Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How many lives to give? St Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and the Forty Martrys of England and Wales

I am proposing that the Anglican Use group in the Philippines have for one of its patrons St Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila. St Lorenzo Ruiz was a layman, married,a catechist and an acolyte. He served the Parish of the Most Holy Rosary in Binondo, Manila but was accused of killing a Spaniard. Thus he set out with Dominican missionaries to Japan in 1636 to escape these accusations. St Lorenzo is the patron saint of Filipinos overseas.

St Lorenzo and the 40 English and Welsh martyrs lived in the same century long period of the Reformation and the counter Reformation which impelled the Catholic Church to go on evangelizing Asia and the Americas. This was of course under the patronage of the Spanish and Portuguese monarchs. St Lorenzo reached Japan with his companions but was immediately arrested for Japan by then banned Catholic Christianity and ended the "Christian Century" of Japan. Adherence to Christianity was treasonous.

 The 40 Martyrs lived in a time when Catholicism was banned and adherence to the faith was treason. The Reformation almost ended the millennium long history of the Catholic Church in England.

In a sense Japan and England were in the same boat. They were advanced societies with  magnificent cultures and viewed Catholicism as a threat to their existence. The Catholics were made to suffer the torture of the rack, quartering and being hung.

St Lorenzo Ruiz and some of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales when brought to the site of martyrdom  said almost the same thing.

St Lorenzo of Manila: "If I had a thousand lives, all of them I offer to Him"

St Anne Line of England:  "I am condemned to die for harbouring a Catholic priest and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand"

St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel (upon being offered by Queen Elizabeth I that for him to attend Anglican services he will regain his freedom):"Tell Her Majesty, if my religion be the cause for which I suffer, sorry I am that I have but one life to lose."

These martyrs were did not hesitate to give their lives even for a thousand times. Thus they continue to inspire.

Wither "the Branch Theory"?

Over the years as the Industrial Revolution took hold and the world's population traveled and communicated more and more across boundaries, the world and the Catholic Church have become much more aware of its diversity.

Intellectually awareness hasn't changed. Intellectually people have always understood diversity. But seeing it is a different matter. Now diversity is a personal experience thanks to jumbo jets whizzing people and television and computer screens beaming images.

The Catholic Church as a group -- its bishops, priests and laymen in all the far-flung dioceses -- have also become much more aware of its diversity. Pope John Paul II was the first jet-setting Pope, visiting countries, meeting with strangely vested Catholics from other countries, all live on CNN. And at his funeral, 24-hour cable channels showed worldwide those same differently dressed Catholics worshiping and grieving next to their white Western European co-religionists.

This recognition of diversity has led the Church's bishops and priests to be much more aware of approved liturgies. Satellites, telephones, and now the internet has made it much easier for these grassroots Catholics to learn about and allow all the different diverse approved liturgies.

These changes have helped make Anglicanorum Coetibus possible. Catholics far away from Rome are much more aware of who is and who is not in communion with Peter.

I thought of all this when reading the post about the Branch Theory on Anglican Patrimony. The Branch Theory was developed back when grassroots Anglicans and Catholics were far less aware of the diversity of the Catholic Church, and therefore Catholics in particular were much less willing to accept deviation from their local norm. How could they be sure that this strange practice was licit? With technology, came more knowledge and acceptance of diversity, and a better understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches in all parts of the Church.

I suspect that as the diversity of the Catholic Church becomes even better known by those in the pews in Anglican and Catholic parishes, the attractiveness of the Branch Theory will lessen. The intellectual, theological arguments have not changed and will still be debated among intellectuals and theologians, but the meaning of those arguments, the images in one's brain that those words elicit, has changed for those in the pews. Fewer and fewer in Western countries when hearing the words "the Catholic Church" today think only of white European bishops dressed in European vestments.


The particular passage that led to these thoughts is this one:

This is strikingly evident in the two prevailing interpretations of the Portsmouth Statement (from which Bp Strawn quotes selections) and Anglicanorum Coetibus and its Complementary Norms. Those who still hold to some form of Branch Theory interpret it as Bishop Strawn did. Those who have rejected the Branch Theory interpret these documents understanding that there is no separating submission to the See of Peter from being in communion with the See of Peter. Thus key words and phrases like "absorption," "in communion," "Catholic," "Roman Catholic," etc., mean different things to the two parties.
Words have meanings at a deeper level than the intellectual. When words are used, images are associated. The two sides, as discussed in this post, have competing images. When they close their eyes and mediate on "the Catholic Church" and "the Roman Catholic Church", competing visions are seen. This is not just an intellectual disagreement that can be solved by appeals to scripture, tradition or reason. Technology has changed those visions and has changed, and will change, the debate and the outcome.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why be afraid of the Pope?

