Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Small Effective Approach to Dialogue between Catholicism & Islam.

Last Saturday, the eve of Advent Sunday, we held an Advent Dinner for our friends of the Turquoise Harmony Institute at Holy Trinity.

The Institute is a Turkish Muslim Organisation that works for interfaith harmony in line with the teachings of Fethullah Gullen and for the last three years they have provided an Iftar Meal during Ramadan for the church.  We had often wondered how to reciprocate and an Advent Dinner is the result.

They came to the 17,30 Mass, had a tour of the church and then there was a brief explanation of what Advent is all about.
After the dinner, which was excellent, the Imam gave a presentation on 'Mary in the Islamic Tradition' and one of our laypeople gave a presentation on 'Mary in the Catholic Tradition'.  The evening was very successful as we have really become good friends.  The discussion at the tables was very good as we see Mary as the bridge between us as these representations of Our Lady in Catholic and in Muslim art show us.

I have been fortunate in having a long personal relationship, over at least 10 years, with the Institute through my former position at the SABC but this is the first time I have attended one of the events at my own church despite initiating their contacts with various religious bodies when they first arrived in South Africa.

It has really only been the Catholic Church that has encouraged contact, not just through the Jesuits but through the Emeritus Bishop of Pretoria, George Daniel.  I am sure that this is because, as Catholics, we are secure in our faith in the same way that the Turquoise Harmony Institute is.  Therefore we have an excellent interfaith relationship as neither feels threatened by the other.  I am sure that is the key to successful interfaith and inter-Christian dialogue.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Benedict XVI in Benin, Black Tuesday and an attempt at keeping Advent

The Holy Father's visit to Benin has been a great success but it has hardly figured in the secular media, even ours and we are in Africa!  80 000 people attended his final Mass.  I was particularly taken by his address to young children so here it is:

God our Father has gathered us around his Son and our brother, Jesus Christ, who is present in the host consecrated during the Mass. This is a great mystery before which we worship and we believe. Jesus, who loves us very much, is truly present in the tabernacles of all the churches around the world, in the tabernacles of the churches in your neighbourhoods and in your parishes. I ask you to visit him often to tell him of your love for him.

Some of you have already made your First Holy Communion, and others are preparing for it. The day of my First Holy Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the same for you, isn’t it? And why is that? It’s not only because of our nice clothes or the gifts we receive, nor even because of the parties! It is above all because, that day, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time! 

When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me. I should welcome him with love and listen closely to him. In the depths of my heart, I can tell him, for example: “Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future.” 

Do not hesitate, dear children, to speak of Jesus to others. He is a treasure whom you should share generously. Throughout the history of the Church, the love of Jesus has filled countless Christians, and even young people like yourselves, with courage and strength. In this way, Saint Kizito, a Ugandan boy, was put to death because he wanted to live according to the baptism which he had just received. Kizito prayed. He realized that God is not only important, but that he is everything.

What, then, is prayer? It is a cry of love directed to God our Father, with the will to imitate Jesus our brother. Jesus often went off by himself to pray. Like Jesus, I too can find a calm place to pray where I can quietly stand before a Cross or a holy picture in order to speak to Jesus and to listen to him. I can also use the Gospels. That way, I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day. To stay with Jesus like this for a little while lets him fill me with his love, light and life! This love, which I receive in prayer, calls me in turn to give it to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough. Dear young people, Jesus loves you. Ask your parents to pray with you! Sometimes you may even have to push them a little. But do not hesitate to do so. God is that important!

May the Virgin Mary, his Mother, teach you to love more and more through prayer, forgiveness and charity. I entrust you to her, together with your families and teachers. Look! I have this rosary in my pocket. The rosary is like a tool that we can use to pray. It is easy to pray the rosary. Maybe you know how already; if not, ask your parents to help you to learn how. At the end of this meeting, each one of you will receive a rosary. When you hold it in your hands, you can pray for the Pope, for the Church and for every important intention. And now, before I bless you all with great affection, let us pray together a Hail Mary for children throughout the world, especially for those who are sick, who are hungry and in places of war.

Let us pray together: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Here are the highlights of the visit with wonderful music!

