Monday, 21 May 2018

On a Persona Relationship with Jesus and the work we do in the Parish..

I found the sessions with Sherry Weddell last weekend very challenging.   Sherry had three things to say which were very important to would be disciples, and the first thing was that we must have a Personal Relationship with God.    Now this is a question she has asked many Catholic leaders with some surprising responses, yet she maintained that without such a relationship the vast majority of Catholics will never advance beyond what she called a seeker, moving to trusting and then openness to that stage when we become a disciple.  The vast majority of us are just infant Catholics.    This can be quite a shock to many who have laboured in the Catholic Church for many years.  Yes, we can have a parish where we have all the societies and charities and everyone can have a choice as to where their talents lie, whether it be prayer or catechesis, the St Vincent de Paul Society or Cafod, but if these labours are bearing no fruit, if it just becomes an enclosed institution the fame of which never goes beyond the walls and reaches out to individuals in society and appears as something that is radical and different then questions must be asked.    And if young Catholics who are baptised and confirmed in that institution are deserting it by a figure as high as 90%  then if we truly love God questions must be asked.   And to ask questions we must have reached that stage of openness which Sherry mentioned that the majority have still to reach.

So what should the Catholic Church look like to other people in order to make it bear fruit?   Let me go back to St Augustine.    There he was in the Roman Empire living a life of sexual freedom and pleasure.   But then one day he tired of it all and wanted to move on to something else.   Maybe today he would have met someone selling drugs or perhaps have just become depressed and lonely.  Happily Augustine saw a beacon of light.    He came across young people who were not seeking sexual pleasure outside marriage and when they did marry they were totally faithful to their spouses.  They were called Christians.   The story goes on as we know to tell us how Aiugustine fell ini love with that Church and became one of its saints.     That Church, that beacon of light, is not there today and only a few manage to break through the fog to see the dim reflection.    It would he easy to jump to the conclusion that it is just because our young people are not chaste so if we teach chastity and marriage all will be well.     But no, it is almost impossible for a young person to lead a celibate life and be faithful in marriage unless they have a personal relationship with God.  And that is what we have to seek for ourselves and for our children.

Sme will object that they read the Bible every day.   Some will tell us of the shrines they visit and the Rosaries they say and all the Novenas they offer and that they are good people I will never question.   But sometimes we can use these things to hide from God, and we are well practiced in it, but they do not lead us to a personal relationship.   I think I have read over a thousand books on the lives of the saints during my lifetime and what stands out?   What makes me want to read them.   I read my first book when I was 11 years old and it was the Story of a Soul by St Therese.   What inspire3d me in the book is that she most certainly approached God in a way that was different.   She simply did not just roll off prayers but she talked to Jesus in her own way.   Many other books followed and all of the saints had an individual approach to God.   They really had a relationship and their prayers bore fruit.    As I write this I have a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham beside the computer and every so often when I write something I ask her "Is what I wrote OK"  Sometimes I go back and delete sometimes I carry on.     It is a small thing but I am trying hard to have a personal relationship with Mary.  I then ask her when I have finished "What will I do next?"   The answer may come a few days later but it comes.

Perhaps the young people in the Church that St Augustine knew had an advantage.  They did not have scripture and they could not read scripture anyway.   They did not settle down to the Rosary, or look for  some devotion to follow.    They simply had to talk to Jesus on their own.   Now I am not advocating an abandonment of Scripture or the Rosary but pointing out that they should not be our only contact with Jesus.    Sherry was a convert to the Church through experiencing one day the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.    She said something very profound.   "The Eucharist is not a holy t:hing it is a Person     If we want a personal relationship with Jesus this is where we start.   In giving us this beautiful presence Jesus wanted to overpower us with his love.  He is our shepherd and our guide and it is inconceivable that we should shove him into a corner out of the way.   Indeed it is scandalous.   Jesus must again be the centre of our parish prayer life and young people should be taught that a personal relationship with Jesus starts with their First Holy Communion.

