Trinity Sunday

 

For Trinity Sunday I find it necessary to post two classics. First the Athanasian Creed:

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

42. and shall give account of their own works.

43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

And secondly this:

Is it ever sinful to spend too much time speculating about moral theology?

Since the sting that revealed Planned Parenthood in America have been selling body parts from aborted foetuses there has been some discussion in the Catholic Twittersphere and various blogs about whether the deception involved in obtaining the videos could be justified.

I don’t intend to rehearse the arguments for and against which are explored by Ben Trovato here (inter alia) but rather to give a different perspective. I tweeted Ben a link to the Summa Theologica in which St Thomas Aquinas argues that lying is always sinful. Ben’s response:

got me thinking. You see, though I think I would lie in those circumstances, I am not at all sure I would have the moral and physical courage to get myself in that situation in the first place and to me that seems like a more important moral question.

Similarly when it comes to protecting the right to life, the question I should be asking myself is: “Am I doing all I can to champion the right to life from conception to natural death?” There are no Jews in my attic. Neither have I been asked to participate in a deception to expose questionable practices by abortion providers. However I do live in a country where hundreds of thousands of unborn human beings are killed quite legally and where parliament is set to discuss whether doctors should be allowed to kill patients who request death. My moral response to that issue is far more important than my (or others’ views) on the morality of lying in different circumstances.

And whilst it is good to be reminded that truth is sacred and it is never right to do an evil act for a good result, maybe I ought to be considering other moral issues. Which reminds me, I haven’t written to my MP about “Assisted Dying” yet.

In support of our priests, our families, and our Church

You may have seen the recent letter from more than 450 priests in support of the Church’s teaching on marriage.

We would like to invite you to sign the letter below, to be sent to the press in support of them, and to encourage others to sign it.

To sign, please leave your name and your diocese in the comments box below, or if you prefer email them to me or to one of the coordinators:

Mark Lambert (mark@landbtechnical.com) or Andrew Plasom-Scott (andrewplasom_scott@me.com)

The Letter:

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned, wish to endorse and support the letter signed by over 450 priests in the recent edition of the Catholic Herald, http://bit.ly/19kuBkl

As laity, we all know from our own family experiences, or those of our friends and neighbours, the harrowing trauma of divorce and separation, and we sympathise with all those in such situations.

It is precisely for that reason that we believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the Gospels, with clarity and charity in a world that struggles to understand it.

For the sake of those in irregular unions, for the sake of those abandoned and living in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and above all for the sake of the next generation, it is essential that the Church continues to make it quite clear that sacramental marriage is indissoluble until death.

We pray, and expect, that our hierarchy will represent us, and the Church’s unwavering teaching, at the Synod this autumn.

Yours faithfully,

A letter to my Bishop

This is the text of a letter I have written to my Bishop (slightly redacted for various reasons) about the transfer of Holydays of Obligation to the nearest Sunday.

I don’t know if it will make any difference but at least it is something.

“I am writing to you on Ascension Sunday to express my views about the moving of Holidays that are Feasts of the Lord to the nearest Sunday.

 

I don’t think this was a good idea for any of the feasts. Whilst it makes it easier for Catholics because they do not need to attend Mass on a work day it breaks the rhythm of the liturgical year unbalancing the celebration of Christmas when the Epiphany moves and changing Corpus Christi from a Thursday (which matches Maundy Thursday). It also breaks the cycle of readings for those Sundays which are replaced by moved feasts. If there was a problem persuading people to attend Mass then this could have been addressed by proper formation of congregations and ensuring Mass times are convenient for working people. In an increasingly secular culture it is important that Catholic practice challenges us to act differently. Regular worship including Holydays of Obligation is an important part of this difference. The extra effort for Catholics involved in attending Mass on these days is worth the benefit of maintaining liturgical rhythm and a firm difference in priorities compared to those promoted by modern culture.

 

I am prompted to write today because the transfer of the Ascension to Sunday poses particular problems in England and Wales. This week once again we have had the anomalous (I think ridiculous) situation where the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrated this major Christian feast on Thursday but Catholics in England and Wales have had to wait until today. In English Christianity the Ascension is rightly given particular importance. Even the BBC, usually in the vanguard of progressive secularism, mark the day by broadcasting a special liturgy in the evening.  In addition the nine day period of prayer for the Holy Spirit (from which the Catholic practice of saying Novenas developed) is now shortened to six days. Mass readings and readings from the Daily Office on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are lost. These nine days of preparation and prayer are a proper ending to the Easter season and should be marked in full.

