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SECOND NEWMAN MIRACLE

With great joy we have learned that Pope Francis has authorized the promulgation of a decree confirming a miracle through the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman, the founder of the English Oratory.

The miracle occurred in May 2013 in the USA. An expectant mother was suffering from unstoppable internal bleeding which threatened the life of her child in the womb. She had long been a devotee of Blessed John Henry, and in prayer she directly and explicitly invoked Newman’s intercession to stop the bleeding. The miraculous healing was immediate, complete, and permanent.

The case was passed to the Postulator of the Cause in Rome, Dr. Andrea Ambrosi who examined and documented the miracle, which was then scrutinized and approved by the medical and theological commissions of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Now that the Holy Father has authorized the decree, we may reasonably hope that John Henry Cardinal Newman will soon be canonized. The Holy See will decide the date.

This confirmation of Newman’s heroic sanctity will be welcomed by Catholics and Anglicans alike, and many others. Newman was a central figure within the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, and this helped him to make his unique theological and spiritual contribution to Catholicism after his conversion in 1845.

Newman’s long spiritual pilgrimage ‘out of shadows and images into the truth’ encourages all Christians to persevere in their quest for God above all else. His conversion to Catholicism is a clear example of how God uses all the varied circumstances of our lives to draw us to Himself, in His own good time, and in so many different ways.

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Madonnasmall

OUR MOTHER ALSO

The Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph her spouse most chaste presented the Son of God in the Jewish temple. In thanksgiving they offered a blood sacrifice of two pigeons. With that modest offering the entire sacrificial cultus of the Jewish temple was brought to its proper conclusion, truly speaking.

Messiah, the Desire of all nations, had finally come to His temple and thereby replaced it. The previous temples were replaced with a new and living Temple, one not made with hands. The stones and columns of the earlier man-made shrines were superceded by the living Body of Christ. His  living Body was henceforth to be the true locus of God’s presence on earth, the new and final Temple that could never be destroyed.

The young Child Whom Simeon took in his arms had been born in order to become the final and everlasting blood sacrifice, thirty three years later, on the altar of the Cross. That once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary revealed simultaneously God’s ineluctable justice and His super-abundant mercy.

Our Lord’s self-oblation on Calvary is repeatedly offered up day by day in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the altar. Every time that Holy Mass is celebrated the Saviour’s atoning sacrifice is re-presented to God the Father, and its life-giving effects are again made accessible to us and applied for our benefit. In the Mass, the Real Presence of Christ and the daily repeated offering of His redeeming sacrifice are Messiah’s continuing and miraculous work.

The feast of Candlemas is a special anniversary for us at the Birmingham Oratory. It was on the eve of that feast in 1848 that Fr Newman founded the Oratory of St Philip Neri in England, at Maryvale, Birmingham. Divine providence working through Newman’s Marian devotion thus ensured that our Community was established on a feast suffused with the presence of our Lady, Mater purissima, Mater castissima.

At Candlemas we light “a hundred flames to purify the pure” (G.K. Chesterton). We pray that our blessed Lady, Mother of the Oratory, will hold our Community safe in her loving arms. We pray that her divine Son will bless us in our religious life together, and prosper our efforts to live His Gospel and build up his Kingdom.

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THE WORD MADE FLESH

Before the start of what we call ‘time’, the reason, the meaning, and the power behind everything that exists were already fully there, and always had been.

God was there from before all beginnings. His Mind is the source of everything that has ever been created. No single thing that exists has any meaning outside of the meaning that God assigns to it.

The Mind of God is so real, so all embracing, that the only way for us to begin to grasp its import is to understand it to be a Person, a Person whose defining characteristic is unlimited and unending life. That life from above suffuses the whole of mankind with its radiant light. The light emanating from that divine Person is so bright and so strong that no amount of darkness or negativity can ever diminish its power.

That Person, Who is both Meaning and Light, came to the place and the people which He Himself had planned long in advance.

The reason, the meaning, and the power behind everything that exists – all of that scaled Himself down to our microscopic level, without losing anything of His own identity.

God’s own self-conscious Mind became human. He made Himself fully human, and pitched His tent in the midst of ours.

