Monday, 30 November 2009

An Extraordinary (Form) weekend in remote rural France. The Oasis lives up to its name.

I have posted an introductory report on a very special weekend here, on my other blog, that is 'Thought from an Oasis in French Catholicism" Link in sidebar and at

More tomorrow. I do hope as many of you as possible will read it and share my joy.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Something Nice for Sunday: Pray4aPriest

A guest post from Mark here:

Please be sure to visit this wonderful site Pray4aPriest: a simple idea, but they are giving away "prayer kits", consisting of a wristband (can be a type of witness in these times), a prayer card, and a card to send to a Priest so he knows you are praying for him. While you are there, be sure to request your prayer kit.

(thanks to Mike G. for reminding me where this was)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Clerical Reform: Today's post - 'Spiritual Reading'

If you haven't read Father S. today, may I recommend that you do so. The post is brief but apposite on the Priesthood, and the comments are good too. Link to 'Clerical Reform' in bloglist at right sidebar.

Domestic pressures here; important visitors in a few days time. Will post a full report on their visit after they have left. When you read it you will understand why I have had to be discreet to the point of seeming coy and teasing. You will understand, and you will rejoice with me.

In the meantime posting will be brief and irregular until the first week of Advent.

I beg your prayers.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Pope Benedict on the Priesthood 'To be with Him and to be sent out': Part III

"Eucharistic Adoration is an essential way of being with the Lord. Thanks to Bishop Schraml, Altotting now has a new 'treasury'. Where once the treasures of the past were kept, precious historical and religious items, there is now a place for the church's true treasure: the permanent presence of the Lord in His Sacrament. In one of his parables the Lord speaks of a treasure hidden in the field; whoever finds it sells all he has in order to buy that field, because the hidden treasure is more valuable than anything else. The hidden treasure, the good greater than any other good is the Kingdom of God - it is Jesus himself, the Kingdom in person. In the sacred Host, he is present, the true treasure, always waiting for us. Only by adoring this presence do we learn how to receive him properly - we learn the reality of communion, we learn the Eucharistic celebration from the inside. Here I should like to quote some fine words of Saint Edith Stein, Co-Patroness of Europe, who wrote in one of her letters: 'The Lord is present in the tabernacle in his divinity and his humanity. He is not there for himself, but for us: for it is his joy to be with us. He knows that we, being as we are, need to have him personally near. As a result, anyone with normal thoughts and feelings will naturally be drawn to spend time with him, whenever possible and as much as possible' (Gesammelte Werke VII, 136 ff.). Let us love being with the Lord! There we can speak with him about everything. We can offer him our petitions, our concerns, our troubles. Our joys. Our gratitude, our disappointments, our needs and our aspirations. There we can also constantly ask him: 'Lord send labourers into your harvest! Help me to be a good worker in your vineyard!'

Here in this Basilica, out thoughts turn to Mary, who lived her life fully 'with Jesus' and consequently was, and continues to be, close to all men and women. The many votive plaques are a concrete sign of this. Let us think of Mary's holy mother, Saint Anne, and with her let us also think of the importantce of the family as an environment of life and prayer, where we learn to pray and where vocations are able to develop.

Here in Altotting, we naturally think in a special way of good Brother Conrad.* He renounced a great inheritance because he wanted to follow Jesus Christ unreservedly and to be completely with him. As the Lord recommended in the parable, he chose to take the lowest place, that of a humble lay-brother and porter. In his porter's lodge he was able to achieve exactly what Saint Mark tells us about the Apostles: 'to stay with him', 'to be sent' to others. From his cell he could always look at the tabernacle and thus always 'stay with Christ'. From this contemplation he learned the boundless goodness with which he treated the people who would knock at his door at all hours - sometimes mischievously. in order to provoke him, at other times loudly and impatiently. To all of them, by his sheer goodness and humanity, and without grand words, he gave a message more valuable than words alone. Let us pray to Brother Saint Conrad; let us ask him to help us to keep our gaze fixed on the Lord, in order to bring God's love to the men and women of our time. Amen!"

