"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Thursday, 22 February 2018

2nd SUNDAY OF LENT, year B. 2018

Image result for icon of the transfiguration
My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Let us give all to the Lord and receive from the Lord whatever He sends us.  That is the invitation of the readings today.  Give all and receive whatever is given back.

Although we want to give all the Lord, we often find that what the Lord wants of us seems more than we can give.  Most of us don’t have the faith that we see in Abraham in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis.  We should recognize that even the early Christian commentators on this passage found it difficult.  Would God actually ask a father to kill his own son?  This is God asking something immoral from a human.  The only answer to this difficulty is that God does not actually, in the end, ask Abraham to kill his own son.

The point of the account in Genesis is not about God asking Abraham to do something immoral, but about Abraham being willing always to do the will of God.  Abraham is called “our father in faith” because of his complete dedication to doing whatever God asks of him.

We may doubt at times what God might ask of us.  We find it difficult to accept the evil that is in our world, the bad things that happen to good people, the atrocities against people that go unpunished, the school shootings.  Always people ask how a good God can allow such evils to happen.  Yet such questions are truly not about God but about us humans with our sinfulness.  We are broken beings who don’t always choose what is right and good.  God gave us this freedom.  And we misuse our freedom.

The real question is this:  why don’t we humans always choose what is good and what is right?  The only answer is that something is broken in us.  What do we do about the brokenness?  All the laws in the world are unable to redeem us and to force us to choose good.  Only salvation from God brings about a true conversion.

And how difficult that is!  The Letter to the Romans, from which is taken the second reading today, speaks to this problem:  “Christ Jesus it is who died–or, rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”  The only way of redemption is to embrace the path of God, who gave His own Son for us.

The Gospel today, from Saint Mark, is the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Jesus is changed in front of his own followers, at least some of them, so that they can believe that He is truly God even when they see Him undergo crucifixion.  At the heart of our Christian believing is this deep awareness that Jesus is born for us, that Jesus dies for us and that Jesus has indeed been raised to life for us.  This is not a philosophical argument but an experienced reality of the early Christians that we later Christians have come to see as true because of their testimony.

So our readings today are clear:  seek to do the will of God in all things, believe that Christ died and was raised from the dead for us and see in the Transfiguration of Christ that we also can be transfigured by our complete belief in Him.  Let us give all to the Lord and receive from the Lord whatever He sends us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip


Just as the date of the feast of the Transfiguration is aligned with that of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th so that they form a pair of feasts that explain each other, so the scene of the Transfiguration and that of the Garden of Gethsemane also form a pair.   Both take place apart from the crowd that usually accompanied Jesus.   Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him on both occasions.  On both occasions, they witness his intimate relationship with his Father, and on both occasions, they lose consciousness, the first out of sheer awe, the second out of sadness and fatigue.   Both scenes are resplendent with Christ's glory that is nothing less than his utterly self-giving love that reflects and manifests what God is, the Love of the undivided Trinity.  Christ's self-giving love is both the light of the Transfiguration and the exaltation of the Holy Cross.   This is depicted in the wonderful mosaic in Ravenna of the Transfiguration.
Image result for the cross in the apse of the church of Sant Apollinare in clase in Ravenna
In Lent, we prepare ourselves to share in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ in the Pascha.   In the words of one of the holy founders of the Cistercian order, we must learn to live in order to love and to die in order to rise again with Christ.   Each moment of our lives manifests for us the will of God.  If in each moment, we respond with a whole-hearted "Yes" to his will, we will find our cross and we and the world around us will become resplendent with the light of Tabor. 

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  (John17:20-21)
my source: excerpt from a wonderful blog Glory to God for All Things

The Elder Sophrony, together with St. Silouan, wrote about the “whole Adam.” By this, they meant all the human beings who have ever existed and those yet to come. For Silouan and Sophrony, this was something known in the present tense, a “hypostatic” knowledge of the fundamental unity of the human race. Sophrony described it as a necessary component in the Christian life of prayer. We have not been taught to pray, “My Father,” but “Our.”

