Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

The Year of Faith

I am already excited about the Year of Faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published a Note with proposals for living the Year. It is a great Note, with some very concrete suggestions for everyone from the universal Church to episcopal conferences, and from dioceses to parishes. What is significant is the frequent mention of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (woo hoo!), given that the Year of Faith begins on the twentieth anniversary of its promulgation. Catechesis is at the heart of the Year of Faith and the Church in this country is like a dry land when it comes to catechesis… Although for the most part she does not know she is dry.

Faith in Christ brings healing and life - From a Roman catacomb, 3rd Century

So, what gifts does God want to give the Church in this Year of Faith, and how best can we be disposed to receive and respond to them?

There are some more general proposals, such as for each diocese to review its reception of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (and this means both its structure and content) particularly in its catechesis. Two big areas arise here – both the materials we use, in schools and parishes; and the theological formation received by our catechists. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sign if dioceses took this particular call seriously? Not just ticking a box – but looking at the real need for catechetically sound materials and authentic, theological formation of catechists.

I would love to hear your own ideas for the Year of Faith! Here are two very practical suggestions I have taken from the CDF’s note:

1. It is desirable that each Diocese organise a study day on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for its priests, consecrated persons and catechists. I hope Dr Petroc Willey will be in high demand in this Year of Faith to teach such days – his knowledge of the Catechism is second-to-none (perhaps to the Holy Father 🙂 ) – he is truly an expert on this book and this doesn’t seem to be recognised enough.

2. The Note calls for groups of the faithful to work towards a deeper understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Again, Maryvale offers a fantastic Certificate in Studies in the Catechism which would be a superb undertaking for groups of lay people in parishes.

What other ideas do you have? Both within dioceses and within parishes?

The Word of God

This week, as well as enjoying Coldplay’s new album 🙂 I am studying my module on Scripture, and specifically Scripture for catechesis.

I remember when I was in my first year at university, studying Old Testament, New Testament and Greek, how completely disenchanted I became with Scripture. Not in my prayer life, but for study. I didn’t know it then, but the faculty’s approach to Scripture was purely according to the historical-critical method and it bored me to death. Lectures examining sources and genres and fragments were painful to get up for on a Monday morning. And so, in my second and third year, I stuck to philosophy, history and doctrine.

Then, a few years later, I read Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth. I can still remember the joy of clarity and understanding I experienced when I read the Foreword to this book outside one summer’s day. He starts off by explaining the indispensability of the historical-critical method (okay, okay, yawn…) but then goes on to say this:

… it is important … to recognise the limits of the historical-critical method itself. For someone who considers himself directly addressed by the Bible today, the method’s first limit is that by its very nature it has to leave the biblical word in the past. It is a historical method, and that means that it investigates the then-current context of events in which the texts originated. It attempts to identify and to understand the past – as it was in itself – with the greatest possible precision, in order then to find out what the author could have said and intended to say in the context of the mentality and events of the time. To the extent that it remains true to itself, the historical method not only has to investigate the biblical word as a thing of the past, but also has to let it remain in the past. It can glimpse points of contact with the present and it can try to apply the biblical word to the present; the one thing it cannot do is make it into something present today – that would be overstepping its bounds. Its very precision in interpreting the reality of the past is both its strength and its limit.

Suddenley, it was clear why my whole year of studying Scripture had been so excruciatingly dull – the historical-critical method was not enough! We need to understand the books of a Bible as a unity. We have to receive the final form that a Scripture passage comes in as the Word of God, and be less fixated with the supposedly more original fragments that predate it. Thank God, I thought, that the work of an exegete is more than just an archaeologist or historian as the year I spent studying Scripture suggested to me.

Now I am reading some wonderful documents which put everything into perspective. For example, try reading The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, or this address given by the then Cardinal Ratzinger to theologians in New York in 1988.

In Jesus we glimpse the full meaning of the Scriptures

Our background knowledge of these issues as catechists (especially of adults and teenagers) is vital: we need to be able to answer questions about the historicity of different parts of the Bible, explain the dating and the historical contexts in which they were written which shed light on their meaning, as well as teach the divine-inspired “types” in Scripture – demonstrating that all of Scripture points to Christ and finds its meaning in Him.

World Youth Day Madrid 2011

Welcoming the Holy Father to Madrid

Where do I begin?! 

I’m back from the most unforgettable ten days of my summer 🙂 

Let’s be honest – part of me thought that, at twenty-six, I was a bit old for World Youth Day, but Christ ALWAYS surprises. 