(*St. Conrad [1818-94] spent most of his life as a Capuchin with the responsibility of being, for forty-one years, the porter at Altotting. Great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady shone through his welcoming those who came to the door of the Capuchin Friary at Altotting.)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Pope Benedict on the Priesthood: 'To be with Him and to be sent out' Part II

"Where do we go if we say 'yes' to the Lord's call? The briefest description of the priestly mission - and this is true in its own way for men am women religious too - has been given to us by the Evangelist Mark. In his account of the call of the Twelve, he says: 'Jesus appointed twelve to be with him and to be sent out' (3:14) To be with Jesus and, being sent, to go out to meet people - these two things belong together and together they are tbe heart of a vocation, of the priesthood. To be with him and to be sent out - the two are inseparable. Only one who is 'with him' comes to know him and can truly proclaim him. And anyone who has been with him cannot keep to himself what he has found; instead, he has to pass it on. Such was the case with Andrew, who told his brother Simon: 'We have found the Messiah' (Jn I:41). And the Evangelist adds: 'He brought Simon to Jesus' (Jn I:42). Pope Gregory the Great, in one of his homilies, once said that God's angels, however far afield they go on their missions, always move in God. They remain always with him. And while speaking about the angels, Saint Gregory thought also of bishops and priests: wherever they go, they should always 'be with him'. We know this from experience: whenever priests, because of their many duties, allot less time to being with the Lord, they eventually lose, for all their often heroic activity, the inner strength that sustains them. Their activity ends up as an empty activism. To be with Christ - how does this come about? Well, the first and most important thing for the priest is his daily Mass, always celebrated with deep interior participation. If we celebrate Mass truly as men of prayer, if we unite our words and our activities to the Word that precedes us and let them be shaped by the Eucharistic celebration, if in Communion we let ourselves truly be embraced by him and receive him - then we are being with him.

The Liturgy of the Hours is another fundamental way of being with Christ: here we pray as people conscious of our need to speak with God, while lifting up all those others who have neither the time nor the ability to pray in this way. If our Eucharistic celebration and the Liturgy of the Hours are to remain meaningful, we need to devote ourselves constantly anew to the spiritual reading of sacred Scripture; not only to be able to decipher and explain words from the distant past, but to discover the word of comfort that the Lord is now speaking to me, the Lord who challenges me by this word. Only in this way will we be capable of bringing the inspired Word to the men and women of our time as the contemporary and living Word of God. "

Tomorrow DV, Part III will conclude the homily.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Pope Benedict on the Priesthood: From a Homily given September 11, 2006: 'To be with Him and to be sent out' Part I

This homily was given during Marian Vespers to the Religious and Seminarians of Bavaria who were present in the Basilica of Saint Anne, Altotting.

"Here in Altotting, in this grace-filled place, we have gathered............. in the Basilica of St. Anne, before the shrine to her daughter, the Mother of the Lord. We have gathered to consider our vocationto serve Jesus Christ and, under the watchful gaze of Saint Anne, in whose home the greatest vocation in the history of salvation developed, to understand it better. Mary received her vocation from the lips of an angel. The Angel does not enter our room visibly, but the Lord has a plan for each of us, he calls each one of us by name. Our task is to learn how to listen, to perceive his call to be courageous and faithful in following him and, when all is said and done, to be found trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts given us.

"We know that the Lord seeks labourers for his harvest. He himself said as much: The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest' (Mt 9: 37-38). That is why we are gathered here to make this urgent request t0 the Lord of the harvest. God's harvest is indeed great, and it needs labourers: in the so-called Third World - in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia - people are waiting for heralds to bring them the Gospel of peace, the good news of God who became man. But also in the so-called West, among us in Germany, and in the vast lands of Russia it is true that a great harvest could be reaped. But there is a lack of people willing to become labourers for God's harvest. Today it is as then, when the Lord was moved to pity for the crowds which seemed like sheep without a shepherd,people who probably knew how to do many things, but found it hard to make sense of their lives. Lord, look upon our troubled times, which need preachers of the Gospel, witnesses to you, persons who can point the way towards 'life in abundance'! Look upon our world and feel pity once more! Look upon our world and send us labourers! With this petition we knock upon God's door;but with the same petition the Lord is also knocking on the doors of our own hearts. Lord do you want me? Is it not perhaps too big for me? Am I too small for this? 'Do not be afraid', the Angel said to Mary. 'Do not fear: I have called you by name', God says through the prophet Isaiah (43:1) to us - to each one of us. "

Part II tomorrow, DV.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Spiritual Mothers: Please pray for Father Mark and his retreat at Clear Creek Monastery.

