Thursday, 8 August 2013

Assumpta est Maria in caelum

In a week's time we keep the high point of the liturgical summer green season - the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady which falls on 15 August throughout the Western Church.

The Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation and as such all Catholics are bound to hear Mass. Most of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group will keep the feast at the Solemn Mass at 7pm at St. James's Spanish Place where the music promises to be a glorious blend of renaissance Catholic patrimony from Palestrina, Victoria, and Cabezon.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Falling on deaf ears

We came across an excellent article written by a young Catholic about the generational divide in attitudes to the liturgy when reading the great 'blog produced by Fr Ed Tomlinson, a priest of the Ordinariate based in Tunbridge Wells. Do make your way over to his 'blog to read more. Another example of Generation Benedict.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Containing in Itself all sweetness

Tomorrow being the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, in former days in this land known as the Feast of Corpus Christi, our minds turn towards that greatest of gifts bestowed on the Church: the gift of the Most Blessed Eucharist, poured forth from the Sacred Heart of the Lord (which devotion will be celebrated Friday week).

In England and Wales the obligation to hear Mass has now been transferred to the following Sunday - this coming Sunday - and so naturally our readers will be eager to learn of churches holding processions. Unfortunately there will not be a procession on Sunday at S. James's, Spanish Place, this year. However any disappointment will be short lived given that this is due to there being a Confirmation Mass following the usual Solemn Mass at midday, when a large number of candidates will receive another gift of the indwelling love of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Do remember these new soldiers of Christ in your prayers as they prepare for this celebration.

Rumour has it that a procession of the Blessed Sacrament may feature in the parish later in the year - we will keep you informed.

Over in Kensington, however, one can continue to attend Mass at one's usual Sunday morning church but also join the usual procession following vespers at the Brompton Oratory which will take place around 3:30pm following vespers at 3pm. You may even be lucky enough to see one of our shadowy number amongst those following Our Lord as He sanctifies the very earth with His Presence.

Until then, some music to begin our preparations for this wonderful feast when we recall the institution of the Eucharist apart from the gathering darkness of the Triduum.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia!

"For us, Christ is our life. If He does not affect every part of our life, it is not the real thing. It is He who is the centre, but more than that He has promised to be with us: 'Lo I am with you always even to the end of time' That is focused though, of course not restricted to, His presence for us in the sacramental life of the Church. If you want to meet the risen Lord and receive His grace, we come humbly to Holy Communion, with penitence to the confessional, or in our need to receive anointing. In baptism we enter that gate to the new risen life in him which is a present reality and not just a future hope."

The Ordinary preaches on Easter Sunday

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Hosanna to the Son of David

Today the Marylebone Ordinariate Group entered a new phase in its worshipping life by moving our celebrations of the Lord's passion, death, and resurrection to Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Warwick Street. Beginning with the Ceremonies of the Palms in Golden Square in the snow was a novel experience to say the least, yet we were greatly heartened by the presence of the Ordinary who is to pontificate at each of the principal Masses in Holy Week, but also by traditional ceremonial and wonderful music. Photographs will follow in due course, but for now we include below the antiphon which greeted the sanctuary party as it exited the church and arrived on the square.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Mid-Lent Reorientation

In the Song of Songs we read: "Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave" (Song 8:6). Jesus sometimes says things reminiscent of this, things that do not fit in at all with the sweet and sickly picture many people draw of the Man from Nazareth. We must be prepared for this kind of ruthlessness as we listened to in Sunday Gospel:
"There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, `Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.'

