Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Sunday, April 24, 2005

God bless our Pope!

"Full in the panting heart of Rome
Beneath the apostle's crowning Throne.
From pilgrims' lips that kiss the ground,
Breathes in all tongues one only sound.
God Bless our Pope, the great, the good,
God Bless our Pope, the great, the good!"

The words of that hymn by Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster (1802 - 1865) and its fantastic tune resounded at the end of Mass on Sunday morning in the parish here in Singapore where we prayed for Pope Benedict XVI and even made a public pledge of loyalty to the Holy Father. The last time I sang those words was in Skipton on the occasion of John Paul II's Silver Jubilee as Pope.

But the highlight of the day was the Papal Inaugural Mass when the Holy Father was invested with the pallium - a lovely large Eastern style one - and the Fisherman's ring. The large pallium is an important return to the ancient practice of the Church and a good sign of respect for the traditions of the Oriental churches; liturgically, it is much more obviously a garment and a very visible symbol of the pastoral office. Another sign of respect for the Eastern chuches was the reading of the Gospel in Greek by the Byzantine deacon; a traditional and unique ritual of the traditional Papal Mass. Gone is the Triple Tiara, replete with monarchial overtones but I must say I had hoped the Pope would be taken around the Piazza in the sedia gestatoria instead of the white jeep (which just looks a little tacky juxtaposed with the ancient vestments and the Baroque surroundings) but I suppose time had moved on and things have truly changed for good...

There was a lovely part of the old Coronation rite that I think should be re-instated: the Cardinal Deacon used to ignite a ball of flax as the Pope processed down the nave of St Peter's and he would intone three times: "Pater sancte, sic transit gloria mundi" (Holy Father, so passes the glory of the world). This symbolic act is a fitting reminder of mortality and humility and so evocative for a world all too caught up in its pleasures and glory.

The Holy Father's homily was beautiful, revealing the depth, humility and spirituality of the man. It was also full or erudition and insight, so typical of Ratzinger. In particular, I wish to highlight below these words:

"My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history."

Truly the Bishop of Rome is Servum servorum Dei and not the Re-fashioner of Christ's Gospel as some would will him to be. Pope Benedict has made it clear that he will teach and encourage only that which is faithful to the Gospel given to him from Christ and the saints in His Church.

An ancient text, from the 7th century used to be taken in oath by the Popes at their installation until 1978. It is a fitting reminder, in its solemnity of the limitations on the papal prerogative:

"I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein;

To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort;

To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; to guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the divine ordinance of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess;

I swear to God Almighty and the Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His Successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared.

I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I.

If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice.

Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone -- be it Ourselves or be it another -- who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the orthodox Faith and the Christian religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture."

Severe words indeed!

Over the past few days, the Holy Father has shown to the world and the media his compassion and humanity, his gentleness and love. His warmth clearly came across in his smiles today and he has not been as severe as the words above (and the world's liberal press) would appear. I pray that he may also reconcile those who were at odds with him when he was head of the CDF. There are a few interesting and amusing articles around which speculate and mull over the future of this Pontificate. I love this one by Damian Thompson (whom I broadly agree with) but it should be read with Cardinal Cormac's article, both from The Telegraph. Others are too crazy for words; I am particularly dismayed by ex-Dominican Rev Dr Fox's words. Fortunately, the Order of Preachers got rid of him!! But the best compilation of all the articles on the Pope is still at His Holiness' fansite!

As Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope of the 21st century embarks on his Petrine ministry, an "enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity" let us pray for him, as he implored us today and to join the saints in heaven who are surely doing so too.

May Mary, Mother of the Church lead him into the Heart of Christ her Son and our Redeemer.


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