Father Mark begs our prayers for the retreat he begins to give today, for his Benedictine brothers at Clear Creek. The Retreat ends on November 21st, Feast of the Presentation. I said no post until tomorrow. The exception proves the rule, in this case, that of St. Benedict.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Mulieris Dignitatem and Spiritual Motherhood

contributed by Clare

Between September 1979 and November 1984 Pope John Paul II based his midweek audience talks on the topic which would be known as the Theology of the Body. Although it wasn’t realised at the time, the talks were groundbreaking in that they drew together ideas, some of which were already in circulation (about, for instance, the equality of women and the potential holiness of the conjugal act), and developed them, making them part of the Magisterium. It is said that the late Pope wrote everything on his knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament and his 1988 encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem, on the Dignity of Women certainly reads like the fruit of deep prayer. Much of it consolidated his earlier teaching. Why did he feel the need to go back to the subject?

The occasion was the Marian Year and in the encyclical Mary is taken as the paradigm of unfallen woman, the new Eve. At a time when modern social pressures and emerging secular ideologies stressed the role of women outside the home and apart from the family, the Holy Father wanted to reaffirm the uniqueness of the feminine genius, to appreciate it as something complementary but quite different, though entirely equal, to the male. Rather than producing a work of dogmatic theology, the Pope framed the text in the manner of a meditation. Steeped in scripture and the fruit of a mind tempered by prayer and sacrifice, Mulieris Dignitatem is a magnificent work that rewards special study.

The Holy Father’s insights, especially into scripture, are astounding and actually rather thrilling. He examines the status and role of women from Genesis onwards. Jesus’ attitude to women is especially fascinating. For instance, when Our Lord (and later St Paul) refers to Our Lady as ‘woman’ he is referring to her role as the new Eve, the one who is at enmity with the serpent, and the one ‘clothed with the sun’ in the book of Revelation. Two of Christ’s most important discourses, ‘I am the living water’ and ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ were both addressed to women and both of them culminated in Christ’s self-proclamation as the Messiah. In a male-dominated world, that a message of such eternal significance should be given first to women is extraordinary and without precedence. We can thus infer that Christ wished to emphasise the essential equality of men and women that existed before the Fall.

What Mulieris Dignitatem does not attempt to do is describe Spiritual Motherhood with the particular understanding that we now do. However, some of his thought can be a focus for fruitful meditation for the spiritual mothers, lay and religious, married or single, who are now responding to the Spirit’s call in this year of the Priest and beyond.

There is a passage in Luke’s gospel where a woman in the crowd cries out “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!” only for Jesus to reply “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:27-28). Our Lord’s words are not a denigration of his own mother, but an acknowledgement of her deeper role. What is true of her becomes true for the motherhood of other women, “a profound listening to the word of the living God and a readiness to safeguard this Word which is the word of eternal life. Those born of earthly mothers receive from the Son of God the power to become the children of God.” Human parenthood thus enters a dimension of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood giving it the task of forming ‘new creations’. It need not be said that this is also the role of spiritual motherhood; to promote the sanctity of spiritual children by prayer and sacrifice.

Pain in childbirth is a heritage of original sin. Christ at the Last Supper spoke of the agony of labour and subsequent joy of the mother ‘that a child is born into the world’ (Jn 16: 22-23). The context of this statement, says the Holy Father, evokes the Paschal Mystery. He talks of Mary at the foot of the Cross, our Lady of Sorrows, her heart pierced by many swords and then speaks of the many women who suffer in the world, both physically and morally. He asks that all suffering women place themselves at the foot of the Cross. This is a profound insight, drawing great richness from the biblical text. For spiritual mothers who have not known childbirth, this ‘pain’ is felt in the suffering willingly borne to bring spiritual children to sanctity, to eternal life.

It is not possible to be a mother without the intervention of a father. Spiritual mothers are, in a sense, spouses of Christ; at least they are when they exercise spiritual maternity towards others. Again, we can go back to the passage quoted earlier, ‘blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it’. Spiritual mothers will be barren if they are not living closely and intensely with God.