This primal unity is completely present in Christ. His death on the Cross is not His alone – He dies the death of every single human being – bearing the sins of all. The insight of the saints tells us that this same reality must be ours as well. Christ has not done something for us in our absence. The Cross He endured is the same Cross He invites us to take up. And that Cross is also a universal Cross (the Cross of the whole Adam). We do not go there only for our own death, but for the death of everyone (and thus the resurrection of all).

The privatization of our religious faith has obscured this fundamental reality. We hear the command of Christ as directed solely to ourselves as a private matter. But the nature of that Cross includes its universal aspect. The Cross cannot bear my sins if it does not bear the sins of all. It is one of the primary meanings of Christ’s title, the “Second Adam.” For He is not a mere repeat of the First, but the recapitulation of all, just as the First Adam was the head of all. (Romans 5:18-19)

I am often aware of the burden of sin that we inherit (ancestral sin). Most of the problems that infect the world are not of this generations’ making (as is always true). We do not enter the world as a blank slate. Our DNA, our cultural inheritance, the vast sum of what will be our existence is given to us in a deck that has already been stacked. As Fr. Alexander Schmemann once said, the spiritual life consists in “how we deal with what we’ve been dealt.” And it is even more complex than that. We are sitting at a table in which every hand in play has this same givenness. We are all playing in a game that we might not have chosen for ourselves.

I am also growing ever more aware of those who will come after me. As a grandfather, I observe the inevitable inheritance within my own family, to say nothing of the world they will inherit. When I think of the generations to come my mind is also drawn to the vast multitude of those whose lives have been destroyed in the silent violence of our modern world. This is a bitter planet and one that gives too little thought to such things.

But when we pray as the whole Adam, then we must give thought to all of these things. Is it any wonder that the Church teaches us to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” over and over again?

Sunday, 18 February 2018



Image result for noah and his ark


First Sunday of Lent, Year B, Belmont, 2018 
According to the book of Genesis, we are all the children of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. And also, according to Genesis, we are all the children of Noah and his wife (who although nameless in Scripture, was given the name ‘Naamah’ in Jewish tradition). The famous flood had, of course, destroyed the rest of humanity, except for Noah and his three sons, together with their respective wives. Our second reading from the first letter of St Peter, therefore, got its maths right when it reliably informed us about “that ark which saved only a small group of eight people ‘by water’” (1 P 3:20). 

Image result for blessing of the paschal font

St Peter, in his first letter, is also quick to point out the evident parallel between the “water” of the flood and our Baptism: “that water is a type of the baptism which saves you now” (1 P 3:21). In the ‘Blessing of Baptismal Water’ at the Easter Vigil (when there are in fact people to be baptised), the priest prays: “O God who by the outpouring of the flood foreshadowed regeneration, so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue”. Water drowns and destroys, as well as “saves” and restores. 

Christ too was baptised; the story of which you will, of course, find in the Gospels. If you have a look at St Luke’s Gospel, you discover that the account is immediately followed by (no, not the Temptation in the Wilderness, as in St Mark’s Gospel, which we read today, but by) the genealogy of Jesus (his family tree, in other words). Christ, like us, was a descendant of both Adam and Noah and, in his case, via Noah’s son, Shem. The genealogy in the Gospel of Luke is as such sandwiched between the story of the Baptism and that of the Temptation.
Christ shared in our humanity, as well as the divinity; and just as the genealogy concludes by stating that he is the “son of Adam, son of God” (Lk 3:38), so in the Baptism (which all sinful sons of Adam are surely in need of, though Christ himself was without sin) we hear the divine voice proclaiming: “You are my Son” (Lk 3:22). There is indeed a universal call to salvation; and therefore a universal call to Baptism, for us to be saved from sin and share in Christ’s divine sonship. If we return to St Mark’s Gospel and turn to the very end instead of the beginning, we read of Christ’s parting commission to his disciples: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved” (Mk 16:15-16a). We have already mentioned that “only a small group of eight people” (1 P 3:20) were saved by the great flood. And yet in that “small group” was in effect prefigured “the whole world”, since the three sons of Noah represented the three known continents: Shem Asia; Ham Africa; and Japheth Europe.

