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AT THE MASSES ON 25/26 APRIL, YOU WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO HELP FINANCIALLY THE CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST WHO ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED AND DRIVEN FROM THEIR HOMES BY THE MUSLIM JIHADISTS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE, PLEASE PUT YOUR DONATION INTO AN ENVELOPE (NOT YOUR USUAL OFFERTORY ENVELOPE), MARK IT WITH A CROSS (THE SIGN OF CHRIST’S OWN SUFFERING AND MARTYRDOM) AND PUT IT ON THE PLATE WITH THE OFFERTORY COLLECTION. MAKE CHEQUES PAYABLE TO LLANDUDNO CATHOLIC CHURCH. YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL BE SENT IMMEDIATELY TO AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED WHO WILL GUARANTEE TO GET IT TO OUR SUFFERING BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE FAITH. THANK YOU.
26 April 2015 The Catechumenate and You
The Catechumenate? Why should I be interested in the Catechumenate? And, anyway, it takes two to tango. What?
Let me return to that film I preached about last week, called The Killing of the Christians, on BBC2. It is still on the iPlayer and I recommend that you watch it. Featured in the film is a Syrian priest. He is sitting at table with his elderly parents in whose eyes tears are gently forming and beginning to roll down their wrinkled cheeks. They are talking about the way the Muslim Jihadists had treated their priest son, how they had beaten him up, broken his teeth and landed him in hospital. With tears in his own eyes out of compassion for his parents’ pain, he turns to them and says simply “but I’m here”, referring, of course, to the thousands of Christians who had encountered the same Islamist terrorists and who are no longer there. Later, the same film focuses again on the Priest, showing him now preparing supper for a crowd of hungry people massing at his door. Are they his Christian flock, like him misused and abused by the Jihadists, with their properties lying in ruins? Surely, they must be. No. Most of them are Muslims, of the same faith and culture as those who had done him so much personal harm and who earlier had desecrate his church!
Now doesn’t that take us right back to where it all began? Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. That‘s Christianity. That is where Christianity leaves all the other faiths on earth standing. This is where it shows its utter superiority and its divine origin. The kind of love for others that Christ showed, a love that no ill treatment of person or property, no ridicule or mocking, not even crucifixion could destroy. That is God’s Manifesto for the world. Just imagine how life would be if Christianity were not only believed but also lived!
Just saying the Creed doesn’t make you a Catholic. The true Catholic is one who believes and who puts into practice what he believes. And this doesn’t mean just going to Sunday Mass. It means believing in God’s Manifesto and living God’s Manifesto. There were centuries when Europe was almost 100% Catholic, but those centuries were full of war. Many Catholics then, many Catholics now; many Catholic nations then, many Catholic nations now, are Catholic only in name. For it takes two to tango.
It takes faith and it takes living out that faith. Either without the other is quite dead. There’s a grain, but only a grain of truth in the saying Once a Catholic always a Catholic. On the whole that saying is nonsense. Lapsed Catholics, because they have divorced their belief from their way of life, find that what knowledge of the Faith they do retain becomes corrupted and distorted. They think they know what the Catholic Faith is, but what they know is just a caricature of the real thing. And because they think they know, they don’t want to know. They are closed in on their false opinions. That is why it is easier to bring a Communist or an atheist to Christ than it is to bring a lapsed Catholic back to the Faith. Some of the Church’s severest critics are lapsed Catholics, as we see today in many young Irish journalists and broadcasters. What is true in that saying Once a Catholic… is that the effects of Baptism remain for ever. It is not just one of God’s creatures who is here turning away from Him; it is one of God’s children turning away from their Father.
Catholicism is about the transformation of the whole person; what they believe, what they do, and what they are. That’s why the Catechumenate takes at least a year and is concerned not only with the dogmas of the Faith but also with the Commandments of God and the Way set out for us by Christ. This transformation, which is a slow process and takes far longer than the Catechumenate itself, indeed a lifetime, is not the work of the person who leads the Catechumenate, not the effect of the wonderful community which is built up within it, though these of course have their place, but is the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who is at once the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Love. What the Catechumenate offers is Catholicism live. Catholicism in its fullness. Those who were received this year into the Church on Holy Saturday and earlier, and all who were part of last year’s Catechumenate, are witnesses to this.
