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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A dry martyrdom

The Pope got old and tired and thus he wanted to retire. That is in essence what Pope Benedict XVI did  this week to the utter surprise of the cardinals and to the shock of the rest of the world.

The Pope has no military force to speak of, only a tiny corps of Swiss Guards who offer protection for him. The Swiss Guards are more known for their Michelangelo designed dress that is a big Vatican tourist attraction than for anything else. The Pope doesn't wield real political power outside the walls of the Vatican but he has spiritual power by virtue of the commission he received from Christ and even more immense moral authority and power, again by virtue of the Divine. For his is not a secular office, but a spiritual one. And yet he is tired.

The secular world thinks of retirement as a time when one gets to enjoy life, play golf, island hop etc. This is especially if one got a good deal in superannuation and one had the luck that these retirement contributions didn't fade with usual financial crash. Benedict had none of that. He doesn't have a salary and so no pension fund. He has no condo investment to spend the remaining days but a monk's cell in the Vatican.

And so Benedict has hinted that he will go into seclusion as a monk. This is how it used to be. In the earliest times of Christianity, bishops who retired (and escaped martyrdom) went to the desert to be contemplatives.

The secular world doesn't understand what contemplatives do and what contemplation means. And yet secular people yearn for the contemplative life. They think it will make them get nearer to the Divine. That is true and so they seek all sorts of spiritualities and even come up with new ones. The Jedi spirituality inspired of Lucas' films is an example of seeking contemplation, of course in the Bright Side of the Force whilst trying to understand the Dark Side which is always with you.

Contemplation means leaving all that rat race behind and yet having the rat race within the monastic cell. I am not a monk but I come from a Christian tradition that has a monastic quality that laypeople live whilst in the world. Oh how I value those quiet times which at the end of the day is a must. But quiet means not disturbed. For it is during these quiet contemplation, that we face the magnitude of our unworthiness due to sin.

Anglicanism's spirituality has this contemplative nature and in the Mass of the Anglican Use, the Prayer of Humble Access which is always said in a contemplative manner before receiving the Sacrament, says it best. We are not worthy that even the dogs have more right to the crumbs!

"We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."

Benedict as a tired man felt he wasn't worthy. Indeed he is like the rest of us. However he took his office like Christ took his cross while we are just exhorted just to do so. Many of us will shirk at the cost of bearing the Cross choosing instead to bear the very light cross of our imaginings.

The Pope got worn down by the battle against a secularism that is based on relativism that eventually kills what makes as human. But the Pope is just but human and it is time that a much younger bishop takes the Cross.

But taking the Cross means eventual crucifixion and the hope of rising again. And there won't be Simon of Cyrenes on our via dolorosa. A Baptist minister the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King understood it very well as he was moved by the Spirit. "The Cross is something you bear and eventually die on." He was right. There is no other way.

And so Benedict retires to a monk's cell, with his Cross and as the Mystics all have experienced (we know since they wrote about it) that the Devil is within the same cell also.  Benedict will need our prayers even more, more so than when he held the papal office.

This is not the retirement we secular creatures look forward to.

But the Cloud of Witnesses will be there to intercede. England has produced so many, Europe, Africa, Asia also and in our dear Philippines we have many too.

Yes the Church militant will get tired in the battle but cannot rest. I am not really a fan of Marian private revelations but it appears that the messages of the Lady of All Nations focus on this and the prophecy has passed. But the seer, a woman in Amsterdam who received the messages say of the Pope, a bishop, Westminster Abbey and the wearying struggle and the need to fight. Perhaps the seer saw Benedict and Rowan Williams in the Abbey. The messages have been approved by the local bishop as of supernatural origin. The Lady of All Nations mentions the role of the Anglican Church in this struggle several times.

Even then, the battle is on us.

Prayers will be said where God has called us in our state of life.

Benedict is living a dry martyrdom in his mission to spread the Faith and the Reason needed to live it according to God's will. And this in all meekness and charity. He was ridiculed, misunderstood and became tired.

Let us pray for like the Pope we are not worthy of all these grace.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Burying King Richard III of England

Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings of England was found buried underneath a city council parking lot in Leicester, England last August 25. The parking lot was once the site of Greyfriars, a Franciscan friary and church dissolved by Henry VIII's Reformation. A male skeleton was found buried in what was once the church's choir. The skeleton was that of a man in his 30s and was scoliotic. Based on sketchy written accounts of his death in the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485 that sealed the fate of the Wars of the Roses, the king fell off his horse and bludgeoned and hacked. Stripped of his clothes and strung across a horse, his body was paraded and then buried in the Franciscan friary. The Wars of the Roses resulted in the victory of the Lancasters and the ascent of Henry Tudor as King Henry VI. His son became the famous multi-matrimonial Henry VIII, founder of the Church OF England.

Tudor propaganda has given Richard a bad press. He was portrayed to be an evil, scheming king, hunchbacked and deformed. No doubt Shakespeare's "Richard III" made the libel almost for the ages until the skeleton was found during what can be called archaeology's biggest successful sleuthing in years.

DNA tests and evidence confirmed the identity of the skeleton as that of the king and Leicester University who led the research with funding  support from the Richard III Society made the announcement last February 4. This was made possible with DNA samples from one of the king's direct descendants, a Canadian living in London.

Now that he has been exhumed, it is time to give him a Christian burial befitting a former sovereign. Here is the controversy. The King willed that he be buried in York Minster, but the government of the day and the Church of England has decided to bury in in Leicester Cathedral in what is likely to be ecumenical rites. Richard's descendants have petitioned that their ancestor be buried in York, but the Cathedral has rejected this.

The other question is what funeral rites should be done? Some Catholics and a few Anglicans say that he be buried according to the rites of the Roman Church since he was Catholic and there was no Anglican Church then. There was a Church in England which was established and had English peculiarities but that church was in communion with Rome. Henry VIII broke away from the Church in England and established the Church OF England, a totally separate and Protestant body from the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome.

Some Anglicans say that their church should do the honours since theirs is a continuation of the Church IN England albeit reformed. Of course this is debatable. Nonetheless none of Catholics and Anglicans could countenance an ecumenical ceremony. The British establishment and surprisingly the restored Roman hierarchy in England agree that Britain is now a multi-faith society.

One suggestion is to let the Ordinariate do it. But that is a long shot since Richard was not a member of the Anglican Ordinariate, which is really an oxymoronic situation since there were no Anglicans before the Reformation and obviously there couldn't be former Anglicans then!

So it should be Catholic rites then. But what rite? The modern Roman Rite or the old Sarum Rite or the Tridentine Rite? Some say the Sarum and some say the modern Roman Rite. Nonetheless, the modern Roman Rite sounds with the new translation Anglican anyway! So why not the Sarum which was the rite used in much of England then?

The problem is no one knows for sure whether it is licit to celebrate the Sarum Rite. Also some Catholics and Anglicans insist the York Rite be used since that is a rite peculiar to York (that is if the Dean and Chapter of York Minster agree to the burial in their church). But who can celebrate the Mass in the York Rite?

And so alas poor Richard. He rested in peace unknown in Leicester and now he is the focus of contention!  York and Leicester Cathedrals think he can become a historical tourist attraction and also Westminster!

But it is traditional that if the remains of a person is to be buried it is in the rite of the person's faith, if we know what faith that is.  Burying Richard III in Anglican or even ecumenical rites is absurd. It is like burying  WWII Japanese soldiers remains in a Christian rite knowing that they were Buddhist!