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lescrauwaetLess than two weeks ago, a short tweet from a priest friend broke the news that Bishop Joseph Frans Lescrauwaet was coming to the end of his earthly life. That end came today. At the age of 90, the retired auxiliary bishop of Haarlem leaves a heritage of study, education and engagement in numerous fields, from Church politics to ecumenism. Bishop Lescrauwaet was the second most senior Dutch bishop, with only the emeritus Bishop of Breda, Huub Ernst, before him.

Joining the congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart after a youth in Amsterdam, young Jos Lescrauwaet followed his formation as a priest during the war; his philosophical studies in Stein, Diocese of Roermond, and his theology in Raalte, Archdiocese of Utrecht. His ordination in 1948 was followed by a doctoral thesis in 1957 on a topic that would mark the rest of his active ministry: ecumenism. As a theologian, he taught systematic theology at the University of Tilburg and various subjects at the seminary of his congregation, also in Tilburg.

Originally one of the contributing authors to the journal Concilium, Fr. Lescrauwaet followed the example of Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar and started writing for the more orthodox Communio. He was one of the editors of the Dutch edition of that journal when it was launched in 1976.

Bishop Lescrauwaet’s theological expertise led to several high-profile appointments. In 1969 he became a member of the International Theological Commission. He was chairman of the council of the disastrous (though not disastrous through his fault) Dutch Pastoral Council (1966-1970) and secretary and expert during the Special Synod of the Bishops of the Netherlands, called by Pope John Paul II to repair some of the damage done in previous years.

lescrauwaetThis latter function played a part in his appointment as a bishop later on as it did for most other priests involved, such as the later bishop of Rotterdam, Ad van Luyn. In 1983, Fr. Lescrauwaet (at right, pictured around that time) was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem and Titular Bishop of Turres Concordiae. He was consecrated by the Coadjutor Bishop of Haarlem, Msgr. Henny Bomers, appointed on the very same day as Bishop Lescrauwaet (Bishop Bomers was already a bishop, having been ordained in 1978 as Vicar Apostolic of Gimma in Ethiopia). Bishop Ernst of Breda and Bishop Jan de Kok, Auxiliary of Utrecht, served as co-conserators.

As auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Lescrauwaet was active in many fields, and not necessary always only within the Diocese of Haarlem. These activities were often ecumenical in nature. In the final years before his retirement, Bishop Lescrauwaet was a member of the board of the Dutch Council of Churches.

It is said that there have always been tensions between Bishops Bomers and Lescrauwaet, and that these were the reason for the latter’s frequent absence from the diocese. Some blame the bishop for this absence, but those who knew him personally cherished him for his pastoral acumen and his sense of humour, which was evident even when discussing the most difficult of theological concepts.

lescrauwaetBishop Lescrauwaet retired in 1995 at the age of 71, for reasons of age and health, and returned to the south, where he had worked and lived before his appointment to Haarlem. He moved into the diocesan seminary of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, the St. John’s Centre, and picked up his old job of teaching theology again. He also served as spiritual counsellor of the seminary. At left, he is pictured with Bishop Antoon Hurkmans, during the celebration of his 90th birthday last year. Ultimately, in 2011, the bishop moved back to Tilburg, to live in the retirement home of his congregation.

The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam announces that Bishop Lescrauwaet’s  funeral will take place from the Basilica of Saint John in Den Bosch, the cathedral near which he spent most of the years since his retirement, on 23 November. The Mass starts at 10:30. The day before, faithful will have the opportunity to visit the late bishop at the St. John’s Centre, the diocesan seminary around the corner from the basilica.

Photo credit: [1] Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, [2] ANP – Cor Out, [3] Sint-Janscentrum

bluyssen86-year-old Bishop Johannes Bluyssen – emeritus ordinary of ‘s Hertogenbosch and the sole surviving Dutch Council father – has spent the past few days in hospital, suffering from undisclosed heart problems. He has already been moved out of intensive care, where he was admitted with breathing problems and severe fatigue. Happily, the news broke today that things have quite improved, and from one of the priests of the cathedral we hear that Msgr. Bluyssen may return to his home at ‘s Hertogenbosch’s St. John’s seminary on Sunday.

In the meantime, as the third-oldest bishop of our little country is not out of the woods yet, let’s call on the intercession of St. John of God, patron saint of heart patients, for the bishop’s increasing and continuing wellbeing.

