November 24, 2017
The Church’s year comes to its glorious climax this weekend as we celebrate the beautiful feast of Christ the King. So much of the Liturgy focusses on past events, though it is always at pains to stress what these mean for us today and how they are life-chaining events. But this feast focusses on the future. At the end of time Jesus will come again and judge all peoples. He will then establish the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
When we look around the world today we see so many states that are run for a tiny handful of the privileged. We see countries in which there is little or no justice or peace. We realise that cruelty and hardship still abound. The feast of Christ the King tells us that this will not last for ever.
When Christ comes again his kingdom will be one of justice, love and peace. It will be a place where all are truly equal and all truly loved.
November 20, 2017
Music is one of the greatest joys in life. Whatever your taste there must be very few people who are not moved or uplifted by some tune or other. It would be a very sad world without music.
Our religious celebrations are no exception. Music lifts our prayers to new heights. In fact, St. Augustine says that ‘the one who sings prays twice’. So it is good that the celebration of Mass and the sacraments is accompanied by singing.
On Wednesday we celebrate the feast day of the Patron Saint of music, St. Cecilia. We know little concrete about her beyond the fact that she seems to have been a martyr in the early Church at Rome. But for centuries she has been depicted with musical instruments and celebrated as the musicians’ patron.
Music in church provides a very important function. It should augment the words and music of the Mass. On occasions it should joyful, on some occasions sober, and at Easter and Christmastide it should be exuberant.
Let us St Cecilia for her prayers so that our musical offerings will always be suitable and appropriate, of the best quality we can bring, and help raise our hearts and minds to God.
November 10, 2017
There are only two Popes who have been given the epithet, ‘the Great’, one of whom we celebrate today.
Leo was born in Rome towards the end of the fourth century. He became Bishop of Rome in 440AD. It was a time of considerable crisis in both Church and state. Heretics were still disputing the true nature of Christ. Leo’s famous ‘Tome’ (an official letter) was acclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 as the epitome of orthodox doctrine that Christ was both fully human and fully divine.
In the secular sphere the once mighty Roman Empire had all but collapsed. The barbarians in the shape of the Huns and Vandals were threatening to massacre the citizens of Rome. Leo managed to arbitrate and secure peace.
We have many of Leo’s letters. They are crystal clear explanations of the Church’s teaching about the mystery of the incarnation, the nature of the sacraments, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
Leo was energetic and vigorous: a man of intelligence and also a man of action. He died on 10th November 461AD.
November 6, 2017
St. Charles Borromeo is one of the greatest of the Counter-Reformation saints. Charles was born in northern Italy and, through family patronage, became Archbishop of the great city of Milan when he was just 26. But despite his age this was no sinecure and he was zealous in putting into effect the teachings of the Council of Trent.
He set up ‘Sunday Schools’ to combat the ignorance of the people, and opened seminaries to combat the ignorance of the clergy. He insisted on the decent and proper celebration of the Mass and the sacraments. He was fearless in denouncing the loose living of the rich and powerful.
All this earned Charles much love from his people but much opposition from his enemies who were annoyed to be challenged and confronted. One priest even tried to assassinate him!
The Church is always in need of reform. Pope Benedict challenged us to think again about the way in which we celebrate the Mass. Pope Francis challenges us to think again about the way in which we treat the poor.