Canon Dakin on 06-06-2016
St Augustine was walking along the sea shore, thinking of the Blessed Trinity, when he met a lad who was digging a hole. “What are you going to put into there?” “All that”, said the boy, pointing to the sea. “I’ve just as much chance of explaining the Trinity”, said Augustine to himself. The Trinity is indeed a great mystery. One God, three persons. In nature God has left a shadow or image of himself in the family. Pope Francis‘ latest encyclical, entitled The Joy of Love, concerns the family and he is clear about this reference to the Trinity. He writes: “Marriage is a precious sign for when a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is, as it were, mirrored in them; he impresses in them his own features and the indelible character of his love. Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us. Indeed God is also communion: the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live eternally in perfect unity. And this is precisely the mystery of marriage. God makes of the two spouses one single existence.”
The love of the two generates a third person as in the Trinity the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The family is the sacrament of the Trinity - it both signifies and makes God present as he is - Three in one.
As a priest is called to show Christ to the Church, the married are called to show God to the world. Which is the higher vocation? I leave you to decide.
Canon Dakin on 06-06-2016
The Acts of the Apostles might be called the Book of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord himself made it clear that after he had left them the Apostles were to spend a quiet time together and as they looked back and reinterpreted in the light of the resurrection all that he had taught, the Holy Spirt would guide them towards the truth. The Councils of the Church have confirmed our belief that those original insights of the apostles will never be lost.
We have been reading at Masses during the week of St Paul’s third missionary journey round the Eastern Mediterranean. He makes it clear that his every move is guided by the Holy Spirit. He came to Ephesus and found some believers had not been baptised and the moment he laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down upon them and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. Those manifestations of the effects of baptism were perhaps a necessary back-up to the preaching of the Apostles in the days when Christianity was struggling to become established. They died out quite quickly until they were revived in the 20th cent. by Pentecostals in America. In the 1950’s a Catholic Charismatic Movement began in Canadian and American universitieswhich spread to England in the sixties. It was a time, of course, when liturgy went into English which gave the charismatics greater scope to worship with enthusiasm. They reckoned that the gifts of the Spirit, manifest in the early Church, would still be available now for those who showed they were ready to receive them. They organised large gatherings in places like Walsingham where people spoke freely in tongues. I know a priest who has this gift, So what is it? It sounds like a language you don’t understand and he doesn’t understand it either. He explains it as a succession of speech sounds which come out as a form of song in praise of God. There were two churches in the Preston area which became centres for the charismatics. Charismatic hymn books were published - Songs of the Spirit. When people sang them they waved their arms and swayed like Gospel choirs on TV. It fairly quickly went off the boil but simmers away gently in a few places. It suits a certain temperament but as St Paul teaches, the greatest charism or gift of the Spirit is charity, unselfish love.
Canon Dakin on 15-05-2016
The Ascension was not a simplereturn home, mission accomplished; it was the final accomplishment of Jesus’ mission, the final piece in God’s plan for humanity. God’s design was for us to share his happiness. That was quite beyond our capacity - beyond the capacity of any creature. In Jesus God became man. In him, at his Ascension, our humanity entered into his relationship with his Father, therelationship which is the very nature of God, the basis of God’s life and love and happiness. So the Ascension is an essential partof our human story. Our future was mapped out when Jesus, took his place at the right hand of his Father, not only mappedout but actually brought into being. Today is the completion of what is called the paschal mystery, thetransition of Jesus, through death, to a new world. Today that new world, God’s world, became our world. Today is a day of great joy for the whole human family.
