Priory Blog

Read through my latest blog posts and feel free to comment on them if you like.

 

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A Hermit Priest

Posted on 11th August, 2020

We all know what hermits are - those courageous souls who dare to wrestle with God in the solitude of the wilderness or the monastery. They take form in, perhaps paradoxically, several Roman Catholic religious orders, such as the Carthursians and the Cistercians. Common to them all is a deep desire for God and for the peace that comes with a more perfect communion with him.

 

The solitude of Old Catholic life requires every member of its clergy to be something of a hermit. Most parish priests, whether Anglican or Roman, have one or more churches to look after, along with the laypeople who attend them and, quite possibly, clergy, readers and seminarians too. For better or worse, we are free from that. The time and freedom most of us thus have is both a gift and a challenge. It can be difficult to know what to do with it, especially when there is no client group and the words "Old Catholic" provoke, at best, curiosity.

 

In this desert, we can encounter sometimes piercing truth more deeply, both in terms of theology and ourselves. We can criticise the errors of Rome and Canterbury, ancient and modern, while we stand apart from these ever more dysfunctional institutions. We realise the humanity of the Church but also, more profoundly, the divinity of God and the strength of our divine faith as found in tradition. This is a seering experience, but also a healing one, for it shows us the errors of traditional, bureaucratic Christianity. We enter the night to emerge in a new dawn.

 

The hermit must endure the harshness and sharpness of the night, with all its terrors and storms, but the certainty of any night is the new day, in which sins are forgiven, hope is renewed and encumbrances burned away.

 

May our Lady, Star of the Sea, ever pray for us.

The Old Catholic Vocation

Posted on 11th August, 2020

Being an Old Catholic in Great Britain is not a vocation for those who are very outgoing with their faith. In many ways, it is a solitary vocation, with perhaps one or two dozen clergy spread across the whole country, all living their own lives. Yet, on the other side of this coin, it is a very unencumbered vocation, free of all the usual accretions of church life - buildings, arguments, personality clashes. It's yours to build from the ground up.

 

In many ways, this makes it a very varied vocation. There is something of the monk, the hermit and the priest in every Old Catholic - there's no crowd to be lost in, to be sure. Most of us are like the chantry priests of pre-Reformation England where, liturgical duties apart, we have a generous stock of time not usually available to parish or pastoral clergy. Back then, many chantry priests would be engaged in works of education or administration for which their education suited them. This is the case with many Old Catholic clergy of working-age today, who often pursue their pastoral instinct in their secular, self-supporting work. Not all priests need to be parish priests - there are very few Old Catholic parishes anyway.

 

For those with the right temperament and opportunities, this can be a blessed vocation. There's freedom to pray according to one's preference or bent - you can experiment or even omit the Divine Office when necessary. If there's no reassuring crowd around you, there's no mob and (usually) no gossips either. You can develop a very personal apostolate that can be very fulfilling, bearing in mind always that one's welfare and well-being is of central importance - pray well, eat well and live in accordance with the virtues.

 

Perhaps the greatest gift of an Old Catholic vocation is time. If you can live modestly and work less-than-full-time, you can live a prayerful and rewarding life as the world rushes by, full of anxieties and anguish. You can be one prayerful witness to life's true heart and worth amid all the noise as you make your way through it purposefully and peacefully.

 

May our Lady, St. Joseph and all the saints, by the mercy of God, guide us and support us with their prayers, for Christ's sake. Amen.

A Priest Forever...

Posted on 4th August, 2020

"Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."

 

Ps. CX. iv.

 

It is with great joy that I can announce that an Old Catholic bishop has agreed to ordain me, your humble blogger, to the sacred priesthood. This means that public Mass will be celebrated in due course.

 

Laus Deo!

The Coming Deluge

Posted on 4th August, 2020

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them."

 

Genesis V. v-vii.

 

Who can doubt that the present pestilence is a punishment from the Most High? Ours is a golden age whose inward face is a vaulted sepulchre, wherein are found grossness and uncleanness and debauchery. Children are fed to Moloch in the name of "women's rights"; their fathers are thrown out of doors; we compel what good mothers are left to work and to live exhausted lives of drudgery and domestic turpitude.

 

When shall men heed the words of the Lord? Turn ye from your ways and see and look and ask for the ancient paths; walk therein and ye shall find rest for your souls (Jer. VI. xvi. AV).

 

Repent ye, before it is too late and the fire unquenchable shall overtake your soul in the night that burns without light.

Repent.

Peace in the World of Today

Posted on 20th April, 2020

The 2020s promise to be a tumultuous decade.

 

Politics in America, a declining world-power, do not seem to be getting any less strange, or concerning. In an election year blighted by America's embarrassment at its loss of face and power, as well as by coronavirus, the re-election of Trump is very possible and perhaps even probable. This difficult, if perhaps well-meaning, personality wishes to "make America great again" not through difficult if necessary internal reforms (social, economic and political) but through confrontation and protectionism, things that can only hasten America's decline and madness.

 

The rest of the world faces the stagnation of Europe (and potential collapse of the EU), the continued rise of China, and the usual mixture of wars, crises and recessions of normal political fare. Of these, Europe is perhaps the most interesting and concerning. As a continent, it was, when considered as a whole, the world hegemon until after World War I, but its gradual decline in the economic, political and social spheres portend a loss of influence and power of which Brexit was a harbinger. This may yield political disturbance in one of the most hitherto stable continents, exacerbating tension when faced with the choice between China and the US as its strategic partner.

