Advent Pastoral Letter 2019 -
Rt Revd Dom Alistair Bate OSBA, M.A.Div.
2019 has a roller coaster of a year for me personally and for quite a few people in the Holy Celtic Church International, for a whole variety of reasons. Some of our dear members have wrestled with serious illness and some have even passed before us beyond the veil. There have been the almost inevitable betrayals and the breaking of vows of canonical obedience, sadly so common in the Independent Sacramental Movement, which often attracts unscrupulous characters. For my own part I have had to learn again and again the importance of prudence when accepting seminarians and ordaining clergy as well as the importance of making the boundaries very clear from the start.
Despite the setbacks, however, the church has increased in number, maintained the purity and orthodoxy of the sacraments and increased substantially the level of education of our clergy throughout the world, through the provision of sound Liberal Catholic and Celtic teachings. I am especially heartened by the growth of our church in Brazil where several new clergy have worked hard on translating liturgies and teachings into Portuguese. I am also heartened by the increase in the number of young people who are choosing a vocation in the HCCI. We now have several clergy and seminarians in their twenties and thirties in the UK, USA, Canada, Italy, Poland and Serbia and we look forward to further ordinations and a consecration here in Switzerland next year. Clearly our more traditionalist Celtic Liberal Catholicism is attractive to some, which is really affirming for those of us who are now getting on a bit!
Many people find great comfort and hope from meditation on the mysteries of Holy Week and Easter, which is right and just, for indeed they are central to the Christian story, regardless of how one chooses to interpret them. Personally, however, my favourite festival of the Christian year will forever be Christmas, celebrating as it does, the birth of a religion of charity and mercy, God as Love, in the person of a vulnerable Divine Child. Though the Incarnation, as I understand it, is an idea which has always been around - for St. Augustine tells us “that which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh” - the early church did present a special, new and original idea in contrast to those pre-existing religions, which we may sum up in one word, “Mercy”. It is this one small divergence from previous spiritualities which has made Christianity their worthy successor, although of course the churches - including our own - fail badly at really putting Mercy into practice. Christmas should be a time to renew our commitment to the merciful gospel as we share our gifts, both spiritual and temporal, with those who are less fortunate.
It is my hope that in the coming year, the Holy Celtic Church International may become a more merciful church; that without compromising our principles, we might reach out a merciful hand to the marginalised and spiritually or temporally poor, showing them the famed hospitality of Our Holy Mother St Brigid.
Bright blessings to you all for a very Merry Christmas,