Being sanctified in the very ordinariness of life

Hellooooo, my dearest readers!!! I have missed the blogging world very much. We have just finished moving house, and moving eight people’s worth of stuff in two weeks is no mean feat, let me tell you. However, exhausted as I am, we are home, and I am once again at leisure to write down a thought or two.

First of all, I must share with you this gem from Neal Obstat. It is one of the most beautiful encapsulations of seeking holiness in everyday life, the very heart and soul of what Opus Dei is all about. Continue reading


The Advent of Advent

It’s true!! Advent IS nearly upon us, unbelievable though it may be. [That statement makes this very relevant:]

This does not mean, however, that Christmas has actually arrived. Advent is the time in which we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s first coming, by preparing ourselves appropriately, and in so doing we also anticipate Christ’s second coming.

It’s always a bit awkward to know exactly how best to prepare oneself though, isn’t it? It’s a penitential season, which we know because everything turns purple, but it’s somehow a bit different.

At any rate, everyone ought to be thinking of some way they can prepare themselves to receive Christ well this Christmas. My own gameplan: Morning and Evening Prayer, to immerse myself in the Scriptures that herald Our Lord’s coming.

What have been your most fruitful Advent commitments? Plans for this year?


A Self-Enclosed Circle

Apologies for the hiatus!! Still in the throes of end of semester. In the meantime, some Papa Ben for y’all:


“The turning of the priest towards the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself. The common turning towards the East was not a “celebration towards the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked together “towards the Lord.” As one of the Fathers of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy, J. A. Jungmann, put it, it was much more a question of priest and people facing in the same direction, knowing that together they were in a procession towards the Lord. They did not close themselves into a circle, they did not gaze at one another, but as the pilgrim People of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us.

Pope Benedict, “The Spirit of the Liturgy”


BXVI: The Narrative of the Inclusive Kingdom

I thought I’d share this tidbit from Pope Benedict’s first volume of Jesus of Nazareth that I read this morning, regarding the secularist reinterpretation of the Kingdom (p. 53)(paraphrased). It tells the narrative of how the evolution of the notions of “tolerance”, “unity” and “inclusiveness”, given ever-wider definitions, have led to the climate of religious and political ideas that we see today amongst certain academic circles in Catholic Theology specifically, but that obviously coincides a great deal with ideas prevalent in wider society as well.

It was claimed that prior to Vatican II the dominant position was “Ecclesiocentrism“, where the Church was presented as the centre of Christianity, interpreted as being somehow in place of Christ, or Christ and His Church as being in competition. This kept us separate from other Christians, for as long as we claim to be the True Church, it implies others are not, and thus is divisive.

Then post-Vatican II there was a shift to “Christocentrism“, yet this did not solve the question of division, for Christ belongs exclusively to Christians.

‘Jesus of Nazareth’ by Pope Benedict XVI

Hence the next transition to “Theocentrism“, which allegedly brought us closer to other religions (which is apparently our goal). However, even God can be a cause of division between religions and people.

Therefore, the move was made (or is in the process of being made) to “Regnocentrism“, the centrality of the Kingdom. Apparently we have finally gotten to the heart of Christ’s message, and it is this position that will help us finally harness mankind’s positive energies and direct them toward the world’s future. Here the “Kingdom” simply means a world governed by peace, justice and the conservation of creation. Working together to attain such a world is the true goal of religions. They are free to live in their respective traditions, each bringing them to bear on the common task of building the “Kingdom”, where peace, justice and respect for creation are the dominant values.

This sounds good, but it leaves a number of questions: how do we figure out what justice actually means, and how we acheive it?

Furthermore, in this “Kingdom”, God has disappeared. “Man is the only actor left on stage.” Religion now matters only insofar as it can be directed towards to political goals of the organisation of the world.

Sound familiar?


A Lazy Man’s Spirituality

From The Catholic Thing:

This is vitally important, especially to a slug like me. I am not always properly disposed or attentive at Mass – a truism that might be lost on those who don’t make Mass a daily priority. Those of us who do make it a priority know that it’s certainly not because we’re particularly holy, or anywhere close to it. In fact, the opposite is the case: We know we’re lousy sinners, and we want to be holy. Getting to daily Mass is just the lazy man’s approach to the matter.

