Friday, September 04, 2015

Growth in Reading

Picture: members of the St William of York, Reading congregation served by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, commemorating their 10th Anniversary

It is worth taking a look at the picture, what is so noticeable is the number of children, and although there are a few grey heads, they are in the minority, there aren't any at all amongst the clergy, which is most probably the most significant of all.

But as I say it is the presence of children that is most noticeable, which indicates that the congregation is either very wealthy and afford children or more likely that they are willing to make sacrifices for them. It is also an indication that the families here are stable, and committed enough to the Gospel to be open to the Church's teaching.

From the little I know, the Reading congregation started with just few families and has grown and grown. Its growth has been by 'supernatural' generation, a few people being received into the Church but more being attracted by what they find there; the Traditional Mass and clear Catholic teaching. However the real growth has been through 'natural' generation; Catholic parents having children.

We Catholics of course believe 'grace works on nature', we seem to have forgotten the importance, and the duty, of begetting children. 'Trad' Mass communities seem always to create an environment that says 'children are welcome', they are open to nature. They also create an environment that is open to what the Church the 'education' of children. By 'education' we understand it to mean more than what is learnt at school, we mean the sacraments and the moral and spiritual education of children, helping them to become spiritual adults. In 'Traditional' communities, though this is obviously the primary work of parents, networks and supports form naturally.

Here in Brighton our own Traditional Mass congregation is growing, at times it seem to have more babies and younger children than all our other Sunday Masses, despite the centre of the city not being the best or easiest place to bring up children.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

So many and for so long

The image of a little child dead on a beach is sickening but so is the image of crucified children or beheaded children, or homeless starving refugee children, maybe it is that we can bear to look at this little child and imagine his story and the tragedy that lies behind it, whereas more gory images, like dismembered foetus', all but the slightly sick avoid or hurry past. There are tens of thousands of children like this poor child, and the pictures have been around for a long time.

I am concerned that this particular image has unleashed 'compassion' almost as fashion accessory, first from journalists, then newsdesks and the media and now even from politicians, at least opposition politicians and backbenchers. This little child makes the statistics of Mr Cameron's 'swarms' into an individual tragedy, Stalin had said, 'a million deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy'. I am concerned, but I am glad that at last the media can focus on the death of children rather than the destruction of a temple ruined in Palmyra.

The feeling of 'compassion' is one thing, it is likely to disappear as soon as it flares up, it is actually doing something that matters, and that has to be a deeper interior change rather than a signature on an e-petition or drawing out a handful of loose change. A world that ignores the plight of so many over so many years is essentially hard hearted, if it is manipulated by a single image that 'goes viral', rather than human need is essentially massaging its own 'feel good' self indulgence, tomorrow it will be back to kittens or donkeys.

It might be possible for an atheist but for a Christian, not caring for the poor, not welcoming the stranger is not possible if we hope for heaven.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Non-Changing Church? #2

A lot of people seem deeply worried by October's Synod, the Pope's call in Rio for the youth to make a lio, a mess, has been taken up by many. I was talking to a priest recently who said, 'I just can't see why we can't just do whatever the Holy Father wants'. That is one view going around, and for all its un-Catholicity it is probably the prevailing one, because although a lot of people might be worried, most are actually not.

During these two years of Francis' Papacy ideas that most of us considered dying have been revived and been argued over afresh in new ways. Cardinal Kasper's thesis which many in German speaking dioceses have quietly supported and even put into practice not only was it met with stony silence when presented to the Consistory of Cardinals, but it has been opposed in writing by first five Cardinals, then eleven and now by a number of African bishops who to represent the majority of African Cardinals and bishops.

I believe in St Vincent of Lerins' dictum that the Catholic Faith is that which is believed in 'always, everywhere and at all times'.  The great problem is that for the last 50 years or more, most Catholics have not believed in the Church's teaching, or just given it lip service, especially on the family aand sexuality.

What we have seen in recent times, most especially during Pope Francis's papacy is that all the poisons that lurk in the mud are hatching out, because the Catholic Church has actually not been Catholic, the stripping away of papal pomp has revealed a more than ambiguous papacy than we have been used to. We have pretended andtried to maintain an image of a great monolithic Church that does not exist.

