Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Power of the Resurrection

Wow! This is from the front page of The Catholic Voice of Lancaster, April 2009:

The resurrection of Christ is the great event that changes everything; it sheds light on the past, illuminates the future and has an effect on every human life. The evils of the world, terrible as they seem to us are only a small and passing thing. Christ risen from the dead is the sign that sin and evil will not endure. Through the resurrection God turns great evil, the death of Christ, into the event that takes away the sins of the world and restores humanity to God--we are not just restored but lifted higher than we were before, which is why it is sung in the Easter proclamation, ‘O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer.’

The resurrection is the great liberating event of mankind which had separated itself from God through sin, yet was not abandoned by God. We know this because of the crucifixion of Christ, (where Christ cries out the prayer of abandonment ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’), the necessary event that leads to the resurrection. Christ must travel through the pain and suffering of the way of the cross that leads to death, death on a cross. For those who were witnessing the death of Jesus, how this must have seemed like the end of the world to them. Yet through their witness the shameful tree on which our Saviour died becomes the Triumphant Cross, the cross which brought death is now the tree of life, a new life, life with God. The cross is now drawing all men together, making peace between heaven and earth. St. Paul preaches of Christ crucified and Christ risen from the dead. As our suffering is joined with that of Christ so too do we receive the promise of eternal life. We know that death is not the end.

[image: Ruben's Resurrection]

The resurrection brings about the re-creation of the whole world, and we are part of that ourselves, not keeping the joy of the resurrection to ourselves but spreading it to the world around us. Again we can remember from the Easter proclamation the words, ‘The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred brings us peace and humbles earthly pride.’

Mark Prickett
3rd year seminarian at Allen Hall
(Currently on one year pastoral placement, St. Mary’s, Barrow)

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Holiness and the Vocations Crisis

The wisdom written below applies not only to the Vatican, but to how each diocese is run, and even each parish:

"The Church makes no headway and ceases to be a sign of the Gospel if each person focuses on his own view and fights to assert it. Benedict XVI continues to repeat ad infinitum that the intitiative comes from God. It is a different viewpoint in comparison with the current dynamics of communication that aim to exalt the movie star, the determined leader, the trade mark or the winner...

"Believing in collegiality also means having recourse to a government in which people and motivated consensus come first. It means hoping in a more fraternal Church...

"The Pope's Letter gives a sign. There are signs more eloquent than words, and he has already let it be understood on several occasions that he wants loyal and responsible people. This means competence and the habit of speaking frankly and charitably. Hypocrisy, moreover, is harmful in the Church. The proposal of a year for the renewal of priestly life goes to the root of the vocations crisis and places holiness as the origin of the trust given to priests.

"Pope Benedict is now asking something both simple and difficult: everyone--conservatives and progressives, centrists and extremists in the Catholic Church, as well as Christians of other Churches and confessions--is called to find points of convergence instead of division, because the mission to proclaim the Gospel credibly is more urgent than any other matter."

Carlo Di Cicco, Vice-Director L'Osservatore Romano, 18th March 2009

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Active Participation in the Liturgy

Here is a final selection of quotes from liturgy classes at St Mary's House of Formation:

"Vatican II aimed at making Holy Communion the summit of liturgical celebration."

"Christ's Life underlies, penetrates all of time."

"Ritual transmits meaning, myth. Myths are not arbitrary inventions but distilled, concentrated truth."

"If Mass is 'irrelevant' to some people, then their lives need to incorporate elements of the Pasch so that they can relate to--become taken up by--the liturgy. [See SC 9-10, below.] We need to share in sacrifice (love) outside of the liturgy in order to share (participate) in the heavenly liturgy during Mass, and vice versa."

The passages below are taken from Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium:
9...Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance. To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded, and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ's faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men.

10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness"; it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith"; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Min Ko Naing: "Conqueror of Kings"

Pastoral formation at St Mary's includes working with the parish Caritas group. Besides helping local families who are struggle with poverty, the Caritas volunteers seek to support others who are thousands of miles away.

On Monday the group watched a presentation about Min Ko Naing, the Burmese student leader who, having spent 15 years in solitary confinement for his peaceful pro-democracy activity, was re-arrested in August 2007 and then last November sentenced to 65 years in prison. His 'crime' was to "to wear white clothes, to call for Buddhist prayers and to organise a letter-writing campaign to inform the generals of the plight of the people."

Members of St Mary's Caritas group have resolved to write letters of support to Min Ko Naing, letters of protest to the Burmese dictatorship, and letters to the UK Foreign Secretary asking HMG to support Burma's prisoners of conscience.

Students at the House of Formation were delighted to learn that in regard to Min Ko Naing's case: "Today [24th March] sees the publication of one of the most important international law judgments in recent years. In a heavily argued case, decided last November but only now made public, the international legal system has ruled in the clearest possible terms that the military regime in Burma has contravened every last vestige of humanitarian law and falls to be condemned in the strongest possible way. Significantly, the tribunal rejected every single one of the Burmese Government's arguments. The regime has been held to be operating entirely outside of the law and its violations of minimum standards of international law are described by the tribunal as 'grotesque'." [Further information]

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict has written: "it is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation."

[images: paragraph 26 of the Opinion of the UN tribunal (above), refering to the illegality of the detention of Min Ko Naing (top) and others.]