"And he told this parable: `A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, "Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?" And he answered him, "Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down"' (Lk 13:1-9).
Two truths confront each other in these words of Jesus. The first concerns the political atrocity of the Roman governor, but also the disaster at the Pool of Siloam, the collapse of a tower that buried eighteen people alive. Should such catastrophes be interpreted as retribution for the guilt of those who perished, as the Pharisees were inclined to believe? Jesus says a categorical "No". The second truth concerns the same episodes and then is made clearer by the parable of the fig tree. Are those struck by misfortune innocent then? No, says Jesus, they were just as sinful as you who are asking the question, and you are just as open to punishment, just as much in danger of punishment, as those who have already been overtaken by it.
The only profitable lesson you can take from these reports, from these newspaper columns headed "crimes and accidents", is this: be converted, change your life, turn around 180 degrees. Not some time in the future, either, when it suits you, when the recession gets worse and food gets scarcer, but now, because this is God's time and, as John the Baptist says, the axe is already laid at the root of your tree. It is high time for the fig tree to bear the fruit for which people have been waiting impatiently; even the vinedresser, requesting a postponement of drastic measures, has to agree that next year may be too late, indeed, surely will be too late, if the tree remains without fruit any longer, a parasite using up the soil.
There can be no question of saying that God's love is not to be seen in this Gospel. In fact, it appears in many forms, but as a love that is so stretched by man, as it were, that it seems to have reached the end of its patience and is obliged to assume the form of a warning.
First of all, Jesus says that God does not simply treat sinners according to their deeds, and that the suffering that overtakes them is in no way an indication of the magnitude of their guilt. Others may have more against them and yet be spared.
Second, he offers his questioners an opportunity. The very misfortune of their fellowmen should be a warning to them: they should take it as a sign from God that they should change the course of their lives. Notice how urgently Jesus speaks of "all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem", those who, if they do not turn about, will all perish in the same manner: he can foresee the imminent, terrible ruin of the stiff-necked city.
Third, according to Jesus, it is in the nature of the fig tree that it should bring forth fruit. God has given it an inbuilt capacity for good, for being useful. In the same way man only needs to follow a natural instinct, and he will respond to God's requirement of fruitfulness.
Fourth, there is the goodwill of the vinedresser who asks for a final postponement and who is prepared to do his utmost, by digging and manuring, to elicit fruit from the recalcitrant tree.
And fifth, there is the Lord who yields and grants this last postponement.
Love is quite definitely present, therefore; it shines out from all the cracks, but, in the face of men's tepidity and lack of love and their habit of accusing others of sin and excusing themselves, it has to assume the features of a ruthless and resolute power. "Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave." Eventually there comes a point at which God's long animity is all used up, when man will not take advantage of the time remaining to him. Then God's love has to resort to other methods. But please understand that I am talking of God's love. I am not saying that God's love is inwardly limited, by his justice, for instance. This is how many people think of it. But none of God's qualities is limited, least of all his love. Nor is his justice, either, or his mercy. All these qualities totally interpenetrate. We cannot say that God is unjust when, in the parable of the laborers hired to work in the vineyard, he pays the latest-hired man the same as those who have worked from morning. The fact that justice and love coincide in God was one of the most felicitous discoveries of little Therese. It is true, however, that after a certain point has been reached God's love must use severe measures in order to achieve its goals. The judgment that all sinners must undergo, and from which they will not emerge without being purified, after a shorter or longer time, this judgment must be unyielding. It must be completely irrevocable, precisely because what is at stake is access to ultimate pardon.
It is worthwhile dwelling for a moment on this idea of judgment. Catholics believe in the existence of purgatory, a period of purification. St Paul explicitly speaks of it in the First Letter to the Corinthians:
"Each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor 3:13-15)."
