Bp. Davies (D. Shrewsbury): Pastoral letter on Pope Benedict’s visit, Friday abstinence, new translation

From ZENIT comes the text of a pastoral letter by the Bishop of Shrewsbury, England, Most Rev. Mark Davies.  He issued it for the 1st anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to England.  This pastoral letter is supposed to be read at all Masses in the Diocese of Shrewsbury on Sunday, 11 September.

My emphases and comments.

My dear brothers and sisters,

The extraordinary scenes as they unfolded on the streets of London and Birmingham would disturb public opinion, shock media commentators and prompt a statement from the Prime Minister. I write to you today not of the rioting [this year] which brought violence to so many cities this summer but of the visit of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, 12 months ago. In cities where mobs momentarily brought fear, much greater crowds gave witness to their faith and joy with Pope Benedict.

Today I wish to mark this happy anniversary of the Pope’s visit to our country and to draw inspiration from those days last September.

Just as so many Catholics from many different backgrounds stood together in public witness with the Holy Father so this September in two small ways we are being called to stand together in that same witness of faith and unity[As I am constantly harping, I think Pope Benedict has a Marshall Plan for the revitalization of our Catholic identity.  If we don’t know who we are and what we believe and then believe it, then we have nothing to offer as Catholics to the rest of society.]

From Friday this week, the Bishops of England and Wales have restored the practice of abstinence from meat every Friday. We are familiar with this act of penance on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but now it is extended to every Friday other than Feast Days like Christmas Day.

For a number of years we have been asked to choose our own act of self-denial on Fridays to mark the day on which Our Lord gave His life for us. But we know this obligation has in practice been often forgotten. So abstinence from meat each Friday (and for those who do not eat meat, abstinence from some other food) will become a weekly reminder that we are a people called to penance and to conversion of life together. It will become a small but significant weekly witness to our Catholic life and identity. And so I wish us to embrace this in a positive way despite the practical difficulties we may encounter. The very fact this will be an act of penance shared by all Catholics will be a witness to our faith in the midst of our working and family lives.

I am also conscious we have just begun to use the new translation of The Roman Missal which unites us in worship. At the heart of Pope Benedict’s visit to our country was always the Holy Eucharist celebrated with great dignity and adored with love and reverence. [He was giving an example to follow.] The Holy Father asked that the introduction of this revised English translation would be something more than simply a change of wording: “I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers,” he asked, “for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration.” As we become more familiar with this fresh translation, I hope it will enrich our prayer and understanding, help us to recognise more clearly in the Liturgy the words and images of Scripture and, by the beauty and richness of its language, express our wonder at the mystery and reality of the Mass. I hope we will always go beyond the translated words to the reality they express at the heart of the Mass: Jesus Christ, His Sacrifice and His Real Presence with us as we come together with all the Church.

We recall a year ago those extraordinary moments in London’s Hyde Park when more than 80,000 people knelt with the Pope in silent adoration of Christ, [Remember that?  TV coverage with the “dead air” that was anything but dead air?] God and man who, “makes himself wholly and entirely present,” in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist (CCC 1374). “Together,” Pope Benedict invited us, “in the silence of common adoration let us open our minds and hearts to his presence, his love, and the convincing power of his truth.” May the newly translated prayers of the Mass be such an invitation for us; and may the renewed practice of Friday penance become a weekly reminder of the people we are called by daily conversion to be. In all our homes, working lives and communities, by coming together each Sunday in the Mass, may we always give witness to the unity and joy of our faith seen so wonderfully during Pope Benedict’s visit to our country 12 months ago.

Nice letter.  He presents challenges in a positive way while bring back to mind Pope Benedict’s important visit.

WDTPRS kudos.

We shall keep an eye on Bp. Davies.

Keep in mind that Bp. Davies allowed the Institute of Christ the King into his diocese to take care of the so-called “Dome of Home” in Wirral.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sixupman says:

    Bishop Davies is a breath of fresh air in the E&W hierarchy, pray that he dose not succumb to collegial pressure as did the Bishop of Lancaster Emeritus, who only ‘came-out’ after his retirement!

