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Here’s another example of renewal in the Church: this is what Vatican II was supposed to be about

The sisters of Iesu Communio are experiencing an ‘explosion’ of vocations

By on Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Iesu Communio was approved by Pope Benedict in December last year

Iesu Communio was approved by Pope Benedict in December last year

Writing a regular blog is bound to make you look a bit of a know-it-all. Three times a week in my case, I have to file my copy, come rain come shine. Three pieces a week means you have constantly to think of something to write about: then you have to get yourself to some extent informed about it before you start writing. In fact, there’s a lot to write about in the Catholic Church, and a regular blog builds up a certain momentum: it almost becomes self-sustaining. There are times, all the same, when one feels overwhelmed by the reactions one has unleashed, and the burden of failing to have anything useful to say in the face of unanswered and unanswerable questions is sometimes very heavy.
 
For instance: my blog last Monday, entitled, “The ordinariates are a sign that those fighting for the faith aren’t as lonely as they think”, elicited two responses, both of which made and still make me feel entirely inadequate. One would have to write a book, not a blog, to answer each of them. And what would one say, even if one had the space? For with both, we are in deep waters.
 
Here’s the first response, to my attempt to argue that the state of the Church was less hopeless than my correspondent (is that what you call someone who answers your blogs?) appeared to be saying in his reactions to my articles over the weeks:

So Dr Oddie: A Question:
 
Apart from praying long and hard, and unswerving reception of the sacraments… what can we do to help?
 
United we stand: Is there nothing we can do as a collective?

Reaction: gulp. To say simply that we each have to follow what we think is our own particular vocation, try to light up our own little corner, doesn’t really do the job, does it? Here’s a question for my readers: how would you answer that one? Then, what about this question, elicited by both myself and the correspondent I have just quoted:

Dr Oddie/Paulpriest [his pen name], I have been listening to both of you for about 3 weeks discussing a lot of topics that I (as an ex Baptist) have only a slight awareness of. Would it be possible to give a summary of your concerns on the tensions within the Church and your concerns with Vatican II? You seem to be referring to it as something more negative than positive.
In my case it was the Pope’s visit to the UK … that caused me to review all the teaching I had had against the Catholic Church and be in a position where I could truly come home …. What I would like to gain if at all possible is an understanding of the state of the house I now reside in. If this is at all possible it would be much appreciated.

Where to begin? How would you, dear reader, answer that question, without drawing this new convert into the strong and sometimes unpleasant controversies the words “Vatican II” so often stir up? He (or she) doesn’t need that. My own feelings about the Council are entirely positive, not negative: it’s those who have hijacked the Council and even its language for their own ends who arouse my own passionately negative feelings. For instance, the word “renewal”. The Council was supposed to be about the renewal of the Catholic tradition (something which always goes on anyway in any tradition if it is alive, but which needs a bit of a boost from time to time).
 
What the hijackers did wasn’t even to attempt a renewal of the tradition: it was to attempt to cancel the tradition, to discontinue it,  and to call that willful destruction a renewal. So every time you heard the word “renewal” back then, you groaned. Not any longer, not me. Partly in answer (though obliquely) to both my questioners, here’s a story of genuine renewal in the Church, and therefore something for us all collectively to pray for. This is something we can actually do together. Here are the opening paragraphs of a Zenit news story:

NEW ORDER BEGINS WITH VOCATION EXPLOSION
 
Iesu Communio Established in Spain
 
BURGOS, Spain, FEB. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Nearly 200 young nuns processed from their cloister to the cathedral of Burgos on Saturday for the official establishment of their new institute of consecrated life.
 
Sister Verónica María Berzosa Martínez, formerly the abbess of the group is now also their founder.
 
Sister Berzosa, 46, joined the Poor Clares when she was 18. She felt called along with the sisters of her community to establish this new charism, which has now been recognized by the Church as an institute of consecrated life.
 
“I am as happy as I am overwhelmed by it all, especially the incomparable gift of being a Christian, of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, where every day I am more passionate about the gift of the call to follow him,” she said.

Iesu Communio was approved by Pope Benedict in December last year. The sisters, according to one report, “are seen as followers of the new evangelisation called for by Pope John Paul II”. According to the same report, “Dozens of young women are already reported to be hoping to join the new order. Others are expected to join the waiting list when the sisters of Iesu Communio attend the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day later this year”.

That’s what Vatican II was supposed to be about: the renewal of the traditio, not its destruction: in this case, it seems, the Poor Clares in Spain were dying out fast: from them has sprung this vigorous new growth.