Motherhood has at its heart an openness to life in co-operation with God the giver of all life. Eve’s cry ‘I have brought a man into the world’ shows her awareness of this. Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life. Pregnancy and childbirth, says the Pope, affect a woman’s personality especially as she relates to others. As spiritual mothers are we open to others, sensitive to their needs, which may not be spoken by them? Do we approach each person in a spirit of prayer and docility to the Holy Spirit so he can work through us?

Perhaps there are some practical conclusions one can make as well – John Paul speaks movingly about openness to life that characterises Christian motherhood, and the task of being the first educators of the young; perhaps some spiritual mothers not involved with bringing up small children might find an apostolate, say in pro-life work or parish catechesis even if just praying for those involved? Teaching authentic Catholicism at a time of such confusion among Catholics would be a spiritual work of mercy.

John Paul II’s writings frequently refer to Mary and his devotion to her was intense. It need hardly be said that spiritual mothers must have Mary for their own mother and should always seek her maternal help. “Motherhood is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race through the Mother of God”.

Mulieris Dignitatem has more to say than we have space for here, it deals with womens lives more completely and there is a wonderful reflection on the consecrated life. John Paul also discusses chastity and modesty which are an integral part of the Theology of the Body. Chastity is first practised in the mind – the pope refers to the threefold temptations of lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). ‘Pride of life’ can be interpreted as boastfulness of one’s achievements, possessions and the craving of worldly status. If we are to live spiritually, to be spiritual nurturers towards those in our prayers, we must live out our charism by giving good account among those we meet. This is a tall order in today’s world and the only remedy is total dependence on God. Several times John Paul quotes from the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes where the council fathers assert that man ‘cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self’. This call is countercultural in that it contradicts the message of self-fulfilment that is preached by the world. We have to lose ourselves to find ourselves. The spiritual mothers of today, in their hiddenness, their prayer, their sacrifices, realise this wisdom in a very real way.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Pope Benedict specifically addresses Bishops and Priests: From his homily at Brescia yesterday...

"Dear friends - and I say this especially to you brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood - how can we not see that the question of the Church, its necessity in the plan of salvation and its relationship with the world, even today remains absolutely central? Indeed, the development of secularisation and globalisation have made it even more radical in confronting forgetfulness of God, on the one hand, and non-Christian religions, on the other? Paul VI's reflection on the Church is even more valuable now that ever before, as an example of his love for her, inseparable from that for Christ."

Pope Benedict then quoted from Papa Montin's encyclical 'Ecclesiam suam:
" 'The mystery of the not simply an object of theolocical knowledge, it is a fact to be lived in........ in which even before it is a clear notion, the faithful soul can have almost ingrained experience, '(ibid.,p229,n.178). This presupposes a strong inner life, which is 'the great source of the Church's spirituality, its own way to receive the radiation of the Spirit of Christ, a radical, irreplaceable expression of its religious and social activities, inviolable defence and resurgent energy in its difficult contact with the secular world' (ibid.p.231,n.179).

"In this Year for Priests I would like to emphasise how this involves and interests priests in particular, for whom Paul VI reserved a special affection and concern.
Pope Benedict then drew the attention of priests and seminarians to what Pope Paul had written in his encyclical on priestly celibacy: " 'the consecrated virginity of sacred ministers both expresses the virginal love of Christ for the Church and the virginal and supernatural fecunity of this marriage' (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,26)

The Holy Father then cited a speech given by his predecessor to students at the Lombard Major Seminary on December 7 1968; He noted that "while the difficulties of the post-conciliar period were increased by the ferment of youth, " Pope Paul had said that " 'many expect dramatic gestures from the Pope, forceful and decisive action. The Pope does not believe that he must follow another line that is not one of confidence in Jesus Christ, for Whom the Church is more dear than anyone else. He will calm the storm....It is not about waiting inertly but of watchful waiting in prayer. This is the condition that Jesus has chosen for us, so that he can operate fully. Even the Pope needs to helped by prayer.' " (Teachings VI, 1189)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Good news at Rome Conference of English and Welsh Diocesan Vocations Directors

18 priests from 16 dioceses attended the conference. I think there are 20 dioceses in total in England and Wales. Anyway the full article is here and reports an increase in vocations to the priesthood in 20 countries, including England and Wales, where 40 men began training for the priesthood this autumn.. Also at the Conference the Vocations Directors' committee elected a new chairman, Fr Stephen Langridge. Believe you me, that is very, very good news indeed!!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog: Some heartening news.....

