January/February 2018

New Year's Revolution?

Anthony Towey

Happy New Year! In some ways Christians should exchange this greeting at the beginning of Advent, but in terms of common cultural tradition, January 1st marks the turn of the year, often accompanied by attempts to make a new start in some direction or other. I am told there is a 'spike' in gym membership at this time which constitutes some sort of corporeal reaction to Christmas indulgence. Likewise, in the UK at least, the recent fashion to give up alcohol for the month of January rather than in Lent is just the latest iteration of what I would call 'secularized repentance'.

But perhaps this is being unfair. Anyone trying to make a change for the better should surely be encouraged. In any case, while 'repentance' might be a good religious word, it might not be quite the best way to translate the opening lines of Jesus' proclamation: 'The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent [metanoiete] and believe the Good News!' (Mk. 1.15). Readers are probably aware that there is a distinct dynamism to metanoiete and suggestions that it be better translated as 'change of heart' 'change direction' 'turn around' are not uncommon. Indeed I have vivid memories of a penitent filmed at San Giovanni Rotundo, visibly shaken and anxiously drawing on a cigarette after going to confession to Padre Pio. 'That was quick - what did he say to you?' quizzed the reporter. 'Change your life' came the reply!

For me, these sorts of translation are preferable, especially if repent goes no further than an introspective turn. It is always risky to rely too much on etymology, but my own preference is to translate metanoiete via its component parts of meta 'beyond' and noô 'think over' which yields an imperative to 'Think Differently'. It seems to me this translation fits with the way that Jesus tries to teach the Kingdom by using the story puzzles of the parables. All too often we try and solve them, but they are meant to mess with our heads, to get us angry, to get us to discuss whether the first hour vineyard workers were exploited (Mt. 20.1-16), whether the elder son was justifiably aggrieved at his wastrel brother (Lk. 15.11-32) and whether the talent-burying piggy bank tenant quite deserved the roasting he received (Mt. 24.14-30). In Mark 8.18 Jesus yearns for his disciples to 'have eyes to see and ears to hear' - as if an appeal to change in our physical senses might get us to change the mental straitjacket of our common sense.

Even the actions of Jesus defy the kind of pattern that would make predictability the order of the day. The miracles are wonderful, but serial astonishment is hardly the best diet for the tidy mind, even if common cause and twelve baskets did succeed in clearing up the odd hillside. As for predicting that the power of the Messiah would be manifest through the weakness of crucifixion and death - it was literally unthinkable. When I was young, I used to think that the disciples were dim (Mk. 8.32). Now that I'm old I have far more sympathy - they were in the middle of what Thomas Kuhn has famously called a 'paradigm shift' whereby Jesus was not only altering their picture of piety, he was problematizing their prophecy, demagnetizing their moral compass and setting fire to their theological map.

It is hard for us to think differently - God knows! Part of the problem is that the framework or 'mindset' we acquire through our formative years can constrain as well as empower us. In adopting 'Think Different' and a half-bitten apple as slogan and logo, the most successful company on the planet may have been cocking a snook at Judeo-Christianity or it may have been doffing its hat to the passing of Alan Turing. Yet the fact that the entire planet is in thrall to hand-held electronica makes the prediction of an IBM executive in 1958 that there would be only five computers on the planet more ridiculous by the day. Like them or not, the youthful quirky founders of Apple did think differently and they have changed the world.

Yet this, too, is the essential Christian challenge. To think differently in order that we ourselves might change - and in so doing, change the world. As an example, just recently I was praying one day, moaning about work, and the God-thought came to me: 'Do you know your problem? You go to work, to work, and then think about being a witness, while I want you to be a witness and then think about work.' It's a small difference. But it changes the mindset such that I go to work as a witness, and I do some work there. That makes a real difference to my demeanour, my disposition, the way I tackle a problem. OK, so I've been getting things the wrong way round for years, but at least 2018 might be different!

Newman wisely said: 'In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.' Who knows, maybe the contributors to this first edition of the Pastoral Review for 2018 may help us to repent - to think differently. And in God's good providence, may the Spirit lead each of us into metanoia, into our own personal New Year's Revolution.

