Monday, May 30, 2011

Catholic Schools - how lucky we are to have them in South Africa.

Sunday was set aside as Catholic Schools Sunday and the Catholic Institute of Education organised a speaker at Mass and Catholic school children to hand out information at as many parishes as possible.

I'm very pro Catholic Schools because my wife, Jean, is a Loreto Old Girl....a LOG!...and I'm quite satisfied with the product!  My daughter, Caroline, spent much of her education at Holy Cross and Springfield Convent in Cape Town and they were the best schools she ever went to.  I know that adults love to tell horror stories about malevolent nuns in Catholic Schools but it certainly never applied to anyone in my family and both women refer to their school days with affection and gratitude.

When Loreto celebrated 120 years in South Africa I was privileged to MC the event and attended the final committee meeting before the event.  Halfway through the meeting the Convent front door bell rang and every single old girl, no matter what age, leaped to her feet to answer the door!  Maybe there is a degree of brainwashing after all!

Modern Catholic Education is of such value to South Africa and the transformation of children from disadvantaged backgrounds into questioning, educated young people and the opportunities created for them never ceases to amaze me.  There are expensive Catholic Schools and there are Catholic Schools where the vast majority of pupils pay little or  nothing at all but they are all members of the same family under God.

Mark Potterton is the Director of the Catholic Institute of Education and here are their aims and objectives:

  • An Associate Body of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
  • NGO
  • Member of the International Office of Catholic Education, Brussels (OEIC).

What are our key programme areas?

  • Religious and values education – Catholic identity
  • Policy analysis and advocacy
  • HIV Aids mitigation
  • Education access
  • Pastoral care
  • Skills development (aimed at out-of-school youth).

How are we governed?

The CIE Board, which meets four times a year, endorses the principles in the
 Code of Corporate Practices and Conduct recommended by the King Commission.
The Board adopts the principles of openness, integrity and accountability.
The Board consists of 14 members and is responsible for policy and overall
governance, with the day-to-day management delegated to the Director.
Members of the Executive Committee, which meets four times a year,
are appointed for the specific knowledge and skills they bring to the Committee.
They are, amongst other things, responsible for monitoring:
  • financial spending according to the budget;
  • implementing strategies and policies as approved by the Board;
  • adherence to the work programme;
  • adequacy of resources and staff;
  • compliance with relevant legislation; and
  • any special investigations undertaken by the organisation.

Do we have adequate financial systems in place?

Systems of financial and internal control are in place to provide reasonable
 assurance that the assets are safeguarded, and that liabilities and working
capital are efficiently managed. The organisation is externally audited twice a year.

What is our project management experience?

We have managed, and still manage, multi-million rand building 
projects in both South Africa and Lesotho.

We manage and support a programme that supports 900 orphans and
vulnerable children in independent schools and 10 000 children in public schools.
We have developed the appropriate tools to carry out monitoring and evaluation activities.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Growing the Family of Abraham

    Last Wednesday I attended a Panel Discussion at St Augustine's College, Johannesburg on the topic "Growing the Family of Abraham - Family in Jewish, Christian & Muslim Traditions".  It was hosted by St Augustine's College (Catholic), the Turquoise Harmony Institute (Muslim) and MARFAM - Marriage & Family Life Ministry (Catholic).

    The Speakers were a Muslim, Ibrahim Fakuda, Rabbi Robert Ash, a Progressive Jewish Rabbi and Toni Rowland who heads up the Family Desk at the Catholic Bishops Conference.  The Chairman was Fr Michael van Heerden, President of the College.  The speakers spoke once and there were a few questions afterwards.

    The evening was well-meaning but of little value as there was no real debate, the Ibrahim Fakuda was obviously fundamentalist in his approach so there was no space for discussion.  Rabbi Robert Ash was very open in terms of what constituted "family" in the 21st century and how you just had to accept people in their situations.  Toni Rowland was equally open but with a slightly different emphasis when it came to same sex couples though with a compassionate and supportive approach.

    Socially it was a very enjoyable  evening, a group of amateur musicians sung excerpts from "Joseph & his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat" and everyone "networked" successfully whilst we ate multi-cultural snacks.  The average age was young and I suppose if one person found someone from another Faith of value as a person and hadn't thought so before it was worth it.

    The following evening I attended the Brandy Festival. It was more spiritually uplifting.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    A New Bishop for Queenstown.

    Fr Mpako, Bishop Elect of Queenstown
     The Holy Father has appointed Fr Dabula Anthony Mpako as Bishop of Queenstown.  He is currently Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Pretoria and a parish priest.

