|This used to be in every Catholic home...|
Also, just because it isn't absolutely freezing outside, does that somehow make sleeping outside pleasant? It is a shame church's cannot keep such a project going in the longer term and take more homeless people in. The initiative itself is good, the volunteers are kind, of course, but ending it in March suggests to me that it lacks the desire to go beyond a sense of duty. Sleeping in the cold is not fun. Sleeping in the rain probably isn't much fun either. Brighton is crying out for some decent provision for its homeless community. Most of them are thrown to the wolves who are only there to make money out of their misery.
While I was at the Nightshelter I read some of a book by Fr Timothy Radcliffe. It was written in a kind of 'question and answer' style. Fr Radcliffe has this way of saying things so sweetly that even when he is saying things that sound rather like dissent, or agreeing that there needs to be more 'debate' in the Church with regard to the usual issues that obsess The Tablet editorial team, that you still like him even though you're a rabid, foaming at the mouth traditionalist. He has this way of dissenting that it is almost as if he has presented you with a bunch of fresh flowers while he's doing it. You have to re-read what he's said because you know he hasn't said something outrageous, its just that, in a way something's not right. Of course, I don't mean this post to be a personal attack on this Dominican, I just found it symptomatic of a wider problem in the Church in terms of modern thinking about the Faith.
Endless speculation and discussion, debate, about the future of the Church and whether the Church will relax this rule or change that discipline seems to me to be a totally fruitless endeavour. It is even more disturbing when it is coming from a Dominican - or any Religious - because it really makes you wonder about vocation to the Religious life and what that means today. I wasn't terribly angered by Fr Radcliffe's book, it just left me feeling rather cold - perhaps even lukewarm. He says a lot, a great deal, but I just find that he has nothing to say to me.
It is fine Lenten reading, since Thomas a Kempis is urging himself and others to take up the Cross and to embrace it as the only source of true and lasting happiness. He urges the reader to remember Death and our judgment. It inspires awe. His holiness and his love for God just pour out from the pages and make your heart burn with desire for God. For Thomas, to be obedient was to be a king, humiliation to be counted a ruler, subjugation to the authority of the Church true and lasting joy. Everything else to him was vanity and empty, pointless, useless distraction from prayer and the love of Jesus - his eternal Salvation. The world, he said, would forget all the vain intellectuals and philosophers in time. All their words are useless compared to the love of Jesus.
|Kempis: Serious about Salvation|
It is about dying to self in order to rise with Christ and loving the Cross, embracing every hardship, renouncing the world and its vanities for the sake of your soul. It is everything you would expect a religious book to be - explicitly religious, heroic and truly spiritual. It is the kind of book that could transform the life of a sinner and encourage him to become a Saint. It is well known that St Joseph Benedict Labre carried a copy with him in the streets of Rome as he wandered around on pilgrimage to various holy sites in the World.
In one part of Fr Timothy Radcliffe's book, he sneers at times in the Church's life when Religious would overcome impurity and chastity by taking cold showers. Yet, do not recent events suggest that a few cold showers are exactly what the Church needs! I must say, I am kind of useless at Lent. I am absolutely rubbish, pathetic even, at fasting. I am very weak-willed and self-denial is something that I really struggle with. I annually find myself praying more, 'God be merciful to me, a sinner!' I annually find that me and the smack addict down the road have more in common than I thought. How often I run from the Cross!
Just because I am weak-willed, however, does not mean that the Church's great, illustrious and frankly massive tradition of preaching the Cross, self-denial and asceticism as being chief ways of growing closer to God and more holy in your given state of life are wrong. It just means that asceticism is hard and unsavoury as ever it was and that we are found to be wanting and found to be totally dependent on God's grace and mercy.
If the Church, in Her monasteries, convents, seminaries and parishes, even Dioceses, are no longer preaching and promoting a form of asceticism, it will never inspire people to lay down their lives and seek vocations to those places. If they are places of comfort and luxury, worldliness and complacency, then of course they will die because if you want that you can just stay in the world and be of it. The Church will continue to fester in a worldly manner until either God intervenes in a dramatic fashion, or God raises up the Saints necessary to renew Her and lead the way.
|Ascetic and holy: The Year for Priests role model was St John Vianney|
During the Year for Priests, the Pope Emeritus put forward St John Vianney as the role model for all priests and for good reason. His life, as well as being full of the love of Jesus, was modelled entirely on the Cross and the love for God that can only come about through self-denial, obedience and self-forgetfulness. Yet, when the United Kingdom was given the opportunity to venerate the heart of this Saint, only one Bishop, the Bishop of Shrewsbury was interested in it. Coincidence? No. His biographies tell us that, 'the inhabitants of Ars said to each other: "Our priest always does what he says himself; he practices what he preaches. Never have we seen him allow himself any form of relaxation."'
Pray for a holy Pope, holy Cardinals, holy Bishops, holy Priests, holy Religious and a holy Laity. For without the last one is really little hope of the Church obtaining the other five. The first one cannot do it all himself.