 

I would like the all Holydays to be moved back to their “proper” days. At the very least, I believe, the Bishop’s Conference should give serious consideration to moving the Ascension back to its correct day.”

The Cause of and Solution to all Life’s Problems – Part 3 (and somewhat delayed)

Some time ago I promised to say what I thought the solutions where to the problems facing Catholic schools.

Firstly

Improve Section 48 inspections so they genuinely assess the Catholic life of the school. Following the Curriculum directory is non-negotiable so those schools who do not should be judged as inadequate. For this to happen, individual diocese should no longer inspect their own schools. OFSTED have a big impact on the way schools are led. Something as rigorous as OFSTED has the potential to push reluctant heads and governors towards doing what they should. OFSTED inspections are far from perfect but they are subject to stringent quality control that reduces the scope of individual inspectors to give rogue judgements.  The rigour required can only come from a national system. If not a diocese will have an interest in judging its own schools gently. Unfortunately this role is not one that the CES is equipped (or willing) to take on and bishops will be suspicious of national control. I am aware that initiatives on the level of the Bishop’s conference tend towards the lowest common denominator but I can’t see another way of ensuring schools take the Catholic life as seriously as they take exam results and OFSTED. In the absence of national leadership it falls to individual bishops to take this on.

Secondly

Get priests into schools more. In theory the parish, the school and the home should all work together. In practice all three seem to work in separate spheres. One reason for this is the lack of practice of families but another is that many clergy avoid schools and schools themselves do not welcome priests properly. This seems especially to be the case with secondary schools.  We (Priests and teachers) are beginning to forget that priests have authority when it comes to the care of souls. As well as helping schools and parishes to work together it will help with vocations.

Thirdly

Catholic schools need to take more seriously the idea that parents are the first educators of their children. This does not just mean for the first 5 years. If parents were really seen as the primary educators of their children it would mean schools needed to listen much more to parents and parents would be asked to do more. Again secondary schools are much worse at this than primary schools. Even in primary schools there is much more willingness to ask parents to do things to help with numeracy and literacy and reluctant to talk about the spiritual development of children. I am more optimistic than most teachers that parents will respond to greater challenges. There is real potential here for an improved partnership to make a huge difference to every aspect of schooling.

The Cause of and Solution to all Life’s Problems – Part 2

In part 1 I argued that what is wrong with Catholic education is no different from what is wrong with the church as a whole.

In this part I am going to outline the strengths and challenges for Catholic education today. It might be worth outlining my credentials such as they are. I have taught in four different Catholic schools in and been a senior leader in three of them. My children have attended three different primary schools and two different secondary schools. I often visit other secondary schools (catholic and others) and Catholic primary schools and meet secondary heads from a range of different schools as well as Catholic primary heads. I have a large number of brothers and sisters who have children who attend Catholic schools and they tell me about their experiences too. Of course my sample is small, but, I would argue significant.

The greatest strength that Catholic schools have at the moment is that they are valued. They are valued by parents; for some sending their children to a Catholic school is almost the only ways they acknowledge their Catholic identities but they still do it, often sending their offspring on long journeys past local good schools. (This is the “glass half full” view of this matter. I will look at the “glass half empty” implications later on.) Our schools are also valued by the teachers and others who work there. Almost all staff acknowledge that Catholic schools “feel” different. The majority of them (including the majority of those who are not Catholic) take their responsibility to uphold the Catholic nature of the school seriously. They don’t all measure up to one Head of Sixth form I witnessed gently admonishing his charges for the way they had come in to the hall for Mass, accurately and succinctly explaining about the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle, something he, himself, did not believe in at all. Nevertheless they do acknowledge this as part of their role. I don’t want to overstate things; there is widespread ignorance about Catholicism among parents, teachers and in some cases, I am afraid, senior leaders but the goodwill is there and it is something that can be built on.

The second strength I would point to is that the vision for what Catholic schools should be like is there. It’s firmly based in Catholic teaching, drawing on Church documents on education and quotations from popes. There is no excuse for individual headteachers doing things their own way. Interested readers should look at these documents as examples:

Christ at the centre

Fit for Mission: Schools

Curriculum directory for RE

Readers might also want to look at the Section 48 evaluation schedule for their individual dioceses.

If you have ever been dismayed by what is happening in a particular Catholic school you will almost certainly see that it is going against what is written in these documents. The first and the last are required reading for all Catholic heads (I mean required by their dioceses). The middle one has less status but I have included it because it is read by many heads and senior leaders. I like it; it’s more inspiring and challenging than “Christ at the Centre” and has a greater range of concrete requirements too.

Thirdly there is good practice in our schools. For each of the challenges I list below, there are schools which are doing a good job in addressing them.

