Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Jesuit head: Religion isn't doctrine, but sensitivity to human experience . . .

I was delighted to read the article below in the National Catholic Reporter.  It expressed views that have intrigued me for a long time.  I have often thought that the point of great music was to inspire the heart and mind, to enjoy, to relax, to celebrate, to commiserate and so on. 

Music can also be described in a scientific way too.  I’m no physicist, but I can imagine we can speak of vibrations of a segmented string of length x, lasting a duration of x seconds and of a specific volume and so on, until each note has been laboriously analyzed from a scientific perspective. Who could possibly appreciate reading the scientific description over and above listening to the piece as its composer intended?

It strikes me that in the light of this analogy, there are many who approach religion in a similar ways.  Some analyze to the nth degree, others sit back and celebrate.  Depending which particular person you are I guess you’ll either understand what I’m getting or think I’m a nutter !

Enjoy the Bach . . . .

Meanwhile here’s the beginning of the NCR article

Religion is less a code of doctrines and teachings than a sensitivity to the "dimensions of transcendence" that underlie the human experience, the head of Pope Francis' Jesuit order said Friday.
Likening the religious experience to a person who can appreciate the intricacies and variations of classical music, Jesuit Fr. Adolfo Nicolás said "religion is first of all very much more like this musical sense than a rational system of teachings and explanations."

"Religion involves first of all a sensitivity to, an openness to, the dimensions of transcendence, of depth, of gratuity, of beauty that underlie our human experiences," Nicolás said. "But of course, this is a sensitivity that is threatened today by a purely economic or materialist mindset which deadens this sensitivity to deeper dimension of reality."

Continue reading here

Monday, 17 March 2014

Bun Fight at the RC Corral

Interesting to watch the too-ing and fro-ing of so called informed, mature opinion and debate in the catholic media and blogs.   
Reading the ‘comments’  in many blogs or news sites reveals pretty nasty comments from all sides of the debate.  Hardly edifying stuff from a religion worshipping  a God of love. 
Reminds me  more of the childish food fights that used to be the diet of Saturday morning TV.  Grow up eh ?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Strange things in blogging world . . .

Strange things seem to be happening in the blog world at the moment. Most blogs seem to have been 'left footed' since Pope Francis was appointed.  Second guessing as to any 'change' is rife and criticism as to him going 'too far' is also present.

The upcoming Synod on the family is eagerly anticipated, but whether a particular Bishops conference publishes results of the questionnaire has tempered any further speculation. It's even had an effect on my own blog where posting has been a little quiet.  I've kept my eye on the blogging world though . . . . .

I'm also a bit perplexed by the story of protect the pope blog.  I might not be in agreement with his blog but something makes me very uneasy about a Bishops request to desist from writing.  Yes, he's been criticising people in a manner I find odious, but surely he has a right to self expression and write as his conscience dictates.  Contrast this with the bishops of England and Wales inviting responses to the questionnaire for the synod and then not letting anyone know what was said.

Seems like exciting times are ahead.  Could call me back to blogging more regularly.  Keep going everyone !

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Secrets of the Vatican : Documentary

A documentary aired in America on Feb 25th is well worth a visit before it goes offline ! interesting Cardinal Murphy O'Connor makes and appearance as well as Robert Mickens.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fr Anthony de Mello SJ

I think it's about time I included a post about Fr Anthony de Mello SJ.  Below is the first paragraph of his wiki entry and a website dedicated to his work can be found here.  There are videos on youtube that de Mello allowed to be recorded, "Wake Up !" The first installment is included below.

Anthony "Tony" de Mello (4 September 1931, Bombay, British India – 2 June 1987, New York City) was a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who became widely known for his books on spirituality. An internationally acclaimed spiritual guide, writer and public speaker, de Mello hosted many spiritual conferences. See below for the names of these programs which are available on audio CD and film. He traveled to many countries to study and later to teach, most notably Spain and the United States.

