Sunday, 24 November 2013

Allocution 22 November 2013: Adoration

Cardinal Brandmüller gives the Benediction during the
FIUV General Assembly at St Peter's Basilica
photo: Joseph Shaw
In the next few allocutions, I want to look at the four ends of the sacrifice of Calvary as they apply to us, both in our private prayer and in our participation in the sacred Liturgy. Our Lord offered himself to the Father for our redemption. The four ends of this sacrifice were adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and supplication. When we pray, and especially when we participate in the Holy Mass where Christ’s sacrifice is made present and offered by the Church, we should unite ourselves to the ends for which Christ offered the sacrifice of His body and blood by our prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, contrition and supplication. Today we will consider the prayer of adoration.

The three persons of the Holy Trinity from all eternity and without end are in communion in a perfect, infinite act of adoration. In His prayers when he went away to a lonely place, Our Lord adored the Father and the Holy Spirit. On the cross, His sacrifice was also an act of adoration. His adoration was infinite and perfect, and thus a fitting offering to the Father, entirely beyond our capacity as mere human beings.

At the Baptism of Christ, and at His Transfiguration the Father’s voice was heard “This is my beloved Son” (Matt 3.17; Mk 9.7) the agapētos, the one who is loved, esteemed and regarded as worthy of love. The Father adores the Son in a reciprocal relationship of persons within the Holy Trinity. In the Creed, we sing of the Holy Ghost who is simul adoratur adored likewise with the Father and the Son. He is also adored equally by the Father and the Son. Our response to these words, signified in the traditional Mass by the bowing of the head, is our humble and poor association with the infinite adoration at the heart of the Blessed Trinity. That adoration of the Divine Persons is the supreme recognition of infinite holiness, goodness, truth and beauty.

Our prayer of adoration is also an attempt to imitate as far as we can, this infinite and perfect adoration within the Holy Trinity. We can discern three aspects of adoration as offered by the human person to the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

First there is a sovereign esteem. We attempt in our limited way to acknowledge lovingly, with fitting wonder and awe before the all-holy, the greatness of God. He is infinitely great in Himself, but we have also the wonder of His creation to help us in our meditation. Today we know more of the greatness of the universe than those of past ages. They were able to observe the beauty of the earth and the skies. We now know something of the immense distances over which light has travelled from the stars, the vast expanse of time over which creation has developed, and the intricacies of the working of both living and inanimate matter which can be observed through the electron microscope. Science can explain something of how the universe works. It cannot explain why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists in the first place, or why it exists with the laws and constants that govern its working. We can observe these things, we cannot explain how they came to be. Science itself can lead us to the adoration of the Creator.

Secondly, adoration involves a profound respect for the One who is infinite and transcendent. We bow down in adoration spiritually: our physical gestures are a sincere effort to put this into action as appropriate for the human person. When we genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, or prostrate on two knees when the Sacred Host is exposed, or bow at the consecration or at the words veneremur cernui, we are trying to express our respect and obeisance before the one who created us, redeemed us, and holds out to us the promise of eternal life. Like Moses who was ordered to take off his sandals before the burning bush, we realise in the presence of the Most High that we are on holy ground. Our external gestures must, of course be accompanied by our interior attitude of adoration, but they are a help to us in forming that attitude. They also help others to understand that the Church is not simply a meeting-place of the assembly but the House of God where God comes to dwell among men, a holy place in which our reverence is a fitting attitude in the presence of God.

Thirdly, this profound respect should lead to our absolute submission before the living God. This is where we often fall short. The cares of life, and even our desire for entertainment or passing pleasure lead us not only to fail to give God the adoration that is His due, but even to transgress His commands in favour of our own fallen desires, wounded as we are both by the effect of original sin and the continuing effect of past sins, faults of character and habits of sin. The struggle and daily battle of the spiritual life is to order our lives and our daily actions in perfect submission to the will of God rather than our own will. This is quite clear in the teaching of Our Lord in the Gospel that we should deny ourselves and take up the cross if we wish to follow Him. At those times when we can bow down in adoration whether in the quiet of our own room, in the beauty of a landscape or best of all in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in a quiet Church, we should ask for the grace to follow that act of adoration in our lives with a renewed submission, obedience and acceptance of God’s will as it is manifested in our lives.