There we have it exactly, this ruthlessness on the part of love. But now, instead of being in the form of a warning in the dimension of time, it actually begins to take measures on the threshold of eternity. Purgatory is nothing other than a dimension of judgment; it is the undergoing of judgment, in which we are measured against the unyielding norm and conformed to it, as we must if we are to be allowed into the kingdom of eternal love. For that is our destination. So the fire of the divine love must burn up everything in us that does not correspond to it. And, depending on how we have lived here on earth, this can be more or less painful; indeed, it may involve appalling pain. Then it may come about that all our earthly superstructure, all we thought we had to identify ourselves with here on earth, will go up in flames, and the burning ruins will fall on us like the tower of Siloam. "He will suffer loss", says Paul, he will grieve over the futility and perversity of his life, and in shame and disgrace he will have to sit down among the dunces to learn the ABCs of real love. Up to now all he knew (and that by heart) was the ABCs of egoism. What can divine mercy do with such a person? He would not even understand it; he would not even know how to accept it. The sinner needs a kind of brainwashing to make him grasp the ideas that lie behind God's love. In the end, however, the ideas God has are the only true ones, and ultimately we simply have to submit to them. In judgment and the fire that goes with it we shall have to walk slowly toward the final, all-embracing idea, the final notion of God's inventiveness, namely, the crucified Son of God. He is the truth, and I must allow myself to accept this truth. The truth of sin: that is your contribution. The truth of grace: that is what God has done for you. Conversion is always a painful and lonely process. No one can do it for me, and I must learn to love things I previously disliked and renounce the very things I previously held dear.
But now let us leave purgatory and return to the world. As Christians we cannot interpret suffering in the world in any other way than as divine love veiling its face when confronted with the world's terrible sinfulness. It may seem to us that those who are less sinful have more to suffer. In that case, no doubt, their suffering is on behalf of the others. The Galileans mentioned in the Gospel were actually having their sacrificial animals slaughtered in the Temple when they themselves were butchered along with them. Compared with others, they were God-fearing sinners. The least guilty can be imprisoned in concentration camps or banished to the Gulag Archipelago. This arises from the Cross of Christ: the better can suffer on behalf of the worse. Or rather, let us say, "are privileged to suffer" on their behalf. And this suffering can be genuinely harsh and pitiless. This is something for us to remember if, in our suffering, we reach the end of our patience; it will support us and prevent us from becoming bitter.
Above all, however, we ought to hear the urgent note of warning in Jesus' words: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish." This "unless" implies the possibility of averting disaster. Jerusalem could have repented. All of us could repent, and then our future would look different. The axe is laid to the roots of the trees, but many respond to the Baptist's words, are converted and baptized. The fig tree could bear fruit next year--its last chance--and so escape destruction.
If God had found ten righteous men in Sodom, the town would have been spared as Abraham requested. Who knows how many righteous people, interceding for their fellows, are left among us? One thing is certain: there would be more if we were to be converted; perhaps there would be enough then to save our country. One suspects, however, that today there are probably fewer than in former times, when people prayed more, did more penance and believed with greater hope. In those days less paper and print were produced (by synods, episcopal offices and all manner of committees) to go straight into our wastepaper baskets, but there were a more genuine Christian atmosphere and outlook in our parishes. In those days there was not the destructive dispute between the mindless left and the ossified and embittered right.
For the present we are still free; we have what, for the modern world, is unheard-of freedom, and we must use it responsibly for ourselves and for others. But among us there are those, and their numbers are increasing, who lust for the fleshpots of Egypt, of the slave house, and who would dearly like to wallow along with the multitude. They are not prepared to learn any lesson from those trees of Europe that have already been felled and have lost their freedom to bear fruit. They are no longer parasites on the soil: they themselves are being bled dry. For them the system that bleeds them dry, the system of the Egyptian slave drivers, no longer holds any attraction or fascination. The pears rot from within; you can only see it when you cut them open. Who can do anything to stop the rot among the intelligentsia of our country? Once it has spread far enough, it will hardly be worth stretching out a hand to protect it.
But we have no intention of being fatalists like those still under the spell. We must affirm that the personal attitude, personal conversion, can be the decisive factor in everything. "Let it alone, sir, this year ... if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not", then - in God's name and for his greater glory, so that he can make room for other and better things - "you can cut it down."

