Category Archives: Liturgy

Catechetical Resources: Video Clips…

Here are three video clips I’ve found recently which I think will be great to add to our little catechetical ‘stores’ for future use…

Number One. Liturgy (Adult Catechesis) I love this clip! It shows the continuity, difference and complementarity of the liturgical styles of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. We hear quite a bit of talk where people – depending on their own preferences – either bemoan Pope Francis’s liturgy and long for Pope Benedict’s, or on the contrary, enthuse about what a breath of fresh air Pope Francis’s approach is, compared to the supposedly stuffy approach of Pope Benedict. None of these attitudes will do! Let us be faithful to each one. This video shows it wonderfully. Thank you to Fr James’s blog where I found this.

Number Two. Confession (Youth Catechesis) No one beats John Pridmore for evangelising young people on Confession. (In fact, it was his testimony – which I have now heard at least a hundred times 😉 – that made me make my first full Confession at age 17) In the Confirmation session I used to lead on Confession, I always tried to ensure we had a young person give their testimony to the candidates on Confession. There is nothing like a young person, speaking from the heart, and exposing their own vulnerability, to enable young people themselves to go with courage to the confessional and open their hearts fully to Christ. However, if you do not have a young person to share such a testimony, I’d say this little clip is the next best thing.

Number Three. Evangelisation (Young People) This awesome little music video from Edwin Fawcett is ideal for ‘primary evangelisation’ of young people. As I’ve mentioned constantly on this blog, we must never jump straight into catechesis with young people – we need to spend time evangelising, allowing Christ to attract their hearts first. Unless some level of conversion has happened, catechesis will be like empty words to them. Resources for a youth evangelisation retreat are like gold dust – these are the priceless tools we can use to allow God to reach into young people’s hearts and call them to conversion. Edwin is a first-class youth evangelist. (The period of evangelisation in our Confirmation programme always used to include a praise and worship session with him… now he’s onto bigger and better things 😉 ) I love this video – it reaches into broken youth culture and allows God to draw young people to himself.


Come, thou Father of the poor!

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Happy Pentecost! May the Holy Spirit transform our hearts and therefore our Church this day. For those of you who, like me, are reading (or have read) Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism, his words and his thesis are very relevant today:

“lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is no longer optional” p. 20

The Holy Spirit has come today, which is a source of wonderful joy for us, since he is our interior Master, our consolation, our solace, the One who burns with purifying fire to configure us to Jesus… Let’s draw close to Him frequently.

Pentecost confronts me, if I’m honest, with the question of discouragement – particularly if we feel utterly submerged in, and surrounded by, on all sides, lukewarm Catholicism, as Weigel terms it. What is lukewarm Catholicism? It’s Catholicism which isn’t doing what it’s meant to do – penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the world with Christ’s Love, by forming intentional disciples and sending them out.

Are you in that boat? I think most of us are. I asked a group of seminarians what percentage of people they would say were “intentional disciples” in the last parish they were in. “Probably around two,” one offered. “Okay – two percent – probably your average British parish,” I responded. “No,” he said, “not two percent – two people.” We laughed over that one, but I wonder how many parishes that is true for, and if so, the vast majority of us experience lukewarm Catholicism as our Sunday reality – maybe we don’t even realise that’s what it is.

Discouragement comes to mind because around us we may see the Church and its impact far, far from where it should be. Last week many friends were at the HTB leadership conference in the Royal Albert Hall. It’s safe to say that the percentage of intentional disciples in evangelical congregations are far, far greater than in our own Catholic parishes. And this is without the grace and power of the sacraments. Some days the thought floats through my mind that, counting the number of ‘intentional disciples’ I’ve met in my new context on one hand, it may be worth popping into the local evangelical church to find people in love with Christ and committed to evangelisation. (I haven’t done this… yet!)

A day like today – Pentecost – reminds me that the Holy Spirit wants to take this reality and transform it in his power; that God desires on-fire disciples infinitely more than I do; that every prayer I pray that he would raise up many people to be his disciples in the world does not go unanswered.

So, making an act of faith that this is true, we need to think about how we deal with the discouragement that does sneak up now and then:

  • The devil loves more than anything for us to be discouraged. Let’s send negative thoughts packing
  • The moment we turn to our Father with our best efforts – how can we not come away realising how much he loves his son or daughter? How much he blesses our miniscule efforts? How much, how abundantly, he wishes to bless us the more we come to him
  • What situations cause us discouragement? Let’s avoid them if we can (unless we have a responsibility there that no one else can do). No point in attending well-intentioned parish meetings if you leave more discouraged than you arrived
  • What events / movements in the Church increase our hope and console us? Where do we find strength and receive joy? Let’s attend these more frequently
  • In discouragement we see the sad reality of a situation which can then spur us to more prayer and more mortification. We can more earnestly pray our intentions in our Holy Communions / Thanksgiving after Mass / novena… And we can forego the biscuit with our coffee, the chance to put ourselves forward, the ‘smart alec’ remark… mortifications greatly increase the power of our prayers. (I am just writing this here because we rarely hear this)

Today, as we return into Ordinary Time, let us increase our hope and prayer to the Holy Spirit to pour water wherever in our Church he finds parched earth.

