Saturday, 31 October 2009

Bad Manors

When I read that the Bishop of St Asaph  ( a bishop elected to office here in Wales for a matter of months)  accuses the Bishop of Rome of ecumenical bad manners ( by offering a  refuge to catholic Anglicans who have petitioned him for help) I have to say I cringe. Not only a small cringe but a toe curling one and one that leaves a very, very bad taste in the mouth. This open criticism of Pope Benedict is so un-Anglican and impolite behaviour of itself;  irrespective of your views on the matter. Where is the sense of Christian charity that accepts that people with whom Cameron disagrees may need the real pastoral care that he will never be able to give them( except perhaps by agreeing a replacement for the Provincial Assistant Bishop which he and the the Welsh Bench of six bishops refuse)? When Cameron goes on to say "this is not the way WE do things" in the same breath, I despair . On what authority does he think he is able to pronounce against the Holy Father?  Who does he think "we" means? A loud liberal committee perhaps?  We always thought that the ecumenical overtures of post ARCIC General Synod to Rome through the liberal ascendancy was a sham . We hoped to be proved wrong. Now we can judge for ourselves. An apology  is the only honourable restitution for such offensive behaviour by  the diocesan of St. Asaph. After all Rome is not interested in his own un-catholic  Manor but only perhaps his ecumenical Manners ( "which maketh man" and could give salvation) and which appear so woefully lacking. Manners lacking not from Rome but from North Wales. You can hear the full BBC Wales broadcast on this which includes reference to my colleague Fr. Michael's blog Let Nothing you Dismay here. and click Roy Jenkins'...... All Things Considered.

All Saints

All Saints Eve and all is quiet, expectant, prayerful and calm. Yesterday in secular work some lovely late summer/ early Autumn weather at 19C. Not bad for nearly November. A long day doing what I was asked and called and needed for. Giving one and a half hour free professional advice three times individually to those who want to know if they can move house. This they need to know for all the reasons of human condition. Larger family, getting older, bereavement, financial difficulty, moving job, losing employment, gaining employment, moving church, separation, greed, desire, humility, sinfulness, saintliness ( to look after others etc.) and all the rest. In other words it's not only about bricks and mortar (just like the Church) it's mainly about people....God's people. Yes, even being a country Estate Agent is a vocation of service and yes also, I'm by no means the only one of my profession that sees it this way, even though we are seen as 'leeches' by many. What made it great for me today was the joy I have in working in one of the most lovely and untouched parts of the Welsh borders ( rural Monmouthshire ). Also to stop yesterday and watch the majestic circling of a Red Kite on one of the properties at one end of the County and then seeing the  blue flash of a Kingfisher on one at the other prayer in motion!! The one like slow meditation "high soaring above" ..........the other arrow-like, direct, fast and going direct! May God be praised through All His Saints as we pepare to meet Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass tomorrow. Through their blessed intercessions and those of whom will soon be joining the ranks of the elect ( especially John Henry Newman). May all that is Holy in the dear Anglican tradition " Praise ye The Lord !!" May we be made ready to move home for Him, if, as, when and to whence He may call us...... in His own god time. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sad News of The Church in Wales

I am so sad to hear of the massive decline in the number of worshippers of The Church in Wales ( The Anglican Province here). This is a sign of how much we as Christians need to do to reclaim this land of The Saints for Jesus Christ. Despite some growth and stability in some areas the overall picture does not make good reading. There are many good people doing what they can and persevering in keeping and spreading the faith. However,the question has to be asked how this is happening and why now? We will all have our own ideas and answers; these need to be put into the context of what is tearing us and Our Lord apart in our beloved homeland. Is the hierarchy in Cathedral Road, Cardiff and all the different Diocesan Offices with their staffing levels under review to reflect this decline? We've been asking this same question for years and six Dioceses all with their own administration plus the extra tier at Cardiff for a Province smaller than Oxford Diocese seems uneconomic and adding unnecessarily to the Quota ( Parish Share) payable by the worshippers. I see an expensive brochure produced in Welsh and English ( i.e. at double the cost for a miniscule Welsh speaking minority for political reasons)not about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ and the truths of the faith to the unchurched but about climate change and green issues. These types of misplaced resources and the lack of rationalisation of the administration of the church here demonstrates that change is surely long overdue. You can read a further illustration at David Virtue's site here:

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Let me see again.

Homily for Last Sunday after Pentecost Year B. 25 Oct. 09 Parish Mass St. Arvans.

