Monday, 26 March 2012


This blog was set up in order to demonstrate that the Christian faith is a great deal more interesting, mysterious, and beautiful (not to mention true) than many of us grew up thinking. It continues the project I began in The Seven Sacraments and All Things Made New with the aim of contributing to the revival of "mystagogical catechesis". Today in England we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation (displaced by Sunday from the 25th March), following closely on the heels of St Joseph's day. The Annunciation signifies the "announcement" to Mary of God's plan for her – that she should bear the Son of God. The following is extracted from a meditation on the First Mystery of the Rosary in All Things Made New (see Amazon or Angelico Press).

Nothing in her resists the will of God. She is free to oppose it, of course, but why should she? She knows or senses that it is in the will of the creator that the interests of the creature are best defended. Yet the future of the world hangs on her reply to the Angel, for the decision is not mechanical: it is an act she must make her own, a step she must take, which no one can dictate or do for her. Eve was just as free to reject the temptation of the Serpent, yet chose not to do so. The Lord is with thee. In a sense the Angel is the Lord’s presence to her, announcing in these words his arrival and what it means.

In another sense she is the one with whom the Lord is always present. This second meaning is important, for if we lose the Lord, or a sense of his presence, we may find it again by going to Mary. The Rosary is also the story of the Christian soul, and thus Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel may be taken to represent our own encounter with our angelic Guardian. We are thereby approaching that level of our being which Mary represents. We hear the voice of the Angel who is continually in the presence of God, we feel the touch of divine love, the necessary word of guidance. In this meeting with the Angel the purpose of our life is revealed. Our mission is assigned to us, if we will accept it. How will we answer?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Christians and Muslims

In the light of the Common Word initiative, in which 309 (and counting) Muslim leaders and academics from all branches of Islam agree on the truth that Islam and Christianity share common ground in the love of the One God, and love of neighbour, I thought the following passage from the late Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe's book Wherever He Goes: A Retreat on the Gospel of John (pp. 183-5) might be of interest. Fr Philippe is the founder of the Community of St John, and some years ago made several visits to Oxford.
"Apologetic arguments do not carry much weight today – fortunately. The Lord never did apologetics. He spoke the truth. 'The truth will set you free.' This is to be preferred; it is more evangelical. Apologetic arguments are always somewhat rhetorical and express but a partial truth. Today we are in need of a discovery of the truth in all its fullness. 'Why am I a Catholic and not Buddhist?' There are great Buddhists. I have encountered some. [And] I had a Muslim friend who, from what I could gather, had a mystical life, a

Monday, 19 March 2012

The mystery of Saint Joseph (3)

The late Bernard Orchard OSB, a distinguished biblical scholar, gave an interesting meditation on this topic to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2001. He argued that Joseph and Mary approached their marriage just like any other devout Jewish couple, with no intention of celibacy. This is suggested by Mary's surprised response to the angel's message, which Orchard suggests must have taken place very near the end of the normal (one-year) period of betrothal "out of delicate consideration to ensure that no one might suspect that the conception of Jesus had predated the concluding nuptials." Hearing that she was to give birth to the Son of God (he would have to be divine in nature because "his kingship will have no end") she asked, "How shall this be, since I am not knowing a man?" This was not an expression of doubt, and the angel did not take it as such (compare the account of the annunciation of John to Zechariah!), but rather a request for further information. Nor was it, according to Dom Bernard, an indication that Mary and Joseph had already decided to live together as virgins. It referred only to the present moment, being in the present tense,

The mystery of Saint Joseph (2)

"As Son of God, [Jesus] has a Father but no Mother; as Son of Man he has a mother but no father."

In St Joseph in Early Christianity (St Joseph's University Press, 1999), from which this quotation is taken, Joseph T. Lienhard describes the development of two distinct traditions concerning St Joseph. One was that of the Eastern and Orthodox Church, which followed the apocryphal stories about Joseph, designed to make the perpetual virginity of Mary seem more credible, according to which he was an old man, perhaps in his 90s and a grandfather, when he married Mary to be her protector rather than her husband. The Latin tradition followed SS

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The mystery of St Joseph (1)

Just as a scientist can, by using a microscope on some small piece of matter, discover great truths, so the mind of the Church is able to discover great truths in even the tiniest fragment of Scripture (for example, the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and of the Immaculate Conception, which are implied but not directly stated in Scripture). What can we tell from the few precious lines we possess about St Joseph? These few lines tell us he was a "just man", that he at first doubted his role vis a vis Mary and her Child, but that he successfully protected them both, taking instruction from angels in his dreams. On 18 March 2009, Pope Benedict spoke of him in a homily:

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The 40 days of Lent

There is not much about the number 40 in All Things Made New, because although it often crops up in the Bible it doesn't really feature in the Book of Revelation. However, in a recent catechesis for Lent, Pope Benedict VI explored the significance of the number in a way that made clear the importance of number symbolism for the authors of Scripture and the Catholic tradition. He said:
"Forty is in fact the symbolic number in which salient moments of the experience of faith of the People of God are expressed. A figure that expresses the time of waiting, purification, return to the Lord, the awareness that God is faithful to his promises.