we gaze upon the representation of this in our family or parish crib, lets us remember that in the shepherds the poor are promised riches beyond all telling; the Magi given sight of Divine Wisdom; Wisdom beyond the learning of this world; a wisdom that the masters of this age do not know, while the star which lit up the sky to lead them is but a pale reflection of His Divine light which resides in the heavenly City; the New Jerusalem; “The city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminates it. And the Lamb is its light.” (Revelation 21v23)
Thursday, 12 December 2019
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.