Category Archives: PLaces

7 June: Reflections on the Mass III: Fed by God’s Word.

Image from the Missionaries of Africa: Sister Revocate proclaims the Word

Father Anthony considers the importance of the Liturgy of the Word.

Some years ago, in my last parish, we had the task of reordering the sanctuary. We needed to replace the temporary wooden altar and ambo (lectern) with permanent structures. The artist we employed went abroad and chose pieces of Mocha Stone from which to create the altar and the ambo. From this one stone he created two tables, the table of the Word and the table of Sacrifice. We are fed at both tables when we celebrate Mass.

Today I want to reflect on the Liturgy of the Word. This is when we are nourished or fed by God’s Word. For us, this is a time of listening. In order to be fed, we need to give our full and undivided attention to Christ who speaks to us. Pope Benedict wrote: ‘Word and sacrament are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other.’ We are being asked to listen in faith and, in order to do this, we need to be aware that it is Christ himself who is speaking to us, as the reader (or deacon or priest) proclaims the Word from the ambo, the table of the Word.

When Theodore Gillick, the sculptor, was building the ambo, I asked that he should create an image from the story of Martha and Mary that is told in Luke’s Gospel. As you look at the ambo, you see Jesus sitting on the edge of the table and Mary at his feet listening intently. We remember how Martha said to Jesus: ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ Jesus replied:

‘Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

Fr Jim McManus points out: ‘The better part was that Mary had chosen to listen to the Lord as a disciple. The disciple sits at the Master’s feet.’ Eugene LaVerdiere says in his book Dining in the Kingdom of God: ‘Being at the Lord’s feet doesn’t mean Mary was not working. It does mean that she was not distracted by the ministry, or worried and fretting about many things. Her attention was fixed on the word of the Lord, the one thing necessary, which gives meaning to every other aspect of ministry.’

We are asked to do one thing: to be a disciple and listen. We need not let ourselves be distracted. It is not easy to listen at Mass. There can be distractions; we might have worries and anxieties, and the reader might be difficult to hear; what we hear might not be easy for us to understand. As we listen, why not say: ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’

Lord give me the grace at Mass to see myself being fed and nourished by your word. Help me to listen in faith, and to welcome your word into my heart.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father Anthony Parish Priest

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6 June, Reflections on the Mass II:‘Those Who Sing, Pray Twice’

This is the second of Canon Anthony Charlton’s reflections on the Eucharist. These pilgrims are singing and playing their instruments as they gather at the Abbey of St Maurice in Switzerland for the annual Pilgrimage for the Martyrs of Africa. St Maurice and his Companions were Egyptian Roman soldiers, martyred in what is now St Maurice, but the pilgrimage is timetabled to be near the feast of the Uganda Martyrs, 3rd June.

So here we are, the gathered people of God, and we have responded to the invitation of Jesus to come and celebrate. Jesus has invited us.

Note that the first instruction in the Roman Missal says that the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the servers. I know there are some who prefer a ‘quiet Mass’, because they are not keen on singing. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster unity of all who are gathered, introduce their thoughts to the liturgical season and accompany the procession. The entrance Antiphon can be sung by a choir; or often a hymn is sung, based on a psalm. If there is no singing, the congregation is encouraged to recite the antiphon together.

It is important that singing should be an essential part of each celebration. We use what talent we have to praise and give thanks to God. Singing creates unity, brings about unity. St Augustine said: ‘Those who sing, pray twice.’ The first prayer is the words we use. The second prayer is the extra we add to those words when we express them in song.

When the priest reaches the altar, as a sign of reverence he kisses it. The Altar, says the General instruction of the Roman missal, ‘should occupy a place where it is truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns.’ These rules are repeated in the Order of Dedication of a Church and an Altar; this ensures that newly-dedicated altars are freestanding, so that the priest may face the congregation (IV:8). The altar is known as the altar of the sacrifice of the cross and the table of thanksgiving. In our church we have retained the old High Altar, because of its artistic merit.

As the priest goes to the chair we have the Penitential Rite, which needs to be simple and brief. It is time to acknowledge our sinfulness. During the pause, one writer suggests that ‘we reflect in silence on our human condition and implore the divine mercy.’ This is different from celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. The purpose of the Penitential Rite is to acknowledge our sins in order to enter the celebration with a humble spirit.

The blessing and sprinkling of water may replace the Penitential Act as a reminder of Baptism, and this is especially recommended for the Easter Season.

We then say, or sing, a song of praise that has been sung for over 1500 years: the Gloria. And after this ancient song of praise, the priest introduces the opening prayer, knows as The Collect. All of us, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that we may be conscious of the fact that we are in God’s presence. The prayer expresses the character of the celebration. The text of the prayer is usually in four parts: an address to God by some title, an acknowledgement of God’s mighty deeds, a petition and a concluding formula.

