Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
Holy Week(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
Today’s celebration of Saint Peter & Saint Paul gives us the opportunity to reflect on the identifying marks of the Church founded on their preaching, teaching and self-sacrifice. Each time we recite our Creeds we affirm our belief that Christ’s mystical Body is ONE. Unity is of the essence of the Church because its source is none other than the Triune mystery of the Godhead. Jesus made clear in his final prayer during the Last Supper that harmony among his followers was the key to their mission: if they were not at one, how could the world be brought to belief? But unity and diversity walk hand in hand – as within the Blessed Trinity – and our goal has to be to find what the model means for our own times. “Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies and disputes Where there is virtue, however, there are harmony and unity from which arise one heart and one soul of all believers” (Origen: died 254). As Roman Catholics we have a particular insight to offer in the realisation that (as the Second Vatican Council expressed it): “it was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head that we believe our Lord entrusted all the blessing of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God”.
To affirm that the Church is HOLY (as with the belief that it is essentially One) raises obvious questions. The history of two thousand years is peppered with failure both personal and institutional, and the wounds in the Body are there for all to see. What it is not always so easy to perceive – but it is a matter of faith – is that human frailty is not the whole picture, and that the Catholic Church remains what it has been since its inception a community formed by, and filled with, the Holy Spirit. Again to use quotations from the documents of the Second Vatican Council: “all the activities of the Church are directed, as towards their end, to the sanctification of all in Christ, and the glorification of God”. It is in the Church that “the fullness of the means of salvation” has been deposited, and it is in her that “by the grace of God we acquire holiness”. The Church has always provided a home for sinners, but also for those wanting to be saints.
“Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch: died 107). The Church is CATHOLIC because she continues Christ’s incarnation into every generation, as she will do until the end of time. Just as Christ is universally present through the Pentecostal Spirit, so “all are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled” (Lumen Gentium). Catholicity involves the understanding that all things necessary for salvation are made available within the communion of the Church – continuity of faith, right teaching, a full sacramental life, the prospect of sanctification. One definition of the Church is that she is “the universal sacrament of salvation” and her missionary mandate – entrusted to her by Christ before his Ascension– means that all its members share a vocation to be in Pope Francis’s phrase “missionary disciples”. If salvation is a universal invitation then every Catholic must want to use every opportunity to enable others to hear and then accept that invitation.
The Church is APOSTOLIC because she is built on the foundation of the Apostles’ faith. Jesus called twelve ordinary working men to be the basis of the New Israel. Through their teaching and preaching they handed on all that they heard and witnessed – most especially the events which we now term the Paschal Mystery. The apostolic nature of the Church means that the original message remains intact and has been transmitted through the years to our own times. ”Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s whole apostolate: thus the fruitfulness of the apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ”. In those words lies the challenge: so much offered (the means to, and the promise of, communion with God into all eternity) - but what is our response?