SCROLL DOWN FOR FURTHER NOTICE
WORLD SERVICE IS THE NAME WE ARE GIVING TO A WEEKLY SUNDAY SERVICE AT 3PM. ITS PURPOSE IS TO PRAY FOR THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD. EACH WEEK A DIFFERENT WORLD PROBLEM WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED AND PRAYED FOR. THE SPECIALLY CONSTRUCTED SERVICE WILL TAKE PLACE BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT EXPOSED. IT WILL LAST ONE HOUR.
14 December 2014
Be proud, be very proud, of your Catholic Faith
I received by post the letter I now quote to you. It was written on a page torn from a notebook, and it enclosed a cheque for £15. It delighted me, and I now share it with you.
Dear Fr Antony, We were at your beautiful church last weekend and read your newsletter about the passageway needing to be finished. I enclose a very small amount; I wish I could put a few more 000’s on the end of it. We shook hands with you at the Saturday lunch Mass (after I had spoken about being 72 and still feeling the same about Advent – AJ). We said you were exactly the same age as ourselves. Well done Father for working still, so that we could still go to Mass. God bless and prayers. Mary.
I do not share this letter with you because of the praise she gives me. That is not my concern. I am very happy still to be working in the Lord’s Vineyard, even though this particular labourer can do far less work now than he used to do. I share this letter with you because in a very short and simple letter Mary conveys much of what the Holy Father was saying at Strasburg before the European Parliament, a speech I said we would reflect on throughout Advent.
The Holy Father was at pains to remind us of the huge input Christianity, and specifically Catholicism, has had on the peoples of Europe, forming us into the kind of people we are, the kind of nations we belong to. Mary’s gift of £15, with the sincere and earnest wish that she could give much more, reveals her appreciation of what the Church has done for her. Like your good selves, with the Tribute Collection, she is not just concerned about the church where she worships back home, but the Church with a capital C. Her gift shows her concern for the Church at large, recognising it for what it is, the dream of God slowly realising itself in the world, the coming of his Kingdom.
She shows her concern for the priesthood. Her letter, the fact she took the time and made the effort to write and send it, reveals much that is surely on Mary’s prayer list. If I were a betting man, and I don’t deny having had the odd flutter in my life, I would put a pound to a penny that Mary prays for the clergy and for vocations to the priesthood virtually every day. If we really appreciate the huge debt we owe to the Church, then we should do the same, recognising that without an adequate supply of priests, the work of the Church would be massively hindered.
She reveals most powerfully and most movingly her love for and appreciation of the Mass. “Well done for working still so that we could still go to Mass”. The Holy Father speaks of the influence Catholicism has had on the very thought patterns of European civilisation, It was at the Mass, when books and even literacy itself were rarities, that these countless generations heard the message of Jesus Christ preached to them. Week after week they heard the Gospel, that message which outstrips any other theology or philosophy the world has ever dreamed up for itself. A message of who God really is, of how we can really relate to Him, of how we can live together in peace, justice and harmony, modelling ourselves and our society on Jesus Christ Himself and the way He lived.
It was precisely for the Mass that the churches and great cathedrals of Europe and Britain were built. Every successive generation learned from its predecessor the skills and science of architecture. We could build massive structures like castles which have plenty of strength but little finesse, but it was from building the churches to house the Mass that the peoples of Europe learned how to build beautifully. Look for example how churchy the Houses of Parliament appear. They were built in the gothic style of architecture which developed slowly through the latter Middle Ages in the building of our village churches and magnificent cathedrals. See not only the churches but many of the great buildings of Europe and recognise that the Catholic Mass was, as it were, their original foundation stone.
And can a child who has done no mathematics at all just turn his hand in his twenties to quantum physics and excel in it? Where did Picasso, Caravaggio, Raphael, Rembrandt, Turner and the rest of the great artists get their skills from? It was certainly not simply innate talent, though, of course, it was that as well. They, all of them, inherited the fruits of a learning process which had been going on uninterruptedly for centuries. And where was this process going one, and why was it going on? In the Catholic Church where her buildings were made as beautiful as human talent could made them. And why? To house the Mass, of course. The process began with rough frescos on the church walls and developed into the splendid masterpieces of the Renaissance and from then on into the secular world. So, again, even in art, the Mass is, as it were, the canvas on which it is painted, the marble from which it was formed.
