Reflections on Fratelli Tutti

You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard already that Pope Francis wrote a new encyclical titled Fratelli tutti. There is a lot of commentary and thought being thrown around online from all factions within and from outside of the Roman Catholic Church. I’ve read the document once over fully and I’ve spent the past week going back and rereading certain parts and paragraphs as people have cited various sections in their own commentary.

One thing stands out for me about the encyclical itself. It is not unique or new. While the substance of the letter itself, dealing with capitalism, free markets and the broader globalization of economies around the entire world, the crux of the message and the core of the dogma remain completely in line with the existing body of catholic social teaching. Namely, that all forms of man-made political systems are flawed and are incapable of providing any “silver bullet” to save humanity and provide for all of our needs. In fact, that all fail to provide for the real needs of humans around dignity and spiritual development/growth. The encyclical focuses on the present day and our struggle with neo-liberalism largely because this political ideology remains today the dominate one in the world. But the letter can be added to the litany of letters, sermons and teachings from church fathers of the past that condemned and called out political ideologies of the past, such as socialism and communism. It is certainly not an endorsement of any man-made political ideology.

And this is where the Pope did not veer to the left or the right with his letter. The idea that Christians are apolitical but not apathetic is from Christ and is a Gospel message present within the entire body of catholic social teaching. We are called to be in this world but not of this world because His Kingdom is not of this world. And Francis acknowledges the body which his encyclical is added into at the very start of his letter.

6. The following pages do not claim to offer a complete teaching on fraternal love, but rather to consider its universal scope, its openness to every man and woman. I offer this social Encyclical as a modest contribution to continued reflection, in the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words. Although I have written it from the Christian convictions that inspire and sustain me, I have sought to make this reflection an invitation to dialogue among all people of good will.

Fratelli tutti (3 Oct 2020)

I am reading a lot of commentary from very learned people about how the document is the Pope endorsing socialism (with some even going so far as to say that he endorses communism). But that misses the mark. And those people ought to have a reread of the Gospel for this past Sunday. We are all tempted to impose our own vision of the Son of David on to Christ, but He was quick to turn the tables on the leaders of the relevant political factions in Jerusalem during His time and He continues to do the same through our church fathers today.

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22: 41-46

Fundamentally when I read the new encyclical I do not see the Pope moving to any single political ideology. I see him reminding us that capitalism, our most popular and often-touted most successful political ideology, has significant flaws that must be addressed. But his letter was not written in isolation, it is part of a large body of catholic social teaching that has condemned all forms of human political ideology. And furthermore, it is rooted in the Gospels which are clear in articulating our place in this world as followers of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 101 and Twitter

During Morning Prayer today, Psalm 101 stood out for me. Recently I have decided to renew my social media presence and in that process decided to delete my old Twitter account and start a new one that was entirely focused on Christianity, catholicism and Anglicanism. I have been at it for just over two weeks and it has been a complete change in my online activity. It is certainly a change for the better from the negativity of politics and news that flooded my timeline and thus my life with my old account.

But Psalm 101 today read like a clear Christian manifesto for following and blocking people on Twitter.


I will not set before my eyes whatever is base. The man who slanders his neighbor in secret I will bring to silence. There is some powerful stuff there for sure.

Increase in us, Lord, your gift of faith,
so that the praise we offer you
may ever yield its fruit from heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Feature image by Samuel Martins on Unsplash.

Bearing the rebuke we all fear

In the Anglican Breviary, Major Doubles such as today’s Feast of the Guardian Angels, have psalms that are taken from the Sunday section of the psalter. The day Hours on Sundays are a chopping up of the largest chapter in the entire Bible, Psalm 119.

A particular line of that psalm stood out for me today during Terce.

39 Take away the rebuke I am afraid of; for thy judgements are good.

This is an incredibly powerful line from the psalms, which are never cliché and are always raw emotion directed toward God. There is also a lot to unpack in that little line.

Psalm 119 is almost universally about how great God commandments are, how great God’s wisdom is and how awesome it is to be a follower of God and to share in the wisdom of God. It is an amazing psalm and is one of my favourites in the whole psalter. But there is an underlying theme in this psalm that admits that although following God’s commandments is great because you are smarter than the older people and wiser than your teachers, it is also a burden because people rebuke and hate you because of it. And the psalmist even admits that the problem isn’t with God and the commandments themselves– they are perfect and wonderful because they are from God– but with us.