So whilst there is lots of goodwill, clear direction (for those who take it seriously) and good practice there are tough challenges too. The most significant is that many of our Catholic children are “unchurched”. In the Catholic Herald Kevin Meagher argues that Catholic schools should be in the business of “turning out committed young Catholics” and Joseph Shaw in his blog applauds but they’re not quite right. Catholic schools must assist parents in bringing their children up in the Faith. How much can you assist someone if they are not playing their part? Then there is the impact of these children (often a large majority) on the school as a whole.

The second problem is fracture: fracture between phases meaning secondary and primary schools are often working independently and therefore incoherently. More seriously there is a fracture between schools and parishes. This is especially the case with secondary schools.

Thirdly there is a lack of challenge from dioceses. Where schools get things wrong, diocese too often turn a blind eye. One example of this is schools which do not follow a “Catholic Christianity” module for GCSE RE. Such schools cannot possibly be following the Curriculum Directory but this is rarely picked up by Section 48 inspections.

Fourthly there are demographic problems. In London there are not enough schools for all Catholics to get a place. In other places unwise local decisions mean that Catholic children are turned away from their nearest Catholic schools even if there are places in neighbouring schools. Elsewhere the number of Catholics is falling. Here the church is faced with either closing a school or having it continue with a large minority or perhaps even a majority of students coming from families of other faiths and none.

Finally there is a lot of negativity about Catholic schools. A Catholic school getting things badly wrong is much more interesting than one quietly getting it more or less right. Reading about one school that is not fulfilling its function leads us to believe that many or all schools are like this.  Add to this the fact that the Church as a whole is not in a good way in this country and the expectation from some that our schools can and should fix this on their own and we end up with a situation where it is perfectly reasonable for a national Catholic paper to run a feature on “What is wrong with Catholic education”. This undermines parents’ faith in Catholic schools and makes those who work in them defensive. Mistrust and defensiveness are not good foundations on which to build.

However I am optimistic. In Part 3, I will take a look at what I think schools and others need to do to meet these challenges and build up the Church.

The Cause of and Solution to all Life’s Problems – Part 1

(In which I take issue with four contributors to this week’s Catholic Herald – even Dr Shaw. Parts 2 and 3 are more positive)

Homer Simpson said this about alcohol but it seems to me that people often hold this view about schools. Of course there is some truth in it; one of the reasons I am a teacher is because I know that what I do every day counts but perhaps not as much as I wish it did and certainly not enough to solve all the problems the Church or society face.

A recent example of this view can be found in last week’s edition of the Catholic Herald. Here you find four articles under the theme “What is wrong with Catholic Education?” Ches at “The Sensible Bond” provides an excellent critique of the section here and Joseph Shaw (one of the contributors) expands on his ideas here: both are worth reading.

Kevin Meagher’s contribution correctly identifies the poor outcomes (as we say in education) for our children – “..somewhere along the way we are failing to make religion stick..” and has some interesting things to say about links with parishes which I will expand in a later post. Ella Leonard says very little. Joseph Shaw speaks up for home education and says a bit more; some of it really hits home. Philip Booth takes issue with the Bishop’s recent assertion that Catholic Church has worked in partnership with the state in providing education. He argues that parents and not the state should be the key decision makers and his mechanism for providing this seems to be a voucher system and the privatisation of all schools.

To look in a bit more detail at each contribution, Mr Meagher says little more than schools “could do better” and should do better. He also makes some statements that are false, such as the one that Catholic schools “fail to describe themselves as such” – in reality it is very unusual for a Catholic school not to contain the word Catholic in its name – or that Catholic schools avoid talking about the Gospel or fail to teach children prayers. These last two are true in some schools but they are very rare. His solutions are thin on the ground too. “The faith needs to be taught with greater confidence and purpose animating every aspect of the school’s life.” Well, yes, but what exactly does this look like? We need a bit more precision in our thinking if we are to make real headway.

Ella Leonard is even vaguer so I have no more to say about her contribution.

Unlike the other contributors Dr Shaw describes problems accurately and precisely. He is disappointed by bright young people he interviews for university places “whose teachers encourage the rote learning of glib, fashionable opinions in preference to critical thinking.” He also talks about “secularisation” correctly identifying this as a problem with its roots in the 70’s (when I was at school) and noting that things are getting better (the religious formation my children have received is vastly superior to that which I received). He is also concerned about sex education.   I am sure he does interview candidates for places whose education has not prepared them properly especially for philosophy courses. At least with subjects like physics or English literature schools will have a number of teachers with expertise in these areas but there are very few philosophy teachers in state schools. He is right about the disastrous experiments in Catholic education in the past and sex education in Catholic schools does pose a dilemma for governors and senior leaders. (I may expand on this in another post). However since Dr Shaw teaches at Oxford, the university that gave a Chair to the prince of “glib, fashionable opinions in preference to critical thinking” (Richard Dawkins) he’s casting stones not exactly from a glass house but there is certainly a bit of plate glass mixed in with all that Cotswold stone. It’s also interesting that he sees primary and secondary schools as being part of Catholic education but doesn’t have anything to say about universities. Surely St Benet’s hall is part of Catholic education too.

