Looking behind

As the year of Our Lord 2011 draws to a close, I happily join the ranks of the countless media channels creating overviews of the years past. And both for this blog, as well as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and abroad, it has been a tumultuous year, both positive and negative. Taking this blog as the goggles we use to look back, blog, Church and wider world become unavoidably intertwined, but, in a way, that is how it should be.

In January, we saw the announcement of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the resignation of Rotterdam’s Bishop Ad van Luyn being accepted, and the launch of Blessed Titus Brandsma’s Twitter adventure.

February was the month of interesting considerations by Bishop Schneider about Vatican II, shocking new developments in the abuse crisis, the announcement of a undeservedly short-lived experiment with the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the first signs that all is not well in Belgium, but also three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, and the vacancy of Berlin.

March brought us disturbing news about Bishop Cor Schilder, an extensive message for Lent from the Dutch bishops, disaster in Japan, the announcement of a great ecumenical media project for Easter, and the annual Stille Omgang in Amsterdam.

April: the month of the consecration of Bishops Kockerols, Lemmens and Hudsyn, the first EF Mass in Groningen’s cathedral, further attempts at repressing religious freedom in the Netherlands, the bishops of Belgium uniting in shock to further improprieties from Roger Vangheluwe, the pope’s birthday, further personal attacks against Archbishop Eijk and the first preparations for Madrid.

In May we saw and read about the death of Bin Laden, the beatification of John Paul II, the first Vatican blogmeet, the appointment of Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam, the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, a prayer answered, a papal visit to Venice, enraging comments from the Salesian superior in the Netherlands, and subsequent press releases from the Salesian Order.

June was the month of papal comments about new evangelisation and sacred music, the end of EF Masses in Groningen, the pope visiting Croatia, a new bishop in Görlitz, Bishop van Luyn’s farewell to Rotterdam, advice on financial compensation for abuse victims, Archbishop Eijk taking over as president of the Dutch bishops’ conference, and the death of Cardinal Sterzinsky.

In July, Bishop Rainer Woelki went to Berlin, there was more preparation for Madrid, Bishop van den Hende was installed as bishop of Rotterdam, the pope visited San Marino, Luxembourg received a new archbishop, Bootcamp 2011 took place, Bishop Liesen appeared on EWTN, Blessed Titus Brandsma ended his Twitter adventure, and the crimes of Anders Breivik hit home for Dutch Catholics.

August was a big month because of the World Youth Days in Madrid, but we also learned about Archbishop Dolan’s explanation of the Vatican, freedom of conscience being curtailed, the 100,000th visitor of this blog, and the Liempde affair exploding in the media.

In September, the official website of the Dutch Church got a make-over, Archbishop Eijk wrote a thankyou note to the participants of the WYD, The Dutch bishops’ conference shuffled their responsibilities, and Pope Benedict visited Germany and delivered an important address to the Bundestag.

October, then, saw a successful reunion of the WYD troupe, Bishop Mutsaerts’ intervention in the ultra-liberal San Salvator parish, the bishops declining a proposal to Protestantise the Church, the consecration of Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the publication of Porta Fidei and the announcement of a Year of Faith, the appointment of a new Dutch ambassador to the Holy See, the appointment of Msgr. Hendriks as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the first Night of Mary, and Assisi 2011.

In November, Cardinal Burke came to Amsterdam, the bishops accept and put into action a plan for financial compensation for victims of sexual abuse, the Peijnenburg affair made headlines, the pope went to Benin and heartwarmingly spoke to children, priests in Belgium tempted excommunication, Cardinal Simonis turned 80, Bishop Liesen became the new bishop of Breda, and a fifty-year-old letter showed that congregations new about abuse happening in their ranks.

This final month of December, then, saw the first fifty victims of sexual abuse being able to claim financial compensation, the presentation of plans for Metropolis 2012, Nuncio Bacqué’s retirement, the consecration of Bishop Jan Hendriks, pain and horror in Liège, the appointment of Archbishop André Dupuy as new Nuncio, and the publication of the Deetman report unleashing emotional reactions everywhere.

It’s been quite the year, but one with much to be thankful for. The truth sets us free seems especially apt in this final month, but can be applied to the entire year. May 2012 be equally open, honest, but also full of blessings for the Church, the people and everyone of us.

Thank you, readers, for the continued interest. That’s incentive to keep on doing what I do here.

A happy new year, and may God bless you all.

The change the Church needs

The spires of the two parish churches "point out the the invisible higher reality in our lives"

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.

Some excerpts:

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

Bootcamp 2011: The (Good) Shepherd

I am back from two days (and a bit) at the latest edition of the Credimus Bootcamp, an undeservedly shortened edition this time. Next year is the fifth edition, and this potentially week-long camp of Catholic catechesis, culture and enjoyment will hopefully have a record number of attendants then. I will certainly be there again.

This year’s speakers were a diverse bunch, even though the general theme was that of the shepherd: the Good Shepherd that is Jesus Christ, but also our every day shepherds, the bishops, the shepherd of the world Church, the pope and some of his predecessors, and the shepherd’s duty of taking care of his sheep.

