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Two days ago we marked the feast day of St. Boniface. In 1919, Pope Benedict XV wrote an encyclical about him, titled In Hac Tanta, and while it is primarily directed towards the faithful of Germany, it no less regards that people’s neighbours, especially since there was little in the way of boundaries between them in the time of St. Boniface. Since a cursory search on the Internet revealed no Dutch translation of that encyclical, I took it upon myself to provide just that.
So, without much ado, but with the attention it deserves, here is In Hac Tanta in Dutch.
Of course, the papal stylings of a century ago are interesting to read, as is the focus that Pope Benedict XV places on St. Boniface’s union with the Holy See. He identifies it as one of the most important sources for the saint’s mission, which continues to this very day (well, 1919, but we may safely draw lessons for our own time as well).
Perhaps fittingly in this time of the year, as the penitential season of Advent draws to a close, we start this day with trepidation and expectation. Two hours from now, the final report from the Deetman committee will be released with an accompanying press conference, which will be televised live. To indicate the importance of today’s events, rumour has it that not Bishop Gerard de Korte, who has been face and voice of the Church in this crisis, will lead a later press conference in the afternoon, but the bishops’ conference president, Archbishop Wim Eijk. Here, the bishops will react to the Deetman report. The Conference of Dutch Religious, meanwhile, announces the publication of an open letter to the victims, expected online at the end of the afternoon.
Whatever the report’s conclusions, many rightfully expect them to be damning. Not just about how the Church dealt with the horrific crimes of its clergy and laity in the past, but certainly also with how things are being handled now. There is no doubt that the improvement made is enormous, but it has also been very Dutch: practical to the end, with a focus on monetary compensation and efficient handling. There is much to say for that, and legally there is virtually nothing wrong with it. But many still miss a pastoral solution, among them Mr. Wim Deetman himself. The Church, first and foremost, still needs to learn to listen. More than efficient solutions and financial compensation, an attentive ear opens the way to healing for so many victims, not just of sexual abuse. I think we all know that from experience.
That subject may be mentioned at the press conference, but there have already been signs that the bishops are still divided on it. Will a pastoral gesture of regret and penitence be welcomed or seen as empty theatrics? A good question, and I fear the chance of the latter is quite great, but I don’t think the bishops should lose sight of the fact that any act of penitence, public or not, must come from within. If it doesn’t, it will be empty theatrics.
In the meantime, this morning we await the conclusions and the numbers, and not least the aftermath. I, and as I’ve already seen here and there, others too ask for prayer for the victims and also for the Church in this country.
St. Willibrord and St. Boniface, pray for us.
Photo credit: Reformatorisch Dagblad
An excellent blog post on the website of the parish of Saints John and Clement in Waalwijk*, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, titled, “It is not the Church that needs to change, but you and I”. Taking the recent bush fires in the diocese (Reusel, Liempde, San Salvator, and also Waalwijk, where the previous pastor was less than popular) as a starting point, the unnamed author takes a firm stand against liberal, often elderly faithful who consider themselves progressive and want to change the Church, or at least their parish, in a product of our times.
The ‘protestants’ are often supported by former priests who either resigned their office, or are married and no longer active in a parish belonging to the diocese, or religious priests. They loudly demand democratisation and ‘adaptation to the times’ from the leaders of the Catholic Church who, supported by her bishops and a new class of priests and faithful, all over the world keep to Catholic teaching, which they draw from the unchangeable Gospel of Christ. Those who demand structural change from the Church call their opponents conservative, old-fashioned and stupid. They feel supported by the media and millions of baptised Christians who never, or only at very special occasions, see the inside of a church. All these critics only see a future for the Catholic Church if she adapts to the wishes and ideas of the majority. According to them, the people are the Church, and so they want the people to call the shots in a ‘reformed’ democratic church. Literally and figuratively.
The text mentions some of the examples of incidents I mentioned above, and then continues:
These are all examples which indicate that the Church keeps holding on to the sanctity of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, against the wishes of the majority of the Dutch people, that not only demands that the Church lets people choose for themselves between life and death, fidelity and infidelity, self-sacrifice or self-gratification, charity or selfishness, but at the same time demands that the Church sanctifies, by administering the sacraments, practices that are unchristian according to the Gospels, like the ones mentioned above.
The conclusion of the piece is a serious one:
The only thing that all the protesters and troublemakers achieved since the 1960s, with their anticatholic and unchristian actions, is that the younger generations threw out the baby with the bathwater, i this case the Christ child sent by God. With the result that many young people never or rarely go to a church anymore: Today – 1,400 years after the Christianisation by St. Boniface – the Church of Christ is faced for the first time with a young generation which has hardly learned anything (positive) about our faith and our Church at home and in school, and for the most part no longer knows what the good news of Jesus Christ is.
The piece further refers to the aged ‘revolutionaries’ of the Mariënburg club and the 8 May movement which sprung up in the wake of Blessed John Paul II’s visit to the Netherlands in 1985, noting the disastrous results of decades of individualism and ill-informed protest. The final words of the article are attrubited to Blessed Teresa of Kolkata:
Blessed Mother Theresa was once asked what she thought should change first in the Church. He answer was, “You and I!”