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.


Faith that is New and Alive

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I spent one of the most joyful weeks of my life last week in Rome, celebrating the mysteries of Holy Week with our Holy Father. We were seriously blessed. A few of our group greeted him during the Audience, and our week included many other wonderful moments: climbing the Scala Santa on Good Friday; being at the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s; a second-to-none cultural and spiritual itinerary, and being with an inspiring group of young people. 

I came back really loving the messages of Pope Francis so far. I wonder how many of us are already feeling challenged by his words? He is speaking to us constantly about the ‘newness’ of the Christian message, which, for us catechists, is our greatest challenge in handing on the faith. It means that we can never, ever allow ourselves to “get comfortable”, to allow our spiritual lives to slide into something habitual or stale. I have experienced, and I am sure we all have, the danger of becoming even a tiny bit complacent in handing on the faith.

We have a course or programme that “works fine” so we use it every year, without stopping to discern what these particular people need, what the Lord might want us to do differently. 

We’re used to structuring something in a certain way after many years, never questioning whether it produces the greatest fruit, the deepest conversions, for the Lord.

As soon as we get complacent or presumptuous, I find, we’re distanced from the Holy Spirit who is the Master evangelist and teacher, the One who teaches through us.

The Christian message, the Christian event of the Paschal Mystery, is new, fresh, every day, always able to convert and transform us more deeply, always there to make us new in our relationship with the Lord, renewed disciples, ready to go out and evangelise, catechise, again. 

Each morning we wake up, we never know when the Lord might need us to witness to Christ, to explain something to someone, to encourage, to present an alternative outlook, to evangelise, to catechise. Every day, as his disciples, we need to be spiritually “on our toes”, with hearts made new through our prayer and sacramental life, vigilant against sin that separates us from Christ. This is the way, through us, each day, Christ attracts new people to himself. How can we ever get tired of it!

Today, so many of us can see right in front of our eyes that there is an urgency within the Church to hand on the faith; we see the effects of a lack of catechesis for some decades. Precisely because of this urgency, the Church needs, first and foremost, for us to stay very close to Christ, being constantly renewed by prayer, Mass, Confession, by not losing the joy that comes from having our hearts united to Jesus. I heard a priest say recently that a Sister in his community knows when she’s sliding or coasting, because she “loses her joy”. Isn’t this so true? 

I love what Pope Francis, as Cardinal Bergoglio, said to his catechists in Buenos Aires in 2012 about remaining new and alive in our faith (you can read the full letter here): 

There is nothing more opposed to the Spirit than settling down and closing oneself in.  When one does not enter through the door of faith, the door shuts, the Church closes in on herself, the heart falls behind, and fear and the evil spirit “sour” the Good News.  When the Chrism of the Faith dries up and becomes rancid, the faith of the evangelist is no longer contagious but has lost its fragrance, many times becoming a cause of scandal and estrangement for many.  

 

Let’s promise ourselves: the day we stop praying, let’s also stop giving catechesis.


Are you celebrating Hallowe’en tonight?

Illustration Andrew Joyner

I arrived back home in south London this evening to heaps and heaps of autumn leaves blanketing the pavements, and hoards of children, from babies upwards, with their parents, trudging through the piles of leaves and dressed up in exquisite costumes ready for trick-or-treating.

This is a source for some debate in our area. On the one hand, American-style celebration of Hallowe’en seems to have gripped our little corner of London: it’s like a Saturday morning on the Northcote Road – you can barely move for the number of children (only a very slight exaggeration). On the other hand, some parents are adamantly against it. I met recently for a drink with the yummy mummies who were received into the Church in our parish last Easter. We still meet up regularly (thankfully, they are not part of the 75% in London who are received into the Church and soon afterwards lapse). No, I found what they had to say really heartening: they will not take their children trick-or-treating – firstly, because it’s not Catholic (woah! My jaw dropped at that one! I don’t think we ever talked about trick-or-treating during RCIA) and secondly, because it’s too American (sorry to my American readers…) We’re just a bit stuffy.

I’m sitting on the fence. If it’s really just about dressing up as cartoon characters, having fun, getting sweets, I don’t see that it’s too bad. I think Catholic families should do what they can to ‘Christianise’ activities like this – not succumbing to the competitive approach with which pushy parents often come at them. But that goes for any other fun activity…

What are your thoughts? Are you out trick-or-treating tonight?!


5 Quick Takes

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Woah… Not a peep from me for a while! Must be September! Seriously, the last week has been a struggle to stay afloat what with everything starting up and being pulled in millions of different directions. This is the time of year when you want to cut yourself into lots of little pieces in order to manage everything, and when you wonder whether you’re doing anything at all that well. But, there are things I love about September too. That beginning-of-the-year feeling when everything is new and fresh. I’m looking forward to all the children and teens starting their programmes 🙂

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To add to the mix, on Saturday, my sister got married! An extremely, extremely happy day all round. The parish said it was the most Catholic wedding they’d had all year. What really got me was the new translation of the Rite of Marriage, including the Nuptial Blessing before the Sign of Peace: here’s part of it here:

Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery
that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his Church.