WYD has been full of so many diverse experiences. One of the best things was our group: we had a group of 85 amazing, talented, generous and fun young people. They came from many different backgrounds, schools and universities, and it was beautiful to watch friendships developing over the week and the group becoming really close. On the one hand, WYD is an inspiring experience of the universal, worldwide Church. But on the other hand, our group shared a more intimate experience of the Church each morning – we were blessed to have our own chapel in the crypt of the church where we stayed, and here we had a half-hour meditation each morning, followed by Mass, and on some days, catechesis. For me, these were really worthwhile moments of the day – it ensured that World Youth Day was an interior experience for us, as well as the more dramatic, external, exciting experience…

It might seem incredible that, as one person in a crowd of 1.5 million, you can experience the personal call to conversion. You might think that in a crowd that size, you feel pretty anonymous and insignificant. But amazingly, the experience of World Youth Day is the opposite. I was aware, without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ had called each one of us personally to be there. He was intimately present to each young person’s heart, knowing and loving us more deeply than we know and love ourselves. That love is experienced too through the great love of the Holy Father for the youth, who stayed with us in the rain, who did not abandon us. The depth of the call to personal conversion definitely takes you by surprise – Christ wants total holiness from us, not mediocrity, nothing half-hearted. He showed the completeness of his love, and invites us to give our complete selves too.

Finally – the role of suffering in World Youth Day! Yes, the Holy Father offers a plenary indulgence to the pilgrims, surely because the sacrificial aspect is like Purgatory itself! One of the life-giving things about the penitential parts of World Youth Day is that you are all in this together. Nowhere have I felt this more than in Madrid. On the five-hour walk in blazing heat to Cuatro Vientos, there was a severe shortage of water and shade. When we arrived at Cuatro Vientos, there seemed to be even less water and shade and, to top it all, a shortage of toilets. And stampedes of people crushing together whenever you wanted to get anywhere. Several people in our group fainted. Extreme conditions bring out both the worst and the best in people. It humbles you, because you realise how much you need the people around you, and how much they need you. World Youth Day forces you to forget your independence, your needs, and the standards of comfort you expect in your normal life, and to stay in solidarity with others. You have a choice – either you can fight for your own needs over others; or you can let go and realise your solidarity with everyone else who shares the same needs you have. 

I believe that somehow, this element of sacrifice and suffering heightens the joy that is characteristic of WYD. The same goes with sleeping on the floor and cold, communal showers for ten days – I am sure our group was closer and stronger because of these things.

Thank you, Holy Father, for being with us, for loving us! ESTA ES LA JUVENTUD DEL PAPA!!!


August is all about HOLIDAYS and I will be out of the parish now until (a very busy) September. In just a few hours I’ll be heading off on holiday number one with some family and friends. Here is a beautiful passage from the Holy Father, which expresses my hopes for this month:

“In this summer period many have left the city and find themselves at tourist sites or in their homeland for their vacations. My wish for them is that this awaited rest serve to strengthen their mind and body, which, given the hectic course of modern existence, daily undergoes a continuous fatigue and strain. The holidays also afford a precious opportunity to spend more time with relatives, to visit family and friends, in a word, to give more space to those human contacts whose desired cultivation is impeded by the rhythm of daily duties. For many, vacation time becomes a profitable occasion for cultural contacts, for prolonged moments of prayer and of contemplation in contact with nature or in monasteries and religious structures. Having more free time, one can dedicate oneself more easily to conversation with God, meditation on Sacred Scripture, and reading some useful, formative book. Those who experience this spiritual repose know how useful it is not to reduce vacations to mere relaxation and amusement.”

Don’t you love him?! It is true that when we go on holiday our daily structure goes out of the window and we often forget about prayer and spiritual reading. But the Pope is saying we need to pray and read Scripture MORE – this is a real test of where our love lies!

Will be soon somewhere near here....!

Very soon I’m heading off somewhere quite near the Holy Father’s homeland 🙂 and looking forward to seeing him later this month in Madrid. Happy holidays!

Vocation: what you do with your love

I once heard someone say that your vocation is ‘what you do with your love’. If we are trying to live out God’s will day by day, we’re all living our personal vocation right now, even if not yet in the vocation or state of life to which God has called us for our whole life. It is really interesting to look at your life and ask yourself: to whom or to what do I give my love – my time, energy, passion? What do the events of my life or how I use my time reveal?

When he came to this country nearly a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI said to young people: “I ask each of you first and foremost to look into your own heart, think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and also love it was meant to give, after all we were made for love” (18th Sept, 2010). For young people, the single life before marriage or priesthood or consecrated life should be a ‘school of love’, receiving the love of God into our hearts, knowing ourselves and finding our identity completely in Him, so that we can pour out our love into our vocation when that time comes.

A couple of weekends ago, I was at the first talk of the Invocation festival in Birmingham. Fr John Hemer was the speaker and he said, memorably, that the young person who spends their life partying is at least on one level following their desires – unlike the ‘couch potato’ who does not know what they desire anymore. At least the party animal is doing something with their energy and passion, albeit in a ‘disordered’ way: the couch potato however is doing nothing with their heart – neither giving or receiving love. This is for what we were made! Love, relationships, family. This plan for human life is written in the very heart of God himself.