Tuesday, November 24, 2015

St Andrew Dung-Lac and his Companions - Martyrs of Vietnam

Before the Vietnam War, most people in English-speaking countries knew little about Vietnam, except that it was an obscure part of “Indo-China.” Today, however, as a consequence of that terrible conflict, so many Vietnamese people are dispersed throughout the world, and they have blended into the countries that received them. One of the things that was apparent right from the start of this process is the deep faith of Vietnamese Christians. Indeed, there are many Vietnamese priests serving in Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the world.

This vibrant faith was nurtured by persecution. French missionaries first preached the Gospel and planted the Church among the Vietnamese people from the early 17th century onward. Many people were converted to the Lord in the 18th century and up until 1819.  

But at the order of Emperor Minh-Mang, who reigned from 1820 to 1841, a brutal persecution began. Indeed, Minh-Mang is often referred to as “Vietnam’s Emperor Nero.” On 6th January, 1833, he ordered all Christians to renounce their faith, and as a sign of that renunciation to tread a crucifix under foot. Churches and religious houses were destroyed. The death penalty was decreed for all priests. Many thousands died in the prolonged massacre, among them not only missionary clergy and religious, but also huge numbers of indigenous Christians, priests, religious and laity.

Although following the death of Minh-Mang there was a time of relative freedom, after a while new legislation came into being that resumed the war of hatred against Christians. Only in 1862 did the anti-Christian movement begin to abate, thanks to the imposition of religious liberty by the French. When by 1883 it became clear that this tolerance had not been fully implemented, the French government took over Vietnam as one of its protectorates. Vietnam remained a French protectorate until 1954. In the 1960s the country had a population of 31 million and a well-organized Catholic population of 2.25 million, governed by indigenous bishops, and cared for by a flourishing network of religious communities. Following the turmoil of the Vietnam War and its aftermath, there are now six and a half million Catholics out of a total population of 90 million. There are also flourishing evangelical protestant communities.

Few nations have had to pay so dearly for the Gospel and the Faith. As many as 100,000 had been martyred in Vietnam by 1800. In the 19th century the numbers increased, with between 100,000 and 300,000 executed. It would have been impossible to canonise all these martyrs one by one. So, groups of them, totaling 117, were beatified on four different occasions, including eight missionary bishops, several missionary priests, and a large number of indigineous victims: priests and religious, and lay people, some killed simply for sheltering priests. Among the “blessed” were one woman, Agnes Le thi Thanh and one boy, Joseph Tuc, aged nine.  

On 19th June, 1988, Pope John Paul II canonised these 117. Their feast day is today, November 24. The group used to be referred to as “the Martyrs of Tonkin.” Since their canonisation they are called “St Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, Martyrs.” 

Andrew was a diocesan priest. His name was originally Dung An Trân, and he was born around 1795 to a poor family in Bac-Ninh in North Vietnam. When he was twelve the family had to move to Hà-Nôi (Hanoi) where his parents could find work. There he met a catechist who gave him food and shelter. The catechist brought him to Jesus and for three years taught him the Christian Faith. Dung An Trân was baptized in Vinh-Tri with the Christian name Andrew. 

After learning Chinese and Latin he, too, became a catechist. Then he was chosen to study theology, and on 15th March 1823 he was ordained to the priesthood. In his parish of Ke-Dâm Andrew he was tireless in his ministry. He fasted often and lived a simple life. He preached and lived the Gospel, and many became Christians through his witness. 

In 1835 during Emperor Minh-Mang’s persecutions he was imprisoned, but his freedom was purchased by donations from his people. To avoid persecution he changed his name to Lac (Andrew Lac) and moved to another prefecture where he could continue his work. But on 10th November 1839 he was again arrested, this time with Peter Thi, another Vietnamese priest who had come to visit in order to make his confession.

Once again Andrew was set free, along with Peter Thi, in exchange for money. But their freedom was brief. They were soon re-arrested and taken to Hanoi, where both were tortured. Finally they were beheaded on 21st December 1839. 

One of the Vietnamese martyrs, St Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, executed in 1843, sent a letter from prison to the seminarians of Ke-Vinh. His words reveal the faith and the heroism of these saints:

“I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily . . . the prison here is a true image of everlasting hell; to cruel tortures of every kind - shackles, iron chairs, manacles - are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief.  But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; He has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, ‘for His mercy is forever.’