Having written this I agree that it is not easy.  A personal relationship with Jesus can be threatening.  We are very good at pretending we are wonderful people to others, but we know we cannot fooll  God.   He knows us for what we are and perhaps we would rather carry on as we are.    I am lucky that Mary took me and shook me first.    But I now know that many things I did were displeasing to her and I am striving to rectify them and ask her for more help if it is needed.   The woman is trying to make me holy.   And that is something else that perhaps we would rather shy away from and carry on as we are.   Do we really want to be saints?   I will now turn to my statue and ask her    "Do you really want me to be a saint?  Thank God the woman is silent at the moment.


Friday, 11 May 2018

On Seeking a Personal Relationship with Jesus

St Augustiner was a young man who followed the pagan ways of Rome.   He enjoyed sex outside of marriage and even fathered a child.  But he did have a devout Christian mother who constantly prayed for him.   One day Augustine took a look around him and found that the Christian young people were not behaving as he and his friends were behaving.  They valued chastity and marriage.   They believed in the teachings of Jesus and followed him and his teachings.   He saw immediately that there was something really beautiful here and he decided to investigate and as a result changed  his life.   He too found what these Christians had found - a personal relationship with Jesus.

Today as he looks down from Heaven does Augustine still see that same commitment in the Church?  Does he see people striving to love Jesus by following his commandments.   Why not?   Perhaps it is because in the Church today we have somehow separated our lives from Jesus and are somehow trying to follow a Jesus we do not have a relationship with.   You see to follow the teachings of Jesus and the Commandments is not very easy in this world we now live in.   We have to be constantly aware of the Jesus who lives within us and form a relationship with the Jesus within us.

Let me explain this from my own experience.   I ma 80 years old and sinned grievously in my youth.   But by some miracle I kept hanging on to the Church and lived the trappings of Faith rather than the spirit for many years.    I had my sins forgiven and felt better about it.   I had been well formed in the Catholic Faith and from the time of the Spirit of Vatican II I knew many were being misled.   Anything I tried to do was ineffective because although I could talk God and do God, I had no relationship with him.   I still lived with sinful thoughts and desires and preferred to turn my mind to worldly things.    God was for Sunday.    Then Mary the Mother of Jesus and my Mother started knocking sense into me.   I had gone to Downside Abbey  when the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was moving round the country and had an experience there.   It was not a vision, it was not voices, it was just that I started crying and I felt somehow that I would have to do something about this.   I went home and shocked my wife by telling her  that I wanted to say three Rosaries every day instead of just struggling with one.   I have persevered in this but even more I knew I had been blest and that everything in my being must now belong  to Jesus and Mary.   So everything I do whether sinful or not i judge by this new relationship - will they be pleased or displeased?    Did I move forward today in our relationships.   I am far from holy so often I do disappoint them but to Mary I am her child and strange things happen that show her love.  

The task now is to bring our children away from the pagan society of today and give them back a relationship with Jesus and Mary.   I was born during the last war in a Glasgow tenement.   My family was poor and every family around was poor.    We were strong in our Faith and our children grew up to marry and have families and our Churches were full with four Masses on a Sunday morning.   But then the country began to prosper and we found so many material things to enjoy,    The cohesion  of being part of a Catholic Community disappeared and our young people were attracted by the vanity of the world, the sexual revolution, and the new immoralities.   Church became dull and uninteresting.   The church was in real trouble.   The solutions put forward by the Spirit of Vatican II, and I emphasise the Spirit not the Council itself, have failed miserably because although it made some feel good it did not bring them to God.    Church members had lost a personal relationship with God which was vital for renewal and even the programmes introduced far from leading children and young people to Jesus actually took them further away.   That 95% of young people have turned from the Church and are hostile in many cases to the Church shortly before they leave School is something of which we should be ashamed.     Yes, we are a great institution for giving to the poor, for seeking justice and peace, for our notional idea that this is all there is too Christianity but on the other hand we have failed to give our young children that love that personal relationship with Jesus that Augustine saw in the young people of his day.