In this third week of Easter, we pray:

“May your people exult for ever, O God, in renewed youthfulness of spirit, so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption, we may look forward in confident hope to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father AnthonyParish Priest

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4 June, looking towards Corpus Christi: A Broken Altar.

A broken chapel in Herefordshire

The Altar by George Herbert 1593-1633.

George Herbert died before the friction between Charles I and Parliament descended into Civil War. He was a Church of England minister and Cambridge don. This was the time when the King James Bible, sponsored by Charles’ father, was becoming familiar from being read at Anglican Church services. This poem, ‘The Altar’, was written to be printed as shown to represent the silhouette of an altar like that in the Sanctuary in Jerusalem. But more than the altar was broken in the Church and Nation, and we are still looking through the damaged parts to see how best to rebuild a united church, a united nation; and how and when we can share the Eucharist at one table, one altar. May God’s grace continue to help us Christians to be ever closer to each other.

God told Moses to use only uncut stone when building an altar (Exodus 20:25).

A  broken  ALTAR,  Lord, thy servant rears, 
Made of a  heart  and  cemented with  tears: 
Whose  parts  are   as   thy hand  did  frame; 
No  workman's  tool  hath touch'd the same. 
A      HEART     alone 
Is    such    a    stone 
As      nothing      but 
Thy  pow'r   doth cut. 
Wherefore each part 
Of  my   hard    heart 
Meets in this frame,  
To   praise thy name 
That    if   I   chance    to      hold    my  peace 
These stones to     praise  thee may not cease.
Oh,   let  thy  blessed SACRIFICE  be  mine 
And    sanctify   this   ALTAR   to   be   thine.

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2 June: Praying with Pope Francis, For the abolition of torture.

We pray that the international community may commit 
in a concrete way 
to ensuring the abolition of torture 
and guarantee support to victims and their families.

People who have been tortured have to choose how to live when the active part of their ordeal is over. When we were new parents I used to take our baby to the antique and secondhand bookshop of Mr S for morning-long chats about this and that. The Other, rarely mentioned, was the tattooed number on his wrist.

John S had emigrated to Israel but eventually washed up at a rundown English seaside town, selling a few books, welcoming odd bods like me to sit around the fire, and getting by. Israel, for him, had become too bullying towards the Palestinian people living on the same patch of land.

Ensuring the abolition of torture is a big ask. It is underhand, a deed of darkness. It will need long-term, concerted action to come near this goal. Most of all it needs the grace of the Spirit to inspire governments to cease torture done in their name; to press governments to intervene with other nations where torture is practised; to encourage journalists and NGOs to tell the world about torture.

Let us pray that we may be men and women of peace, like John S: Come Holy Spirit, heal our wounds, our strength renew, on our dryness pour thy dew.

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1 June: Three humans hanging on in there.

Maynard’s Spittal, alms houses for aged persons, XVI Century, Canterbury.

From Visitation III.

And, hearts heavy with the weight of hope they carry,
Mary, Elisabeth and her good old husband
Go to sit, the three together, on the doorstep,
Filled with shadow and silence, hands on their knees.

Far away, filmy fields fade into filmy sky:
Its crop of golden stars will soon be flowering.
Elisabeth, tired, wonders if she’s feeling pains.
They look at the evening, dream, wait, and wait again.

From Hanging on in there, an essay in meaning.

Selected poems of Marie Noël. p80.

Marie Noel (1883-1967) is new to me. An unmarried provincial French woman, she had the gift of poetry and an incarnational theology, evident here in the last two stanzas of this poem. The story and yesterday’s feast of the Visitation will be for me all the more lively for this image of three tired human beings at the end of their day, sitting in silence under God’s good heaven, watching the stars, maybe watching and waiting for one star in particular.

Waiting, not for Godot who never comes, but for God’s son and his herald; every day let us watch and wait, and prepare the way of the Lord.

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29 May: I found myself in the centre of Kyiv

A homily given by Bishop Erik Varden to Confirmation candidates on 14 May 2023 at Kristiansund.

Acts 8:5-17: Many were delivered.
1 Peter 3:15-18: Always be ready to give an account.
John 14:15-21: So he can give you the Spirit of Truth.

Dear candidates for confirmation, 

A couple of days ago I found myself standing in the centre of Kyiv. There was lovely spring weather there as here. The chestnut trees were in bloom. The city was bustling. I walked past a snazzy café with the same complex assortment we’d expect at Starbucks. I could have been on a long-weekend city holiday. But I wasn’t.