“In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone - Christ is with me.  Our Master bears the whole weight of the cross, leaving me only the tiniest, last bit . . .

“Come to me with the aid of your prayers, that I may have the strength to fight . . . We may not again see each other in this life.  But we will have the happiness of seeing each other again in the world to come, when, standing at the throne of the spotless Lamb, we will together join in singing His praises and exult forever in the joy of our triumph.  Amen.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Father Stanton preaching on the Poverty of Jesus

Here is a real treat - a transcript of Father Arthur Stanton's sermon on the Poverty of Jesus, preached at the St Alban's Holborn Monday night mission service on 19th December, 1910. Go HERE for some background on the "slum ritualist" Father Stanton, one of the heroes and evangelists of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. 

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
 that, though He was rich, 
yet for your sakes He became poor, 
that ye through His poverty might be rich.” 
(2 Corinthians viii. 9)

Now isn’t that a beautiful text? First of all it is so beautiful because of the “For you know.” When you speak to people about something they know, you interest them at once. If I were to speak to you about something of which you know nothing whatever, you would not be in the least interested; but directly I begin to speak to you about something which you know, you are at once all attention. A young man came up from the country out of Gloucestershire to see me the other day, and he interested me, and I interested him, because he told me all about the country I know. We talked about the valleys and the hills, and the beautiful views, and the broad river Severn flowing all down the valley and opening into the Bristol Channel. He was quite interested in me, and I was quite interested in him. We talked about what we knew.

And so, dear brethren, on this last night in Advent I speak to you in the most simple way I can. It is a subject which we all know. There is nothing uncommon about it, or nothing I have to teach you about it. You and I are on the same platform exactly tonight. I only lead your thoughts back to the old story of Jesus and his love, Whom we know. You and I, every one of us, at least I hope we know the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Why did you come this evening, if you didn’t? Here in the midst of your busy Christmas preparations, you have all come this evening, because you love the sweetness of the old story. 
You know the grace of our Lord Christ — It is the woof and the warp of our religious experience. It is the sweet Gospel story, the music of which calls us away because it is the melody of our souls. It is the joy of our hearts. We say we are saved by grace. If you have got a dear human sympathetic heart, it is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in you. A young man came to me yesterday, he put a sovereign into my hand, and he said: “Give it to some poor chap that wants help.” It was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Of course that is why men say: “Hail Mary, of grace.”  What is Mary’s grace?“ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we honour Mary “full of grace,” we honour Christ. When we praise the grace of any Saint, we praise Christ. There is no grace beyond the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you have gracious feelings in your heart and you love to do some good to someone, to say some kind word, why, it is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ — of course it is. Haven’t you ever noticed that the doxology we say at the end of our service is put into rather peculiar order? When you talk about grace you put the Saviour first. You notice that, don’t you? It is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.” And the reason is this: It is the grace of our Lord Jesus that comes to us first. It is the way the Trinity touches us, because you can see this: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the love of God, and the love of God is the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. There you are. Then doesn’t the text open beautifully?
"To know Him not as Angels do above.
They know and sing the wonders of His Love 
To fallen, ruined, guilty, sinful man,
But I would know as Angels never can.

"To know Him in His depth of Love to me,
The poorest, weakest, vilest though I be,
His lost one whom He came to seek and save.
His loved one for whose life Himself He gave.

"To know Him as the All in All to me.
All mine for time, All for Eternity,
And in each gift, of Providence and Grace 
Himself in all His loveliness to trace."

Do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? I hope you do, for if you know it, you have the gospel in your heart. You come into business with it as an asset — your knowledge can be appealed to.

Then “He was rich.” There is no doubt about that: “He was rich,” very God of very God, Lord of all. When we say rich, we only use the accommodation of terms. We speak of rich and poor. All things were His from the very beginning. The sea is His, He made it. All the treasures of the ocean are His. He made the earth. All the mysteries of creation; all the things which surround us on earth are His. All that is made and was made, and that ever shall be or is, is His. He possesses all things, Lord of all, from the beginning. Lo, He was rich, and when we use that term we say one word explains it all: “God.”  “God.”  “God of Gods.” “Light of Lights,” My God. O God, thou art my God. Behold! He was rich . . .

