May 23, 2011
Fish Fridays are back for the Catholics of England and Wales, or at least they will be come September. The bishops conference of those countries announced last week that Friday abstinence from meat will once again become obligatory for their flock starting September 16, the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to the U.K.
Some sociologists have argued that dropping meatless Fridays in the 1960s was a pastoral error on the Church’s part. Meatless Fridays, so the thinking goes, were a significant marker of Catholic identity, and the rapid disappearance of so many such markers contributed to the disastrous erosion of Catholic life and practice which began in the late 1960s.
Still, even if one accepts that suddenly dropping an ancient practice such as meatless Fridays was a mistake, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the practice should be revived today. Nonetheless, it seems to me there are significant theological reasons to praise the bishops of England and Wales for their gutsy decision. Perhaps we might even learn something from them on this side of the pond.
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September 17, 2010
I might be risking the sin of pride by saying this, but we Jesuits have some pretty cool saints. One of the great unmerited blessings of this vocation is to be able to think of men like Francis Xavier, Peter Claver, and—today—Robert Bellarmine as elder brothers. And among those saints, I’ve always gotten a special thrill from the martyrs of the British Isles.
If, like me, you were avoiding homework yesterday by poring over transcripts of the papal visit to Scotland on Whispers in the Loggia (yes, I am a really big dork), you might have noticed that the Pope mentioned one of those Jesuits, St. John Ogilvie, as an example for the Scottish clergy.
John Ogilvie (1579-1615), was raised a Calvinist but converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen. This meant he had to leave Britain to study on the Continent, first in Belgium and then in Germany and what is today the Czech Republic. There he studied in a Jesuit college and joined the Austrian province of the Society of Jesus.
He went through the usual lengthy formation process, was ordained in 1610, and wanted immediately to return to Scotland. His superiors thought Scotland too dangerous at first (and they were proven right), but he was finally able to sneak into his homeland in 1613 disguised as a horse dealer.
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September 4, 2010
Newman two years before his death in 1890.
To prepare a bit for the Pope’s imminent visit to England, I made John Henry Newman, Fr. Ian Ker’s literary and intellectual biography of the great English Cardinal, one of my few constant traveling companions over the summer. I found so many provocative passages in the reading that it’s hard to know where to begin relating them. However, since students across the country are returning to school during these weeks, I thought I might begin modestly by highlighting a single sermon that Newman preached—while still an Anglican—on the Feast of St. Luke: “The Danger of Accomplishments.” It might be aptly retitled today, “The Danger of Higher Education.” Read the rest of this entry »