The parallel between the story of the flood in Genesis and of Jesus in the Gospel continues in regard to another reference to a number: “The Spirit [at his Baptism, who descended as it happened “like a dove” (Mk 1:10), thus recalling the dove sent by Noah over the flood (cf. Gn 8:8)] drove him out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan” (Mk 1:12-13a); “The flood lasted forty days on earth” (Gn 7:17a). Although it seems that neither Noah nor any of the others in the ark were similarly tempted, they were, like our Lord in the wilderness, “with the wild beasts” (Mk 1:13b): that ark crammed full with every kind of bird and animal.       
Just as we can draw a soteriological conclusion from this comparison between the flood and Christ’s Baptism and subsequent Temptation (‘soteriological’ by the way signifying matters related to salvation); so we, perhaps rather unsurprisingly, can do the same as regards ecological matters. In the minds of many, however, the saving of the planet has more resonance than the saving of souls, yet both are symbolised by Noah’s ark, “which saved only a small group of eight people ‘by water’” (1 P 3:20), as well as saving, or rather conserving, every species of animal from extinction. Similarly, our Lord offers us salvation through the waters of his Baptism, while also seeming to show his concern, and clearly not disdain, for wildlife by his being “with the wild beasts” (Mk 1:13b).
see "The Cross and the Cosmos" below.
As we now prepare for Easter and the renewing of our own Baptismal promises, let us resolve, like God himself (through the waters of the flood, which prefigure those of our Baptism), to put “an end to vice” (Blessing of Baptismal Water), to the wickedness on earth (cf. Gn 6:5). And also like him, to make that promise (which we heard right at the end of today’s first reading): “never again […] to destroy all things of flesh” (Gn 9:15). We have reached a stage in our history when our destruction of the planet has become, to some degree, critical (Pope Francis specifically drawing our attention and conscience to this in recent years). It stands to reason that this destruction is in no sense constructive; as it is our faith that planet earth is part of God’s creation (a small, though obviously very important, part in the scale of things).        
Like our Lord, we have to wrestle with temptation, with Satan and the wickedness of sin in the wilderness which is life on earth; yet, at the same time, we want to live harmoniously “with the wild beasts” (Mk 1:13b) who also inhabit this wilderness. This time of Lent is marked by that call to repentance: “Repent, and believe the Good News” (Mk 1:15b), the concluding words of today’s Gospel, which we might also have heard being pronounced while we were being daubed with ashes last Wednesday. Let us “repent” then of what we have done or indeed failed to do, firstly, to our neighbours and, secondly, to our planet; yet let us “believe the Good News” of our salvation and of our being not simply the children of either Adam or Noah but rather of our being adopted children of “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt 6:9). 

by Father Stephen Freeman (Orthodox)
see: The Cross and the Cosmos

It seems worthwhile to continue with thoughts on the instrument of our salvation. In a short work, The Beginning of the Day, (I believe it was a special printing and is not generally available), Met. Kallistos Ware notes this about the Cross and its connection with the whole of creation:

…[The] created order in its entirety participated in the Savior’s Passion: the earth shook, the rocks were split, the whole cosmos shuddered (Matt. 27:51). In the words of St. Ephrem the Syrian, ‘humans were silent, so the stones cried out’. As the old English poem The Dream of the Rood expresses it, ‘All creation wept.’ This all embracing participation in the death of God incarnate is memorably expressed in the Praises or Enkomia sung in the evening of Good Friday or early in the morning on Holy Saturday:

‘Come, and with the whole creation let us offer a funeral hymn to the Creator.’

‘The whole earth quaked with fear, O lord, and the Daystar hid its rays, when Thy great light was hidden in the earth.’

‘The sun and moon grew dark together, O Savior, like faithful servants clothed in black robes of mourning.’

‘O hills and valleys’, exclaims the Holy Virgin, ‘the multitude of mankind and all creation, weep and lament with me, the Mother of God.’

Most remarkably of all in what is truly an amazing statement, it is affirmed: ‘the whole creation was altered by Thy Passion: for all things suffered with Thee, knowing, O Lord, that Thou holdest all in unity.’

Do we reflect sufficiently, I wonder, upon the environmental impliations of our Lord’s Incarnation, upon the way in which Jesus is ecologically inclusive, embedded in the soil like us, containing within His humanity what has been termed ‘the whole evolving earth story’?