Blind Bartimaeus. Mark.10.v 46-52

For some of us even when we think we can see well, that we know what things look like, that everything is unchanging………in fact for many of us we can be blind, seeing dimly and inaccurately how our lives are actually being lived. We can be blind to how weak our faith in God has become. How far astray our vision of life can be from what God wills for us both personally and corporately in the Church. A large part of our search for truth, enlightenment and understanding can be distorted by an unthinking, unspiritual and often uncaring sort of blindness that can creep up on us if we are not careful. This is normal because we are not perfect beings, we do get blinded to what are the most important things in life. This should therefore make me more attentive to this possibility and to refine my spiritual, sacramental and prayer life regularly, to keep the eyes of my faith more open. Perhaps we can share together for a short time how we might…..
- See Jesus more clearly, love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly.
- See Him more clearly in our own lives and together each week as we share in the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice that Jesus made once for all time and which we re-present at this altar every time we celebrate Mass.
- See and share in our Saviour’s love for us at the Eucharist sacramentally and in living and hearing His Word and by following His teaching in the Gospels which we study together each week.
Consider for a moment that each of our lives of faith is like a great original painting. I don’t know what your favourites are but mine at the moment include those by Caravaggio and Fillippo Lippi. Now no original painting is exactly the same , just as each of us is utterly unique. Our lives of faith may start as a completely blank canvas, then move on as an inspirational spark of an idea formulates. We begin to sketch; there are trial runs; some discarding and editing takes place. Then comes the first strokes of the brush….. an outline of faith appears through the grace of God. The subject and content begin to be indelibly put down, then the instruments and laws of perspective, form, light and colour are adhered to. Just as the unalterables of Creeds, great Councils of the Church, commandments of The Lord and teachings of His Word should remain the unalterables of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith. These are the tools and brushes and paints of Holy Church. These laws are defining principles of the painting but always interpreted through the creative love, personality and faith of the artist. Guided through prayer and sacrament the canvas comes to life, it breathes the soul of the artist. Faith blossoms and flourishes like this canvas if it is constantly fed with the palate of prayers and witness of the saints, and those of the church father’s teaching us to be the artists of our own lives under His direction.We have the chance during this short period of painting the picture, living our lives, to either create something worthwhile, something that will endure, something of beauty, of lasting witness to those around us as well as within us and to the glory of God...or not. Sometimes it will only be a small part of the canvas of life that will be beautiful and creative. Sometimes the painting may fail. Many times they remain unfinished…let it not be so with us.
Our challenge, our joy is to take up this palate, create that painting of faith subject to these laws. Develop it and live it out loud, in an exhibition which can sometimes be all too short.
Leaving that analogy on one side for a moment, let us consider the questions raised in Mark’s gospel…….
HOW do I keep the eyes of my faith open?
HOW can I see Jesus?
Regard the blind beggar for a moment. A person that Jesus hears and loves, just as he hears and loves everyone, whatever their condition.
IF I CALL OUT ‘’Jesus Son of David have mercy on me’’….. will He hear me?....will he hear you?...
IF I OPEN my ears to hear, will I hear those around me and the words in front of me say to me personally “ Take heart get up He is calling you”
Will I, will you, will we together hear Jesus’ words to us personally. “ Go your faith has made you well”…?
It will depend on many things won’t it? I will have all the imperfections that every sinning member of the human race has , for none are perfect. I may get bogged down with the minutiae of life. I may suffer in the blindness that distorts my life and hinders me in God’s plan for me. But if I, if you, if we together ask Jesus like Bartimaeus…. “Let me see again” our canvas of faith may yet become a truly living faith; a picture of great beauty and meaning.
Those words of our Lord “Go your faith has made you well could echo in our ears, not just as we kneel to receive Him in the real presence of His body at the altar today. These words could become like our favourite painting. Visible, tangible, real, comforting and joyful. Leading us across the landscape, the seascape the subject matter through the canvas and beyond to where there is a Divine homecoming…joy…clear sight.... and peace…
May we like St. Paul and Bartimaeus experience new sight as the scales of doubt fall from our eyes so that we can glimpse The Lord’s glory here, now, today and into eternity……… Amen

I will send you a sign...

Rome and Anglican Re-Union.
Announcement before the Homily, Parish Mass - Last Sunday after Pentecost 25 Oct. 09

'' Before I begin, you may well have heard that on 20 October 2009, last week, Pope Benedict has responded to the requests of traditional Anglicans who have asked him to consider a re-union scheme. Firstly so that Christ’s words ‘ that they may be one’ be fulfilled and secondly so as to minister to those who have and will be left without bishops, sacramental and proper pastoral provision by their own Anglican Provinces following liberal innovations to ministry, faith and morals which have been made and continue apace without proper consultation and guidance from the whole Universal Church of God ( which of course includes our own province of the Church in Wales). Whatever happens next we should appreciate that this has been an unprecedented step and is the first sign of Anglicans being welcomed back to the mother Church corporately rather than individually since the Reformation . The official title of this decree of welcome is an Apostolic Constitution. We do not yet know the full details, there will be much speculation and comment in the press. Whatever happens next, things will not be the same. We should think of and pray for all Anglicans everywhere including ourselves. That we may leave God to guide the outcome for each and every one of us in His own time.One thing I suggest we do not do is speculate about others. We simply do not know what others will do or will be able to do and nor will most of us yet be sure about our own reactions. Remember when we talk we are talking about other people’s lives and other people’s faith, something we should leave to them and their own conscience before God. We should however rejoice that a home is now available for many who have been made homeless and unwelcome in their own Church. Whatever happens next our prayer should always be ‘Thy Kingdom come…’ ’’.
Fr. Mark