How can we win back our youth?   I have posted two photos above and one is of a child receiving Holy communion on his tongue and kneeling and another of a young lady receiving Communion on her hand and standing   Which one shows the most devotion?   You may say it does not matter but when I tell you a certain teaching that nothing happens when we receive, it is only when we rejoin the community that something happens then answer the question again.    If this teaching is true then  does it matter how we receive?   And it it does not matter how we receive the living Body of Jesus where is that personal relationship with Him?   A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS MUST START WITH A CHILD'S FIRST HOLY COMMUNION, AND IT MUST  GROW SIDE BY SIDE WITH JESUS IN THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.

I have recently come across a woman called Sherry Weddell who will be talking on the subject of what she calls Intentional Disciples at the Basingstoke Country Hotel on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th May.  Next week in other words.   This lady came from a Fundamentalist Christian background and was converted to Catholicism by just entering a Catholic Church and feeling the Real Presence of Jesus there.   But in her former Church she took the question of a personal relationship with Jesus very seriously and she still takes it very seriously.   She ask everyone the question "What personal relationship do you have with Jesus"   She gets very strange replies inside the Catholic Church but if you cannot answer the question easily why not come along.   You can book by looking into the Diocesan Website.   I will be there so you can ask me to explain all my scribblings.    

Monday, 7 May 2018

The meaning of 'virgo Immaculata'

As you will see from the stained glass window the name given to the image is Virgo Immaculata.   Mary was the virgin who remained sinless and spotless.  Yes she would have been tempted by Satan, but as the image shows she kept close to God in prayer and all the wiles of Satan, the forbidden fruit he offered, depictdd by the apple, ended up stuck in his throat while the right foot of Mary crushed his head.

"I will put enmity between Thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed", God tole the serpent in Genesis   Satan was no match for Jesus who was God made Man but he had overcome a mere mortal before in Eve, What a triumph it would have been to destroy she whom Jesus loved above al others - his mother.   But Mary kept close to Jesus and to God, the new Eve, and mother of the new children that the death of Jesus brought into being.    And as Revelations 12 tells us having failed to destroy the birth of Jesus Satan  went after her other children - us.      

When pilgrims came to the shrine this window represents, and it is a stained glass window of a shrine, they would have had much to ponder and give thanks for, and in their lives they too could stand beside their mother and overcome their weakness and crush Satan   And when they fall they can rise again and reach out for the  hands of Mary whom they knew would one day lead them to her Blessed Son.

Hail full of Grace!!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

More on the Virgo Immaculata. Why am I the only one digging.?

In February 2016, we welcomed back one of our most beautiful attractions following months of ground-breaking conservation work. You can enjoy the exquisite Tudor stained glass once again.

Our chapel’s stained glass is the finest in the National Trust’s care and considered to be among the most beautiful 16th-century glass in Europe. It features King Henry VIII, who visited The Vyne several times, as well as his sister Margaret and first wife Catherine of Aragon, together with their patron saints.
When condensation gradually began to eat away at the windows, causing pitting and corrosion, the glass was removed for conservation and re-fitted with state-of-the-art protective glazing by specialists Holy Well Glass.
The rare panes of glass, known as ‘lights’, have returned to The Vyne once more. The last light featuring Henry VIII was reinstalled on Tuesday 9 February 2016.

The story behind the glass

The stained glass windows are believed to have originally been created for the nearby Holy Ghost Chapel by Flemish glaziers. The craftsmen were from the school of great European artisans involved in major schemes such as Henry VIII's King's College Chapel, Cambridge. 
At some point, possibly to protect it from ransacking Roundheads during the Civil War, the glass was removed and hidden, later re-appearing in the chapel at The Vyne.
Among the scenes depicted is an image of a young King Henry VIII. He stayed at the house on several occasions, first with Catherine of Aragon and later with Anne Boleyn, as the guest of William Sandys, his Lord Chamberlain. 
Another window depicts Catherine of Aragon and a third shows Henry's sister, Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland when she was just 13 years old.