Sometimes we engage in a form of adoration of creatures. This can be distorted, of course, if we adore money or possessions, but it can be a good but secondary form of adoration when we acknowledge God in His creation. We marvel at a beautiful Church, such as some of our fine buildings in England. We have a sense of awe when we view the beautiful countryside with which our country is blessed, or when we hear a fine piece of music played with great skill. Some can even marvel at an elegant mathematical equation or a tight and original piece of software coding. One of the greatest examples is our instinctive adoration of a baby, a new human life born into the world, most especially when that child is brought for baptism and receives the gift of sanctifying grace.

We should remember that God dwells in each of us too if we are in a state of grace. We should remember that losing that state of grace is the greatest misfortune that we could bring upon ourselves. After having done such great works for young people in Turin, recognised internationally, St John Bosco was asked what his greatest aim was in life. He replied “To remain in a state of grace.”
Our example in recognising the indwelling of the Holy Trinity is Our Blessed Lady who cried out in the Magnificat “My soul glorifies the Lord!” Our souls will never be able to make that cry with the same fervour as Our Lady but we may join with her as we do each day at Vespers, reciting her words in the hope that we too may glorify the Lord by our lives thanks to the grace that He has freely chosen to give us. At the Mass, we cry with the angels Gloria in excelsis Deo; our hearts join with those heavenly spirits, offering a cry of praise and glory to the Most High. Again at the Sanctus we join them in praise and adoration from the interior life of our own souls which have been sanctified by the Lord. We ask for the grace to make that cry with greater integrity as we give God that esteem, respect and submission that we owe to Him.

At the Holy Mass, these prayers in which we unite ourselves with the ancient and hallowed words of the sacred Liturgy, we are truly joined with Our Blessed Lord in the greatest possible act of adoration. Let us make it the beginning and end of our prayers as we join with the angels and saints, hoping one day to be united with them in that perfect adoration which is the blissful and eternal life of heaven.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Allocution 9 November 2012: 'Deification and Grace'

Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, before the Spiritual Exercises
As an Anglican my spiritual director was the superior of a small enclosed contemplative community called the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Crawley Down, and so not far from Worth Abbey. The late Fr Gregory was much influenced by the theology of the Orthodox Church. I learnt from him and from the books that I read during the many retreats I spent there about theosis or deification. This is the central theme of Orthodox theology, indeed for Orthodox Christians it is the Gospel, as the following quotation from the October 2008 edition Orthodox Outlook (a Popular Pan-Orthodox magazine as it calls itself) makes clear. Here are the editors explaining the purpose of the Incarnation. They write: ‘It is an invitation from our Creator to partake of His nature and find unending joy and peace and fulfilment in His kingdom.’

That sentence is an editorial summary of three quotations, two from patristic sources and one from Holy Scripture. ‘In his unbounded love, God becomes what we are, that He might make us what He is’ is from St Irenaeus; they also quote St Athanasius, ‘God became human so that we might become divine.’  And they conclude with 2 Peter 1.4: ‘through them (viz, the ‘glory and power’ of God) you may come to share in the divine nature.’ 

We can see from the above that theosis does not just belong to the theological heritage of Orthodoxy for both St Irenaeus and St Athanasius are fathers of the undivided Church who wrote well before the schism of 1054 when the name of the pope was removed from the diptychs or intercession list of the church of Hagia Sophia in Byzantium. And the text of the second epistle of St Peter could not be clearer: the purpose of the incarnation is that ‘you may come to share in the divine nature.’ So how is it that we Catholics, Christians in communion with the See of St Peter, hear so little about deification? Why doesn’t the Magisterium teach about deification? After all, not only is it both scriptural and traditional, it is also vital to understanding the purpose of the Christian life, and not just for understanding but for living it! 

Although there is no entry for deification in the Catechism, we do find it referred to in Part 3, Life in Christ and specifically in the section entitled Grace: ‘The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism.’ (CC 1999) Two paragraphs before this definition we read the following which makes even clearer the intimate connection between the Catholic teaching on grace and the Orthodox understanding of theosis: ‘Grace is a participation in the life of God.’ And the paragraph goes on to explain: ‘It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of the Body. As an ‘adopted son’ he can henceforth call God “Father”, in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.’ (1997) Grace is ‘the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.’ The matter could not be clearer: although East and West have a different vocabulary, the theology is the same. Theosis or deification is the same as sanctifying grace. 