Canon Dakin on 15-05-2016
St John has a vision of the Church in heaven where the sourceof its splendour is the presence of God whilst it is the presence of God which animates the Church on earth - the Father and I will come and make our home with you and the Holy Spirit will teach you everything. In the first reading we had a dramatic example of the confidence of the Apostles in the guidance of the Holy Spirit: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves”. If only nowadays we could be just as sure. The Church had to be established on firm foundations. Clearoutlines had to be drawn. The early centuries saw a succession of councils hammering out the creed. How about today? Haven’t we got a Pope who bythe guidance of the Holy Spirit is infallible? This infallibility is strictly limited to the guarantee that the Church will continue to teach what God has revealed - but revelation closed with the death of the last apostle. We are faced with questions they would never have dreamed of. In 1988 Pope John Paul put this question to a conference of theologians: What impact on theology has the doctrine of evolution? One recent book is an attempt to respond. It considerably modifies the ideas we have inherited from St Augustine on original sin. The process of reflection will go on until the Church feels able to come to a conclusion. Meanwhile, as the poet says - The Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Canon Dakin on 15-05-2016
St John has a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem in which there will be no more mourning or sadness; no hatred, enmity, rivalry - only generous love. The Church on earth is to be the anticipation of this community of heaven: This is my commandment - Love one another just as I have loved you. This quality of love is to be the sign of his power, his presence within us. We are, of course, here, at the Last Supper where we are witnessing the making of the new covenant; to live by his law of love is quite simply the condition of our receiving the blessings he came from heaven to give. He also makes the point that our living by his standards has to be so conspicuous that it may convince the world that what we believe about him is true. So who, apart from our family, is in need of our love? About ten days ago Pope Francis went to Lesbos, the landing point in Greece where refugees from Syria and Iraq hope to arrive after risking their lives to cross the sea. That night he had the no 1 spot on the Ten O’clock News. It is from Lesbos, by the way, that we get the term Lesbian. The ancient Greek poet Sappho, a woman, once lived on the island, and in her poetry she spoke of her love for girls. It was a different kind of love that brought Pope Francis to the attention of the media. He took as many refugees as there was room for on his plane back to Rome where now they are being cared for. It did little to diminish the number of refugees looking for asylum but it was a gesture which effectively expressed his concern. And what of us? Do we regard these people as anything but statistics? They are so often family groups, fathers, mothers and children, forced to leave their homes by the destruction of war, who wander across great distances in search of safety. So many of them are Catholics who have been targeted by Isis on account of their faith. We have a government which says we must do all we can to help and yet is paralysed by public opinion against the arrival of migrants. The migrants putting pressure 0n the government are mainly economic migrants from Eastern Europe. As a country we have not taken a proportionate share in receiving people who simply have nowhere to go. These are not Rumanians or Bulgarians in search of a better life. They have no life at all. If we call ourselves Christian who live by the light of the Gospel we must surely speak out in their favour. Those families taken by Pope Francis to Lesbos have been put in the care of a charity calledSant’ Egidio. It is not party political but it has considerable political clout. It investigates. It organises conferences. It informs people of facts that politicians may prefer to remain hidden. It helps people to express themselves and makes Catholic opinion vocal. We have nothing similar. I am not forgetting that Cafod was in its origin the inspiration of the organisations of Catholic women and Cafod has already made a statement that the British response fails to meet the urgency of the refugee crisis. But It’s people who have votes that politicians take notice of. Perhaps the Catenians and the Knights of St Columba could put their heads together. It needs only a web site giving information in such a way that Catholic values might seep into the system. Meanwhile it is for us in conversation to do we can to counter the prejudice against refugees who are lumped together as immigrants. This week is the anniversary of the incident in which eight hundred of them drowned when attempting to cross the sea to Italy. That parents will submit their children to such a risk is surely a measure of their desperation.
Canon Dakin on 27-04-2016
2nd Sunday After Easter
It would be unjust to call Peter a coward. When the police came to arrest Jesus Peter was prepared to fight to defend him. It is true that when Jesus was on trial and the maidservant accused Peter of being one of his followers Peter didn’t dare admit it and three times vehemently denied it. To balance that three-fold denial Jesus now three times asks him to affirm his loyalty. And he knew his man. He entrusts to Peter the care of his Church and looking into the future he forecasts how Peter will surrender his life in faithful witness to the gospel he preached. The first reading showed us an intermediate step. Peter was prepared to defy the Jewish authorities who were threatening to shut him up.
It takes courage to speak out as a Christian these days. You probably read about the man who has been deposed as a Justice of the Peace and lost his job in the NHS because he expressed his opinion that a child is better off with a father and a mother. He was accused of showing prejudice. Many of the modern liberated generation regard Catholics as nutters because of their attitude towards marriage and abortion. On Friday the Pope published his response to the synod on the family. He is reported as having resoundingly reiterated the belief that marriage is a life-long union between a man and a woman and that gay marriage may not be considered its equivalent. Yesterday Peter Thatchell, the campaigner for gay and human rights, blasted the document as ‘cruel as heartless’. Taking a stand for marriage and the family, for the unborn, the displaced, the hungry and homeless may sometimes take us where we would rather not go but generations of ordinary men and women, prepared to speak out for their faith, once took on the culture of the Roman Empire and transformed it. We are called upon by our faith to counter the drift of society. It’s not all airy-fairy, talking about ideals. Pope Francis brings us down to earth, to ordinary life, to the choices we make, for instance, when we go shopping. Do you pride yourself on being thrifty because you think you have found the cheapest price? After the milk war - which ruined a number of dairy farmers - there are some supermarkets offering half a dozen eggs for 52p. According to journalists this is only possible when eggs are produced by battery hens - crammed into cages where they can scarcely move. Because of their proximity and the danger of infection they are routinely fed antibiotics which get into the food chain and therefore become less effective when we need them. Because of the cruelty involved three supermarkets - I don’t think I’m allowed to name them - have refused to compete. But beware when you are told that eggs are free range. This may mean that birds are crowded into sheds with such density that their beaks are snipped to prevent them harming each other. Do you know where your beef comes from? The same intensive system is being applied to cattle. Again we have a choice. One supermarket will not deal with any farmer who does not have his stock out in the field for at least two hundred days in the year. Why this sensitivity concerning animals? Because Pope Francis says that unless you are sensitive you are not a Christian. He has written an encyclical on care for our common home. The whole of creation is God’s handiwork; every creature in itself and in its relationships is, in its own way, a reflection of God’s trinitarian perfection, to be treated with respect. He wrote: ‘Disinterested concern... for the natural environment attunes us to the moral imperative of assessing the impact of our every action and personal decision on the world around us.’ Now I’m not suggesting that when you buy a piece of beef you summon the manager to ask him where it was sourced and did the farmer allow his cattle the freedom of the fields, but when you see eggs offered for 50p the half dozen then if you believe in a world created by God over which we have stewardship, then you should begin to ask yourself questions.
Canon Dakin on 05-04-2016
In ancient Christian Rome the baptism of catechumens at the vigil on Holy Saturday was not for them the end. During Easter week the Bishop gathered them together to explain the meaning of the sacraments they had received on Easter night, Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. We have to remember that before they had been baptised they had never attended the liturgy of the Eucharist - after the homily and before the Bidding Prayers the catechumens had been told to leave the church - the Eucharist was only for those who had been baptised. They had come to believe in Jesus as Son of God and Saviour but the sacraments were kept secret and it was not only in Rome but throughout the Christian world at that time that the bishops occupied Easter Week giving instructions on the sacraments. Many of these talks - those of St Ambrose in Milan, for instance - have been preserved and since they were not meant for theologians but for ordinary people they are quite vivid and stimulating.
Easter Monday was for us a Bank Holiday - in Rome the whole of Easter Week was a holiday so people were free to attend church. On the Monday the newly baptised were taken to St Peter’s. on Tuesday to St Paul’s. on Wednesday to the tomb of their favourite Roman saint, the martyr St Lawrence; Thursday saw them in the Pantheon, dedicated as a church to which bodies of martyrs had been brought from the catacombs to avoid desecration by invaders, Friday they were in the church of the Twelve Apostles. On Saturday they were back at the Lateran to be ceremoniously divested of the white garments they had worn since baptism. Today they were taken finally, to the church of St Pancratius or Pancras. Just south of the Vatican there is a steep hill called the Janiculum. At the far end, where the slope begins to descend is St Pancratius’, who, as a boy of fourteen, was ready to die rather than to deny his faith. So these men and women, who had been Christians for just a week, newly born into the faith, were brought here to impress on them the ideal - they too were to be ready to witness to their faith even by death. All week they had been taken to places associated with martyrs - the lesson implicit in those places - especially the tombs of Peter and Paul - was that sensible men don’t die for fairy tales. That they were prepared to die is the strongest proof of the truth of what they said they saw and heard. The aim was to strengthen the faith of these new members of the Church.
We have our martyrs. This year is the Year of Mercy. The word ‘mercy‘inScripture is often translated ‘loving kindness’. We are invitedto go on pilgrimage to the Cathedral where aHoly Door has been designated. We pass through the Holy Door not simply to receive a token of God’s loving kindness but to be inspired to come out again prepared to spread the loving kindness we have received. So when shall we go? When it was discussed at our deanery conferenceit was suggested that since August 7th fallsthis year on a Sunday we might go as a deanery on August 7th. What is special about August 7th?It is the anniversary of the execution of Edward Bamber, our local martyr, born in Bispham, who with two other priests was the last to die for his faith on the moor above Lancaster. The idea is that we go to the place where he died and walk in processiondown the hill to enter the cathedral by the Holy Door. These men were prepared to die in order to be instruments of God’s loving kindness in providingthe sacraments for their people. Surely their memory should be inspirational still today
Canon Dakin on 05-04-2016
IN EARLY DAYS it was during this vigil that those who had been catechumens for two years were baptised, confirmed and made their first Holy Communion. The ceremony went on till dawn. Gradually as Christianity became established and fewer presented themselves for baptism, the vigil continued as a watch-night, greeting the resurrection and alert for Our Lord’s Second Coming. The vigil was never to end before midnight. You would think they would be glad then to go home for a good sleep. They were made of sterner stuff. They were back in church before dawn for morning prayer and morning prayer began with a kiss of peace. They were celebrating the gift of new life - resurrection life, that lifting up to a new level on which, through their union with the Risen Christ they would be able to carry out his command: “Love one another as I have loved you”. So tonight we thank God for a quality of life made possible only though the death and resurrection of Jesus whose life we share. We turn now to our annual dedication to live by his standards in the renewal of our baptismal promises.
Happy Easter. In Latin - Gaudia paschalia - Easter Joy. What is the joy of Easter? I followed Mary Berry’s Easter journey. Her quest was to discover how various Christians celebrated the feast in terms of food which was special for the feast. She visited the Orthodox; Catholics were represented by Italians and Poles. On her journey she had an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. What was the great joy of Easter for him? It was taking tea with his family. Perhaps he was pressured by the fact that it was a food programme but I had hoped that he might have highlighted a particular aspect of the Easter celebration which had given him a tingle of joy and hope. I remember as a small altar boy in the cathedral being thrilled by the singing of the Exultet, sung in praise of the paschal candle. We English are really not very good at expressing joy. We suspect enthusiasm. An outburst of joy is often the relief of tension - ‘ten to get and the last man in’, sort of thing. Human life is not without tension. There are always worries about work, about health; on a broader scale about crime and violence, immigration, climate change. The world, on the whole, is a rather dark place. As the Easter candle was brought into the darkened church last night we proclaimed: “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds’. The resurrection of Jesus opened heaven for us. This changes our whole perspective. We are assured of sharing the happiness of God himself and forever. We are sharing that life even here on earth. George Mackay Brown was a Catholic and a poet who lived in his native Orkney. As a student in Edinburgh he had fallen in love with a girl called Stella Cartright. Nothing came of it. She was an alcoholic. In 1966 she wrote to him from hospital to say that her life was a failure, not just for herself but for all who had ever known her. He wrote back: ...I’m speaking as one who has benefited often from your kindness and love and sweet nature - you have given much happiness to people who were hungry for it. This is the greatest gift of all, charity, deep disinterested love of one’s fellow men; a far higher gift, believe me, than the gifts of art or music or poetry marvellous though they are. Treasure your gift, dear Stella, for this would be a darker and sadder world without you.’ He is right. Disinterested love is a gift because it is already a sharing in the life of God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. So this again is a cause of our joy today. We find it difficult to express our joy. I watch Songs of Praise on Sundays. The new magazine format gives generous space to gospel choirs. They are constantly expressing their enthusiasm through swaying hips and waving hands. I’m not in tune. There is one short, simple way in which we can express explosive joy. The Amen which closes the Eucharistic Prayer is your most important response. It is your stamp on all that has been said and done in your name. An ancient writer said that it should be like a thunder-clap. So often it is a whimper - and I won’t tell you what I say to myself when I hear it. So today, of all days. let it rip, let it really express the depth of your thanksgiving for all that God through Christ has done for us.
