Daily Archives: January 24, 2010

The Best of Times?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

If we did not know that the “times” of which Dickens wrote this description were those of the French Revolution, I wonder when we would imagine it. No doubt, as he writes, the years of the late 18th Century, and the years of the mid-19th, and the years of the early 21st are indeed all “so far like” each other that it probably does not matter.

Still, let me ask you a question – a “readers’ poll” as it were. When do YOU think, ecclesiastically speaking, were

1) the best of times
2) the worst of times
3) the age of wisdom
4) the age of foolishness
5) the epoch of belief
6) the epoch of incredulity (by which, I take it, Dickens meant unbelief)
7) the season of Light
8 ) the season of Darkness
9) the spring of hope
10 the winter of despair

Here’s my go:

1) the best of times: Now. Christianity has never had it better. We are heirs to the cumulated faith of two millenia, there are more Christians alive today representing a greater proportion of the world’s population than at any time ever before, an unprecedented number of Christians are involved in active evangelisation, people in every nation on earth have heard the Gospel, theology and scripture studies are persued at an unprecedented level, the laity of the Church are aware of their vocation and are using their gifts accordingly as never before, Christian culture and thinking has so permeated “Western” society that few people actually recognise the incredible degree to which “Western-ness” is “Christian”, literacy is becoming universal as is access to immense amounts of information to inform our faith, etc. etc. I imagine that this contention will be contended because of its contentiousness, but there it is. I really do think that this is “the best of times” for the Christian faith in the last 2000 years.

2) the worst of times: Cheeky boy that I am, I am tempted to say “Now” again, and you could certainly make a good case for it, but I will say the 9th-10th Century and leave it at that. Google “pornocracy” if you want an idea why…

3) the age of wisdom: Ah, well that would have to be the Post-Nicene Patristic Age, I reckon.

4) the age of foolishness: 1968

5) the epoch of belief: the 13th Century. Exactly what they believed is another matter.

6) the epoch of incredulity: the late 19th and early 20th Century. It was suddenly the fashion.

7) the season of Light: The Apostolic Age

8 ) the season of Darkness: Again, contrarily, the so called “Enlightenment”.

9) the spring of hope: the missionary expansion of the Catholic Church to the New World, Africa and Asia inspired by the Counter-Reformation

10) the winter of despair: Never. I do not think that there has ever been an age of the Church in which “despair” has been the keynote. I pray that there never will be.

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Continuity and the Reform of the Reform at CCC Conference in Rome

Speaking to several friends who were in Rome for the Conference of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, I hear it was a great success. About 80 priests attended, a quarter of whom were from Australia. Despite the fact that the Confraternity had its origins in the United States, it seems that Australian priests have embraced the CCC more enthusiastically than priests of any other nation – I am not sure why this might be so (see the Australian website here). Perhaps it fulfils a need here in a way that it doesn’t elsewhere. Certainly the average age of leadership in the ACCC is much lower than the larger National Council of Priests of Australia. Related to this is perhaps the difference in the aims of the two organisations.

According to its website, the aims of the ACCC are to:

• give glory and honour to the Most Blessed Trinity
• assist the eternal salvation and holiness of members
• foster unity among Catholic priests and deacons with the bishops in loyalty to the Supreme Magisterium
• encourage faithfulness to priestly life and ministry
• assist bishops, priests, and deacons in the fulfilment of their ministry of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling.

The aims of the NCPA (also from their website), on the other hand, are to:

•To promote a spirit of fraternity among the members and other clerics of the Catholic Church in Australia
•To devise ways and means for members and others to better serve the people to whom they are called to minister.
•To provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and to promote the spirit of ecumenism and to establish ecumenical links
•To effect a liaison with other national bodies of religious men and women and with national bodies of laity
•To maintain contact with similar associations
•To be a consultative body to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
•About half of all Australian Catholic Clergy – Diocesan and Clerical Religious – are members. Members pay an annual subscription to belong to the NCP.

The aims of both organisations are admirable, but one can see a decided commitment to the Magisterium in the aims of the ACCC which are absent from the aims of the NCPA.

Anyway, back to the Conference. My good friend, Fr Pritchard of St Joseph’s in Chelsea, speaks highly of the talk given by pope’s chief liturgist, Msgr. Guido Marini, on “the Reform of the Reform”. It has not yet appeared on the Internet in full (I hope that it yet might – hint to editors of the CCC website), but it has been reported by CNS here. CNS reports that Marini spoke about the importance of historical continuity in th Liturgy. He said:

“I purposefully use the word continuity, a word very dear to our present Holy Father,” Msgr. Marini said. “He has made it the only authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the church.”

Msgr. Marini said that an appreciation of continuity would help bring together divergent schools of thought regarding the liturgy.

“The liturgy cannot and must not be an opportunity for conflict between those who find good only in that which came before us, and those who, on the contrary, almost always find wrong in what came before,” he said.

The way forward for any liturgical renewal is “to regard both the present and the past liturgy of the church as one patrimony in continuous development,” he said.

That seems to gel with some discussions on this blog about the nature of the post-Conciliar Catholic Church – and it seems to me that one could apply this thinking to many other aspects of current Church life and teaching than just the liturgy. I fervantly pray for the success of the Confraternity and their aims in this the Catholic dioceses of this country, and that their work might be extended in other Catholic dioceses throughout the world.

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