Thursday, September 18, 2014

NEW ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY

NOW ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY FISHER
The Holy Father has appointed Sydney -born Anthony Fisher O.P. until now Bishop of Parramatta, and a former Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Sydney to succeed His Eminence George Cardinal Pell as Archbishop of Sydney.


Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP

Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
DD BA LlB BTheol DPhil
Bishop of Parramatta
DD BA LlB BTheol DPhil
Born in Sydney in 1960 to Colin and Gloria Fisher, he was baptised Anthony Colin Joseph at St Thérèse Church, Lakemba, and attended the parish school in 1965 and 1966.
Thereafter, he attended St Michael’s School, Lane Cove, Holy Cross College, Ryde, and St Ignatius’ College Riverview.
At the University of Sydney he received degrees in History and Law before practising law in a city firm.

Dominican friar

In 1985, Bishop Anthony entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), a religious order dedicated to preaching the Catholic faith in the context of a life of study, prayer and community.
He studied for the priesthood in Melbourne, receiving an honours degree in Theology.
He worked for a time on immigration and refugee issues at Uniya, a centre for social research in Kings Cross, and was ordained a priest at Holy Name Parish, Wahroonga, on 14 September 1991.
Crest of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
'Veritatem facientes in caritate' Speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)
Thereafter, Bishop Anthony completed a Doctorate in Bioethics at the University of Oxford. From 1995 to 2000 he was a lecturer in the Australian Catholic University.
From 2000 to 2003 he was foundation Director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, Melbourne. Bishop Anthony remains Professor of Moral Theology and Bioethics in the Institute.
He is also Deputy-Chancellor of the Catholic Institute of Sydney and Adjunct Professor in the University of Notre Dame Australia. In 2011, Bishop Anthony received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws from the University of Notre Dame Australia.
In the Dominican Order he was the Master of Students (seminarians) and Socius (deputy) to the Provincial.

Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney

In 2003, Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney. In that archdiocese he was Episcopal Vicar for Life and Health and Chairman of the Catholic Schools Board.
From 2003-2010 Bishop Anthony was Parish Priest of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Watsons Bay. His community involvements have included: Chaplain to the Parliament of Victoria; member of the Infertility Treatment Authority of Victoria; chair or member of several hospital ethics committees; and chaplain to various organisations such as the Order of Malta. He has published extensively in bioethics and moral theology.
He was Co-ordinator of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.

 
                      Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Pell and the then 
                                Bishop Anthony Fisher in 1988

Third Bishop of Parramatta

On 8 January 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Anthony the third Bishop of Parramatta.
He is also Chairman of the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales, a member of the Australian Bishops’ Commission for Doctrine and Morals, the Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Life and the Bishops’ delegate for youth.
Since 2004, he has been an ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the body that advises the Church on bioethics. He recently published Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium (Cambridge University Press).

COMMENT

                     Bishop Fisher with his Parramatta Seminarians

Archbishop Fisher is a remarkably well-qualified successor to Cardinal Pell. He i s a man , still young at 54 years, of strong academic and pastoral achievements. His capabilities are quite varied, as his oversight of the brilliantly successful World Youth Day 2008 shows. He is not afraid to take bold initiatives  - as we see in the establishment of the Holy Spirit Seminary in Parramatta - which is a model of a successful Seminary.

We wish His Grace every Blessing on the occasion of his appointment and in the years ahead, as he assumes the Crozier so lately relinquished by Cardinal Pell 


                                               A congenial Succession

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"DO YOU LOVE ME?" THE GREEKS HAD A WORD FOR IT!

To-day is the Feast Day of Pope Saint Pius X whose love was kindled in my heart by my childhood Parish Priest, the tall Irishman Father Con Donovan.Father loved Pope Saint Pius X and his devotion caused my child's heart and mind to respond accordingly.The effect has lasted now, even at 74 yrs of age.

The Gospel of the Mass to-day is a very special one. My affection for it grew , when in my teens I learned something important about it from the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, but the story is told in the following item which I posted in 2012 :

 "

Saturday, May 26, 2012

THE GREEKS HAD A WORD FOR IT - BUT WHY IS IT NOT SPOKEN ABOUT?


