Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lock Down

 Being in lockdown brings its challenges. Some are practical - food, shopping,  medicine. Some are financially worrying when we look to the future - can we afford the mortgage, the rent. Others are more fundamental - will I get through this? Will I be well? Will those I love be OK? Loneliness and isolation can bring its challenges, as indeed can being in such close quarters with those around us.

But lockdown can also bring its opportunities, even if we don’t particularly want them! We have time on our hands. So pray. Pray for the people who you know need your prayers. But also go through your life. What do you have to make up for? What is on your conscience? Even if you’ve been to confession about it, do you still need to add more prayers? And if you haven’t been to confession about it, then make a good intention to do so, and say your prayers now. Are there people in the corners of your memory who you need to bring to God? This is the time, while you still have the time.  How about a good prayer regime? If there are children around, then pray as a family. Make it realistic. Put them in charge of it. Morning and Evening and before they go to bed (and before you go to bed!).

Let me assure you all that Dom Anselm and Dom Bede, your monks, are offering the Office at the Shrine in Glastonbury, and each day at 7.30am offer their conventual Mass. If you are up, then unite your prayers with ours. We are praying for you. Please pray for us.

My Jesus,
I believe that You are present
in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment

receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.


Sunday, 22 March 2020

The Virus

So we are now in the situation when there are to be no public gatherings, though our Churches are to stay open. Different parishes do different things. Shepton, as usual, will be closed. If we have a rota for opening Cheddar, all well and good. The main doors of Wells will be open, though the glass doors will be shut. The Church in Glastonbury will be open. There will be no public celebrations of Holy Mass until further notice (unless Requiems - for small family gatherings only). There will be no gatherings of faithful in the Church (rosary/ adoration/ prayer groups).

The Bishops, in accordance with the provisions of the Church’s law, have lifted the obligation to hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Dom Anselm and Dom Bede will continue to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, but this is to be private. We offer the Coventual Mass at 7.30am so unite your prayers with us as we go up to the altar of God. 

So… St John Mary Vianney (the Curé of Ars) said “If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God.”


My Jesus,
I believe that You are present
in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

The Man on the Desert Island - 6

The Man on the desert Island - still here

Recap: Man on desert island, can he get to heaven if no one tells him what is right and wrong? Yes, because we’re Catholics and believe that we can know something about God. Not much, but enough for good and bad. What’s the point of revelation and the Church? Well, because we lie to ourselves, and so do other people, and we can’t really be trusted too much.

But what, I hear you cry, if the man on the desert island is a Muslim? (or a Buddhist, or B’hai). Well, you’re straying from my man on the island who has never met anyone before, but I know what you’re on about so I’ll play along. What you’re asking me is “Can being a Muslim (or Buddhist or B’hai) get you to heaven?” I have said that to know right and wrong you have to be told it. And you have to be told it by someone who knows, and that someone has to have the authority of God, or else it’s just opinion. And an opinion doesn't get you to heaven. So in Catholicism, God becomes man, that is Jesus Christ, who founds the Church, who gives the Church teaching ability, so we know what’s what. So where do the world religions fit into it? Is there any truth in them? Is what they say right? Is one as good as another?

Let’s go back to my image two weeks ago, “they can only ever be like the moon, reflecting the light of the sun, but having no light of their own.” The only truth out there is the reflection of Christ: contained in the Church. If they agree with it, then fine, if not, then not. No other religion is revealed by God. God did not given us the truth in Christianity, then something different in Buddhism, or Islam, or Hinduism (or in Glastonbury the worshippers of the Norse gods). If He did, then He is lying to us or them. If no one knows for sure, what was the point of Him coming as man and dying for us? Either it was worth something or not. The only exception to this is Judaism. That revelation is imperfect, and waited to be fulfilled by pointing to Christ, but it definitely is from God. Nothing else is. God only willed Judaism and Christianity. The first was completed in the second. Nothing else, Zip, Nada. The rest are only reflected truth.

So my man on the island cannot pick and choose. He must be a Catholic, and we must want him to be one. God became man that we might get to heaven.

It might be time we rescued this poor man… so stop asking questions!!!

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

The Man on the Desert Island - 5

The man on the desert island - at last

Catch up: Chap on island. No one to tell him what’s right or wrong, but knows naturally a few things about the existence of God and also a gut knowledge of good and bad. But temptations are all around!

