Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family

The Holy Family - One of the most beautiful feast days of the year and as well as a feast for every Christian family to celebrate, it is also one of the three patron all feast days of my son, Joseph.

I pray that I am given the grace to imitate Saint Joseph in his leadership, protection, care for and love for his wife and adopted Son. It never fails to amaze me that he was put in authority over the only two sinless human beings whoever lived, his wife and divine Son. 

May the Holy Family inspire us to love Christ and one another more and may all families be protected from all harm.

In the words of today's Lauds:

God our Father,

in the Holy Family of Nazareth

you have given us the true model of a Christian home.

Grant that by following Jesus, Mary and Joseph

in their love for each other and in the example of their family life,

we may come to your home of peace and joy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. It's amazing being able to celebrate Christmas with not only my wife but my newborn son giving the nativity story extra poignance. 

As we celebrate the incarnation it's worth meditating with Pope Francis' words at Midnight Mass:

"On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

10 Reasons I'm proud to be Catholic

There is a good friend of mine, an evangelical Christian who asked me to share with him why I am Catholic and so I am sharing ten reasons I'm proud to be Catholic:

1. Jesus Christ. 

Our Lord, Jesus loved the Catholic Church so much that He gave His life for her. She is His creation, His bride, the one for whom He paid the ultimate price. If our savour loves her and sacrificed Himself for her, how can I not?

2.  The Bible

The Catholic Church isn't just a Bible believing church but THE Bible compiling Church. It was the Catholic Church that wrote the New Testament, protected those books of the Old Testament that those who didn't accept Christ wished to do away with and decided which books did or did not belong to the New Testament  

The scriptures were lovingly copied (by hand) century after century and the Church loved the Bible sufficiently to stop bastardised translations being produced that would contaminate the Word. The sacraments, which all preceded the Bible, are rich in scripture and the Mass itself (in each of it's 23+ rites) is rich in biblical readings, quotations and allusions. 

3.  The Crusades

It is fashionable to criticise the crusader movement today and historians rightly point out that there could be greed and excesses as well as scandals such as the horrific sacking of Constantinople BUT in their purest form they represent Christ's people sacrificing themselves for the weak and innocent - the pilgrims who wished to worship in peace in Jerusalem. In a world where men often fail to be manly and sit by when the weak are oppressed it is wonderful to think of a time when men would, like Christ, sacrifice themselves for others. 

4.  The sinners and the saints. 

Oscar Wilde once said that: "The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners, for respectable people, the Anglican church will do."  Apart from Christ Himself and His Mother, every Catholic  was and is a sinner.  We recognise our faults and rather than wallowing in guilt we turn to Christ and His Church and seek forgiveness - in baptism and after this, in the sacrament of Reconciliation. So called "Catholic guilt" should be renamed, "cafeteria catholic guilt" - a true Catholic will experience joy (not always happiness) in being forgiven and reconciled. 

5. Confession

Having already alluded to this - the sacrament of Reconciliation, Penance, Confession is a powerful experience of grace that Christ is longing to bring to us. He is waiting for us patiently - why would we leave it a whole month when we are able to enter into deeper relationship with Christ and His Church?  I accept that we can be forgiven by God directly when we confess to Him directly with perfect contrition but our sins harm His body too and so we need reconciliation to the Church.  

6.  The Eucharist

The Mass may seem boring or irrelevant to many people but this is because they may well not have realised that they are present at the Sacrifice of Calvary and, if in a state of grace, able to be consumed by the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord and saviour. 

Sometimes in Hong Kong I haven't been able to attend my usual church and some people were amazed I would go to Mass in Cantonese. I didn't understand the words but surely these are secondary to the miracle taking place here. Unless the Mass is in the older form of the Roman rite, I rarely "get anything out of it" in terms of spiritual uplift but this isn't what is most important. 

7.  Tradition and continuity

It is amazing to think that the Catholic Church existed at the time of the Roman Empire which killed it's sacred Founder and tried to stamp it out and exists to this day. So many empires, kingdoms and secular republics have fought it from Nero to Bismark, from the Saracens to the Obama regime and yet it has survived and will survive all. 

8.  In recent years

There are many reasons we could have doom and gloom about life in general and the Church but I see many signs of grace and hope - we have just a click away on our iPhones and computers wonderful prophetic documents such as Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI expounding his wonderful teaching on human life. There are documents such as Veritatis Splendor by Blessed John-Paul II and the wonderful encyclicals by Emeritus Pope Benedict on love and hope and with Pope Francis on faith. We just always remember that our faith is in Christ and He is our saviour and our hope. 

9.  Science. 

The Catholic Church is a protector and supporter of science and always has been. Its monasteries were staffed with monks who preserved and encouraged learning. Some of the greatest scientists of all time have been Catholic priests and the Church has never insisted on a readong of scripture that would undermine true scientific discovery. In fact the current Pope Francis is himself a scientist and there is no contradiction - as Faith reveals eternal Truth, science seeks material truth. 

10.  Beer

Although not strictly compulsory for Catholics the Church has had a long history of brewing and blessing beer and sanctioning it's consumption in moderation. Many of the ancient inns of England were built by churches and named after biblical or sacred events. The "salutation" inn for example would nowadays show a dour faced soldier saluting another it originally referred to the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Beer is even today produced at Ampleforth Abbey, following in great monastic tradition and the older form of blessings, before Vatican II, specifically contains a blessing of beer. 

Reflections on my son's baptism

My son has become a born again Christian in a Bible believing Church - that's right he was baptised in the older form of the Roman Rite as a Catholic at 22 days old. 

The anniversary of the date my son was baptised will always be a sacred day in my family. It was a wonderful coincidence that the Gospel reading at our traditional, Latin Mass on that day, the fourth Sunday in Advent, spoke of the baptism of John the Baptist and that the "O Antiphon" for the day was "O Rex Gentium" on the day he was adopted into Christ's Royal Family. 

I was reflecting on what message to share with him today and to remind him of every time this anniversary comes around:

"My son, my prayer for you is that as you grow you will seek Our Lord with your whole mind, heart and soul and commit your life to Him and love His Church. May you gradually understand what Christ did for you on the cross and respond by being gracious, forgiving others and accepting forgiveness when you fall.  Your mother and I love you very much and we always will but His love is so much greater. Trust in Christ and allow Him to transform you daily. Amen"

I pray that he will always treasure Christ as St Joseph treasured Him and will love the Blessed Virgin Mary too as his patron did and still does.  My prayer that he will always love the Catholic Church, His bride for whom He gave up His life. Please say a quick prayer for my son and for my family at this most joyful time. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Why don't so many men go to Mass?

Fr Z has written an article about why so few men go to Mass nowadays and to be honest I agree.

I would go to Mass regardless but am soblessed  to be able to worship in the older rite in Hong Kong which is manly and solemn - not emasculating as what often passes for liturgy nowadays. 

As a child I'd be embarrassed being asked to do elephant impressions and various other actions during children's Masses - this isn't a criticism of Vatican II but some of what can often happen nowadays. 

In the older form of Mass I feel I can pray, worship, be silent and adore God. 

Deo gratias for Pope Benedict's decision to free the older form and Pope Francis' decision to support it.