Pope John Paul II published his biggest bestseller "Crossing the Threshold of Hope"  in 1994. The first chapter is entitled "The Pope"  A Scandal and a Mystery.

With some Anglicans in England deciding in Synod to form a Society of Sts Wilfrid and Hilda to "fight on for the catholic faith" within Anglicanism, this society becomes an alternative to the Ordinariates offered by Rome. This has sparked a lively discussion in the Anglo Catholic blog. This comes on the coattails of news that a TAC bishop in the USA will not join the Ordinariate.

I am of the opinion that if these Anglo Catholics cannot yet accept the ministry of the Pope of Rome, then it would be best if they try to soldier on for the catholic faith in Anglicanism and muster the needed courage to take that plunge. But perhaps it would help us if we can reflect on the most muddleheaded and weak willed of the Apostles. His name is Peter. John Paul II in his book starts off with the challenge from God "Be not afraid". Mary, Joseph, all the saints and martyrs came to a point in their lives where this challenge was offered.

My favourite episode in the Gospel is the one about catching a lot of fish (Luke 5). I can relate to this since as a marine scientist, I go on boats, try to collect specimens and oftentimes fail to get them. If some idiot at the end of the day tells me to go one more time at sea, I would say "Will you leave me alone. I am tired"

The same thing confronted Simon Peter. But probably in trying to convince Jesus that there is none to catch, he agreed to do as Jesus told him "Duc in Altum" or launch into deep water. That indeed is the best metaphor for faith. Now I am reminded about my folks convincing couples to "take the plunge" into marriage. That too is a sign of faith. I like Duc in Altum since a lot of aquatic animals have altum in their scientific names!

Peter upon realizing his foolishness said to Jesus "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man". This is a challenge to Jesus and being God this is something he cannot do! Jesus challenged Peter to be not afraid and be fishers of men.

According to John Paul II, the office of the Papacy lies on this statement alone. A man so much as a sinner like Peter can carry on an office of immense importance. Over the years we have called the Pope as "His Holiness" "Vicar of Christ"  or "Supreme Pontiff". In the Reformation, some were scandalized by these titles and in their fear called the Pope as "Antichrist".  In our human weakness most likely due to fear of the unknown, we cannot accept the Pope's ministry.

And Peter himself could not accept (out of fear) even until the fact of the Resurrection that a man like Jesus who claimed to be Divine can be treated in a horrible way. But when the Spirit revealed to Peter who Jesus really is, he never denied him again.

And that is the issue at the heart of a Catholic life. Can we accept the authority of a mere man, a Bishop of Rome but our servant first, because Christ willed it as such?

Perhaps we can reflect on St Augustine's words to dispel the doubts "Vobis sum episcopus, vobiscum christianus"

I am a bishop for you but a Christian with you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Prayer for the Anglican Use in the Philippines

Father in heaven, you who first brought the Prayers in English to our land through the missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America and found hospitable ground in our  pine clad mountains and  palm fringed coasts, grant that strengthened by your Holy Spirit we continue to serve as missionaries without "building an altar over another" by strengthening the Anglican heritage in your Church in the Philippines, that we may all be one, in hope, charity and renewal, as we bring forth to our land and to far off shores the message of your salvation, we ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ to your glory, Amen.

Holy Mary ever Virgin, Our Lady in her various Filipino titles and of Walsingham

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and Blessed Pedro Calungsod, laymen, catechists and martyrs.
Saints Thomas More and John Fisher
Saint Edmund Campion and the English Martyrs

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
Saint Elizabeth Seton
Blessed Pope John XXXIII

Bishop Charles Henry Brent and Father John Staunton

Pray for Us to God

How to apply to the Ordinariate and some thoughts on the Ordinariate

Our good friend Mr Shane Schaetzel sent us a Facebook message with an important link to the St Augustine of Canterbury Society. This is with regards to the Holy See giving the go ahead for the US Ordinariate. Anglicanorum Coetibus says that anyone wishing to join the Anglican Ordinariate must manifest their intention  in writing to the appointed delegate responsible for this. Our friends from St Augustine posted examples of application form letters which could be found here.