Today is Black Tuesday, particularly for those of us in the media as the SA Parliament has passed the Protection of State Information Bill that will seriously curtail investigative journalism and is widely thought to be a means of hiding corruption within government.  It is a step backward towards the days of Apartheid by the African National Congress who was most responsible for bringing the previous regime down and prides itself on transparency in government.  What a joke!  It's Animal Farm all over again.  I am sure that this bill, when signed into law, will be challenged in the Constitutional Court and if the Court finds it to be unconstitutional it will create a crisis as the government has already complained about matters be brought before the Court that hamper its policies.  I suppose the next step will be to change the Constitution as we trek away from the ANC Founding Father's democratic ideals.

Fr Chris Townshend, Information Officer of the SA Catholic Bishops. Conference has just passed this on:  "The Bells of St Marys Catholic Cathedral, Cape Town and (hopefully) St George's Anglican Cathedral will be rung in Funeral Peal to protest the Secrecy Bill."

Advent is upon us and as I said in my previous post I think we have a tendency to let it pass us by.  As a child the great 'O' antiphons had a great impact upon me and singing 'Come, O come Emmanuel' reinforced the antiphons and the build up to the Feast of the Nativity...it doesn't seem to happen now.  Part of the reason is that the holidays begin on the 16th December and in Johannesburg many people go away so that the congregation and the Schola Cantorum are depleted for Christmas....and to a lesser extent at Easter.

This year I am going to make an effort thanks to Fr Russell and Annemarie's little Advent Book.  I don't guarantee success as I am easily led astray! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Book Launch in preparation for Advent.

Fr Russell Pollitt addresses us.
On Thursday 17th November  I attended the launch of “Rejoice Mountains and Hills”  at Holy Trinity. 

 The book contains weekday reflections for the Season of Advent and was written by Fr Russell Pollitt SJ & Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell of the Jesuit Institute. We heard about the book from Annemarie and Fr Russell mainly thanked people their help in producing the book but what was particularly interesting was an appreciation of the book by Nonthando Hadebi of St Augustine's College, our Catholic University and comments on the prayers by Fr  Jacques Pretorius, the Anglican chaplain to St John's College.  

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
We the piled into the food and wine afterwards!  Funny, at most book launches they come first.

Advent as a period of Preparation for Christmas seems to have fallen away.  It's not punted as a period of selfdenial or fasting and abstinence though the Eastern Churches certainly commemorate Advent in that way but then their Lent is also much more rigorous. 

 I think it  should be more recognised particularly as in the secular world Christmas begins somewhere towards the end of  October and finishes on the 23rd or 24th December!  

I really like this little book because it has its feet firmly on the ground when it comes to devotion during what is a particularly busy time for everyone.  In fact the book uses that business as a platform for prayer & meditation.  

Each day begins with a prayer to help focus on the theme for the day.  Then there is a text and reflection on the text.  It' need only take a few minutes or it can take longer depending on your situation at that particular time of day.  Congratulations to Fr Russell and to Annemarie  for providing such a user-friendly little book that I will certainly use during Advent.   

Copies of the book can be purchased from The Catholic Bookshop (Cape Town), Paulines (Johannesburg/Durban) and Holy Trinity Braamfontein. It costs R35.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Evangelism & the New Missal

As the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people -- to say nothing about those outside the household of the faith -- are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one. As Father Ronald Rolheiser wonders, we may be living in a post-ecclesial era, as people seem to prefer
a King but not the kingdom,
a shepherd with no flock,
to believe without belonging,
a spiritual family with God as my father, as long as I’m
the only child,
“spirituality” without religion
faith without the faithful
Christ without His Church.
So they drift from her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another, or just give it all up.

A comment that resonated with me by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York speaking in his capacity as President of the USCCB at the opening of their Autumn Plenary Session.  

This illustrates the importance of Pope Benedict's emphasis on the so-called "New Evangelism".  Evangelism isn't new at all, it's just something we've forgotten about, are embarrassed by and would prefer to keep our Faith under a bushel. Maybe we let it out on Sundays but push it back under the bushel in the church car park.  I find it very difficult to be a "public Catholic" and when I retired from the SABC I was astounded and mildly embarrassed when the Head of the Service, Dennis O'Donnell commented on my Catholicism and the things I had done...he's 110% more Catholic than I am!  I am sure I am not alone in feeling that way but is it right?  We are called to evangelise, to be witnesses to Christ.  Maybe I should be a little more assertive in future.