Lazy man’s approach because, as Belloc was suggesting, all you have to do is show up to accrue some benefit. I even confessed this once – that my practice of going to Mass every day seemed like spiritual sloth because it was just too easy. Shouldn’t I be doing more than that? My confessor laughed and pointed out the pride in my question. “Just being at Mass is of infinite value, regardless of your state of mind. . . .After all, it’s Jesus that’s doing all the work. You just have to get yourself in the pew.”

Read the rest here.

Hilaire Belloc (whom the author quotes a fair bit). I think he looks a lot like an actor… but I can’t think who!!



His Sacred Heart Longed for The Mass: First Friday Link-up!

The excellent Laura from Catholic Cravings and Ryan from The Back of the World have a blog dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Every first Friday they do a link-up on a specified theme. Laura has been begging me to contribute something for ages, and this is finally my first meagre attempt. 🙂 The November theme:

With these two feasts, we remember those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection – the Church Triumphant in Heaven and the Church Penitent in Purgatory. In light of this, we would love to see posts with the following theme: “The love of the Sacred Heart is stronger than death.”

I’ll be upfront: I’m going with the theme, but not in direct connection with the feast days. I might link them in somehow, but we’ll see. My claim today is this:

Jesus longs for and institutes the Mass precisely because His love is such that it shoves death aside. Like a boss.

The Love of the Sacred Heart tramples death in the Holy Eucharist

The latin for “heart” is cordis, whence “core”. So the heart is the core of the person. If Jesus is Love Incarnate, and His heart is the core of His Being, what an intense concentration of love the Sacred Heart must be!! I imagine it to be like the density of a neutron star. Check this out:

A neutron star contains a few solar masses of material squeezed into a radius of only 20 km. This means the matter is so compressed that a thimble full of it would weigh millions of tonnes on Earth.

Unpacking the jargon a bit for the unscientific of you: Imagine a distance of 40km. For Sydney-siders, that’s about the distance from Bondi Beach to Blacktown. Now think of all the matter that makes up the sun. Now think of a few suns. Squish ALL that matter into a space about 40km wide.

… yeah. HECTIC.

And the Love of the Sacred Heart is even more “dense” than that!! I pray with St Paul that the immensity of this sinks in a bit:

“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

At this point, we could probably say, “Well, shoot, of course what chance does death have up against that?!” But that’s not heaps theological. So we press on.

This is the Heart that longed for the Mass. Why did He long for it?

Because Love seeks union. And so to effect the union of the Bridegroom with His Bride, He instituted a means to remain with us, in a true communion. This means is the Eucharist, through which He remains incarnationally with us, and thus when we receive Him, we are united with our Bridegroom in the most intimate way possible. We become nigh inseparable from Him, with only our rejection of Him able to drive a wedge between us:

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

But what of death?

Jesus’ self-sacrifice of love is one and the same with the sacrifice of the Mass. There is but one Mass, which we all participate in. In our participation, we receive life:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” 

Furthermore, death is defeated because precisely by dying, Christ took on our deaths, and redeemed them in the Resurrection. We participate in that through baptism, as we are baptised into His death, so it is as though we have died. And by making death the means to life, the love of Christ has thwarted death.

And what of the Communion of Saints? Well, recall that the Mass is one. Therefore, every time we go to Mass, we’re joining with everyone who’s ever gone to Mass, and who ever will, and are participating in the heavenly liturgy which those who have gone to sleep in Christ are already present at! We join the ranks of Mary, the Apostles, St Thomas Aquinas, St Thomas More, (soon to be) St John Paul II, St Augustine… everyone!! Kind of daunting in some ways (like, can these prayer-masters hear how pathetic and distracted my prayers are? how embarrassing!! But good for humility I guess…), but supremely awesome overall.

This isn’t quite the post I set out to write, but it will have to suffice.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

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Sydney Anglicans and Reformation Sunday

As I mentioned earlier, Reformation Sunday just occurred. Although I knew there would be some who would herald it as a great day to remember, it’s still amazing to me that on the Sydney Anglican Archdiocese website they can so readily publish an article with the following quotes: (Don’t Let the Reformation Become History, by Phillip Jensen)

While the Reformation involved political movements, nationalism and even warfare, it was at heart a spiritual and theological reform of people and churches. The gospel had become lost over the centuries of European history.Corrupted by power, the church no longer preached Christ with clarity.