The letters cover all sorts of situations which a person who has truly found his/her calling in Anglican Catholicism. You have letters for Episcopalians/Anglicans, non Catholic Christians, Roman Catholics who were former Anglicans, Roman Catholics who were former non Catholics but not from Anglicanism,  and ta dahhhh (drumrolls), Roman Catholics who were Roman Catholics and still are Roman Catholics and who would want to be Roman Catholics again but with an Anglican flavour!

In the last category, belongs dear old me. I belong to the first generation of Novus Ordo babies. In fact Novus Ordo is as almost old as I am! The only sacrament I received in Latin was baptism when my Mother insisted that I get the sacrament from the Jesuits.  I cannot at all remember a Tridentine Liturgy. Not even the 16 mm film my uncle took of the christening can help me recall. The damn film clip is as good as a silent movie! Then not long after that the New Rite of baptism was introduced. Growing up, I remember alternating attendance at Roman Rite Novus Ordo Masses and the 1928 BCP services. But  almost immediately int he 1970s the 1928 services went the way of the Latin Mass for the more trendy 1979 American Prayer Book (whose Rite II Eucharist is not that different from the Roman Novus Ordo,)

The experience  of  my generation of Catholics was best and most hilariously told in the "Growing up Catholic" series of books.  My best friend who belongs to a family of Episcopalians and Roman Catholics and also alternated between Novus Ordo and BCP as a boy, has all the books. The part in which the authors ask the two important questions

"Who do you wish were Catholic?"

Answer: "All Episcopalians"


"Who do you wish were not Catholic?"

Answer: "Madonna"

Always had me in stitches!

It is said that Anglicanorum Coetibus  and its norms were designed for TAC (which must be eternally lauded for having the courage to write our Pope), and since it wouldn't be polite to exclude the Anglican Communion and the other Continuing Anglican Churches from its coverage, it was understood that people from these communions can join the ordinariate. However the AC was never meant for Roman Catholics (after all, how could you join the Roman Church if you are already in the Roman Church?)

But it appears that  vast majority of interest in joining the ordinariates are from Roman Catholics, followed by Christians of other denominations. While many Anglo-Catholics have signified their intention, their numbers are small compared to the Roman Catholics who want to join. Many Anglo-Catholics still waffle at the Papal offer, but many Roman Catholics will gladly have the Holy Waffle for breakfast! Now we will have to see how Rome will deal with this. Many priests (Anglican and Roman Catholic) have told me that it would make bad pastoral sense if Rome does not allow Roman Catholics to join the Anglican Ordinariate.

The Anglican Ordinariate being equivalent to a territorial diocese is a particular church. And as Pope John Paul II preached in his homily celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Church of Manila in 1996 " The Church is a living body. As any living body, she comes to a stage of maturity when she can give life to other Churches like herself" The Ordinariate will give life to other Churches, all in communion with the Church that gave life to her, the Church of Rome. By the same witness, the Ordinariate may in God's time bring back the Church of England and the churches that she gave life to (this I say includes TEC!)  to communion with the Church that first gave life to her, the Church of Rome.

The Philippine Anglican Use group is an example of what Rome did not expect. Episcopalians, cradle Roman Catholics, Protestants and even at least one Orthodox Christian have signified interest in joining. And this in a country where the Anglican presence is small as the nation has an overwhelming Roman Catholic majority. This is what Father Longenecker calls the "Springfield Spirit".  But  will there be a Filipino Anglican Ordinariate?

I believe there will be. It may be beyond what AC mandates at present since it will bring in more than Anglicans. It all takes is the faith the size of a mustard seed!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Please join in prayer for upcoming UK Synods

The Church of England is divided into two Provinces, Canterbury and York, each ruled by an Archbishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion (Wikipedia here), making the Archbishop of York the number two guy in the Church of England, number three if you count the Queen.

