Some Helpful Understandings
1. “How Jewish?”
• During the fifty years we have been assembling materials and resources, and presenting them — originally in seminars and more lately on the Internet — we have frequently been confronted with an important consideration: how overtly Jewish, at this point in time, should we be? These days it is so easy to go to the Internet, tap a few words into a search engine, and be confronted with an inexhaustible (or so it appears) supply of material to review. And if you tap in any kind of reference embracing Jewish-Christian subjects, up on the screen come myriads of very Jewish looking web sites, programmes, papers, articles and worship-community contacts. Many of these, when “opened up” contain lots of Hebrew symbols, words and phrases, giving a Jewish “look and feel”.
• As we prepared our presentations we came to see very clearly that we stand in a very, very different position from many other organisations. Catholic worship, teaching and devotional practice are already literally loaded — that means “bursting at the seams” — with virtually endless evidence of their Jewish origins and heritage! Nothing else can be compared to the Church’s organic association with the vast treasury of things authentically Scriptural, and Judaic!
• Thus, in the preparation of our articles, devotional guidelines and general teaching materials, we chose to focus first on this outstanding feature of Catholic religious practice: the fact that its principal liturgical books, commonly known as the Missal and Breviary (Liturgy of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours) offer a magnificent presentation of Biblical Jewish religious expression.
Our first aim, therefore, is to highlight this to our readers.
Catholic worship and religious practice are therefore truly in full harmony
with the whole Biblical Judaic tradition. Recognising and acknowledging
this is an important step in becoming familiar with Hebrew Catholic spirituality.
• In consequence of this, our approach has been to demonstrate that Hebrew Catholics feel very much at home in the midst of Catholic worship, study and devotion: all of which, as we have said, are profoundly Jewish in origin, and remain so even after 2,000 years of organic development. Much of our effort goes into helping our fellow Christians make more frequent use of these treasures. In the process, opportunities will arise for Jewish contributions, including some of the festivals and cultural activities. The joy is that these are mutually compatible and supportive in a way which is genuinely inspiring.
2. “Traditional”, Contemporary, or Both?
• Hebrew Catholics are spread across the whole membership of the Church. They are to be found in most of the Sacred Rites of the Church. In the Latin Rite, as it is called — the largest “section” or “culture” — they participate in worship in local languages, as well in the traditional Latin liturgies. Some of our readers may not be familiar with other Rites within the Catholic Church:
a) Roman / Latin Family of Liturgical Rites.
b) Eastern Rites and Churches.
c) Alexandrian Family of Liturgical Rites.
For more information see the on-line article:
Catholic Rites and Churches
• Our web site tries to accommodate the needs which arise out of this situation. For instance, our weekly Gospel Reflections provide assistance for those involved in the modern Liturgy and three-year Scripture Lectionary. Our Electronic Prayer Book draws mainly from the traditional Liturgical Books approved in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
• Members appreciate both traditions and, whilst probably more accustomed to one than the other, nevertheless, strongly endorse each.
3. Activity Groups
• The AHC, internationally, encourages the coming together of a few people, in any location, to form a “havurah” — Hebrew for “a group”. Excellent guidelines are available from our International web site: www.hebrewcatholic.org . There is a network of such groups, or as we call them: havurot (plural of havurah) around the world. These focus on building knowledge, understanding and appreciation of things Jewish as well as Christian.
• Our New Zealand web site talks about formation of a “havurah”, as well as what we might call, mission oriented groups helping to establish and nurture Scripture Reflection in parishes. In some locations it may in fact be a havurah taking on this mission. Elsewhere it could be a member of AHC taking a promotional role to recruit others to help facilitate regular Scripture Reflection and Meditation. We consider this to be one of the most fundamental needs for mobilisation of the New Evangelisation. We also believe a Hebrew Catholic perspective can make a worthwhile contribution towards building momentum in any diocesan programme. Thus materials utilised by these groups can include a Hebrew Catholic perspective if approved by the local parish.
• Having said that, we are also very keen to attract other members of the Church regardless of cultural origin into our apostolate. The future of the Hebrew Catholic apostolate depends equally on Hebrews and non-Hebrews. The apostolate offers Jews a definite and specific means through various procedures whereby they can preserve their identity as such. It also offers non-Jews the opportunity to activate within their religious life the means to draw more fully on the spiritual patrimony of being daughters and sons of Abraham. We are truly dedicated to encouraging all our members to help one another grow spiritually in their cultural heritage, strongly bonded as baptised members of the Church — the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Our Web Site Features
• On the right hand side of the screen we place a tab which gives immediate access to our international centre web site based in St. Louis. This provides an enormous collection of quality resources for the support of the Hebrew Catholic apostolate throughout the world. Our Branch web site avoids duplicating services and therefore hopefully supplements our main centre.
• Again, we avoid trying to replicate what other Hebrew Catholic web sites offer and therefore provide links to them.
• New Zealand is quite different from Great Britain and North America in some aspects of the apostolate. Many (indeed most) New Zealanders who are of Jewish descent — and there is a large number — are not even aware of it. They would be culturally swamped if our web site were to present a fully evolved Hebrew Catholic “look and feel”. As we have previously alluded to, our approach in these early stages of development, is, therefore somewhat subdued, taking a quiet path towards our AHC goals. We believe this is in accord with the advice of our Founder, Fr. Elias Friedman, OCD, whose prophetic insight and guidance brought the AHC into being, and whose vision continues to inspire and guide us.