Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Monica: the patron saint of all mothers who weep in prayer for their children



So many people have to struggle against the odds, and not just in terms of projects attempted unsuccessfully or goals that prove to be illusive. Hardest of all is to cope with being surrounded by really difficult people - and in particular - living in the midst of a network of dysfunctional relationships.

Today is St Monica’s day. We know a little bit about Monica and the challenges she faced. How easy it would have been for her to have allowed her circumstances to turn her into a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and an utterly despairing parent. In fact, she didn’t let herself become any of those things. She was a woman of great godliness and faith, and that made her strong as well as loving.   

Monica had difficulties right from the start. Though she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa (in modern day Algeria). Although Patricius had some redeeming qualities, he had a fierce temper and was extremely promiscuous. In addition, Monica had cope with a very bad tempered mother-in-law who lived permanently in her home. Patricius criticised Monica constantly for her charity and Christian faith, although it is clear that he also respected her. 

In the end, through Monica’s prayers and the life she led, her husband became a Christian, and - even more remarkably - so did her mother-in-law. Patricius died in 371, one year after his baptism.

Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. Augustine, the eldest, is the famous one. At the time Patricius died, Augustine was 17 and studying rhetoric in Carthage. Monica was anguished to discover that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy and was living an immoral life. To start with, she wouldn’t let him eat or sleep in her house. But one night she had a vision in which she was assured that Augustine would return to the faith. She remained close to her son from that point on, praying for him with tears and fasting. (In fact, she was often closer than Augustine really wanted!)

In 383, when he was 29, Augustine - brilliant but still wayward - decided to teach rhetoric in Rome. Monica insisted on going. Clearly, Augustine wasn’t keen on this idea. So, one night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to farewell a friend. But instead, he got on a boat for Rome. The heartbroken Monica made up her mind to follow him. By the time she arrived in Rome, Augustine had left for Milan! In spite of the most difficult travelling conditions, Monica pursued him.

It was in Milan that Augustine came under the influence of the great bishop, Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. Monica accepted Ambrose’s advice in all things and demonstrated considerable humility in doing so. She became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.

Monica’s tearful prayers for Augustine persisted during the years he was learning the Faith. At Easter, 387, Augustine surrendered to the love and grace of God. Ambrose baptized him and some of his friends. Monica then became ill and suffered severely for nine days before her death. She shared with Augustine a profound experience of God. According to Augustine, who recorded it in his “Confessions”, Monica said, “For myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here.”

She also said to Augustine and his brother Nagivius, “The only thing I ask of you both is that you make remembrance of me at the altar of the Lord wherever you are.”

Monica died at age 56, in the year 387. She is the patron saint of all mothers who weep over their wayward children.


God, our heavenly Father,
you heard the supplication of your servant Monica 
when she cried to you in anguish and sorrow; 
teach us in all our asking
so to ask in your name
that our sorrow may be turned into joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 


Amen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Mary receiving the Eucharist



The Virgin Mary Receiving the Eucharist from Saint John the Apostle
Flemish School


Friday, August 16, 2019

S. Stephen of Hungary



I took this photo during the Chrism Mass 
at S. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest,
where I spent Holy Week, 2011. 

The first King of Hungary, Vaik (Vojk), born in 975, was the son of Hungarian chieftain G├ęza. They were baptised together in 985 by S. Adalbert, the Archbishop of Prague., and Vaik was given his Christian name, Stephen. In 995, he married Gisela, a sister of Henry, the Duke of Bavaria, the future Emperor S. Henry II, and in 997 he succeeded his father as chief of the Hungarian Magyars.

Stephen's vision for Hungary to become a Christian nation that was stable politically as well as a just, safe civilisation for its people, required a firm hand and the development of suitable administration. So he sent the Abbot Astricus to Rome to petition Pope Sylvester II for the royal dignity and the power to establish episcopal sees. The pope acceded to his wishes and, in addition, presented Stephen with a royal crown in recognition of his sovereignty.

As King of the Hungarians, Stephen sought above all to establish the nation on a sound moral foundation and to that end he suppressed blasphemy, murder, adultery and other public crimes, and established a feudal system throughout Hungary. To this day he is regarded as the architect of the independent realm of Hungary. 