The Anglo-Catholic reports that this week in each province there will be a synod. They are asking for prayers:

These Synods, occurring as they will between the recent General Synod of the Church of England and the National Assembly of Forward in Faith are of tremendous importance as our Anglican people consider their possible future in a personal ordinariate in the Catholic Church. I would ask all of the readers of The Anglo-Catholic to keep the clergy attendees in their prayers!
An update was added:

Would you also all pray for the Ebbsfleet Lay Conference on Saturday 25th September? Representatives of the laity will be meeting to discern the way forward in relation to the Ordinariate proposal.
Please add them to your prayers as they continue to struggle with the ramifications of recent votes in the Church of England. May the Holy Ghost be present with them, comfort and guide them in their journey, wherever it may lead.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Secularism in a Buddhist society

Bangkok, Thailand- I had an interesting chat with a professor from Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. He notes with alarm that since undergrads have to study specialized subjects for their degrees, Buddhist ethics has been swept away in the curricular revisions. The professor teaches sociology of religion. He notes that as Thailand becomes more affluent, urbanized and secular, the "pillars" of Thai society, a big one is Buddhism and of which he believes is slowly being marginalized. This I find quite surprising but there is some reason to believe the professor.

While Buddhism appears to be as far as I can get in a blog post on Anglican Use, I can't help it but relate this to Pope Benedict XVI's recent trip to Britain where he warned about a secularism that marginalizes religious belief from the public sphere. The Pope's visit and the magnificent ceremonials, in state and church functions, tells much about the Christian foundations of British democracy.

In a sense Thailand is like England. Buddhism is the state religion and the country has a monarch whose duties include maintaining Buddhism. Buddhism however unlike state established Christianity or Islam, has been historically tolerant of other beliefs. Thus there is freedom of belief in Thailand. In fact one of the murals at the Royal Palace shows a 19th Century Thai King meeting with papal envoys from Rome.

The professor has an interest in how the secular and religious interact in the Philippines. The Philippines is by law a secular state but in reality there is no clear dividing line between the secular and the religious. Also, he notes that Filipinos like Thais are largely tolerant of religious diversity even if there is a majority faith in society. The professor asked me about how the secular has gained grounds in Filipino society. I said that it is related to affluence and the changes in what the family is all about.

Religious instruction in Thailand and the Philippines begins with the family. If the family unit changes in its nature, then expect the nature of religious belief and expression to change. In Thailand, it is customary for young men to spend some time as monks, the King not excepted when he was a young man. But as society becomes urbanized, less and less young people spend time as monks. So one may note that fewer and fewer saffron robed monks walk the streets of Bangkok.

He told me that a reason for the political troubles in recent months which led to acts of violence that shocked many Thais and friends of Thailand, is the gradual abandonment of Buddhist values and ethics in favour of a more materialistic worldview. I myself could not believe that such can happen in a tolerant Buddhist kingdom. 

At the hotel, while channel surfing the cable TV, I hit upon a Buddhist network and with the English subtitles of monks preaching their message, it hit me that there is a strong "evangelical" message of protecting the idea of family, respecting mother and father and ultimately honouring the King.

It seems that Buddhism and Christianity may have a lot more in common even if appearances are different.

Anglican Use "fans" as I put it likely share with the Thai Buddhists  the need to protect the idea of family. And this is best done in the context of a faith tradition.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cardinal John Henry Newman, a saint?

Well, the Church hasn't recognized him as such, at least not yet, but she takes another step toward doing so this Sunday, September 19 (later today), when Pope Benedict XVI beatifies him.

Before Cardinal Newman joined the Roman Catholic Church he was an Anglo-Catholic member of the Church of England, indeed a founder of the Anglo-Catholic Movement, and specifically of the Oxford Movement (more info can be found here, here and here).

As is befitting a movement named after, and founded in, a great university town, it was a very intellectual and write-full (if you will) movement, and Cardinal Newman was right at the forefront. His writings can be found all over the net and in the better libraries and bookstores. Search, download and read up.

The official website for the Pope's visit has a full section on Cardinal Newman including material about and from him. You can find it here:

The Cause for the Canonisation of Cardinal Newman website is even more chock-full of his writings and writings about him, and it can be found here:

Please add you favorite Newman links, quotes, writings, stories, etc.

The image above is of John Henry Newman and is taken from the official Papal visit website. Specifically it can be found here. I believe it is an image in the public domain and so I hope they don't mind me appropriating it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Pope gets a dose of Anglican patrimony at Westminster, the Abbey and Hall

Benedict XVI is the first Roman Pontiff to worship in Westminster Abbey. With the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Bishops of the Established Church, the clergy of other Christian churches, the Pope led the Evening Prayer and prayed at the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor. With the singing of hymns and the Anglican Chant, I observed the Pope had that "twinkle" in his eyes as he was immersed in Anglican patrimony.

Previously, the Pope was at Westminster Hall, the great hall in the Palace of Parliament where the Lords and Commons usually sit to hear world leaders. The Hall is forever hallowed in English democracy for it was here that Thomas More, Edmund Campion and other Catholic martyrs were tried. King Charles I and William Laud the Archbishop of Canterbury were also tried here and they are revered by the Anglican Church as martyrs. With the intelligentsia, former Prime Ministers, Dons of the Ancient Universities, and the Lord Bishops here the Pope essentially spoke to the British establishment about the dangers of moral relativism in civil society.

Benedict XVI said   

“If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy”.

The history of the 20th Century is a clash between totalitarian ideologies and democracy. Democracy was victorious as it held on to an ethical sense of right and wrong not based on social consensus or mores, but on the Natural Law. The Pope rightly reminded the British Parliament on their abolition of slavery, which the rightness of the cause lay on the inherent dignity of the human being, which comes from the Creator himself and not on a changing social consensus.

These are issues that the Philippines and its people have to face as the Philippine Establishment borrows Western Secularist positions without much reflection on these.

The Pope's most political words were on the lack of ethical underpinnings on global capitalism that has led to the misery of millions of the world's people as a result of the recent financial crisis.  

His Holiness gave his message in the clearest possible way and now we are trying to digest what it is all about for the message from the "Pilgrim from Rome" is more radical that we have thought when we first heard it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pope visits Britain

The Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI today begins what the media considers "controversial" visit to Britain. But all Papal visits are controversial since at every time in history, the Papal ministry is a sign of contradiction. Benedict's visit is a Sign of Contradiction with respect to the abdication or reason in English society.

Unlike the visit of John Paul II in 1982, this visit does not have those hopeful ecumenical "mirages" like when the Pope visited Canterbury Cathedral and joined the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie at prayers. The world has since changed then. Britain and much of the world has become secular and this secularism has been elevated to a religion. This secularism has seen itself like a religion combating another religion. The basis of this secularism is a relativist morality.

Benedict comes to Britain to beatify the famous Anglican convert to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman. This is in itself a great Sign of Contradiction since Newman came to Catholic belief through the exercise of reason and faith. One cannot stand alone by itself. Newman's philosophical opus "A Grammar of Assent" says that quite eloquently.

Moral relativism at its very root is an abdication of reason  and thus Newman's example is hoped to inspire people to revisit their faith. Newman is also a witness for toleration, which the Evangelical Secularists have long discarded.

Moral relativism which ultimately results in cognitive relativism is a root for the mockery of Science and nothing like Richard Dawkins declares this so well. 

Anyone who has been to England will know that this sceptered Isle has English loonies like Tatchell, Hitchens and Dawkins and English mighties like Newman, Wallace, More and Darwin! BTW, these examples I listed have nothing to do with Religion except the loonies or poopers have one thing in common. They have thrown reason into the rubbish bin!

I Protest not the Pope but the Poopers!

The Pope comes into the "geopolitical centre" of moral relativism and its obnoxious result, the culture of death and is ready bear witness.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anglican Use Philippines Chapter meets at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice

The Anglican Use Chapter of the Philippines met at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, Sunday, 12 September 2010 at University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Quezon City. In the picture are from left to right, Mr Bruce Hall, lecturer of history at the UP Visayas in Iloilo, the Rev Father Joseph P Frary of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines and professor of systematic theology at St Andrew's Theological Seminary, the Rev Father Raymond Arre, Parish Priest of Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman, Mr Ren Aguila MA, of Ateneo de Manila University, and yours truly, Dr Ben Vallejo Jr of the UP College of Science.

The meeting begins the task of organizing the AU Philippines Chapter in pastoral, liturgical, organizational and financial matters. The tasks ahead include organizing the AU Evening Prayers, getting the local Catholic bishop's endorsement and getting funding support for AU Philippines activities.

We would like to thank all the people who have remembered our intentions in their prayers. The following have to be mentioned, our respective families, the Rev. Father Nonong Belarmino of the Opus Dei, Mr Pinoy Catholic, friends from the Ateneo de Manila, friends from the Episcopal and Anglican Churches in the Philippines and overseas, Mr Joe Blake, President of the Anglican Use Society, USA, the Rev Father Eric Bergman, chaplain of the AU Society in the USA, the Rev Father Christopher Phillips and the Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio, Texas and Mr Christian Campbell. If we forgot someone, we ask for your dispensation.

The work still has a long way to go. We still ask readers for your prayers. We are only five workers in the vineyard but the harvest is great!

Our Lady under the titles of the Philippines and Walsingham

Pray for us

Sts Thomas More and John Fisher

Pray for us

St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

Pray for us

St Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Laymen-Missionaries and Martyrs

Pray for us

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Theologian

Pray for us

Blessed John XXIII, Pope

Pray for us


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Latin version of Anglicanorum Coetibus

The Vatican has just released the official Latin text of Anglicanorum Coetibus here. Latin is and remains as the official language of the Catholic Church and is considered as the definitive version. Anglicanorum Coetibus was first published in English and the Latinists  have had a field day starting to see where the English meaning of the words and phrases and the Latin ones diverge.

I'm no Latinist and never have been or pretend to be one. My only exposure to Latin is not in the Latin Mass (for I am truly a Novus Ordo baby. I was christened in the same year the NO was introduced!) but in doing my biodiversity PhD where I had to learn Latin in order to read Linnaeaus' descriptions of species. A kind old Jesuit priest and an Oxbridgian Anglican campus chaplain who read Latin tutored me. The good priests gave me a tough assignment and that is to read the Biblia Vulgata!

Nonetheless I find in the Latinists' comments and interpretations on the AC's words interesting. I have only met some of the words in 1) my Ichthyology anatomy  and 2) Botany classes!

Take for instance "glomeratim" which I met in its previous incarnation as "glomerulus" when we were studying kidneys and the like!

"Anglicanismus" sounds like some word I met in an undergrad class in political science!

But the my unforgettable Latin phrase is "levator arcus palatini" a muscle in a fish's mouth which expands its buccal cavity. This is the reason why groupers are easily hooked!

Latin remains as relevant to science as it is to the Church!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When an Anglican steps across the threshold..

I told the Reverend Father Raymond Arre of the University of the Philippines Catholic parish of the Holy Sacrifice that I could not connect with the "Crossing the Tiber" thingy. After all, to cross a river means one gets wet from swimming. I never crossed the Tiber. I just went into the adjacent room of the same house. It is more like crossing the threshold rather than swimming across a river!  The Philippines is a majority Roman Catholic country and even non-Catholics have to be understanding of Catholic practices and in the fullest extent possible without compromising one's non-Catholicness, Catholic practices may be accepted.

A clear example is that some Protestant churches have adopted the uniquely Filipino Catholic practice of "Simbang Gabi" or in Spanish "Misa de Gallo" or "Mass of the Rooster's Crowing". Back in the Spanish colonial period, farmers had to attend Mass at 4 AM so they can set to work on their fields by 6 AM. The Simbang Gabi marks the traditional liturgical season of Christmas in the Philippines as it starts on December 16 and runs for nine days. A local customary belief is that if one attends all the novena masses, he/she will be blessed for the coming New Year. But in an urbanized society, fulfilling this pledge becomes hard. I for instance only fulfilled the dawn mass series in an unlikely place as northern Australia!

It is because that when there are Filipinos around anywhere on the planet and if they are served by a Filipino priest, this custom is followed. Thus there are dawn masses in LA, London, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney etc. Now why would there be a dawn mass in outback Australia? Answer: There was a small Filipino community and there was missionary Filipino priest. I was able to finish the dawn mass series since that town in Australia was so rural and quiet. One is easily able to get up at 3 AM!

As I mentioned earlier this beautiful tradition has been adopted by non Catholics. The Philippine Independent Church which traces its origin from Catholicism has preserved the tradition. Some Methodists, Presbyterians and United Church congregations have adopted the custom. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has too and the rite is in the ECP Book of Common Prayer.

For this reason and that Filipinos appreciate the value of some Catholic practices, sometimes crossing over to Catholicism in the Philippines is akin to crossing the threshold doorway of another room in the same house. Filipinos are an ecumenical people. While we hold many faith traditions, we don't use this as a point of disagreement. We feel we belong to one house. We are in one house, the Father's! When a Muslim was treated with injustice in another land, many Filipinos  protested, not because a Muslim had been treated badly, but because a person has been treated badly and this offends Allah, our God.

The Philippines has been fortunate to have been spared from religious conflict. But the nation has not been spared from ALL conflict. Our being a sort of ecumenical people may be the key to resolving the conflicts that have cost lives. We have a long way to go. Can Filipinos live up to this vocation which in no doubt comes from God?