 

What of peace? When faced with national decline and the rise of an international rival, most incumbent powers go to war. Allison, in Destined for War, calls this The Thucydides Trap, noting that in 12/16 cases historically, general war followed. Lee Kuan Yew, the lauded late Prime Minister of Singapore, is more hopeful, pointing to the fact that China has no desire for war and that its military cannot hope to match America's for some decades (the China is also wary of spending itself into collapse, as happened with the USSR). Yet the bellicose rhetoric of recent weeks (which is historically illiterate) should urge us to caution in our hopes. America is still capable of sparking a conflict; China need not be the antagonist.

 

Peace requires a new approach. To seek for peace means to grow to understand the nature and place of China in the world, as well as our own country's relationship thereto. It also means resisting the temptation to well-meaning racism and notions of the Yellow Peril.

 

O Lord, have mercy. Ye saints, pray.

The State of the Nation

Posted on 18th April, 2020

You may have heard of Theodore Dalrymple, the nom de plume of a now-retired psychiatrist who spent most of his working life in the places most of us spend most of our lives avoiding (i.e. prisons, slums and banana-republics like Boristan). He writes eloquently and persuasively (if somewhat repetitively) about the problems of today's Britain, such as its corpulent underclasses, its incompetent government and the general abandonment of responsibility in favour of legality. He gives a very candid perspective on our beloved home.

 

His works, like those of Peter Hitchens, recall an earlier England that was more moral, more orderly and more decent than ours, if also poorer, colder and more miserable. Those quite physical evils have been replaced by more inhuman ones attacking the warp and weft of common-life. We perhaps see this most clearly in our politicians such asThe Dear Leader (Blessed Be The NHS), in whom we find the worst combination of ambition and stupidity. We are like a ship in a storm whose captain is blind, drunk and struck with terror.

 

In the government's inaction and blind-panic, we see a refusal to take a balanced view and to take responsibility for the consequences. A lockdown, whose benefits are only assumed rather than proved, best absolves the powers-that-be of blame for those who do die of the dreaded virus.

Where is the Church?

Posted on 18th April, 2020

For most of us, the closure of the physical church-buildings is strange and disquieting. These mute monuments watch the passage of our lives with all the sorrows and joys, beginnings and ends. Old Catholics in England care very much about buildings, if only because they have none. Yet most Christian clergy - Anglican, Methodist, RC, etc. - are now bedroom bishops, one minister-friend remarking that although his denomination had vacated the praise of God, Methodist Insurance must still be obeyed!

 

My own feeling is that all those streaming-clergy secretly worry that, when the doors reopen, not quite so many will come back. Disrupting personal-habits is one thing, but those of centuries and millennia might be fatal. Buildings lend the clergy and their flocks a certain importance - they wreak of continuity and substance. Who can doubt that something around for centuries has something worth pondering? It's very different when Rev Reg is playing with Hovis on a webcam.

 

In that insecurity, we perhaps espy the clergy's sense of their lack of substance. They really do bear little resemblance to the Redeemer; their sufferings, often self-inflicted, have had nothing noble in them and their good deeds few and far between. Perhaps the bishops, minus their cathedrals, sense how ambition led them to a mitre rather than the Holy Ghost. And what about all those clergywomen? Might they now doubt that all those Bishopesses and priestesses ever really existed?

 

The clergy of the most ancient churches in the land are now having to deal with the "new" forms of faith, which have a curious predilection for the ancient. Many will celebrate the mass or office according to ancient forms, rather than the committee-written rites of the 1970s and later. Clerics without the burden of a parish, or of constant public-parade, can fashion his spiritual life according to his own lights. Very often, he will defer to the insights of the past, which he finds to be of substance.

 

The strange thing is that these churchless clergy are often more faithful to the Church's essence (as found in her tradition) than the ordained line-managers of the high-street names. Those large, impressive buildings can seem a little like a substitute for substance with some of the less glorious clergy. With Old Catholic clerics, there isn't a building to hide in, unless it's been hired for the day.

 

Our Lord reminds us that he can raise up sons for Abraham from the very stones. Just right now, it looks like he is raising up new sons without them.

 

O Lord, have mercy. Ye saints, pray.

An Easter That Never Was?

Posted on 18th April, 2020

What a year 2020 is turning out to be!  What a decade!  And it has only just begun.

 

The Church's year has suffered a rare disruption. Having spent centuries arguing with the Orthodox over the date of Easter, this year has seen its more or less complete absence. We have been left with ourselves to contemplate the meaning of spring in the midst of a pandemic whose numbers and real effects we seem barely to know. Blinded by science, most of us have meekly complied with the commands of our betters in the vague hope it will soon be over, with granny still with us.

 

Despite the absence of the Easter ceremonies, maybe this is a glimpse as to how it was on that first Easter Sunday. Amidst the pain, the confusion and the simple not-knowing, something had plainly happened. The somewhat contradictory, slightly confused gospel accounts make that clear - an event that had brought eternity near. The simple, sensible assumptions of the plain, ordinary woman who came to the tomb were upended, never to be set right. The world had been made new.

 

Yet ponder the terror of those moments until she did know. She perhaps thought she was mad, or dreaming, or that she should have had less wine. And yet, in the crisp brilliance of the morning, amidst its coolness, stood the Lord whom had died in new life. It was a miracle, like but also unlike all his others. What had been so hard, no doubt unbearable, had turned to something wondrous, but whose consequences were still unknown. The coldest slivers of hope had been vindicated.

 

Thus, in the midst of this pestilence, we may hope. Those who see the warmongerers and the politicians rattle their sabres to divert attention can trust still in the mercy and justice of the Most High. Christ rested in the grave three days, but he now reigns forever; coronavirus has come - as did death - but it shall be vanquished.

O Lord, have mercy. Ye saints, pray.

The Anglican Breviary

Posted on 17th January, 2020

The Anglican Breviary

There is something genuinely wonderful and restful about the Anglican Breviary. Its English is, famously, dignified, poised and beautiful, but it