In the remainder of this talk I want to speak about sanctifying or deifying grace for, although it is given to us above all through the Sacraments beginning with Baptism, it is so important a theological topic that it should not be assimilated into sacramental theology. Indeed meditation on what it is we receive in the sacraments will enable us to appreciate better the nature of the sacraments themselves. Precisely such a meditation on grace is to be found in the pages of the work of Fr Matthias Scheeben (1835-1888) called The Glories of Divine Grace. 

It is subtitled A Fervent Exhortation to All to Preserve and Grow in Sanctifying Grace. Thus it is addressed to all the faithful as of course it must be since, as we have seen, the life of sanctifying grace begins at Baptism. The title of the first chapter is How Deplorable it is that Men Should Have So little Regard for Grace. I was reminded when I read that of the comment made in a talk I recently heard by Fr Andrew Pinsent, the co-author of the Evangelium course which I used in my Anglican parish in preparation for the reception of my small Ordinariate group into the full communion of the Catholic Church. He asked the summer conference of that movement comprising young Catholics how many had heard a sermon on grace. Apparently over two thirds had not. Judging by the reproach in the title of the first chapter of The Glories of Divine Grace, perhaps Fr Scheeben faced a similar situation. And so Fr Scheeben sets himself the task of explaining why we should have regard for grace: ‘By grace the soul is received into the bosom of the Eternal Father and, together with the Divine Son, participates in the nature of the Father on this earth, and in His glory in the life to come.’ He then tells us the views of two of the great doctors of the Western Church on this subject: ‘St Thomas teaches that the whole world and all it contains is of less value before God than the grace of a single soul… And St Augustine maintains that the whole Heaven together with all the Angels, cannot be compared with this grace.’ Fr Scheeben then compares the soul who rejects God’s grace with the Israelites after the exodus who ‘despised the manna God gave them on the journey… and longed again for the fleshpots of Egypt.’ He explains that ‘the manna was a type of grace – a figure of our nourishment on the road to Heaven’ while ‘the Promised Land was a figure of Heaven’. But why do we frequently disregard grace? Why are we often like the Israelites who longed for ‘the fleshpots of Egypt’? Fr Scheeben answers: ‘because we permit ourselves to be too deeply impressed by our senses with transitory things and because we have but a superficial knowledge of lasting, heavenly riches.’ So what is the remedy for this fascination with ‘the changes and chances’ of this passing world? ‘We must draw as near as possible to the overflowing and inexhaustible fountain of divine grace.’ And how do we do that? Fr Scheeben answers paraphrasing St John Chrysostom: ‘he who admires and praises grace… will zealously and carefully guard it.’ He then invites the reader to begin with him ‘the praise of the glory of his grace’, words from St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (1.6). The chapter ends with five beautiful prayers addressed respectively to the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, Blessed Mary Mother of God and the Holy Angels. And that is the nature of this remarkable book: it is a work of praise and prayer. It is not just about its subject but is animated by it. For Sanctifying Grace, truly considered, must inspire praise and prayer. 

One of the observations Fr Pinsent made in the talk I referred to earlier regretting the virtual disappearance of grace from the vocabulary of Catholics is that it is much less common these days to hear Catholics refer to themselves as being or not being in ‘a state of grace’. If we are to recover this language then we must be able to give some guidance on that issue. The Catechism begins by reminding us of an all-important proviso: ‘Since it is supernatural, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude thereby that we are justified or saved.’ This is the same point made in the Psalmist’s prayer, ‘But who can discern his errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.’ St Paul too declares; ‘I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.’ But taking this as read, St Thomas says we may conjecture that we are in a state of grace or have God’s favour from the following three signs: 1. If we find contentment and delight in the thought of God, i.e., in reflecting on His goodness and loving care of us, in uplifting our minds and hearts in prayer, and in frequenting the Sacraments; 2. if we despise earthly things, i.e., if we are detached from pleasure and riches, not desiring them for their own sakes but for use in the service of God; and 3. if we are not conscious of any unforgiven mortal sin.’ (S.Th., 1.ii, q 112, a. 5) We might also make our own the response of Joan of Arc to a question posed by the judges at her trial and designed to trap her. Asked whether she was in God’s grace she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.’ (quoted in the Catechism 2005) 