“He held the highest place above.
Adored by sons of flame.
Yet such His self-denying love,
He laid aside His Crown, and came 
To seek the lost, at any cost 
Of Heavenly rank, and earthly fame,
He sought me - Blessed be His Name.

“It was a lonely path He trod,
From every human soul apart,
Known only to Himself and God 
Was the deep grief that filled His heart;
Yet from the track He turned not back 
Till, where I lay in sin and shame 
He found me - Blessed be His Name.”

Oh! He was rich. And God shall be the humblest of all, because He came from the highest place. No one feels poverty so keenly as they who have been rich, and Jesus had all at His command. “Yet He became poor,” and the whole history of the Master is one of poverty - just as we read - (that is why I read it to you) - He was born in a stable. The people said, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Then when He went on His ministry, “He had not where to lay His head.” And then they scourged Him, maltreated Him, stripped Him quite naked of everything. He died naked on the Cross, stripped of everything. And then they laid Him in a charity grave. “Who for our sakes became poor.” 

Our dear Master – you can never get away from that - our dear Master was poor. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.” (Philippians ii.5-8) 

“Come, give me rest, and take  
The only rest on earth 
Thou livest within, 
A heart that for Thy sake 
is broken, bleeding, penitent for sin.

“Birds have their quiet nests, 
Foxes their holes, 
and man his peaceful bed. 
All creatures have their rest.
But Jesus hath not where to lay His Head.”
And now I want to lead your thoughts for one moment to “for our sakes,” because there is a sweetness in that “for our sakes.” Why ever did He Who lived in the Deity in Trinity ever wish to create us at all? Why has God made man? It is such an extraordinary thing! The question is why did He do it? Why ever did the Great God Who as the Blessed Trinity made the world, why did He come down and be born in a stable? Why did He do it? And the secret lies in the essence of Deity; because God is revealed to us in His essence as Love. It is not an attribute; it is His essence. God is love, and love always goes out of itself; so leaving His essential glory, He willed to take upon Himself our humanity - Love going out of itself. And mark what love does always: it makes the choice, chooses, and He chose us. 
St Augustine says: “God made man for Himself.” Well, He was perfect, why did he want them for Himself? Because of the overflowing of His Sacred Heart. And having chosen us, as love always will, He devoted Himself to us, for devotion is the second course in love, us you all know from the holy love in your hearts. It is devotion. If love your friend, you will be the devoted friend. 
And then the third attribute of love is this: Union which is the crown - So the Master says: “I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also” (John xiv. 23). He wants us to be in heaven.
“Who for our sakes.” Don’t forget, “for our sakes.” And I tell you straight: if you want a sweet little motto to stir you to a good Christian act, here it is - three words - ”For Christ’s sake.” If you have a picture in your room of the dear Master dying, perhaps you have put underneath: “For my sake” Well, write in your heart this : “For Christ’s sake.” And do all the good you do “for Christ’s sake,” and abstain from doing what is wrong “for Christ’s sake . . . Who though He was rich, for our sakes became poor.” 
And then the last - for I have no time: the last is “that we through His poverty might be rich” - rich not with paltry pelf, but with grace. What do you think are the two best gifts given to mortal man? “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ” - “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost”; and immortality too, for to mortal man, to dying man, there is no gift like immortality - and He it is who brought grace and immortality too. By His glorious Gospel we preach immortality. “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John xi, 26) That is our Gospel. We are sons of God and heirs of immortality.
We are strangers and pilgrims here on earth, but we look for a better country, a heavenly, and God is not ashamed to be called our God, and has prepared for us a city (see Hebrews xi, 16). My brethren, don’t let the sordid worldliness by which we are surrounded keep you down. We are all of the earth earthy, and lose sight of the Lord of heaven.
And last of all, dear brethren, might I say this to you? If you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was rich and for your sake became poor, don’t any of you enjoy your comforts at Christmas unless you have thought of the poor. Don’t sit in your warm room over the fire, smoking your pipe, or reading your paper, and care nothing for the poor who have got no home. Don’t, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who though He was rich, for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might be made rich; and may the sweet Gospel text ring in your hearts again and again.

(From Father Stanton's Last Sermons in S. Alban's, Holborn, Ed E.F. Russell, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1916)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

35 years ago this day . . .