I know only of one painting that shows in art this unique Filipino ecumenism. This is the  mural honouring Father John Delaney at Delaney Hall of the University of the Philippines parish where one sees the Protestant Church of the Risen Lord figuring prominently with the Protestants meeting the Catholics in another uniquely Filipino custom of the Easter "Salubong" or encounter. The Salubong celebrates the meeting of the Risen Jesus and His Mother.  How appropriate that the Protestants from Risen Lord meet the Catholics of the Holy Sacrifice at Easter!

In this reflection, I read with great interest the sermon of  Reverend Father Giles Pinnock, the curate of the Church of England parish of Saint Mary the Virgin in Kenton, England. Father Pinnock resigned his curacy in order to be received into the Catholic Church in the soonest possible time. The good priest told his flock of his decision and we don't see the rashness of the decision. He did not even wait for the English Anglican Ordinariates to be set up!

In England and other countries like the USA or Australia, many Anglicans who live the Catholic faith in their communities know that they are Catholic but some don't see the need to cross the threshold, some agonize at the step. Perhaps they think they will be entering another house. But for those who have crossed the threshold, they have suddenly realized they have entered another room of the same house in a much peaceful setting. Father Pinnock hopes for the day when the Anglicans' and the Catholics' path converge. Perhaps that is nearer than he thinks. But only when people realize they are now in the same house. Will Filipinos be able to share that vocation?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

When Overseas Filipinos bring Catholic diversity into staid England...

Dear Readers of this Blog

Filipinos are found on every part of the warming planet. They come from different  religious traditions and the Christians among them are spreading the "Pinoy Christian virus". In think English traddies like Damian Thompson should get over it AND MOVE ON and consign to the rubbish bin that condescending opening line in his post! It won't be Europeans who will re-evangelize Britain and the rest of Europe but "Third World" Christians like Filipinos and the Africans! The Anglican Ordinariates and a new Anglican Communion will flourish in these countries.

I think the late Father Hontiveros SJ  and his folksy Mass music has really conquered the world!

Not in the comment threat that many Brits have not shed their colonial and imperial church mentality and are ignorant on why the Philippines has the 3rd biggest number English speakers. These Brits should read my earlier blog post!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My first brush with John Henry Newman

I don't think many Filipinos know who John Henry Newman was, except probably students of the Ateneo de Manila University (where the Rizal Library, if my memory serves me right, has all of Newman's works). There was a time when one of Newman's essays was part of the freshman English canon. This was selections from "The Idea of a University" .  This was my first encounter with Newman.

Newman's "Idea" is so relevant today that one of the nominees for the presidency of the University of the Philippines (UP), quotes Newman  in her vision paper. The issues facing the UP are so complex and given the global economic situation, the UP has to make do with its limited budget. How then will that fit into the idea of a university, which according to Newman is " a place for the communication and circulation of thought, by means of personal intercourse, through a wide extent of country"?

Aside from that first brush with Newman, I was a member of British Council library and with that had borrowing privileges. Here is where I read more about Newman and I learned that he was the most famous of  clerical converts from Anglicanism to Catholicism. I also learned about the Oxford movement in the Church of England, his Tracts for the Times and how Tract 90 caused the Anglican establishment to lower the boom. Newman after painful reflection decided to be received in the Catholic Church in 1845. Newman's last sermon as an Anglican priest is the famous "A Parting of Friends" shows that he did not harbor any ill feelings.

Universities and colleges in the USA often have "Newman societies or clubs" which aim to develop in students a Catholic spirituality on campus. The Newman societies often act as the Catholic chaplaincies in these secular universities. In the Commonwealth, where many universities adopted the Oxbridge system of residential colleges, the Catholic college is often named in honour of Newman. I had to check in into the Newman College and live "cloistered" in order to write my PhD thesis! In many universities, the Newman colleges are run by the Jesuits. At Oxford the Catholic club is now the Newman Society.

Newman's journey in the Catholic Church was not all roses. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in Rome just two years after he converted. He returned to England as an Oratorian priest. Newman was a priest during the time of the debate between the ultramontane and montanist factions in the Church. Also the newly reestablished Catholic hierarchy in England generated a lot of anti-Catholic feeling. When Charles Kingsley criticized the Catholic faith and the sincerity of Catholics in England, Newman responded with his most famous work the "Apologia Pro Vita Sua". The Apologia turned public opinion in Newman's favour.