Luther and his fellow Reformation polemicists, in their attack on the sacramental system of the Catholic Church posed a false alternative. We are saved, they said, either by faith or by works and they alleged further that the Church taught the latter, a kind of self-help religion Thus did they think to claim faith for their own schismatical movement. However, setting faith against works in this fashion is mistaken, and we can see why if we attend to the meaning of Sanctifying Grace. The teaching of the Church at the time of the Reformation, a teaching which has not changed, is that faith as one of the supernatural or theological virtues which has its source in Sanctifying Grace. So Fr Scheeben describes these virtues as ‘the royal retinue of Sanctifying Grace’. They follow in its train. He writes of Faith that although it is a ‘human act, freely made and reasonable… no-one can make such an act unless supernatural grace – which is denied to no-one – be given him by God… the ability to make an act of faith must be given by God.’ And this is exactly the same with the works or actions of the Catholic. Fr Scheeben quotes St Francis de Sales in his Treatise on the Love of God: ‘The Holy Ghost acts in us, through us and for us so admirably, that though our actions are our own, they belong more to him than to us. We perform them in Him and by His direction, while He performs them in us.’ Fr Scheeben thus asks, ‘What can give such immense value to our troubles and sufferings, which are in themselves but trifles?’ and he answers, ‘Dipped in grace, the chaff becomes gold… every good work, though little in itself, becomes through grace, of very great value, capable of purchasing for us the greatest treasure, Heaven and God Himself.’ 

Thus Sanctifying Grace is our deification; the words are different but the divine reality is the same. And Fr Scheeben explains the affinity in a chapter entitled significantly The Participation in the Divine Nature Effects a Supernatural Similarity to This Nature. He writes of ‘(t)he participation in the Divine Nature… which we enjoy by grace’ and explain that ‘grace is, according to St Paul, a new creation and the foundation of a new immovable kingdom (Eph 2.10, Heb. 12.28).’ Thus the two pillars of the Church, St Peter and St Paul, concur. The former speaks of deification and the latter of Sanctifying Grace, but the doctrine is the same. Fr Scheeben uses an Old Testament image: ‘We are called to dwell in the tabernacle of God’s eternity… Here our eternal existence is as secure as God Himself; here we need fear neither death nor destruction’. So ‘why’, he asks ‘do we rely on our own nothingness and pursue other things which are as vain and transitory as our life here below?’ He answers by relating the 
doctrine of sin to the theme of deification:
The sinner desires – as did our first parents, and the devil himself – ‘to be as God’. In truth, God Himself wills that we should be as He, but not without Him, not outside Him, not in opposition to Him. He does not will that we should make ourselves as other gods… He wills that we should be as He, but in His bosom, in His heart. He wills it to be through Himself and in union with Him, as in the case of His Divine Son, who is not another God, but the same with the Father.
That is also the doctrine which Fr Gregory of Crawley Down taught during the fifty years of his life as a contemplative. And he did so in the belief that Anglican patrimony was not something idiosyncratic but was the same as what he called ‘the Great Tradition’, the teaching of the undivided Church of East and West.

Fr Simon Heans

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Allocution 12 October 2012: 'Judgement'

In the first allocution, I talked about some modern approaches to eschatology (the last things.) Sometimes these writers have played down the importance of individual eschatology. I suggested that communal eschatology – the general judgement and the general resurrection – are closely intertwined with our individual eschatology and that I would therefore address the topic of our own four last things without feeling guilty about doing so.

Although not a defined doctrine of the Church, the particular judgement is considered to be sententia proxima fidei, that is, a doctrine regarded by theologians generally as a truth of the faith even though it has not yet been finally promulgated by the Church. The particular judgement is especially implied in the teaching of Pope Benedict XII in Benedictus Deus where he affirmed that the saints experience the beatific vision immediately after death, those who die in mortal sin immediately descend to hell, and those in venial sin immediately begin their purification in purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds weight to the common teaching of theologians when it affirms:

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven – through a purification or immediately, – or immediate and everlasting damnation. (1022)

The great Dominican theologian, Garrigou-Lagrange puts it like this:

The analogy between divine judgment and that of human justice brings with it resemblances, but also differences. Judgment before a human tribunal involves three steps: examination of the case, pronouncement of the sentence, and the execution of that sentence.