AN AILING ARCHBISHOP FULTON J SHEEN IS GREETED BY BLESSED POPE JOHN PAUL II

The Gospel is John 21 : 15 -19 in which according to our translations Jesus asks Saint Peter three times "Do you love Me?" Most preachers and teachers go with it as we see it, But the late Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J Sheen brilliant Scholar, Preacher and Retreat master and TV Star in the 1950s, pointed out that two verbs are used for "love "in the original Greek text : Jesus' first two questions use "agape" which is an unconditional all-consuming, sacrificial love - even unto death.However, both times, Peter, in responding, uses "phileo" - the normal  natural love between friends.For His third question, Jesus lowers the bar to meet poor Peter's more feeble responses : He Himself uses Phileo on this occasion to accommodate Peter.

If we cast our minds back to Holy Thursday night, we recall Jesus'prediction , and Peter's triple denial of Him, and how Saint Peter wept following the Lord's glance as He was taken away ( "conversus Dominus" Luke 22:61 the Gospel tells us - "the Lord turned" and looked back at Peter). Clearly Peter's heart and mind went straight to that painful memory when Jesus asked "Do you love Me more than these"(first question) He  was not going to condemn himself again by any rash assertions, such as those he had previously made. He knows he had no right to judge the degree of love the others had for Jesus. So , his head and heart swimming in painful memories, he responds to the Lord's use of agape with phileo.

But so great indeed is the Divine love for him that God made Man, Jesus Christ, lowers the standard to accommodate Saint Peter. 
 
It is an amazing story of God's Love at work. Saint Peter redeems himself somewhat with his heartfelt response : "Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You...."

The discourse concludes with Our lord's prophecy of Peter's death and the price of his Primacy.

"ORATE FRATRES" ARCHBISHOP SHEEN CELEBRATES HOLY MASS


Have you ever heard a Homilist advert to this aspect of the triple questioning? At 72 yrs of age I have not heard it done in Australia, and would have remained in ignorance had it not been for Archbishop Fulton Sheen's Radio Broadcast ( audio from the TV Shows in the U.S.A.) in 1950's Sydney,  when I was in my teens.
 
 Remarkably I understand it is a routine part of homilies on that Gospel in Nigeria! Then again, they receive Communion on the tongue whilst kneeling, as if in the Presence of God Himself! ( Of course they are, as are we - what is wrong with us?)

Oh ! And lest you think the Greeks forgot something! There was a third Greek word for "Love ": "Eros"for physical intimacy. And actually a rarely used Fourth word "Storge"for a general love such as for a group or team or college student body for example. 

As the saying goes : "The Greeks had a word for it."!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

PAPAL STATEMENTS

Pope Francis
This Post first appeared on 27th September, 2013 Recent events have made it even more relevant.

One thing is undeniable about Pope Francis, he has caused Catholics to look again, and carefully think through, their attitudes to Papal statements and actions.

We are not talking about Magisterial statements here, but routine expressions of opinion.

Admittedly there were not so many of these from Popes in recent decades , and when they came, they were usually only incidental to some major considered formal statement, letter or homily.But the recent , now famous at least, interview given by the Holy Father, has produced a torrent of his "off the cuff" remarks, many of which are very far from Magisterial teaching and entering into the area of statements of fact.Some have come to question a significant part of those "facts" - and those doing the questioning are those normally considered ultramontane - absolutely committed to the Pope in everything.

The point at issue is this part of the Holy Father's comments:

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. "
It did not help consideration of these comments when the mainstream mass media began headlining along the lines "POPE SAYS CHURCH IS OBSESSED WITH ABORTION,GAYS AND CONTRACEPTION". That is of course not quite what the Holy Father said, and it does suggest a conclusion that is ABSOLUTELY NOT anything he said.
However, those who have borne the heat of the day on just these issues, were quick to point out that, at least in the Anglosphere and in Europe there is not the slightest question of the Church at the Diocesan or Parish level "obsessing" over these topics. Indeed, very many have asked "When was the last time you heard the Church's teaching in these areas defended or propounded? Answer not in the last 40 years!"
Their conclusion then, is that what the Holy Father has said or implied is simply not true - his facts are wrong.
This has forced people to reflect on their customary reactions which have tended to be ultramontane - generally to hold the view that whatever the Holy Father said was right - no question. ( Of course they all knew that occasionally even a saintly Pope like Blessed Pope John Paul II could impulsively do something silly - like kissing a Koran on one occasion - his actorly instincts getting the better of him on the spur of the moment.) 
But the phenomenon of Pope Francis has, it seems unnecessarily, caused even the greatest loyalists to examine their position and realise and bring to the fore, what they had of course always known , that there are strict limits to Papal Infallibility and even to what is or is not Magisterial teaching.And many have expressed a reduced confidence in the ultimate support of the Holy Father in their local battles for the Faith that they have previously taken for granted.
The latter point  was given added importance when the Holy Father said later in the interview:
"It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally".