Stephen founded a monastery in Jerusalem and hospices for pilgrims at Rome, Ravenna, and Constantinople. A close friend of St. Bruno, he also corresponded with St. Odilo of Cluny.

Unfortunately in his later years he had to deal with illness and family troubles. In 1031 his only son, Emeric, was killed on a bear hunt, this dashing Stephen's plans to transfer the reins of government to a genuinely Christian prince. Arguments arose among his nephews about the right of succession, and some of them even participated in a conspiracy against his life. 

S. Stephen of Hungary was buried beside his son at Stuhlweissenburg, and both were canonised together in 1083.

Here is the second reading from today's Office of Readings, taken from words written by S. Stephen to his son, Emeric:


Son, listen to your father's instruction

My dearest son, if you desire to honour the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession.  Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first propagated as she was by our head, Christ; then transplanted, firmly constituted and spread through the whole world by his members, the apostles and holy fathers. And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.

However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.  Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death. 

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain the heavenly kingdom.

From admonitions to his son by Saint Stephen
(Cap. 1, 2, 10; PL 151, 1236-1237, 1242-1244)





Thursday, August 15, 2019

Our Sister and our Mother in glory - Today's great celebration



From the Queen of Heaven stained glass window
in S. John's Horsham, Victoria, Australia.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics who love Our Lady must be grateful for the final document of ARCIC-II "Mary - Grace and Hope in Christ." Mind you, I think that the document does contain echoes of the theological paranoia not unknown in some Anglican traditions, as well as a slightly skewed interpretation of our history in relation to Marian theology. It is as if the Anglican representatives at that time on ARCIC-II were either prejudiced against or ignorant of the growing evidence for belief in "the Marian dogmas" of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption in the Anglican tradition . . . I suspect the latter. That having been said, however, it is significant that in Section 78 the ARCIC-II document is able to affirm:

- the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture, and only to be understood in the light of Scripture (paragraph 58);

- that in view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One, Christ's redeeming work reached 'back' in Mary to the depths of her being and to her earliest beginnings (paragraph 59);

- that the teaching about Mary in the two definitions of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, understood within the biblical pattern of the economy of hope and grace, can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions (paragraph 60);

- that this agreement, when accepted by our two Communions, would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context (paragraphs 61-63);

- that Mary has a continuing ministry which serves the ministry of Christ, our unique mediator, that Mary and the saints pray for the whole Church and that the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us is not communion-dividing.

We have just celebrated Our Lady's great day, when she, having come to the end of her earthly life, was taken up "body and soul" into heaven. It is a day for celebration, for music, art, poetry, and - in some places - even fireworks! It is a celebration that as one of us, by God's grace, Mary shares fully in the victory of her Son over death, a victory that we, too, will fully experience in the General Resurrection on the last day. The Assumption of Our Ldy reminds us of the profound sense in which the task of all our theologies - even papal pronouncements - is to "catch up" with the instinctive convictions of the Church down through the ages. That was the case historically, in terms of this Solemnity, and it is certainly the case for Christians journeying from an "anti-Marian" perspective to the fulness of faith in our time. 

So, today, I simply want to share with you some quotes that might enrich your meditation.

ST JOHN OF DAMASCUS  (d. 749)
"On this day the sacred and life-filled ark of the living God, she who conceived her Creator in her womb, rests in the Temple of the Lord that is not made with hands. David, her ancestor, leaps, and with him the angels lead the dance."

BISHOP THOMAS KEN (1637-1711)
Heaven with transcendent joys her entrance graced,
Next to his throne her Son his Mother placed;
And here below, now she's of heaven possest,
All generations are to call her blest.