On Saturday I attended the ordination to the priesthood of Fathers Patrick Kuis and Geoffrey de Jong in the cathedral basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in ‘s Hertogenbosch. These were two of nine new priests that the Church in the Netherlands received on that day. 27-year-old Fr. Patrick is a personal friend, so the ordination was especially joyous.

Father Patrick will remain assigned to the cathedral parish in ‘s Hertogenbosch, a choice assignment in the largest diocese of the country in terms of the number of Catholics. He had already been in that parish since his ordination to the diaconate.

Father Patrick’s first Masses was celebrated in the the basilica, but he will celebrate a number of other ‘first’ Masses: in the cathedral of Sts. Joseph and Martin in Groningen, the parish church of St. James the Greater in Uithuizen and in the FSSP church of St. Agnes in Amsterdam.

This last Mass is of course of special interest to those traditionally-minded readers of this blog. Fr. Patrick will offer this Mass in the Extraordinary Form, which is quite unique for newly-ordained priest, certainly in the Netherlands. Recently, some note was made of the first Mass of a newly-ordained priest in New York who offered his first Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Father Z writes about that here), and I think that this fact is no less worthy of attention.

Congratulations to Fathers Patrick and Geoffrey, as well as the other new priests in the Dioceses of Roermond and Haarlem-Amsterdam, as well as to all the faithful they will serve in the many years to come!

The website of the seminary as an extensive photo gallery of the ordination here.

Photo credit: [1] Wim Koopman, [2] my own

With the academic year well underway (in fact, the first break is happening this week), the numbers of new students at the Dutch seminaries have been released. With 18 new seminarians (some of whom are pictured to the left, at the Tiltenberg seminary) there is an ever-so-slight drop from last year, when 20 new names were added to the books. With several ordinations having taken place in the previous academic year, the total number of students at the four seminaries in the Netherlands remains at exactly 100.

A breakdown per seminary:

  • Rolduc, Diocese of Roermond, received 2 new students, both from the Neocatechumenal Way. The total number at Rolduc is now 29.
  • Tiltenberg, Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: 7 new seminarians, with another way possibly joining them later. The total number is now 44.
  • Bovendonk, Diocese of Breda, als has seven, with four of hem starting in the first year. The three others, because of previous education, join a later year. Bovendonk now has 18 part-time students.
  • Saint John’s Centre, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: 2 new students, bringing the total to 12.

The Tiltenberg comfortably holds on to its top position when it comes to the numbers, which can be explained in part because it remains the only seminary above the great rivers. It is home to students  from at least four dioceses.

Looking at the numbers per diocese then:

  • Breda: 4 (2 of whom study independently at the FCT)
  • Haarlem-Amsterdam: 4
  • Roermond: 2
  • Rotterdam: 1
  • ‘s Hertogenbosch: 2
  • Utrecht: 4 (maybe 5)
  • Carmelites: 1

The ‘harvest’ is… okay, but the need for further vocational promotion and formation should be clear.

Fr. Andy Penne

In an attempt to stem the development of DIY Church communities in Belgium, Archbishop Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels has welcomed the initiative by Father Andy Penne to see if it is possible to return to his native land. Father Penne is one of fifteen Belgian priest incardinated in the Dutch Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The reasons for their presence in the Netherlands are varied; Fr. Penne works here simply because he felt most at home in the ‘s-Hertogenbosch St. John’s seminary; others chose to be educated and formed here because they considered the Belgain seminaries too liberal. And for years the general attitude among the Belgian episcopate has been that once in a foreign diocese, the priests had best stay there.

But when Archbishop Léonard came to Brussels, the mood has changed. In a newspaper interview, Fr. Penne reports that he will be leaving his current parish in the Netherlands to work in the Belgian archdiocese, near the town where he grew up. Officially, he is ‘on loan’ from the Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, but the change from the past is striking.

The Belgian priests in the Netherlands are generally considered to be more orthodox, or true to the Catholic faith, than many of their brother priests and pastoral workers in Belgium. That is why their possible future return is no reason for joy for many. They fear the spectres of orthodoxy and conservatism which will threaten their lukewarm version of Catholicism. The opposing party’s feelings sound rather spiteful; “once chosen for the Netherlands, they’d better stay there,” and “Some of these priests were not good enough for Belgian seminaries.” But on the other hand, a poll among lay faithful in Mechelen-Brussels also revealed another sound. A catechist from Mechelen said, “There is a shortage of priests here. We should be thankful to the Lord if Flemish priests from the Netherland want to come and help us out here.” And a prayer group leader, “People call them conservative but they merely proclaim what the Church says. We shouldn’t all be making our own little churches.”