    He is also an intellectual, a former seminary rector and an administrator yet is grounded in what used to be called Pastoralia.  He has masters degrees in Pastoral Therapy and Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in Chicago and a doctorate in Pastoral Theology from the University of South Africa.
    Bishop Sipuka of Mtata

    If we look at the current Bishop of Mtata, Sithembele Anton Sipuka, who was appointed three years ago, we see a similar background.  An intellectual, former seminary rector, a man who is theologically conservative but who is a pastor at heart.   Both of these men are friendly people and very approachable.  I'm delighted that appointments are taking a pastoral turn as that is what the Church needs, Bishops in whom priests, deacons and laity alike can feel confident in their spirituality and at the same time know that they really are in their care.

    Let's hope that the "Proud Prelate" is a thing of the past!

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Kneeling for Communion....please make it easy!

    I went to Mater Dolorosa, Kensington to Mass this Sunday.  The parish priest is Opus Dei and so naturally the ethos is towards the "traditional'.  I'd probably disagree with him on many things but one advantage of the Catholic  Right is that it does tidy up the liturgy, there is silence (What a relief!) at some point during the Mass and a degree of reverence is observed.

    I was quite surprised that there was no incense but maybe that is reserved for the Italian Mass that follows.  And what a pleasure to have a hymn book in my hand and not having to see things arbitrarily flashed and unflashed on a screen!  We sang the Missa de Angelis as well as a couple of traditional and  modern hymns - it's in the hymn book!

    There was one thing that didn't work for me.  The parish leaflet placed great emphasis on receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue.  In fact more than a page was taken up with this and it is obviously an on-going campaign in the parish.  At communion a double prie dieu covered in a cloth is dragged into the gap between the altar rails and everyone queues up in pairs and is supposed to collapse at the prie dieu and receive communion on the tongue.  It was a very awkward thing to do so I remained with the minority and stood with my hands stretched out.  If they had used the whole altar rail and allowed people time to kneel and compose themselves whilst the priest and deacon walked along giving communion it would have been fine.  Maybe this is a lesson the former Anglicans in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will give us.

    Incidentally, the parish has a very good  Facebook page from which I took this picture of Our Lady of Sorrows.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    President Mugabe of Zimbabwe & the Vatican

     The attendance of Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, at the Beatification of Blessed John-Paul II has created a storm in a tea cup.  Our Catholic weekly newspaper, the Southern Cross, had sane and sensible comment on the visit by the editor, Gunther Simmermacher.  Gunther during his reign as Editor has succeeded in rescuing the paper from being the mere mouth-piece of the Southern African Hierarchy into a newspaper of integrity. Obviously it is necessary to report on the SA Catholic Bishops' Conference and the comments of individual bishops and he has some how managed to walk the tight rope that every Catholic newspaper editor has to walk and has survived!

    Mugabe in the Vatican

    Gunter Simmermacher
    When television broadcasts of the beatification of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican showed Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe receiving Holy Communion, many Catholics in southern Africa were scandalised.
    This week we publish just two of the many letters we have received that express anger and hurt at Mr Mugabe’s warm welcome in the Vatican and his reception of the Eucharist at so public and exalted an event. How, many ask, can it be that a man who is responsible for the killing and persecution of so many people may take his place at the Lord’s Table?
    Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, spokesman for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and a critic of the president’s human rights record, explained: “For any Christian, receiving Communion is an act of personal choice made out of conscience before God. As such, it is a matter for the internal forum — between God and the believer.” No person but Mr Mugabe and perhaps his confessor can know whether he was in a state of grace when he presented himself for Communion in St Peter’s Square. It is not our place to interrogate Mr Mugabe internal forum.
    Moreover, as long as Mr Mugabe is not under interdict (as some Catholic pro-choice politicians in the United States are, at the discretion of local bishops), he may continue to receive Communion. We must hope that his personal chaplain will offer him the appropriate spiritual advice.
    But why was Mr Mugabe allowed to attend the beatification ceremony of the pope who in 2003 gave the Zimbabwean ambassador a most devastating public dressing-down over his regime’s reign of terror?
    Cardinal Napier points out that “no official invitations were issued to heads of state”. But it is not a case of Mr Mugabe simply presenting himself at the gates of St Peter’s Square’s VIP enclosure, demanding admission. Because the European Union’s travel ban on Mr Mugabe excludes the Vatican City state, Italian immigration must allow him passage through Italian territory. This means that the Vatican’s Secretariat of State had to make the necessary arrangements through its diplomatic channels once Mr Mugabe had declared his wish to attend the beatification ceremony.
    Evidently the Vatican saw no cause to ask Mr Mugabe to stay at home nor to decline to engage its diplomatic channels on his behalf. International diplomacy sometimes requires unpalatable things of its practitioners. Protocol would demand that the Vatican will not reveal whether this was one such occasion.
    Clearly, however, Mr Mugabe was made to feel thoroughly welcome. And it is at the televised sight of the tyrant being warmly embraced by a broadly smiling prelate that Catholics may register indignation.
    That public embrace is embarrassing for the courageous bishops of Zimbabwe, and to the clergy, religious and laity who strive for a peaceful transition to an equitable and accountable democracy. Shortly before departing on his “absolutely heavenly” Vatican sojourn, Mr Mugabe described the Zimbabwean bishops as “so-called men of God who lie” and “mere puppets of Western countries”. In that light particularly, Mr Mugabe’s reception in the Vatican has created an impression, surely inaccurate, that the Vatican sides with him against the bishops of Zimbabwe.
    We can be certain that Mr Mugabe will refer to his welcome in the Vatican when next he feels compelled to insult and attack the bishops of his country, and to denounce their apostolic obligation to work for justice and peace. Their teaching authority on issues of social justice has been compromised. It is important that such a perception is vigorously countered to preserve the authority and dignity of Zimbabwe’s bishops and the laity’s confidence in the episcopate and, indeed, in the Vatican.
    Inestimable harm has been done to the Church by Mr Mugabe’s trip. Zimbabwe’s bishops have been undermined, and the faithful have been scandalised. Now that damage requires correction.