We left the man on the island having a basic knowledge of God, and an innate, an inbuilt sense, of what is right and wrong. From this, some people say “Oh well you don’t need organised religion if we know what is right, and in fact it might even get in the way.” But, of course those people are wrong. If the organised religion comes from God (and Christianity does) and if we know that it is there to tell us much more than just a gut knowledge (which Catholicism does) and if it is set up by God with a way to speak to every area of our lives (which is what the teaching office of the Holy Catholic Church was created for), then we need it. Not only do we need it, but God Himself has created it for our salvation… so that we can get to heaven.

How about anything else? How about other groups of Christians, or other religions, or other belief systems?  What about them? The honest answer is that we don’t know. And so we don’t risk it. We know that God became man to save us. That He founded the Catholic Church to continue His presence on earth and be the sure means of salvation. If anything goes away from that revealed truth of the faith, then it cannot be of God: so denying education to girls, or black people or poor people is never right; killing children in the womb is never right, or ending the lives of old or sick people; marriage can only be between a man and a woman; &c. &c. If other faiths or other groups of Christians agree with this, then it is of God, because they are agreeing with the truth. If not, then it is not of God. There is no other sure source of revelation other than the one that God founded. Others may reflect the truth, but they can only ever be like the moon, reflecting the light of the sun, but having no light of their own. 

Thankfully we do not judge, that is God’s job. But neither do we wash our hands. We know what leads to God. We know where the truth lies, and we have an obligation to tell people that. It lies in the Church God founded as the means of salvation. Anything else, we have no idea about. But we cannot risk our eternal salvation by just hoping that everything is going to be OK.


Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Man on the Desert Island - 4

The man on the desert island - still here

Catch up: Chap on island. No one to tell him what’s right or wrong, but knows naturally a few things about the existence of God and also a gut knowledge of good and bad.

So we human beings naturally know a few things about God (He exists, He is one, He quite likes us, we are free, we have an immortal soul), and we know right and wrong. So can we get to heaven through our own steam without the truth being revealed (told) to us by God through His Church? The answer is ‘yes’ but its tricky. “So we don’t need a Church or a revelation of God to get to Heaven!” you say to me… Well, hold your horses.

Through following what we instinctively know to be right and avoiding what we instinctively know what is wrong, then God will judge us according to our deeds. But the problem is that we are slippery customers and will be easily persuaded by people’s lies. I can perfectly believe that God does not want me to get up at four o’clock in the morning on a cold day. I can lie there when my alarm clock goes off and reason with myself that I can just stay in bed and someone else will sing those prayers, or that I deserve a day off. What rubbish, of course! It is just temptation for an easy life. It’s how we get out of doing any manner of things that we know are right… like giving to charity, visiting relatives, going to Mass every Sunday (an obligation of the Church, just in case we have all forgotten). The human being will try to justify any manner of selfish behaviour or an easy life by appealing to anything at all. Of course, in our gut we know its wrong, but we still do it.

We will also go along with things people tell us, if it flatters us, or mocks someone else, or is gossip, or it advances our career/reputation. This is where the evils of society come in. It tell us that it perfectly alright to get rid of a child in the womb, or that it doesn’t matter what you do with whoever you like as long as ‘no one gets hurt’, that children should only be taught what the latest inclusive fad is, that a life of a cuddly polar bear is as important as a human being (please don’t cuddle a polar bear, they are wild animals - not cuddly).

Although we instinctively know what is right and wrong, we spend a lifetime trying to persuade ourselves and others that that is not the case.

So where does that leave him?  

Friday, 6 March 2020

The Man on the Desert Island - 3

The man on the desert island - still

Catch up: What happens if there is no one to tell you what is right and wrong? Can you get to heaven? What about someone on a desert island?

You will remember last week that I said that the classic Protestant view of what we were like after the Garden of Eden was pretty bad. We had lost the ability to find God, or know anything about Him. But this was not the Catholic view. We believe that we can still get to some knowledge about God by looking at His creation, and looking at ourselves. It may not be much, but it is a darned sight better than nothing. So… what can we know?

