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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Monday, March 26, 2007

The two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade occurs this week. We give thanks for William Wilberforce’s work which sprang from his Christian faith. We also give thanks for the Catholic Church’s consistent authoritative teaching against slavery. The latter dimension has not had much airtime. Rather more prominence has been given, by the BBC for instance, to those Catholic leaders who ignored the pleadings and teachings of the Church. This is very unfair to Christ in the Church, who has unerringly truly uttered his “But I say to you” down the centuries, on this issue as on others.

Pope Eugene IV writing as early as 1435, very early on in the Slave Trade, against the Portuguese who made Canary Islanders into slaves.

We ... exhort, through the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ shed for their sins, one and all, temporal princes, lords, captains, armed men, barons, soldiers, nobles, communities and all others of every kind among the Christian faithful of whatever state, grade or condition, that they themselves desist from the aforementioned deeds, cause those subject to them to desist from them, and restrain them rigorously. And no less do We order and command all & each of the faithful of each sex that, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their pristine liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands ... who have been made subject to slavery

There were numerous other such passionate Papal pleas invoking the authority of Christ in the Church across following centuries. They were ignored, not just by Bishops, but by Heads of State and others for whom Christ in his Church was not a primary authority.

Our prominent detractors use one or two medieval instances of Popes giving practical sanctioning to forced labour for those who had used violence against the Church. They have presented these out of context and without reference to the tradition of Catholic teaching. Popes never formally taught that making slaves of the innocent was allowed.

The Church teaches today in a manner which is similarly unpopular in the Pro-Life arena. For example we are against “therapeutic cloning”, whereby human embryonic beings are created purely in order to have their tissue harvested to help cure diseases. This is a very modern and very radical form of slavery. Teachings such as these might well be part of the reason some prominent anti-life journalists want to undermine the authority of Christ and His Church.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:48 am

Monday, March 19, 2007
Why do we recite "Gloria in excelsis Deo..." (Glory to God in the highest...)?
The hymn "Gloria in excelsis Deo..." is a version of a very old Greek prayer, dating back at least to the third century and possibly the first. Its opening line comes from the prayer of the angels who announced Jesus' birth (Lk 2:14). The Gloria is sung on Sundays and feasts but is omitted during the seasons of Advent and Lent, except on feasts and on Holy Thursday. It is a beautiful poem giving praise to God the Trinity.

What is the significance of the Opening Prayer?
After the "Gloria" is said or sung, the priest invites the congregation to pray by saying "Let us pray". A brief period of silent prayer may follow and the priest then reads (or chants) the Open-ing Prayer. Traditionally this prayer was known as the "Collect" because the priest "collects" the prayers of the congregation in a unified, general petition to God. The Collect expresses a particular intention, with reference to the particular feast day or season of the liturgical year. Collects always follow a set pattern. After this we begin the “Liturgy of the Word.”

Often, we talk about liturgy but what does the word "liturgy" mean?
The word "liturgy" comes from an ancient Greek word "leitourgia" which literally meant a "public work". In ancient Greece these public works were acts of charity, but in the New Testament liturgy refers to well-defined, public worship of God. We can understand liturgy as our own public work of praise and worship to God, as members of Christ's body. Ultimately it is Christ’s praise of the Father, in its worldly dimension. Hence, liturgy refers to a religious ritual or ceremony which follows a standard order of events (gestures, prayers, readings etc.), in which all can take part together. The Mass is an example of liturgy, as is the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours) discussed on the front of the newsletter last Advent.

The Catholic liturgy we celebrate today has its roots in Jewish acts of public worship and can be traced directly to the practice of the Apostles in the early Church. Because the liturgy is a work and gift of Christ for all the form it takes today is decided under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the Pope with the help of the bishops. Therefore it is not up to any one preist of person to decide or impose upon the rest of us how the liturgy should be celebrated. The Second Vatican Council taught us: "Therefore no other person [than the Pope], even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 22,3).