I was, with Cardinal Arborelius, conducting a visit of solidarity in the name of our Bishops’ Conference. And even if Ukraine has a rare ability to live normally in extreme conditions, not to let itself be brutalised, the country remains in the throes of a terrible war. The front has lain frighteningly near Kyiv. The night before we arrived, missiles rained down over the city. We visited Irpin and Bucha, names familiar from the news, names associated with terrible massacres. The towns are only about 30 km from the capital. There’s a straight road from there into Kyiv.

That the occupying force was never allowed to pass that way is a strategic miracle. It is also a testimony to Ukraine’s power of resistance. This power manifests itself courageously still, at the eastern front. We honour it, and do so rightly. But let’s not forget the cost.

While we were strolling in the spring sunshine, in Kyiv, we passed the wall of the monastery of St Michael. The wall is covered with photographs of victims of the war, men and women, many of them barely three or four years older than you are today. I found myself thinking of a reportage I heard on the BBC World Service in March last year, a couple of weeks after the invasion. Jeremy Bowen stood at the station in Kyiv, where the cardinal and I had arrived, and saw youngsters go to war. He described two lads: ‘They were dressed for a camping weekend or a festival, except they were carrying newly issued Kalashnikov assault rifles. One had brand new white trainers. Another had a yoga mat to sleep on’ (see my Notebook for 5 March 2022).

There was something heart-rending about the details. The word ‘soldier’ is so anonymous. We think of faceless, greenclad extras in war films we have seen. Here one caught a personal glimpse of two fellows one might come across in a coffee shop. Are they still alive, the two of them? Or are their faces among the thousands of others on the wall by Kyiv’s Blue Church?

The thought of a major war between European nations seemed absurd until not long ago. With so much binding us together, political and economic alliances, war seemed preshistoric. My generation is heir to the 60s slogan, ‘Make love, not war’. Little by little politics itself has become strange to us. Many can’t be bothered, now, to vote in elections, or see no point in voting. What we want is to be left tranquil, have a good salary and at the same time plenty of leisure to do as we please, and access to 5G internet browsing.

But then a massive crisis can, in a trice, turn reality upside down. Suddenly we stand there, with our new trainers and our yoga mat, faced with existential choices. ‘Fight for what is dear to you, die if need be’, we sing in a song almost everyone in this country knows by heart. Is there something that dear to me? What do I live for, in fact? What stars do I navigate by when night falls and my iPhone is dead? What do I do when others’ future depends on choices I make?

Many are bewildered before such questions. Not so you, my friends. Today you declare yourselves to be Catholic Christians. In the name of Jesus, you stake out a clear direction for your lives. In the sacrament of confirmation you are sealed with the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus, the Gospel tells us, is ‘the Spirit of Truth’. Truth is more than theory. We cannot always think our way to truth — even if the ability to think clearly is of inestimable worth. Circumstances may arise that simply give us no time to weigh alternatives. Then we must know how to act. The sense of what is true must be alive in us and form our judgement.

The Spirit of Jesus helps us to judge rightly. To receive the Spirit is not to be varnished with magic; it is to enter a friendship, to become aware of God’s presence in our lives as a light, a source of consolation, living wisdom. In this way we are freed from fear, freed to act.

The world needs women and men who see clearly, who are not taken in by lies, who recognise sincerity and radiate goodness. This is the task for which you are prepared today. None of us knows what awaits us. With all my heart I wish you a safe and prosperous future. I wish that you may use your gifts fully, that your lives will be fruitful, that you will know love and genuine friendship.

Still I ask you to be prepared to fight for what is good and true. A world order that only yesterday appeared unshakeable is collapsing. This fact places demands on all of us. Simple pragmatism, the attitude that leans back to wait and see, is inadequate in the long run.

‘What is truth?’, Pilate asked Jesus. Jesus answered by giving his life for his friends. He went through death in order to vanquish death.

The power inherent in Jesus’s Paschal sacrifice manifests itself again when ordinary people, people like you and me, transcend themselves and display the boundlessness of the Gospel: when those who have known injustice refuse to give in to hatred, when those who have lost all still rise up to help others, when weakness is transformed into strength. In Ukraine I saw proof of such transformation. That is why I wanted to share this experience with you.

As Christians we are called to live in a new way. We don’t want to merely be spectators of life; we want to enter life consciously, whole-heartedly, as agents. Thank you for saying Yes to this call. Let us help one another to be worthy of it.

In the name of Christ! Amen

Erik Varden

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21 May; Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, VI: the ensuing blessed race.