In the divine judgment the examination of the case is instantaneous, because it needs neither the testimony of witnesses, for or against, nor the least discussion. God knows by immediate intuition, and at the moment of separation the soul knows itself without medium. It is enlightened, decisively and inevitably, on all its merits and demerits. It sees its state without possibility of error, sees all that it has thought, desired, said, and done, both in good and in evil. It sees all the good it has omitted. Memory and conscience penetrate its entire moral and spiritual life, even to the minutest details. Only then can it see clearly all that was involved in its particular vocation, for instance, that of a mother, of a father, of an apostle. (Garrigou-Lagrange, R. Life Everlasting. Part 2.10.)

St Alphonsus relates the following story:

The thought of judgement inspired the venerable Juvenal Ancina, Priest of het Oratory, and afterwards Bishop of Saluzzo, with the determination to leave the world. Hearing the Dies Irae sung, and considering the terror of the soul when presented before Jesus Christ, her Judge, he took, and afterwards executed, the resolution of giving himself entirely to God.

The Dies Irae can indeed serve us well as a meditation on the particular judgement. It is a significant part of the traditional Requiem Mass. Nowadays we struggle to convince people that the Requiem Mass is not simply a celebration of the life of the deceased person but also a sacrifice offered for the forgiveness of their sins. The traditional texts also encourage us to meditate upon the last things. I will take just a few verses to illustrate how we can prepare for the judgement that we will inevitably undergo the moment that we depart this life.

Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit:
nil inultum remanebit.

Therefore when the judge shall sit, whatever is hidden will be made plain: nothing will remain unrequited.

Perhaps in the past we have concealed a sin in confession. Perhaps we have grown in virtue and now realise that things which we excused ourselves in the past were in fact mortal sins. It is a good practice for us occasionally to make a general confession – not scrupulously or too often, but on the occasion of a change in our lives, or on a special retreat when we are determined to give ourselves more completely in the service of God, we can choose a suitable time, or make an appointment, to make a general confession of all the major sins and faults of our life. This need not take long: when people tell me the old joke (as they so often do) “Oh Father you can’t hear my confession, it would take all day”, I always reply “No, the confession can be quite brief, it is the penance that will take the rest of the week.” In fact, we will never do sufficient penance for our sins, but the more that we manage to do in this life, the less onerous will be our judgement.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
quem patronum rogaturus?
cum vix iustus sit securus.

What shall I, a wretched man, say then? What patron shall I call upon when even the just is scarcely safe?

What shall I say then? This question should prompt us to say all that we need to say now, in this life, while there is still time for repentance and conversion of our lives. Then, it will be too late. Now, God gives us time. Our time is so precious that we should not waste a moment of it.

Whether at prayer, at work or at recreation, every moment of our lives should be lived according to God’s will, offered for Him and not for our own comfort. The time that we spend in recreation from our labours should be seen always as an act of charity to others, considering their needs, not our own, even if we have to spend time on our own relaxing in some activity that makes us better able to serve God and show charity to others.

Consider the repentant thief. (Lk 19.40-43) He had but a short time to hang upon the cross next to Jesus before Our Lord, tortured more severely than Him, gave up the ghost. In a few moments he expressed his faith in the Lord’s power to save and was granted by Our Lord that he would be in paradise that very day. His supremely profitable use of a few moments should prompt us to the prayer:

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

I pray, suppliant and prostrate, with heart ground down as ashes: have care for my end.

Contrition is the tearing of our heart in shreds at the outrage that we have done to Our most loving Lord, at the part that we have played by our sins in gouging out the Holy Wounds which we venerate. This may come from a fear of hell or, as is more likely today when people forget the reality of hell, a sheer disgust at our weakness and at having let ourselves down.

This is what we call imperfect contrition. In God’s infinite mercy, when allied with sacramental confession, it is enough. God accepts even this imperfect contrition as availing for the complete forgiveness of our sins and the opening of the gates of heaven.

Much better is that perfect contrition which comes from the love of God. Meditation on the passion of Christ and upon His most holy wounds is a sure way to excite in ourselves that perfect contrition which mourns because we have offended God. Pondering the sufferings of Christ helps us in our weakness to see concretely and in physical terms what our sins, even the least venial sin, does to the incarnate body of the living God come down to visit us.

We will shortly be celebrating the commemoration of All the Souls of the Faithful Departed. We should also try to visit a cemetery during the first eight days of November to gain the plenary indulgence as well as making the act of charity of praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed, especially those for whom nobody else is praying. These pious exercises, as well as attending Requiem Masses and arranging for Masses to be said for the dead, are primarily for the benefit of the holy souls.