For me, today's Mass of St Martin of Tours is a special celebration of God’s faithfulness over the 35 years I have been a priest in his Church. Ordained on 11th November 1980 at St Paul’s Ballarat (Australia) by Bishop John Hazlewood, I give thanks to God for these words of Father Robert Beal (before he became Bishop of Wangaratta) who was our retreat conductor and preacher at the ordination Mass. I have returned to them so many times over the years:

“It is your task, my brothers, 
to beckon the world’s gaze to the crucifix,
and to point to those wounds 
on the Body of the King of glory. 
We gaze at the God-man, 
and are confronted with the Truth 
that will make men free.”

The photos above are from the ordination. The second one is the actual “moment.” I’m not visible in that one. As was often the case in my fairly poor footballing days (Rugby League) at high school, I'm in the middle of the scrum! In the foreground is Mark Sumner who was also ordained to the priesthood that night.  

Today I thank God for his saving grace, his forgiveness, his love, his healing power, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I thank him for the thousands of times I have been privileged to lead the rejoicing throng to the altar of God where, united with the Eternal Offering of our Great High Priest, we have been swept into the worship of heaven. I thank him for those who influenced my vocation from right across the Christian traditions and helped me to respond. I thank him for family members, parishioners and friends whose love, prayers and generosity of support over this time have made it possible for me to embrace both the joys and the sorrows of the priestly ministry. I thank him for those who have forgiven my mistakes and failures. 

Please continue to pray for me, and for all priests, as we seek - often falteringly - to live according to these precious words of St Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4-10:

We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Finally, I share with you this wonderful hymn of Charles Wesley - one of the first hymns I learned to accompany as a fledgling organist! - which so long ago in my teenage years I made my own. It has never failed to move me, strengthen me, and nourish me. It has often helped me keep everything in perspective:

Jesus! the Name high over all,
In hell or earth or sky;
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.

Jesus! the Name to sinners dear,
The Name to sinners giv’n;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to Heav’n.

Jesus! the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
And life into the dead.

O that mankind might taste and see
The riches of his grace!
The arms of love that compass me
Would all the world embrace.

Thee I shall constantly proclaim,
Though earth and hell oppose;
Bold to confess thy glorious Name
Before a world of foes.

His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
’Tis all my business here below
To cry “Behold the Lamb!”

Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp his Name,
Preach him to all and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!”

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran

Today is the feast of a church building - the Basilica of St John Lateran. When we think of Rome, we usually think of St Peter’s. But St John Lateran is actually the Pope’s own church, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. It was the first church built after Constantine brought the persecution of Christians to an end in 313, on land that had been in the hands of the Laterni family, hence the basilica’s name. Dedicated in 324, the Bishops of Rome lived and presided there until 1309 saw the Papacy move to Avignon. When the Avignon sojourn came to an end in 1377, because of accumulated damage at St John Lateran, the Bishop of Rome lived at the Basilica of St Maria in Trastevere and later at the Basilica of St Maria Maggiore. Eventually, the Palace of the Vatican was built adjacent to the Basilica of St Peter, which had also existed from Constantine’s day. This project began in 1477 and went on for 150 years.

It is typical of the Catholic tradition that on the day when we celebrate a church building, the Mass readings chosen remind us in the strongest possible terms that the Church is in essence not a literal building at all, but a community of faith, love and prayer being built Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. The First Reading (Ezekiel 47:1-12) is the prophet’s vision of the river of life flowing from the altar of the temple out into the desert places, and the Gospel is about the purification of the temple (John 2:13-22). Particularly challenging is the Epistle (1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17):

We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.

There have been times of persecution and war when Christians have experienced the loss of magnificent buildings, together with many of the accoutrements of worship, and they (and their enemies) have realised the truth that the real temple, the real Church, is the community being built by Jesus, in which we are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:2-5), with Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In times like that, Christians have worshipped in farmhouse kitchens, city houses and remote outdoor locations. Cynical people - Christians and non-christians alike - sometimes say that the peacetime construction of huge edifices housing magnificent works of art is an aspect of corrupt instutionalisation in the Church’s life. And, indeed, the Scriptures as well as many Saints throughout the ages warn against the Faith being reduced to its externals. But it is the nature of love to express itself exuberantly. In every culture, time and place, when it has been possible to do so, Christians have responded to the God of love, truth and beauty by creating, not just works of art, music and poetry, but also beautiful buildings in which we gather as Church to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Saviour’s love. 