Unfortunately, most of the people to whom He came missed the point. He mingled freely among them and spoke openly to them, but mostly they failed to understand.

However, some did. Some people did actually realize Who it was that had come among them. Some of them did grasp His significance and the implications of His Name.

Those who accepted Him became members of His new family, a family not based on geography, or ethnicity, or any purely human characteristic.

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Mary and Joseph

ALMA REDEMPTORIS MATER

All human souls born into this world are images of God. Unfortunately they all arrive partially spoiled – except for one. There is one reflection of Himself into which God has poured all His artistry, and which He has not allowed to be damaged in any way.

In the Blessed Virgin Mary, God shows us what Eve was before the Fall. And this latter portrait of the New Eve even exceeds the earlier one in its perfection and loveliness. In her, the Creator has given us one unique exemplar of what humanity was originally intended to be, and what it is still destined to become.

In the Immaculate Conception of our blessed Lady, human perfection made a new appearance. Mary’s freedom from original sin gives us a new definition of what it means to be human. It also renews our hope of salvation. Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception led to her Assumption into heaven. Her Assumption shows where redemption is meant to lead all human beings.

The Immaculate Conception was the rewriting of the nuptial alliance between the Almighty and His wayward spouse, the human race. In the Immaculate Conception, the alliance that we had broken is gloriously renewed, and for ever.

That nuptial union, the new and everlasting Cana, is what we shall soon be celebrating at Christmas. We should be looking forward enthusiastically to the annual celebration of our nuptials. Christ the celestial Bridegroom comes down from heaven to claim His earthly spouse. In His divine presence, and under His conjugal embrace, the whole world becomes Cana, and every disciple is beloved.

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Holy Soul's Altar

WAITING FOR HEAVEN

Each November we make a special effort to pray for the faithful departed, those whose names we know and those who are known to God alone. We pray for all departed souls whose salvation is assured but who are still in purgatory, waiting for their purification to be completed so that they may then enter heaven.

The Holy Souls in purgatory know that they are on their way to eternal happiness. Their pains in purgatory are the pains of longing; they yearn for that blissful vision of God, of which they were given a brief and searing preview in the moment of their particular judgement.

Purgatory must in some sense be temporal, since it has a start and it comes to an end. We do not know the precise relationship between the way we measure the passing of time in this world and the chronology of the afterlife.

In common parlance we speak of ‘getting time off purgatory’, but that is just a way of speaking. The diagnostics of purgatory are hidden from us.

It may be that the Holy Souls undergo their purgatory not as a linear succession of moments, hours, years, but as a non-temporal experience measured by intensity rather than duration. Perhaps there is an in-depth purging which occurs in a single purifying ‘moment’ of unmeasurable intensity, immediately after bodily death.

However it works, we can be certain that God’s justice and mercy take into account all the prayers, sacrifices and indulgences that we offer up on behalf of the Holy Souls. Praying for the dead is the most charitable thing we can ever do for them. For us who remain it can also help to heal any lingering remorse there might be for whatever misunderstandings we had with them while they lived among us.

What about suicides? We cannot fully know the mental state and spiritual dispositions of those who take their own lives. It seems most unlikely that they could be in their right minds. And so we entrust them to the Lord Who sees into the depths of all hearts and is well-acquainted with the pitiful aberrations that human suffering can engender.

Fortunately for all of us, the accuracy of divine omniscience and the generosity of divine mercy far surpass the hasty assessments and rash judgements that we are prone to make on the meaning and value of any particular life, our own included.

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NEWMAN’S MIND

“And so in religion, we have need to watch against that narrowness of mind, to which we are tempted by the uniformity and tranquillity of God’s providence towards us. We should be on our guard lest we suppose ourselves to have such a clear knowledge of God’s ways, as to rely implicitly on our own notions and feelings. Men attach an undue importance to this or that point in received opinions or practices, and cannot understand how God’s blessing can be given to modes of acting to which they themselves are unaccustomed…….In this perplexity of mind the Church Catholic is our divinely intended guide, which keeps us from a narrow interpretation of Scripture, from local prejudices and excitements of the day; and by its clear-sighted and consolatory teaching scatters those frightful self-formed visions which scare us.”

(Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. 3, p. 108)

“Religious truth ……. is like the dim view of a country seen in the twilight, with forms half extricated from the darkness, with broken lines, and isolated masses. Revelation, in this way of considering it, is not a revealed system, but consists of a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed, of doctrines and injunctions mysteriously connected together….”

(Essays, i, 2)

“Catholics go into the world; they mix with men of all religions; they hear all manner of sophistical objections made to the Church, her doctrines, and her rules. What is practically to keep them steadfast in the faith, but their intimate perception of their need of it? what is to bring them to the sacrament of penance, but their sorrow and their detestation of sin? what is to bring them to communion, but a thirst for the Living and True God? what is to be their protection against the aberrations of the intellect, but the deep convictions and eager aspirations of the heart?

(Sermon, ‘Dispositions for Faith’)

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September2018b

A LADY IN TEARS

Lourdes and Fatima are popular Marian shrines, among many others around the world. The apparition at La Salette on 19th September 1846 is much less well known and less closely followed, even though it received diocesan and then papal approval as being worthy of belief.

Two ignorant peasant children, Melanie Calvat (aged 14) and Maximin Giraud (aged 11) were tending their cows one afternoon up on the slope of a high mountain. They saw what looked like a globe of fire come down onto the slope of the mountain. In the midst of the light sat a lady, weeping copiously. She did not explicitly identify herself. The children did not know who it might be. She spoke to them and gave them a message, asking them to tell it to ‘my people’.

The children did not seem to understand everything the apparition said. The tone and content of the message, as it was subsequently written down (and some say elaborated) were frightening to say the least. Melanie’s account was apocalyptic and threatening: disasters, wars, apostasy. Some of the message’s more memorable phrases have frequently been quoted, e.g. “my son’s priests are sewers of impurity”. Melanie says that the apparition also told her explicitly which well-known Italian city the reign of antichrist would start in.

Many of the details in the message, as later written down, have not apparently been fulfilled (e.g. certain cities being destroyed by fire and flood). The overall theme was a reproach to ‘my people’ for not keeping the Sabbath, and for blaspheming the name of God. This was followed with a warning that the true faith would be abandoned by a majority of the clergy and religious, but in the end grace would triumph, and God would be served, adored, and glorified.

The details of La Salette are somewhat elusive, because a number of variant versions of the event started to circulate during the lifetime of the two visionaries. The internet presents a challenging array of ‘true’ versions.

One must always remember that private revelation is not part of the deposit of the faith. And there must surely be a semantic gap between whatever message heaven intended to impart, and the received version, once it had been filtered through a child’s mind, and then subsequently tweaked by any number of interested parties (as at Fatima).

However, with the current assaults of ambiguity and confusion on Catholic faith and morals, and a growing apostasy, one cannot but incline to thinking that Melanie and Maximin were actually told something true, even if the prophetic message has been somewhat coloured in the telling.

Overall, the apparition at La Salette was a warning that religious infidelity among Catholics, especially “consecrated souls”, would result in a terrible affliction of the Church and a disastrous undermining of the Christian religion.

Credible?

[Cf. http://www.lasalette.co.uk/message/meaning]

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August2018

QUEEN AND MOTHER

Each year at the Birmingham Oratory on the feast of the Assumption we entrust ourselves to our Blessed Lady.

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Oratory, behold us now, your devoted sons, gathered in prayer before your image. Today we once again entrust to you our Congregation, this Oratory, our house, our home. We wish to belong entirely to you, O heavenly Queen and kindest Mother. We ask that by your glorious intercession you will bring us ever closer to your divine Son.

We beseech you to obtain for us all the graces that we need for our salvation. Help us to grow in faith, and hope, and charity. Help us to serve your Son ever more faithfully, in the spirit of our Glorious Patriarch, Saint Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome. United in our love for God, in our devotion to you, and in charity towards each other, may we daily grow in holiness, for God’s greater glory, and the good of all His People.