The Eucharist: Looking backwards and forwards

eucharistThomas O'Loughlin

Hearing the word 'Eucharist' most think of it as the name of a special sacred object, but it refers to an activity Christians are called to engage in. 'Eucharist' is derived from a verb not a noun, writes Thomas O'Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.

Christianity is a religion of memory. We look to the future - indeed to beyond the future - and so we live today in such a way as to build that future, but we do so while recalling our past. Our past is significant because it identifies us, affirms that we are a community in a covenant with God, and provides us with a key to what is significant in that relationship. The journey we are on is always looking forward, but we understand it by looking at where we have come from. We must start from here, but for better or for worse, this 'here' is not some ideal spot but a result of the winding paths of the Christian pilgrimage - and for this reason historical enquiry is a valuable starting point in our theological reflection. This can nowhere be seen more clearly than when we consider that central moment of our gathering as the Church, when we become visible as the People we are, at our weekly celebration of the Eucharist.

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An ecumenical Mariology

Ecumenical MariologyPatricia Rumsey

This article examines Martin Luther's attitude to Mary and his objections to Roman hyperdulia with regard to her.  It asks where this devotion to the Mother of God found its origin and how it had progressed through the centuries, and shows how Luther would probably have been satisfied with the teaching of Vatican II on Mary. Patricia Rumsey is Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham and Abbess of the Poor Clare community in Arkley, Hertfordshire.

'The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart'

We see from his sermons and his writings, especially his Commentary on the Magnificat, that throughout his life Martin Luther retained the early beliefs formed in his Catholic childhood, and from his days as an Augustinian monk concerning Mary, and he maintained a great regard for her. He wrote:

[S]he became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child.... Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God.... None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.1

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Talking about this generation

talking about this generationKáren North

Sociologists have long been working with different subsets of generations, most famous being the 'Baby Boomers'. In preparation for the 2018 Synod on Youth it is timely to remind ourselves of some of the key features that have been identified in terms of the generations coming of age in this period. This article paints a picture for readers unfamiliar with such classifications and makes some general remarks about how they might be applied in the UK context. Káren North lectures in Theology at St Mary's University, Twickenham, and is co-ordinator for youth ministry for the Southwark Diocese.

Young Adult defined
A good starting point is to establish what is meant by the term 'Young Adult'? Part of the problem is that it is clearly not simply a matter of identifying an age range since the word 'adult' has different connotations for different cultural traditions and societal roles. Indeed, as a relatively recent category it could be used to describe everyone from teenagers to those in their middle ages. It is evident that most young people today are far slower to complete the 'youth' stage of their lives than those of previous generations. Perhaps this is due to increased numbers of young people choosing to study at university, together with vocational choices taking place much later in life.

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The life of William Gordon Wheeler

WGWheelerJames Hagerty

This article looks at the life of William Gordon Wheeler (1910-1998). Ordained an Anglican, he converted to Catholicism and attended the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council. James Hagerty is a former Head teacher and has taught Church history at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham.

A journey into the fullness of faith
Since the Restoration of the Hierarchy, there has been a distinguished line of Catholic prelates who formerly were Anglican priests. Among them is William Gordon Wheeler, the seventh Bishop of Leeds.

Born in Yorkshire in 1910, Wheeler was cradled in the care of a loving Anglican family. He was imbued with a sense and an appreciation of Christianity that was further nurtured by inspirational teachers at Manchester Grammar School who also instilled in him a love of history and literature. At University College, Oxford, he became familiar with the writings of John Henry Newman and at St Stephen's College with the traditions of High Anglicanism. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1934.

Wheeler's Anglican priesthood brought him little satisfaction. This was no surprise for at Oxford and immediately before ordination, he harboured doubts about the Anglican Church and its relationship to the doctrines and liturgy of the Church of Rome. His study of Newman's writings and sermons, his discussions with Oxford contemporaries, and his contact with the Cowley Fathers moved him inexorably towards Catholicism. In 1936, after much soul searching and prayer and to the utter devastation of his family, he left the Anglican Communion and was received into the Catholic Church at Downside. He had found no theological assurance in the Anglican faith and on his conversion felt 'enriched by the certainty which only the See of Peter can give'. He had 'Poped' and had found his 'true home in this part of the Vineyard'.

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