In the Second Reading we have just heard from the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul writes: “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” We all know that prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Yet the reality is we often fail to know how to pray, and perhaps on occasions even fail to pray, or at least fail to pray as we ought.
This article is taken from the Newsletter of the Friends of the Ordinariate (Summer 2020). You can view the article and support the work of the Friends by visiting the website: http://friendsoftheordinariate.org.uk
Letter from America
Washington is a great city for walking. Arriving back in town at the end of a mild winter, I have spent the last few months taking advantage of the lighter evenings and warmer weekends to relearn my way around the downtown area and, more selfishly, to lose a couple of pounds in the process. Happily I’ve found that a good walk from my home at Saint Mary’s in Chinatown to the National Mall, and back again, takes about the same time as a podcast of Choral Evensong on Radio 3. The present restrictions on movement are not as strictly-enforced as seems to be the case in England, and the improving weather (to say nothing of a more flexible routine) means I am still able to take advantage of a daily stroll.
I was recently interviewed on The Cordial Catholic Podcast on my own journey to the Catholic Church and the role and purpose of the personal ordinariates. K. Albert Little, the presenter of The Cordial Catholic, is himself a former Protestant who came into the Catholic Church around the time of Anglicanorum cœtibus.
Every time we come to the Mass, the Lord in His divine providence nourishes us not just with the awesome gift of His Most Holy Body and Blood, but also with His sacred word. The texts of the Mass, the readings and prayers, speak not only to the mystery we celebrate in general terms, but to the particular celebration in its context. Today’s Mass is no exception. Let us begin with a question: Why have Catholics been so frustrated at not being able to attend Mass during the present health crisis? The answer is, I think, found in liturgy today. First, we recall that the Mass is not a thing. It is not just the best form of prayer (though it is); an activity or something we do. It is not the way Catholics ‘do church,’ in contradistinction to other Christians. Rather, the Mass is the Christian life. It is more than a ritual or ceremony or service; it is the action of God in which we, through baptism, are invited to participate. It does not begin with the Sign of the Cross and end with the Blessing; it is the life of the Most Holy Trinity which, through our incorporation into Christ in baptism, is our life also. So for Catholics the Mass is fundamental; essential. In the present crisis food stores and hospitals have rightly been considered essential by the civil authorities. In a very real sense the Most Holy Eucharist is our food and our health, our salvation.
Here is a recent interview with Pierpaolo Finaldi, CEO and Publisher of the Catholic Truth Society, on the life and mission of the personal ordinariates. The CTS publishes Divine Worship: The Missal, Divine Worship: Occasional Services, and Divine Worship: Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying. They are currently working on the Divine Office for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
When I first lived in Washington, DC I had the privilege of living at the parish of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian down on East Capitol Street. The church there is well worth a visit if you haven’t been. Dedicated as it is to the Holy Comforter, the Spirit who strengthens, its decoration is full of imagery related to not only to the Holy Spirit, but also to the feast of Pentecost. Outside there are short quotations from that exquisite Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus, probably written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton, which we hear in this Mass. Inside the walls are painted a deep red, and over the altar a canopy presents the text of the Introit from this Mass: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum; the Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world. The words are apt, for from the top of the canopy small pinnacles seem to leap like flames. And around the church, on its walls, are paintings of the many missionary saints of the Church’s history each with one of these little flames atop their head. The apostles are there, as are their successors; the missionaries of the Church to every land: Saint Boniface to Germany, Saint Francis Xavier to China, Saint Augustine to England, Saint Patrick to Ireland. Each of them is depicted engaged in the work of evangelization, each of them fulfilling that mandate of the Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Tonight, in the strangest of circumstances, the universal Church keeps vigil in anticipation and celebration of the Resurrection of her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. At a time when the world seems cloaked in darkness, when every-day life is curtailed, tonight we commemorate the greatest hope there ever was, or could ever be. Our celebrations have a familiarity marked by the usual symbols of our liturgical faith. Yet at the same time they are characterized this year by something unfamiliar, even frightening. I want to reflect briefly on both.
Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid!
It is tempting to think that in these peculiar times, somehow the mission and work of the Church is put on hold; that we are unable to go about our daily business. Many of us rightly feel sad that our churches are closed, and that the usual round of divine worship and pastoral activity has been forced to grind to an uncomfortable halt. Some may even feel resentment toward those who have made these decisions, whether priests and bishops, or politicians and those in civil authority. Tonight Saint Joseph comes into our midst to offer a different narrative.
Several weeks ago a news story carried a medical warning that people, young and old, are beginning to experience chronic back and neck pain earlier and earlier in life, due to the amount of time spent on their phone. Another article described increased reports of carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the hands, wrists, and arms, due to the repetitive nature of phone use, like texting. When I was having trouble sleeping earlier this year, someone suggested to me using a special app which plays natural sounds to produce a calming effect and help send you off to sleep. Many of us, I am sure, wake up to a radio alarm clock, or sit in the car on the way to work with music playing, or even have the television or radio on in the background at home, even when we are nowhere near it. If you go on the train or the bus, almost everyone will have headphones on, listening away in their own little world whilst the scenery passes them.