A Cause to Pray For

IN RECENT WEEKS came news of the approval of another miracle attributed to the intercession of Bl. John Henry Newman. This means that there is now a high probability he will soon be canonized. October seems the propitious time for all things Newman, and if it comes on my birthday—13 October—I shall be chuffed indeed!

Also in recent weeks came news that the courts have finally directed New York to surrender the body of Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Peoria, the diocese of his birth and upbringing. This unseemly squabble between two dioceses has not been edifying to Catholics, and a cause of mirth, or worse, to non-Catholics. Hopefully this means the cause for canonization of Fulton Sheen can now advance. The first prelate to engage with modern media, he was new-evangelising before the term New Evangelisation was coined. First on radio broadcasts and then on the new-fangled television, he cut no Catholic corners, but spoke in terms both dignified and comprehensible that made his message attractive. Chalk in hand and standing before a clean blackboard, garbed in full episcopal fig—including ferraiolo—he would be seen as quaint today if he did the same, and probably clericalist, given that the mob simplistically equates clericalism with clerical dress. For his time, however, he was an adept and engaging preacher of the faith and even Protestants were impressed. Of course, since he cut such a fine figure and moved in elevated and even fashionable circles, he was accused of vanity and self-promotion. Self-conscious and self-confident he was; utterly faithful and, when it really mattered, selfless he was in equal measure, if not more.

Both these men are worthy of canonization, not least because they were men of their day, aware of contemporary spiritual needs and adept at serving them. Both were of towering intellects, though Newman spoke more directly to the upper and more educated classes, whereas Sheen had a gift of distilling complex teaching into digestible servings for the ordinary man and woman.

Just as importantly, they remind us that there is more to holiness than being merely nice, or generous, or kind. Continue reading “A Cause to Pray For”

Lenten Almsgiving: an Option

THE THREE ANCIENT mainstays of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Needless to say there is a dizzying array of worthy objects of your almsgiving attention. Some are more obvious than others; some suffer for their lack of, for want of a better phrase, instant gratification.

One of the less obvious objects for almsgiving is a religious house or order. It used not to be so. Monasteries and convents used to be a standard target for benefactions, often to support a liturgical devotion for which monasteries were particularly well suited. The Reformation struck a grievous blow to that wholesome, if occasionally abused, tradition. Secularisation of western society has landed a second blow. Benefactions, legacies and donations are just not as common as they used to be.

In the midst of the gloom the monastic life is giving off small and tender new shoots. New foundations are springing up that seek to reinvigorate the monastic vine. The Benedictine life is far from dead. Some will fail; this is an historical reality. Some others will prosper: taking the right approach at the right time in the right place. Continue reading “Lenten Almsgiving: an Option”

A Diagnosis?

Sydney seems to have a hotter summer than I remember from my youth. There were hot days then of course, but it seems more unrelentingly hot now. Global warming? Or has absence disacclimatized me?

This trip to Sydney was planned in haste, a result of the slings and arrows of outrageous monastic life. This visit I find myself more engaged by the city’s colonial history. My reverend nephew—also sojourning in Sydney at present for some restorative rest with the family—and I have visited a number of colonial houses both private and public. For example, there was Elizabeth Bay House, a compact but grand house with now-lost extensive gardens, and Vaucluse House, more modestly grand and still with substantial gardens. The former is very much an house, the latter feels far more an home. My reverend nephew prefers the house, my reverend self prefers the home. Make of that what you will.

Elizabeth Bay House

Vaucluse House

On my return I shall be reassigned, probably to the mission. Continue reading “A Diagnosis?”

The Sorrowful Mother Today

As a sequel to the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross the Church keeps the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose heart was pierced by the nails that pierced Christ’s hands and feet, and the lance that pierced the Lord’s side.

One of the most typical images for the feast today is that of the Pietà. The most famous representation is, of course, Michelangelo’s sculpture in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Yet his is very far from the only one.

It struck me at Mass today how powerful an image it is for the Church in its current crisis of sexual and physical abuse by clergy and religious, and the negligence, or worse, of some in the hierarchy in dealing with such abuse. The scandal of deposed-Cardinal McCarrick truly merits the label scandal, as it has become for many a true stumbling block for a peacefully fruitfully life in the Church. Who really does believe that so many of McCarrick’s fellow bishops and cardinals knew nothing of Uncle Ted’s activities? I suspect only fools and the terminally idealistic. Continue reading “The Sorrowful Mother Today”

Death in question

The mild Sydney winter seems to help me get my rant on. Ranting via a tablet, however, leads to many a typo. Swings and roundabouts I guess…

The last 24 hours we’ve been hearing about the change to the text to the Catechism of the Catholic Church proposed by Rome to reflect the current papal attitude to the death penalty.

To be frank, this does not particularly worry me per se. Church moral teaching once encompassed slavery, now it definitively rejects it. Church teaching has encompassed capital punishment hitherto, but the recent magisterium has not looked positively on it. My approach to capital punishment is conflicted. For example I can see a case for capital punishment to ensure public protection from a violent, murderous offender whose guilt is incontrovertible. Likewise, genocide seems to merit the ultimate sanction. Again, guilt should be incontrovertible. Continue reading “Death in question”

Collegiality, collusion, collectivity and clericalism

Back from the dead! It has been a busy time. I am about to fly to Australia (in a few hours actually) to sneak in some holiday before taking up a new role in the monastery, that of bursar. If the new job does not kill me I suppose it will make me stronger. But there has been so little time to read, let alone write.

The Cardinal McCarrick affair is growing louder in the media. Christopher Altieri raises a point that merits pushing further: the failure is not just McCarrick’s but that of the American bishops as a body. How could no other bishop not have known? And knowing, how could they have kept silence? The denials just do not ring true. For many they may be true but such is the deficit the Catholic hierarchy suffers at the moment that few will believe them. After all, in England we had a similar case, that of Bishop Conry and his long-standing relationship with a mistress. It was very well known in ecclesiastical circles, even from his days in Rome apparently. Yet he was promoted anyway. Did any bishop protest at the time? The Conry case has one essential difference: his sin was with a woman, so a collective sigh of relief that it was not a minor encouraged silence.

Cardinal_McCarrick_Credit_US_Institute_of_Peace_CC_BY_NC_20_CNA
Cardinal McCarrick

Continue reading “Collegiality, collusion, collectivity and clericalism”

Brainstorming by Social Media

What do you call brainstorming by the means of the social media? Is there a name or do we have to make one up? Suggestions are welcome.

Anyway, to the point, which is a rather uncomfortable piece of what you might think, not unreasonably, to be self-promotion. In fact, the fundamental point, my vanity notwithstanding, is to promote an idea.

4 September 2018 is the date on which Paulist Press of New York plans to officially publish my book, Deo volente. This is the draft cover of the book: Continue reading “Brainstorming by Social Media”