So too, it was the Mass that, in the final analysis, has delivered to us the great classical music that is also a characteristic of Europe. The plainsong of the early Middle Ages, composed to accompany the Mass, developed as the centuries progressed, slowly broadening out into polyphony, the combination of a number of separate but harmonizing melodies, with choirs of many voices. There was a time when going to Mass in the great cathedrals was, from a musical point of view, a very similar experience to going to an opera house today. The Catholic Church developed the art of music and handed it over almost fully fledged to the modern world. So even our great classical music has the Catholic Mass as its bottom note, its base stave – the works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and the rest of them.
And where did all the learning come from that so characterises Europe? For centuries upon centuries it was the Catholic Church which carried forward the torch of learning, through the dark ages, into the Middle Ages and even into modern times. It was the monasteries, which Henry Vlll and his hatchet man Thomas Cromwell destroyed (in the biggest act of vandalism Europe has ever seen outside of World War ll), that provided education to the nation until their dissolution in the 1530’s. It was the Catholic Church which founded many of our famous universities. What other religion would give them such names as Corpus Christi or Magdalen or St John’s, or the Université Catholique de Louvain etc etc? The great learning which today characterises Europe had its beginnings entirely within the context of the Catholic Church.
And what about the NHS and its like? When the Welshman, Aneurin Bevan opened the Park Hospital in Manchester on 5 July 1948, the NHS was born. It was a Labour Party scheme: hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists to be brought together under one umbrella organization, providing services free for all at the point of delivery. All credit to Labour. Well, actually, not all credit to Labour. What is realised in the NHS is Christianity in action. It wasn’t the Labour party that instilled these caring attitudes into the nation, it was the Church over many centuries. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of loving one’s neighbour as He has loved us, was hammered into the nation from every pulpit across the land from the time Christianity came to these shores. The ideas and ideals were part of our national consciousness as a result of the incessant teaching and preaching of the Church. Until the State took over, it was the Church which provided the care of the sick with her hospitals and hostels. For well over a thousand years of our history, virtually all health care was in the hands of the Church. In a more secular age, Labour simply put into practice what the Catholic Church had drummed into the nation’s head as the Christian response to suffering: free, caring and without discrimination.
I could go on, but space and your patience cannot allow it!
St Paul said: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31). Be proud, be very proud, of your Catholic Faith! And what she has achieved in terms of our civilisation is as nothing in comparison with what she achieves in the depths of our souls by means of her preaching and Sacraments.
God bless, Fr Antony
PRAYERS FOR ADVENT
Lord Jesus, our Advent Season takes our minds back to the days before you came among us. A Christless world. There was no hope of eternal life then. There was no meaning to life, no real direction. Only a question of making the most of things, eating and drinking and trying to forget the harsher elements of life…
And then you came. Light in the darkness. Hope in despair. Joy in deepest sadness. Spring in the depths of winter. With what joy and excitement the early Christians welcomed you!…
But, Lord, how we in this generation have closed our eyes. Closed our eyes to your light! Turned our back on all you have to offer, preferring the way things were! Preferring the darkness. Preferring the winter. Preferring the despair! Preferring a Christless world to a world full of hope and meaning. How can our society behave so foolishly, ignoring you, the greatest gift God can give?…
Yet, Lord, even as we go our own unheeding way, you are there in our very actions. There in our giving. There in our loving. An unseen presence. Always with us. Always faithful…..
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to this your presence among us. Make this Advent a season of grace for us. Help us to recognise with contrite hearts just how much we need you, just how much we have neglected you, just how blind we have all become. And fill us with the expectant and exuberant joy of Advent……
And may Mary, who welcomed you with so much love, pray for us now. Hail Mary…
CALLING ALL PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
The Preparation for Confirmation Classes begin on Tuesday 11 November. They are held at 4pm every Tuesday at Stella Maris for Years 7 and 8.
Contact me : firstname.lastname@example.org