Friday, 1 March 2013

No chord more true than Rome's

from 1st to 9th March 2013

Veni Creator Spiritus,
Mentes tuorum visita,
Imple superna gratia,
Quæ tu creasti pectora.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
Altissimi domum Dei,
Fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
Et spiritalis unctio.

Tu septiformis munere,
Digitus paternæ dexteræ,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
Sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus,
Infunde amorem cordibus,
Infirma nostri corporis,
Virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
Pacemque dones protinus:
Ductore sic te prævio
Vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
Noscamus atque Filium,
Teque utriusque Spiritum
Credamus omni tempore.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Et Filio, qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
In sæculorum sæcula.

Emítte Spíritum tuum, et creabúntur:
Et renovabis fáciem terræ.

Súpplici, Dómine, humilitáte
depóscimus : ut sacrosánctæ
Románæ Ecclésiæ concédat
Pontíficem illum tua
imménsa pietas ; qui et pio
in nos stúdio semper tibi
plácitus, et tuo pópulo pro
salúbri regímine sit assídue
ad glóriam tui nóminis reveréndus.
Per Dominum...

Cor Mariæ dolorosum et
Ora pro nobis.

Sancte Michael.
Ora pro nobis.

Sancte Josephe.
Ora pro nobis.

Sancte Petre.
Ora pro nobis.

Sancte Paule.
Ora pro nobis.

Sancte Gregóri.
Ora pro nobis.

Sancte Benedicte.
Ora pro nobis.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Sede vacante

Pope Benedict XVI

Almighty ever-living God, who has given your faithful servant Benedict grace to maintain his faith and hope in you amid the labours of his apostolic ministry; graciously bestow upon him, we pray, the consolations for your Holy Spirit and uphold him in serenity of life. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

St Peter, pray for us.

St Paul, pray for us.

St Ninian, pray for us.

St Benedict, pray for us.

St Gregory the Great, pray for us.

St Francis, pray for us.

St Thomas Becket, pray for us.

St Ralph Sherwin, pray for us.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.

All holy men and women, pray for us.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto

With fewer than twenty-four hours remaining of the pontificate of the two hundred and sixty-fourth successor of S. Peter, our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, it seems appropriate to return to the beginning of his time as Vicar of Christ on Earth. The day before the conclave which elected him as Supreme Pontiff commenced, Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated Mass pro eligendo Romano Pontifice in S. Peter's Basilica and preached a sermon which in so many ways prefigured the eight years that have followed it, and will no doubt bear heavily on the minds of those cardinals who will gather in Rome following the Pope's abdication tomorrow evening. Let us pray, then, for our Holy Father in his final hours at the helm of Christ's Church, and for his successor who will continue the good work Benedict has begun in us, and seek to preserve faithfully the mission Cardinal Ratzinger set in his homily reproduced below.

At this moment of great responsibility, let us listen with special attention to what the Lord says to us in his own words. I would like to examine just a few passages from the three readings that concern us directly at this time.

The first one offers us a prophetic portrait of the person of the Messiah - a portrait that receives its full meaning from the moment when Jesus reads the text in the synagogue at Nazareth and says, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4: 21).

At the core of the prophetic text we find a word which seems contradictory, at least at first sight. The Messiah, speaking of himself, says that he was sent "to announce a year of favour from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God" (Is 61: 2). We hear with joy the news of a year of favour: divine mercy puts a limit on evil, as the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: encountering Christ means encountering God's mercy.

Christ's mandate has become our mandate through the priestly anointing. We are called to proclaim, not only with our words but also with our lives and with the valuable signs of the sacraments, "the year of favour from the Lord".

But what does the prophet Isaiah mean when he announces "the day of vindication by our God"? At Nazareth, Jesus omitted these words in his reading of the prophet's text; he concluded by announcing the year of favour. Might this have been the reason for the outburst of scandal after his preaching? We do not know.

In any case, the Lord offered a genuine commentary on these words by being put to death on the cross. St Peter says: "In his own body he brought your sins to the cross" (I Pt 2: 24). And St Paul writes in his Letter to the Galatians: "Christ has delivered us from the power of the law's curse by himself becoming a curse for us, as it is written, "Accursed is anyone who is hanged on a tree'. This happened so that through Christ Jesus the blessing bestowed on Abraham might descend on the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, thereby making it possible for us to receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Gal 3: 13f.).

Christ's mercy is not a grace that comes cheap, nor does it imply the trivialization of evil. Christ carries the full weight of evil and all its destructive force in his body and in his soul. He burns and transforms evil in suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of favour converge in the Paschal Mystery, in the dead and Risen Christ. This is the vengeance of God: he himself suffers for us, in the person of his Son. The more deeply stirred we are by the Lord's mercy, the greater the solidarity we feel with his suffering - and we become willing to complete in our own flesh "what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col 1: 24).

Let us move on to the second reading, the letter to the Ephesians. Here we see essentially three aspects: first of all, the ministries and charisms in the Church as gifts of the Lord who rose and ascended into heaven; then, the maturing of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God as the condition and content of unity in the Body of Christ; and lastly, our common participation in the growth of the Body of Christ, that is, the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.

Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards "the maturity of Christ", as the Italian text says, simplifying it slightly. More precisely, in accordance with the Greek text, we should speak of the "measure of the fullness of Christ" that we are called to attain if we are to be true adults in the faith. We must not remain children in faith, in the condition of minors. And what does it mean to be children in faith? St Paul answers: it means being "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4: 14). This description is very timely!

How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism.

Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.
We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clanging cymbal" (I Cor 13: 1).

Let us now look at the Gospel, from whose riches I would like to draw only two small observations. The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: "I no longer speak of you as slaves.... Instead, I call you friends" (Jn 15: 15). We so often feel, and it is true, that we are only useless servants (cf. Lk 17: 10).

Yet, in spite of this, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord gives friendship a dual definition. There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us all that he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust and with trust, also knowledge. He reveals his face and his heart to us. He shows us the tenderness he feels for us, his passionate love that goes even as far as the folly of the Cross. He entrusts himself to us, he gives us the power to speak in his name: "this is my body...", "I forgive you...". He entrusts his Body, the Church, to us.

To our weak minds, to our weak hands, he entrusts his truth - the mystery of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3: 16). He made us his friends - and how do we respond?

The second element Jesus uses to define friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans "Idem velle - idem nolle" [same desires, same dislikes] was also the definition of friendship. "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15: 14). Friendship with Christ coincides with the third request of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". At his hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will conformed and united with the divine will. He suffered the whole drama of our autonomy - and precisely by placing our will in God's hands, he gives us true freedom: "Not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26: 39).

Our redemption is brought about in this communion of wills: being friends of Jesus, to become friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, the more our true freedom develops and our joy in being redeemed flourishes. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!

The other element of the Gospel to which I wanted to refer is Jesus' teaching on bearing fruit: "It was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure" (Jn 15: 16).

It is here that appears the dynamism of the life of a Christian, an apostle: I chose you to go forth. We must be enlivened by a holy restlessness: a restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. Truly, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it might also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others - we are priests in order to serve others. And we must bear fruit that will endure.

All people desire to leave a lasting mark. But what endures? Money does not. Even buildings do not, nor books. After a certain time, longer or shorter, all these things disappear. The only thing that lasts for ever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.

The fruit that endures is therefore all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord. So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.

To conclude, let us return once again to the Letter to the Ephesians. The Letter says, with words from Psalm 68, that Christ, ascending into heaven, "gave gifts to men" (Eph 4: 8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, pro-phets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up his body - the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity!

At this time, however, let us above all pray insistently to the Lord that after his great gift of Pope John Paul II, he will once again give us a Pastor according to his own heart, a Pastor who will guide us to knowledge of Christ, to his love and to true joy. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord

The reactions around the world to the imminent abdication of our Holy Father Pope Benedict have made interesting reading during the past week. Whilst there have been a variety of slants taken on why he has made this decision to retire into seclusion, there has been an overwhelming sense of shock and sadness, but also joy at what will inevitably be a great turning point defining the course of the Church for the next decade or more. We are grateful for the submission of the guest post below from the author of Beauty and the New Evangelisation, now in full communion with the Holy Father, who shares his thoughts on Pope Benedict's papacy and resignation.

I was just shy of fifteen when the Holy Father was elected in 2005, and growing up in a strongly Anglo-Catholic environment, the events around the funeral of Blessed John Paul II and the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger fell conveniently within a family holiday to Rome. I was there on the night that Blessed John Paul II died, and flew back shortly before the funeral. At the time, my interest in the Papacy was limited to niche historical oddities, I was more focused on the characters than the office itself. Pope Benedict XVI has been the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church during my entire formative years, so it is natural that he’s had such an affect on me: if I’d turned fifteen in the late 1990s, Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate, particularly his heroic witness to the value and integrity of human life from birth to natural death, would have no doubt had the same affect.