HANS URS VON BALTHASAR (1905-1988)
From: You Crown the Year with Your Goodness: Sermons through the Liturgical Year, 186, 190-191
What . . . is the Church celebrating today? That a simple human body, inseparably united to its soul, is capable of being the perfect response to God’s challenge and of uttering the unreserved ‘Yes’ to his request. It is a single body – for everything in Christianity is always personal, concrete, particular – but at the same time it is a body that recapitulates all the faith and hope of Israel and of all men on earth. Consequently, when it is taken up into ultimate salvation, it contains the firm promise of salvation for all flesh that yearns for redemption. For all our bodies long to participate in our ultimate salvation by God: we do not want to appear before God as naked souls, ‘not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life’ (2 Corinthians 5:4); and God, who caused bodies to die, ‘subjecting creation to futility’, has subjected it ‘in hope’ that it ‘will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:20f). So we are celebrating a feast of hope; but, like all the New Testament feasts, it is celebrated on the basis of a fulfillment that has already taken place.; that is, not only has the Son of God been resurrected bodily – which in view of his life and death, is quite natural – but also has the body that made him man, the earthly realm that proved ready to receive God and that remains inseparable from Christ’s body. Today we see that this earth was capable of carrying and bringing to birth the infinite fruit that had been implanted in her. Today we celebrate the ultimate affirmation and confirmation of the earth.

GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (1844-1889)
From: The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe
'Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.'

DR ERIC MASCALL (1905-1993)
From: The Dogmatic Theology of the Mother of God in The Mother of God, E.L. Mascall ed. (London: Dacre Press, 1949), p. 43
The relation of Mary to the Church is (as the modern logicians would say) the relative product of two more fundamental relations. The first of these is Mary's relation to her Son; he is still man and she is still his mother. The second is his relation to us and to the Church; we are his members and the Church is his body. Therefore Mary is our mother and we are her children by adoption into her Son. This is not an exuberance of devotion but a fact of theology.

JOHN DE SATGE
From Mary and The Christian Gospel p. 79
Surely it is possible to think of her Assumption as the end of the great Pauline series (Romans 8:28-30 Cf. 1 John 3:2). Mary, the woman whose predestination has been advanced to its full term of conformation into the image of God's Son and hers; Mary who was called and who responded totally; Mary who was justified and rejoiced in her salvation; Mary who has been glorified? If it may be so taken, and Mary may be seen as the one of us who has already 'got there', then it gives great force to the insistence of the Vatican Constitution that Mary is a sign of sure hope and solace for the wandering People of God; and it makes her a splendid trophy of the Gospel's grace and power.

HERBERT O'DRISCOLL (b. 1928)
From: Portrait of a Woman, quoted in Mary in the Church ed. John Hyland Veritas Dublin 1989, p. 93
When the vast repository of beauty and terror which we call Christian tradition, the corporate memory of all Christians before me, tells me of Mary's virginity, of her immaculate conception, and of her assumption into heaven, I believe that truths have been preserved for me which, though I cannot fully explain them nor define then, I neglect to my loss.

PREFACE FOR MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH
From: The Roman Missal
" . . . Raised to the glory of heaven,
she cares for the pilgrim Church with a mother's love,
following its progress homeward
until the day of the Lord dawns in splendour . . ."

CHRISTINA ROSSETTI  (1830-1994)
From: All Saints'
They have brought gold and spices to my King,
Incense and precious stuffs and ivory :
O holy Mother mine, what can I bring
That so my Lord may deign to look on me?
They sing a sweeter song than I can sing,
All crowned and glorified exceedingly:
I, bound on earth, weep for my trespassing,
They sing the song of love in heaven, set free.
Then answered me my Mother, and her voice
Spake to my heart, yea answered in my heart:
“Sing, saith He to the heavens, to earth. Rejoice:
Thou also lift thy heart to Him above:
He seeks not thine, but thee such as thou art.
For lo His banner over thee is Love.

From: Jerusalem and all its Citizens
Who is this that cometh up not alone
From the fiery-flying-serpent wilderness, 
Leaning upon her own Beloved One? 
Who is this? 

Lo, the King of kings' daughter, a high princess, 
Going home as bride to her Husband's Throne, 
Virgin queen in perfected loveliness . . .
Who sits with the King in His Throne? 
Not a slave but a Bride, 
With this King of all Greatness and Grace 
Who reigns not alone: 
His Glory her glory, 
where glorious she glows at His side
Who sits with the King in His Throne. 
She came from dim uttermost depths 
which no Angel hath known, 
Leviathan's whirlpool and Dragon's dominion worldwide,
From the frost or the fire to Paradisiacal zone.
Lo, she is fair as a dove, silvery, 
Is Very Love; to Whom all Angels sing; 
To Whom all saints sing crowned, their sacred band 
Saluting Love with palm-branch in their hand . . .

