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And so the liturgical year draws to a close as we mark the start of the new one tomorrow, and this blog happily marked the 200,000th visitor some weeks ago. 200,000 visits since I began almost three years ago? For some blogs that is next to nothing, but for me it is a reason to be grateful. Thank you.
Onward to the top 10 of last month, when we saw 6,262 visits.
1: Intolerable tolerance 103
2: “On the edge, but not marginal” – Fr. Radcliffe on the “official Church” 90
3: Maranatha – a Catholic future for Tilburg’s students 68
4: Papal attack on the Nativity ox and ass 64
5: A second Red Dawn risies 56
6:In gratitude – Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows 46
7: Het probleem Medjugorje 45
8: Adoro te devote, two versions and a translation 39
9: Hope at the Catholic Youth Day – the Catholic voice stirring? 38
10: Criminal or careless? Bishop Gijsen accused in Iceland 37
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Four-and-a-half years into his retirement as Archbishop of Utrecht, Adrianus Johannes Cardinal Simonis - Ad in conversation – reaches another milestone today: his 80th birthday. A respectable age for anyone, of course, as the Psalmist acknowledges: “The span of our life is seventy years — eighty for those who are strong” (90:10a), but for a cardinal it is something of a further step back from the intricacies of the Curia, locally and in Rome. Upon reaching his 80th birthday, a cardinal can no longer vote in a conclave, to elect a new pope.
Luckily, it would seem that Pope Benedict XVI is still in reasonably good health for a man his age (even if the rumours of his suffering arthritis in his legs are true), so a conclave is still in the semi-distant future. I would be surprised, therefore, if Cardinal Simonis still harboured any hopes of participating in another one.
As the Psalmist continues about the years of our life: “their whole extent is anxiety and trouble, they are over in a moment and we are gone” (90:10b), Cardinal Simonis certainly had his share of anxiety and trouble. Ordained a priest in 1957, the dentist’s son from Lisse first made Catholic headlines at the Pastoral Council of Noordwijkerhout, where the young priest, then in his late thirties, was a voice for orthodoxy and thus soon placed by many in the camp of the bad guys. Rome, however, thought otherwise, as Father Simonis was appointed to be the second bishop of Rotterdam. His appointment there, as well as that of Bishop Gijsen to Roermond in 1972, is often considered to have been Pope Paul VI’s response to the new liberalism in the Dutch Catholic Church, especially considering that the name of Fr. Simonis appeared on none of the ternae supplied to Rome.
Bishop Simonis would remain in Rotterdam for 13 years, until 1983, when he was appointed to be Coadjutor Archbishop of Utrecht under Cardinal Willebrands. At the end of that year, on 3 December Archbishop Simonis succeeded the cardinal, who continued for six more years as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
As Utrecht’s archbishop, Msgr. Simonis was the principal host of Blessed Pope John Paul II during his cold reception in the Netherlands in 1985. Because of the hostility of many Dutch Catholics towards the bishops and especially Rome, personified in the pope, Archbishop Simonis was put under police protection for ten days. His elevation to the College of Cardinals in the consistory of 25 May 1985 is often seen as a way to strengthen the archbishop in his difficult position.
That difficult position did get easier over the years, as the climate in the Church mellowed, and Cardinal Simonis moved from being a voice of orthodoxy to one speaking for all Catholics, something that he considered to be an important attribute for all bishops.
In April of 2007, Cardinal Simonis retired and took up residence in a Focolare community in Nieuwkuijk. But even after his retirement, the cardinal remained a well-known face of the Church. His name appeared several times concerning abuse cases under his jurisdiction in the archdiocese, as well as ill-advised comments on national television. In recent year, many seemed to prefer to depict him as an evil genius, but the worst accusation that may, in my opinion, be brought against Cardinal Simonis is a naive attitude.
As shown by his motto, Ut cognoscant te, Cardinal Simonis is driven by the desire to let people know Christ, doing so as a humble and friendly prelate who tends to first see the good in people.
The paths of the cardinal and I have crossed several times, although we never formally met. As chief celebrant at the Catholic Youth Day of, I think, 2007, during the installation of Bishop de Korte, and most recently in Spain during the World Youth Days, a constant was the cardinal’s health. In the years immediately following his retirement, his figure turned ever more stooped, but that seems to have reversed itself in later years. The quiet life seems to have done Cardinal Simonis good.
But now, as the Dutch Church Province is left without a cardinal elector, eyes turn to Cardinal Simonis’ successor in Utrecht, Archbishop Wim Eijk. With a consistory rumoured to be scheduled for this time next year, he is now among the chief candidates for the red hat, considering the fact that Pope Benedict tends not to appoint new cardinals in a country which still has an elector.
We will see how that turns out, but in the mean time, the only suitable way to wrap up this post, is with a heartfelt birthday wish to Cardinal Ad Simonis: ad multos annos!
 NRC Handelsblad / Rien Zilvold
 Bisdom Den Bosch
 Ramon Mangold
The first photos of yesterday’s EF Mass, offered by Raymond Cardinal Burke in the presence of Bishop Jos Punt and Auxiliary Bishop elect Jan Hendriks (respectively to the left and right of the cardinal), are online at the website of the St. Agnes church. The above photo shows the cardinal, bishop, priests, deacons, acolytes and other assistants at the Mass, including the parish priest, a seminarian, and a transitional deacon. The EF Mass is no longer something that involves only a few older Catholics who recall pre-conciliar times.
