Tag Archives: Authority

August 16: Famous first words.

Picture Friday wk 3 (1) 

Let’s stay in Egypt for today: that’s the one link with yesterday’s post, though we are some way west of the Great River, in the desert, in 1942.

As a Church we should learn from whoever can teach us. We could certainly benefit from a few lessons in leadership, so how about this as a new boss’s address to his staff, who were feeling the emotions on the signpost above?

You do not know me. I do not know you. But we have got to work together; therefore we must understand each other and we must have confidence in each other. I have only been here a few hours. But from what I have seen and heard since I arrived, I am prepared to say, here and now, that I have confidence in you. We will then work together as a team, and together we will gain the confidence of this great army and go forward to final victory in Africa.

That was General Bernard Montgomery assuming command of the British and Empire 8th Army in Egypt. Things had been going badly for a while before that.

His driver Jim Fraser, who took him around the front-line units recalled: ‘One could feel the confidence of the troops getting stronger, they were told what was going to happen and when it was going to happen. I must admit that I felt dead, dead chuffed when driving round the forward unit positions with the lads cheering and shouting, ‘Good old Monty!’

Monty believed that his ‘civilians in uniform’ should have sight of the big picture and they responded to that. Peter Caddick-Adams1 points out that logistics and intelligence also played their part in the victorious campaign. The role of Military Intelligence could not be revealed until recently when secret papers were opened up to scholars and journalists, but Monty’s confidence in his troops built their confidence in him and in each other. That is leadership. That inspires.

1Peter Caddick-Adams, Monty and Rommel, Parallel Lives. London, Preface, 2011. pp 284-285; 300-301.

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15 July: Feast of Saint Bonaventure

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Saint Bonaventure was born in the small Italian town of Bagnoregio, near Viterbo, probably in 1217. He studied at the University of Paris, where he joined the Order of Friars Minor. He later taught and became a Master in the school of theology at the same university. He wrote many great academic works of theology.

In 1257, at the age of forty, he was called unexpectedly out of his academic world to become the Minister General of his Order, responsible for leading all the Friars Minor worldwide. He was the seventh successor of Saint Francis of Assisi in this role. In his new role as Minister General, he managed to continue teaching through his writing. His writings of this period were less esoteric and more concerned with spirituality in the lives of the friars and the Christian people they served.

Saint Bonaventure had a gift for uniting different schools of thought into a harmonious synthesis. He used this gift through his writing in efforts to bring peace among opposing factions in his Order and later in the service of the worldwide Church. He was consecrated Cardinal Archbishop of Albano in 1273. He then assisted in preparations for the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, where he played a key role in the efforts to unite the Eastern and Western Christian churches.

Having put his energies into a General Chapter of his Order and then three sessions of the great Church Council in the same year, 1274, he died at the friary in Lyons on 15th July, aged around fifty seven. The Pope and those who had attended the Council, both Eastern and Western Christians were present for his funeral. Saint Bonaventure was canonised in 1482 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

Saint Bonaventure; tireless Franciscan teacher, writer and peacemaker, pray for us.

FMSL

Saint Bonaventure at Saint Antony’s Church, Rye, Sussex.

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9 July: God favours the humble

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Sculpture at the Visitation Convent in the Holy Land, NAIB

We start the week with a welcome reflection from the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Littlehampton. Sister Clare, the intrepid parachute jumper, is now their Superior General, but found time to get this post to the editors. Thank you Clare!       Will T.

Zechariah 9:9-10 Matthew 11:25-30.

‘Among the pagans, their rulers Lord it over them and their great men make their authority felt.’ (Luke 22:24-25)

By contrast, truly humble people like Jesus seek the good of others, not their own power, status and comfort. Only when such a person becomes a leader is there true joy among the people. They know (s)he understands their struggles and is on their side. A humble leader, who takes on the role only to promote the good of the people, brings real hope of a better life to all together with a sense of community pride and gratitude.

Humble people do not need to reinforce or elevate their own importance. They speak the truth respectfully and consistently, even if no-one pays attention. God favours such people whom Jesus calls ‘the poor in spirit’. If they are poor, voiceless, powerless and marginalised in society, God the Father will choose to reveal His truth to them rather than the powerful, celebrated and accomplished. He will make them His messengers and instruments in the world. Both the Magnificat of Mary and Jesus’ ‘manifesto’, the Beatitudes, assure us of this.

Although humble leaders seem scarce in today’s world, Christ is the King whom Christians really serve while obeying earthly authority in everything that is right.

No worldy ruler has power to compel us because our service is freely given out of love for our true leader. His yoke feels easy and His burden, light because His is an authority we can rejoice to live under.

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Left to right: Sisters Susan, Esther, Elizabeth, Marcellina, Patricia and Clare FMSL

FMSL

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12 December: ‘Lord, make me know your ways.’

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Image from stmaryslakeport.com

Today is Monday 12th in the third week of Advent and we also celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the first reading from the book of Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17, the prophet Balaam said that “a star from Jacob takes the leadership, a sceptre arises from Israel”. Jesus is the prophet and Leader of Israelites, whose sceptre is a sceptre of power and authority. This is seen in the Gospel reading from Matthew 21: 23-27. Here Jesus is teaching in the temple with authority but the priests and elders who have closed their minds and hearts come to ask him a question. “And who gave you the authority for acting like this?” Because Jesus is full of wisdom and authority, He also asks them a question which they are not able to answer. They only say, “we do not know”.

So for me today, how do I react to authority? Do I welcome true authority, power and wisdom or do I try to trap them like these elders and priests that want to trap Jesus by asking Him questions, simply because they have closed their minds and hearts to the change and freedom that Christ has come to give us?