Friday, August 9, 2019

When the world is in flames



Today the Church honours a remarkable woman, Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who was killed in 1942 at Auschwitz. The following is adapted from an article by John Coleman SJ in America Magazine

Edith Stein was born in Breslau on October 12, 1891, the youngest of eleven, as her Jewish family was celebrating Yom Kippur. Edith's mother (widowed when Edith was only two) was a strongly devout Jew. Edith always deeply loved her mother, although as a young woman Edith abandoned any explicit practice of Judaism. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying", Edith later said. 

I have always hoped that the Catholic Church would declare Edith Stein a Doctor of the Church. She studied, first, at the University of Breslau where she was an active member of the Prussian Society for the Woman's Franchise. In 1913, Edith transferred to Gottingen University where she became a teaching assistant to the renowned philosopher, Edmund Husserl. In Gottingen, Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler who directed her attention to the Catholic faith. 

During World War I, Edith cut short her studies to serve as a field nurse in an Austrian field hospital, where she treated the sick in a typhus ward and worked in an operating theatre. In 1916, she followed Husserl to the University of Freiburg where she wrote her doctoral thesis on "The Problem of Empathy". During this period of study, she went to the Frankfurt Cathedral where she saw a woman with a shopping basket going to kneel for prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant Churches I had visited, people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot." In her doctoral dissertation she had written: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace." 

Stein had wanted to obtain a professorship but that was not possible in 1918 for a woman. Husserl, however, wrote for her the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to ladies, then I can recommend her whole-heartedly and as my first choice for admission to a professorship." 

In 1921, while visiting a friend, Stein read the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila. She spent the whole night reading it and said later :"When I finished the book, I said to myself, 'This is the truth.' Later she said of her life; "My longing for truth was a single prayer." In 1922, Stein was baptized on the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus himself had entered God's covenant with Abraham. She reflected: "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14 year old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God." After her conversion, she taught at a teacher training college in Speyer and was encouraged by a Benedictine Abbot to accept extensive speaking engagements on women's issues. She translated the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman and translated Thomas Aquinas' Questiones Disputate de Veritate (On Truth). 

In 1931, Stein left the convent school and devoted herself to getting a professorship. She wrote her main philosophical-theological work, Finite and Eternal Being. She was offered a position at the Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster in 1932. But in 1933, Hitler's Aryan law made it impossible for Stein to continue teaching. She noted: "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on his people and that the destiny of those people would also be mine." Stein, finally, entered the convent of the Carmelites in 1933. She went home, first, to visit her mother and went with her to the synagogue on The Feast of Tabernacles. Her mother died in 1936. 

Stein saw continuities between her new Christian faith and Judaism. She once said: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is a great comfort."

Because of the growing anti-Jewish strictures in Germany, Stein was smuggled across the border to the Netherlands to the Carmelite Convent in Echt. She made there her last will on June 9, 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death so that the Lord will be accepted by his people and his kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world." While in Echt, Stein finished her study of John of the Cross' mysticism, entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft - The Science of the Cross". 

In retaliation to the Dutch Bishops' letter, the Gestapo came on August 2, 1942 to arrest Edith and her sister, Rosa, like Edith a convert to the Catholic faith. Edith's final words to Rosa before being deported were: "Come, we are going for our people." A professor friend of Stein's said of her: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent." When he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne in 1987, John Paul II said the church was honoring "a daughter of Israel who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness." Surely, in honoring her, the church points to her clear bonds to the Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust. 

Edith Stein had a prayer which is apt:

"Who are you, kindly light, 
who fill me now 
and brighten all the darkness of my heart? 
You guide me forward like a mother's hand 
and, if you let me go, 
I could not take a single step alone. 
You are the space, 
embracing all my being, 
hidden in it 
and what name can contain you? 
You, Holy Spirit, you, eternal love!"