The psalmist sings, “…the rebuke I am afraid of…” because it is our own fears and our own shortcomings that cause us to bear the burden of rebuke and hatred from the world. But the sentiment is still never lost, following the commandments of God, following His word and conforming to His wisdom is not an easy path in this world. We will be hated and we will be rebuked.

We can pray for this rebuke and our fear to be removed from us. It does not mean that we will not struggle and will not feel the pain of the hate and sin in this world, but it will have been sanctified because it would have been given up to God. That is the purpose of this line in the psalm, to illuminated that idea for us and to provide us a vehicle for prayer to begin that process with God in our own relation with Him.

O God, Who in thine unspeakable Providence hast been pleased to give thine holy Angels charge over us, to keep us, mercifully grant unto our prayers, that we be both ever fenced by their wardship here, and everlastingly blessed by their fellowship hereafter. Amen.

Featured image by Cassidy Rowell on Unsplash.

Collect – 14th Sunday after Trinity

I thought that I would share the Collect for the 14th Sunday after Trinity (the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, depending on how you count) in the Book of Common Prayer and from the Roman Missal.

From the Book of Common Prayer,

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Roman Missal (1962),

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church, and because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

Monday the 14th of September is also the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Holy Cross Day to most Anglicans) which has a beautiful Collect in each of the liturgical traditions as well and I would like to share them with you today in advance. The similarity leads me to believe that the Anglican Breviary may have lifted and changed the language slightly to conform to BCP language and custom because there probably isn’t a BCP Collect specifically for this Feast day.

From the BCP,

O GOD, who dost gladden us upon this day by the festival of the Exaltation of the holy Cross: grant that we who have acknowledged the mysterty of redemption here on earth, may rejoice in the everlasting fruits thereof in heaven. Though Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, who liveth and reignth with thee and the Holy Spirit; one God, now and forever. Amen.

From the Missal,

O God, Who dost this day gladden us by the yearly Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, grant, we beseech thee, that even as we have understood the mystery thereof upon earth, so we may worthily enjoy in heaven the fruits of the redemption which was paid thereon. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

These Collects will be prayed during Mass as well as during many of the Hours in the Divine Office. You can follow along in prayer here.

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash.

Saint Barnabas Apostolate

The Need: Fellowship, Prayer and Work

Prayer and work in the name of God should never be done in isolation. We ought to work together because Christ tells us that where two or more gather in His name, He is there among them. And when two or more agree and pray on a thing that it shall be granted by the Father in Heaven. And Christ is merely emphasizing, or rather fulfilling, a known fact of Christian life which is that the Holy Spirit spreads its gifts among the congregation of people, among the Body of Christ in the church and only together are we truly whole and united under Christ as our Headship.

I spoke in my previous post about the need for Christian fellowship and how this need is even more present in COVID times. We have a guide in the past from Saints who gather people around them and formed systems and orders of prayer and work that formed the daily devotions and contemplation of their lives. And there is no question of the material and spiritual benefit that this had for the church. And there is no question of that same material and spiritual need today within the church.

The Response: The Apostolate of Saint Barnabas

I’ve been moved by the Spirit to explore the opportunity to start a lay group at my local church focused on daily prayer and a commitment to work and serve at the church. The canonical hours will form the backbone of the group as will the leadership roles that we assume throughout the church at the service to others and our own community. This is not a religious order or an institute. No one takes formal vows privately or publicly. We do not have an order or rule and we do not wear a common garb or any marks which distinguish us from non-members. We hold our Commons to be the same among us and what unites us an brings us together as a group. Our Commons are faith, liturgy, prayer, work, and way. You can read more about the Commons of Saint Barnabas here.

While we do not have a rule or order we do have an organization system that is articulated in our Constitution. We expand on our duties and obligation which arise from our Commons and desire to be in membership together in community which is articulated in our Ordinary. The Ordinary of Saint Barnabas can be found here.

It is my hope to develop a small group of dedicated Christians who are united in Christian prayer and a commitment to serve and work at the church. It is a modern take on the tradition Benedictine model which I think is a response to the need for Christian fellowship. We tend to the spiritual needs of the church through prayer and the material needs through work. Our motto is orata et opus which means pray and work which is more of a demand and institution that a reflect on the concepts of these words. They are actions and we are a group of Christian action.

The Method: The Way of Light of Saint Barnabas

Established around the Way of Light which was articulated in a non-canonical letter traditionally attributed to Saint Barnabas. We are peacemakers and peace builders first and foremost and seek to bring together the Body of Christ; temporal and spiritual; together in the unending hymn of praise inherent in the Divine Office.

Feature photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash.

The importance of Christian fellowship

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted our natural need for human interaction beyond what we get through pixelated screens and headphones. And this need is probably clearest in our churches.

When the world found itself in a similar period of upheaval and change, the Saints of our past look inward and oversaw the construction of massive structures that housed men and women of prayer who toiled in the name of Christ for the good of the church and their fellow humans on earth. A return to the monastery is probably not the best option for our church today, but the model of circling the wagons, supporting one another and our community directly around us and being united in prayer and common work is certainly within the realm of possible. And I would wager, needed more than ever in our post-COVID church.

The Mass will always be the chief prayer of the church– the sacrifice of Christ reenacted and shared again and again for the faithful who gather in His name. But when it comes to supporting the church in prayer, supporting one another in prayer and supporting our communities in prayer we also have the wonderful gift of the Divine Office. “Hours” of prayer set aside that sanctify the day that forms part of an unceasing hymn of praise that rises before God. A prayer that is done not just by the faithful on earth, but by the Saints and angels in Heaven, we enjoin our voice to them– just as at Mass– in our psalms of praise and devotion to God our Father.

This sort of structure prayer should not be done alone. Just like the Mass, the prayer is meant for the congregation of the church and should be celebrated whenever possible in a group setting. But the hours themselves are also said at set periods throughout the day, which means that even when the prayers are said alone, you are not alone in praying them. Especially if you have a group of people who have all agreed to work to pray together– to hold one another account and pray for a common purpose. We are told by Christ that when two or more agree and ask that the Father shall ensure they receive, and this prayer is a vehicle for that liturgical act with God.

We have something to learn from the so-called Benedictine model that can and should be applied to the post-COVID church. The importance of Christian fellowship, especially in this time of social isolation and fear, cannot be understated. A church is already a beacon for people who are isolated, alone and afraid because as a congregation we form a single body that together can and will overcome any challenge before us– this is the power of the church. When we are forced to break up, as we are now, it is even more important we lean on established prayers like the Divine Office to stay connect and inflame our Christian spirit.

O Lord, open thou my mouth that I may bless thy Holy Name. Cleanse my heart from all vain, evil, and wandering thoughts; enlighten my understanding kindle my affections, that I may pray to, and praise thee with attention and devotion; and may worthily be heard before the presence of thy Divine Majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect – 13th Sunday after Trinity

Another beautiful Collect for this Sunday from the BCP that again highlights the importance of worship in the vernacular.

ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service: grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this new life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises. Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect, 13th Sunday after Trinity

This Collect from this Sunday is prayed each week for all ferial days. Integrating the Collect into my daily prayer each week is an easy way to stay focused on the liturgical season of the church in between going to Mass. Whether you pray the Divine Office or not, you can incorporate the Collect into your daily prayer as well. They can be found in your missal or prayer book and are easily searchable online.

Collect – 12th Sunday after Trinity

I’ve begun praying the canonical hours from the Anglican Breviary. It is an English translation of the version of the Roman Breviary of Pope Pius X commonly called Divino Afflatu with Collects and some other incidentals from the Book of Common Prayer vice the Roman Missal. In other words a truly and more– certainly so than the Morning and Evening Prayer in the BCP and the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman Catholic today– catholic expression of the canonical hours.

Because of the English translation and insertion of BCP prayers, there are often delightful nuggets of extremely well-written prose. This is the advantage of worship in the vernacular and done right no less. See this example from the Collect for the 12th Sunday after Trinity (the Collect I prayed at each Hour during any feria this following week).

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we art to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect, 12th Sunday after Trinity

The attribution of the character of God expressed in “who art always more ready to hear that we art to pray” and “art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve” is topped only by the admission that “those things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ”. Beautiful.