One of my parishioners said that for the first time in his life he has started to ask, 'is the Pope a Catholic?' The real question should be, 'is the Catholic Church Catholic?' As the centre of communion the Pope reflects the Church, which is often confused and ambiguous, it contains Catholics as well as uber and unter Catholics. A good Irish friend of mine said of a bishop, 'In my day he wouldn't have been allowed to make his Holy Communion let alone be made a bishop'. The Catholic Church is not even in its hierarchical structure supposed to be like a secular monarchy or presidency, with the Pope at the top, below him 'his' bishops, 'their' clergy and then the laity, bishops are also successors of the Apostles and priests are not bishops servants but according to the rite of ordination, 'co-workers with the order of bishops'. The Church is a Communion, and we hold the faith together, there are tensions and different emphasises, different pastoral practices, different needs, different interests, 'together we form the body of Christ'. 'The faith' is given to us in baptism and held 'by all, everywhere and always', within the the Communion the bishops together with the Pope have a particular role in safeguarding the faith, and the Pope has a unique role as the bishop of Rome in recognising the authenticity of those in Communion with the Church of Rome, and therefore in Communion with the rest of the Church, throughout history it held the moderate position, the via media.

Bishop Schneider suggested that we should have a post-Vatican II set of anathemas issued by the Pope, somehow I think this is not going to happen, but the Synod will bring about some kind of agreement, some kind of statement of Catholic faith, I suspect afterwards the Pope will use often, 'they said', it will become a stock Papal phrase. Of course it will be a fudge, some will suggest it is not even Catholic, it will be an attempt to find a consensus. Most probably it will give to local bishops the duty of making particular 'pastoral' decisions, which will itself be considered divisive, it will actually be the starting point for further debate on what is meant by Catholic, but it will be the beginning of a long process to re-Catholicise the Church. It will be a painful process for many but Christ promises to be with his Church until the end of time.

In many ways we are in time of repairing the damage done to the Church after the Vatican Council, interpreted through the most extreme interpretations of the spirit of Vatican I, which is most clearly seen with Mgr Bugnini's Liturgical Consillium, the bishops in Council decided one thing and Rome, exceeding anything known in history, imposed something else on the Church.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lucky Looks and Faith

I am no Medje fan, I think Medjugorje is a fraud but nevertheless I am not entirely gleeful that there are reports that the number of Italians who have visited the Croation 'shrine' this year has fallen 'drastically', the pundits suggest the reason is the uncertainty the imminent Vatican judgement is bringing to the minds of pilgrims. If they are not 'Medjing" are they actually doing anything?

My concern is that 'faith' for many is not exactly ecclesial or sacramental, rather like some who go to Lourdes with a particular pilgrimage but never attend Mass at home, or those have a great devotion to particular saint but not much to Christ, or those in Southern Europe or Germany (where they still exist) have a great devotion to a particular confraternity but would never have anything to do with their parish Church. The English equivalent are those who would drink in the Catholic club or go to the Catholic school as markers of Catholic identity.

Friends who live in the Borgo Pio area very close to St Peter's which used to be jammed packed on Wednesdays at the beginning of his Papacy used to complain about the type of people who wanted a glimpse of the Pope Francis 'they seem to have no understanding of Catholicism', they were people who wanted a 'lucky look' at the Pope. Apparently they would pass around children who managed to get a touch', or more wonderfully a kiss being passed around to be touched by 'Scicillians' or 'gypsies' so they might have a share in whatever 'luck' had been acquired. I remember an Irish woman saying to me at the exposition of the relic of St Therese at at Aylesford that she was there 'for luck for my family'.

Faith for some of us is a highly complex edifice a mixture of revelation, philosophy, world view, trust etc., for some faith, and about which most of us 'churchy' inheritors of the 'Liturgical Movement' Catholics tend to be a bit sniffy, is not very distinct from superstition, sometimes it might be 'pious superstition' but it is still superstition. In the past we thought superstition was at least the beginning of 'faith', that it could be developed, 'moved beyond' to something else. We could talk about a 'pious instinct', rather like those people who came to Jesus for healing, or to see a miracle but stayed to wonder, and to hear, and then to truly believe. God doesn't despise the 'lucky' look or touch or kiss and maybe at the root of all faith is a desire for something we cannot define, where instinct, a deeper sense, intuition lead the mind.

An untutored palate either does or does not like wine or beer, later we learn to discriminate and can become quite sophisticated in our tastes, the problem is that when someone says a particular wine is poisoned, then the unsophisticated spit out all wine whilst the discerning simply avoid the problematic vintage.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Non-Changing Church?

I like bishops rings, I like big amethyst one's, I like the idea of bishops being amethystos "not drunk (for it is only the third hour)" Acts 2:15. I like the symbol of the ring on the finger of a bishop because it symbolises his marriage to his Church. I don't like the idea of ambitious bishops hankering after more prominent Sees. The bishop, even the Bishop of Rome belongs to his See, as a husband belongs to his wife, as Christ belongs to the Church and the Church to him.
If Hyppo was good enough for Augustine ... .

