January/February/March 2020

Futility, humility and the Year of the Word

I had cause to sort out some family photographs recently with one of my sisters. It was at turns edifying and discombobulating as we recalled great characters from our shared past and then realised that most of them are no longer with us. All things must pass, but when the vector of mortality gets personal, it can challenge one’s sense of self-worth. I well recall Fr Brian Green once remarking in his Pastoral Renewal Exchange that while de-cluttering one day, he came across a crumpled carrier bag containing a substantial if somewhat random collection of photographs from his many years of ministry. Leafing through them, affectionate memories gradually gave way to melancholy. Sinking into a slough of despond, he summarised his feelings memorably as ‘Brian Green – This is your life – A Bagful of Futility’.

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Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks

The God Who Speaks

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference has designated this year as the Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks. Henry Wansbrough OSB, a biblical scholar and monk of Ampleforth Abbey, reflects on what we can learn from the God who speaks to us.

The Church has declared 2020 a Year of the Word, when we listen to the God Who Speaks. One of the most startling changes in the Church, sparked half a century ago by the Constitution on the Holy Scripture of Vatican II, Dei Verbum, has been the attitude to the Bible. Until then the Bible was viewed by Catholics with caution. It belonged to the Protestants, as sacraments belonged to us. It was dangerous to examine the Bible too openly, for fear of falling under the condemnations of the Modernist Movement in the early years of the century, still carefully and repeatedly brought to the attention of every Catholic priest and teacher by the Anti-Modernist Oath. All that came to an end with the Council; since then the Bible has taken its place in Catholic minds and hearts as securely as in those of other Christians. Private reading and meditation of the Bible has become commonplace. Bible reading and study groups have sprung up in many parishes. The public celebration of morning and evening biblical prayer is a feature of many parishes. Where priests are lacking, a biblical service has become an alternative way for parishes to meet the Lord. Catholic biblical scholars have taken their place in the broader academic circle. What do we learn from listening to the God Who Speaks? From the whole of the Bible we gain a greater ­understanding of ourselves and of our situation, of human nature in search of God in all the varied situations and predicaments of life, and therefore of God and our interrelationship. It might be useful to sketch this in a Trinitarian manner.

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The art of letting go: The binding of Isaac

Genesis 22 is one of the readings of the Hebrew Scriptures chosen for the Liturgy of the Word at the Easter Vigil. It is also something of a challenging text. Adrian Graffy, a parish priest in the diocese of Brentwood and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, takes a fresh look.

Perhaps the most challenging of the Old Testament readings set before us for the Easter Vigil is the story of the ‘binding’ of Isaac. Its relevance to the mystery of the death of Christ might suggest that, like the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14, it should never be omitted. One suspects, however, that when pastoral considerations advise reduction of the number of readings, Genesis 22 is a frequent casualty.

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Imagining a new vision of biblical formation in the Catholic Church

Ela Lazarewicz-Wyrzykowska
, lecturer in Old Testament at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge, reports on a symposium on biblical formation in the Catholic Church.

In September 2019 the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology (MBIT) hosted a symposium entitled ‘A new vision of biblical formation in the Catholic Church’. Participants came from the UK, Ireland, Poland and Sri Lanka. The event provided a framework for a unique conversation between scholars from different fields relating to academic biblical studies, biblical education and Catholic formation.1 The symposium was organised independently from the Year of the Word, but the serendipity of these two initiatives goes without saying. The Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks provides an opportunity to develop our practice of engaging with the Bible and our thinking about how such engagement may be shaped in different contexts.

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Beacons of excellence: Being a trustee in Catholic residential and nursing homes

The second of two articles on Catholic care homes focuses on the trustees and their role in promoting the Catholic ethos of the home. John Deehan is a parish priest in London and trustee of a Catholic care home.

While Catholic schools are a well-known feature of our education system and are popular with parents outside of the Catholic community, Catholic residential and nursing homes have a much lower profile. Nonetheless, they have the tradition and spiritual resources to be beacons of excellence in the care of the elderly and those approaching the end of life. But whereas Catholic schools in general seem to be proud to proclaim their Catholic identity, residential and nursing homes appear, in my limited experience, more reluctant to make their Catholic ethos a prominent feature of what they have to offer. In the previous article, I used the Gospel of Luke as a primary resource to tease out what the Catholic ethos of such a home might look like. Among the New Testament writers, it is Luke, in his Gospel and in its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, who emphasises the Church as the embodiment of the mission of God to the world, confident of its identity and open to the stranger and the one seeking the fullness of life.

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