He allowed one full Conference to be recorded which is available on audio CD -- "Wake Up to Life"—a considerably powerful program which speaks about the "I" which can observe that which is 'me' -- along with topics of Love, Happiness, Illusion, Freedom. He draws extensively from his experience as a psychotherapist and gives many stories throughout. He allowed a few, shorter talks to be filmed, such as "A Rediscovery of Life" and "A Way to God for Today," which have inspired many viewers and audiences since being released; and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of TV watchers throughout the United States, Canada, and Central America; in colleges, universities, Newman centers, and communities. De Mello established a prayer center in India. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1987, at age 55. His works are readily available and additional writings were published after his death.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Solitaries and Hermits . . . .

It may have been a while coming, but, surprisingly I have only recently discovered the popularity of 'urban' Monasticism and also found out what a solitary is !  Strange it's taken me this long, but delighted to have had my eyes opened to this way of life. 

I stumbled across a few articles in the press about people who have been called to take up this way of life.  they are interesting reading.

An article from the Tablet is a good place to start as a background to all of this called "The hermits Battle." More personal accounts can be found in an article taken from The Independent, called "British hermits : the growing lure of the solitary life."  In the telegraph an article called "Life lessons from modern day hermits", Stafford Whiteaker near Malvern and Sarah Maitland near Stranraer are chronicled.   Rachel Denton celebrates a life of solitude in Lincolnshire and is the subject of a BBC article, "The Modern hermit living in an end of terrace house."

Organisations in support of this growing way of life include the Fellowship of Solitaries and the Association of British Contemplatives.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Saint Charbel Movie

I love these excerpts from the 1960s film about the life of Saint Charbel.  If you want more have a look at the whole film which can be viewed online by clicking here !  St Charbel deserves to be more well known in the West.

St Charbel Maklouf

There is a widespread opinion that ministry and community are the crucible of the Christian life.  Where there are signs of growth, there is true faith.  This may be true in part, but the example of St Charbel reveals a ministry and spirituality lived in isolation.   Find out more about him here

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Assisi tomorrow !

This wonderful piece, so full of life and hope, sums up my mood for tomorrow's historic meeting in Assisi !

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Matthew Fox : Letters to Pope Francis

"Is it any wonder that I hear theologians and Priests in South America saying, "We used to serve the Church; now we serve humanity." People are going beyond the church and outgrowing it's structures everywhere. We need less of structures and more of the Gospel and it's values of justice and compassion preached and lived." Matthew Fox: Letters to Pope Francis

Monday, 26 August 2013

Fr Helmut Schuller

Good to hear him in his own words.  Makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Benedict XVI God told me to resign . .

God told me to resign, says Pope Emeritus

Vatican City - Former Pope Benedict has said he resigned after “God told me to” during what he called a “mystical experience”, a Catholic news agency reported.

Benedict, whose formal title is now Pope Emeritus, announced his shock resignation on February 11 and on February 28 became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years.

“God told me to do it,” the Zenith agency quoted Benedict as saying to a visitor to the convent in the Vatican gardens where he is living out his retirement in near isolation.

According to the agency, Benedict told his visitor, who asked to remain anonymous, that God did not speak to him in a vision but in what the former pope called “a mystical experience”.

According to Italian media, Benedict's decision to step down was influenced by the various scandals that blighted his eight-year papacy, including the arrest of his personal butler for leaking private documents alleging corruption in the Vatican.

He was succeeded by Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who was elected as the first non-European pontiff in 1 300 years.

According to the Rome-based Zenith, Benedict told his visitor that the more he observes the way Francis carries out his papal duties, the more he realised the choice was “wanted by God”.

Last Sunday, Benedict spent a day at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, to escape the heat of the capital.

The visit indicated that the 86-year-old ex pope's health was good enough for him to travel. There had been media reports that since his resignation, Benedict's health had deteriorated dramatically. - Reuters

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

St Charbel Makhlouf

Anyone called to Contemplative prayer should find out more about St Charbel.  There are two movies to be found on the Maronite Channel.  One in colour and the other black and white, both worth watching.

This is a movie about the Lebanese Saint Sharbel covering a very tiny part of his life. He is known as the "Saint drunk in God" in reference to his deep faith, humbleness, humility. At his time in the 1800s he was very educated but he did not leave education ruin his relation with God. Saint Sharbel protect Lebanon, was a subtitle of his picture during the war.