We now have contacts and the support of Spiritual Mothers and their friends in 21 States of America + Washington DC I pray that we will pass the half way mark to 50 by Christmas. God bless you all and profound thanks for all your prayers.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

In a Spiritual Mother's prayers tonight: Ten for Joy....

Ten for joy and thanksgiving:

1. Our Holy Faith

2. Holy Mother Church

3. Holy Mass and the seven Sacraments

4. Our wise Shepherd, the Holy Father Benedict who instituted this Year of the Priest, and also the bishops and priests who are loyal to him, and without whom 1. 2. and 3. would cease to exist.

5. The Communion of Saints, including Fr. Damien, the holy leper of Hawaii, whose relics are now touring the Islands and which will find their final resting place in Honolulu Cathedral.

6. The spiritual friendships which the Lord gives us, so that in our weakness, under His guidance we help to make each other holy and offer constant prayer and sacrifice for the sanctification of His beloved priests.

7. Spiritual Motherhood of Priests: Here we particularly honour and give thanks for Cardinal Hummes and for Bishop Slattery of Tulsa, Father Mark Kirby and all holy priests the world over who are responding to the Cardinal's call.

8. 20 Traditional Anglican Catholic parishes in the UK respond to the Holy Father's 'lifeline'.

9. The Internet and modern communications which, if we use them wisely as our Holy Father suggests, can be a force for good and holiness.

10. And a little private one: I'll soon be able to have a weekly Holy Hour in the Church of St. Jacques, 2 kms. from here.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

In a Spiritual Mother's prayers tonight: Five for Sorrow...........

1. Fr. Michael Sinnott, kidnap victim in the Philippines, and the persecuted Church in China, Vietnam for instance.

2. Priests in prison or on trial, guilty or not guilty, throughout the world, particularly in America..

3. Archbishop Dolan, whose article was refused this week by the New York Times. (He blogged it anyway. Away you go Your Grace. Thanks be to God for you.)

4. Dissenters within the Church: e.g. Fr. Hans Kung, who unfortunately can be relied upon to publish the most anti-Catholic, anti-papal statements and yet somehow remain within the Church.

5. Fr. Michael Clifton (alias Fr. Mildew) who is going to close his very popular UK blog because he feels he has been 'too angry'. Please Father, don't do it.

There's more of course, but that's enough for one night in all conscience.

Tomorrow, 'Five for joy...................'

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Priests in Purgatory: Pray for them during All Souls' Tide

Solemnity of All Saints:
In his mini-homily before today's Angelus our Holy Father said that in this Year of the Priest he was thinking particularly about Priest Saints. This fixed an idea that had been forming in my mind for some days. During that time because of various news stories and personal prayer requests, praying for fallen priests who are still living has been a priority. As All Souls approached my thoughts turned (and jogged by Fr Z), to Priests in Purgatory. So tomorrow I will begin eight days of prayer for them, invoking the intercession of my favourite Priest Saints:

Litany to Priest Saints

O holy Priest Saints before the throne of God, I offer my humble and loving prayer to the Most Holy Trinity, that it may be acceptable to be joined with yours for the souls of your Priest brothers still in Purgatory.
Particularly I invoke:

St Hilary of Poitiers,
St Martin of Tours
St Francis de Sales
St John Bosco
St John Baptist de la Salle
St Anselm
St Bede
St Gregory the Great
St Philip Neri
St Boniface
St Anthony of Padua
St John Fisher
St Bonaventure
St Peter Julian Eymard
St Alphonsus
St John Vianney
St John Eudes
St Claude Colombieres
St Augustine of Hippo
St Vincent de Paul
St Bruno
St Leo the Great
St Ambrose
St John of the Cross
St Pio

1 Hail Mary
1 Our Father
1 Glory be.


As I said, these are my favourites but I'm sure the 'Mothers' and their friends will have others to add.

A happy and prayerful All Souls Day to everyone.
May God bless and strengthen our Holy Father Benedict.