I hope to be saying more about Iesu Communio in due course. Until then let us all pray for these sisters in the early days of this stirring new (but also very old) movement: may it remain faithful to its charism; and may this striking example of renewal in the Church inspire and cheer us all.

  • Njbellord

    A few years ago my wife and I came across the Convento de Santa Clara and the community of Poor Clares who live in a former palace of Pedro the Cruel in the Mozarabic style at Astudillo near Palencia in the direction of Burgos. Founded in about 1350 it had certainly declined in recent times to about four or five sisters but more recently had had a renaissance and was now bursting at the seams under a brilliant superior to the extent of making foundations elsewhere. For the benefit of tourists they had copied one of the moorish doors in the enclosure in the public part carefully copying the arabic inscription round the doorway. Unknown to them at the time they were verses from the Koran. Astudillo itself is typical of the towns and villages in that part of Spain – deserted and desertlike. But mustard seeds …

    Nicolas Bellord

    Nicolas Bellord

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Dr. Oddie. It is interesting to note that there is generally more progress in orders (particularly convents) where traditions are adhered to. Also a good example of the New Evangelisation baring fruit is with the Franciscan Friars & Sisters of the Renewal who started out in the Bronx and are now extremely successful with their work with the homeless in London, Bradford and Leeds. I am not an expert in this but, I am lead to believe by those ‘in the know’ that traditional convents always prosper in terms of recruitment more than the more liberal orders.

  • crouchback

    So what are our diocese doing about the “New Evangelisation”..?? Er, would that be more of the same old nonsense we’ve had for the last forty years..??..If It didn’t work for the last 40 years , what guarantees are there that it will work this time round..??

    And how will we know when we have been “renewed”..?? When all the dead parishes are closed, that would mean that every single parish around here should be closed. We can still kid our selves that we are viable by merging hollowed out parishes into larger units, or Hub parishes and the like. Lets get real, that is only a Deck chair on the Titanic solution.

    Example I know of a parish where the priest doesn’t really care for the parish beat – combo – a – go – go band that plays at one of the Masses, but he is too “sensitive” to tell them their music is crap and that he doesn’t want them around putting people off. Four years after Summorum Pontificum, the biggest event in the church since 1970, we still haven’t had a single Traditional Mass……and the priest is afraid of some bongo players…???? Shurely…. shomething …..wrong…..???

    What is needed is all the Bishops to be sent to a monastery and given silent retreats until they understand what the job of a Bishop is about…..then all of them ordered to learn to say the Traditional Mass, they don’t get to leave until they are word perfect……THEN…..on pain of Hell they are to take an oath to be obedient to the Pope. Sent back to their diocese and repeat this process with their priests.

    Anybody who doesn’t like this can leave….we are not in the business of holding captives.

    Whatever, the so called New Evangelisation hasn’t shown up around here, and it’s not likely to come either, not with the lackadaisical priests and Bishops we have got right now.

    Time for action boys.

  • http://www.isleofwighttouristguide.com isle of wight hotels

    I am not an expert in this but, I am lead to believe by those ‘in the know’ that traditional convents always prosper in terms of recruitment more than the more liberal orders.

  • http://jamiemacnab.wordpress.com/ Jamie MacNab

    A much needed article indeed, now that the Church itself at last feels the need to take a hard look at itself. I could write a book, but will resist the temptation to begin it here. I would make a simple plea instead : could it be arranged that would-be-returnees like me may be spared the acres of church politics that seem to cover every Catholic website? Could we be spared the acrimonious debates? the spitefulness? the contempt that some Catholics-in-public display for wavering souls?

    Could Catholics veil their Catholicism, and show their Christianity more clearly? I am sure there is a way of doing it.

  • Anonymous

    “If a critic tells a particular lie, that particular lie can be pointed out. If he misses a specific point, that point can be explained. If he is really wrong in this or that, it will be on this or that that the insulted person will eagerly pounce. But “malice and spite” are vague words which will never be used except when there is really nothing to pounce on. If a man says that I am a dwarf, I can invite him to measure me. If he says I am a cannibal, I can invite him to dinner. If he says I am a coward, I can hit him. If he says I am a miser, I can give him half-a-sovereign. But if he says I am fat and lazy (which is true), the best I can answer is that he speaks out of malice and spite. Whenever we see that phrase, we may be almost certain that somebody has told the truth about somebody else.” G K Chesterton

  • http://jamiemacnab.wordpress.com/ Jamie MacNab

    I think Chesterton was a great aphorist, Paulpriest ; all that he wrote provokes discussion without always being exact or complete. Therein lies one of his secrets. Now, do you really wish me to list the spiteful comments I have received from Catholics? Would you say that wishing someone were in hell was spiteful? And all because that someone passed the time of day with an atheist? I am generally slow to take offence.