**********

Pope St John Paul II's Homily at the Canonisation of Edith Stein on 11th October, 1998:

The love of Christ was the fire that inflamed the life of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Long before she realized it, she was caught by this fire. At the beginning she devoted herself to freedom. For a long time Edith Stein was a seeker. Her mind never tired of searching and her heart always yearned for hope. She traveled the arduous path of philosophy with passionate enthusiasm. Eventually she was rewarded: she seized the truth. Or better: she was seized by it. Then she discovered that truth had a name: Jesus Christ. From that moment on, the incarnate Word was her One and All. Looking back as a Carmelite on this period of her life, she wrote to a Benedictine nun: “Whoever seeks the truth is seeking God, whether consciously or unconsciously”.

Although Edith Stein had been brought up religiously by her Jewish mother, at the age of 14 she “had consciously and deliberately stopped praying”. She wanted to rely exclusively on herself and was concerned to assert her freedom in making decisions about her life. At the end of a long journey, she came to the surprising realization: only those who commit themselves to the love of Christ become truly free.

This woman had to face the challenges of such a radically changing century as our own. Her experience is an example to us. The modern world boasts of the enticing door which says: everything is permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of discernment and renunciation. I am speaking especially to you, young Christians, particularly to the many altar servers who have come to Rome these days on pilgrimage: Pay attention! Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface, but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was able to understand that the love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined, because love and truth have an intrinsic relationship. The quest for truth and its expression in love did not seem at odds to her; on the contrary she realized that they call for one another.

In our time, truth is often mistaken for the opinion of the majority. In addition, there is a widespread belief that one should use the truth even against love or vice versa. But truth and love need each other. St Teresa Benedicta is a witness to this. The “martyr for love”, who gave her life for her friends, let no one surpass her in love. At the same time, with her whole being she sought the truth, of which she wrote: “No spiritual work comes into the world without great suffering. It always challenges the whole person”.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.

Finally, the new saint teaches us that love for Christ undergoes suffering. Whoever truly loves does not stop at the prospect of suffering: he accepts communion in suffering with the one he loves.

Aware of what her Jewish origins implied, Edith Stein spoke eloquently about them: “Beneath the Cross I understood the destiny of God’s People.... Indeed, today I know far better what it means to be the Lord’s bride under the sign of the Cross. But since it is a mystery, it can never be understood by reason alone”.

The mystery of the Cross gradually enveloped her whole life, spurring her to the point of making the supreme sacrifice. As a bride on the Cross, Sr Teresa Benedicta did not only write profound pages about the “science of the Cross”, but was thoroughly trained in the school of the Cross. Many of our contemporaries would like to silence the Cross. But nothing is more eloquent than the Cross when silenced! The true message of suffering is a lesson of love. Love makes suffering fruitful and suffering deepens love.

Through the experience of the Cross, Edith Stein was able to open the way to a new encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith and the Cross proved inseparable to her. Having matured in the school of the Cross, she found the roots to which the tree of her own life was attached. She understood that it was very important for her “to be a daughter of the chosen people and to belong to Christ not only spiritually, but also through blood”.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24).

Dear brothers and sisters, the divine Teacher spoke these words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. What he gave his chance but attentive listener we also find in the life of Edith Stein, in her “ascent of Mount Carmel”. The depth of the divine mystery became perceptible to her in the silence of contemplation. Gradually, throughout her life, as she grew in the knowledge of God, worshiping him in spirit and truth, she experienced ever more clearly her specific vocation to ascend the Cross with Christ, to embrace it with serenity and trust, to love it by following in the footsteps of her beloved Spouse: St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is offered to us today as a model to inspire us and a protectress to call upon.

We give thanks to God for this gift. May the new saint be an example to us in our commitment to serve freedom, in our search for the truth. May her witness constantly strengthen the bridge of mutual understanding between Jews and Christians.


**********

FROM TODAY'S OFFICE OF READINGS:
From the spiritual writings of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Ave Crux, spes unica!


“We greet you, Holy Cross, our only hope!” The church puts these words on our lips during the time of the passion which is dedicated to the contemplation of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The world is in flames. The struggle between Christ and antichrist rages openly, and so if you decide for Christ you can even be asked to sacrifice your life.

Contemplate the Lord who hangs before you on the wood, because he was obedient even to the death of the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.


Before you the Redeemer hangs on the cross stripped and naked, because he chose poverty. Those who would follow him must renounce every earthly possession.