Most Blessed Virgin, we entrust all our needs and all our endeavours to you, now and in the future. We place ourselves unreservedly under your protection, confident that you will prosper any good that we try to do for the love of your Son. Pray for us your children, so that at the last we may be found worthy to behold the vision of God’s glory, and share with you that joy and peace which your divine Son has prepared for those that truly love Him; O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

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Precious Blood

THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

In 1960 Pope John XXIII issued an inspiring Apostolic Letter about devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ (Inde a primis). He reminded us that the Precious Blood was poured out for us “first at his circumcision eight days after birth, and more profusely later on in his agony in the garden, in his scourging and crowning with thorns, in his climb to Calvary and crucifixion, and finally from the great wide wound in his side which symbolises the divine Blood cascading down into all the Church’s sacraments”. From our Lord’s consecration to the Father in the temple until the consummation of His redeeming work on the cross, His  Precious Blood was poured out with ever increasing profusion.

The shedding of Christ’s Blood demonstrates the fidelity of God the Father towards us, and also reveals both the justice and the mercy entailed in the sacrifice made on Calvary in atonement for our sins. The sacraments are instituted through the outpouring of Christ’s Blood. “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, our souls may be refreshed with the grace that flows from the fount of all life, which is God Himself”.

In the Old Testament we read of the blood of Abel, shed by his brother Cain, crying out to God for vengeance from the dust of the earth. The response to this is that the Almighty expels Cain the murderer from the land, and condemns him to a life of hard labour. Conversely, through Christ’s Precious Blood freely given for our redemption, each one of us is rescued from exile and offered the chance to return to our rightful home, the heavenly Jerusalem.

The month of July is traditionally devoted to the Precious Blood. Let us do as the children of Israel did before us; let us seek to be sprinkled by the Blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with us, not a covenant sealed by the blood of bulls and goats, but something new and better – an eternal promise sealed by the Precious Blood of the Redeemer.

The Blood of the new and everlasting covenant does what the older covenants could not do. The animal blood sacrifices offered under the old dispensation were primitive signs of what was to come, but they did not do the job. Only the Precious Blood of Christ atones for sins, and only Christ can offer salvation to those who seek it.

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Corpus Christi 2017

OF THE GLORIOUS BODY TELLING

Corpus Christi is one of the most colourful and joyful feasts of the Catholic year. It is especially dear to us at the Oratory because it was a feast for which our founder St Philip Neri had a particular devotion.

On Maundy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the sanctuary bells rang out at Gloria in excelsis Deo. Why? To herald the arrival in this world of a startling new reality, Christ’s Eucharistic presence. At the Last Supper the Creator did something entirely new. He introduced a new mode of His own Personal presence within creation.

No other religion believes anything as extraordinary as this. It is a breathtaking article of our faith. Either it is truly God that we worship when we kneel before the Host in the monstrance, or it is an act of idolatry.

Man was created to worship his Maker. Adoration is our eternal destiny. To engage in the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament is to fulfil our human nature in one of the best ways possible. To worship Christ in the Host is one of the most fruitful of all religious activities. It is the best preparation for heaven.

Devotionally and culturally, the Corpus Christi processions are among the greatest treasures of the Catholic Church. In his book The Blessed Sacrament Father Wilfrid Faber (1814-1863) evokes  the universality of this devotion around the Catholic world.

“How many glorious processions, with the sun upon their banners, are now winding their way around the squares of mighty cities, through the flower-strewn streets of Christian villages, through the antique cloisters of the glorious cathedral, or through the grounds of the devout seminary, where the various colours of the faces are fresh tokens of the unity of that faith, which they are all exultingly professing in the single voice of the magnificent ritual of Rome.”  (1855)

For us who live in a country where Christian faith is now in alarming decline and practising Catholics an ever reducing minority, we pray that Fr Faber’s description will once again become true. It is not wholly untrue even now, even in the present wave of apostasy that we are currently living through.

We should also pray for those countries where persecuted Christians have no liberty to celebrate Holy Mass, no freedom to worship the Blessed Sacrament.

A growing apostasy and a growing persecution of Christians: are these a passing episode, or are they signs that the Abyss is opening, and the End closer?

Watch and pray.

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