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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

No greater love hath a Filipino....

Photo courtesy of the Manila Times
The recent executions of three Filipino overseas workers convicted of drug trafficking charges in China has made the nation reflect on its future as a people. Filipinos are found everywhere on this planet. They often are serving others as skilled, semi skilled or unskilled workers. Not a few are professionals managing enterprises. A lot are health workers and some are teachers.

They have a common bond to each other and that is they are working to provide a better future for their families. In many cases this laudable goal is unrealized and they have to do illegal and criminal activities such as being drug mules.

The conduct of the three according to what we read in the press is remarkable. Faced with death, they asked for forgiveness and they always emphasized that they did this for their family.

Of course, what they did is considered a crime under the law, but by accepting their guilt may they be rewarded by Christ, who pardoned the Good Thief.

Christ bore the crimes of the guilty as well as the sins of the innocent. No greater love hath a man... a Filipino...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the eve of the Annunciation

Let us recall an important pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on the Blessed Virgin Mary. This letter read to churches in 1975 remains even more relevant today, where we live in a rapidly secularizing age. While secularism is not bad, it should be anchored on humanistic values and Mary represents what these values are.

The letter is also notable for explicitly mentioning the Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP) and its devotion to the Holy Virgin. Truly the Anglican Communion continues to occupy a special place in the heart of the Catholic Church.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The 950th year anniversary of the Visions of Lady Richeldis at Walsingham

Father-Ordinary Keith Newton of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has made the announcement that this year will be the 950th anniversary of the visions of Lady Richeldis. It is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to the Lady Richeldis in 1061, at Walsingham, England. In her visions, the Lady Richeldis received a message from the Holy Virgin under the title of the Annunciation. She was instructed to build a Holy House for the Virgin and was given the grace of a vision of Mary's home in Nazareth. You can read more about Our Lady of Walsingham in an earlier blog post here.

Celebrations for the 950th anniversary start on March 26, when the Archbishop of Westminster will celebrate an opening Mass in his London cathedral. The celebrations will reach its climax on September 24, when a Mass will be celebrated at the Walsingham Catholic Shrine. In the opening Mass, the image of Our Lady from the Slipper Chapel will be brought to Westminster Cathedral by three former Anglican nuns now with the Ordinariate together with the Anglican Guardians at the Walsingham Anglican Shrine. Our Lady of Walsingham may be considered as the Mother of Christian Unity. Prayers for her intercession always have an ecumenical dimension. She is venerated under this title in the Anglican and Catholic churches.

We plan to celebrate the event in our own little way in the Philippines. Please keep note on this blog for more announcements!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

News from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Anglicans planning to join the Ordinariate are welcomed at Southwark Cathedral London, from the Ordinariate Portal
Here are some news. The three former Anglican bishops who were among the first to be received in the Catholic Church, Reverend Father-Ordinary Keith Newton,  Reverend Father Andrew Burnham and Reverend Father John Broadhurst have been given the honour of being called Monsignor by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI. Also the first 'class' of catechumens from the Church of England just had their Rite of Election last March 12.  Several hundred Anglicans are expected to be received and prepared under a catechetical program that will end by Easter, when they will be fully received in the Catholic Church.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pray! Pray! Pray!

I posted this at the Pinoy Episcopalians Facebook group

"I would like to know if my Episcopalian friends here would be willing to join three Anglican Roman Catholics and Roman Catholics for Evening Prayer in the Anglican Use at the University of the Philippines. With our country and people facing very trying times in the coming months, we have a strong reason to pray together! May God bless us all here in this FB group."

It was 1:45 PM when I posted this. At 1:46 PM, the Japan earthquake struck.

Please pray for Japan and our country and the world.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. This year it falls on my birthday, March 9!  In the Western Church it is the Wednesday after Quinquagesima Sunday or the Sunday fifty days before Easter day. The ashes used in the rite comes from the burning of the palms from last Palm Sunday. Thus the continuity of the remembrance of Jesus' passion.

Now with the loss of Latinity in the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, the meaning of Quinquagesima will be met by an unexpressed but polite "duh" among most Catholics. However the last generation of Filipino Catholics to know what that means were your grandparents, who knew what the Latin Mass was all about. During Quinquagesima Sunday, the priest wore violet vestments as the liturgical colour was violet.