*The parish of the intelligent, humble and over-so-sensibly Catholic Father Marcel Dorssers, a regular guest at the annual Credimus Bootcamp.
Photo credit: R.K. parochie St. Jan en St. Clemens
Saint Boniface, whose feast the Church today celebrates, is the patron saint of, among other things, the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, for it is in its borders that he was martyred in the year 754. May his holy death and his prayerful patronage continue to shelter the Church in the north of the Netherlands from “the waves of life’s different stresses” and may his example of solid faith backed by decisive action continue to be an example to us.
Good Lord,through the intercession of Saint Boniface, protect and guide your Church in Groningen-Leeuwarden, her bishop, priests religious and lay faithful. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
One verb would adequately summarise my experience of the annual St. Boniface Day, and that verb is ‘walking’. Leaving the small village in Nes, after a pilgrim’s blessing from Fr van Ulden, we set off towards the coast of the Wadden sea near Wierum. We walked along the dyke, amid several flocks of sheep and numerous oystercatchers, swallows and housemartins. After a few kilometers we left the dyke and turned southward towards the village of Ternaard, from where we headed on towards Hantum, Hiaure and ultimately Dokkum. It was close to noon when we reached our destination; the St. Boniface park. In the four hours before that we covered some 18 kilometers, which included two rest stops (with free stories from Deacon Peter Vermaat).
In the park, the workshops had already begun, and I soon found myself with a meal ticket and the company of several friends. I also took the opportunity to walk around a bit and catch up with several people. In a thinly populated diocese like ours, it’s nice to be able to do that. Among those people was the bishop, who celebrated his birthday that day as well.
I had the impression that the day was well-attended, although perhaps not as well as last year. Still, the atmosphere was good, and even the usual chaos of a procession getting readied for take-off was not too bad at all. Naturally, I was among four guys drafted to carry the bier with some of St. Boniface’s relics in the procession. An honour to be sure, although ignoring the photographers is a bit of a chore. One of them had the gall to tell me not to smile because it didn’t look solemn enough for his picture… This was even before the procession had begun and I was chatting with some friends near me.
The procession, which started at the parish church and ended at the park, was followed by Mass, offered by Bishop de Korte in concelebration with a handful of priests. It was a valid Mass, but I will not say too much about it, since it was also one of the most horizontal Masses I’ve ever witnessed. The sentiment in my previous post refers to this Mass as well. It was disconcerting.
All the same, I am glad I took the trouble and had the means to do the walk and meet up with friends in Dokkum. The weather, the landscape and the company all combined into a great day, and I consider the procession as a very good conclusion.
Earlier this week, Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He kept it low-key, since he didn’t consider it prudent to throw a big picture when the Church is still dealing with the abuse crisis and his archdiocese is struggling financially despite the changes he has already introduced.But I also think it’s not Msgr. Eijk’s style to celebrate any other way.
There are people who call themselves orthodox Catholics yet take this opportunity as one of many to viciously attack the archbishop, making insinuations that ultimately say more about there own delusions of grandeur than anything else. Sad to see.
For my part: congratulations, albeit belated ones, to Archbishop Eijk. May God continue to keep and guide him in his difficult task.
The other anniversary from the title is a bit bigger. Today we celebrate Saint Boniface, the English missionary who introduced Christianity to much of what is now the Netherlands and adjacent parts of Germany, and became bishop of Utrecht after St. Willibrord. On 5 June 754 he was martyred near Dokkum in northern Friesland. Since he is the patron of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, we will gather at Dokkum next week in honour of him: people around gather around St. Boniface to learn and know about the God he introduced here so many centuries ago.
Reading about his life, St. Boniface, like so many of his contemporaries, comes across as not very subtle. He chopped down trees considered sacred by the locals, challenged them by saying his God was stronger than theirs (my dad can beat up your dad, sort of thing ). But then again, truth is just as much, if not more, served by clarity and honesty as it is with subtlety and friendliness. And if St. Boniface was one thing, he was clear and honest. And persistent: in his 80s he returned to the Low Countries where he first arrived from England almost forty years earlier, in a last attempt to convert the Frisians. What was supposed to be large gathering near Dokkum turned out to be an ambush where the saint and his companions were murdered. St. Boniface is pictured with a Bible with a sword through it: in his last moments, tradition tells us, he held the book over his head to block the hits from the sword. In Dokkum, a modern statue shows him in this position.
Saint Boniface’s remains lie in the cathedral in Fulda, which he founded, and some are in the parish church in Dokkum.
This week I read the first announcement for the St. Boniface Day of 2010, to be held on 13 June. And the best news is that the optional walk (pilgrimage is too big a word for it…) will follow the route of my first St. Boniface Day in 2006 (I think, might have been 2007): from the village of Nes along the coast and then south towards Dokkum. If the weather’s good it’s a great route to walk.
The annual St. Boniface Day is a day where, basically, everyone in the diocese can gather in Dokkum – the place where St. Boniface, the patron saint of our diocese, was martyred. There’ll be a procession and Mass, workshops (Leo Fijen will speak at one of these) and special events for people of all ages. It’s basically a lot of fun.
So I’m looking forward to that. Here are some impressions of last year’s Day: