Thursday, 27 September 2007

All things weird and wonderful

I have to say that I always found the notion of Our Lady of Surbiton a little comical. It brought to mind Penelope Keith and The Good Life. Upper-middle-class values, and everything in the most frightfully good taste.
But for the last twenty or so years, one Mrs Menezes claims to have had apparitions and, no doubt is perfectly sincere. But, first the Archbishop of Southwark (both the present one, Kevin McDondald and his predecessor, Michael Bowen) and now the Vatican have very great reservations about, well, not the sincerity of this group, nor their piety, but about whether this really does come from God. And now the Vatican have come down firmly against its authenticity. Fr Ray has posted a substantial piece about it.
I gather that one of their principal aims is to get aborted babies declared to be martyrs and set alongside the Holy Innocents. Clearly, the title of martyr would not be appropriate, because in no sense have these unfortunate babies died as a result of hatred of Christ nor of his Church, but for a number of other reasons, some understandable (though never sufficient), some not. And yet, Pope John Paul II himself widened the concept of martyrdom somewhat in declaring St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) a martyr. She died not because she was religiously a Christian (though of course she was), but because racially she was a Jew. She should have been canonized as a Virgin, and arguably a Doctor of the Church. But in any case, one sometimes gets the impression that Pope John Paul canonized as martyrs anybody who was killed by the Nazis—including vast swathes of Poles. A glance at any page of the new Martyrology will show that. Anyway, back to the movement known as Divine Innocence. Their symbol is not very nice, really—a crucified baby. Abortion is a shocking and brutal business, certainly, but I'm really not sure that this symbol is appropriate.

Meanwhile, in Canada, a group called the Army of Mary have also been condemned, and in this case, six nuns associated with them have also been excommunicated. In this case, their foundress believes herself to be the reincarnation of our Lady. You can read all about it here, courtesy of the Arkansas Catholic.

Now, I don't know what you think of all this, but these are only two manifestations of some seriously weird goings-on here, there and everywhere. In Ireland, statues are held to move in Ballinspittle, and to change appearance in Mellaray. On Achill Island, our Lord and our Lady are in regular touch with Christine Gallagher. Almost every country has these strange manifestations. Some take them to be a sign of the end times.
I, however, have a more prosaic explanation. Our religion has become so puritan in its outward appearence, that people who no longer are allowed the dramas of processions, novenas, 40 hours &c have to get it where they can. So they flock to these strange manifestations of the ?Divine? in order to pour out the devotion that once they would have given the Blessed Sacrament or the statue of our Lady in their own parish church. Secondly, the public expression of orthodox Catholicism has been so downplayed, that people have to get convinced teaching, real talk about God, where they can. And so the natural Catholic instinct comes out in strange lumps, because all the normal channels have been denied for so many for so long. This is just the normal human reaction to repression.
My guess is that these strange things will mostly vanish away if Pope Benedict gets his way in his grand scheme for the Church. Which is why we must pray for a long life and health for him.


Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you for the link.
I remember a visit to Ireland with a priest friend, where everyone seemed to be going off to seers and wobbling statues, and where in so many parishes the only thing on offer was Mass. No wonder the Pope calls for an increase in Exposition, and has been telling the Jesuits to get back to preaching devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Mac McLernon said...

I was under the impression that Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was canonised because her death was a direct result of the Dutch Bishops declaring that what the Nazis were doing to the Jews was wrong, and un-Christian.

The Bishops were told that if they kept quiet, the Jewish converts to Catholicism would be left alone. After prayer and deliberation, the Bishops decided they could not remain silent in the face of such evil. They published a letter, which was read in all churches on the Sunday. One week later, the Nazis retaliated by rounding up all converts of Jewish descent. A week after that, Teresa Benedicta was gassed in Auschwitz.

Ttony said...

Spot on, Father.

Philip said...

Too true! To be blunt, where is the joy.. the fun..? Okay, our faith is a serious business, but it is also a joyful business: Iubilate Deo!

I had an interesting opportunity to compare two very different celebrations of the Assumption this year.

I attended my (Catholic) church and was treated to the same old dreary liturgy - no joy in the fact that our Lady has been assumed into heaven. Apart from the propers, not much else celebrated this wonderful dogma, not even incense.

Later that day, I promised to take my aunt to her (Anglican) church. Granted, it's high, but I've seen higher. But even this modest Anglo-Catholic church started the service with a wonderful procession with an image of our Lady of Walsingham, lots of lights, banners and plumes of smoke. A beautiful polyphonic mass setting, rousing marian hymns (from an Anglican hymnbook - you wouldn't find them in our Catholic 'Hymns Grave and Gay', or whatever that damnable thing is called) and a very devoutly administered communion (at rails, with houseling cloths) ended with another procession to the main shrine of our Lady, where a solemn Salve was sung. After mass, there was a reception with nibbles and wine.

We all know that Anglo-Catholics have a tradition of offereing fine liturgy, but after attending my very 'Low Mass', I felt quite embarrassed and sad.

I felt sure that the loyal band who had attended my church earlier would have lapped up such beautiful liturgy, offered by their own church. For goodness' sake, the Anglicans were imitating what we used to do and it was a wonderfully uplifting experience, even without the ministrations of a validly ordained priest.

If the Catholic Church went back to what was, I think we would witness an amazing revival.

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I have attended services at Hereford Cathedral and they are done beautifully and reverently. The people go forward to receive bread and wine kneeling at the altar rail. Some even receive on the tongue.
Surely we could do the same to receive the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ.

Anonymous said...

i used to read a few of these strange messages..interestingly since being in a parish with devotions such as the 40 hours i don't feel the need...

Philip said...

As Jackie's been saying recently, it's not the form or rite that ultimately matters, just that it should be done well, with access to the wonderful gems of Catholic worship.

WSNS, I know the Dean of Hereford from when he was at Tewkesbury Abbey, he is a very able liturgist and musician.