Do we allow properly for the fact that our Savior came to redeem, not only the human race, but the fullness of creation? Do we keep constantly in mind that we are not saved from but with the world?

In such a fashion St. Paul can say that the “world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” Frequently our own thoughts about the things of God are too restricted, too limited. The Cross is diminished to an execution role in a very narrow atonement theory, the Incarnation reduced to a stage entrance. These great mysteries of God, manifest among us, are the gate and ladder, the entrance into the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of God’s entrance into our world. This is true not only of the Cross of Golgotha, but ultimately in every Cross that participates in its reality. A believer’s making of the sign of the cross, with faith, participates in this reality (and so the demons flee).

Christ has promised that we would have life “more abundant.” By this is not meant that we will be rich or have more material things (for these are not the true life). But the Kingdom is an endless abundance that enters our heart and world, shattering the narrowness of opaque minds and opening to us the fullness of life in Christ.

The Reality presented to us in the Cross (as with all things of God) is never comprehended in rational theory. It pushes us beyond the limits of our own poorly defined rationality and towards the greater rationality of the Truth of things. As noted by St. Gregory of Nyssa, “only wonder grasps anything.” To approach the Cross with wonder is to begin the journey that it makes possible. The life that we refer to as salvation belongs to this world of wonder – despite the banalities of much Christian conversation on the topic.

It is not surprising that silence is among the most important tools in our spiritual life. O, sweet wonder!
by St Francis of Assisi
Image result for the canticle of the sun
Verses from St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun were translated as a children’s hymn by the English hymn writer William H. Draper (1855—1933).Canticle of the Sun - St. Francis' poem immortalized in song
Usually sung to the melody composed by Peter von Brachel of Cologne, Germany, in 1623 with the harmony provided by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906:

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Refrain: O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Canticle of the Sun

St Francis of Assisi, the Reluctant Saint

Friday, 16 February 2018


 icon of Christ on the periphery of life
to gain all others on the periphery
There were “bad times” under the Romans too. But Jesus came. He did not spend the years of His life complaining or denouncing the “bad times.” He cut it short. In a very simple way. By building Christianity. He did not end up indicting or accusing anybody. He saved. He did not indict the world. He saved the world.   (Charles Peguy, Veronique)

Pope Francis is misinterpreted especially by two lots of people, the "world" with its secular media that interprets his words according to its own presuppositions and his "conservative" opponents who identify Christ's moral teaching with the code of Canon Law and who are only too willing to accept the secular interpretation of his words as this makes it easier to refute him.   Of course, there are also Catholics and other Christians who have discarded Catholic Tradition and accept modern, liberal, secular morality hook, line and sinker: they are delighted to believe that Pope Francis is one of them.

  Instead, we find a traditional Catholic who wants to reorientate the Church's focus of attention from itself to the peripheries, from the orderly and smooth running of its institutions to the disorderly or badly ordered world of sin and to those who are in various degrees entrapped in it, either as victims or as participants.  

The Church is, by its nature, a missionary Church, as the last four popes have taught, and all its members are called to be missionaries.   This is especially so now that the secular, liberal elite is taking over.  In the past, the Church was the moral legislator for western society, and Canon Law reflects that role.  Now the rules must be adapted to its main missionary role.

Pope Francis has said:

There is a tension between the center and the periphery…. We must get out of ourselves and go toward the periphery. We must avoid the spiritual disease of the Church that can become self-referential: when this happens, the Church itself becomes sick.

“A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it.
Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37)”
(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 46, 49)
When Frs Luke, Paul and I arrived at the small town of Tambogrande in northern Peru to take over the parish and to found a Benedictine monastery in August 1981, the people met us with grateful delight.   Communion time at Mass was highly spectacular as people crowded in front of the altar to receive the host.   They jostled and pushed "like hungry dogs", as Graham Greene put it in "The Power and the Glory", and many whispered urgently,"A mi, Padre, a mi!" as though we were about to pass them by.

It came as a bit of a shock that very many of them were not married in church, that some were in more than one relationship and that one of the most pious, a daily Mass-goer, was mistress of a married doctor.  We learnt that the Spanish colonized Peru before the Council of Trent made it mandatory that all couples should marry in church, whether they were rich or poor and that the Council of Trent was too far away for it to make much difference to the illiterate peasants, however pious they may have been.  We also learnt that, while civil marriage and simple co-habiting did not require the families to put on a large fiesta, religious marriage does, and people simply can't afford it.  It was also a sad fact that the average parish priest in the old days had simply been content to give the sacraments and made no real attempt to teach them.