He became a hermit in the hermitage of Saint Maron Monastery in the mountains of Lebanon (5000ft elevation). He was known for his silence and dignity. Whereever Saint Sharbel was, there was prayer or silence.

Millions of miracles were done through his intercession and letters were sent from different countries in the world to show the thanks and be an example for all believers.
Many events were not recorded in this movie due to the lack of time, you can visit the monastery website for additional information in different languages:

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Parable of the Life Saving Station . . . .

a timely reminder for fledgling communities or reform groups !

Monday, 27 May 2013

Unfettered Ressurection . . . .

Why would the creator create a universe where all the parts grow and develop but not the whole ?

God is, without doubt, a great risk taker and probably that explains the endless and bizarre displays of life that we see on this earth.

God is clearly into freedom, imagination and creativity.  Look at nature: we end up with every conceivable shape and colour of jellyfish, desert kangaroos that turn their urine back into liquid to nurse their young, and twenty-five hundred types of cicades, some of which appear only every seventeen years.

Who is this God?  You could call God unfettered ressurection! Humans, by contrast, are preoccupied with stability, efficiency, and control, even if it means boredom and death."
Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond pg 89/90

Friday, 17 May 2013

Chunnering Rosary ? Probably not . . . .

Please don’t think me rude, but, I often wonder why groups of people get together to chunner out the Rosary in a quasi Liturgical way ?  Rules are so important.  Not just the right prayer on the correct bead, but, whether or not to include the Fatima prayer, the alternate ‘cantoring’ of the first half of each prayer and of course saying the correct mysteries on the proper day.  Who could ever pray the glorious Mysteries on a Friday ?  

To my mind the mysteries are central to the Rosary.  They are a like reading a passage of scripture or holding a dogma in your heart.   We think carefully about the mystery, using our imagination and inspired by the Holy Spirit are led into a prayerful restfulness with a still mind, “at rest as a child in it’s mother’s arms . . . . .”

This sounds very much like the Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina, formalised by the 12th century carthusian monk Guigo II.  St John of the Cross taught Guigo’s method of prayer.  A passage of scripture is read, meditated upon leading to prayer and contemplation. Lectio-Meditatio-oratio- Contemplatio.  Some maintain this strict order, whilst others suggest a weaving between the elements should not be considered second rate lectio.
Contemplative prayer has only recently been rediscovered by the wider church, having been considered the preserve of mystics or cast aside in favour of popular devotions arising from the Counter Reformation.

As a child I read the stories of Lourdes and Fatima where we were asked to pray the Rosary in response to Mary’s request.   I don’t think I understood it then, but now I wonder has Mary been calling us back to renewal of the contemplative tradition and wisdom that had been so buried and neglected in the triumphalism of the Counter reformation and the fog of the enlightenment? 

What journeys into the mystery of God will be 'present'  next time I come across a group ‘chunnering’ the Rosary.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Ricahrd Rohr : Immortal Diamond

Whilst some bloggers are banging their heads over 'pro multis,' novus ordo and other life boats they need to desperately hang onto, I just love the freedom that Richard Rohr teaches. 

He's a superb spiritual teacher and one I feel more at home with.  He has a positive message and not one that defines itself by what he is against !  Purchase his book Immortal Diamond from Amazon

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Spot the Difference ?

I loved this picture I've just seen on the Pray Tell website.  There's also a list by Anthony Riff OSB of what Pope Francis has done with Liturgy and Ritual since his election.  It can be seen here or, though is reproduced below.
What Pope Francis Has Done
After his election, he came down from platform to greet the cardinal electors, rather than have them
come up to his level to offer obedience.He appeared on the loggia without the red cape. (The BBC report, unconfirmed, is that he said to his
aide, “No thank you, Monsignore. You put it on instead. Carnival time is over."In his greeting he referred to himself only as “bishop,” not as "pope."