The most profound part of my Christian journey has been worked out during the reign of Benedict XVI, and to say that his personal holiness and theology was a key part of my eventual conversion would not be over stating the matter.  But the key, for me, to his pontificate was not necessarily any of the large gestures, such as the Ordinariate, or the major theological works, like Jesus of Nazareth, it was the theological underpinnings of his focus on, and attachment to, Christ that made all of this possible.  Without the Holy Father’s focus on the identity of Christ, and his belief that human beings set apart from Christ cannot be understood as complete, his pontificate would not have been marked by so many extraordinary events.

To produce any kind of complete account of the Holy Father’s academic output is simply beyond this short article, but the two of most importance for me, personally, are his understandings of ecclesiology and the liturgy, and more broadly within the areas of politics and philosophy, his attacks on relativism and immoral political and economic systems.  In terms of his reform of the liturgy, his primary focus has been very simply on the beautiful: the beauty of the Church’s teachings are mirrored throughout every aspect of her life, including the liturgy.  Whilst some of his reforms have received a bad reception in some parts of the Church, these reactions seem not to gain a full sense of what these reforms have sought to bring about.  In a Church which is still trying to receive and understand the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, an attempt to enrich both forms of the Roman Rite can only be a good thing, and to more closely define the Council as a continuation with the past, not a break away from the old.

Clearly, as a former Anglican, our Holy Father's understandings of ecclesiology have been immensely important.  A clear line runs through his thought, particularly from Dominus Iesus, which defined more exactly the relationship between the Church and ecclesial communities, to Anglicanorum Coetibus, which created a specific structure to allow members of the Anglican Communion to become Catholics.  In this part of his work, the Holy Father has tried, and succeeded, in creating something tangible which goes beyond the long series of discussions which have run and run since the Second Vatican Council.  In many ways, as one person put it, he called everyone’s bluff by offering the most generous provision which was within the Church’s gift.

But underpinning all of this is the Holy Father’s focus on Christ which creates within his theology a humanism which is not simply founded on Christian principles, but which has Christ at the very centre.  He took on the concept that humanity could ever be understood as complete without being focused and centred on Christ.  He challenged the tendency of secularism and liberalism to paint humanity as beyond salvation; something which these two ideologies achieve by either portraying humanity as not needing, or as being beyond the hope of salvation.  The tendency of liberal Christianity to create a view of the human which everyone can agree on, with Christian doctrines simply being added on the end, is not acceptable to Benedict XVI. Indeed, in his analysis of Gaudium et Spes, the then Ratzinger asked, “why exactly the reasonable and perfectly free human being” described by the document “should suddenly be burdened with the story of Christ.” Without Christ, for the Holy Father, there is no proper humanity, because our whole nature and being have been so much changed by Christ.

And it is this that undergirds all of the Holy Father’s time as Supreme Pontiff.  All of humanity is called to centre their life on Christ, a call which he has lived out through his resignation.  And it was the reign of this Christ centred man who ultimately taught me the importance of the Catholic Faith and of being in communion with the Holy See.  This focus on Christ leads to the Holy Father’s teaching of the beauty of Christian unity, of the Church as the Universal Sacrament of Salvation, of the beauty of a prayerful celebration of the Liturgy of the Church, and that all hope is futile, unless it is hope in our Saviour’s Resurrection.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Let us change our garments for ashes and sackcloth

Today the Marylebone Ordinariate Group marked the beginning of Lent in the usual way by attending the Holy Sacrifice at St. James's, Spanish Place at which we received the ashes of repentance to begin the Christian war of defence with holy fasts, protected with the help of self-denial.

As ever, the choir assisted in our devotions as we enter into this great season of preparation for the coming passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord over the Triduum Sacrum. An appropriately sombre yet powerful choice of singing both propers and ordinary of the Mass to the historic chant of the Church, recalling the penance of our brethren from former generations, with whom as Catholics we now share communion.

There is something most comforting that as we approach these great forty days we are surrounded by that great crowd of witnesses who for centuries marked this most solemn day with the same notes of humility, assonant with ages of lament for our shortcomings.

Yet as our minds turn from the Lord's nativity to His revelation as servant and sacrifice, we cannot but continue to ponder our Holy Father's momentous decision just days ago to abdicate the throne of Peter and instead enter his own wilderness of constant supplications for the Church for the remainder of his days. This example of prayer, modelled on Christ's own example, is a timely reminder that our hope is founded not on one man, but the Man, God from God, Light from Light, the Eternal High Priest.