Thee sanctity herself doth serve,
Thee goodness doth attend,
Thee blessedness doth wait upon,
And virtues all commend.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Great kings and prophets wished have
To see that I possess,
Yet wish I never thee to see,
If not in thankfulness.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Let heaven and earth, and saints and men,
Assistance give to me,
That all their most occurring aid
Augment my thanks to thee.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And let the ensuing blessed race,
Thou wilt succeeding raise,
Join all their praises unto mine,
To multiply thy praise.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And take my service well in worth,
And Joseph’s here with me,
Who of my husband bears the name,
Thy servant for to be.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

‘The ensuing blessed race’, that means us! We succeed to Mary’s generation on this earth, as Charles III succeeds, not just to his mother but to ancestors going back to Alfred and beyond. If Rawlings could use such words, living in exile, then the more should we join our praises unto Mary’s, and assist her in proclaiming the joy of her life, her little boy.

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16 May, Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, I: his love sustains my life.

Richard Rowlands was a Catholic convert when that was not a comfortable position in England, under Elizabeth I and James I. He did not graduate from Oxford University so as not to take the Oath of Allegiance to Elizabeth and soon made his way to the Low Countries where he assumed the surname of a branch of his family, Vestegen. He became a prolific author in both English and Dutch. This is the beginning of his long meditative song for Our Lady, mother of the infant Jesus. The rest of the piece will follow over the next few days.

Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby

By Richard Rowlands, c1601.

Upon my lap my Sovereign sits,
And sucks upon my breast;
Meanwhile his love sustains my life,
And gives my body rest.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

When thou hast taken thy repast,
Repose, my babe, on me.
So may thy mother and thy nurse,
Thy cradle also be.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

I grieve that duty doth not work
All that my wishing would,
Because I would not be to thee
But in the best I should.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Yet as I am and as I may,
I must and will be thine,
Though all too little for thyself
Vouchsafing to be mine.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

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14 May: Before the paling of the stars.


Before the paling of the stars,
  Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cockcrow
  Jesus Christ was born:
Born in a stable,
  Cradled in a manger,
In the world His hands had made
  Born a stranger.

Priest and king lay fast asleep
  In Jerusalem,
Young and old lay fast asleep
  In crowded Bethlehem:
Saint and Angel, ox and ass,
  Kept a watch together,
Before the Christmas daybreak
  In the winter weather.

Jesus on His Mother’s breast
  In the stable cold,
Spotless Lamb of God was He,
  Shepherd of the fold:
Let us kneel with Mary maid,
  With Joseph bent and hoary,
With Saint and Angel, ox and ass,
  To hail the King of Glory.

Mary cannot have known what the cockcrow would represent thirty years on from this morning. . . A few hours of half-sleeping, and now it is time to face the rest of her life. Before long she will be tossed about emotionally, Jesus’ glory hidden, Joseph urging all haste down to Egypt. The poem is by Christina Rossetti.

Photograph by Constantina.

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Pope Tawadros blesses the Synod

General Secretariat for the Synod
NEWS RELEASE – 12.05.2023 

Pope Tawadros II blesses the synodal process of the Catholic Church 
“Your Holiness, we humbly ask you to bless our synodal journey and to accompany us with your prayers, yours personally and those of your Church, that we may know how to put ourselves in the Spirit’s hands !”, it was with this particular request that Cardinal Mario Grech concluded his address of greeting this morning to His Holiness TAWADROS II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, accompanied by an eminent delegation of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Accompanied by the two undersecretaries of the General Secretariat of the Synod, Mgr. Luis Marín de San Martín and Sr. Nathalie Becquart,  Cardinal Grech presented the synod process and recalled how the Eastern tradition can help “the Catholic Church to better articulate the common participation of the faithful in the life of the Church, which has its source and culmination in the Divine Liturgy; as well as the collegial dimension of the episcopate, which finds its highest expression in the Synod, and the service to unity carried out by the protos“.

“We trust,” Cardinal Grech expressed, “that the Churches of the East will be able to stimulate us to promote a healthy decentralisation of authority, making better use of the regional and provincial levels of synodality, which have their roots in the beginnings of the undivided Church”.

Finally, the General Secretary of the Synod expressed his hope that the synodal path initiated by Pope Francis in 2021 ” will be a further important step towards the Orthodox East”.
For his part, Pope Tawadros II presented some aspects of the life of the Coptic Orthodox Church, while His Eminence Daniel, Metropolitan of Maadi and El Basateen, presented the workings of the Holy Synod of which he is Secretary General.

The meeting, which lasted just over an hour, took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality and fraternity.

Cardinal Grech’s full address is available in English and Italian.
The video of the blessing is available here.
Photos are available here.
Copyright  2023 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
General Secretariat for the Synod of BishopsVia della Conciliazione, 34Vatican City 00120Vatican City State (Holy See)

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