Stand before the Lord who hangs from the cross with his heart torn open. He poured out the blood of his heart in order to win your heart. In order to follow him in holy chastity, your heart must be free from every earthly aspi­ration. Jesus Crucified must be the object of your every longing, of your every desire, of your every thought.


The world is in flames: the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt. The cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.


The world is in flames: do you wish to put them out? Contemplate the cross: from his open heart the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell. Through the faithful observance of the vows you make your heart free and open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.


Through the power of the cross you can be present wherever there is pain, carried there by your compassionate charity, by that very charity which you draw from the divine heart. That charity enables you to spread every­ where the most precious blood in order to ease pain, save and redeem.


The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you. They question you and appeal to you. Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with him? What will your response be? “Lord, where shall I go? You alone have the words of life." Ave Crux, spes unica!

Monday, July 29, 2019

"All earth was lifted to communion . . ." (Evelyn Underhill)



Since my teens I have been nourished by the writings of Evelyn Underhill (1875-1942), a widely acclaimed Anglican spiritual director who more than deserves to be rediscovered. An Anthology of the Love of God, published after her death, is a good initiation into her work.  Each chapter begins with a poem, many of which come from Immanence, published by Underhill in 1912. Immanence is available FREE for downloading from the internet. I love this particular poem, a deeply moving burst of praise to the Lord for his sacred presence in the Holy Eucharist:

MISSA CANTATA   
Once in an Abbey-church, the whiles we prayed 
All silent at the lifting of the Host, 
A little bird through some high window strayed ; 
And to and fro 
Like a wee angel lost 
That on a sudden finds its heaven below, 
It went the morning long. 
And made our Eucharist more glad with song. 

It sang, it sang ! and as the quiet priest 
Far off about the lighted altar moved, 
The awful substance of the mystic feast 
All hushed before, 
It, like a thing that loved 
Yet loved in liberty, would plunge and soar 
Beneath the vault in play 
And thence toss down the oblation of its lay. 

The walls that went our sanctuary around 
Did, as of old, to that sweet summons yield. 
New scents and sounds within our gates were found ; 
The cry of kine. 
The fragrance of the field, 
All woodland whispers, hastened to the shrine : 
The country side was come 
Eager and joyful, to its spirit's home. 

Far-stretched I saw the cornfield and the plough, 
The scudding cloud, the cleanly-running brook, 
The humble, kindly turf, the tossing bough 
That all their light 
From Love's own furnace took — 
This altar, where one angel brownly bright 
Proclaimed the sylvan creed. 
And sang the Benedictus of the mead. 

All earth was lifted to communion then. 
All lovely life was there to meet its King ; 
Ah, not the little arid souls of men 
But sun and wind 
And all desirous thing 
The ground of their beseeching here did find ; 
All with one self-same bread. 
And all by one eternal priest, were fed.




Sunday, July 28, 2019

Our Lady's great day . . . come and join us if you can!


(Click on the flyer to enlarge it)


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Vale, Father Reg Mills!



Father Reg Mills in 2008

A Requiem Mass was offered last Thursday, 25th July, at St James' Mermaid Beach (on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia), for the funeral of much loved priest, the Very Rev'd Reginald E Mills. Both Bishop Ian Woodman and Canon Richard Martin asked that I put some words together to be read at that Mass. They are here: 

It was my privilege to preach at Father Reg's Golden Anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, back in 2006. So, that means that by the time God called him home, he had been a faithful priest, serving the Lord, and serving the Lord's people for almost 63 years!

I first met Father Reg in Sydney at a mid-week Christ Church St Laurence healing service in the late 1960's, and our paths crossed every few years since then, until my move to Brisbane in 1995 when we saw a lot of each other. Indeed, during my fifteen years in Brisbane I learned to depend on Father Reg for advice and pastoral wisdom, and it was to him that I would take my soul for a spring clean. He was a true pastor. He was never afraid to tell the truth as he saw it, but he always did so with compassion, love and grace. I am so grateful to the lay people and clergy who loved Father Reg and cared for him during his final months, for you gave him a little of the care that he selflessly provided for so many during his long and blessed ministry - whether as a Bush brother in Bathurst Diocese, as the legendary parish priest of Caloundra for 20 years, and after that stints in Sydney, too many Locums in Brisbane Diocese to keep track of, as a priest in the Traditional Anglican Communion, and most recently as Dean of Clergy in the Anglican Catholic Church, based at the Church of the Good Shepherd and Saint James Church Mermaid Beach. And if I may be very personal just for a moment, it was a huge blessing and an undeserved privilege for me to serve Father Reg for five years as his bishop.