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bartimaeus, New Sight, New Dawn

Tomorrow's gospel reading Mk.10v46-52 recounts the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus. My sermon is finally written but not yet fully prayed over as this normally continues during the night in my sleeping hours. When dawn breaks the clocks will have gone back one hour GMT. Dawn will break as the first day following the FiF Assembly. Many words, much emotion, at least three different outcomes will result for all of us Catholic Anglicans in response to the still brilliant and blinding light of Rome's offer in the Apostolic Constitution. We are not all travelling at the same speed but pray God that we will eventually all end at the same destination. Salvation, not ecclesial politics is surely at stake. Life and death issues no less. As St. Mark's account tells us ''Take heart get up he is calling you'' Will we be able to throw off our blindness and let ourselves be healed by The Lord? To respond to this call for unity for which WE have petitioned? Then we may hear together more clearly Christ's words to us. '' Go your faith has made you well ''......

Friday, 23 October 2009

FiF Conference London

After initial euphoria perhaps not enough space and time for prayer has been possible since Rome opened it's gates of welcome to Anglicans in the recent pronouncements through His Eminence Cardinal Lavada. Every excuse is being rehearsed by some key note speakers before they have even had the grace to wait upon the Magisterium to reveal more detail and to pronounce further as they have promised. No, surely we do not want to be seen to be negotiating and jockeying for positions, certainly not with Rome. This is not Synodical government and absolutely not dealing with the revision committee as though it were on a par with Rome. Oh dear , come on where is our sense of humble submission and obedience to the Apostolic successor of PETER . Wait upon the Lord but also upon the Holy See of Peter as the Vicar of Christ here on earth……please. This is my initial re-action to a much too lengthy and constructed debate at the FiF conference in my view. This of course excludes the measured , humble, accurate and prayerful submissions of Ebbsfleet and Richborough to whom many will be very grateful, even if we do not eventually follow their caravans which I’m sure many of us would want to do if only we could be allowed to. At present we do not know so I pray God for patience, silence and discernment.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Why All Gas & Gaiters?

'What is this name for your blog?' my children asked me. It takes it's name from an innocent TV farce about the dear old Church of England. There were 33 episodes between 1966 and 1971, only 11 of these survive to be seen. In the days when harmlessly poking fun lightly was a joy to behold. Also in days when clergy looked like clergy and dressed properly and Bishops were only addressed 'my lord'. Gaiters( a type of leggings buttoned down the side) were the norm for Bishops and Archdeacons. Mind you I know that these gaiters still exist in the cupboards of at least two present day Bishops. Will they make an appearance again? Probably... but only in the looking glasses of their bedrooms! Why not in the Cathedral close any more? I hear you say. The answer is simple... none of them have the legs for it!!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Winter Festival??

I have just had news from our local Chamber of Trade. Will we support the forthcoming 'Winter Festival' ? No we won't! Explaining as politely as possible that re-naming Christmas will not do, even if it is more PC. Actually I think and hope that the commercial extravaganza will be more subdued in the current economic climate and all the better for that. Perhaps the Icons of the Holy family in the office window to go up at the end of Advent may make the point better than any words I can say?

The Rain and the leaves are falling.

Autumn in the borders of Wales and the season is changing the clock's will go back. Time becomes more steadied somehow. We turn our attentions to the fallen Remembrance-tide and All Souls. The fourteen children in Sunday school were a delight to teach last Sunday especially as we welcomed two new youngsters aged 10 and 7 recently adopted by a lovely family from our congregation. An occasion of great joy, these two never having been in church in their lives before. Imagine the 10 yr old ' I've always wanted to be a Christian'.....Amazing and an emotional day for us all. Thanks be to God....

Te Deum Laudamus

Oh what a great day and now we have some real oecumenical good news from Rome no less! Our own church refuses us the only pastoral care we need, that is a replacement PAB(flying bishop) and Rome gives us the possibility of the full sacramental care of an orthodox bishop we so desperately need and asked for but re-united with the See of St Peter! Moving towards that unity to which we all aspire. A life raft has been sent out! A bridge has been specially constructed for Catholic Anglicans leading across the river Tevere! What a disgrace that we could not have the same oecumenical magnanimity in our own church. Injustice will be righted, we will be able to 'consider our position' after all! Praise God and many prayers to come that we may fulfill God's plan for each and every one of us, whatever that may be and wherever that may lead us. At last we can turn our sleeping and waking hours to the urgent task of spreading His good news to those who do not yet know Him without getting stuck in the cloying mess and mud of church politics. Today is a truly liberal and liberating event of monumental importance to these islands of Britain. Hooray!