  • Et Expecto

    Ushaw College presents a great opportunity for renewal. Over the last 40 years, the number of students has dwindled from 400 to 26, and now the decision has been taken to transfer them elsewhere. From next July, these wonderful buildings will be empty and free for use by some part of the Church which is experiencing renewal. Suggestions please.

  • RJ

    Yes to your first paragraph, but as Catholicism is supposed to be the fullness of the Christian faith, I would have to pass on the second. Without tub-thumping though.

  • Anonymous

    …”this striking example of renewal in the Church”….er…like the Legionaries of Christ?

  • W Oddie

    No: nothing remotely like. Why should you suppose so? Why is cynicism of this sort thought by some people to be clever? Shame on you

  • W Oddie

    This sounds real and serious: but I think we need to know more.

  • W Oddie

    As for calling yourself after the heresiarch Nestorius, a bishop who denied the unity of Christ’s Humanity and Divinity and was rightly deposed from his see for heresy, what does that tell us about YOU? Maybe that you opinions about anything to do with the renewal of the Catholic church are worthless? Presumably. you would like the whole thing to collapse into the sea.

  • Christina

    But to be fair, Jamie, your original post, while it certainly referred to the sort of spite you have enlarged on in the second, started off with “….could it be arranged that would-be-returnees like me may be spared the acres of church politics that seem to cover every Catholic website? Could we be spared the acrimonious debates?”. I may be quite wrong, but your main thrust seemed to me to be aimed at those bloggers (debaters?) who are desperately anxious that converts should receive the fullness of the faith, and not one of the counterfeit versions that are peddled all around them. That the expression of such anxiety fails to strike an irenic note is hardly surprising, considering that the eternal salvation of souls is at stake. However, I do agree with you 100% if you were only referring to the spitefulness of individuals as in the example you gave.

  • Anonymous

    Because these new movements are an expression of fundamentalism that is on the rise in all religions as part of a simple-minded reaction to rapid social and cultural change.

  • W Oddie

    Ah, yes, “fundamentalism”: now we know all about you (see below). No more need be said.

  • W Oddie

    A presumption now confirmed (see above). So “Nestorius” is simply a red herring to be ignored, as I now shall. Why do I waste my time?

  • Christina

    ‘Time for action boys.’ Er, she squeaked, what about the girls?

    Seriously, I have a difficulty with this ‘new evangelisation’. What exactly is it? How does it differ from the ‘old evangelisation’ when Catholics were taught that because the Church is the one ark of salvation for all, it was the duty of each one, according to his/her station, to try to bring converts into her. Prospective non-Catholic marriage partners certainly got the full treatment, and, if not convinced after instruction by REAL priests, had to agree that the children would be brought up in the faith. My mother, converted in this way, was an inspiration to me.

    Also, to Dr. Oddie, many thanks for this inspiring piece (and I hope that the good sisters will survive WYD!). But I would like to ask you to clarify what you mean when you speak of the ‘hijacking of the Council’. Do you think that the hijacking occurred during the Council itself, leading to the insertion of ambiguities in certain documents that would cause problems for the Church later, or were the hijackers simply those who did exploit the ambiguities afterwards? The distinction is an important one.

  • http://jamiemacnab.wordpress.com/ Jamie MacNab

    I have no wish to air my own difficulties here, Christina, and that is why my first comment was rather too general. I have no wish to name people or places either, which only compounds the problems for readers. I do wish to make the very general point that the Church is not welcoming to those who wish either to convert or return. It is as if Catholics have little or no understanding of any but those who are already on the inside, as it were. There is a club atmosphere ; an exclusive club at that. Now I realize that my opinion is open to misinterpretation, but there you have it.

    I know that Catholics are ill-disposed to consider advice from outsiders, but I will chance my arm and offer this : regain a sense of mission and learn the arts of the missionary.

  • http://jamiemacnab.wordpress.com/ Jamie MacNab

    It is real and serious Mr Oddie. But it is also in the past. The damage is done, but I do not think it was done to me except in the trivial sense that I was offended at the time.

  • Anonymous

    I went to the CASE website for an explanation of the new evangelisation – “…..cultural change has been so drastic in its impact, a new approach is needed because we can no longer rely on an inheritance of sacramental-focused faith between one generation and another, and we need creative ways of communication and of community living because that is where faith needs fresh embodiment.”
    (Fr Michael Paul Gallagher, SJ, Address to the Bishops of England and Wales. October 2002, Guernsey.)

