Sunday, July 30, 2006

Middle of the Road

All About Me

Hello, I'm back from the CL holiday. Thanks be to God, I have 3 interviews coming up. Thank you for any prayers you offered for me; please pray now that I'll do myself justice and get a good Graduate Trainee Libary Assistant position!

One thing that struck me about the CL holiday is that it's the realisation of the "Church of the Centre".

Not that we are all perfect Christians and more Catholic than the Pope, but there we were, a mixture of people from Oxbridge graduates and professors, through engineers, students and porters (and little unemployed me!) - Italians, Portugese, Germans, English and Scots...

...all very different, but united only for the reason that Christ is risen and alive today in the Church. Probably we all tend a bit to the "right" or to the "left", but somehow we tolerate each others' failings and differences. This is the amazing unity of the Church!

Education in The Family

Another important factor was that it was really a family holiday. We had children and young adults present most of the time (often looked after in a separate children's liturgy which was presented at the end). This makes me want to share with everyone what Don Giussani said in The Risk of Education:

What can the family do against a society that dominates its children through television? a school system where the teachers have the freedom to do and say whatever they want, manipulating the conscience of a child, even systmatically? counteract the barrage of advertising?

How can it stem the influence of what we hear on all sides, the trite repetition of the same arguments, some of whose tragic aspects are the lack of respect for the unborn child, and the casualness of sex, marriage and divorce? By itself, the family is powerless!

An intelligent family will come out of its complacent, comfortable position and create relationships, a social fabric, in opposition to the dominant social fabric.

It's clear to me that in this quotation he is talking about all the problems that we British and Irish Catholics (maybe the British ones more?) complain about all the time, but seem to more or less dispair of solving.

In case it seems that it's an abstract hope, he goes on to quote the encyclical of John XXIII - if a Pope can point out free (mature) association as a human right, we should take notice! Are we using this right?

The other thing he points out is that we can gain a lot from educating our children - we need to let ourselves be educated too, going beyond easy platitudes about how we are right and the world is wrong, and beginning to offer an alternative direction, converting ourselves towards the Lord.

That's why I love CL, not that it's already perfect, but that here, I can always begin to begin again.

The British Disregard for Family

Zenit has an article on Abortion in the UK.

It makes for sad reading. Oremus.

And if you know a Catholic doctor or other medical professional, why not suggest starting a movement to open pro-life practises?

I visited a synagogue yesterday. It was a bit confusing (99.9% was in Hebrew, and about all I clocked was Biblical place-names and people's names, as well as the odd "halleluyah", "amen" and "eretz" - "Land"). It was very beautiful and I felt honoured to be present, and warmly welcomed by the people and the Rabbi.

It was very poingnant since apparently, this time of year they remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD.

I remember studying that event in Roman History class at university (I wrote an essay on Judaia as a Roman province). It is referred to in the Gospels - Jesus warns people to flee the city. It marked the end of "Jewish Christianity" as such, although it's a moot point whether Jewish influence remained in the Church.

I would say that the Jewish influence did remain, in fact it's essential to our self-understanding as Christians and Catholics (correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Paul say that we are somehow "grafted onto" Israel through faith and baptism?).

In his book Radical Then, Radical Now, the current Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, suggests that acutally, Jewish influence on the Christian Church ended at about 70AD, and it's been purely Gentile ever since.

But is that true? I'm fairly sure that the Apostles evangelised "diaspora" Jews living in the Roman provinces, St. Paul was, or at least claimed to be a trained Rabbi, and at the very least, since Judaism is (technically!) hereditary via the mother, even if one or two early Jewish Christians survived, they could represent the beginning of a substantial Jewish element...?

I'm not an expert on modern politics and the current crisis, so all I can say is to echo Sir Jonathan Sacks
when he says "pray for the peace of Israel and Lebanon".

Lord help us!

Stuck in the Middle with You

One last quotation from our Popus Maximus:

It is of the very essence of the Church that she should be aware of her unbroken continuity throughout the history of faith, expressed in an ever-present unity of prayer.

This awareness of continuity is destroyed just as much by those who "opt" for a book supposed to have been produced four hundred years ago as by those who would like to be forever drawing up new liturgies.

At bottom, these two attitudes are identical... The fundamental issue is whether faith comes about through regulations and learned research or through the living history of a Church which retains her identity throughout the centuries.

(From Feast of Faith by Benedict XVI)

Wow! How different, how much more alive and refreshing are the actual words of Joseph Ratzinger than the second-hand cliches that we get from the media or even from Catholics on both "sides"!

How true it is that people tend to split into "progressives" and "conservatives" on all the "issues", not just liturgy (although it's one of the clearest and most important).

And how true it is, as Papa Ratzi has said in Deus Caritas Est, that Christianity is none of these, not an "issue" but an event, the event of a Person who meets us and transforms our lives, like a sudden glimpse of solid reality and a slow dawning of light and warmth.

I heartily recommend this book, being one of the recommended texts of CL (many of which I'm sure our readers and contributors would already recommend!).

A full list of the recommended books can be found on the splendid Nouvelle Theologie blog. They include theology, spirituality, poetic classics and novels. They all serve to remind us that Christianity is fact, not just a theory.

Today's Gospel

Our Lord wants to make us co-redeemers with Him.

That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders.

He could have produced bread from anything... but he doesn't! He looks for human cooperation: he "needs" a child, a boy, a few peices of bread and some fish.

He needs you and me: and he is God!

This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace.

If you did help him, even with a trifle, as the Apostles did, he is ready to work miracles; to multiply the bread, to refom wills, to give light to the most benighted minds, to enable those who have never been upright to be so, with an extraordinary grace.

All this he will do and more... if you will help him with what you have.

(From The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva)

OK, that's it from me for another week. Take care, and God bless.


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