Philip Booth is right to identify the key role of parents but it is very limiting to see them as decision makers and provision choosers alone. There is not a shred of evidence that his free market approach would improve the Catholic life of schools or educational standards and the whole thing seems like a reckless experiment to me. He has also misunderstood what the bishops were getting at in there 2007 letter. Those who oppose Catholic schools ask why the state should provide any funding. Here our bishops are reminding politicians that there is a long history of the Church providing schools to educate our children. We have these schools not because the state is generously allowing us a freedom and some finance but because, in the past, the country needed the help of the Church in providing schools.

Lots of Catholics understand their faith well and can clearly and accurately express Church teaching; many take their faith seriously and practice it. Unfortunately too many of us have a weak understanding of the faith and too many do not practice their faith seriously.  It is hardly surprising that our schools reflect this. There are pockets of excellent practice and some that is truly dire. Most schools do a reasonable job but need to improve. Our schools have had very little impact in causing the problems the Church faces today and are much more themselves shaped by those problems. Realising this is key in seeing how (if at all) schools can be part of the solution.

In part 2 I will describe how I see the strengths of our schools (because there are some) and the difficulties they face. In part 3 I will look at what I think our schools need to do to play their role in building up the Church in the future.

Why I think Bishop Egan is (pretty much) right and the Bishop’s Conference is not wrong (well not completely).

You can read Bishop Egan’s interview with www.lifesitenews.com by following this link.

Here is my summary of Bishop Egan’s interview:

  • Those not who do not hold to central teachings of the church on the right to life of the old and unborn and the nature of marriage are not in communion with the church and ought not to approach to receive communion
  • Refusing communion is an act of mercy in the hope of repentance for the person sanctioned
  • He and the interviewer spoke a lot about the consequences of separating the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual love.
  • The church faces difficulties in an increasingly secular world
  • The examples of the martyrs tell us that we are all called to witness to the whole truth
  • Notions of respect, diversity and tolerance have Christian roots and divorced from Christianity they risk becoming totalitarian
  • We have failed to articulate properly the Christian vision for marriage and this is why we are in the difficulties we face now.
  • We should still have hope (although the current situation is very difficult and he goes through times where he is not hopeful) that truth will prevail but we must be steadfast
  • Our schools are at the forefront of this
  • He personally favours withholding communion from politicians who support abortion and same sex marriage but he wants to act collegially with the other Bishops in England and Wales.

Very hard to disagree with any of that and there is some inspiring stuff there for his diocese and the rest of us (although I have a slight quibble with the second bullet point which I will elaborate on soon).  However if you look at the online and press comments on his interview it seems to me to be summarised thus:

  • All those Catholic MPs who voted in favour of Same Sex Marriage should be refused communion.

This interpretation on the interview has been pushed both by those who think our bishops should do more to uphold the teaching of the Church (who praise Bishop Egan) and by those who think that these teachings are somehow open to change (who ludicrously suggest that Bishop Egan is “out of step with Pope Francis”)

But that is not what he said.

So when the Bishops’ Conference write to all Catholic MPs saying that there are “no plans” to refuse them communion, they are not contradicting Bishop Egan said no matter what you read elsewhere on the web. Acute observers of politicians will also recognise that having “no plans” to do something is quite different from promising not to do it at a later date.

It might be worth illustrating why withholding Communion on the basis of one vote is problematic. Let’s consider 5 theoretical Catholic MPs. (Any resemblance to existing MPs is a genuine co-incidence: beyond my own MP who is not Catholic and voted against SSM, I really can’t be bothered to research individuals’ views and voting records)

MP A voted for SSM because he believes that the Church’s teaching on marriage is intolerant and discriminatory. He has campaigned for years for this change and is delighted the law has passed.

MP B also voted for SSM. She accepts the Church’s teaching on marriage but believes she is duty bound in a democracy to reflect the views of her constituents; that in fact to vote against the bill would be to impose her religious views on others. She is conscious of the Church’s teaching on religious freedom and believes she is following that in voting “yes”.