Father Reg was representative of a kind of priest it is hard to find today as a result of what we can say without exaggeration has been the "ethnic cleansing" of real Anglo-Catholics from the Anglican Church of Australia. He had been deeply influenced as a young man - as were so many others who became priests - by the renowned Father John Hope, Rector of Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney from 1926 to 1964. Father John was in the forefront of the restoration of the healing ministry in the Australian Church, and he was open to the work of the Holy Spirit in what was to become known as the charismatic renewal. But he was first and foremost a real catholic Christian. In Father John's life and ministry, the catholic, the evangelical and the pentecostal coalesced happily, along with a range of other disparate and eccentric interests! Father Reg was nurtured in the wholeness of this vision of what it means to be a catholic Christian and a catholic priest, a vision to which he remained faithful right to the end, as everyone who has known him will testify.

So, when I was thinking about what to write for you, my mind took me back to the amazing Solemn Requiem Mass offered at Father John Hope's funeral at Christ Church in Sydney in 1971. Father John had requested that the preacher should be Archdeacon Clive Goodwin, Rector of St Philip's, Church Hill, in Sydney, which was as "low" as Christ Church was "high." At one level it was about unity, but at a personal level it was a sign of Father John's gratitude for the Archdeacon's friendship during his retirement. I was there that day, and I can tell you that Clive Goodwin really preached! He took as his text the pithy description of St Barnabas in Acts 11:24 "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." He reminded us that if ever there was a successor to Barnabas, whose name means "Son of Encouragement", it was Father John.

Well, today in a quirky twist of apostolic succession, I want to say the same of Father Reg, so deeply influenced by Fr John! Fr Reg was a "good man", a manifestly good man. His goodness drew many to know and love the Saviour. He was unfailingly good and kind to all manner of people who came to him for help. He gave all that he could give, even to those who were never likely to be grateful. He befriended the lonely, and in all his dealings with others he sought to assure them that there was a way back to God that would bring them wholeness and life more abundantly. His goodness was apparent to all.

Father Reg was full of the Holy Spirit. Even to particular friends who could be a bit dismissive of his charismatic/ pentecostal experience (and that did hurt him), he would emphasise the importance of the fulness of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, as being just as real today as in the New Testament era. A preacher of the "full Gospel", he was a practitioner of the healing ministry, and a great blessing to the sick and the suffering.

Father Reg was a man of faith. He exercised "faith" - trusting in the promises of God even in the darkest of the valleys he was called to tread. He really knew the Lord ... he didn't just know about the Lord. And we knew that he knew the Lord! He prayed. He worshipped. Whenever he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he knew that he was parting the Eucharistic veil through which we gaze into heaven and experience the unity of all things in Christ. He knew and firmly believed that even in the tiniest church here below when only a handful have made it to Mass, we are swept into the glorious worship of that great multitude that no man can number gathered around the heavenly throne. From this perspective Father Reg's vision could never be limited by what was "realistic." I think that's why he could look at a situation from the standpoint of faith (what I dare to suggest was very often God's point of view) and see possibilities that no-one else could see.

But he was also a man of THE faith in the sense of clinging on "to the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) when even dear friends of his fell for the deceits and empty promises of the kind of theological liberalism that has engulfed much of first world Anglicanism. In different ways he paid the price of remaining orthodox, and he is one of our heroes. Humanly speaking, the cost of faithfulness can be high indeed. 

Today we offer the one perfect and sufficient Sacrifice of Jesus for the repose of Father Reg's soul. We offer it for his final sanctification, we offer it in the words of the old Missal - as he would wish - for his "healing in eternity."