The New Missal
The First Sunday in Advent is almost upon us.  The SACBC has come up with a Commissioning and Decommissioning process for the New and the Old.  Here it is in full:

The 1ST Sunday of Advent is fast approaching – an important day in the ongoing life of the Church, Together with the rest of the English-speaking members of the Church throughout the world, we will be introducing the full edition of the newly translated 3rd edition of the Roman Missal.

Over the past few years, and particularly during this last year, we have in various ways been preparing for this event, by means of workshops, articles, Become one Body one Spirit in Christ etc. As has been pointed out by many, the publication of this new Missal is not a suggestion that the Sacramentary we have been using since the heady days which followed Vatican II is “bad” or to be rejected. Rather, this new Missal is part of an ongoing progression – we have studied, learnt, reflected, prayed the Missal, and have developed an improved text – language which is closer to the original, and at the same time more poetic.

Change can be threatening – but it does indicate that the Church is alive and open to that process rather than stagnant. This is not change for the sake of change, but rather an opportunity for renewal, revitalization and growth in appreciation of the Mass which is central to our lives.
This translation has not been undertaken lightly, but is the result of many years of work by a great many experts both academic and pastoral. The Liturgy is often described as the “official prayer of the Church gathered for worship” and as such we need to embrace this new translation – not just as new words, but as a real opportunity to renew our love for the Eucharist and our commitment to the Church.

It is fitting that, in all our parishes, we mark the occasion of the inauguration of the Missal ceremonially. This may be done in several ways. We offer the attached ceremony, as proposed by the Canadian Bishops’ Conference.

By“decommissioning” the Sacramentary which has been in use, and “commissioning” the new Missal, we emphasize the respect that should be shown in terms of Liturgical Books.

We propose that the De-commissioning the Sacramentary take place at the end of Mass on the Sunday preceding the 1st Sunday of Advent – i.e. the Feast of Christ the King (20th November), and the Blessing the New Missal at the beginning of Mass on the 1st Sunday of Advent (27th November)

In order to avoid confusion, may we suggest that in each community, people be asked to place all the old leaflets which have been in use for the past two years in a suitable container. These can then, in accordance with good conservation practice, be recycled.

De-commissioning the Sacramentary

1. After the Prayer after Communion, the Priest pauses for a moment of silence and then reminds the faithful of the many events this book has been a part of in these or similar words:
Dear Friends in Christ; today is the last (Sun)day in which this Sacramentary will be used. It has served our community well for many years: it has been present at baptisms, funerals, marriages, and above all at the countless Masses that have been prayed in this church. We pause to give thanks for all that God has done by means of the words contained in this book, and trust that God will continue to bless us in the years ahead.

All pray silently for a time. Then the Priest, with hands outstretched says:
Father of light and wisdom,
We praise you for your gifts:
for giving us the power to see
and the ability to write and read
and to use the arts of printing.
Bless + this book as it is taken out of service
and grant that all who have used it or heard its words
may grow in wisdom and grace
before you and all your people.
Father, we praise you through Jesus Christ your Son
in the love of your Holy Spirit,
now and always and for ever.

2. The Mass continues in the usual way with the Final Blessing. After the Dismissal, the Deacon, or in his absence the Priest closes the book for the final time, saying:
For everything there is a season.
At the closing of this book,
we look to the opening of a new season of grace.

3. The Sacramentary is carried out in the procession by a server or other appropriate minister.
4. The Sacramentary is then reserved in the sacristy, a parish library or museum, or disposed of in a dignified manner.

Blessing the New Missal and the Advent Wreath (if latter is applicable)

1. The new Roman Missal is carried in the Entrance Procession by a server.
2. After the reverence to the Altar, the Priest goes to the Advent Wreath or another convenient place, while the server stands nearby holding the new Roman Missal.
3. After the Opening chant, the Priest pauses for a moment of silence and then reminds the faithful of the importance of the Roman Missal in the life of the Church:

Dear Friends in Christ: As we begin a new liturgical year on this First Sunday of Advent, we bless our Advent Wreath and at the same time receive and put into service a new book to be used at our altar. There has been a book called the Roman Missal since the year 1570, and many of the prayers contained in this book have been used since at least the fourth century. But while it is a book of tradition, it is a book for our future, for celebrations that will be held in our Church for years to come. It is right to pause for a moment to mark these beginnings: the beginning of this season and year of grace, and the first use of this book.