He referred to Benedict as “bishop emeritus,” not “pope emeritus.”
He appeared without the stole, only putting it on to give the blessing. He then took it off in public (!), as if he couldn’t wait to get it off.
He asked for the people’s prayers before he blessed them.
He doesn’t wear red shoes.
Or white stockings.
Or cuff links.
He rode the bus back to the residence with the cardinals rather than take the papal limousine.
When he went to Mary Major to pray, he declined the papal Mercedes and took a Volkswagen Passat.
On his way back from Mary Major, he stopped at his pre-conclave hotel to get his luggage and pay his own bill.
Though he has taken possession of the apostolic palace, he continued to receive guests at St. Martha’s House rather than the palace.

He drank Argentinian tea in public when receiving the Argentinian president – protocol is that popes
are seen publicly consuming no food or drink except the Eucharist.
His first Mass with cardinals was celebrated facing the people. (Pope Benedict started this way, but then did a “reform of the reform” and celebrated at the old high altar in the Sistine Chapel facing away from the congregation. Apparently this has been reversed.
He doesn’t chant the prayers, he recites them – but this could be because of an impaired lung or his singing ability.
The wall of candles between celebrant and congregation, another of Pope Benedict’s “reform of the reform,” was moved away with three candles on each side of the altar.
At his inauguration Mass, photos show that the candles were originally set up across the front of the altar, but by Mass time they had been moved to the side.
The crucifix on the altar was a small one at his first Mass.
He wore his own simple miter from Argentina, not the papal miter.
He preached from the ambo without miter – rather like a simple parish priest. (The concelebrating  cardinals gradually realized what was going on and had to remove the miters they had started to put on after the Gospel readingHe brushed aside the prepared Latin homily and preached in Italian without text.
In general, less lace.
His hands are folded during the liturgy, not the pious (some say prissy) way with palms together.
He didn’t genuflect at the Supper Narrative of the Eucharistic Prayer – is this really because of bad knees?
He asked the cardinals not to wear their red cardinals’ robes, but black.
He stood on the floor of the Clementine Hall to greet the cardinals rather than sit on the throne on the platform.
He called them “brother cardinals” rather than “Lord cardinals.”
He bent to kiss the ring of a cardinal who kissed his ring.
At his meeting with over 5,000 journalists, after Archbishop Celli introduced him, he got up to walk over to him (popes don’t do that) and thanked him.
He didn’t bless the journalists like popes do, since not all of them are Catholic or believers. Instead he prayed for them in silence, then simply said “God bless you.”
After the meeting with journalists, he waved away the papal limousine and walked to the Vatican residence.
When he saw the papal apartments he said, “There’s room for 300 people here. I don’t need all this space.” He has yet to move into the apartments, and some wonder whether he will.
At Mass Sunday at the Vatican parish Sunday morning, he gave the Kiss of Peace to the deacons and Master of Ceremonies, not just the concelebrants. This is breaking the rules – but perhaps also a nice show of support for MC Marini, who must be reeling from all the sudden changes.
The deacon didn’t kneel before Pope Francis for the blessing before the gospel (as they did for John Paul II and Benedict XVI).
He doesn’t wear the dalmatic. Pope Benedict revived the practice, not foreseen in the reformed liturgical books, of wearing this deacon’s vestment under his papal vestments.
He doesn’t distribute Communion as the missal foresees of the celebrant, but is seated while others do so.
He listened to the words of the Patriarch of Constantinople seated on an armchair rather than the throne that is customarily used in the Clementine Hall. When he thanked Bartholomew I, he called him “my brother AndrewHe has simplified his coat of arms, keeping the miter rather than tiara (as Benedict also did) but removing the pallium from it.
He is wearing a second-hand pallium.
He has chosen a simple ring, re-using a ring once made for Paul VI’s secretary.
Pope Benedict recently began wearing a fanon under the pallium for big feasts, but Francis did not wear it as the inauguration Mass.
He undid Pope Benedict’s decision that all the cardinals would come up to pay obedience to the Pope at his inauguration, and decided that six representatives would be enough.Rather than being seated while they came up to pay him obedience, he stood and greeted them
Contrary to protocol, he has given a phone call to the Jesuit superior general, the people holding a prayer vigil outside the Buenos Aires cathedral, and the guy in Argentina who sold him his daily paper (to cancel his delivery).
When he met the Jesuit general, he apologized for not keeping protocol and insisted on being treated like any other Jesuit with the “tu” informal address, rather than “Your Holiness” or “Holy Father.
He is not celebrating Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in St. Peter’s Basilica (he hasn’t yet taken possession of his cathedral, John Lateran), but in a juvenile prison.
He celebrated an unannounced Mass at St. Martha’s with hotel workers, Vatican gardeners, and people who clean St. Peter’s square. He showed up before Mass and sat in the back row to pray a bit.
In his official photograph, he signs his name simply “Franciscus” without “PP” (“pontifex pontificum”) used by previous popes.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Report that pope to exile Law 'totally false,' Vatican says

