Wednesday 28 June 2023

The Office of Peter

 Perhaps the liturgical feast of the Chair of St Peter, celebrated on 22nd February, is most exactly a celebration of the office of the Successor Peter; but I nevertheless find the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul on 29th June prompt to reflect on that office. I am left at a bit of a loss that clergy seem to shy away from preaching on the Papal office on this feast day.

Hans Urs von Balthasar makes great play of the way in which, though he arrives at the tomb first on Easter morning, St John waits for St Peter to catch up, and then allows that he should enter the tomb first. Though not in time - the first immediate witness is Mary Magdalene - this gives a certain precedence to St Peter's witness to the resurrection. It is reflected at the start of the liturgy of the Easter Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square, when the successor of St Peter venerates an image of the risen Christ in a testimony to the truth of the resurrection. Whilst both the charism of love (St John) and that of hierarchy (St Peter) are essential to the Church, the former charism gives precedence to the latter.

In the figures of St Paul and St Peter, a similar precedence can be seen. St Paul's mission to the Gentiles seeks its confirmation from the apostles gathered around St Peter in Jerusalem. Both represent essential features of the life of the Church; but St Paul shows a deference to St Peter that reflects that of St John.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Pope Francis: Witness to the Passion for Evangelisation

I continue to find interesting Pope Francis' sequence of General Audience addresses on the passion for evangelisation. He is now dedicating them to witnesses to this zeal drawn from the life of the Church.

He has recently spoken about Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary to China in the late 16th/early 17th century. Pope Francis' General Audience address can be found here, and it is possible to note the element of cultural encounter that formed Matteo Ricci's life in China. A more academic, and complementary, account of his missionary activity can be found at Thinking Faith: Matteo Ricci: Shaped by the Chinese.

Most recently, Pope Francis has spoken about St Therese of Lisieux, a patron saint of missionaries. The Audience address is here. Commenting on the well known story of St Therese's prayer for Enrico Pranzini, Pope Francis observed:

Brothers and sisters, such is the power of intercession moved by charity; such is the engine of mission! Missionaries, in fact — of whom Thérèse is patroness — are not only those who travel long distances, learn new languages, do good works, and are good at proclamation; no, a missionary is also anyone who lives as an instrument of God’s love where they are. Missionaries are those who do everything so that, through their witness, their prayer, their intercession, Jesus might pass by.

This is the apostolic zeal that, let us always remember, never works by proselytism — never  — or constraint, — never — but by attraction. Faith is born by attraction. One does not become Christian because they are forced by someone, but because they have been touched by love. More than having many available means, methods, and structures, which sometimes distract from what is essential, the Church needs hearts like Thérèse’s, hearts that draw people to love and bring people closer to God. And let us ask the saint — we have her relics here — let us ask the saint  for the grace to overcome our selfishness and let us ask for the passion to intercede so that this attraction can be greater in people and so that Jesus might be known and loved.

Saturday 3 June 2023

St Charles Lwanga - and a reflection on ideological colonisation

 In 2015 I posted on St Charles Lwanga and his Companions, whose feast day is celebrated in the Catholic Church on 3rd June each year: St Charles Lwanga and Companions: an opportunity to comment on recent events

I was reminded of that post when I visited a local library during this last week, and encountered its display of LGBT books, set out to mark Pride month. I really did get a sense of a colonisation of a cultural space by a particular ideology. In using the term "ideology" it is worth reminding ourselves of how the working of the concept of ideology is explained by Luigi Guissani in his book The Religious Sense (p.129 in my Ignatius Press copy from 1990):

... it is a theoretical-practical construction based on an aspect of reality, a true aspect, but taken up in such a way that it becomes unilaterally and tendentiously made into an absolute; and this comes about through a philosophy or a political project.

Ideology is built up on some starting point offered by our experience; thus, experience itself is taken up as a pretext for an operation that is determined by extraneous or exorbitant preoccupations.

Faced with, for example, the existence of a "poor" person, one theorizes about the problem of this person's need, but the concrete person with his or her concrete need becomes a pretext; the individual in his concreteness is marginalised once he has provided the starting point for the intellectual and his or her opinions or has provided the starting point for the politician so that he can justify and publicise an operation of his. The view of the intellectuals, which the powers that be find convenient and take up as their own, become common mentality by means of mass media, schools and propaganda...

As we mark their feast day, we can remind ourselves of the witness to Catholic teaching on same sex relations offered by St Charles Lwanga and his companions as they resisted the desires of the Ugandan ruler of their time; and of the witness of Rocco Buttiglione which I also described in my post in 2015.