In the earliest Catholic tradition, this Sunday marks the beginning of the Lenten fast. In Medieval England, the pious English trooped to the churches to say their confessions to the priest. The English being not that rowdy compared to the Latins, called that Sunday "Shrove Sunday" and the following Tuesday, "Shrove Tuesday", Shrove is a old English word meaning "repent". Now on these days, it was customary to make pancakes and in the USA the day is called "pancake Tuesday". Among the Latins, it is known as "Fat Tuesday" and this is day of the Mardi Gras, which means the same thing! The consumption of animal products is prohibited in Lent and this included pancakes which have eggs!

All these are almost lost to a secular world except perhaps in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. In many cities Mardi Gras has taken a "gay" reputation as sort of coming out, when the original idea was to get inside one's conscience, examine it for sins and make a confession!

Fortunately the Anglican Church for the benefit of the whole Catholic Church (which has almost lost its sense of Latin!) has preserved much of the original meanings of these days. The Book of Common Prayer still emphasizes the fasting and penitence aspect. Thus the collect for the day is

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou has made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The 1928 BCP readings and Gospel are identical to that in the old Roman Missal for Ash Wednesday ( Joel 2:12 and St Matthew 7: 16). The collect's meaning is really taken from the Gospels and the Epistle for the day.

The ashes are imposed by the priest as the Sign of the Cross saying the traditional Genesis 3: 19 "Remember man, that thou art dust and into dust shall you return". The Roman Rite reforms give the priest an option taken from St Mark 1:15 "Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel" In the Philippines, a properly deputized extraordinary minister of Holy Communion ofter administers the ashes. But this is contrary to the old tradition even if the ashes are not a sacrament but a sacramental. The Anglican Church still uses the traditional Genesis verse which is a strong reminder of a man's mortality.

The question is how long must one wear the ashes. While the Gospel of the day suggests that one must wash it after leaving the church, Christ's directive must be taken in its proper context for he was really referring about the hypocritical wearing of signs of devotion.  While the Church does not have a rule about it, it is sensible to wear it until it fades away on that Wednesday. This is the only time the Christian is to wear the Sign of the Cross visible to all. People have died for the Sign of the Cross, in ancient Rome and even to this day! The wearing of "dirt" on the head is a minor inconvenience!

As it falls on my birthday, Ash Wednesday is an apt reminder that only God knows the length of my days and I must live these days in charity and service for others.

Also this Ash Wednesday is when our good friend Fr Joe Frary has a date with the surgeon. I will pray for him too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Religious things you can do with a tablet computer

PC World says that laptops are on the way out and tablet computers are in. In fact this year expect the market to be flooded with all sorts of tablets.

Part of the marketing strategy to ensure more people get tablets are the downloadable applet freebies. The freebies especially on Android range from GPS navigation, teach yourself partial differential equations to  Bible and Mass readings.

The Bible is now available via an applet. For Catholics the Mass Reading applet is of supreme practicality since you can download

1) the Mass readings for the day
2) the traditional Catholic prayers
3) the Stations of the Cross
4) the Liturgy of the Hours.
5) the Order of the Mass
6) the Bible in its Catholic edition
7) facts about the day's Patron Saint

Since a tablet is incongruous compared to a laptop, you can bring it to Mass instead of a thick prayer book tome.

I did try to use my tablet during Sunday Mass (not to play frivolous games, but to use the Mass Readings applet) but people thought I was playing PSP 2!

So I had to turn it off. Nonetheless, the time will come when this would be more acceptable to a lot of people.  Parish priests complain of people using cell phones at Mass but will they complain about tablets? It depends on what the tablets are used for during Mass!

If you need an Icon for religious reflection, you can also download it together with the prayers! I haven't found the applet for the Book of Common Prayer but I suppose it is out there in cyberspace.

The age of religious applets has arrived! There are even ecumenical prayer applets which cater not only to Catholics but to non-Catholics as well. Non Christians have their own applets. Muslims have an applet about the Quran and Buddhists too about their prayer cycles. Now who was the one who said that the Singularity will erase faith?

Friday, March 4, 2011

A prayer request

The Rev. Father Joseph Frary of St Andrews Theological Seminary,  Episcopal Church in the Philippines is presently in St Luke's Hospital for surgery. May we ask readers of this blog to say a prayer for his quick and complete recovery?