Father Luke, Paul and myself had no special theory about the sacraments and marriage other than the ordinary teaching of the Church.   For us, the question was simply this: should their obvious need and desire for Christ be met first by what we had come there to give them, leaving it to Christ himself to sort things out, or should we first meet them with Canon Law?  There was no time to theorise: they were there in front of us, whispering, "A mi, Padre, a mi!"   The question was:  Do we now, at this moment, give them Jesus or the Law?

Father Paul, as the parish priest, went to consult the Archbishop who, like us, was no liberal.  He asked him about second relationships, especially when this has taken place after a previous marriage in church.   The archbishop told him that it was his opinion that most first marriages in Peru do not fulfil the conditions necessary for a valid marriage and that the processes for annulment are both too complicated and too expensive for the majority of people.  Very often, the second marriage is the one that has the natural ingredients essential for validity.  Under the circumstances, we should give second marriages the benefit of the doubt.  Church discipline does not fit the real situation.

As the years went on, with the introduction of catechesis in which ordinary Catholic doctrine was taught and as we organised marriages in the village fiestas when the whole village was celebrating anyway, which made them very much cheaper for the families and with the training of catechists who instructed people in preparation for the sacraments, Tambogrande became, little by little, an ordinary Catholic parish in which the ordinary rules made sense.

The truth is that Pope Francis' controversial views are neither right wing nor left wing: they are the product of a normal Hispanic American pastoral experience.

According to the last four popes, the Church must be missionary, must reach out and not be content until all have the chance to enjoy a living experience of and relationship with God in Christ.   In the vocabulary of Pope Francis, we must reach out to the peripheries.  Our theology, our language and our rules must be adapted to this end.

Firstly, we must identify those on the periphery.  From the point of view of our centre who is Jesus Christ, that includes everybody, including ourselves, but some are more on the periphery than others.  Here it is worth quoting Archimandrite Aemilianos of Simonpetra, a monastery on Mount Athos:

"Think of it: Jesus Christ, the Life of all, the Creator of the universe, the only One ever to have been born without sin, was all alone, left in a common grave, outside of Jerusalem. He was alone even among his closest friends, since they never really understood Him, and thus He asked them: Do you not perceive or understand? (Mk. 8.17) Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me? (Jn. 14.9). At the time of His passion, His isolation became acute. In the garden of agony, when His sweat became like great drops of blood, His disciples drifted off into sleep (Lk. 22.44). One by one His friends deserted Him. He stood alone before the judgement seat of Pilate, alone on the cross, alone in the grave: everywhere alone. He went alone into Hell. Alone, always alone. Why? So that you might learn that you have to be alone with God in order to become His dwelling place.

Then the Lord will say, at the Last Judgement, to those on His left, whom He will send away into Gehenna, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels: “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me” (cf. Mt 25:33-41). Do you see? He’s a stranger, somebody who’s alone, who’s ignored: I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was alone in prison and you did not visit me (cf. Mt 25.42-43)....For many of us, this can be a rude awakening: after beholding Christ in our dreams, we find it annoying to open our eyes on a world filled with other people. Immediately we say: “I wasn’t looking for you I want Christ,” forgetting that the stranger, the poor man, the prisoner, the sinner, and especially my enemy - especially the person who seeks to harm me - is Christ for me."(Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, The Way of the Spirit, pp. 244-245, 254)

If the Church is to have an open door to those on the periphery, it must be clear in itself that it cannot be one of the forces that puts people on the periphery.

Firstly, it is not there to judge people. As the fathers of the desert used to say, the One who condemns adultery also condemns judging others:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matt.7, 1...)
We must be clear that our function is to show others that God loves them unconditionally, right where they are and that this is revealed by Christ on the Cross.   The famous "Who am I to judge?" of Pope Francis about homosexuals must be interpreted in that context.  When Jesus asked the woman taken in adultery if there was anyone condemning her and she replied, "No one" and he said, "Neither do I condemn you," no one suggested he was going soft on adultery: condemnation was not his role and neither is it ours.