My prayer today and always is what the Psalmist said in today’s Psalm 24: ‘Lord, make me know your ways. In your Love and Mercy, remember me. Teach me your wisdom, guide me in the right path and give me humility of heart.’ Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. Amen!

FMSL

 

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Autumn Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

austinFr Austin McCormack has been speaking on Thursday evenings this term: only three sessions remaining! I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
WT.
The subject of the course is:

“What is theology saying?”

8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?

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Evening Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

austinFr Austin McCormack will be speaking on Thursday evenings this term. I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
WT.
The subject of the course is:

“What is theology saying?”

3. 27/10: How about Papal infallibility?
4. 03/11:  How should we explain the Eucharist?
5. 10/11:   Who is Jesus Christ?
6. 17/11:  What difference does Grace make?
7. 24/11: What about Original Sin?
8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?

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October 15: CONSCIENCE VIII: Should we Beware of all Authority?

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CD.

Religious extremism, dictatorships, totalitarian systems, or simply capitulation to the moral values promulgated by the powerful voice of the mass media can desensitise our conscience.  Our conscience needs to be alive and well, and able to evaluate and resist such voices.

In saying that we need to be on our guard against dictatorships of all kinds, am I not saying that we need to be wary of all authority, even that of the Church?  How do I know whether or not the teaching authority of the Church isn’t just another form of dictatorship?  Joseph Ratzinger’s paper, ‘Conscience and Truth’ [reference, part VI], to which we have already referred in these posts, shows that our conscience holds the key to the answer.

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Let us return to what The Catechism says: in our conscience we ‘are alone with God whose voice echoes in [our] depths.’   Cardinal Ratzinger says that in our depths we have a mysterious “memory” of divine love.  This “memory” makes us alive to the fact that behind the commandments, behind the law of God, behind the moral truths enjoined on us by the Church, lies a truth that exists for us not as an imposition from without but as an expression, even a liberation, of what is deepest within the soul.

He says that this “memory” is not like the memory one might have of, say, one’s phone number, or the vocabulary of a foreign language.  It is ‘not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents.’  It is something much more profound.  It is more like the knowledge of oneself that is awakened by a very deep human love.  Human love can awaken the lover to a new depth of self-knowledge that both comes from the loved one and yet is experienced as a true aspect of oneself.  In a similar but even more profound way, the ‘god-like constitution of our being’, as Joseph Ratzinger expresses it, gives us a capacity to “hear” on the level of our conscience the voice of God – a voice which is at once other and yet is experienced as one’s deepest, truest self.  We say, “That’s it!  That is what my nature points to and seeks.”      There is a very real sense in which the truths that the Church proposes for belief liberate our true self and give us our deepest identity.

But – and this is why the authority of the Church is not a dictatorship – we cannot discover this true self and deepest identity in isolation.   Cardinal Ratzinger says that ‘The “memory” instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself.’  This assistance is what the authority of the Church gives.  It is in no way set in opposition to our deepest identity.  Rather, it awakens it and affirms it.

To grasp this is to grasp what the conscience is and is for.

SJC

Joseph Ratzinger By Manfredo Ferrari

 

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October 13: CONSCIENCE VI: Personal Conscience and External Authority

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If our conscience needs to be formed by truths propounded by the teaching authority of the Church, how, therefore, can our conscience be said to have within it “a law inscribed by God”?  That would suggest that we don’t need anyone to tell us what the truth requires of us.  External authority shouldn’t be needed.

This is one of the points that the then Cardinal Ratzinger addressed in a paper entitled “Conscience and Truth”, delivered in 1991.*  In the paper he asks, isn’t ‘conscience the highest moral norm which man is to follow, even in opposition to authority?  Authority, in this case, the Magisterium, may well speak of matters moral, but only in the sense of presenting conscience with material for its own deliberation.  Conscience would retain … the final word.’

With a profound penetration of the subject, Cardinal Ratzinger’s paper explored the question of whether conscience exists in opposition to authority.  We need to ask ourselves, he says, what faith is for the human person?  What is truth for us?  What does it do for us?  There are those, said Joseph Ratzinger, who seem to feel that faith is a very heavy burden that makes their life difficult.  There are those who feel that people who are weak perhaps shouldn’t be asked to shoulder the burden of faith, with all its moral obligations.  For such people, he points out, it is not really the truth that sets them free; rather they somehow feel that they need to be set free from the truth in order to be happy.  However, these are the attitudes that Cardinal Ratzinger’s paper challenges.  These attitudes, he maintains, come from a misunderstanding that exists on a deeper level – in a concept of conscience that is false.  To those who feel that faith and truth are burdens, he explains the misunderstanding they have about the nature of conscience.  He says, for such people conscience

…does not appear here as a window through which one can see outward to the common truth which builds and sustains us all.  Conscience does not mean man’s openness to the ground of his being, the power of perception for what is highest and most essential.  Rather, it appears as subjectivity’s protective shell into which man can escape and there hide from reality.

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Conscience does not open the way to the redemptive road to truth – which either does not exist or, if it does, is too demanding.  It is the faculty that dispenses from truth.  It thereby becomes the justification for subjectivity, which would not like to have itself called into question.

These deep and penetrating lines perhaps need to be unpacked.  We can do this by simply reversing the negatives.  Then one begins to see the beauty of Cardinal Ratzinger’s understanding of the human conscience.  Conscience is a window onto the truth that builds and sustains all people; conscience is access to the ground of one’s being – one’s very heart; conscience is the capacity to perceive what is noblest and most vital in life; conscience is the redemptive road to truth.  Surely our conscience, rightly understood, is a part of ourselves that we cannot do without, that we should never wish to suppress.

SJC.

  • [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth, presented at the tenth Workshop for Bishops, February, 1991, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A., published in On Conscience, Two Essays by Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 2007].

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