This was truly alarming for most Catholics who have had to struggle to defend Catholic teaching and practice against dissident Bishops and
 even Episcopal Conferences at times.

So, though it is early days as yet, it is true to say that one effect of Pope Francis' Pontificate has been to make even the most loyal "Papist" think very carefully about his/her obligations in Faith in regard to non-Magisterial statements and actions by the Pope.This is not necessarily a gain for the sacred office.

Friday, July 11, 2014

IT IS THE LORD

                       Pope Benedict XVI kneels before the Blessed Sacrament

IT IS THE LORD ! (John 21:7)

At the heart of the Catholic Faith is the greatest treasure imaginable: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We can truly exclaim , with Saint John "It is the Lord!"

Is it any wonder that through the last 2,000 years the Catholic Church, reflecting on , and endeavouring to come to terms with, this great miracle as best she could under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, had developed a Liturgy that sought to bring every ounce of honour possible to the Presence of God among us?

This process was entirely natural and organic, that is to say, the growth was consistent with every previous stage, whilst developing it further. It could not be otherwise because it stemmed from authentic faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist.For who would seek to diminish the honour given to God amongst us by his forebears?

And yet......and yet....in latter days, only in the last 49 years - since the closure of the Second Vatican Council on 8th December, 1965, it seemed, as the Venerable Pope Paul VI said on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in 1972, as if "From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God".



                                                         Venerable Pope Paul VI



We now know , through the revelation of his close confidant and Papal Master of Ceremonies, Cardinal Vergilio Noe, that what he had in mind was the widespread liturgical abuses which spread like wildfire in the wake of the Council, as radical elements invented the false "spirit of the Council" and ignored the letter of its teaching Documents.

But through heroic struggles on the part of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI we have seen the dawning of a new era of piety and devotion, drawing back from the abyss to which Satan had been driving so many clerics and laity, like so many Gaderene swine to destruction.

                                  What they termed "vibrant" Liturgies

The Novus Ordo Missae - the New Order of Mass approved and implemented by the Venerable Pope Paul VI caused a massive reaction throughout the Catholic Church. Like no other event, it served to make the foundations of the Faith of so many people to quake. It also lead to a certain free for all in liturgical abuse.For just as the Novus Ordo itself largely ignored the letter of the Second Vatican Council's document on the Sacred Liturgy - " Sacrosanctum Concilium", so many clergy who had absorbed the false " spirit of the Council" largely ignored the letter of the Missal of the Novus Ordo, now dubbed the Sacramentary (rather than the Roman Missal), and went their own willful way in producing what they termed "vibrant" liturgies.


Gradually, through the Pontificates of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the runaway horses were reined in with steadily increasing effect. And, in due time, even ICEL the International Committee for English in the Liturgy which had given the Novus Ordo an initial banal and inaccurate translation of the Missal was itself reformed. The new ICEL operating under a proper set of translation guidelines, in time brought forth with the aid of the Vox Clara Committee chaired by Cardinal George Pell, a new corrected translation of the Order of Mass restoring sacral language to the Liturgy and purging errors.

But the process of reform was never better served than by Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio " Summorum Pontificum" of 7th July, 2007, which unshackled the pre Novus Ordo Mass, enabling every Priest - without further permissions - to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal.Here , in his own words , spoken 10 years earlier, we find the reason that motivated him :

" I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It's impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won't it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes to-day?"


                                  Mass celebrated in the Vetus Ordo


 The results of the Motu Proprio have been dramatic. Strong communities of worshipers according to the Vetus Ordo have multiplied around the world, despite obstacles and rear-guard actions by some recalcitrant Bishops. And, contrary to the predictions of hard core "liberals", they are not composed of nostalgic old timers, but are flourishing centres of young families and young adults in the main. They find in the Vetus Ordo the sense of the sacred is worked into the very fabric of the ritual.

From the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar to the Last Gospel, they see the great Truth is recognised in every movement and gesture:


                                        "It is the Lord!" 


 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

PREPARING THE GROUND

 This post originally appeared on 9th June, 2013 . We re-post it now, so that you may see clearly that we have in the past been very sympathetic to Mr. Voris. A subsequent post will critically review his more recent activity.