And as we make our way to the holy altar of God - you on the Gold Coast in far away Queensland, and I here in the south of London - we are surely allowed to imagine that our dear Father Reg, our friend, priest, pastor, intercessor, and brother in Christ, who taught us so much about walking with the Lord, can already hear, growing louder and more distinct, those words from Matthew 25:23, "Well done, good and faithful servant . . .  enter into the joy of your Lord."

"He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." (Acts 11:24)


A version of the traditional Anglican rite



All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane (2004)

MISSAL FOR SUNDAYS AND SOLEMNITIES
Recently I have had some requests for the modest revision of The English Missal I undertook at All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. 

When I became Rector there in 1995 I found that in order to manage the liturgical changes that had evolved during the previous twenty years it was necessary to have many little cards and pieces of paper on the altar in addition to The English Missal. Vigilance was also required in order to stay on top of which Sunday after Trinity corresponded with the particular Sunday in Ordinary Time whose readings we were using. 

I am indebted to my predecessors at All Saints’ for incorporating into the traditional rite some liturgical developments of the wider Church. They are included this book, which has been “test driven” over the years at All Saints’, Patmos House, and a number of other traditional rite parishes in Australia and overseas. Comments and suggestions from a range of friends have been incorporated.

In the tradition of The English Missal, the present compilation simply puts together a way of offering the Eucharist which justly claims a patrimony going back at least to the reign of James I. I love this form of the Western Rite, and my motive for providing the Missal for Sundays and Solemnities was simply to keep to keep it alive where it is still celebrated.

The Missal is for printing in black and red. This can be expensive in ordinary photocopy shops. But if you have access to a school, university or workplace colour printer/copier for which you pay just the cost price of copying, you should be able to print the entire Missal with the Readings on A4 sheets for about $50; without the readings, about $20. Comb binding can provide a suitable finish. In the case of “06” below, the most expensive option, stitching the A3 “signatures” and then binding with leather or vinyl might add $100 to the cost. The total amount is not unreasonable for a well-presented liturgical book. I note that run-of-the-mill new altar Missals can cost well over $400 in the shops.

So, here are the downloadable files. Those that include the readings are marked “*”.  

This is 256 pages (128 sheets printed both sides), and easily able to be bound with wire or plastic comb binding.

This is the same as 01, but with the 3 year cycle of readings and Coverdale responsorial psalms. It has 550 pages (225 sheets printed both sides), and – while a greater challenge – can be bound with wire or plastic comb binding. 

This is just the 3 year cycle of readings, and is useful for the Lectern. It is 300 pages (150 sheets printed both sides). 

04 Congregation Mass Sheets
Here are various service sheets for congregations, for use with the Missal. Each is just an A4 sheet of paper (or card)  folded in half to A5 size. To be printed in black and red.

A standard “Interim Rite” Mass sheet. 

This is the same as fm01, except that the word “Eucharist” is used instead of Mass

This is “more Missal, less BCP”, with the Preparation & Confiteor said by priest and people at the start, instead of confession and absolution in the middle. (The way Fr Bates celebrated weekday Low Masses at All Saints’ Wickham Terrace in the 1940’s)

A fairly standard Anglican form of High Mass for most of the year, containing the Asperges at the start and the Angelus at the end.

The same as fm04 but with the Vidi Aquam at the start and the Regina Caeli at the end.

05 Missal A3 signatures
This collection of documents is the Missal (without the 3 year cycle of readings) to be printed as A3 “signatures” for stitching and binding. There are 16 separate files, as each signature is 8 sheets . . . i.e. 16 pages. This format means that the book, though bound, will always open flat on the missal stand.
1,    2,    3,    4,    5,    6,    7,    8,    9,    10,    11,    12,    
13,    14,    15,    16

THE BEST OF THEM ALL . . .
* 06 Missal and Readings A3 signatures This collection of documents is the Missal and readings to be printed as A3 “signatures” for stitching and binding. There are 35 separate files, as each signature is 8 sheets . . . i.e. 16 pages. This format means that the book, though bound, will always open flat on the missal stand.
1,    2,    3,    4,    5,    6,    7,    8,    9,    10,    11,    12,    
13,    14,    15,    16,   17,  18,   19,    20,    21,   22,   23,    
24,   25,   26,   27,   28,   29,   30,    31,   32,   33,   34,    35