For Archbishop Léonard these priests may turn out to be valuable coworkers in the vineyard.

And, finally, the parishes left behind by Father Penne will be the new home for another Belgian priest who made headlines early last year: Father Luc Buyens.

With an estimated 80 people attending, Fr. Gero P. Weishaupt offered the first Mass in the extraordinary form at the cathedral of St. Joseph of Groningen last night. Estimated attendance was initially some 20 to 30 people and, accordingly, the smaller altar of St. Joseph was prepared for use for this Mass. But yesterday afternoon the decision was made to move to the high altar.

Two seminarians from St. John’s in Den Bosch served as acolytes, and two other acolytes, among them a  good friend of mine, from the cathedral parish did this for the first time. A small scola was also set up, led by diocesan hermit Brother Hugo. The congregation consisted of people of all ages and several nationalities. I noticed people who attend both the regular Sunday Masses as well as the English-language Mass on Saturday evening. A number of seminarians from our and other dioceses had travelled up from the Tiltenberg seminary to join the congregation.

The Catholic life in the parish of St. Martin and, due to it taking place in the cathedral, the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, is enriched by having this form of the Mass as well as the ordinary form.

Brother Hugo has some footage of the Mass, filmed by Ingrid Airam.

Photo credit: Margré Meulman

Driven by curiosity, I perused the websites of the Dutch dioceses, as well as the social media at my disposal, to see how Pope Benedict XVI’s request that the bishops of the world hold a prayer vigil for “all nascent life” on the 27th of November is received in the Netherlands. The result is pretty meagre, to be honest.

The Archdiocese of Utrecht and the dioceses of Breda and Roermond present scheduled prayer vigils, as well as the FSSP-run church of St. Agnes. Individual parishes here and there are also organising, but it’s not as much as could have been.

EDIT: The Diocese of Rotterdam and the parishes of St Barnabas in Haastrecht and Blessed Sacrament in Tilburg  also join the effort.

EDIT 2: Frederick reports that the St. John’s seminary in Den Bosch is also organising a vigil.

EDIT 3: Happy news during the announcements at Mass in my parish today: all Dutch cathedrals will host prayer vigils on the 27th, even those who have yet failed to advertise it.

So, bishops, priest, laity (yes, every Catholic is called by the pope to pray for life): get to it! There is still time to organise something.

Father Z muses about the meaning of the word ‘nascent’ in the pope’s call:

“I like the use of the word “nascent”.   The very form, from the Latin deponent verb “nascor… to be born” suggests ongoing action.  The -sc- element is inchoative: ongoing, beginning, not yet complete.  That is to say, from the moment of conception the newly conceived person begins the process of being born.  Sure, we identify different stages of development and birth.  But from this other point of view, which I hear in “nascent human life”, every abortion would be a partial birth abortion.”

Logo of the Tiltenberg seminary

The five Dutch seminaries have begun the new academic year with a small number of new students, much in line with previous years. The numbers are small when considered per seminary, but the total is not bad for such a heavily secularised country. 36 new seminarians start their education and formation on the road towards the priesthood.

The largest number will study at the Tiltenberg seminary in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, which also houses seminarians for Groningen-Leeuwarden, Utrecht and the Neocatechumenal Way. 20 new students are starting there (although the seminarians of the Neocatechumenal Way live at their own Redemptoris Mater seminary).

The St. John’s seminary in Den Bosch welcomed six new seminarians, and Rolduc in the Diocese of Roermond has four.

Logo of St. John's

Bovendonk, which is the seminary for late vocation, where students study part-time, sees five new enrolments.

Last in the line is Vronesteyn in the Diocese of Rotterdam, which has one new student.

The Archdiocese of Utrecht, perhaps because of the closing of its own seminary last year, has no new students this year. On the other hand, with such low numbers of seminarians per diocese, there are bound to be years when there are no new students.