Fr Irwin called us to a deeper devotion to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in his homily, charging us to grow closer to the Lord in spirit, and to put first things first, that is our eternal salvation in Christ, and last things last, the cares of the world and the Devil. Our prayer then, at this time of piety and fasting, recalls those great words of our Anglican Patrimony, beloved by our Holy Father and now reconciled to the Church of the Apostles.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam

Pope Benedict XVI has truly been our Pope.

We looked in from outside for years, but then his were the arms outstretched to welcome us into the embrace of our Holy Mother Church. His was the brilliant iniative that cut through the plethora of mealy-mouthed verbiage and foggy thinking that has characterized so much ecumenical activity in recent decades. His was the vision that found a way to make us see what was right and to allow us to bring so much of what has been good about Anglicanism with us. His was the reign in which we were at last united, by the Power of the Divine Will, into One Fold and under One Shepherd.

How better to remember him than with the footage of his arrival and departure from Mass at Westminster Cathedral. That day, as recounted before on these pages, was crucial in the process of our becoming Catholics.

Amidst the splendour of Westminster Cathedral, behind a procession of cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians, and to the accompaniment of James Macmillan’s splendid Tu es Petrus, there arrived the humble figure of a shy, smiling old man: full of love for the Almighty, and full of love for all of God’s creation, even this very Kingdom.

After the Mass, and after he had met with crowds of youngsters at the West Door, Pope Benedict processed out to Bruckner’s Ecce Sacerdos Magnus. Again, amidst the brilliance of the eight-part polyphonic singing and the sounding brass, there was that same gentle figure : who can fail to be moved by the smiles at the word Deo, as the soaring tenors sound out amidst the fortissimo chord, just as the procession reached the Shrine of St David.

Even if we feel sorrow at his departure from the Chair of St Peter, we give thanks to Almighty God for all that this Servant of the Servants of God has achieved, not only for us, among the least deserving of God’s children, but for all the Church and for all mankind.

We ask God’s blessing upon Pope Benedict, and in gratitude, faith and trust, call to mind these words of Our Lord.

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

A letter that we have come across from an FSSP priest in France sums up well the feelings of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, and provides sound words for this extraordinary time.

Dear faithful, it falls upon us to live the upcoming days with hope. What if we trusted the Holy Spirit? True, it will be necessary that we wait, for some weeks, to view it in all its tones: as in 2005, we will hear the assembly of "experts" explain to us one more time that the Church must change, that the faith must change, that morals must change. Some will expect the election of a "modern" pope, "living according to his time", wearing a white suit and dark glasses and proposing the marriage of priests, opening the priesthood to women, favoring the remarriage of divorcees, and blessing the sacrosanct condom. We will hear, as usual, on television sets, before excited and obliging journalists, the priest who is outside the system, the defrocked one who wants to go back into service, the parishioner who is allergic to all things that recall the Church of the past, and, why not, some trendy exegetes or theologians who explain to us that everyone has been mistaken for two thousand years.

What matters, my dear friends, is to think that, after some inevitable disturbances, the Church will have a new leader, and that he will have the graces that are needed to accomplish his mission, just as his predecessor did.

He will know, as those who were before him on the chair of Peter, that nobody cares about an adulterated truth, and that the "evolutions" desired by some will fill neither our churches, nor our seminaries.

May the Lent that will begin this week move us to offer our prayers and our sacrifices for our Church, so that her future head will impart to us the love of truth and will guide us to heaven!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land

On this day it is time, more so than ever before, to get down on our knees, make reparation, and urgently plead for the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to restore her Dowry to its former grace and glory.

Be not angry, O Lord,
and remember our iniquity no more.
Behold, we are all your people.

Your holy city has become a wilderness.
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem has been made desolate.