Sunday, 22 March 2009

£26K+ Job Advert for Youth Director

The Trustees of the Diocese of Lancaster are looking to appoint an enthusiastic and energetic Director of Catholic Youth Services for the Diocese of Lancaster who will take up the renewed Diocesan vision and develop a service for young people of the diocese which is holistic, integrated and dynamic!

This post will be subject to an enhanced CRB check.
Salary range from £26k per annum + benefits.
Accommodation is provided with this position.

This exciting new Service - which will include Outreach and Residential provision - is to be based at a refurbished Castlerigg Manor, set in a stunning location in the heart of the English Lake District.

[image: Castlerigg Manor]

For an application pack, please contact:
The Bishop’s Secretary
Bishop’s Office
The Pastoral Centre
Balmoral Road

Closing Date for Applications: 8 April 2009
Date for interviews: 21 April 2009

Monday, 16 March 2009

Interviews for the Priesthood

Earlier this year about 12 men from England's northern dioceses were assessed for the priesthood at Selection Advisory Conferences. Half a dozen travelled to Ushaw College in January, and a further half-dozen in March. Besides participating in the liturgical and social life at the seminary, they were interviewed by specialist panels on the aspects of spiritual, pastoral, human and intellectual development in regard to priestly calling. The conclusions of the panel are forwarded to each candidate's vocations director and serve as background information for their bishop. It is, of course, the bishop's decision which is decisive.

For anyone who thinks they may be called to be a priest, the usual way forward is to contact your diocesan vocations director and after spending some time discerning your call with him, it may be that you will be invited to attend a Selection Adisory Conference (SAC) next year (although procedures are not rigid). In any case, if you do sense you are being called, it is good to come forward at any time of year, and let the discernment process take its own time.

Incidentally, those who attended the SAC counted the visit to Ushaw College as a very positive experience. The building is beautiful; the liturgy is beautiful; the history is fascinating and we were well looked after by staff, by the student rep John Moriarty and by the other seminarians. God is a good God!

Image: St Cuthbert's chapel, Ushaw

Friday, 13 March 2009

Pope: Life at Seminary

Speaking of formation at seminaries, last month Pope Benedict said:

"To succeed in becoming priests according to the Heart of Christ it is necessary to trust in the action of the Holy Spirit rather than in human strategies and calculations, and to ask the Lord, the 'Lord of the Harvest', with great faith to send numerous holy vocations to the priesthood (cf. Lk 10: 2), always joining to this supplication affection and closeness for those who are at the seminary with the intention of taking Holy Orders.

"On the other hand, the need for priests in order to face the challenges of the contemporary world must not lead to neglecting a careful discernment of the candidates, nor to relaxing the necessary and strict requirements in order that their formation process may help them become exemplary priests...

"Today, more than ever, it is necessary that seminarians with an upright intention and free of any other concern, aspire to the priesthood motivated solely by the desire to be authentic disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. In communion with their Bishops they must make him present in their ministry and in their witness of life.

"For this reason it is of paramount importance that care and attention be paid to their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation, as well as to the suitable choice of formation staff and professors. The latter must be distinguished by their academic ability, their priestly spirit and their fidelity to the Church, so that they are able to foster in the young men what the People of God need and what their pastors hope for."

[The post above is an expanded version of a previous post.]

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Jesus meets Mary, Simon & Veronica

Training for the priesthood involves pastoral formation of students. This includes visiting local schools. For example this Lent students from the House of Formation have been making regular trips to the local primary and secondary schools to pray the Stations of the Cross with the schoolchildren. We are using the reflections composed by Darren Carden, a seminarian of Lancaster studying in Rome--and who was ordained acolyte on 4th March.

Below are Darren's reflections for the 4th-6th stations (used at school today):

Fourth Station: Jesus meets His Mother
There are moments in our lives that bring pain and failure and there is nothing that we can do to change them. The only thing that we can do is reach out to each other like Jesus and Mary in faith, trust and love. It is these moments in our lives that strengthen us for the next moment in our journey.

Fifth Station: Simon helps Jesus to carry His Cross
We see all the suffering around us but what can we do? In His willingness to continue alone, despite His weakness, Jesus challenges our lack of involvement. There may be those of us who are suffering and just waiting for someone to offer to help us. And those of us who, wanting to help, are just waiting for them to ask.

Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
We see Veronica step out from the crowd, what courage--no thought about the danger or the cost--truly an act of love. She wipes His face and His image remains on the cloth. Why do we fail to seeChrist in those who are suffering, why do we turn the other way?

[These reflections were published in the March 2009 issue of The Voice. Contact to receive weekly official updates from Lancaster Diocese by e-mail.]

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Lenten retreat for pre-seminarians

Last week the two students at Lancaster's House of Formation were sent for a five-day retreat at the Sancta Maria Cistercian Abbey, near Edinburgh. The Abbey and guesthouse are relatively isolated, surrounded by serene countryside and heathland.

The accommodation is simple and the hospitality warm. Guests are welcome to join the monks for Vigils at 3:30am, and Mass at 4:50am, or else wait for Mass at the guesthouse at 8:30am. Lauds, Sext, Terce, None, Vespers and Compline follow at their set hours through the day. All of these are optional for guests, although it's worth saying that first-timers and veterans found the chanted prayers absorbing and uplifting.

Lancaster Diocese has a Cistercian foundation too: the Bernadine Sisters at Hyning Hall.