I have plenty of catching up to do, and I intend to devote some blog space to the papal visit to the United Kingdom, sometime later this week. I managed to see the Mass in which Blessed John Henry Newman was beatified this morning, via the BBC. It was some quite good coverage I have to say. It certainly put any Dutch efforts to shame. The tv news in this country managed to devote all of three minutes to the visit on Saturday evening and succeeded in completely ignoring the 200,000 (!) people who were overjoyed to see the pope. Of course, in this country, anything that makes people happy is suspect, unless it is depraved. So, naturally, the attention was on loudmouthed protesters who, it must be said, have in instinct to hog the camera, and share how shortsighted and egotistical they can be. Yes, it made me angry, can you tell?

I watched the televised Mass with two seminarians at the St. John’s seminary in Den Bosch. I was a guest there from Friday afternoon until today. Part of the reason that I was there was an invitation from one of the seminarians (who also organised this summer’s Bootcamp, which is mostly where I know him from), and the other was the consecration of the two new auxiliary bishops of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: Msgr. Jan Liesen and Msgr. Rob Mutsaerts. I had never attended a bishop’s consecration, and I was quite curious about it.

Well, in short I can say that they do these things rather more exuberantly than us up north. Not only do they have a whopping big cathedral, but they also filled it to full capacity and then added throngs of bishops, priests, guild members (in full medieval regalia) and camera crews. And then, once the bishops were properly consecrated, they took it outside, where one of the guilds welcomed the new bishops with music and a flag display. The city of ‘s Hertogenbosch was going to know there were two new bishops.

Frederick has a proper selection of photos (or a selection of proper photos, perhaps?) in his blog, but I also couldn’t leave my camera alone…

The yellow and white decorates the basilica of St. John the Evangelist

The Vatican colours also fly on the tower

Priests gather from all over the diocese (and beyond)

TV screens were provided for the benefit of those in the far recesses of the cathedral

Guild drummers arrive to welcome the new bishops

The new auxiliaries flank Bishop Hurkmans, the ordinary of the diocese, outside the doors of the seminary

Many people queue to congratulate the bishops

On Friday evening, seminarians, priests, the bishops elect and Cardinal Simonis gathered to pray the so-called Akathistos hymn, an elaborate prayer to the Blessed Virgin that comes to us from the Orthodox. Akathistos simply means ‘not seated’, so the hymn is sung standing. I was in time at the seminary to attend a last rehearsal, but in the end I did not join the seminarians and priests in the sanctuary. Lack of a suitable alb and singing voice was the main reason. Instead I joined the 100 people in the congregation.

Afterwards there was a small reception at the seminary, where I was recognised as the writer of this very blog by three or four people. I also met the aforementioned blogging seminarian and some Twittering Catholics. Putting faces to names is still a pleasant passtime.

And then, one moment you’re just a guy in the congregation, the next you’re having breakfast with two bishops. It’s been a good weekend for me personally. Of course the entire madness surrounding the consecration is a great experience, but simply staying at a seminary, to be part of life there, for however short a while, is a good thing. It focuses me a bit more on what actually matters, and in that way this has been a very short retreat of sorts.

Since it’s something that I think deserves support, here is some blatant advertising.

Frederick is a Belgian seminarian studying in the Netherlands. In his blog he promises to provide regular updates (in Dutch) about life at the seminary. As far as I know he is the only seminarian who blogs, although there are other seminarians who are active on Twitter and other social networks.

In my opinion, such a blog can serve to increase awareness of seminary life and of the choice to become a priest. On the one hand, there is much to be said for new seminarians to focus on their own private spiritual development in a new environment, especially in the first months. That was something I was told as well about a year ago. But on the other hand, in a country and a time where there are very few seminarians starting every year, the seminaries can’t afford to remain obscure outside certain Church circles. And who better to do the promotion than someone in the thick of things: a seminarian who studies and lives at the seminary?

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?

Copyright

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Netherlands License.

The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

Blog and media

Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin, Katholiek.nl, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

IN PROGRESS

[Dutch] Internationale Theologencommissie - Sensus Fidei in het Leven van de Kerk.

30 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor het Katholieke Jongerenfestival.

19 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Interview in La Vanguardia.

18 May: [English] Pietro Cardinal Parolin - Homily at the consecration of Archbishop van Megen.

15 May: [English] Ane Hähnig - Interview with Michael Triegel.

3 May: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor de Wereldgebedsdag voor Roepingen 2014.

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Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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