Sunday 14 June 2009

Holy Pelican!

No, this is not something Batman says.

My kids were amused to read in the translation of the Adoro te, the words Holy pelican. Then I pointed out the door of the tabernacle in our church (which, alas, has no veil in front of it) which is carved with a picture of a pelican.

Why a pelican? Because the pelican was thought, in earlier times, to feed its young with its own flesh - and so became a perfect symbol for Our Lord giving his own flesh to us in the Blessed Sacrament at Holy Communion.

So naturally, tabernacles and hymns made use of this symbol.

It was only in a later, less pious more rationalist age that it was observed that the pelican was plucking insects or something out of its feathers to feed to its young, not tearing out its own flesh.

But we like the idea of the Holy Pelican!

Thursday 11 June 2009

Holydays of Obligation

Today being the traditional day for the celebration of Corpus Christi, I am moved to reflect on another Catholic distinctive which is being eroded: the obligation to go to Mass on the great feasts.

For reasons wholly opaque to me, our bishops have transferred Corpus Christi, the Ascension and the Epiphany to the nearest Sundays.

And so one more piece of our Catholic identity is whittled away...

Wednesday 10 June 2009

For I have sinned...

Another Catholic distinctive, of course, is sacramental confession.

Unlike some others, we believe that Our Lord meant it when he gave his apostles the power to forgive or retain sins in his name - and we believe that power is handed on to their successors, the bishops, and delegated by them to our priests.

And like other Catholic distinctives, it has been drastically downplayed recently. We are now told we only need go once a year, and then only if we are conscious of mortal sin.

That's a bit like saying we need only go to communion once a year: a completely minimalist approach. But communion is popular and confession is not, so we are encouraged to go to communion far more frequently - whilst confession is made to feel optional.

But if we believe confession to be a source of grace, an encounter with Christ who is dying to forgive us, why should we not go very frequently? As was the practice of so many saints...

Unless of course we are without sin of any kind, and without any lingering attachment to sin...

Monday 8 June 2009

On Your Knees!

I was taught, as a young boy, that we genuflected (and knelt for communion) as a sign of our belief in - and reverence for - the Real Presence. In front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, we genuflected on both knees; and in passing an altar where the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved, we bowed.

This, of course, is distinctively Catholic (as is belief in the Real Presence) so of course it had to go. And so we are taught that these days a bow is sufficient as we pass the tabernacle, and standing is fine for communion.

In fact one school teacher had the idiocy to tell me that we no longer kneel before kings, and these things change over time, so we no longer kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. What a twit! The reason we no longer kneel before kings is that we no longer believe in the Divine Right theory - ie that they are practically God-on-earth!

But as I still believe that the Blessed Sacrament is literally God-on-earth, I continue to genuflect, kneel for communion etc.

It's harder with the kids: I don't insist they kneel for communion (though they happily do at EF Masses) but at least genuflect before receiving, and certainly genuflect rather than bow at the tabernacle etc.

We must reclaim a sense of the sacred, and a pride in our Catholic identity - the decades of convergence with Protestant practice have been disastrous for the Church.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Slowing down

One of the many benefits of the Chartres pilgrimage was the opportunity to slow down. For three days, we had no internet, no radio or tv, no newspapers, no external stimulation beyond meditation, prayer (especially the Holy Mass) and conviviality.

I am trying to extend that peace into the rest of my life, so will be cutting down on blogging somewhat - both reading and writing - but not giving up all together, of course (I might get cold turkey...)

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Back from Chartres

What an experience! Despite blazing sunshine, blisters, sleepless nights etc...

For anyone who has not been, it is hard to convey both how tough and how rewarding the pilgrimage is.

The Masses in the woods, and the final Mass in Chartres Cathedral, are of course highlights; but so are so many other moments: seeing the endless procession wending its way through the French fields, singing Chez Nous; unexpected meetings and rapid friendships -and the renewal of old ones; being amongst so many young committed Catholics, all marching in honour of the BVM; sudden moments of grace - in a meditation, a rosary, or the song of a bird...

If you've been you will know how inadequate that brief summary is; if you have not been: put it in your diary for Pentecost next year!