Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where in the world

is St Malachy? Well here's where I was for Mass this afternoon.

Holy Family cathedral basilica, archdiocese of Nairobi.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Holy Father on modern exegesis

The common practice today is to measure the Bible against the so-called modern worldview, whose fundamental dogma is that God cannot act in history – that everything to do with God is to be relegated to the realm of subjectivity. And so the Bible no longer speaks of God, the living God: no, now WE alone speak and decide what God can do and what WE will and should do. And the Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times.

Jesus of Nazareth, p 35-36

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friends, readers, detractors

Please pray for the immortal soul of Brian, who died on 14 March 2011.

Absolve, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
the soul of Thy servant Brian,
from every bond of sin,
that being raised in the glory of the resurrection,
he may be refreshed among the Saints and Elect.
Through Christ our Lord.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday homily

For what it's worth, here is the text of a practice homily I had to deliver. Be nice, it was my first ever attempt at a homily!

So, Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, the start of 40 days leading up to that central point of our faith – the resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

But what is today about? What is Lent about?

In a few minutes, Father is going to bless the ashes and we will line up and one by one be signed, on the forehead, with the Sign of the Cross, in ashes. That signing with ashes is not an annual rite of passage, it’s not something us Catholics just “do” once a year, rather it’s a symbol of intent – a sign that we intend things to change.

In Sacred Scripture ashes were used as a sign of sorrow for sign – a sign of repentance – I’m going to come back to that word repentance in a moment so keep it in mind – but in the meantime we let’s agree that ashes were used as a sign of repentance. The prophet Job tells us I am “disowning what I have said and am repenting in dust and ashes” and Daniel “turns to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes”.

In the New Testament, Our Lord Jesus Christ himself berates the Galilean towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin, warning them that they should “repent of their deeds and sit in sackcloth and ashes”.

I think you get the point: in Scripture ashes are a sign – a symbol signifying sorrow for sin. They are what we call a sacramental; an object or thing we use to focus our attention on God or increase our devotion to Him.

In each of these examples and others in Sacred Scripture there is a one common element – repentance which is a common word in Scripture. I’m sure everyone here could quote for me at least one instance of the use of the word in the Gospels. I’d go further than that and say that most people would quote the same example – Jesus Christ’s use of the phrase “Repent and believe the Gospel for the kingdom of God is close at hand.”

Generally, in English, we take the word “repent” to mean sorrow, perhaps even deep sorrow, or heartfelt regret. That is good but it’s not necessarily sufficient. What we usually translate as “repent” from the Greek sources of Scripture is the “metanoia”. That Greek word “metanoia” implies so much more than sorrow or regret. In fact, it means “a changing of mind” or a complete “reversal of a previously held position” – in short, it’s a turning around, a conversion; a positive action that is intended to lift you up, to move you from your present inferior position to a higher, better position.

This turning around, this conversion, is what Lent is all about. Turning our lives around and centring them on God; Lent is about lifting ourselves out of our present inferior, man centred focus and directing ourselves towards God.

In the first reading from the prophet Joel we get a flavour of this conversion – this turning around when he says to us “Come back to the Lord with all your heart” and “turn to the Lord your God again”. You see “come back”; “turn around”, convert.

St Paul (and Timothy) in the second reading also are on this theme of conversion. So often I find St Paul almost hectoring in his tone. He is a typical convert – and I don’t mean converts are hectoring – rather, like many converts, St Paul is absolutely certain that what he believes is the truth and yet today we find him not lecturing but imploring the people of the Church in Corinth to be reconciled to God; to turn around and lift up our relationship with God to a higher, better place. In fact he uses the word “beg” – “we (Timothy and Paul) beg you not to neglect the Grace of God”. He is pleading with us to re-orientate ourselves in the light of the great mysteries of God made real and present to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lent - the word means “spring” – is a then a time of turning around our relationship with God, but how?

Firstly by prayer. Try to make a little extra time for talking to God over the next 40 days. Perhaps we could find time for weekday Mass? If not, how about offering up a few minutes at the end of the day, when all you want is your bed, as extra prayer time? A decade of the Rosary? Some spiritual reading maybe – you could do worse than spending Lent in the company of CS Lewis!

Secondly – self-denial. I know this isn’t a popular thing in our age of instant gratification but give it a bash! For a while it’s been popular to substitute fasting and “giving up” for Lent with prayer or alms giving but why not do all three? It certainly can’t harm us!

Thirdly – almsgiving. If we deny ourself something take that money and give it up.

Fourthly – by penance. Jesus Christ gave us the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is never not a season for this sacrament but Lent is the perfect time so just GO. Even if there has been a 20 year gap, even if you’re scared stiff, even if you think you don’t need to go – just GO. What harm can it do?

