Monday, September 20, 2010

Peter in England II

The history of the Church in England is crucial to an understanding of the profile of the Church among English and American Protestants, and to put into context the extraordinary course of events currently unfolding.

One of my favorite sources are the two recent and historically dramatized (and from a purely Protestant perspective that unwittingly reveals the Catholic one) movies about Queen Elizabeth—Elizabeth and Elizabeth, The Golden Age—who was one of the harshest persecutors of Catholics at that time.

The wrap-up of the Holy Father’s visit is noted by Chiesa.

An excerpt.

“ROME, September 19, 2010 – On this, his fourth and last day in the United Kingdom, Benedict XVI has elevated to the honors of the altar Blessed John Henry Newman, during the Mass celebrated in Cofton Park in Birmingham (in the photo).

“In the homily, the pope again brought to light the relevance of Newman's vision, in particular for teachers and priests.

“In the afternoon, also in Birmingham, in the chapel of the Francis Martin House of Oscott College, Benedict XVI met with the bishops of England, Scotland, and Wales.

“In the speech he addressed to them, he insisted on the revival of evangelization, on the fight against pedophilia, and on a more devout celebration of the Eucharist with the new English translation of the missal.

“The pope also urged the bishops to be "generous" in welcoming the Anglican communities that want to enter the Catholic Church: "a prophetic gesture that... helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity."

“Below are the final part of the homily and the salient passages of the speech to the bishops.


“[...] The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing "subjects of the day". His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.

“I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as "The Idea of a University" holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it" ("The Present Position of Catholics in England", IX, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

“While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: "Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you" ("Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel", in "Discourses to Mixed Congregations", 3).

“He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven: "Praise to the Holiest in the height / And in the depth be praise; / In all his words most wonderful, / Most sure in all his ways!" ("The dream of Gerontius").


“[...] In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next. As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you. Moreover, many of the new ecclesial movements have a particular charism for evangelization, and I know that you will continue to explore appropriate and effective ways of involving them in the mission of the Church. [...]”