Holy Week & Easter 2017 (click on link to download PDF)
The Rector writes…
Last Sunday’s first round of voting in the French presidential election brought some interesting conversations with many of the French nationals who are part of our parish community. Our position in central London means that we are representative of a wide cultural and ethnic mix. In my last parish in the East End a census taken just before I left identified ninety three different nationalities worshipping together at Mass, and I suspect that the same exercise at Spanish Place would be characterised by a similar diversity. One of the joys of being a Catholic is this understanding that our expression of faith is not confined to a uniform culture and that our communion with the Successors of Saint Peter provides a vibrant link which reaches beyond the traditions and language of our own upbringing. It is this universality which was demonstrated so powerfully on Pentecost Day when the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to make themselves understood across a rich mix of ethnicity.
But this catholic understanding has seen Christians lay themselves open to the charge of disloyalty to their own nationality. Saint Peter attempts to lay this phantom: “for the sake of the Lord, accept the authority of every social institution: the emperor, as the supreme authority and the governors commissioned by him … God wants you to be good citizens, so as to silence what fools are saying in their ignorance” (I Peter 2:12). It is a charge to which Roman Catholics were particularly sensitive in 19th century Britain (“papal aggression”, “a church of immigrants”) and it has often shown itself in forms of ant-Semitism through the 20th century, and again rears its head in much of the negativity facing Muslims practising their faith in non-Muslim societies. Of course, there is a balancing act to be negotiated. On the one hand: “there is no eternal city for us in this life but we look for the one to come (Hebrews 13:15) and “our true homeland is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) while, at the same time, we are reminded that our feet are still firmly planted on this earth: “we are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it” (Ephesians 2:10).
All this is by way of a reminder of our responsibility as people of faith to be “good citizens” at this time. Britain is facing complex questions, not just in the forthcoming General Election, but also about its long term future as a united entity and its own developing culture. Everyone has a responsibility to play what part they can in defining the national character. The Catholic Church has a long and developed tradition of social teaching of which individual Catholics should be aware, at the heart of which stands the statement: “the human person is the foundation and purpose of political life”. Until quite recently dialogue and debate would have been conducted in the more open arena of newspapers and television etc. but this is increasingly being replaced by the new technologies which, of their nature, tend to be more private and less open to contradiction. Back in the 17th century, Blaise Pascal had realised: “truth in this time is so obscured and lies so widespread that one cannot recognise the truth unless one loves it”: while, closer to our own times, Dag Hammarskjold could say: “misusing words means despising people”.
As individuals we have a double duty to listen to the inner voice of truth which we call conscience, and to do all that we can to inform conscience so that it really does accord with truth. As we engage in the political process of these coming weeks – as we should – it is incumbent on us to listen critically to the varying policies being offered and viewpoints expressed to decide which better serve the ideal of the “common good”. We should also allow something Benedict XVI has written to underpin our reflection: “Jesus Christ is the Personified truth who attracts the world to himself. The truth radiating from Jesus is the splendour of truth. Every other truth is a fragment of the Truth that he is”.