Canon Dakin on 25-03-2016
I have told you before of the woman who commissioned a painting of the crucifixion, requiring the artist to put her into the picture, because, she said, I was in his mind when he died. If we were to be fitted into that scene would we be like the disciples in Gethsemane, closing our eyes to the suffering of Christ? Are we like Pilate, who sees clearly enough the situation of the man in front of him but washes his hands of the consequences? Are we like Peter and the disciples who stood at a distance not wishing to seem to be involved? When our Christian values are under attack are we afraid to defend them? Do we pray like Mary, that even when we fail to understand, watching the suffering of the innocent, we may trust the loving wisdom of God?
Christ’s passion continues today in those with whom he identifies. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was sick, I was in prison. We are not able to evade his gaze. We are not able to avoid involvement. We must ask ourselves what part are we playing. Are we closing our eyes? Denying any interest? Or like Mary, accepting to play our part. We may be sure of this - that we are always in his mind because he cares about us.
Canon Dakin on 14-03-2016
5th Sunday of Lent
The line in today’s reading which stands outfor me is St Paul’s remark: “All I want to know is Christ and the power of his resurrection”. This is a necessary follow up to the words in the opening prayer that Christ died for our salvation. Our attention traditionally is centred on the cross. You enter a church and the dominant image is always the crucifix with the Stations of the Cross round the walls.There are some churches now in which a fifteenth station is added representing Our Lord rising from the tomb. We say that he died for our sins. If he had left it at that we should be in limbo. Heaven becomes our home through the power of his resurrection. On Easter night we shall celebrate our baptism. When we were baptised we passed through Christ’s tomb and rose with him to a new life - the life that began for him on Easter Day - the life which is his in the presence of the Father - the life which is ours now. That is the paschal mystery - the mystery of our passing from a purely natural existence to sharingthe life of God himself. It is this elevation to a new level of being which is the basis of human dignity and which requires respect and reverence for every single person. You must have seen on your TV screens the heart-rending pictures of little refugee children stranded in a sea of mud before the barred gates of Macedonia. The reverence and care due to these people by the international community is totally lacking. They are lumped together by the media as migrants with a hint that they simply want to hatch on to the benefits of a relatively affluent society. This may be true of a few but not of the many. It is admittedin the case of the Syrians that they are genuine refugees. To restrict admission to Syrians only would be unjust to so manymore. There are Christians fleeing from persecution. There was a man from Nigeria interviewed by a reporter. He was stuck on the Macedonian border withhis wife and children. As a Christian in Northern Nigeria life is dangerous. Muslim extremists have attacked 200 churches killing over 1000 Christians. Those who have the courage and the means are moving out to find safety abroad. Simply to close our eyes to their situation and plan to turn them back fails to do them justice and dodges our responsibilityboth as fellow Christians and human beings. Researchers tell us that 2015 wasthe worst year in modern history for Christian persecution. You would neverguess from watching news bulletins or reading most newspapers. That is because there is no great tide of persecution in one particular spot but continuous incidents in more than fifty countries. Ten days ago in Yemen four of Mother Teresa’s nuns running a nursing home in the poorest district of Aden were handcuffed and shot dead and thirteen of their assistants were killed by militants belonging to al-Qaedaor ISIS. Did you hear of it? That is why so many of the refugees trying to get into Europe are Christians, not attempting to plug into our benefit system but simply to keep theirchildren safe whilst professing their faith. There may seem at the momentlittle that we can do but we are able to express in prayer our solidarity with persecuted Christians and so help to sustain them in their courage and fidelity. That will be the purpose of the Stations of the Cross, at St John’s, Poulton at 7.00 on Friday organised by Aid to the Church in Need
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