I had the chance to buy a copy of the Apologia at a book sale for 30 pesos 15 years ago. [Newman's books were with other books of British authors that included Rowan Williams, George Carey and Robert Runcie, all of whom became Archbishops of Canterbury. Their books sold for 10 pesos each!] Now all of Newman's works are downloadable from the internet. His Grammar of Assent is his magnum opus in Philosophy where he defended faith as a product of human rational activity and that assent is not contrary to human nature.

Newman became a Cardinal in 1879, Leo XIII's first. The previous pope, Pius IX distrusted Newman and suspected him of having modernist tendencies. Newman also was not thrilled at  Papal Infallibility not that he opposed it, but that he thought it was inopportune.

 Newman died in 1890. His cause for sainthood took over a century and according the Newsweek's religion editor Kenneth Woodward, the  Catholic Church in England was so reserved and inexperienced in proposing saint candidates and the fact that it did not want to ruffle Anglican feathers. But by the late 20th century, in more ecumenical times, the Anglican Church no longer had any opposition to Newman's canonization. Another reason is that the Roman Church took a long time to realize the saintly virtues of the intellectual that Newman was.

On September 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI will beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman during his visit to Britain.

John Henry Newman will probably be the patron of

1) Intellectuals
2) University professors and dons
3) PhD candidates!
4) and the Anglican Ordinariates

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On "viruses" and my experience with a nasty one, memorable Septembers

The monsoon  or rainy season in the Philippines is a public health concern for the Department of Health, aside from the usual colds and flu that people catch, they especially the young , may catch nastier viral diseases such as dengue. The hospitals and clinics have recorded 54,000 cases of dengue as of this writing and 454 deaths have been recorded.

Dengue is  the major public health concern now. The worst hit regions are Western Visayas and the Cordilleras. The mountainous Cordilleras were once considered unlikely dengue hotspots since the mosquito vector is intolerant of cool climates. But with a warming and wetter climate, even the Cordilleras are no longer immune. The problem is that we have no vaccine against dengue or even a cure. Doctors can offer only what they call "supportive therapy". I know this from first hand experience since 9 years ago on this day, I was rushed to St Luke's Hospital in Cathedral Heights, Quezon City with a bad case of dengue that went from bad to worse. It was so bad that my prognosis was poor. I thought that I was about to "kick the bucket" that I asked for a priest. The Episcopal chaplain ministered to me. I did not get his name. The next day, I was much weaker, and the Roman Catholic chaplain came and gave viaticum. In the afternoon an ex student of mine who was a Jesuit seminarian came and said the prayers. He asked the intercession of the Virgin of Piat and he asked me to ask the intercession of the saint that first crossed my mind. And that saint was John Henry Newman! The seminarian left me with an apple and he went back to the Ateneo in the rain.

And the next day, I was up and about, walking! The doctors were amazed. The scientist that I am hesitated  to proclaim it was a miracle.

When life seems to ebb, we then acutely realize that we are at the mercy of God. [Of course when we are hale and strong and can do it, all we are at God's mercy but we don't realize it] What is the meaning of all that we have and done? I'd say not much without that meaning in God. I stayed in the hospital for more than a week and on September 11,2001 the world changed. I was in hospital still about three days before final discharge when I couldn't believe what just happened live on CNN. Even the doctors with me can't believe it too.

Septembers are memorable for me. One for that nasty viral episode, second for typhoon Ondoy by which all my expensive hi tech gadgets went swimming to techno-heaven and of course the Nativity of the Virgin. These things are somewhat related. We have to have God a go with our lives like what the Virgin did.

And writing about viruses, I can't help but recall Rev Staunton's "pan-Protestant virus" infecting Anglicanism. Rev Staunton was discouraged by events so he writes this. But an Episcopal priest told me that there is also an "Anglican virus" infecting Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Orthodox, even Atheists etc. What does this all mean?

Maybe God thinks that a viral infection while bad for the body, is good for the soul!

And BTW, this September will be memorable too for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain to beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman. Remember he was the saint that first crossed my mind as I prepared to meet my Maker?

I did send an email to the Oratory in London telling the Fathers there of my tale at St Lukes. I got an automated reply. But that matters not.  Of course my tale is not as that miraculous as the permanent deacon who upon asking Newman's intercession got healed of a disease for which he had no chance of survival. (people regularly pull out of dengue!) But Newman to me brought my prayers to God.  That is all that matters really!