Fr. Bunschoten during his lecture

There was Deacon John van Grinsven speaking about his work with the homeless and addicted; Brother Ignatius Maria of the Community of St. John, who led a Bible study on the imagery of the shepherd in the Gospel of John (and also the OT books of Ezekiel and Zechariah); Fr. Floris Bunschoten who introduced us to the bishops’ task of sanctifying their flock; and Fr. David van Dijk, our host, who took us through the popes from Blessed Pius IX to our current Holy Father. Quite a variety of topics, which were supplemented by unscheduled conversations with visiting clergy and communal dinners, prayer and Mass (in both forms of the Latin rite).

Mass in the ordinary form of the Latin rite, celebrated ad orientem

Personally, I enjoyed the two days in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, as a welcome immersion in Catholic life. The rhythm of prayer, the sharing of knowledge and ideas, the enjoyment of the company of fellow faithful all made for a bootcamp that really deserves more attention, attendance and publicity. Next year is the fifth edition, so let’s hope and pray that it may turn out to be the best edition yet!

Stats for March 2011

 With Lent having begun this month, the top 10 of most-read posts has a distinct Lenten taste. Last year’s post about the Stations of the Cross is, fittingly for this time of year, at number 1. Japan ranks understandably also high, as  do messages for Lent, and a post about Ash Wednesday.

The number of visitors for March was 4,939, the second-highest number since I began this blog. The total number of visitors is now 76,943.

1: The Stations of the Cross 247
2: A surprise to no one, a Dutch politician in favour of rampant secularisation 137
3: Pray for Japan 94
4: To rub or not to rub 93
5: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2011 64
6: Bootcamp program unfolds 53
7: Stille Omgang 2011, Dutch missionary bishop in the dock 52
8: Dutch bishops’ encouragement for Lent 49
9: Papal message for Lent 43
10: St. John the Baptist in Bulgaria? 40

Bootcamp program unfolds

With the release of the new website the Credimus Bootcamp program is fleshed out a bit more. Announcements of speakers have been published on Twitter and Facebook before, but are now gathered online on the site which also offers practical information and a rousing invitation to sign up and join the bootcamp for its fourth installment:

Do you like good conversation while enjoying a good Trappist beer, but the silence that grabs you by the throat in an old church?

Are you curious about the tradition that is the foundation beneath the culture of which you are a part every day?

Do you want to take a peek at the power which keeps everyone and everything in existence for every second of every minute?

Then you are probably CATHOLIC (or you really need to become one).

Deacon van Grinsven

Three priests and a deacon have been confirmed to speak under the banner of this year’s topic: Shepherds. Father David van Dijk, who also hosts, will speak about the eleven popes from Pius IX onwards; Deacon John van Grinsven will discuss his work with homeless people, founded in the Gospel; Fathers Marcel Dorssers and Floris Bunschoten will speak on topics that are yet to be announced. Fathers van Dijk and Dorssers wil join the bootcamp for the fourth and third time respectively.

Father Bunschoten celebrates Mass in both forms, and he has been training priests and seminarians in the Extraordinary Form at the Tiltenberg seminary. I expect he will also offer Mass in that form at bootcamp. There will also be Masses in the ordinary form, offered by Father van Dijk and other priests.

The Credimus Bootcamp will take place from 16 to 22 July, and will cost 90 euros to attend (or less if you plan to visit for less than the full week).

The church of St. Mary Magdalen as seen from the garden of the parish house.

Gearing up for Bootcamp 2011

The flyer for Bootcamp 2010, designed by Brother Hugo

When good Catholic catechesis and education beyond the basic topics is hard to find, you sometimes need to provide for it yourself. That is the basic reason why the Credimus Bootcamp was held for the first time in 2008. This year it will be organised for the fourth time and already the PR machine is gearing up. To the left you’ll notice the design of the flyer by Brother Hugo, the diocesan hermit who has been involved with Bootcamp from the start. He was also the host of the first edition.

The topic of Bootcamp 2011 is ‘shepherds’. I don’t know anything beyond that either, but I am sure that, over the course of the coming months, we will find out a bit more.

Bootcamp 2011 will be held from 16 to 22 July in Geffen, Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where Father David van Dijk will be host for the third time running.

An impression of my experiences of Bootcamp 2010 can be found in my blog post Back from Bootcamp.

Credimus Bootcamp is a week of liturgy and lectures, but also social activities and relaxation, aimed at people roughly between 16 and 35. There will be daily Mass in both forms of the Latin rite, offered by various guest priests, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and every day guests will come and speak about all kinds of topics (past topics included the sacrifice of the Mass, Gregorian chant (also in workshop form), ecclesiology, a first-hand account of an approved miracle and people’s innate urge to find God.

Next to that, there is ample time for relaxation, meals together, a day trip on the free day in the middle of the week and random Catholic encounters with people, traditions and artifacts from the dark attic of the faith, to paraphrase Brother Hugo. For most people attending it is also a week that does not leave them unaffected: in the end, Bootcamp is all about the encounter with the living God.

Follow the Bootcamp organisation, which includes the authors of Ingrid Airam and David’s Weblog, on Twitter via CmusBootcamp and on Facebook.

The Holy Father was going to have to wait for two auxiliaries

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.