  2. AdamRules247 says:

    Bishop Davies is a truly a sound chap! I was recently at Walsingham (the most Holy site in England) for Youth2000. At this event we have to sleep in fields in rainy Norfolk, it is uncomfortable and cold (though we had a fair bit of sun this year). Now last year Bishop Mark came for one day to say Mass for us. However this year, because he’d enjoyed his time so much last year, he stayed for the whole 4 days slumming it in a tent like everyone else. I’m sure you’d all agree that’s the sign of a good shepherd!

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Bishop Davies and the people of his diocese are wonderful. I have met many of the Shrewsbury Catholics and the priests of some of the parishes. They are faith-filled people who love the Virgin Mary, say the rosary, and love the Church. There is something special about the Church in the Wirral. Only pray for these Catholics and all in England, especially the Bishops, who need courage.

  4. Anglian says:

    Having been there in Hyde Park last year, I can confirm that the Eucharistic Adoration was very far from ‘dead air’. The feeling of kneeling there, under the stars, with tens of thousands of my fellow Catholics adoring the Lord with the successor of S. Peter was simply one of the most profound experiences of my life. Bishop Davies is to be commended – and, dare one hope, copied?

  5. RichardT says:

    Is the Institute of Christ the King move happening? I hope it is, but although they were reported as being ‘in talks’ a while ago, I never saw anything final.

    I lived in Shrewsbury diocese for a while, and it seemed to be a typical “managed decline” diocese under its two previous (15 years each) bishops. Nothing outstandingly bad, but no real strength to anything, just steadily decreasing congregations (and pretty much no Latin Masses, of course).

    I pray that this is a sign of renewal.

  6. CatherineTherese says:

    Is there a video anywhere of the Holy Father’s Eucharistic Adoration at Hyde Park?

  7. Norah says:

    Is the abstinence from meat obligatory on pain of sin?

  8. jaykay says:

    I was actually in Shrewsbury Cathedral yesterday, on a visit to England, when the letter was read out – not by Bishop Davies himself as he wasn’t there but by the celebrant. I had heard that Bp. Davies was “sound” so when the priest said that he was going to read a pastoral letter I though: “Hmmmm… interesting”. He didn’t announce (that I heard) what it was about so I thought it might be about the new translations, although these have been in place for a week now in the UK.

    Then, when he started, the immediate focus was on the recent riots and I thought “well, not surprising really ” but then it shifted straight away to HH and standing together with him and I thought “yeah, good stuff”. I actually thought it was going to be a sort of reflection on the visit a year ago and I thought “nice”.

    But wow! when it shifted to the Friday abstinence I was more than impressed! And then he mentioned penance and conversion and I was electrified. Stuff I haven’t heard much of in Ireland these past few years, I can definitely say!! And then the tie-in to the new translations was the icing on top. Pretty much a tour de force, I thought. What really helped was that the priest read it out in a very good voice with good delivery and although I couldn’t hear everything my overall impression of the letter on first hearing was excellent. Solid teaching, delivered well and concisely.

    I’ve been in Shrewsbury a number of times over the years and I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed by some of what I saw in the past, but Bp. Davies sure seems to have hit the ground running with this one. Thanks for posting the letter, Father Z. It’s even more impressive on reading it.

  9. irishgirl says:

    Excellent letter from Bishop Davies!
    Before his elevation as Bishop of Shrewsbury, he was the Vicar General of Salford Diocese.
    I have a priest-friend who lives in the northern part of Salford Diocese, and he knew then-Monsignor Davies quite well. In fact, they were kind of ‘neighbors’ for a short time-Vicar General Davies had to take over a nearby parish when the pastor was convicted and sent to prison for sexual abuse of a minor.

  10. kbf says:

    From what I gather +Mark has never really been part of the magic circle inasmuch as he’s been on the periphery. I’d be watching the newly consecrated Bp Sherrington as well as I gather he’s of a similar ilk. While I know he has his detractors (especially over his handling of the Vaughan school fiasco), ArchBp Nichols is a far steadier and more in line with the Holy Father than his Cardinal predecessor. One of his other Auxilliaries, Bp John Arnold has also dipped his toes in the EF water on a number of occasions recently, so we are in real danger of actually having a couple of Catholic bishops in the Catholic church over here! (Though can we borrow ++Tim Dolan for a few years, we promise to give him back when he’s turned a few things around)?

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