    The Zimbabwean reported thus on Mugabe's comments on Zimbabwe's Catholic Bishops:

    "There are other so-called bishops who fall under what is called the 
    bishops' conference who are always telling lies, no truth at all," Mugabe 
    said at the opening of a conference hall for the Zion Christian Church. He praised the 
    leaders of the sect while attacking his critics.
    After falling out with the mainstream church, Mugabe has sought the support 
    of apostolic sects. Last year he attended an annual pilgrimage of one of the 
    sects and appeared in pictures wearing the church's white robes and wooden 
    rod. On that occasion he railed against gays and lesbians and urged the 
    adherents to oppose rights groups seeking to have gay rights in Zimbabwe's 
    new constitution. 

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    A Return to Abstinence from Meat on every Friday?

    Interesting things are happening in the Church in England and Wales.  The Ordinariate continues to advance with the former Anglican priests being made deacon prior to their ordination as priests at Pentecost and the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Plenary Session has brought back Friday Abstinence in a visible form.  Here is the statement that was released:

    Catholic Witness - Friday Penance

    By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in his death on the cross. We do so
    in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s passion; in
    fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; in almsgiving, by demonstrating our solidarity
    with the sufferings of Christ in those in need. All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian
    living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness.

    Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of
    our Lord. The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other
    form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference.
    The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear
    and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those
    which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the
    faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.

    Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference
    wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance. The
    Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat.
    Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some
    other food of which they regularly partake. 

    This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 when we will mark the anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.

    Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time
    of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ,
    who gave up his very life for our salvation.

    It seems to me that Catholicism in the UK is increasing in confidence and this, in many ways, is seen as a stamp of Catholic identity.  It will be interesting to see if our own South African bishops will follow suit in due course.

    Economic change has meant that "Fish on Friday" isn't really an option for penance as fish is more expensive than meat now-a-days!  I wonder if Catholics will be known as "Egg Eaters" in the future!

    From an information point of view this is what Canon Law has to say"

    Canon 1250  All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

    Canon 1251  Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless (nisi) they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Canon 1252  All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

    Canon 1253  It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Holy Angels, Bez Valley and Music, Music, Music.....

    As you may have realised I have been busy exploring the churches in my area as opposed to Holy Trinity, Braamfontein, the Jesuit church I have attended since I have been in Johannesburg and which has a fine musical tradition.

    Holy Angels, Bezuidenhout Valley was where I was at Mass last Sunday.  It's a small church built in 1913 and he has recently been tastefully restored.  A delightful building, light, airy with exposed woodwork, a sanded floor and minus the hideous dark green marble behind the altar.  Even the rather kitsch mosaics of the Sacred Heart & Our Lady of Perpetual Succour are much improved by being framed.  

    Another innovation is the screen, that partly obscures the top of the Crucifix on the East Wall, and an overhead projector.  The music was worse than Blessed Sacrament, Malvern.  It was Mothers' Day so we were treated to "Mother of Mine" accompanied by electric guitars...and we all held hands during the Lord's Prayer.

    The controversy stirred up by Fr Chris Townsend of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in an article in the Southern Cross about how awful the music is in Catholic Churches has interestingly enough been reflected obliquely by those who have joined the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham as they see music (and liturgical practise) as aspects of the Anglican patrimony they bring into the Catholic Church.

    Here is an article on the blog of Fr Edwin Barnes, former Anglican Bishop of Richborough, who was received  into the Ordinariate and ordained a priest in the Catholic Church this year.  His blog is called Ancient Richborough but I am reprinting it in full here.  Allen Hall is the seminary where most of the former Anglican priests are being prepared for ordination to the Catholic priesthood at Pentecost.  The Ed Tomlinson he mentions is the former Vicar of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells where 72 members of his congregation left and joined him in the Ordinariate.