Here is a virtual tour of the Basilica of St John Lateran, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. (Click on places in the list on the left hand side)

  1. Apse

It | En

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mother Rita Mary CCK - The Eulogy given at her Funeral Mass by Bishop David Robarts OAM

Mother Rita Mary Posa CCK
Born: 18th March, 1925
Solemnly Professed: 9th June, 1957
Dies: 16th October, 2015

On 23rd October, 2015, in the Chapel of St John's Village, Wangaratta (Australia), the funeral took place of Mother Rita Mary Posa CCK, Superior of The Community of Christ the King, Taminick. At Mother's invitation I had spent large slabs of 2010, 2011 and 2012 living in the CCK hermitage, sharing in the Community's life, helping in the ministry with those who came on retreat, and ensuring a daily Mass. It was a special time in my life and ministry, and I received far more than I gave. I then became one of the many whom Mother regularly contacted, encouraged and counselled by email until very recently. Her Funeral Mass was celebrated by The Rt Rev'd John Ford, Bishop of The Murray, and Episcopal Visitor to the Community. The Eulogy was given by The Rt Rev'd David Robarts OAM, long-time friend, spiritual guide to the Community and regular retreat conductor for the Sisters and Oblates. It is reproduced here - with his permission - as a tribute to a remarkable woman of God:

As a text, some words from the final of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets : Little Gidding. 

“With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling 
We shall not cease from exploration 
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.” 
The drawing power of Love and the Call of God : these have been key elements in the life of Mother Rita Mary and the remarkable pilgrimage which has emerged from them. Wherever this exploration led her it was always initiated by God and led to Him anew. For the true and living God was both the source and homing point of her exploring. God, ever new and renewing, still, yet still moving her deep within, but also utterly beyond her. God ,  ever fresh in discovery yet wonderfully familiar in recognition. 

Rita Posa was born in Western Australia’s rural town of Bruce Rock in 1925, the fourth in a household of six children. Though baptized an Anglican, her earliest formative influence was Methodist. This gave her both a strong love of the Bible and a profound sense of the immediacy of Jesus in her life. Indeed, a Godly Minister so inculcated a sense of the power of God’s forgiveness that it led later to her first Confession. There the initial sense of joyful release continued with her through regular and frequent Confession as a lifelong activity. 

The next formative influence was during her time as a boarder at St. Joseph’s Convent School . The sense of worship at Mass so enraptured her that she encouraged everyone to pray that she might become a Roman Catholic. God answered her prayers in a strange way. In her Matriculation year Rita became very seriously ill with bronchial pneumonia which took her to the gates of death. During a long convalescence, Sunday by Sunday, the bells of the nearby Anglican Church rang out until she heeded their call. One evening she went to their source when, as she said, “God claimed me for His own”. Instruction followed and Rita was Confirmed on St Francis Day in 1940; always thereafter an important day in her calendar. 

At the end of the Second World War Rita was encouraged by her Rector to enrol at the newly opened St. Christopher’s College in Melbourne where women were trained in teaching Religious Education. The Principal there, an inspiring woman who embodied the College motto : “In Christo Vita” - in Christ  we live – became her mentor. After graduation, Rita returned to Perth, then a missionary diocese – having served there for 13 years myself, one might perhaps say, it still is! - where she became a Parish worker. Here she was blessed by the zeal and sound theology of able missionary priests from England. However, a sense of Calling to a Religious vocation began to impress itself. Nonetheless, Rita spent a further three years as Diocesan Youth organizer in Tasmania. This, and the influence of Father Bruce McCall, later to become Theodore, Bishop of Wangaratta, hastened her steps to Cheltenham and the Community of the Holy Name (CHN). 

After her Clothing with CHN in 1955 – she was Professed in 1957 – Sister Rita Mary spent 17 years of demanding but fulfilling ministry at the Mission House in Melbourne, first in Spring St, then in Fitzroy. This meant Child and Adult Court work, visiting at Fairlea women’s prison, and Winlaton Youth Correctional Facility for girls. Here amidst so much raw human frailty and brokenness she discovered the extraordinary strength of  love and loyalty  shared by  recidivists and down and outs with families and friends. All this gave a depth of compassion  - and sometimes simply a passion - to Sister Rita Mary for the underdog and the marginalized and those dismissively labelled as no-hopers. Part of her Gospel armoury was the conviction that “ the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost”. 