The presence of a high-ranking prelate like Cardinal Burke, who is the chief of the Holy See’s canonical court system, is of course unique enough to merit some attention, but the fact that the cardinal was the guest of the bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, who accompanied him to St. Agnes and who attended the Mass in choir with the newly appointed auxiliary bishop of his diocese, makes it all the more so. No other Dutch bishop has yet attended an EF Mass, despite what Bishop Punt spoke about in his homily: that the old and new form of the Mass must mutually enrich one another.
I am still on the lookout for the text of Bishop Punt’s homily, which I will provide in an English translation if possible.
The Mass itself, as may expected, took well over two hours. The church, despite a miscommunication of the Mass’ starting time, ended up being quite well-filled. Cardinal Burke entered wearing the cappa magna, the long mantle that cardinals and bishops can wear outside liturgical celebrations. Cardinal Burke, then, removed his when he had knelt in prayer for the Blessed Sacrament and th Mass proper began.
The doubly-festive occasion, marking not only the fifth anniversary of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass being offered at St. Agnes, but also the feast day of Saint Willibrord, the patron of the Netherlands, was enlivened by both a mixed and a female choir, singing the Missa Surge Propera by Francisco Guerrero, of which I share the lovely Kyrie below:
Being deprived of good enough eyesight to see much of the goings-on in the sanctuary, I relied on my ears and the texts to follow along, and although sometimes I was a bit at a loss (not least since my booklet missed a few pages!), I generally knew where we were and what we were doing. And that’s always a plus. All in all, the Mass was a very dignified celebration, and one I am happy to have attended.
The post-Mass socialising brought along some familiar faces, including some I hadn’t seen in a while. All this almost made up fully for having missed the Catholic Youth Day, which also took place yesterday. There, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts was the main celebrant of the closing Mass, and after his impressive homily last year, I am also on the lookout for the one he gave now. It is said to have been lengthy.
(Photo credit: Wim Koopman – iMoose)
Last month did not see many stand-out posts, at least not when it comes to the number of visitors. Some old posts continue to be popular, but there are also some current topics visible. The consistory, the prayer vigil for all nascent life, Archbishop Léonard, Bishop Ter Schure… as well as some lighter topics, such as the Catholic Youth Day and the re-consacration of the cathedral in Paramaribo.
Here’s the list:
1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution 69
2: Under the Roman Sky 61
3: Prayer vigil for ‘all nascent life’ – the Dutch response 50
4: I have one or two things to explain to you 44
4: Cardinals according to John Allen 43
5: Impressions from the Catholic Youth Day 39
6: Oh, not again… 35
7: Het probleem Medjugorje 35
8: Let me say once more…, Some personal thoughts about a resignation, “The cathedral has been resurrected” 32
9: A new deacon 29
10: Serious questions about the guilt of Msgr. Ter Schure, The bishop’s other diocese, Pornography or art? 28
All in all, the blog received 3,754 visits this month, which is a contintuation of the slow rise in visits since September.
I have translated the homily that Bishop Mutsaerts gave at the Catholic Youth Day on 7 November. It may be read here and via the link on the Translations page. It is a homily noticeably aimed at a young audience, but it’s not simplified for that. No, Bishop Mutsaerts makes some good statements, and one of those has yet gone unnoticed in the articles that quote from it. In his penultimate paragraph, he writes:
“Give faith the chance to grow. Do not say: Listen Lord, your servant speaks. No, first say: Speak Lord, your servant listens. Pray with confidence, celebrate the Eucharist faithfully, do not settle for cheap alternatives in your parish. Do you really want to experience God’s love? Do you really want to know if it is true: in the future, DO as Him. Do you want to know something about God’s love: look up towards the cross. Do you really want to be part of His church? Then be consistent. Despite the consequences.”
The text in bold is emphasised by me, but it touches on a very real issue in the Dutch Church, and in a way that no Dutch bishop has yet so clearly done. Least of all to an audience of children and young people.
Kudos to Bishop Mutsaerts for such inspired, honest and intelligent words.
For Dutch readers is the homily available in a number of places, for example here.
A couple of hundred children and young people gathered in ‘s-Hertogenbosch yesterday for the annual Catholic Youth Day. The photo below is an impression of the information market that was open all day and filled with stands of anything from religious orders to dioceses, universities and schools, movements and individual faithful who had something to share with young Catholics from all over the country.
I attended with a small group from my own diocese, and for me it was very much a chance to meet people, clergy and laity alike, I don’t get a chance to see regularly. Some of those encounters were high points of the day. I mention a short chat with Father Harm Schilder, comparing notes with media entrepreneur Eric van den Berg of Catholic Internet portal Isidorusweb, Archbishop Wim Eijk responding positively to me and my girlfriend’s request to bless our relationship, a chance to catch up with my own bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, and a quick hello to Father Roderick, who was recording a radio show.
The day ended with a Mass offered by ten bishops and few dozen priests in concelebration. ‘s-Hertogenbosch ordinary Bishop Hurkmans was the main celebrant, and his auxiliary Bishop Rob Mutsaerts was the homilist. The latter proved to be an eloquent speaker, able to engage his audience and keep their attention. His natural emphasis on the importance of the Eucharist as opposed to ‘weak alternatives’ was also not unwelcome. Of course, as is sadly still normal for the big public Masses in this country, there were abuses (and some things that simply weren’t to my taste). Popularity and accessibility still prevail over sanctity, it seems, while sanctity can be accessible without being played down.
Anyway, not to put a damper on what was indeed a very goo day, here are some photographic impressions:
Photo credit: 1, 3, 4 and 5 by me; 2,6 and 7 by Ramon Mangold for Jongkatholiek.nl