THE TRUTH GETS BANNED            MICHAEL VORIS RUFFLES FEATHERS 

Please bear in mind: I do not like or endorse the Michael Voris style of presentation on Web T.V. Nor do I approve of some of his political views that have nothing to do with Religious belief. However in matters of Catholic Teaching and analysis of Catholic affairs, I have generally found him to be well -reasoned.

In a recent Post : " The Americans...Again"http://vexilla-regis.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/the-americans-again.html we looked at disturbances on the American Catholic scene. This time among orthodox Catholics.We mentioned in the process the prominent American orthodox Catholic Michael Voris of Church Militant TV. In the process of responding to the attacks against him by the orthodox Catholic establishment media, Michael Voris recounted at length in several video presentations the brief outline of his life and his discovery of hostility to his presentation of Catholic Truth.

I shall try to recount it accurately here.

Michael Voris had been born and raised a Catholic attended only Catholic Schools and Colleges but says that after 18 years of study, he had learned almost nothing about the Faith. This is not surprising, as he was born and grew up in the immediate post-Conciliar breakdown in the Church. A victim of the shambles that saw everything pre-Conciliar regarded as ancient history, he was "educated" by those building their own "New Church". He drifted away from the Faith.

But in 2004 he reverted to the Faith and applied himself rigorously to to studying Catholicism, authentic Catholicism, and loved it for its fidelity to Christ's teaching and Person.By this time he was working in New York as a successful T.V. Journalist -winner of 4 EMMY Awards.In 2006, wishing to use his professional skills to advance the Faith he had come to truly know and love, he set-up Saint Michael's Media under the Patronage of Saint Michael the Archangel.At the time as he relates it, he was unaware of the battle actually going on for the soul of the Church - he readily admits that he was quite naieve.

The first inkling he got of something vaguely troubling was when he invited his Parish Priest in Detroit Archdiocese, to come and visit the Studio of which Michael Voris was quite proud . The Monsignor - as the Parish Priest was - came and looked about, and was suitably impressed. Michael Voris assured him that the facilities were at his service for anything to advance the Faith. The Monsignor was polite and offered a piece of advice : "Stay in the middle". To Michael Voris this seemed cryptic , but experience was to progressively open his eyes to reality.

As time went by his work gained legal "Charity Status" - important in securing donations - and this was on the basis of his work to suppoer the One True Catholic Faith.

But in October 2006, storm clouds began to gather on the horizon of Saint Michael's Media. They had been enjoying some good success in getting their TV programs regularly aired on Diocesan T.V. Stations particularly in the West.Then an approach to Boston Archdiocese , which had seemed completely approved, suddenly turned sour. Michael Voris was informed after lengthy and difficult efforts to learn why, that "Cardinal Maida (then Abp of his own Archiocese of Detroit) would be embarassed if the show made in his Archdiocese were to be shown in Boston.

In 2006-7 the knock-backs started to come thick and fast. The Western Dioceses one by one declined to continue airing his programmes.And in trying to pin down what was going on, he finally learned that officials of the Archdiocese of Detroit had systematically been approaching Dioceses taking the programming and that they had been telling these other Dioceses that Saint Michael's Media was putting out heresy! Even in Detroit he found Parish Bulletins refusing his Advertisements  - the same activity.

Then he thought he had achieved something of a breakthrough with a major presenter on an important Catholic Radio network. He had carefully presented hi sprogramming, plus the evidence of its orthodoxy attested by a leading Catholic Theologian of undeniable orthodoxy. It was Green Lights all the way! Then absolute SILENCE. After a decent interval he once again sought a reason. It was finally given with embarassment : "The Archdiocese does not approve." There it was again.

Along the way he had agreed to work exclusively for the COMING HOME network of Marcus Grodi in a typical media arrangement :- Saint Michael's Media in Detroit had a contract to produce programming for COMING HOME Network based in Zanesville,Ohio, in the Diocese of Columbus.

Negotiations to air programming on EWTN (in its post Mother Angelica incarnation) went well at first , but stumbled at the last hurdle following the intervention of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

During this period, and after two years study, Michael Voris was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) by the Angelicum University in Rome, graduating " Summa Cum Laude".

Around 2008/2009 Michael Voris sought and was granted an interview with a high ranking representative of the Archdiocese of Detroit and flanked by a Senior Priest Theologian he presented the case for his apostolate and recounted the unjustified sytematic persecution his work had faced at the hands of some in the Archdiocese of Detroit.From this point the Archdiocese could never disclaim the actions its officers had taken. Nothing changed.

