|This week’s Newsletter appears below the Pentecost one. This is because this following letter has priority. Please read it, if you haven’t already. It gives us the Pope’s vision of Europe, something all Catholics should know before they go to the polls on 23 July
Pentecost Sunday. The Pope’s Dream for Europe
15 May 2016
During the week, I received, and I assume you did too, the Government’s leaflet on the forthcoming referendum. On the television and throughout the media a healthy debate tries to persuade us to jump this way or that on 23 June. The Labour party is in support of Britain remain part of the EU, so are the Lib Dems, the Tories are split and across Parliament there are members from all side who are not toeing the party line. But what everyone agrees on, though, is that 23 June is a day of decision, momentous decision.
The arguments are based on politics, whether we would be safer in or out, more prosperous in our out, etc. etc. But has anyone heard any moral or spiritual reasons being put forward? I haven’t.
The Church is very careful not to interfere in politics. The Bishops of England and Wales, as you know, have had their guarded say on the matter. But last week, on the Feast of the Ascension, Pope Francis was awarded the prestigious Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen, given to those who contribute most to the ongoing work of uniting Europe. In his acceptance speech the Holy Father spelt out his dream for the future of the Continent. Of course, he didn’t refer to the forthcoming referendum in Britain, but his speech gives us a clear vision of his ideals and hopes for Europe, a Europe which will be profoundly changed one way or the other by the result of the British Referendum. It seems to me vitally important that Catholics should know the mind of the Church in matters as weighty as this, and who more qualified to express the mind of the Church than the Holy Father himself?
POPE FRANCIS’ DREAM I quote to you now the dream which Pope Francis proclaimed at the end of his speech: With mind and heart, with hope and without vain nostalgia, like a son who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith, I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves “a constant work of humanization” and calls for “memory, courage, and a sound and humane utopian vision”. I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter. I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless. I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being. I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment. I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption. I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all. I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.
THE GRACE OF GOD AT WORK IN HISTORY The Holy Father reminded us of the Christian ideals that prompted the “founding fathers” in the early post-war years to set up the European Project in the first place. Notice especially that he ascribes this to the grace of God, in others words saying that the establishment of what is now the European Union was God’s gracious and providential doing. A Europe capable of giving birth to a new humanism based on Creativity, genius and a capacity for rebirth and renewal are part of the soul of Europe. In the last century, Europe bore witness to humanity that a new beginning was indeed possible. After years of tragic conflicts, culminating in the most horrific war ever known, there emerged, BY GOD’S GRACE (capitals mine AJ) something completely new in human history. The ashes of the ruins could not extinguish the ardent hope and the quest of solidarity that inspired the founders of the European project. They laid the foundations for a bastion of peace, an edifice made up of states united not by force but by free commitment to the common good and a definitive end to confrontation. Europe, so long divided, finally found its true self and began to build its house.
A DREAM THAT HAS DIMMED But, the Holy Father sadly recognises that that hopeful dream has dimmed in recent years. This “family of peoples” which has commendably expanded in the meantime, seems of late to feel less at home within the walls of the common home. At times, those walls themselves have been built in a way varying from the insightful plans left by the original builders. Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading; we, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there. Nonetheless, I am convinced that resignation and weariness do not belong to the soul of Europe, and that even “our problems can become powerful forces for unity”.
He asks: Why this change? Why this loss of vision? I noted that there is a growing impression that Europe is weary, aging, no longer fertile and vital, that the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their appeal. There is an impression that Europe is declining, that it has lost its ability to be innovative and creative, and that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change
What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters? What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for the dignity of their brothers and sisters?
WE MUST REMEMBER OUR PAST He urges us to reawaken those hopes and ideals of Europe’s Founding Fathers. He tells us that we must remember our past : Such a “memory transfusion” can enable us to draw inspiration from the past in order to confront with courage the complex multi-directional framework of our own day and to take up with determination the challenge of “updating” the idea of Europe. A Europe capable of giving birth to a new humanism based on three capacities: the capacity to integrate, the capacity for dialogue and the capacity to generate.