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:32 am

Monday, March 12, 2007
THE PENITENTIAL RITE (continued from two weeks ago)
Does this Rite take away the need for sacramental confession? At the end of this Rite the priest says “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” Participation in this Rite, in the context of Holy Mass, does forgive small (‘venial’) sins. Mentioning them in confession is still a very fruitful practice.
Should we be in the state of what is called “Mortal Sin” we still can and should take part in Mass, but should mention these sins in confession before receiving Holy Communion. “Mortal Sin” is involves doing something seriously wrong, that is against one of the Ten Commandments, as interpreted by the Church, e.g. in the Catechism. But it must be done (i) deliberately and (ii) knowing it was seriously wrong.

So does doing something which the Church teaches is seriously wrong put me in a state of ‘Mortal Sin.”? Not necessarily. We are not in Mortal Sin if (i) we did not do the seriously wrong action deliberately, or (ii) did not clearly know that the action was seriously wrong. The latter might well be the case today given the confusing nature of our secular society. Where there is significant doubt it is usually best to make a good Act of Contrition during the Rite of Penance, still go to communion, make sure we mention the situation at our next confession, and try hard to understand the Church’s teaching more clearly.

Does doing something which the Church teaches is seriously wrong mean I should refrain from receiving Holy Communion? Not necessarily. There are only really two ‘states’ which stop a Catholic from going to Holy Communion: Mortal Sin and/or we are publicly continuing to do the seriously wrong action. If we are in the latter ‘state’ but are not in ‘Mortal Sin’ this means our guilt in reduced by our lack of deliberation or knowledge. But we still can’t go to Holy Communion because of possible scandal.
Examples would be if we ‘are known’ to be doing something contrary to the Church’s formal teaching in the area of marriage or haven’t been to Sunday Mass for a few weeks in a row. Until, by the Grace of God, this lifestyle changes we should still come to Mass and come up for a blessing or just remain seated at Communion time. (Such actions are taken by numerous people for these and also for quite different reasons, e.g. having eaten before Mass, not being Catholic etc.).
Such honesty will be profoundly psychologically and spiritually fruitful for us and our community. The alternative is to foster significant confusion and disharmony in our community. This perennial rule of the Catholic and Christian Church makes no presumption whatsoever concerning the ‘fault’ or ‘guilt’ of the people it applies to. As we have drawn out above there be indeed be all sorts of mitigating circumstances.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:38 am

Monday, March 05, 2007
You may be aware that St. Mary Magdalen’s Junior School needs to be rebuilt over the next couple of years and that the Jesus and Mary Infant Convent in undergoing urgent refurbishment. The cost of rebuilding the Junior school will be around six million pounds. The Government have allocated ninety per cent of this figure. The Governors have to find the other ten per cent, over half a million pounds. They have inquired of the parish whether we might be able to support this important effort to the tune of £85,000.

In addition the Jesus and Mary Infant Convent are in the middle of a much needed restoration of some basic facilities. Their Governors will need to raise towards £80,000. Any help towards that would be greatly appreciated, perhaps £15,000. Our overall target for “The Schools Fund” would be £100,000.

We ourselves, of course, have recently finished a major fundraising effort for our own church. Through the generosity and sacrifice of you, our parishioners, it was very successful. Despite the recent completion of this, given the long and close relationship between St. Mary Magdalen’s Parish and our two schools, our Parish Forum and our Finance & Premises Committee feel we should look into the request of the school governors seriously. It seems that, in the Providence of God, a hundred years after or forebears worked to build our local schools, we are called upon to shore up their work for the next generation.

We are thus now requesting the feedback, and possible commitments, from yourselves. You might like to bear in mind the following factors:

i) (i) The Junior School which our own community built quite a number of decades ago now urgently needs to be rebuilt. Without it closure would probably result within a few years. The loss of its important role in the formation of our young people would be great indeed.
ii) As part of the Government sponsored rebuilding, it will be necessary for the school to make some of their facilities particularly their new hall available for wider use. The parish of St. Mary Magdalen’s would be primary upon this list. This new large school hall would be useful for us for some of our events and be available for that use.

(ii) To move forward we need to here your views before making firm commitments. Next weekend there will be a parishioner will speak on behalf of the schools and you will be invited to fill in a questionnaire. Next Wk: Continuing our Q/A on Preparation for Communion

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:46 am