Too often we treat Lent and penance as though it were placing the weight of the world on our shoulders. That isn’t what it’s about. Lent is a time of joy, not sorrow, conversion yes, sorrow no. Think about it – I said Lent means “spring”, is spring a time of sorrow? No, it’s a time of growth and joy! The first Preface of Lent sums it up perfectly saying: “Each year you give us this joyful season, when we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with heart and mind renewed”

And so I wish you a holy and joyful season of Lent. I leave you with the words of Psalm 50, one of what we used to call the “seven great penitential psalms”:

Give me again the joy of your help;
With a spirit of fervour sustain me.
O Lord, open my lips
And my mouth shall declare your praise.

God bless and have a joyful Lent.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Living under intolerable pressure

So the fall out from the "Old Firm" game last week continues, including this nonsensical "summit" planned for this week.

Kevin McKenna in the Observer! points out that the reaction of the police and politicians has, truthfully, little to do with Wednesday's events.

The one thing that the media, including the English media, continue to ignore is the vile, disgusting treatment the Rangers "fans" continue to heap upon Neil Lennon.

Anti-Catholicism in Scotland is not deep under the skin. Scratch lightly and you'll find the bile pouring forth. The bigots who follow Rangers, and make no mistake it's certainly not a minority of their fans, refuse to accept that a Catholic from "Northern Ireland" has the temerity to show up their team.

From the Bleacher Report, a US based football website, comes this article:

You would be forgiven for thinking that the controversy surrounding the latest, "Old Firm," derby this week was all the fault of Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

From the coverage of the match by the Scottish sporting press, it seems the "volatile" Celtic boss is responsible for Rangers game plan, which was to pack their defence and kick everything that moved, while grimly attempting to hold on to parity and take their chances in the penalty shootout.

Celtic's scorer, Mark Wilson, had more shots on target in the 48th minute, than the entire Rangers team managed in 95 minutes of play. You'd think it was Lennon's fault that the Rangers players lost their discipline after again being outclassed and beaten by their most hated rivals.

Well, maybe that WAS Lennon's fault.

Actually, that gets right to the very heart of the matter. This was the fourth time since the turn of the year that Celtic had dominated the blue half of Glasgow. Even in the original tie, Celtic bossed the match despite playing most of the game with 10 men after the dismissal of goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

The league race still has some way to run and is far from over. Rangers might even still win it, but head-to-head, Celtic have established overwhelming dominance over Rangers and their manager Walter Smith seems to have run out of ideas as to what to do about it.

Lennon is a hate-figure for Rangers fans, and it is getting worse. It may come as a surprise to outsiders that there is an element amongst the Rangers fan base that has connections to Loyalist paramilitary groups in the north of Ireland.

Lennon is no stranger to threats from these people, having called time on his international career after receiving recognised coded death threats after joining Celtic as a player in late 2000. Several death threats have been received by Lennon since Celtic's surprisingly comfortable victory over Rangers on Jan. 2 this year.

On the first occasion, bullets were posted to Lennon, as well as Celtic's Catholic Northern Irish international players Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn.

In recent weeks, two Facebook groups have been created and subsequently deleted calling on Lennon to be shot, one including a mock-up of Lennon's bullet-riddled body.

Journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain reports today on his Web site that three times in the past month Lennon and his family have been roused from their beds in the middle of the night to be taken to safe-houses following information received by Strathclyde police.

The Celtic manager has been provided with around-the-clock security since Wednesday evening. No one in their right mind would think Rangers FC had anything to do with these threats, but the silence from the Ibrox club has been deafening.

Condemnation of these death threats from Rangers would be welcome, even if it would not immediately end the situation.

There has been a conspicuous silence too from the Scottish Football Association, and the Scottish Government, so quick to demand a summit meeting with both clubs, the SFA and the police after Wednesday night's events.

Most shameful of all is the lack of condemnation from the Scottish media, which continues to vilify Lennon at every opportunity. Reporting IOC the issue from the mainstream media outlets has been strictly neutral.

Lennon is the bĂȘte noir of the Scottish footballing establishment—the red-haired Irish-Catholic threatening to put Rangers to the sword as a manager, just as he did as a player.

This time though, Rangers face financial Armageddon. Their very existence is at stake and the hatred of all things Celtic, and by extension Irish and Catholic, is rising exponentially.

In a supposedly modern, democratic country, a man's life is threatened because of his success as a soccer manager. If, God forbid, anything should happen to Lennon, the Scottish Football Association, Rangers FC, the Scottish Government and above all, the Scottish media, will be complicit in an avoidable tragedy.
When you arrive at Glasgow Airport, the sign says: "Welcome to the best little country in the world". It should say "Welcome to the most bigotted little country in the world".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Holy Year for Nuns?

This is an great idea I think. Have a look here and then help spread the word.

Dewi sant hapus I chi

Happy St David's day.

The Divine Office note for St David says:
Born probably in Cardigan about the year 520, he received his early training from St Illtyd. He attraced many postulants to the monastries he founded, all of which were remarkable for the austerity of their rule of life. Consecrated bishop, according to his biographer, in Jerusalem, he was recognised as primate of Wales and established his see at Mynyw (Menevia), at the monastry of which he was abbott and where he died about the year 588. He is the principal patron of Wales