Martin Luther, “Reformer” [oooh ouch ;)]

Claiming that the gospel had been lost completely is a huge claim, and one for which I am yet to see real evidence for, particularly that the Reformed conception of the gospel is the one preached by the early Church. Behind all of the article is the implicit blame laid on the Catholic Church for all the “problems”, although it isn’t mentioned.

The Reformers returned to preaching five great themes: Scripture alone; faith alone; grace alone; Christ alone; and Glory to God alone. The emphasis on “alone” was the removal of the many church traditions that had come to obscure the gospel.

Even a brief perusal of an understanding of Sacred Tradition and “small-t” traditions would reveal that they did not, and do not, in fact obscure the gospel.

 It was one of the struggles of the Reformation to establish the freedom of the Christian’s conscience.

I’m not sure what this even means, but it sounds like another “oppressive Church” claim. The irony is that many of the Reformers’ doctrines actually did away with free will.

The Reformation did more than reform the abuses of organized religion. It was a recovery of the gospel that transformed the very nature of the church.

Again, reference to the “recovery” of a “lost” gospel. Also a dig at any kind of “organised” religion as inherently bad.

Through the work of Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and many more, the great doctrines of salvation were once more hammered out and explained to the people. Their hymns and prayers, books and translations taught their own and subsequent generations the great doctrines of God’s grace in saving us through the death and resurrection of His Son, and of the Spirit’s work in regenerating us to repent and put our faith solely in him.

This insinuates that the Catholic Church wasn’t explaining salvation to people. Every single thing that the Church is, does, and teaches is about salvation. While there’s no denying that there were problems in the Church at the time, the problems were fundamentally in certain practices, in particular clerics abusing their positions. Developing a fundamentally different understanding of the Church and salvation as won for us by Christ, and how it is applied to us and lived out, is completely different to reforming wayward practices. But this is what the “reformers” did.

The fundamental problem with all of this is that what actually happened in the Reformation was not reform, but schism. If real reform had taken place, it would have taken place within the one Church. What happened instead was a protesting breakaway, which has now developed into a plethora of denominations, completely lacking in unity.

One is forced to invent a radically different understanding of Church and sacraments, in fact of most doctrines, in order to disagree with Church teaching. One has to assume that the Church cannot teach with Christ’s authority in order to disagree with her, for if she does speak with the voice of Christ, who could possibly contradict her in any serious way? Thus we have an essentially circular argument happening, wherein the Reformers assume that the teaching of the Church about herself and her authority is wrong, in order to claim that much of the rest of her teaching is wrong. Meanwhile, the Reformers have somehow gotten everything right all of a sudden after all these centuries, despite them not even agreeing amongst each other… :S

It was a gospel understanding that freed us from priestcraft and religiosity, from false doctrine and authoritarianism. During the 16th century a new flowering of Christian understanding, scholarship, evangelism and conversion reformed the church.

More digs at religion, and particularly the priesthood, and therefore, by extension, the sacraments, and ritual, all as inherently bad, and restrictive.

It all came at a dreadful cost as people were persecuted and martyred for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We owe it to the memory of those who died for our freedoms to never lose sight of the Reformation.

The overall tone of this article is holding up the Reformation as a grand thing, where Christians were saved from the oppressive and oppressively wrong Catholic Church. This a.) doesn’t hold up to historical scrutiny, and b.) basically says schism is justified. (Which it’s not. Ever.)

It was because of martyrs like William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer that we have our Bible in English, as well as our Prayer Book and Articles of religion. They, together with many others, died to bring these privileges to us. We forget them at our peril.

Actually, I’m pretty sure the bible was translated into English well before these guys… with the support of the Catholic Church. 

In the centuries that have followed the tribalism and sectarianism even became detached from the great beliefs that lay at the heart of the Reformation.  People took sides because of their family tradition with little understanding of what the Reformation stood for, or against. This has been a sad feature of Australian history. Yet, we will not resolve the differences by ignorance of our background. 

This part, however, I thoroughly agree with. We should be striving to resolve our differences, which requires that we are aware of them. I find all too often that people are not aware, and don’t even care. I think Protestants should be so aware that they should still be actually actively “protesting”, by which I mean, I think they should have thought through and have good reason for not being Catholic.

I haven’t really said much by way of substantial argument, I just wanted to pour out my thoughts on the mistaken assumptions behind this, and to lament the fact that after nearly 500 years, they’re still floating around, and obstructing the path to reunification.