There were, however, two three year breaks during this period, at Dogura in Papua New Guinea with Holy Name School, each of which left their mark. The first provided the joy of living in a community almost completely Christian which was focussed on the Cathedral and its worship. This also brought home the truth to her that there is war in heaven; that where the Lord is, and is at work, evil will be powerfully present to try and destroy His work. This involved personal attacks for herself with overwhelming negative thoughts from which she was rescued by her daily Communions and the wisdom of a Franciscan confessor. 

The second trip, ten years later, brought entirely different lessons. During the intervening years the world of government grants and transistor radios had taken over. Cathedral worship was no longer a joy but experienced as boring and resented. The world, she discovered, was a far more deadly enemy than Satan – or, rather, was it Satan in a new guise? As one biblical scholar has rightly discerned, “the strength of the Powers today is that they seem not to be”. In other words secular humanism and hedonist materialism may not appear to be demonic but their fruits – division, disintegration, and dehumanization  -  reveal the hand of the same enemy. 

It was at this time that Sister Rita Mary realized the need to respond to an awareness she had  known  since before her Profession, and heed “ the drawing of this Love” and “the voice of this Calling” to be led from active Missionary work to a Life of Prayer within Enclosure. In this she was not alone and in 1975 the opportunity was given to her and others including Sisters Margery, Clare, and Patience, to test such a calling within the CHN. Thus began, Mother says, the most wonderful part of her life as a nun: the task of being part of the Foundation of an Enclosed Contemplative Community. 

In 1990, at the invitation of Bishop Robert Beal, the enclosed sisters moved to Taminick; in 1994 becoming the Community of Christ the King, and  then in 1997, after much prayer and consultation, adopting the Rule of St Benedict. It has been a difficult vision to translate. Mother observed seven years ago that “today the task is no nearer its goal than it was in the beginning. Indeed, one wonders if it is going to die before it has even been born. Yet we know the work is the Lord’s , and if our task is  simply to sow seeds  then if we are true to our longing to know God as He knows us, He will bring it to completion in His own good time”. 

These are perceptive and challenging words to be pondered and prayed over variously by members of the Taminick property’s Company, by Oblates, and by Friends of CCK, as we look to the future. I have mentioned Oblates, numbers of whom are participating in this Requiem Mass.  Here we have one tangible fruit of Mother’s vision: they take with them, and translate into their lives, the way of St Benedict which has been embraced and embodied by this Community. 
Mother’s own thoughts here lead me to reflect further on T S Eliot: “As we grow older The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated of dead and living. Not the intense moment  Isolated, with no before and after, But a lifetime burning in every moment... Here and there does not matter  We must be still and still moving into another intensity For a further union a deeper communion”. Indeed we must, my friends. Mother understood that in God’s hands and in God’s time all our endeavours, if they are initiated by His Spirit, will become something more.  He is never a God of diminishing returns. All life in this sense is a preparation for something more.  

It is time for me to speak personally. For over sixty years, more than twenty of them as Spiritual Advisor to this Community, I have been privileged and richly blessed by being actively associated  with Religious Communities of various kinds: from regulated convents and monasteries, to an  Indian Ashram translated to  Jerusalem, to Charles de Foucauld’s Little Sisters of Jesus living alongside fringe dwelling aborigines next to the Alice Springs rubbish dump. 

 These are the serious people,  the explorers and pilgrims, seeking God with all  their heart and the sort of life He wants for them. They have saved my sanity – just, but also caused  me much  cultural and spiritual dissonance, as I have spent too many years in the unreal world of  political make believe within the Church’s corridors of power. It is the pilgrims and explorers, I believe, who live in the real world; they are God’s front line troops in the spiritual warfare, and they are the praying heart of the Church. Without them the Church would have destroyed itself long ago. 

This brings me to CCK and Mother Rita Mary. I say, respectfully, that she was a rare bird: a contemplative charismatic. When I came to Taminick to lead a Retreat, or whatever, I never quite knew what God might have in store for me, but I would soon find out. Mother would be fired up  with a new cause – or an old one revisited. The spring at the end of the property was a dark place, and it certainly was; so we headed down there with Ritual and Holy Water in hand to give it literally a spring clean. Lambs had got out through a hole in the fence, so we had to hot foot it after dark to get them back to their mothers. And so on and so on. Mother was driven by things many and varied from liturgy to bird baths. 

