Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Of Bishops, a homily and a pastoral letter

It is unfortunate that the "championing" of a Bishop and his homily by one blog is matched by implicit criticisms of that Bishop and his homily on another blog [and by additional comment such as this that magnifies the positions represented by the two first posts out of all proportion]. I think that both of the posts, in their anxiety to be tendentious, make something of Bishop Davies' homily that is not there in the original. Try to read the report, and full text, on Shrewsbury Diocese's own website, without the filters provided by these two blog posts, and I hope you will see what I mean.

Bishop Davies' homily is a very lovely homily, full of references to the theme of Sunday Mass that will be familiar to anyone who has read Pope Benedict XVI's words on the same theme.
Yes, on the wettest, winter morning as the first generation of Christians put it and YouCat records their voices, “we cannot live without Sunday.”...

It isn’t the incidentals of music or style which draws or deters you from finding your way to Him. Those things may help or hinder us but they’re not why we’re ever here. We are here because we know in the words of St. John Vianney that “He is here, the One who loves us so much He is here.” May we find our way to Him where we know He will always be found.
The reference to a generation that has not handed on the fullness of the faith to those who are today the young? It is a glancing reference, not the centre of the homily at all, and we need to be careful not to read more into it than there is there to be read.

Another Bishop in another place has written a lovely pastoral letter. It's theme is not unrelated to that of Bishop Davies' homily, though delivered in a very different circumstance.
Create silence!’ There’s a challenge here. Surely speaking is a good and healthy thing? Yes indeed. Surely there are bad kinds of silence? Yes again. But still Kierkegaard is on to something.

There is a simple truth at stake. There can be no real relationship with God, there can be no real meeting with God, without silence. Silence prepares for that meeting and silence follows it. An early Christian wrote, ‘To someone who has experienced Christ himself, silence is more precious than anything else.’ For us God has the first word, and our silence opens our hearts to hear him. Only then will our own words really be words, echoes of God’s, and not just more litter on the rubbish dump of noise.
And one can detect Bishop Hugh's Benedictine background (with regard to the silence to be observed in the Oratory of the monastery) as he writes:
There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be. At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
In both Bishop Hugh's pastoral letter and Bishop Davies' homily there is a warmth of faith that communicates itself to the reader. And it is perhaps this that should be the subject of comment among Catholic blogs before anything else.


Frederick Oakeley said...

What a pleasure to read a piece supporting our bishops and commending their pastoral care in language which is fitting. I am so tired of right wing dogmatists who scroll through every episcopal word, not to glean food for their souls, but to emerge triumphant with some phrase they can claim is inconsistent with a sentence taken out of context from a Vatican document. What's worse is that their condemation is couched in such unpleasant hectoring language that they make the most vulgar of politicians seem pillars of courtesy. These are our fathers in God and deserve respect not abuse.

Joe said...


Thank you for your comment, which I appreciate.

I have had opportunity to hear (now Bishop) Hugh preaching during stays at Pluscarden Abbey - and it was fascinating to read Bishop Davies' homily and feel the very same sense of warmth and intelligence of faith that I had previously experienced listening to (then Abbot) Hugh.