Father, by your plan man and woman are united,
and married life has been established
as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin
or washed away in the flood.
Look with love upon this woman, your daughter,
now joined to her husband in marriage.
She asks your blessing.
Give her the grace of love and peace.
May she always follow the example of the holy women
whose praises are sung in the scriptures.

May her husband put his trust in her
and recognize that she is his equal
and the heir with him to the life of grace.
May he always honor her and love her
as Christ loves his bride, the Church.

Wow – really amazing. The whole weekend has been incredibly moving, especially seeing in my own sister and her husband their powerful witness to the vocation to marriage.

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Right before I zipped home for the wedding rehearsal, we had our first parents’ meeting of the year. For the Year of Faith, we’ve planned a full programme for parents (one for primary-aged parents and one for secondary-aged). This one was for the first group, and I introduced the year by talking about what it means that parents are “first teachers” of their children. I showed a powerful clip from The Human Experience on the family, “the project of the human person”, which demonstrates beautifully the strong and intimate bond of the family, the context of our first and strongest experiences. We ended with a period of Adoration.

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This week, we begin our Come, Follow Me programme! I am excited 🙂 This is something I have been interested in and talking about for a long time. It is considered by Maryvale Institute to be the best children’s catechesis available. So we are trying it with our first group of children. They are preparing for First Communion. One downside of Year 1 of Come, Follow Me (for seven-year-olds) is that it does not cover Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Fortunately, these children will cover these sacraments this year in school. The Come, Follow Me sessions will be deeper catechesis, focussed more on interior life. Wonderful parishioners have helped out by creating the stand we needed, donating rugs, and cutting out figures and signs.

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Finally, unless you wanted to be bored to tears, don’t get me started on my dissertation. I am nearly at the point of beginning this final stage of my Masters, and last weekend I spent a weekend figuring out “what all I was gonna do” (as they’d say in Kansas). So: I am focussing on the four dimensions of the Christian life – discovering how heavily the Church references them in relation to catechesis – and investigating to what extent this concern of the Church has been received by catechetical scholars and programmes. I know I speak for myself when I say – this excites me! Not much research has been done into the importance of the four dimensions (or ‘integral’ catechesis) before. However, I understand if it doesn’t quite get you all sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation. Just trust me: this is catechetically important 🙂


The Month of May

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In the parish year, May and September vie with each other for top place in the list of busiest months. Whereas September is full of parents’ meetings, catechist training, and heaps of enrolment forms, May is full of church seating plans, rehearsals, and threats to teenage girls involving oversize cardigans if they rock up at church not dressed appropriately. Both months have their own stressful charms. In the last couple of weekends, our First Communion and Confirmation Masses have gone almost flawlessly: the pashminas stuffed in my bag in case of under-dressed teenagers have gone unused and First Communion children almost mastered the arts of genuflecting without toppling over and processing in a straight line. This weekend we celebrated a wonderful barbecue with our newly-confirmed teenagers in which they signed each other’s Transitions books (these are excellent end of Confirmation gifts – you can get them here!). Next weekend, we celebrate another adult Baptism, and our Pentecost Vigil – which is both a celebration of our parish’s patronal feast, and the end of our catechetical year.


Priestly Ordination

It’s not often that a parish experiences the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of a priestly ordination. What I mean is, it’s not common for a deacon to be in a parish, to be ordained to the priesthood, and then to return to the same parish. Over the last week, we have shared in such an experience, and a joyful few days it has been. Fr James Bradley was ordained to the sacred priesthood on Saturday at St Patrick’s in Soho, and celebrated his First Mass back in the parish on Sunday. The whole weekend was a great joy, and it has received a lot of attention here and here: these are the first ordinations of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham where the priests were not Anglican vicars beforehand.

What it has shown us is the great miracle that is the priesthood: last Friday, Fr James was a deacon preparing for the Ordination Mass, and on Monday morning when parishioners arrived for the early Mass, it was Fr James who celebrated it. When you see the before and after of an ordination, you realise it is nothing short of a miracle that God can take any ordinary man, and transform him so that he can offer Christ’s Sacrifice… mindblowing.

The grace of an ordination can really touch minds and hearts. After the beautiful Liturgies of the weekend, and the sense of youthfulness and vibrancy in the congregations, conversations with people afterwards revealed the power of Liturgy to stir hearts. I think many graces will flow from this ordination.

In itself, it is a wonderful grace to have a new priest in the parish. While the requests for First Blessings keep coming, and while we still get used to calling him “Father” (it’s like learning And with your spirit all over again), there is nothing like this experience to make us, as a parish, more grateful for the gift of priests.

You can read more from Fr James on his new blog: Thine Own Service.