WE MUST INTEGRATE WITH ONE ANOTHER By “the capacity to integrate” the Holy Father means that we should strive more to pull together than to pull apart. The soul of Europe is in fact greater than the present borders of the Union and is called to become a model of new syntheses and of dialogue. The true face of Europe is seen not in confrontation, but in the richness of its various cultures and the beauty of its commitment to openness.
WE MUST TALK TO ONE ANOTHER By the “capacity of dialogue” he means that we should reach out to one another, eager to learn from one another’s cultures and to share ideas, for the common good of all. If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building “a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter” and in creating “a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society”.
OUR YOUNG PEOPLE’S CRITICAL ROLE By “capacity to generate” the Holy Father continues the metaphor he used when he recently addressed the European Parliament and likened Europe to a grandmother, seemingly no longer able to bear children, no longer fruitful of life. His dream is that Europe should become productive again, like a young married woman. To realize this dream he turns to the young people of the Continent. In this sense, our young people have a critical role. They are not the future of our peoples; they are the present. Even now, with their dreams and their lives they are forging the spirit of Europe. We cannot look to the future without offering them the real possibility to be catalysts of change and transformation. We cannot envision Europe without letting them be participants and protagonists in this dream.
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH There is another important element in this equation, an element often overlooked even by Europe itself, which owes it so very much: the Church. To the rebirth of a Europe weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities, the Church can and must play her part. Her task is one with her mission: the proclamation of the Gospel, which today more than ever finds expression in going forth to bind the wounds of humanity with the powerful yet simple presence of Jesus and his mercy that consoles and encourages. God desires to dwell in our midst, but he can only do so through men and women who, like the great evangelizers of this continent, have been touched by him and live for the Gospel…. Only a Church rich in witnesses will be able to bring back to the roots of Europe the pure water of the Gospel.
The Pope’s dream will take a step closer to realisation on 23 June or else be dashed to pieces. Britain, such a huge player on the European and international stage, cannot withdraw from the EU without making waves, probably tumultuous waves. The Church is very careful not to interfere in politics. The Pope won’t tell you how to vote, nor the Bishops of England and Wales, least of all myself. But before we cast our vote on that decisive day, we should be well informed as to the mind of the Church on this matter, and no one is more qualified to give you that than the Holy Father himself. That is why I thought it necessary to bring this important speech to your notice.
God bless you, Fr Antony
22 May 16
What a wonderful celebration we had last Sunday at the International Mass! It delighted me. It made me feel proud to be British, proud to be European, proud to be a citizen of the World, but most of all proud, in the humblest sort of way, to be a chosen member of God’s world-wide family, the Catholic Church. I could see that everyone else felt the same; proud to be of the nationality they are and proud to be Catholic. The Mass expressed this wonderful and joyful unity among us all, a unity of mind, of heart and of belonging to one another with a bond stronger than blood relations because the blood that unites us is the precious Blood of Christ. It reminded me strongly of the great International Masses at Lourdes (only ours was better!) Again, I thank all those who took part in it.
Proud to be Catholic.
Yes, but proud in the humblest sort of way because we can only be a member in God’s Household if God himself chooses us to be so. His choice and his call are mysterious – we can only be certain of it once the baptismal waters have flowed over our head. He reveals his call also mysteriously, by circumstances, by people, by feelings and by longings in the heart. There are many such people to whom the call comes but who either do not recognise it or who are not helped to recognise it. And this is where you come in, dear Parishioner.
Sometime next month we will begin again the Catechumenate. There wasn’t one last year because of my illness. I hope I shall not keel over this time! By a year-long series of relaxed sessions we introduce the “Catchumen” into the Church, explaining simply but comprehensively, the Church’s theology, liturgy and prayers. When the person is ready (usually by Easter) they receive Baptism (if they haven’t already been baptised), Confirmation and Holy Communion.