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has got to the bottom of the story I earlier wrote about that I had seen in yesterdays Daily Mail. The NCR article can be found here or below.

"Reports that Pope Francis has ordered Cardinal Bernard Law to stay away from the Basilica of St. Mary Major and is about to ship him off to a monastery are “completely and totally false,” according to a Vatican spokesperson.

During a press briefing on Thursday about Pope Francis’ visit to St. Mary Major, one of the four pontifical basilicas in Rome, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Law had briefly greeted Francis and then exited the scene.

The Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, however, reported that Francis had told Law to stop appearing in public at the basilica, where he retired as Archpriest in November 2011. The report also said that the new pope, “as his first act of purification,” is preparing to dispatch the 81-year-old Law to a cloistered monastery.

Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who’s acting as an assistant Vatican spokesperson during the papal transition, told NCR today that those reports are “completely and totally false.”
Law, of course, resigned as Archbishop of Boston in December 2002 at the peak of the sexual abuse scandals in the United States. His appointment as Archpriest of St. Mary Major in 2004 brought criticism from advocates for abuse victims. However the new pope decides to deal with Law, there’s no doubt that recovery from the abuse scandals will be high on his to-do list.

While then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio doesn’t have an extensive track record on the church’s abuse scandals, his election as pope was welcomed by the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, largely on the strength of the fact that he doesn’t come out of the Roman Curia.
The new pope has been outspoken on the broader issue of the sexual exploitation of children in society.

“In this city, there are many girls who stop playing with dolls to enter the dump of a brothel because they were stolen, sold, betrayed,” he said in 2011, referring to Buenos Aires.

“Women and girls are kidnapped, and they are subjected to use and abuse of their body; they are destroyed in their dignity,” he said. “The flesh that Jesus assumed and died for is worth less than the flesh of a pet. A dog is cared for better than these slaves of ours, who are kicked, who are broken.”
(Follow John Allen on Twitter: @JohnLAllenJr)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Bernard Law sent packing ?

I'm very struck by the positive things I'm watching and hearing in the press about Pope Francis. There are a number of stories circulating about Pope Francis 'bumping' into Cardinal Bernard Law during his visit to St Mary Major.  I like to take the generous view that was held by the Daily Mail. This seems so encouraging, especially as the papacy is still only hours old.  The whole article can be read here, but, I have extracted just the bits about Bernard Law, who it seems Pope Francis wants him living in an enclosed monastery asap rather than enjoying the privileged position he has held at St Mary Major for a number of years ! A sign of more good things to come ? The news only gets better !

"But first days are all about making a good impression - even when you’re the Pope.
So when the appearance of a disgraced cardinal threatened to cast a shadow over his first engagement, Francis I made sure it couldn’t happen again- by banning him from his own church.
Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston in 2002, after being accused of actively covering up for a litany of paedophile priests.'
Despite the scandal which exploded to engulf the entire church, he was given an honorary position at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome.
Though now retired, the cardinal still enjoys a grace and favour apartment in the cathedral complex.
So hearing that the new Pope was offering prayers at the very same church, it seems he couldn’t resist a discreet peak.
But when Pope Francis recognised him, he immediately ordered that Law be removed, according to Italian media reports. He went on to command: ‘He is not to come to this church any more.’
One of the new Pope’s first acts will be to arrange new ‘cloistered’ accommodation for the disgraced cardinal, the Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano, reported.
The firm stance was greeted with cautious enthusiasm by campaigners for victims of sexual abuse. David Clohessey of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said: ‘If he is permanently banned we are slightly encouraged."

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