Oh yes! Mother could be contradictory, wilful, vulnerably human, bossy, and a good deal more. Ah! But she so loved God. She loved Him with every fibre of her being, and especially His Son on the Cross. Mother returned often to that spiritual pioneer Father Gilbert Shaw and a particular saying of his:“In stillness nailed, to hold all time, all change, all circumstances, in and to Love’s embrace.” Those 14 Stations of the Cross at the property which silently address us to stop and wonder afresh at the mystery of the Crucified God: these, not least, will continue as a Memorial to Mother Rita Mary. 

Mother knew that Prayer was the most necessary, if the most demanding and exhausting, of activities. This was why CCK existed, as a living witness to the fact. This is what we are for. Those cedar boxes on, and those books beside, and under, the Altar; all those little bits of paper with names on them that fill up the boxes – these are people in their need of God. These are people to be brought before Him, for healing, for wholeness, for salvation. Kyrie Eleison. It is for us to hold this broken world and its children in prayer and in Christ until He comes. Countless men and women, from  near and far, have been upheld and inspired by Mother Rita Mary’s unswerving devotion to the Lord of Life and her tireless loving care for His children. 

For me, as the years passed, what I came to treasure most were the early morning Offices, generally with only the Sisters present. Often cold and sleepy but alert at 4.30am, Mattins, and after that silence, followed by Lauds and the dawn of a new day. Ah! The silence: the Living God awaiting and holding us there. In the unforgettable words of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins: 

Elected  silence sing to me 
And beat upon my whorle’d ear, 
Pipe me to pastures still and be 
The music that I care to hear. 

And now our dear, driven, waiting and worshipping, utterly self-giving , Mother Rita Mary has been piped to pastures still, and is at one with the music that she cared to hear. We will go on together, deeper and deeper, into that unfathomable mystery we name as God, the Living and True. He, in whom all our longings and yearnings will come home at last. 

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling  
We shall not cease from exploration 
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pope Benedict - Purgatory as encounter with the love of Christ

Here are some stunning words from Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) about "purgatory" as an encounter with the love of Christ:

"Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e., capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy." (Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, page 229)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Newman's Published Sermons - A Chronological Index (with links)

Many of Newman’s sermons survive, as this index demonstrates. However, a perusal of the dates shows that this is but a selection of his preaching. As an Anglican, he preferred to read his sermons, and to be “reverently” and meticuluously prepared. When he became a Roman Catholic he read sermons  only on special occasions; usually, though clearly no less prepared, he preached extempore as was the Roman Catholic custom. This was obviously not difficult for him to do. Indeed, we know that most of the summary notes of his later preaching were written out not before but after the sermon in question had been preached. Newman's published Anglican sermons are widely regarded as masterpieces of English prose and spiritual reflection. He continued to publish them (and, it appears, sometimes to preach them again) as a Roman Catholic. This chronological index is useful, because it shows (1) a natural development in his convictions; yet at the same time (2) how little his core beliefs changed throughout his life.

by date preached (or written)

This Index is dapted from: 