Up to this point, all of the Voris programming had been purely on Catholic Doctrine and Apologetics - quite beyond any valid possibility of reproach .
But that had not stopped him being blacklisted as a "heretic"!

Then came what he terms a "Watershed Moment" - the Obama Notre Dame Honorary Doctorate in March 2009. 

Our readers will recall this shameful incident http://vexilla-regis.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/what-its-all-about.html will take you to our post. The vicious abortion advocate, homosexual advocate, and attacker of the Catholic Church was actually given an Honour by a supposedly " Catholic" University.There he stood with arrogant chin held high while Priests of the University enrobed him like some Pagan Deity - they had earlier facilitated the covering up of symbols of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the request of the Obama Administration and meekly sacrificed the honour of Almighty God to placate their human worship figure.

Voris began to reflect on how this horrible event could take place, and began to see in it the ultimate betrayal of Catholic Truth for the sake of Americanism, and the acceptance of modern immorality. Looking further afield, he began to discern a real problem in the Church in America as he saw it : the failure to teach Catholic Doctrine and Morality, to defend Catholic Tradition and traditions, the tolerance of widespread Liturgical Abuse - in sum an extensive capitulation to the surrounding degenerating culture : the culture permeating the Church rather than the Church seeking to permeate the culture. This view began to transform the pattern of his operations , now using the title "Real Catholic T.V." , his programs became more inclined to confront the evils he perceived. He found a new funding source for his production via a Mr Mark Brammer .

In the lead up to the Obama scandal at Notre Dame ( now widely referred to as "Notre Shame") Voris was requested by a group of Canon Lawyers to present, in his own name, a canonical petition to the Holy Father to intervene to prevent the Congregation of Holy Cross which operates Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana and the Lay Members of the Notre Dame Board from proceeding with the award. Initially 40 American Catholic Bishops protested the University's action and finally over 100 Bishops joined in. Voris noted however that in the United States there are 270 active Bishops in the United States. Thus something like 170 Bishops would not protest.

As it happened the canonical Petition did not succeed. One can well imagine that the Holy See would be reluctant to administer such a direct slap in the face to the President of the United States.Especially one already showing signs of vindictive anti-Catholicism in a number of policy areas.

But the Episcopal reaction to the whole scandalous affair was seen by Voris as clear evidence of an atmosphere of dissent and disaffection in a broad section of the Church in America.

His stance, and the controversy surrounding the award, attracted the attention of even the secular media and Voris was interviewed on FOX NEWS. His appearance went well and the interviewer went out of her way after the show to invite his further contacts. However, subsequently nothing came of it. His later enquiries showed the Archdiocese of Detroit intervening once again.

Finally he came to the view that his operation would never be allowed to be free of this subversion and misrepresentation as long as he criticised error and wrong -doing wherever he found it. The only outlets enjoying official " approved list" status were those who did not criticise the status quo, who promoted a positive image that everything in the garden is rosy.

And now he is quite direct and unequivocal in his criticisms.It is his contention, which he says is backed by thorough research, that the Catholic Church in the United States is in a decline of catastrophic proportions. He refers to the declining numbers of Parishes, Schools, Marriages, and other figures to bolster his claims . The full research seems likely to be published in due course.







Wednesday, April 30, 2014

THE MIRACLE OF LOVE


ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR POSTS - THE MIRACLE OF LOVE

So many people are still attracted to this Post, that we thought it appropriate to present it again to all our readers and their friends.