The Catechumenate? Why should I be interested in the Catechumenate? Two reasons. It would give you an opportunity of deepening your own experience of Catholicism. And it would enable you to fulfil the calling you received from God to be a witness to his Son, Jesus Christ. You could do nothing greater in life than to bring back to Christ someone for whom He died, that he may show them his hands and his side, the pledges of his love and his forgiveness.
The Catechumenate will begin on 26 May, the Tuesday after Pentecost. Thereafter, every Tuesday evening from 7.30 to 9pm. Very relaxed and laid back. Refreshments, courtesy of Sr Jennifer, half way through each session. If you are not from Llandudno, you are equally welcome to come along. The Mission Team will be at Stella Maris on the Tuesday beforehand to give people a chance to meet some of those who have been through the Catechumenate themselves.
So, the big question remains: Who are YOU going to bring along? Yourself? Your non-practising relative or friend? A neighbour? If you do, it won’t actually be you who are bringing them, but Christ who would be leading them to Himself through you.
And, mentioning Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of our annual International Mass For me, this is one of the highlights of the year. We celebrate the lives, languages and cultures of all who have come to live here from abroad and become members of our Parish Family. If you are such a person, make sure that your flag is in the flag tree; if it is not, make sure I know, so that we can get one in time. If you haven’t yet carried in your flag, or if you haven’t yet prayed for your native land in the Bidding Prayers, then again let me or Sr Jennifer know, and we will get you involved. Catholicism is Community.
God bless, Fr Antony
19 April 2015. The Christian Manifesto
Manifesto, Manifesto, Manifesto. Doesn’t the very sound of the word put you right off your cornflakes? Monday it was the Labour Party, Tuesday the Conservatives and the Greens, Wednesday (today, as I write) it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats and Ukip. All are crowing over their own (alleged) achievements; all promising the rosiest of futures, all busy stabbing one another in the back, while the great British Public lets it all swirl over their heads, generally continuing to believe what they always have believed. Such promises are always made; such depictions of future doom are always forecasted, but the outcome rarely corresponds to the predictions. While no one can deny that progress has been made over mankind’s history, all must recognise that it has been very slow progress, almost as if mankind is bogged down, somehow. Why is that?
Are the politics of today, I wonder, all that different from the politics which held sway in Our Lord’s time? International tensions then were as fierce as they are today. The Romans had overrun the Holy Land in much the same way as Putin has occupied the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The violence we see perpetrated today by Isis was commonplace in First Century Palestine.
Alongside international politics in Our Lord’s time, with the Zealots hell-bent on getting rid of the Romans, the internal politics were every bit as vigorous as they are in Britain today, maybe even more so. The unique situation prevailing in Israel meant that all her laws and regulations were based on religion. That meant that all the political parties were religious parties: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Zealots and the rest of them. Even the Zealots who were preoccupied with liberation from Rome were fired by religious motives: they despised Rome because it was pagan. The fanaticism we see in religious political parties today was alive and kicking then as now.
And all these parties had, yes, their manifestos. Maybe they were not printed on glossy pamphlets, nor published on specific days with the kind of razzmatazz which today we have come to expect, but they all did have their own manifestos. And so did that politico-religious party which came to be known as Christianity.
Christ’s Manifesto is known to the world as The Gospel. It is political through and through. It is religious through and through. In this respect, it was just like all the other manifestos which were circulating in First Century Palestine. But it was profoundly different as well.
The Gospel is thoroughly political. While giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, it pledges a respect for others, no matter who they are, indeed it demands a love for the foreigner, be they Roman or Greek, black or white. It proclaims a welcome to anyone who is willing to sign up to its utterly new Manifesto. It rejects violence and war; teaches justice and fair play; insists on sharing not hoarding; regards human sexuality as sacred; fosters wholesome family life and family values. It sees itself not as the aggressor but the servant; not the avenger but the cheek-turning righter of wrongs; it promotes peace by refusing to take sides and draws converts to herself by loving, not by conquering.
