Monday, May 16, 2011

Movers and Shakers...

Anne Arco of the Catholic Herald online has a good article surveying the recent meeting of the Bishops of England and Wales, the meeting which saw them restore the traditional Friday penance of abstaining from meat.

She also points out that the Bishops are now looking again at the decision they made to move certain feast days to the nearest Sunday - Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi in particular.  The Bishops of Ireland made a similar decision not long after their England and Welsh brothers.  Like Arco I am glad that they are looking again at the issue.  The issue centres around choosing between making it more convenient for people to get to Mass for the feast day versus the rhythm of the Church's life and liturgical year.

To be honest I do not think there is a contest here at all.  First of all when the Vigil Mass was introduced it was for those who, through work or other unavoidable commitments, could not make Mass on Sunday morning, and so they could fulfil their Sunday obligation on Saturday evening.  I underline unavoidable because, as with lots of things in the Church, the original purpose of the Vigil Mass has been lost and now it is just another Mass of convenience.    So really, taking the spirit of the Vigil Mass, that should allow people to fulfil the obligation of the Holy Day. 

Secondly, the movement of the feast days has broken the liturgical rhythm of the Church's life.  Now I know the liturgy allows for this - the Office, for example splits into two when it comes to Epiphany or Ascension Thursday.  But in reality our common celebration of the Lord's life is no longer universal.  Ascension Thursday, sorry Ascension Sunday, or...Ascension Thursday on Sunday (Ascension Day?), apart from being the day the Lord ascended, also begins the great novena in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  That novena was the original novena, the model of all others, nine days of prayer, and it has been lost because of the move.  Call me old fashioned, but I think such devotions are vital for the life of the Church.  What better way to remind the faithful of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church that those nine liturgical days awaiting with Mary and the disciples the coming of the Advocate. 

Let's commend the Bishops to the help and influence of the Holy Spirit, and indeed pray the same issue may arise at a meeting of the Irish Bishops sometime very soon.

Arco also points out that the Ordinary of the new Personal Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, also attended the meeting - his first.  He has a place on the Episcopal Conference.  I hope his presence and participation will help the Bishops.  I see the Ordinariate has no home as of yet, they are still looking for a church and HQ, so we should keep them in our prayers.  I pray they get one soon.  Next time I am in London I would be keen to attend Mass there to see how they offer it: I imagine it would be a liturgically rich celebration.  I might even pick up a few ideas - I think that's what Pope Benedict may have in mind - cross pollination.

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