THE MIRACLE OF LOVE - SAINT PETER AND THE HOUND OF HEAVEN

SAINT PETER
This post had an unusual origin but I believe it will be useful, perhaps to a particular person I shall never meet.
Saint Peter is of particular importance in the long history of the Church. We know a reasonable amount about him. He came from Capharnaum where he lived with his wife and mother-in-law. He was a fisherman together with his brother Andrew, and it seems they had more than one boat , so they may have been significant among the local fishermen. Fishermen are proverbially rough and tumble folk , hardy and hard living. So it might seem surprising that Jesus chose Simon Bar-Jonah - for that was then his name, to be an Apostle.Jesus knew all about Simon of course, but Simon did not yet know that.
 Such was the power of God's grace at work, that when Jesus bade Simon and Andrew to "Come follow Me, and I will make you Fishers of men", they dropped their nets and followed Him. In those earliest days their following of the Master was evidently not full time. For a day or so later , we find the two have been fishing when Jesus comes to them and bids them to push out into the deep , and put down their nets for a catch. Here, the Fisherman in Peter comes out fully and he tells Jesus they have been out all night and caught nothing, but, God's grace gets the better of the Fisherman, and because it is Jesus who makes the request, Simon will do it.
And what a catch it is! The nets are full to breaking!
Simon is no fool- he knows that what he is seeing is supernatural and that Jesus is the Person responsible for it. He still does not understand that Jesus knows everything. He kneels before Our Lord and begs Him in great humility :"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord".
Centuries later , the poet Francis Thompson ( 1859-1907),  because of the misguided medical practice of his day, became addicted to the tincture of Opium, called Laudanum , then very widely used for the relief of pain. Thompson was a devout man , and haunted by his addiction, which after repeated relapses killed him. He was always conscious of God's love and of God's pursuit of him no matter how seriously he fell. He wrote the marvellous, harrowing poem "The Hound of Heaven" to describe the unremitting character of God's love for him, even when -  in the grip of his addiction - he was rejecting it. He wrote of the Hound of Heaven pursuing him "down the labyrinthine ways". He was aware that this loving pursuit was part of a process , and cried out in anguish "Must Thou char the wood, ere'st Thou can limn with it?"
Saint Peter was at the beginning of the discovery of the constant faithfulness of God's Love, at the beginning of being "charred"that the Lord might "limn"with him.

We know even more about Saint Peter, for his personality radiates strongly from the Gospels and his Epistles. Saint Peter is seen to be a man of burning enthusiasms which cause him to often commit himself beyond the strength of his will or common prudence.He is a spontaneous, big hearted man .He means well but often stumbles. Jesus in due course let Peter know that He had him summed up all along. For He said to him "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,: and thou being once converted confirm thy brethren."

This was a remarkable Revelation of the Life of the  Trinity in effect, but Simon's personality has no time for reflection on Divine wonders : his gratitude and enthusiasm wells up and he positively gushes : "Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death." We will return to this exchange in due course - but for the moment it clearly reveals the generous, well intentioned  character of Saint Peter.

Earlier on , Our Lord had given Simon Bar - Jonah  a new name - the beginning of the ancient tradition of adopting "names in religion" - e.g. Brother Albanus, Sister Austin, Father Antonio and Pope Pius XI. In many areas this custom begun by Our Lord has been abandoned by those who say"I gotta be ME". Be that as it may, Our Lord gave Simon the name "Cephas"( in Greek) that is "Petrus"(in Latin) and "Peter"(in English).
The word means "Rock" and Our Lord went on to say "And upon this Rock , I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."

There are two times in the Gospels when it seems to me anyway, we can, between the lines see a loving affectionate smile likely on Our Lord's face. One is when the rather short, rich publican Zaccheus clambers up into a sycamore tree in his enthusiasm to see the Lord. He must have looked ridiculous, short, rich , no doubt overweight hanging up there in a tree like some street urchin. And Jesus bids him by name to come down quickly "for this day I must abide in thy house". Each time I read it I cannot avoid the thought that Our Lord was gently, kindly looking upon this man who was in haste and desperation to know Him. Similarly, Our Lord chose the name "Rock"for Simon to reflect the historic role this improbable man was to have in the history of the world. Yet, knowing Simon as the Sacred Scripture presents him to us, warts and all, is there anyone who could be in essence less like a "Rock"? Solid, reliable - that is not the Simon we come to know. But Jesus knows EVERYTHING about Simon Peter and knows all his weakness, and He also knows what he can become with the Holy Spirit's help. Jesus loves Simon Peter, he loves that big-heartedness, that generosity of spirit, and even that weakness that brings all the positives so often undone.It is hard to resist the thought that there was a certain gentle, loving irony in Our Lord's choice of "Rock"for His very wobbly Apostle.

Time and again we see Saint Peter revealed in  various situations, acting in the same way. On the Lake the Apostles  see the a figure walking on the water as they fear their boat will sink in the storm. "Be of good heart : it is I, fear not"Jesus says. Peter as usual in moments of stress or trouble is the one to speak up :"Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come to Thee upon the waters."