    I then went to the Headline Bistro blog and they said of Iesu Communio – ….”The new community, known as Iesu Communio, is almost entirely under the age of 35. Many of the young women in the community discovered their vocation at or through a WYD.

    As we can see from Iesu Communio the new evangelisation is something that is alive & kicking at World Youth Day. In the UK this would equate to Youth 2000, New Dawn & Celebrate Youth Ministries. This is the place where the new evangelisation is happening and from where I stand it is a success. The reason that I can say it is a success is that these ministries get the kids coming along at an early age with their families and a high percentages of them keep coming back. A further success is that they train up a perpetual supply of teenage youth leaders from every year group who then go and teach the younger ones.

    However, unless you attended these conferences you would never know that the new evangelisation was actually happening. It all started with large scale Eucharistic adoration at WYD (like that seen at Hyde Park during the papal visit) and has led onto smaller events where aspects of the church are presented in a deeply spiritual but, new way, and above all true to church teachings.

    However, it is not just for the youth. “The new evangelisation is a movement of the whole Church – Dioceses, Parishes, Religious Orders, Priests, Spouses, Families, Young people, Older people, movements, communities, groups and individuals…….“: (JPII, Redemptoris Missio, 3).

    Thank goodness for JPII’s new evangelisation. In 50 years time there may still be some of these young folk going to Church. That’s if they have not been closed down due to the mishandling of Vatican II and the generation that was lost to the church (often referred to as ‘the forgotten generation’).

    We may not always like the word NEW but it is testament to JPII’s vision that he realised that NEW would equate to renewal in the Church.

  • crouchback

    In 50 years time there may be “some” of these young folk going to church…..weasel words, weasel sentence.

    Look back 150 years, go to your parish get a diocesan directory and see how many parishes were being founded. Lancaster diocese has 105 parishes as far as I can see from their web page. Going back 150 years there wouldn’t be 75% of that amount I’d guess. Yet in 50 years you foresee that….”SOME”……of today’s young people might still be attending church…..Well Yipidee Doo Dah……Some Old farts will still be chuntering on about the Miraculous Renewal of Vatican II in the year 2061…..

    Lets hope they don’t forget to renew themselves in the Spirit and celebrate …..in a very, real and meaningful way…..the 200th anniversary of the death of Prince Albert……

    Hmm, what’ll it be penis rings or gourds, for the all day Albert Memorial prayer – a – thon. I could fill a whole gourd, at a push, but wouldn’t that be a tad over dressed…??? What about a willow penis ring….do you think the Yoof will still care about the environment in 2061…???….

    Or maybe there will be thousands of them at Westminster Cathedral offering up traditional Latin masses for the 2063 events planned for the 200th anniversary of Father Faber…???

  • Anonymous

    Dear Dr Oddie,

    Thank you for your wise and timely article. I enjoy your posts, and I have to say that The Catholic Herald, both in print and online, is one of the treasures of our British media, whilst your contributions are always thought-provoking.

    I, like you, am a former Anglican convert to Catholicism, albeit of much more recent reception. I am trying to immerse myself in Catholic culture and in the whole ambiance of English Catholicism. Much of what I see and read disappoints and distresses me: in particular, there is a great deal of vitriolic partisanship abroad, something one hoped one had left behind. ‘How these Christians love one another’ springs to mind in a rather ironic way.

    You are right to wish that the baptist convert to whom you refer should be spared theological contentiousness as much as possible; however, there is a significant process underway, as the Church engages in an appropriate process of discernment and reception of Vatican II, and none of us is immune. The extremists (sedevacantists and diehard Tridentine fundamentalists on the one hand, ranged against the liberal-modernist hippies) do not, it seems to me, speak for the Church faithful in any way. Catholics surely want the Mass celebrated well, faithful priests whom they can admire and trust, and a genuine religious alternative to the crass materialism and immorality of modern society; they want Bishops with courage and conviction and a Pope who truly stands as an icon of Christ, in his wisdom, charity, devotion and forthright conviction. Thank God, they have the latter already,

    Vatican II remains, and it will do so; what is crucial is the way in which it is received and applied, for the council’s intentions have in many ways been perverted by those who have driven the Church in an ultra-liberal direction. The tide is turning, thanks in great measure, to the heroic efforts of Cardinal Ratzinger, now our Pope. It is time for the Church to stop aping failed Protestantism and to embrace a vibrant Catholicism; a start would be to rediscover much that was discarded, even as we go forward to seek the will of God for the future.