All pray silently for a time. Then the Priest, with hands outstretched says:

Father of light and wisdom,
we praise you for sending your Son
to save us from our sins
and to be light in our darkness.
Bless us + as we gather in his name,
bless this wreath as a sign of his light among us, and
Bless + this Roman Missal;
grant that all who use it or hear its words
may grow in wisdom and grace
before you and all your people.
we praise you through Jesus Christ your Son
in the love of your Holy Spirit,
now and always and for ever.

4. The first candle of the Advent Wreath is lighted.
5. The Priest then opens the book to the opening rites and the Mass continues in the usual way with the Sign of the Cross.

I think it's a good idea as it does create an end and a new beginning.  We are fortunate as we've been using a lot of the new Missal over the last couple of years but not the new Canons etc, so we are really in to most of it.  I think the priests are the ones with the problems, we'll just jog along as usual!

Friday, November 4, 2011

All Souls, A Funeral and thoughts on All Saints on Sunday!

Four members of Holy Trinity Scholar Cantorum
My guess on the music at Holy Trinity was correct, good Latin plainsong that you can sing along with in many instances....Pater Noster, for example.  What was particularly good to hear was the Dies Irae, the first part during Solemn Vespers and the second part during the Offertory.  No organ as it is All Souls.

The funeral at the Anglican Cathedral of St Dunstan in Benoni was rather strange.  For a start the church was full and the sound system was either not switched on or didn't work so you couldn't hear anything other than the odd word from the Dean, the Very Rev William Mostert who had a booming voice.    We sat through a Eulogy and four Tributes and heard not a word!  The hymns were "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Onward Christian Soldiers".  "Jerusalem" (not William Blake!) was sung between the two Readings.  We also sang the Lord's Prayer and there was the committal.  The Anglicans have an excellent funeral service in their Prayer Book, I wonder why it wasn't used?

This Sunday sees one of those strange mix ups the Catholic Church has got itself into transferring major feasts to the Sunday following.  All Saints is four days after All Souls.  Almost as bad as making a mockery of the Twelve Days of Christmas by moving the Epiphany!   I do hope that sense prevails in the future and these Feasts get put back in their proper place.  The argument is that more people will be there to celebrate them if they are on a Sunday.  Do you really think they will notice?  I don't think it matters with some feasts like the Assumption, that hasn't been moved here, but when the move has other ramifications I think it's silly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls, the New Missal and a Funeral.

This is such an important feast and, as I get older, one that really reminds me of those I know who have died.

We have two Masses today and I will go the Sung Mass this evening.  We work on a Pious List where you write down the names of those who have died on a form which is then placed in an envelope and goes into a "box" of some sort before the altar.  They are all prayed for at every Mass during November and the "box" is also incensed with the altar during Sung Masses.  Unfortunately I haven't a clue what the music will be but as the Schola Cantorum are singing Solemn Vespers before hand the Mass setting will probably be Latin plainsong.

We seem to have the balance right between things everyone can sing in English, Latin or an African language and settings to listen to and that is a no mean achievement!

New Missal
It has arrived and, unlike the colourful CTS version for England & Wales we have the monochrome Pauline version.  Our parish priest, Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, doesn't like it and has written an interesting article about it's implementation on his Blog.   The comments are interesting......   I was even encouraged to comment myself.

"Well, we belong to an authoritarian and hierarchical Church that seldom, if ever consults! In this instance it ignored the consultation in much the same way as it did with Humanae Vitae! We can grumble but we will be ignored. Unfortunately the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church and there is no-where else to go so we put up with it and like Fr Russell voice our “loyal dissent”. Unfortunately ultramontanists believe that any dissent is disloyal.
The 1966 Missal was rushed through and certainly resulted in a lot of unsatisfactory English but we are used to using it. I have always hated “And also with you” but I became used to it.
I think that the major problem with the new Missal is that the layout makes it very difficult to read fluently and I am sure we are going to listen to some horrendous stumblings over the next few weeks. The Mass is always the Mass, thank goodness and I don’t have to read it! Most of us won’t really listen anyway."

I'm going to a funeral this afternoon, appropriate for All Souls Day, of a past District Governour of Rotary, Billy Hills.  He was a kind, compassionate outstanding personality who's high position in Rotary International never went to his head.  Pray for the repose of his soul.  It's at the Anglican Cathedral in Benoni, a church I have never visited.