MP C voted for SSM because, although he fully accepts the Church’s teaching on marriage, he is afraid of losing his seat if his constituents think he is intolerant.

MP D voted for SSM after a lot of soul-searching. She accepts the Church’s teaching on marriage and was fearful that priests would be forced to bless same-sex unions or face jail. She believes the current law gives the Church important protections. She has accepted this compromise.

MP E also believes in SSM and the so-called “woman’s right to choose” and has a track record of voting and campaigning contrary to the teaching of the church over decades.

The question is: “Which MPs should be refused Communion by their pastors?”

I would argue that in some cases the action pastors should take is clear but in others it is much less so. That’s why Bishop Egan is right to raise the question and the CBEW conference is right to clarify the current position before discussions begin.

Where I would quibble with Bishop Egan on the second bullet point is about the motivation of applying the sanction of refusing Communion. All discipline should be motivated by charity and in the hope of repentance as he outlines but the reason in Canon Law behind refusing Communion is to avoid scandal. His remarks could be interpreted as saying that pastors have a responsibility to the individual communicant to refuse communion as a way of saving his or her soul. I am sure he isn’t saying this at all: the Church is clear that the responsibility of receiving worthily lies with the communicant and not the minister. The statement that those who dissent from church teaching should not approach for Communion is not equivalent to saying that such people should be refused Communion. Some of those who wish for clearer teaching from our Bishops are speaking as if the two statements are identical.

Of course our Bishops as a collective are in a bit of a mess. I am reminded of the Irishman asked for directions to Cork who replied that “If I was going to Cork I wouldn’t start from here at all.” We are in a very difficult place to begin proclaiming the truth. They (and others) have failed to present correctly and clearly the vision of Christian Marriage so that the Faithful have a weak understanding of what the Church holds as true. They have also employed people whose own record is a potential source of scandal. In this context the letter from Mr Pope can be misrepresented as reassuring MPs in a questionable position that they have nothing to pray and think about. Our Bishops have a responsibility to put this right. Refusing Communion to those who persistently and publically dissent from Church teaching may be part of their response. However this cannot be the only response. If that were to be the case it might seem that the Eucharist was being used to exert political control. Since using the Eucharist in this way would also be gravely wrong this could be a source of scandal in itself. Our Bishops need great courage and wisdom to move forward. Simple single actions will not be enough.

Here’s what I think Catholics should do:

  • Be calm, clear and accurate about what has been said by whom and be very careful that our comments don’t introduce or increase divisions.
  • Pray for all our Bishops. I suggest this prayer but others will do.

Prayer of St John Fisher for Bishops

I think that our new Cardinal may be showing a bit more backbone when it comes to proclaiming the truth of the Faith.

I know that Cardinal Nichols is an admirer of St John Fisher. I understand Cardinal Fisher wrote this prayer:

Prayer for Holy Bishops by Saint John Fisher

 

 Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in the Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors–watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat–which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen

St John Fisher

Pray for us

I wondered if both the readers of this blog might consider adding this prayer to their usual ones during Lent for Cardinal Nichols and our other Bishops and for those sees that are vacant.

Thoughts on the Baptism of Our Lord, the Water Cycle and the Particulate Nature of Matter.

Today we have a great feast to end Christmastide.

A question we will all be asking, alongside John the Baptist is why Our Lord had to be baptised at all. I don’t have any special insight here but it does seem to me that this action is completely consistent with the Incarnation. Our God is not a spectator and though sinless he stands alongside us in our sinfulness and redeems us. He neither requires baptism nor deserves death yet he humbly accepts both. This is the root or the Catholic notion of solidarity in social justice.

Where I might be able to add something semi-original concerns what the water cycle and the particulate nature of matter might tell us about water itself following this event.

Sometimes for baptisms, families bring some water taken from the Jordan itself. This was the case for Prince George for example. This is a wonderful symbol of our common humanity with Christ himself. However I don’t think it’s necessary. Imagine all the molecules of water in that part of the Jordan where Our Lord was baptised; millions upon millions. These molecules over subsequent time have evaporated, condensed and fallen as rain and then evaporated again countless times. In the process they have mixed thoroughly with the rest of the water on earth. As a result some of the water in the font when you were baptised was used to baptise Our Lord.

Today’s feast recognises the humility of the incarnation and this idea shows us another aspect of the incarnation. Through sin creation lost its holiness. The incarnation re-sanctifies the whole world. In the baptism liturgy the priest blesses the water in the font by dipping the Easter candle in to it. In a sense this water has already been made holy by the immersion of Our Lord’s baptism.

Pretty awesome (in the true sense of the word) stuff, I think.