And while the Christian Manifesto is political through and through, it is also religious through and through. It recognises first and foremost the utter supremacy of God. It recognises the world as issuing from his creative hand and therefore holy and demanding of man’s reverence and respect. It recognises Man as God’s supreme material masterpiece; as created in the very likeness of God, and whose human life is so sacred that God Himself is prepared to die for it. The promise of this Manifesto is not a materially better life, not jam for tea at some unspecified time in the future, but a promise that takes effect right now, a way to become truly human and a way to mystical communion with God through the Church. And it guarantees our utter fulfilment hereafter. Some Manifesto!
I said that for the most part these manifestos with which we have been bombarded throughout this past week swirled innocuously over most of our heads. We have heard such promises before and we know that life has a habit of going its own sweet way undeterred. And, you know, I think something of the same happen with Christ’s Manifesto. Let me explain.
After the depraved practices of the pagans and the eye for eye, tooth for tooth attitude of the Jews, Christ’s Manifesto was to the ancient world like a nuclear explosion. No wonder we find recorded in the Acts of the Apostles that the Christians lived in community, sharing all their possessions and loving and caring for one another as Christ had shown them how. But it didn’t last. Why was that? Is Christ’s Manifesto pie in the sky, no better than the empty promises we have been listening to all this week.
It didn’t last because almost immediately after this Manifesto had been promulgated, the Jews turned on the Christians and banished them from the Synagogue. It didn’t last because within decades, Titus’s armies had smashed Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and turned everything upside down. It didn’t last because before you could say Jack Robinson (in Latin, of course!) the mighty Roman Empire had turned its spite onto Christianity and persecuted it savagely. And, in one form or another, it has been so ever since.
That is not to say that Christ’s Manifesto has not yielded it fruits, not kept its promises. In many ways it has; but in many ways it has not been able to. Look at our present society, for example, and see the results of Christ’s Manifesto written all over it. There is more evidence of Christ’s Manifesto in British Society than in the manifestos of all the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, etc, put together. Look at the schools, colleges and universities, all historically stemming from the Church’s concern for people’s human development; look at the National Health Service in all its complex ministry of care, resulting historically from the Church’s concern for the sick; look at the legal system that keeps our nation just and stable, steeped as it is in Christian values. Where have these and other institutions originated but from the Christian Gospel. It is a fact of history no one can deny. It is only since David Steel introduced the Abortion Laws in the 1960s that our legislature has started (and continues) enacting laws contrary to the Christian tradition.
But over and above this, the Manifesto of Christ has been realised deep in the hearts of billions of Christians of every nationality and condition, billions of people who in their heart of hearts have found those Manifesto promises kept. But while the Christian Manifesto has kept its promises and continues to do so, both within the secrecy of the individual’s heart and in the wide open forum of public life, it has been hindered from achieving its full potential by the very state of this world.
There is a passage in the eighth chapter of St Paul’s letter to the Romans which I have never been able really to fathom. He is talking about the way creation seems to be thwarted. He says in verse 20: Creation was unable to attain its purpose because of Him who kept it so in a state of hope. Even if this Newsletter has been for you tedious beyond words, it has at least done this for me: it has helped me to make some sense of what Paul is saying here. It seems to me now that God saw that if things went swimmingly all the time for all of us, we would make very little progress in our spiritual life, which is our main reason for existence. He knows that in a more frustrating world order we would need to keep our hopes high, our minds and hearts alert and fixed on Him. Look into your own heart and see this scenario at first hand; see how it is the efforts you make that sharpen your soul, make you more like Christ, whose own human soul was sharpened by the opposition, intrigue, betrayal and physical suffering He encountered.
Manifesto means the making of something clear to somebody else. Be yourself, therefore, Christ’s living manifesto today. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. And the prize will be, not a seat in Parliament or jam for tea, but a place at the right hand of Christ. And for ever. And that’s a promise.
God bless, Fr Antony
CALLING ALL PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
The Preparation for Confirmation Classes started on 11 November. They are held at 4pm every Tuesday at Stella Maris for Years 7 and 8. It is never too late to join!
Contact me : firstname.lastname@example.org
NEXT PARISH COUNCIL: Postponed