So, dear Parishioner, can you spot, discern, the calling of God in any of your friends or family members? If you can, then, by acting upon it, you will not only be co-operating with God’s desire for his Kingdom to come on earth, but also will be serving Him as he deserves and as you ought to. Please let me know as soon as possible if you or any of your friends would like to join the Catechumenate. And if you are already a Catholic and want to explore your Faith more deeply, then you can come along too and welcome. The sessions are every Tuesday from 7.30pm to 9pm. The Catechumenate is open, of course, to the whole of the Deanery.
Moving from the supernatural plane of the Family of God to the natural plane of your own family, let me keep the promise I made in my Newsletter of two weeks ago and tell you what this Grandparents’ Pilgrimage I mentioned then is all about.
We all know the vital part grandparents play in the process of a child’s growing up. With age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom. Married children do well to keep this in mind as they tackle the job, more difficult today than ever, of rearing their own children. The wise and kindly influence of grandparents on children is profound and enduring. You wouldn’t believe how many grown up people tell me of the influence their grandparents had on them. And it’s always a good influence. Too often, sadly, the parents themselves have detrimental influences on their children, influences which last a life-time, but the sway grandparents have is almost always benign and profitable. For this reason among others, the Church always encourages the generations within a family to stay close to one another.
So, two events are being planned for Grandparents. First, a Pilgrimage to the Benedictine Abbey of Belmont in Herefordshire on Saturday,16 July. This is an all-Wales event. It is hoped that the bishops of the three dioceses of Wales will be there. They will mingle with the crowds who will be coming from all over the Principality and will concelebrate Holy Mass and arrange Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. There will be games laid on for the children and all sorts of other activities. It is hoped that the grandparents who attend will be accompanied by the children and grandchildren. The Day is being organised by the Marriage and Family Committees of the Dioceses and is meant as a family pilgrimage. It is being planned as a Pilgrimage rather than a day out because of its spiritual dimension and because pilgrimage plays an important part in the idea of a Holy Year. In this Holy Year of Mercy, the Holy Father has granted a plenary indulgence to all who make a pilgrimage during it, under the usual conditions of the pilgrim receiving Confession and Holy Communion recently.
We are laying on a coach (or two? Hope springs eternal) in conjunction with Llandudno Junction. I cannot tell you how much it will cost until I know the numbers, but whatever the cost, the Parish will go halves. Please sign up on the notice in the porch by 7 June or send me an email. When I have numbers, then I can tell you how much it will cost and then you will have the option of pulling out. But please do not say at that point that you will be going and then not turn up on the day: this usually happens but is quite unfair as it results in everyone else having to make up the lost fare.
The other event to celebrate Grandparents’ Week is nearer to home. On Sunday, 24 July, the 9.30am Mass will be specially geared to this theme. We hope to get the grandchildren specially involved in it. After Mass a Picnic is planned , a Grandparents’ Picnic. Again, this is meant for the whole family, with the Grandparents as the very reason for the celebration and the focal point of it. The Picnic will be held on the lawns at West Shore, near the children’s play area.
And even if it rains, it won’t be called off! No, I don’t envisage us all sitting on the grass with a gale 6 blowing in from the sea! If it rains, we will all go home and have our picnic there as a family, united in spirit with all the other families in the Parish who are doing the same. For both occasions, Hereford and West Shore, you will need to bring your own picnic.
And keeping to the family theme of this newsletter, may I ask you to keep a careful eye out for persons in your neighbourhood who, for whatever reason, are not able to get to Sunday Mass, with a view to offering them a lift. We can’t organise this more closely as a Parish because of the restriction put upon us by insurance and by regulations regarding the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. But I tell you, there are many such people in our Parish Family whose lives would be greatly enhanced should they be taken regularly to Sunday Mass. Please be as generous in this as you are in everything else.
God bless, Fr Antony