Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Empty chairs in empty churches

Mark Lambert has picked up on Fr Dwight Lonenecker's piece about why church attendance is, for the most part, in decline in the Western world.  

Conclusion: many people just don't really understand what church is for.

This is certainly true whenever we now interact with those who don't usually darken the doors of the Church - at times of marriages, funerals, baptisms and first Communions.  What they are looking for is not what the Church actually offers but all too often we cave in and give them the watered down, insipid, secularised version that they come seeking and so those that come to such events experience very little of the true content of the Faith.

What they experience is just not powerful enough or different enough from what they might get in other arenas to make people make the effort on a Sunday morning. 

I think he's hit on something there.  

Once we present church as entertainment, we can't compete with the professional entertainers in film, stage and TV.  

Once we present it as a commodity (everyone "getting Communion") we can't compete with teh professional emporiums of commerce.

Once we present church as a party we can't compete with a good restaurant or a noisy bar.

Once we present church as a crèche we can't compete with the professional child carers and educators in our schools and nurseries.

The only Unique Selling Point we have is salvation, redemption from sin, warfare with the forces of darkness, the reality of the spiritual world -  but these are things we have so often lost confidence in talking about, so we try to compete on other people's turf and come off looking second rate, boring and irrelevant.

A loss in confidence in its core message is bound to reflect rather poorly in any organisation - human or divine.  We do indeed have a unique "product" but it's hidden away in the back room (or the back sacristy).  It takes confidence to bring it out.

The wonder is that so often we hear of great "celebrations" taking place in regard to the way the Church has moved in recent decades.  The "celebration" to close the church / convent / seminary / monastery or "celebration" some other aspect of Church life that is, in anyone's reality, so obviously in decline.  A real bit or Orwellian doublespeak.

I'm reminded of the lyrics sung by Marius in Les Miserables - the empty chairs and empty tables being the empty pews and empty altars:
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.
Here they talked of revolution.
Here it was they lit the flame.
Here they sang about `tomorrow'
And tomorrow never came.
From the table in the corner
They could see a world reborn
And they rose with voices ringing
I can hear them now!
The very words that they had sung
Became their last communion

Sunday, 23 November 2014

How to elect a Pope

The "Telegraph" newspaper reports today on Austen Ivereigh's forthcoming book "The Great Reformer" - a biography of Pope Francis.   Ivereigh is the former Press Secretary to Murphy-O'Connor when he was Archbishop of Westminster.

According to the report, the book will reveal that:
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, helped to orchestrate a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign which led to the election of Pope Francis.
Disclosing that:
... there had been a discreet, but highly organised, campaign by a small group of European cardinals in support of Cardinal Bergoglio...  Writer Austen Ivereigh, nicknames the group “Team Bergoglio” and says members toured private dinners and other gatherings of cardinals in the days before the conclave, quietly putting their case.
You can't believe everything you read but this open an interesting window on how the politics of an election are sometimes managed. Even if the politics may make you a bit sad on this day when we remember that Christ the King calls us to move beyond worldly king-making.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this:
I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.  
(Ezekiel 34:17 - from the Feast of Christ the King)

You can read the full article here.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Art in the Service of the Poor and the Glory of God

I attended a lovely concert of organ music and some pieces sung by the choir at the church of St Joseph in Stokesley, North Yorkshire yesterday afternoon.  Parish Priest, Fr William Charlton, somewhat surprised his congregation with his prowess on the organ (obviously during Mass he's usually rather busy elsewhere).  

Fr Charlton became a Chaplain to the Order of St Lazarus earlier this year in Derbyshire and organised the recital in support of our charity in Sri Lanka, SUROL, looking after those suffering from leprosy.  We were delighted to see a full church and rejoiced at the generosity of the parishioners in giving £1,000 to the work of the Order.  A big thank you to Fr Charlton, the singers and parishioners - as well as those who organised the refreshments afterwards.

Fr Charleton conducting the schola.

In a fitting link to the Order of St Lazarus, there is a fine window depicting the raising of Lazarus in the church (pictured above).  It's one of a series designed in the 1940's by the then Parish Priest, Fr John J. MacDonnell. Some of the others are pictured below.  They are very atmospheric and although traditional in style at first glance, have a definite modern twist to them.  Perhaps part of that tradition that is sometimes called the "other modern", when referring to ecclesiastical works of art that are innovative but remain in the tradition of sacred art instead of aping the nihilistic forms of secular modern art that we have so often subjected to in churches over recent decades.

 The Resurrection.

My Favourite. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden.

 A detail from the Expulsion.

 The rose window over the East end depicting the Crucifixion.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

In strict agreement with all the rules of the Church

The altar in readiness.

I was intrigued by the post on Catholic Extension about the Fr Peter learning material.  For a bit of fun I have downloaded the links and am giving them to the altar boys to do a bit of homework.  In fact, they are a remarkably useful and entertaining bit of learning.

 Dominus vobiscum.
(And, Yes, I know he shouldn't be wearing his biretta at this point.)

 Devotions in readiness.

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Actually, the accompanying notes and instructions are excellent : "Fr Peter's altar is in strict agreement with all the rules of the church."  Oh, if only it were always so - for altars, synods and  everything else.

Jubilate Deo!

Welcome and prayers for Christina, 
who was received into the Church at Mass today.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Organ Recital at Stokesley

I'm off to Middlesborough Diocese this Sunday afternoon where Fr William Charleton is giving an Organ Recital and Choral Afternoon at his parish of St Joseph's this Sunday afternoon.  Anyone who might be able to come along would be most welcome. There will be a retiring collection for the work of the Order of St Lazarus in supporting SUROL - the Sri Lankan leprosy Charity, of which our friend, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, is the Patron (the Order Order made him Prelate Grand Cross of the Order of Merit just last year.)  

 St Joseph’s Church

Sunday 16th November 

1 Tanton Road, 
North Yorks 

Tel: 01642 710239

 followed by  tea in  St Joseph’s Hall.

Stokesley is a small market town located in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, which lies on the River Leven.

Stokesley is located between Middlesbrough, Guisborough and Northallerton in farming area and is surrounded by other small towns and villages, including Great Ayton, Great Broughton and Hutton Rudby.

Stokesley has been a market town since it was granted its charter in 1223 by Henry III. The River Leven flows through the town until it joins the River Tees at Yarm. The Pack Horse Bridge crosses the river and dates back to the 17th Century.

Stokesley highstreet is lined with many independent shops and eateries.

A weekly market day takes place every Friday and a monthly Farmers Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month.

Monday, 10 November 2014

November Requiem

Another photo-post but this time from the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea at Seaforth in Liverpool.  We celebrated a Mass for deceased members, benefactors and friends of both the LMS and the Order of St Lazarus.  Excellent music from members of the Octavius Choir which lifted our spirits, especially in the beautifully restored and cared for church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Thanks to the servers and to all who came along - to lunch afterwards as well.  Thank you also for £321 in the collection for the work of the Order of St Lazarus.


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