If we use the highly scriptural analogy of the Church as the bride of Christ then we should be wary of adulterous clergy who 'covet other Sees' as my Orthodox friends would describe it. If fidelity is important for ordinary married people then it should be even more important for clergy too, especially bishops, the Church should never encourage adultery like the Ashley Madison website.

I recently read this from Anne Roche's The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church, it is a very moving account of the Church of her childhood compared to what is now.
I must sometimes have gone to Mass in the day-light when I was young, but my strongest memory is of coming thankfully into it out of the cold dark. At first, to keep my father company. He was a millwright and had to work every Sunday. I used to hurry through the chill Newfoundland mornings with him, shivering, fasting, to the poor little basement church, down into the warm, candlelit, holy silence. The church was always surprisingly full. Men from the mill with their lunch baskets, going on or coming off shift, sometimes black-faced from unloading coal boats all night, kneeling on the floor at the back, too filthy to venture into a pew. Nurses, and our doctor in his vast raccoon coat, with his bag, after a night call. A Mountie in full uniform. Young people still in evening dress after a party.
I remember a bit of that, Irish labourers who through their devoted attendance at Benediction and Mass taught me the meaning of what St Thomas had written in the Summa.

If I am being honest I really do have to admit that something drastic has changed, maybe not in the formulation of the faith but certainly in the living of it. I am not terribly modern in saying that Jesus did not write a catechism, rather he founded a Church, nor I do I hope that I am going to upset anyone by suggesting that the Church is not just bishops or even clergy, it is the whole community of believers, and not just a horizontal community but a vertical one too that includes the saints and the great teachers of the past. Faith is not simply that is held but something which must be demonstrated in works, it has to be fruitful in good works, 'show me your faith and I will show you my works', says St James.

Problems always arise when one portion of the Church gets out of balance, when one part takes control, we are still living with the problems of nineteenth century. Thinking about the Church of the late 60s and 70s what seems to have happened  was the Church got out of balance, that the centre decided on change which was rejected by the peripheries. Rome went for change and the people left. No longer was the Mass, 'our Mass', the doctrine 'our doctrine' the leaders of the Church 'our leaders', by 'our' I mean something we collectively owned by us or our parents, our grand-parents, the saints. No-longer did bishops and priests act like loving spouses defending and protecting their family and encouraging its spiritual increase. No longer were laity, priests and bishops, including the Pope, servants of the liturgy, or catechesis like the workmen Anne Roche speaks about, instead they took control of the Church forcing change, often with a sledge hammer or a wrecking ball against their spouses will. It was the reign of the experts. These expert took over the common heritage of all the Faithful that rightly belonged to the whole καθολικός passed on by whole Church. No longer was the Liturgy a safe place hallowed by time and frequent use, invariably it was transformed beyond recognition, as too Church buildings, people were robbed of their spiritual home, but of course they were assured this was not a doctrinal change. Doctrine of course never changes but its presentation did, and how it was lived did, and how it was taught did, and the mindset that received did, and the 'Churches' adherence to it did.

The result was disenfranchisement, Catholicism which no longer belonged to Catholics, it belonged to the bishops for the first time in history bishops became innovators, if they remained the 'faithful' and many clergy became consumers of faith rather than owners. The catastrophic changes robbed ordinary Catholics of their faith, bishops handed over much to 'experts' who took control to themselves of what had previously belonged to all. The bishop, tended to see himself no longer in terms of  bridegroom 'guarding, protecting and defending' but as managers of change and innovators,  I suspect five years in the rarified and highly politicised atmosphere of Rome during the Council had changed them significantly. Rather than being immersed in faith they became either fodder for factions or highly politicised, themselves collaborators full of faith but fellow members of a faction. They came to see themselves as Lords of the Church pushing forward ideology rather than faith rather than being servant spouses and spiritual fathers. Either pre-occupied by, or at the Council they became strangers to their clergy and people, reappearing amongst them with what appeared to be new doctrines, new liturgy, they wrecked the very house their bride had previously recognised as home, and the bride fled, for they no longer smelt of the bride and she no longer recognised their smell. Whether it was bishop himself who inflicted the damage, some like Cardinal Heenan felt they had lost control, all was done by in the bishop's name.