The conservation project

The stained glass is delicate because the paint and enamel used at this time were not highly fired. This allowed subtle layers of shading, but left the glass soft and vulnerable to abrasion. Much painted glass detail from this period has been lost because of this.
Stained glass specialists Holy Well Glass began work on the project back in 2013 when they removed one of the 18 stained glass lights to evaluate cleaning and conservation techniques. 
The light was reinstalled with a protective layer of external 'isothermal' glazing. Infra-red imaging was used in conjunction with humidity monitoring to assess its efficiency in eliminating condensation. 
The technique was shown to be effective and the remaining 17 lights were removed for cleaning in August 2015.
Isothermal glazing was installed on the outside of the windows to physically protect the glass. The historic glass was mounted in a bronze frame with ventilation gaps at the top and bottom. 
The frames were then mounted 5cm in front of the secondary glazing to allow warm internal air to circulate around the stained glass. 
This now keeps the temperature and humidity stable and eliminates condensation.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Two Stained Glass Windows that Have a Story to Tell.

At the Vyne Estate just outside Basingstoke among many others you can see these two stained glass windows.   One is of a young King Henry VIII kneeling in prayer.  Henry often visited the Vyne which was the estate of Lord Sandys.  He would visit with Catherine of Aragon regularly since he valued very much the opinions of this Lord.   While in Basingstoke since in his youth he was very devout and had a great love for Our Lady he would have visited the Shrine to Our Lady in Basingstoke which was destroyed at the Reformation.   Nevertheless despite carefully keeping on the Kings side during the Reforms it seems that Sandys retained much of his Catholicity and rather than smashing the windows he removed then carefully and kept them somewhere at the Vyne.    This was wise because Henry also visited him with his new wife Anne Boleyn.  

But what can the Stained Glass Window of Our Lady tell us?   There are many similarities between this image and that of Our Lady of Walsingham.  The image reproduced at Walsingham came for a wax seal which was used to give the authority of the Shrine to letters and correspondence.   We have nothing to show us what the statue of Our Lady of Basingstoke looked like or does this Stained Glass Window actually be a copy?   We have after all the Saxon throne which Our Lady of Walsingham is also sitting on.   Behind the chair we have the rainbow denoting God's Covenant with mankind.  Then there is the halos on the head of both images.    It is definitely Saxon and of the medieval period.   There is also a date on the bottom of the image which is blurred in the photo but I hope that I or someone just as excited gets there to look and to question the guides.  It seems to be 13,, something.  

Now Lord Sandys would have been responsible for the safety of the shrine in Basingstoke and I cannot see how he would have chosen the image of a shrine from some other place.  

But I am sure that if more evidence is necessary we will get it at the Vyne

The image is called Virgo Immaculata and with her foot on the serpent it is a witness to the early belief in the Immaculate Conception.  

I believe that Mary wants her image restored and as at Lourdes wants "processions to come hither"

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Rosary on the Coast

A coach carrying 39 people from Basingstoke arrived at Hotwalls Beach just shortly after 2.30pm on the 29th April.   Since no one else was there we began the3 service on our own though the numbers rise as people from the Cathedral and other parishes in Portsmouth arrived   We certainly had over 70 when the Rosary began at 3pm.    I apologise to anyone who thought we had hi-jacked the service it was just that we did to know if anyone was cooing.

Although there was a chill in the air and it was cloudy there was no wind and no wind  rain despite the clouds.    Despite the priests no leading the service the stand ins did very well and everyone thought it was a very spiritual experience.   Mary was certainly there praying with us and smoothing out the challenges we faced in sorting out the service.

I hope the people of Portsmouth enjoyed the service as much as the people of Basingstoke and we did not upset any of their plans for the day.    Mary is no longer happy to be a statue on the wall.   She is our Mother and she is coming out fighting for the Church and the message of her Son to a very lost and increasingly evil world.      

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

On Alfie Evans

My previous post where the video was censored spoke about two jounalists who went into a hate rant against the Catholic Church.   Unfortunately if they had actually bothered to research what was actually going on instead of making themselves look stupid they would have found that the Catholic Church had no objection whatsoever to turning of a respiratory system which was artificially keeping someone alive.    The case was that the parents wanted to move their son to another hospital which had promised to try another way of keeping Alfie alive.    The  hospital refused this and the rights of the parents were dismissed.    As it turned out the hospital had also made a wrong diagnosis for Alfie did to just live for a few minutes when the breathing apparatus was removed as the Hospital had said, he actually lived for five days and during that time he co old have been removed to another hospital.