Please remember him in your daily prayers.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Filipino Anglicanism

Mike Tan wrote something about a little known church in the Philippines. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) is THE Anglican Church in the Philippines. There are at least 3 other churches that carry the Anglican name, but the ECP has the original franchise. The Episcopalians ("Piskies" is a term of endearment) run one of the best hospitals in the country (St Luke's), the best weaving school (Easter's in Baguio), a college now a university with a good track record (Trinity), and the oldest international school (Brent).

For a church with just about 200K members, the ECP has influenced education and ecumenism far beyond its size. Its reason for existence in the Philippines is the key. The first  Episcopal bishop in the Philippines, Charles Henry Brent declared that the church won't build an "altar over another altar".This was during an unecumenical time. When the Americans came, Protestant missionaries divided the country for their mission to preach "the true Christian religion" to a country that is majority Roman Catholic. Brent gave the Philippine Church very prophetic witness. Brent limited his mission to the expat community, the non-Catholic Chinese and the non-Christian tribes. Thus the Cordilleras and parts of Binondo and Sta Cruz Manila are Episcopal Church territories. Perhaps the best known Episcopal church in the region is St Mary's in Sagada. Filipino Unlike its neighbouring South East Asian province, Filipino Anglicanism is historically Anglo-Catholic even if there are Evangelical parishes.

My grandmonther was  of the High Church kind who said the Roman Rosary after Anglican Evening Prayer. The Anglican church can be divided into three streams, the low or evangelical kind, the broad church and the High Church kind. The Low church emphasizes traditionally Protestant positions, the Broad church accomodates elements of both Protestant and Catholic traditions and the High church emphasizes ritual and Catholic tradition. Some high churches are even more Catholic than the St Peter's Basilica! (in terms of ritual). In these high churches, you have to ask the priest if this is really an Anglican church.

We see the same in the Roman Church. Some Catholic churches are as or even more Protestant like than an Anglican low church. The Jesuit Church of the Gesu in the Ateneo campus is my best example!

With diverse views of what the church is or ought to be, Anglicanism has preserved a tradition of tolerance and comprehensiveness. It is not that this is lacking in the Catholic Church (the Roman Catholics are as comprehensive as the Anglicans despite the noise conservatives make), Anglicans don't have a Pope that says that one doctrinal view is unacceptable. The church has to come to a consensus. Since the Elizabethan settlement, this via media has held until very recently.

This via media is almost in tatters with differing views on sexuality and the ordination of women. The debate on contraception which the Anglicans settled in 1938 Lambeth and is still a point of contention among Benedict XVI's flock, is a cakewalk compared to what is tearing at the Anglican Communion today.

The Roman Church in a Vatican II document on ecumenism has very special regard to the Anglican Church. This is because the Anglicans have preserved many Catholic traditions (episcopacy for instance) while maintaining distinctively Protestant ones. This is Anglicanism's greatest gift to the Universal Church.

Some of the Catholic traditions of Anglicanism like parish morning, midday and evening prayer are all but lost in the Post-Vatican II Catholic Church. Pope Benedict's agenda is to recover these in Catholicism. The Novus Ordo in English isn't comparable to Cranmer's English, which is Latinate and shows the inheritance of the English language from the Latin. The New translation of the Missal into English tries to recover some traditional BCP like language but into more modern usage. It is no surpise that Cardinal Kasper paid tribute to these treasures as"Marvellous Evensongs" while giving a frank assessment of Anglicanism's troubles and how these would affect reunion with the Catholic Church in the recently concluded Lambeth Conference.

Anglicanism's troubles I believe stem from it losing its Catholic and Protestant charism in exchange for secular ones. Perhaps this is the reason why Kasper prayed for a new Oxford Movement. The Oxford Movement of the 19th century recovered the Catholic in Anglicanism. Kasper is praying that the Anglicans recover the Christian in Anglicanism!

Anglicanism has its gifts that will make Roman Catholicism less Roman but more Catholic. The Catholic Church can offer the Anglicans the charism of being more universal while recognizing the gifts of authority. The old Catholic bogey that the Anglican Church is a product of Bluff King Hal's lust will have to be laid to rest. Anglicanism is a reflection too of Roman Catholicism and the troubles that afflict it. Kasper's friendly and frank assessment and Pope Benedict's great concern is evidence of that. What really faces the Anglican and Roman Churches is essentially the same. The two churches have to recover that lost catholicity. The Anglicans have lost it due to lack of authority and doctrinal ambiguity while the Roman Catholics have lost it due to over centralized authority and doctrinal praxis inflexibility.

