A friend from my church who had recently visited England brought me a copy of The Portal Magazine, a monthly lay-run publication covering “News, Events, Personalities, Catholic teaching, Letters, Features, Catholic and Anglican history, news from Ordinariate Parishes and the growth of the Personal Ordinariates around the world,” according to the UK Ordinariate’s website.
I read it cover to cover with great enjoyment, then, appetite whetted, I read the then most recent issue online. Now, since it is the first of the month, there’s a new issue to read and I look forward to it. Over on the right hand column of this blog we have an icon of The Portal that will take you to the latest issue. I had read The Portal a few times in the past, but probably distractedly. Having the hard copy in my hands got me started. Now I’m hooked.
Then, recently, Fr. Simon Chinery, the communications officer for the Ordinariate of OUr Lady of Walsingham emailed us about a couple of news items that might be of interest to our readers, which I will link to in a moment. It’s great people are contacting us with suggestions for stories. I’m delighted to have them and I’m sure our readers are as well.
First though, I have to say, I’m impressed with what the folks in the UK Ordinariate have going in terms communication. The Portal is read around the world and features a range of articles and columns, some of which are feisty and opinionated and may even disagree with something written by someone else, but that’s what makes it interesting and fun, kind of like attending a convivial gathering where people are drinking sherry and having a rollicking discussion without worrying about political correctness. It felt like home, and, like our parish here in Ottawa where everyone is welcome even if we are a little eccentric. I feel like I’ve discovered a whole new wing of my family across the Pond.
The editors of the Portal write up their visits of different Ordinariate communities and again, delightful, to join them.
But, besides The Portal, the official Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham website is also chock full of news, some of which I will get to in a moment. And this is to say nothing of the well-known priest bloggers many of us follow such as Fr. Ed Tomlinson and Fr. Hunwicke
Now to the news items.
Fr. Matthew Pittam, a former Anglican now Catholic priest with the UK Ordinariate, has written a book about his experiences as a school chaplain entitled Building the Kingdom in the Classroom: a Chaplain’s Diary.
At the link is a review by Canon John Twisteton that had been written for Premier Christian Media. Well worth reading the whole thing, but here’s a little taste to make you want to over.
Working for Christian formation in Church schools isn’t for the faint hearted. The author is matter of fact about the difficulties he finds in raising collaborators among staff who, though appointed on the basis of being sympathetic to Christianity, are often far from committed. Fr Pittam describes the struggle to create a holistic approach as opposed to a hole in the corner approach to God. He takes all comers, inevitably ministering primarily to those who seek the sacraments, yet seeks to permeate the whole life of the school with Gospel values. He sees neglect of being chaplain to everyone as a trap he readily falls into given the natural propensity to be involved with students who show an interest in the Faith.
What particularly heartened me about this book was its hopeful conviction about what’s true allied to sympathetic understanding of people who’re some way from that conviction. ‘If we get into the mentality whereby we feel we need to defend our religion we are actually making God appear to be smaller than he actually is. God does not require us in our fallibility to defend Him. Catholic truth should be proclaimed in a Catholic school but this proclamation should never become defensive and narrow. It is difficult as in school much of our dialogue with staff and students is apologetic and so naturally provides a defence and promotion of the Catholic faith. Achieving unity does require risk-taking. Recognising that God is larger than our divisions can become a starting point for us letting go of our need to become entrenched, otherwise our feelings can contribute to the development a siege mentality’.
I liked a story he tells about his suggestion to students of trying non- Eucharistic worship and how taken aback he was by their response along the lines they found reassurance in the familiarity of the liturgy once they’d memorised the responses. ‘Many students come from hectic backgrounds… the Mass for them was something which was consistent and stable. Predictability, which often is considered to be something negative, has actually become a gift that has given comfort’. As the book continues through the predictable church seasons it chronicles how so often the readings of the day speak serendipitously into pastoral situations. ‘Without the Church’s year I think I would be more inclined to portray the Gospel in my own image and not in God’s. As St Augustine said, ‘If you take what you like from the Gospel and add what you like, it is not the Gospel, it is yourself.’ I always need to heed this warning’.
Matthew Pittam is a gifted apologist. I liked his reflection on how atheists ‘challenge a view of God who is Ens Summum (the Highest Being) but we don’t see God in this way and so the arguments are meaningless. St Thomas Aquinas speaks of a God who is Ipsum esse Subsistens (the very act of being itself ). This is important because we don’t see God as the biggest, the greatest, the best, the strongest, or even the oldest being.Rather he is everything and in everything’. Such deep thinking is heartening for those of us who engage with young people’s questioning and work in formal or informal chaplaincy listening to where people are coming from and speaking carefully of God when appropriate. The author’s enthusiasm and sympathy win him requests for prayer, counsel and confession. Some of the issues discussed include self harm and the sexualisation of youth and how the Chaplain engages with pastoral issues in a context where good practice in safeguarding is pivotal.
Here’s an excerpt of a most interesting article that I hope will entice you to read the whole thing.
The homeless Bus is to get its first home at St Agathas’, behind the Cascades Shopping Centre as the Trust launch Robert Dolling Project to support the homeless.
The Project, aims to use the converted double decker bus as the first step in a programme to provide help and support to some of Portsmouth’s 40 rough sleepers.
Father Maunder, from St Agathas’ commented: “When I heard about this incredible community based project, I knew this church could help by providing a base, because we are close to an existing group of rough sleepers and have the space to accommodate it.”
Father Robert Dolling was the priest of St Agatha’s between 1885-1895. A great social reformer he frequently challenged authorities to do more to improve the lives of his parishioner’s, including the appalling state of their housing, which he described in a book, Ten Years in a Portsmouth Slum, published in 1896.
Father Maunder concluded: “It is important that we engage with all the citizens of Portsmouth so that we can all work together to help some of the most vulnerable people in the city. Over a hundred years ago Robert Dolling shared a common platform with anyone prepared to help feed and shelter those who had been abandoned. We now invite people to do the same”.
I hope the example of what the UK is doing can inspire us here in North America and elsewhere to express ourselves and get the word out about our communities and the interesting things going on.