However they also benefit us, not only generally as devout practices of Catholics, but also directly because of the prayers that are part of the traditional round of the Churches liturgy. A final prayer that is often said also in the Novus Ordo is a salutary reminder to us of how we should be affected whenever we pray for those who have died:

Grant, O God that while we lament the departure of this your servant, we may always remember that we are most certainly to follow him. Give us the grace to prepare for that last hour by a good life, that we may not be surprised by a sudden and unprovided death but be ever watching, that when you call, we may enter into eternal glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the Lord indeed give us that grace to live a good life of prayer, penance and works of mercy. And may he judge us mercifully when we appear before Him.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Homily 14 September 2012: Glory in the Cross

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself. (Jn 12.32)

Usually when today’s Introit is set out in a text, the reference is given to Galatians 6.14:
mihi autem absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini nostri Iesu Christi per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est et ego mundo

(But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.)

In fact our text in the Liturgy is stronger than the text of St Paul. We are told:

Nos autem gloriari oportet in Cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi in quo est salus, vita et resurrectio nostra per quem salvati et liberati sumus (We should glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in which there is our health, life and resurrection through which we are saved and set free.)

In other words, it is not that we should not glory in anything else, but that we must glory in the cross.
Our feast is closely associated with the finding of the Holy Cross by St Helena, and with the great triumph of the Cross in the liberation of Christians within the Roman empire. In his commentary on today’s feast, the Abbé Gueranger told of Constantine’s vision of the cross and said:

A few months later, October 27, 312, all the idols of Rome stood aghast to behold, approaching along the Flaminian Way, beyond the bridge Milvius, the Labarum with its sacred monogram, now become the standard of the imperial armies. On the morrow was fought the decisive battle, which opened the gates of the eternal City to Christ, the only God, the everlasting King.

Constantine’s adoption of the cross as a symbol was a radical transformation in Roman attitudes to the Cross. Long before Christ, Plautus and Terence used expressions like “I in crucem” (Go to the cross) as a way of saying something like “Go to hell!” the Alexamenos graffito carved in plaster on a wall near the Palatine hill has a crude picture of a donkey on the cross, a man in an attitude of prayer and the inscription probably meaning “Alexamenos worships God.” One soldier taking the mickey out of another’s faith shows his God as a donkey.

That soldier had to glory in the cross in spite of ridicule. Today people lose their jobs because of wearing a cross. The cross was central to the overturning of the fortunes of the Christians from a time of merciless persecution under Diocletian to their liberation just two years after his death. The cross must also be at the heart of our resistance to the encroachment of secularism on the freedom of Christians in Western countries which is growing day by day. We aren’t being thrown to the lions but the unborn and the elderly are being despatched in greater numbers that Diocletian could manage, and Christians are increasingly constrained if they do anything effective about it.

In the Sodality of the Five Holy Wounds, we glory in the cross and take consolation in the sweet and saving power of the sufferings of Christ for our salvation. As well as being justly bold and proud in our faith, we must embrace the cross in daily life, both by chosen penances and daily mortification and by the acceptance of those penances that God sends to us in His providence. If we can learn to bear with and even rejoice in those daily trials, we will have a small glimpse of the happiness of the Holy Martyrs who were unshaken by their torments but worshipped, trusted and gloried in the Cross of our Holy Saviour.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sodality Events this year 2012/13

A new year is upon us and the first event will be the Sung Mass on Friday 14 September 2012, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at 20:00 at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen. The Mass will be followed by a shared supper. All are welcome to this celebration, which will also be the fifth anniversary of Summorum PontificumDeo gratias!

The meeting dates are now fixed for the year and are listed in the sidebar.

We look forward to seeing you at some or all of our events.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Temptation and the Five Holy Wounds

St Romual delivered from evil
There is a wonderful article at Vultus Christi about the link between temptation and the Five Holy Wounds. The author, Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, is Prior of Silverstream Priory, under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle, in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland.

Daniel Mitsui

Chicago-based Catholic illustrator and artist, Daniel Mitsui, has included news of his new logo for the Sodality in his latest newsletter. You can read the newsletter here: . Catch up with Daniel's latest pursuits at his blog: The Lion and the Cardinal.