    Great mirth at Allen Hall this week when, to the question "any difficulties you've met?", came the answer "the music". Why is it that the Catholic Church is so prescriptive about its liturgy, yet seems to allow any hymns/songs/ditties at Mass? I have been coopted to the little group in my local catholic parish which selects hymns for Sunday worship. The problems seems to be (1) the available hymn book and (2) the congregation's small familiar repertoire. Perhaps Ed Tomlinson has the answer; appeal for copies of English Hymnal. That could be right if you are setting up an Ordinariate church. But many of us will be trying to bring something of our Patrimony into an existing Catholic congregation. There seems to be genuine goodwill among many of those congregations to improve their standard of music - and the answer cannot be Gregorian Chant all round. Yet when on Easter Day the best anyone can come up with is "This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made that the Lord has made" ... and so on ad nauseam, there really must be something better.

    Will the rite eventually approved for groups of former Anglicans include any help over the matter of Hymnody? Surely it is part of our Patrimony; not just because there are good tunes and decent verse, but because we have learned the faith from our treasury of hymns almost as much as from Sacred Scripture. Perhaps the Ordinary could make a start by banning all hymn books which contain more by Estelle M White than by Charles Wesley?

    Today, though, great encouragement; the Organist at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Southbourne, where our local Ordinariate Group will make its home, has written in our parish newsletter "God gave you the voice you've got. Use it to praise Him! It doesn't matter if you don't think you can sing.. if you are still singing a hymn on the way home after Mass, you are carrying on with your prayer." My only addendum would be "provided the Hymn you are still singing is addressed to God, about God, not focussed on 'me' and 'I'".

    PS does anyone else hate "here I am, Lord - Look at me, Lord..."?

    A comment was made that the intention of Vatican II was that we should sing the Mass but instead Catholics tend to sing at Mass.  Mainly meaningless stuff like "Shine, Jesus, shine..."

    Where I have a real problem is when parts of the liturgy, such as the Gloria, are replaced by chorus-like hymns.  I find I'm grinding my teeth with irritation!

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Somebody asked me why I hadn't said much about the beatification of John Paul II...nothing in fact!  I think everybody has said something about it, for a start.  Also I have never really been a great fan of his though I wouldn't deny his personal holiness.

    The length of his pontificate and his own particular interests meant that areas of neglect, aspects of Church governance that he had little interest in, had become ever widening cracks by the time of his demise.  This is not to down-play his many talents, how-ever and there is no doubt that he brought many people into an appreciation of what the Catholic Church is and what it stands for.

    When I think of what it means to be a Catholic I have become increasingly aware of what a privilege it is and how lucky I am, despite having doubts about many aspects of Catholicism.  I am sure that a healthy agnosticism is a necessary component of religious faith.  How can you have faith if you do not doubt?

    A group of young Spaniards sum it up for me.  They produce a number of short films every May to remind us of May as Mary's Month and to encourage the Rosary as an aid to personal spirituality.  This one says it all

    I've included some other May Feelings in the Video Bar to the right.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Blessed Pope John Paul II and Divine Mercy Sunday

    St Faustina Kowalska
    It's not really called Divine Mercy Sunday, it's officially the 2nd Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy so there is a bit of leeway there!  It's one of the promulgations of the new Beatus that I find very difficult to understand.

    I have no problem with the concept of devotion to God's Mercy but the whole rigmarole around St Faustina Kowalska, her visions and her writings makes little sense to me.  Her community considered that she suffered from religious delusions and her writings were suppressed by the Vatican but I suppose that has applied to many Saints in the past.

    When I first saw the Divine Mercy picture I thought it was some sort of holy wrapping paper!

    Individual visions or revelations are not something we have to either believe in or respond to, thank goodness, though there is no doubt that the Divine Mercy devotions and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy strike a chord with a great number of people.....but I am not amongst them.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Lord Patten attacks the intolerance of secularists.

    Lord Patten
    Through a friend on Facebook I came across this article in the Telegraph following a lecture by Lord Patten at Our Lady of Grace & St Edward, Chiswick.  Judging by the comments that follow the article he has a point though I can think of many believers who are just as judgemental.

    I am always horrified by many of those who style themselves as "Traditional Catholics" whatever that is supposed to mean and their hostility towards those who may not agree with them in every jot and tittle.  Comments on the Catholic Herald Catholic Herald Blog Site of William Oddie's Blog reflect what I'm talking about.  William Oddie is not exactly left of centre where Catholicism is concerned but the comments that often follow his postings often make him look like a close friend of Lenin!  Aggressive vitriol is not peculiar to the anti-Catholic!

    It is also interesting how the words 'secularist' and 'atheist'  are becoming interchangeable where-as they have completely different meanings.  It would not be possible to be a Catholic atheist but I know a number of Catholic secularists!