Observers may note that Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams have much common theologically than what was assumed. This leads many to say that Benedict is an "Anglican" Pope while Rowan is a "Roman" Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now about Evensong and Common Prayer. This is expressing my Anglican spirituality as a Catholic. It is unfortunate that unlike in English speaking countries, Catholic churches are not across the street from Anglican ones in our country.Whenever I am in an English speaking country, I make it a point to attend Mass in the morning and Evensong in the evening. Sometimes we have to cross the street to really recover what it means to be Catholic.

How does one recover catholicity? St Paul gives the famous answer. Charity.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rowan Cantuar finally nails his true colours

The guy in red is the only one on earth that understands him!
The Anglo-Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, of whom I much admire, has finally nailed his true colours to the fence, by vowing not to allow same sex unions in Anglican churches. He finally admitted that he will stick to what the Bible says about marriage, and that is marriage is between a man and a woman full stop!

However Rowan's critics have said that it is little too late. After years of waffling on homosexual issues and unions and "The Body's Grace", it has been hard to convince them, most of them Anglicans, about this latest waffle. Rowan belongs to another church, the Rowan Catholic Church!

But as a Catholic, I do detect that despite the trademark Rowan and Anglican ambiguity, something faithful to the Magisterium is coming out of Rowan lately. I started looking more into Rowan's theology after he gave that magnificent Catholic homily at a Mass in Lourdes. Not many Catholics are aware that Rowan is resolutely anti-abortion, saying "It is impossible to view abortion other than a deliberate attempt to end a human life". He is against euthanasia and voluntary suicide.

Even "The Body's Grace" admits what faithful Roman Catholics have known all along that if a church admits the legitimacy of contraception, then it follows that it will admit other faith positions inconsistent with the Bible and tradition.

Now what do we make of Rowan Cantuar? Anglican critics from the liberals to the conservative have all but abandoned him. In fact there is a big dose truth to the rumor that his best friend Pope Benedict XVI is the only theologian on the planet that understands in what he believes in!

Methinks Rowan is too good for the Anglican Communion (and I think too for the Roman Catholic communion!)  Anglicans have suggested he goes to a monastery, confess his sins and lead a cloistered life (of which Rowan has said in an interview that he had an attraction to).  But with Rowan finally showing the Catholic he is, it may be best for him if he would revert from being Archbishop of a disintegrating communion and lead the life of a simple Reverend Father. But this time in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham! I'm sure his best friend won't object!

St David, Patron of Wales

Today is the feast day of St David of Wales (500-589) and also is the National Day of Wales. Few Filipinos are aware that the United Kingdom consists of four countries, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each country has its own national day. Scotland is on November 30, St Andrews Day, England has April 2, St George's day, Ireland has March 17, St Patrick's day and Wales on March 1. Each National day is the feast day of a Catholic saint!

St David was a monk and first bishop of Menevia, Wales and tradition states that he was ordained as bishop in Jerusalem, when he went on pilgrimage. He founded the monastery of Menevia, which became the see of the bishopric. He was a holy man and worked miracles even in his lifetime.  He founded many monasteries in England and Wales. Very few historical accounts are known about the saint but we do know he attended the council of Brevi in 545 AD and it was here by common consent of the bishops present that he was made archbishop.

St David is associated with the daffodil, the national flower of Wales.  Daffodils were believed to have grown around his monastery. The other national symbol for Wales, the leek, is said to have been eaten by St David and his monks.

Here is the BCP collect for David, Saint of Wales

"Almighty God, you called your servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may with him receive our heavenly reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

St David is venerated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches. The Orthodox preserve the tradition that he journeyed to Jerusalem to be raised to the dignity of archbishop by the Patriarch. St David's relics still are venerated at St David's Cathedral in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales. In the Philippines, one Episcopal Church parish in Nueva Ecija is dedicated in his honor.

It is worth noting that the national identities of the countries of the United Kingdom are strongly rooted in the undivided Catholic faith as lived by her saints. This is relevant witness in a UK that is becoming more secular in a way that Christianity is marginalized. Pope Benedict XVI reminded the British during his visit last September that the liberties that Britain enjoys today are rooted in the Christian witness of these national saints.

St David, Monk and Bishop of Wales, pray for us to God!