Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Italian Job.

My title today does not refer to the Tiber, or ways to cross it, but the song which runs through that brilliant film, titled 'The Self Preservation Society', which I take as today's text. Yesterday's vote, as Fr Lee publicised last night, does not show a Church which is certain about anything. It gives hope that, in a few years, at the final stage, the reformers may not get the two-thirds majority necessary to turn their back on scripture, tradition and reason one last time and throw us out. Throw us out - it's not just me and you, Gunga Din, as yesterday showed, it's a third of the Church of England and, against all the odds, it's growing. The only thing we can do over the next few years is to keep it growing, to develop a structure of parishes, mission centres, fresh expressions of Church, as Walsingham was when Father Hope Patten had his hopes fulfilled through the intercession of Our Lady of that village. A cohesive society which communicates well, and is dedicated to expansion and to filling Synod with people who have the faith delivered to the Saints, is our only chance of an equal and honoured place in this Communion. I have no doubt whatsoever that we can do it, I just wonder if we will.

The pictures were taken at Blackburn Cathedral the other day. The Jesus Chapel at the top, and here, the image of Our Lady, taken from a medieval pax. The pax was kept on the altar and kissed by the priest before being passed around the congregation. Thus, the original of this image has been venerated and used as a symbol of peace and unity for centuries, a preserved sign of hope in God and in His Blessed Mother. Self preservation is a common theme these days, but putting hope and faith in God, disregarding ones own preferences and comfort, well that is a light and a sign to the nations.

A light to lighten the gentiles and to give glory to God, is a good motto for us at this time. If we simply become a self preservation society, then we may as well go now, to wherever each of our consciences take us. A society that takes our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Walsingham, as it's patron and begs her to intercede for us and for the Church, continually and joyfully, is a source of light and grace.

In a few short months, I will be kneeling in front of this altar, Deo volente, being ordained deacon by the Bishop of Blackburn, who is one of the few traditional diocesan bishops in the Church, sharing our integrity. Yesterday, as I toured the house allocated to me with the lady from the diocesan offices, I was filled with a sense of hope and joy, as well as coming to an awareness of the immense task waiting for us all if we are to grow and form as a community of devotion and prayer, grasping, in the few years to come, new ways of spreading the Gospel and solidifying our position. A third of the Synod is not a hopeless number.

If I may be permitted to share a thought, then I would say that the first thing to do is for our bishops to commit themselves to growth and to building or purchasing houses for evangelising in the cities and major towns of this country, to plant missions in deprived areas, as we have before, and to act as though we all, cohesively, know the love of Our Lady of Walsingham.

THIS LINK is from the Guardian and makes for interesting reading about yesterday's shenanigans.