Thirdly, by getting to know them, we must discern and discover what God is already doing in their marginalised souls, for you can be sure that the Good Shepherd is already there, working away.  Anyone who has come to know the true devotion, the genuine love, even the heroic self-sacrifice present in many objectively invalidly married families will know what I mean.  And you will come across invalidly married couples who stick together by some miracle of grace and families which, if there were to be a separation as Canon Law obliges them to do, would bring about another human tragedy.  Often these are marriages that should be valid if annulment were a realistic option, but this is not always the case.  Of course, there are also invalid marriages which should end with separation.   We are talking about marriages, but there are many other moral situations which require the same treatment: we must discern what they are, avoid judging the people involved as far as possible, and discern what God is already doing within the situation and collaborate with Him: after all, He is the boss.

The object of the whole exercise is to invite people through the open door into the Church and, where this is not possible, to allow them to experience the love of God through us and through the Church.

By going out to the periphery, the Church and we as members of it grow in our understanding of life in general and of Christian life in particular.  Only by moving around and seeing from different angles, by looking at what the Good Shepherd is doing among the poor and those whose contact with him is weak or non-existent can we put our own understanding of the Christian economy into its proper context.  Pope Francis says:

I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the centre but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything. Truly to understand reality we need to move away from the central position of calmness and peacefulness and direct ourselves to the peripheral areas. Being at the periphery helps to see and to understand better, to analyze reality more correctly, to shun centralism and ideological approaches….

This is really very important to me: the need to become acquainted with reality by experience, to spend time walking on the periphery in order really to become acquainted with the reality and life-experiences of people. If this does not happen we then run the risk of being abstract ideologists or fundamentalists, which is not healthy.

Patristic theology bears the mark of the pastoral experience of bishops and other ministers in the towns as well as the deep spiritual experience of monks in the deserts.  Scholastic theology became of value when friars following the humble Christ of Scripture crossed over to the margins where people were becoming all the more estranged from the Church while studying Aristotle and other Greek philosophy.   The friars like St Thomas Aquinas studied their theology, often on their knees, within the context of this alienated scholastic movement and drew the two movements into one.  We the Church must grow in understanding of the Church by rooting it in the pastoral contact with people in the peripheries.

When after Vatican II the Church has directed its attention from its centre in Rome to what Christ is doing in the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, we have made discoveries about our own Church in ways that revolutionise our understanding of it while remaining in continuity with our past.   We find our unity with other Christians in a living contact with Christ.   We will come to realise that the whole of Catholicism is implicit in that personal union with Christ, ready to become visible as we, patiently accepting our differences, we grow in ecclesial love.  Our Catholicism is not static: it grows as we cross frontiers in charity and seek Christ in the other.  Pope Francis writes:
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.
 Ten Things To Know About Pope Francis (George Weigel - Acton Institute)

A very good video of the inclusive truth of Orthodoxy/Catholicism  is by Father John Behr:
The Shocking Truth About Orthodoxy
Pope Francis could not put this better.  He says that when the Holy Spirit is around, diversity is no longer a threat but a means of growth as we reach out for a God-given Synthesis in and through our personal contact with Christ.   In fact, for Pope Francis Catholicism is a synthesis of opposites, opposites because human beings think in different ways and in different contexts, having different experiences and different cultures and customs, and synthesis because, for all that, we are being formed by the Spirit to have one heart and one mind in Christ.   Whether we speak of the Incarnation or the Trinity, God's omnipotence and human freedom, collegiality and primacy, or anything else, Catholic teaching is a synthesis of opposites in tension with one another.  It is not "either...or" but "both...and".  In this process, there are always "conservatives" who resist the new synthesis in favour of ones already reached, and there are "progressives" who adopt a new position that seems to attack the status quo.  Then there is the Church that, by accepting both, gradually forms the synthesis.  This process can only happen when ecclesial charity, the created sign of the Holy Spirit's active presence, prevails.  Ecumenism is the process of synthesis when ecclesial charity breaks down and schism has resulted.   Authentic ecumenism can only properly take place within the context of repentance and the restoration of ecclesial love.  

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