The great theologians said we could know five things about God. 1) We could know that God exists. It is natural to all people that they believe in God. We are not born ‘blank’ and are then indoctrinated into belief. All peoples of all ages in all places have believed in a higher power. It is only the arrogance of the indolent West to think that there is no God, and dress it up as ‘intellectual honesty’. Bah, I say. Bah. 2) As there is a God, there is only one of Him. The great systems of gods and goddesses eventually have to have one who made them all, or who kicked it all off. 3) God is kindly disposed towards toward us. Although life is difficult and terrible things happen to some people, generally there is no pattern of persecution from God to you or me, or this group or that. Our life is not too bad really, most of the time. 4) We have free will. God does not force me to do this or that. If I am being forced by someone then I can find out about it, and either I or someone else will know. We are not puppets on strings. 5) There is something about us which continues after death (we call it an immortal soul). Again all peoples have done this. They do not just ‘honour’ the dead, they do so in the belief that something continues to exist.

So if the chap (ess) on the desert island can know all these things about God, they know one thing more… they know what is right and what is wrong. This knowledge is written on the human heart. It is not developed or detailed, it is just ‘gut-knowledge’. We know when we have done something kind, and when we have been a rotter.

And that, makes all the difference! So can he get to heaven? I’ll let you know next week...

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

The man on the desert island - 2

The man on the desert island

Catch up: You get to Heaven by doing good stuff, you know what to do because people who know about these things tell you what is right and what is wrong. But what happens if you are on a desert island and there is no one to tell you what is right or wrong? How do you know?

So here we go. The person on the island has never met anyone. There is food and shelter, but they have not had any contact with anyone else. How do they know what is right or wrong? If you need to do right stuff to get to heaven, can they get to heaven if you don’t know what the good stuff is? It cannot be just chance… If I happen to do something, and something good comes from it, then I should not get praised for it. You have to intend to do good. So, can the person on the island do anything good, if they don’t know what that good is, and therefore get to heaven?

I hope you are thinking “What a stupid question… of course they can! It wouldn't be fair if they couldn’t because it is not their fault that they are on a desert island.” And that is correct, because that is also the Catholic answer. Why Catholic? Well, let me take you back to Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve, describes a perfect situation when we can see God and talk to Him, face to face. There is no sin, no death, no problems. But we know that that is not the reality now, so the Garden of Eden tells us of the reality of sin, of Original Sin, of toil and difficulties, of separation from God. It tells the story not so much of what happened in the beginning, as what it is like now. It tells us about ‘now’ by describing the past. And it says: this is what it is like to be alive. It is hard and we do not have the consolation of chatting to God like we did before all that sin stuff.

In Catholic theology we believe that although we are separated from God we can get to know something about Him from His creation (the world and us). In classic Protestant theology, we sinned and fell so much that we could know nothing by ourselves, everything had to be  revealed, or told, to us about God. For them, the man on the island is stuffed. Although the sin of Adam and Even damaged the relation with God, for us it did not completely stop us knowing something about Him. We can know something. So, next question,  what can the man on the desert island know?

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Man on the Desert Island - 1

The man on the desert island

Now… I’m going to warn you that this is going to run for weeks and weeks and you might have to concentrate a bit. But it will be worth it. 

How do you get to heaven?

This is a question that I used to pose my students when I taught them in France. It was the beginning of the whole year’s religion course. It is, of course, a pretty basic and yet a fundamentally important question. In fact, it is the only question really worth asking - because it is the only question that your life depends on. Not this life… but your eternal life. Funny then, how people don’t often ask themselves it.

So that is what I’d ask the boys…  how do you get to heaven. And they would answer in the ways that most of us would answer: you try to do what’s right, don’t kill people, don’t steal sweets, don’t annoy Father Rowe, do your homework. The older ones would add: respect yourself and others, try to stand us for what is right. We could add to the list, I’m sure.

But then the question became, “but how do you know that this is what you have to do? Why shouldn’t I kill people? Why shouldn’t I be beastly to kittens? Why shouldn’t I take your sweets if I want to? Why shouldn’t I do or say anything I want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else?

Well, they would answer, that is what we have been told to do (by parents, the Church, other people who we respect).

But are those people right? How do you know they are right? Are they always right? Are they right because you decide they’re right (I can persuade myself that a second cream cake and a third sherry is right… but that doesn’t make it so!) Is there something else that makes them right - something greater than them?

And what if there is no one to tell you what to do or how to behave? What then? Can you still get to heaven?

What about a man on a desert island???

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