1825 Jan 23
1825 Jun 12
1825 Dec 18
1825 Dec 25 R
1826 Jul 2
1826 Aug
1828 Jun 15
1828 Jul 27
1829 Mar 8
1829 Mar 15
1829 May 24
1829 Jun 14
1829 Jul 19
1829 Nov 8, 15, 22
1829 Nov 29
1829 Dec 13
1829 Dec 20 E2
1829 Dec 20
1830 Feb 21
1830 Mar 28
1830 Mar 21
1830 Apr 13
1830 May 2 R
1830 May 9 R
1830 May 16
1830 May 23
1830 Aug 1
1830 Sep 5
1830 Sep 12
1830 Oct 17
1830 Oct 24
1830 Oct 28
1830 Oct 31
1830 Nov 14
1830 Nov 30 R
1831 Jan 1
1831 Jan 25
1831 Feb 2
1831 Mar 6
1831 Mar 27
1831 Apr 3 R
1831 Apr 24
1831 Apr 25
1831 May 8
1831 May 15
1831 May 22
1831 Jun 5
1831 Jun 24 R
1831 Jun 26
1831 Jul 3
1831 Jul 17
1831 Jul 25
1831 Aug 24 E
1831 Sep 29
1831 Oct 9
1831 Oct 18
1831 Oct 23
1831 Oct 30
1831 Nov 6
1831 Nov 20
1831 Nov 30
1831 Dec 4
1831 Dec 11
1831 Dec 25
1831 Dec 27
1832 Jan 1
1832 Jan 22
1832 Jan 25
1832 Feb 24
1832 Mar 25
1832 Apr 8
1832 Apr 15
1832 Apr 22
1832 May 27
1832 Aug 26
1832 Sep 2
1832 Oct 14
1832 Nov 4
1832 Dec 2
1833 Jul 21
1833 Dec 22
1833 Dec 28
1834 Jun 8
1834 Sep 14
1834 Oct 19
1834 Oct 26
1834 Nov 2
1834 Dec 14
1834 Dec 21
1834 Dec 25
1834 Dec 27
1834 Year end
1834 Year end
1834 Year end
1834 Year end
1834 Year end
1834 Year end
1835 Jan-Feb
1835 Jan-Feb
1835 Jan-Feb
1835 Jan-Feb
1835 Jan-Feb
1835 Feb 1
1835 Feb 8
1835 Feb 22
1835 Mar 8
1835 Mar 22
1835 Apr 5
1835 Apr 12
1835 May 3
1835 May 17
1835 May 24
1835 Oct 25
1835 Nov 1
1835 Nov 8
1835 Nov 15
1836 Feb 21
1836 Mar 13
1836 Mar 20
1836 Mar 27
1836 Apr 1
1836 Apr 26
1836 May 29
1836 Jun 12
1836 Aug 14
1836 Oct 23
1836 Oct 30
1836 Nov 1
1836 Nov 6
1836 Nov 13
1836 Nov 20
1836 Dec 4
1836 or 1837
1837 Jan 1
1837 Mar 26 A
1837 Apr 2
1837 Apr 30
1837 May 7
1837 May 14
1837 May 21
1837 Jun 25
1837 Jul 9
1837 Jul 16
1837 Aug 6
1837 Sep 10
1837 Oct 22
1837 Oct 29
1837 Nov 12 & 26
1837 Dec 3
1837 Dec 10
1837 Dec 25
1838 Feb 11
1838 Feb 25
1838 Mar 4
1838 Mar 18
1838 Mar 25
1838 Apr 1
1838 Apr 15
1838 Apr 22
1838 May 6
1838 May 13
1838 May 20 & 27
1838 May 24
1838 Sep 22
1838 Nov 4
1838 Nov 18
1838 Nov 25
1838 Dec 2
1838 Dec 9
1838 Dec 16
1839 Epiphany
1839 Jan 13
1839 Feb 10
1839 Feb 17
1839 Feb 24
1839 Mar 3
1839 Mar 10
1839 Mar 31
1839 May 21
1839 May 26
1839 Jun 2
1839 Jun 9
1839 Sep 23
1839 Oct 5
1839 Dec 22
1840 Jan 12
1840 Jan 19
1840 Jan 26
1840 Mar 1
1840 Mar 15
1840 Mar 29
1840 Apr 12
1840 May 3
1840 May 10
1840 May 31
1840 Sep 22
1840 Nov 29 & Dec 6  
1840 Dec 13
1840 Dec 25
1840 St. Peter's Day
1841 Jan 17
1841 Jan 24
1841 Feb 28
1841 Mar 21
1841 Apr 9
1841 Jun 1
1841 Jun 13
1841 Jul 4
1841 Nov 28
1841 Dec 5
1841 Dec 12
1841 Dec 19
1842 Jan 23
1842 Jan 23
1842 Mar 25
1842 May 1
1842 Sep 22
1842 Oct 16
1842 Oct 30
1842 Nov 13
1842 Nov 20
1842 Nov 27
1842 Dec 4
1843 Feb 5 or 12
1843 Feb 19
1843 Feb 26
1843 Apr 30
Date not known
1843 Jun 4
1843 Sep 25
1843 Purification
1848 Jan 30
1848 Feb 20
1848 Feb 27
1848 Mar 5
1848 Mar 12
1848 Mar 19
1848 Mar 26
1849 Feb 2
1849 May 31
1850 Jan 15 & 18

1850 Oct 27

1852 Jul 13
1853 Nov 9
1859 Nov 11
1866 Oct 7
1870 Jul 31
1873 May 5
1873 Oct 2