    The Mass (yes: even the Novus Ordo!) can and should be beautiful, uplifting, dignified, a true expression of the sacred; it is becoming so in many places, and will be far more so after the new Mass revision comes into being. Many priests are moving on from the 1970s iconoclasm to rediscover their duty to assist the faithful to find God and not to embrace the vicissitudes of secular-liberal culture. There are indeed grounds for hope.

    When all is said and done, I became a Catholic because I needed to belong to the Church of the Apostles. For all its faults, that it remains, so in the meantime I will have to put up for a bit longer with the banal ditties, the grossly prosaic committee-speak collects, the lack of liturgical awareness of so many of the faithful, and some less than impressive senior clerics. The Mass is the Mass, the Church remains the Church and, God willing, both will be renewed soon.

  • Christina

    Well, as an ‘insider’ I am with you 100% on that advice. What you say before that is very shocking to me, and I can only deplore the behaviour of any so-called Catholics who have lost sight of Christ’s command ‘Going therefore, teach ye all nations…..’ – surely not consistent with any puffed-up idea of exclusivity.

  • Christina

    Many thanks for this very informative post, MJCarroll. I shall read it again and digest it when I have more time!

  • Martin

    It was stated “What is needed is all the Bishops to be sent to a monastery and given silent retreats until they understand what the job of a Bishop is about…..then all of them ordered to learn to say the Traditional Mass, they don’t get to leave until they are word perfect……THEN…..on pain of Hell they are to take an oath to be obedient to the Pope. Sent back to their diocese and repeat this process with their priests.

    Anybody who doesn’t like this can leave….we are not in the business of holding captives.

    Whatever, the so called New Evangelisation hasn’t shown up around here, and it’s not likely to come either, not with the lackadaisical priests and Bishops we have got right now”.

    Ok, as the ex Baptist , I can appreciate differing opinions on teaching, some right and some wrong. I am even getting to grips slowly with the viewpoints in the Catholic Church. Even within the Protestant churches there is nothing new in this and after 15 Years as an adult convert I am more than used to it. However, for those that agreed with the comments above I am struggling with you here and need you to clarify by what authority you are stating this.

    If the Bishop is as Christ to you and the Clergy is as the Apostles, why are you apparently making such bold statements against those that the Holy Spirit has called? Are you higher than they or are they answerable to you? Are you able to see the stresses they are under or are you doing your best to lift them up, support them and daily carry their load? (I mean this as God sees you, not on the superficial level which involves the odd prayer that satisfies the part that says “at least I tried” ). It has been my experience (as one who was actively at work within the Church and still wishes to be so), that the ones who displayed such an attitude were ultimately in the wrong, regardless of well meaning intentions. Any man who would wield the threat of Hell in order to consolidate their position needs to rethink what is at the core of their argument. Whilst I see you trying to be doctrinally pure in your view, you are sounding like someone who has lost the greater concept of Love and is very dictatorial in heart. No Church Father that I can think would write as openly as you seem to have) .

    All this would mean is that even if you win the argument, you will lose in regards to Spiritual growth within you or people that seem to hold the above position.

    On to your final judgemental paragraph, which still seems to lack any Faith in those God has called or hope that they can change with support that you are offering? Are you expecting God to evangelize through the Clergy alone? What about you/me/ us..What about the royal Priesthood of God? Are you actively leading people into the church and doing everything that you seem to be claiming they are not? if you are then I will allow you your frustration in that you say they are Cowards (i am summarising their ability in not speaking out), however if you are expecting it all to come from the Clergy then again a rethink is in order.

    Would you say the same things to their face so boldly?

    Final point, please understand that i write this to you I am by no means sitting in judgement on you or have any wish to do so, far from it, I am simply voicing concerns based on my own errors in the past and hoping you don’t experience the same troubles. Even victory can mean total failure when not conducted with the right heart attitude or grace that considers the lives of others above yourself. Here’s hoping I have read this wrong and you will confirm this accordingly. Maybe you just need to reign in you pen (typing fingers)? God bless you .

  • kyriakos

    Brother I hope and pray your words are prophetic.

  • Martin

    Dr Oddie, Nice post and i am starting to get to grips with the differences you are all refering to now.

    Taking me one step further in my understanding of Catholicism, can i ask your advice on any groups that you are aware of that are involved in reaching out with the Gospel in the local community but are not centred within an individual church location. I am currently serving overseas within the Forces and all my experience is centred on Protestant organisation.
    Unfortunately their view of Catholicism can sometimes compare with the negative views of Protestantism from Catholics and isn’t the best for presenting a Unified front to the Outside world. Any information is apprecated.

  • María
  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    What’s the common thread that runs through all the thriving religious orders?

    The Old Mass.