Now, a more natural response would have been " Lord , come here and save us ". But Peter was no doubt inspired to say what he did in order that a salutary lesson could be taught.Jesus simply answered "Come"" and that was enough for Peter, over the side he went and began to walk on the water toward Jesus! His Faith drove him. But, what was this? The wind was howling in his face and the sea was lashing him and :"seeing the wind strong, he was afraid: and when he began to sink he cried out saying : "Lord save me".And immediately Jesus stretching forth His hand took hold of him , and said to him : "O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?"The lesson is plain for the Church and for all of us, our Faith must be strong and constant in good times and in the face of horrendous opposition, and Our Loving Lord will always see us through!

Still later, very late in the day , as Our Lord , in the Upper Room, goes to wash the feet of Peter, we see typical Peter - he has looked askance as Jesus  washed the feet of the others - this is not fitting he thinks, and he  cannot stop himself saying "Lord, doest Thou wash my feet?"  Unworthy me - and you the Christ - the Son of the Living God! But Jesus answers simply : "What I do thou knowest not now;  but thou shalt know hereafter."Peter is determined and emphatic : "Thou shalt never wash my feet."

Jesus is calm , but resolute : "If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with Me." The response is typically Peter - the big heart, the great enthusiasm : "Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head". Jesus answers him gently, correctingly, as one might speak to an excitable child: "He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all of you."( The discourse goes on to deal with Judas Iscariot.)

Later in the evening, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the Temple police/soldiers come to arrest the Lord, and they move to lay hands upon him, Peter - ever excitable- forgets Jesus' foretelling that He must suffer, and whipping out a sword lashes out and cuts off the ear of one of the Temple police. Instantly Jesus commands him to put up his sword and heals the man's ear. Peter is slow to learn , but very quick to act and talk. Earlier he had, as we know assured Our Lord that he would gladly go to prison or to death with Jesus. And the Lord had promised him that before the cock crowed Peter would deny Him three times - not once, but - systematically - three times.

So it happens ,in the outer courts of the High Priest's home, whilst the Lord of the World is being questioned and insulted by the proud High Priests who had bought their offices from the Roman conquerors, and assaulted by their crude troops, Peter is hovering safely outside hoping to hear what happens. Not so safely, as it transpires. For three time in succession he is challenged as a follower of Jesus by common servants of the household.The cock indeed crows and as the Lord is being led out . He is to be imprisoned for a few hours until they can hurry Him as early as possible on Friday before the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate. The Gospel is dramatically sparse in recording the scene. Here is Peter, still in the panicky flush of his third denial of Christ - Jesus is led out past him, and Peter sees his sorry, bloodied condition and the rough handling He is receiving. He is stricken and sick with guilt. And Jesus... and Jesus.. the Gospel tells us simply two words : "Conversus Dominus". The Lord turned and looked at Peter. No words of reproof, no accusation, no correction. The Anointed One - the Christ -  simply, sadly looked at Peter. And Peter, we are told, burst into bitter and uncontrolled tears. Tears which were to recur and recur as the years passed and he absorbed the horror of what he had done. Tradition has it that his tears created great furrows down his face.

SAINT PETER - El Greco 
Time passed, the Resurrection, the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Peter is transformed - there he is , the Leader preaching to and converting thousands, speaking out boldly in front of the Temple authorities and defying their strictures not to preach about Christ.He is transformed - largely - but still human. When there are no Jews around Peter rightly ignores the now displaced old Law dietary restrictions. But when some Jews come to town, rather than risk a confrontation with them, Peter conforms to those dietary restrictions. Saint Paul , not without his own human weaknesses , as he tells us elsewhere,and we see for ourselves, will have none of this and confronts Peter on the point and wins the day. A little glimpse of the old weak willed Peter had been seen and put down.

Peter is now no longer a young man. This work of evangelisation had obviously not come easily to someone who had known nothing but catching fish. But he had walked with Jesus Christ and learned from Him and he had received the Holy Spirit, and years on the Mission had made the most of him, from Capharnaum to Jerusalem, to Antioch and finally to Rome the home of the Beast the monstrous pagan Empire. Now as an old man, he works on in the heart of the Evil Empire when persecution breaks out. It seems that the whole future of the Church ( Christ's promise to be with her always forgotten perhaps) is at risk. It is decided that Saint Peter and numbers of the disciples should save themselves by escaping the City. Out they tramp along the Appian Way, until Saint Peter meets, he meets Jesus Himself carrying His Cross in the opposite direction! Peter cries out to Him "Quo Vadis , Domine?" "Where are you going Lord?"