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Fulfilling all righteousness

The Feast of Candlemas gave even greater cause for celebration this year than simply marking the conclusion of the Christmas cycle. Mr Harry Smith recovered the communion first enjoyed at his baptism when he was received by Fr James Bradley into Holy Mother Church. Harry has regularly worshipped with the Marylebone Ordinariate Group since first expressing his desire to return to the one true fold and pleasingly strengthens the contingent of those formerly connected to Pusey House now united in communion with Peter. We give thanks for his journey into the Church and pray that he may continue to deepen his love for Christ and His Church.

Below we include the homily from Candlemas along with a number of photographs taken of the liturgy.

"Our Saviour was born without sin. His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, need have made no offering, as requiring no purification. On the contrary, it was that very birth of the Son of God which sanctifies the whole race of woman, and turned her curse into a blessing. Nevertheless, as Christ himself was minded to ‘fulfil all righteousness’ (Mt 3:13), to obey all ordinances of the covenant under which he was born, so in like manner his Mother Mary submitted to the Law, in order to do it reverence."

These words of our patron, Blessed John Henry Newman, remind us of two points which we might usefully consider as we come to this feast today. First, we are here because of the obedience of Our Blessed Lady, both in her acceptance of the will of God in her fiat, her ‘yes’ to the Lord’s will at the annunciation, and in her obedience to the Law, laid down in the Book of Exodus and Leviticus: ‘Consecrate to me all the first-born’ (Ex. 13: 1).

Secondly, we are here because the Lord himself - although, as Newman says, he was ‘requiring no purification’ - nonetheless submits himself to the Law with humility, out of love for his heavenly Father and for those - for us! - he came to redeem. God became Man, but as if that is not enough, he submits himself to the Law prescribed for those who are in need of the very thing which he embodies.

These two traits, which are in actual fact personified in Our Lady and Our Lord - that is obedience and humility - are central not only to our understanding of this great and glorious feast of the Church’s year, but the entire Christian life, which summons us to grow in likeness of Christ through the example he gives us in himself and in the saints.

Harry: in some profound way you are embodying these traits today as you come in humble obedience to Holy Mother Church and ask for the grace to persevere in a deepening relation with the Lord. In full communion with the Church, you are placing no obstacles between yourself and God’s favour, allowing him to do what he desires above all things, to prepare you for eternal life in the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem.

When we come to the Lord in this way - by reception into the Church, and in our ongoing and continual reconciliation with the Church through the Sacrament of Confession - we open ourselves unconditionally to God’s love, in order that he might convert our hearts and our lives in an ever-more profound way, and draw us more closely to him. We should expect this to be a great joy, but also a great challenge to our human inclination to err, and so it is only with the grace which we receive in the sacraments - and particularly in the Holy Eucharist - that we can ever hope to succeed.

And if all this seems a daunting task, we should remember that the humility shown us in Christ is not an aspect of Our Lord’s divine nature, but his human nature. As St Thomas Aquinas reminds us, ‘Humility cannot befit God, who has no superior’. Christ accepted humility, and obeyed the Law as we must, and through his humanity: he shows us the way to perfect our lives. In him we are presented not only with the fullness of life in God - what we hope one day to attain in heaven - but also the fullness of human existence, which is humble before the Lord in all things, even to the point of death, death on a cross (cf. Phill. 2).

Harry: let the humility and obedience of Christ and his blessed Mother be yours today. And recognise, too, the example you are offering, to us who rejoice with you in the Church, and to those who long to do so. Let your whole life take on a new ardour and purpose - letting the bright light of Christ radiate through you, so that he may draw all men together in one, that the world may believe. 

The liturgical theologian, Romano Guardini, once said, “As one candle is lit from the flame of another, so is faith kindled by faith”. Use the grace which the Lord offers to you in abundance in your new life fully united to him, not only to grow in grace and virtue, perfecting each day the very essence of your person, but in order to bring others to the gladdening light of his pure glory. 

As the light of the Candlemas flame has been passed to you, and as the guaranteed fullness of God’s grace is passed to you in communion with the apostles, allow that flame of faith to consume your life entirely - as a holocaust, a wholly consumed offering to the Lord - that he may (through you) bring others into the life we share with him, and bring you into a closer and more profound union with him, that one day we may see face-to-face the salvation prepared for all people, the glory of Israel, even Christ the Lord. Amen.