Michael Daly CJ Blog

A Companion of Jesus

New Wine…Old Wine Skins?

The Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales are to reintroduce abstinence from meat on Fridays ‘to boost their common identity’. Archbishop Vincent Nicols said,” The bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity.”

“They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness.”

“It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.”

As a Franciscan, I know something about habits….but I find this particular habit  somewhat tasteless. (No pun intended).

What is the point of this rule? Are we to believe that Roman Catholic identity in Christ, (that is in His Body) is somehow unified by following a rule on abstaining from meat on Fridays? Do we really honour Christ or the day of his crucifixion by imposed legislation from a hierarchy that is supposed to serve the poor and not lord it over them. Is this the sort of sacrifice God wants. Is this the kind of fasting that God calls for?

The Roman Catholic hierarchy is trying to find out where it has gone wrong. Why are  churches so empty, why do the young not stay? Why are priests leaving and so few joining? More seriously, they wonder why has the hierarchy lost its vice like grip on the faithful?

The old brigade wants a return to the former times. So they decide to re-establish the old language of the old Church. However new wine does not sit well in old bags, but sadly the Roman hierarchy seem oblivious to this truth. They seek to reintroduce old rules and old traditions to unify a leaking and damaged wineskin. Meanwhile  God is gracious. He continues to bless because He is a God of grace and blessing….and not because we hold any worthiness.

The hierarchy needs to wake up and see that they are not the holders of the sole deposit of the true faith. That ‘Church’ is not just Roman Catholic.  However gut wrenching this revelation might be….they need to sit up and at least hear the wind of the Spirit.

When this monolithic institution humbles itself, God may just renew it..but it had better hurry up!

As a Roman Catholic friend of mine recently said as we discussed the Church, ‘there is much goodness in it.’  Yes, within the Roman Catholic Church there is a tender heart for the poor, and voiceless. Something Roman Catholics can be proud of, and something which other Church communions could learn from.   But sadly, there have been terrible sins committed against the poor and voiceless by those within the Roman Catholic Church, especially by those within the clergy and religious hierarchy.

If the Roman Catholic hierarchy wants to be unified and  truly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, it should look for new wine skins for the new wine and not try to resurrect old wine skins as they will surely burst and both the new wine and old skins will be lost.

Those in the hierarchy need to climb down from those seats of honour and wrap a towel around themselves and start serving the faithful just as their master taught them, not by imposition of further laws and rules, but by their own self-abasement in love.

Let the common witness of Roman Catholics be ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’ Let the distinctive mark of our Catholicity be love and let this be the mark that unites us on Fridays and every day.

If you want to fast, by all means do so, but do it out of love. Eat what is set before you and in everything give thanks. Fasting is good only when it is done freely. It means absolutely nothing when imposed, no matter how wonderful a tradition it might be.

Live loved.

Michael Daly C.J.

May 2011


May 14, 2011 - Posted by | Thoughts

1 Comment »

  1. I do agree that it seems an odd step and perhaps not the best in a modern world? I do agree that we should do all things in love, fasting included. You are absolutely right about some of the leaders in the Catholic Church and their base stupidity, lack of understanding or wisdom and the bewilderment they cause and continue to inflict upon their sheep.

    However, we must not be too harsh on the authorities of the Church? They are as human as we and sometimes they can make errors that maybe irresponsible but are also very human.
    The only point I would add is that the abstinence of meat on Friday is probably a good idea because we in wealthy Britain often forget the have-nots of the world and Christ in them. Whether it should be imposed may depend upon our own understanding.
    Ideally everyone shall praise Our lord for his goodness and Catholics can be generous and sing psalms to that effect. Yet what we often see is that our humanity is a broken and twisted one. We do not give praise to God rather we often forget him at meal times completely, our own satisfaction of a big pleasing meal taking preference over thoughts of the hungry or victims of injustice. I suspect therefore that the hierarchy wish to remind a faithless fast degenerating secular western society that abstinence and self denial are heroic virtues still.
    Basically we Catholics need to be prodded along with all good people into remembering that this world and its riches no matter how alluring are not our final goal. Therefore whilst we should always love God and thank him we do not always live up to the vision. We fail and we fail again.
    In bringing Catholic identity together we are made aware no matter that it is for one day a week; that we share in Christ’s suffering both at Calvary and in the suffering of the hungry etc today. We could moan about this interference from on high of bishops lording their will over the beleaguered faithful or we could see that they are trying to bring Catholics closer to the suffering of Calvary.
    I said it depends upon our viewpoint because I do not think it is an objective truth either way. It is simply an attempt to revise an old tradition that was mysteriously lost in a more optimistic liberal world. Perhaps we should bemoan the loss of that identity rather than the reintroduction of the odd sacrifice during the week.

    Comment by Pablo Magnifico | May 15, 2011 | Reply

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