The answer is concise "Iterum Romam Crucifigi!' "I am going to Rome to be crucified again!" Saint Peter, even in his old age is still being pursued and humiliated by his failings. He turns about and returns to Rome against all human wisdom. Here traditionally. he was martyred on the very same day as Saint Paul. Paul a Roman Citizen - that proudest boast of the ancient world - had the "privilege"of being beheaded. But this Jewish Fisherman Peter is to be Crucified as befits aliens. But now he has courage in word and in deed : he asks that he be crucified upside down, saying he is not worthy to be crucified as was Jesus Christ. And so it happened on the Circus of Nero across the road from the Vatican Hill and he was taken across that road for burial in the cemetery there which can now be seen in the Scavi or Excavations under Saint Peter's Basilica.
Crucifixion of SAINT PETER - Carravagio
The Hound of Heaven , the Love of God , had pursued Peter across the Roman world and won the conclusive victory at what is now the Heart of Christ's Church. The lesson is immense for all of us, God's Love for us is relentless and ardent. No matter what our weaknesses, no matter how often we stumble, God loves us and pursues us for our salvation .The Miracle of Love - how could we fail to respond?
TONY DIXON 

Friday, March 28, 2014

" UNLESS A MAN......."


POPE BENEDICT XVI BAPTISES A CHILD IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL

"UNLESS A MAN......."

We saw in our last post that the ONLY way to gain an authentic personal relationship with Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, is to be a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church He founded. To be authentic, our relationship with Jesus Christ must be founded on the basis He determined, and be nourished by the means He provided.

Indeed, God's very purpose in crashing through from Eternity into time , was to achieve the Salvation of Man through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of His Divine Son. It was this Divine Son, Jesus Christ, Whose project for continuing His Salvific work on Earth, after His Ascension, is the Catholic Church - the very Kingdom of God of which He spoke so often.

This is a fascinating concept.

No. More than that, as an act of God upon Earth - a theophany - it is an electrifying miracle. Not just another institution, the Catholic Church is wonderfully unique. God did this.

God did this, for us - she, the Catholic Church is His gift of Love to mankind.

In what character did God give Her to us? She knows herself well, thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ Himself sent to guide and inspire her - and she tells us she is "Mater et Magister" , Mother and Teacher. And so it is that God's faithful children gather at her knee to learn in humble and loving simplicity.

But, But, you say........ how  does one come into this happy family of God, this Catholic Church?

Jesus Christ Himself, God made Man, has words for you, as you might expect. We recall with reverent awe the occasion of the visit by Nicodemus , a member of the ruling Jewish elite, probably a member of the Sanhedrin. In Saint John's Gospel 3:1-12 we are told Nicodemus came to Jesus " by night". We assume that this powerful man, though he had the germ of Faith at least, did not want it known abroad that he had spoken to Jesus. No. This was to be a private, indeed, a secret visit.

But it was to this weak reed that Jesus revealed the absolute necessity of Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. So important is it, that Jesus, God Himself, uses twice in a few sentences, His most earnest affirmation of His statement using His sacred formula : "Amen, Amen I say unto thee..."

Now you might think that would be sufficient to establish the fact forever and aye. But so essential, so vitally important is this, that later, following His Resurrection, at the time of the Great Commission, Jesus sent forth His Apostles, charging them to : "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I Am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."

And those words Jesus had prefaced with these:

"All power in heaven and on earth is given to Me."

Now God does not waste words. He has no time for small talk. He did not even respond to praise of the Temple and it's magnificence - save to foretell its destruction. But here, He goes to the trouble of underlining that ALL power in heaven and on earth is His, only to proceed to insist yet again , on the inescapable importance of Baptism! Once again we have water and the Holy Spirit.

Here we have it in the classic formula  : a visible sign, instituted by Christ , to give Grace - it is a Sacrament.

Saint Paul elaborates on the nature and operation on the Sacrament of Baptism in Ephesians 4  : 1-6, when he says :
"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, exhorting you to walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with patience , bearing with one another in love, careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the abound of peace: one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism........" There it is again. fundamental, essential Baptism.

There are seven Sacraments entrusted by Christ to His Church for her ministry and protection. Baptism, of its very nature, is the first administered, for it initiates the non- Catholic into the family of the Faith, making them a child of God.

They must as yet work out their Salvation "in fear and trembling" as Saint Paul tells us, and their Faith will be dead without good works as Saint James tells us, but by Baptism they are entitled to hope that, sustained by the seven Sacraments and with sincerity of heart, they might at last reach the Kingdom of Heaven, and Eternal Life with Jesus Christ, His Father and the Holy Spirit.