In parishes there was confusion, if the Mass had changed, then surely doctrine had changed. If the Blessed Sacrament was removed from altar to a side chapel, or the priest was commanded to turn his back on it, then surely what was believed yesterday is no longer to believed today. It was what bishops considered little things that 'stole' the faith from the people. It was the take over by 'experts' from ordinary members of the parish that added to the alienation. Not only had the liturgy changed, but also devotions were more or less removed, the Marian and Corpus Christi processions, the Novenas, for many pre-Concillior Catholics Mass was of precept whilst devotions were of love, they embodied the 'always, everywhere and by all' that is the patristic essence of Catholicism.

Suddenly the old certainties always, everywhere by all believed, were no longer certain. The faith of parents and grandparents, the usual catechisers of children, was no longer what the Church expected children were expected to know and love, the same with the army of catechists, and even teachers both religious and lay, their faith was no longer the Catholic faith. So many of the clergy too, I suspect lost heart, afraid to teach because they themselves lacked understanding, having been formed in a Church that no longer existed. So many of the priests, certainly the older ones I knew of that era seemed depressed, whilst so many of the younger ones just left.

Some would suggest that the emptying of the churches and the loss of huge numbers of its members had more to do with changes in society, or simply the issuing of Humanae Vitae or the dichotomy between the actual Council and the 'Council of the Media' but the Council itself, placed so much emphasis on the role of the bishop, it would be foolish to ignore their role in what followed. Of course not one iota of doctrine was changed, it was after all a 'Pastoral Council' but somehow the Church did change, and so many were lost. Even for those who stayed somehow the faith had changed and the change resulted in a loss of impetus, like some loveless marriage.

What had changed? Catholicism was no longer a faith, 'always, everywhere and by all' believed, St Vincent of Lerins definition but something handed down. The Church was no longer a Communion but a Heirarchy, in the secular sense, ruled by diktat from above. The Council Fathers had managed to kill the very thing the Council had sought to teach.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


I have been at a major church three times recently for some pretty important occasions, and each time only women read, and every time the female 'music minister' sat enthroned above con-celebrating clergy as some sort of demi-bishop signalling to the people to turn their attention from the altar to her and join in the music, even when the celebrant sang things that would of themselves demand people participation, like "The Lord be with you". No, I didn't check, there might have been very good reasons for the exclusion of men from lay-ministerial positions but the fact it happened on three successive occasions just seemed to be making a point. Just so no-one can question my feminist credentials I only tend to use the Roman Canon and I always include those women at the end of the last list, chauvinists often just use EPII/III/IV, which only mention Our Lady. I don't know if this is what people mean when they speak of feminisation of the Church, actually I think it might go deeper.

Looking around my own parish I see a lot of men who want to be manly but don't actually know how to carry it off, the problem is mainly one of society, and the Church reflects society. However the Church does have the answers, as I said to one young man, after he had attended a friends raucous 'Gay Pride' party a few years ago and fled, 'If you want to know want to know what manly love is like look at the crucifix'. Jesus is always the answer, though we might not be yet be able to form the question.

Apart from sexual addiction or confusion misplaced manliness can often result in men acting out a caricature of what it means to be man, getting drunk, taking drugs, being 'hard', using or misusing women, being a bad a father, being incapable of commitment, even holding down a job. A couple of generations ago the majority of boys left full-time education at 15 or 16, and unless they joined the forces remained at home until they married in their 20's, girls followed the same course, maybe marrying a few years younger. Until the sexual revolution, if you were a man then you were also a father, responsible for protecting and supporting your own family. There has been plenty of talk about the effects of contraception on women, not much on the effects on men. I would suggest one of its effects, is that it makes men immature and afraid of facing responsibility.

In practice men have a hard time of it, loneliness and the lack of belonging seems to be part of the condition of men. Apart from conception they have no necessary part in contemporary family life. Tea at the Trianon links to a post by Mgr Pope who in turn cites an American survey on Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men.

Alienation is part of modern manhood, yet the Church should not set about alienating man. Christianity like Islam or Judaism is supposed to be a manly religion, at its heart is not only that God became Man - one with us, but in his becoming Man he also became a man, with a genealogy, a family, a name and even a trade, this very particular man was the very icon of God.

It has always been heresy, and it is on the rise today, it is to 'de-Incarnate' the Incarnate Word. We find this in the attitude that seems to say, "Though Jesus in the Gospel says, 'A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery ... ', but the Eternal Word of God says ...", of course what is given as the Eternal Word is invariably Fr A, or Professor B, or even Cdl C. The same can be done with any doctrine: judgement, sin, baptism, the Eucharist, etc.

One of the constants in any revitalisation of the Church has always been the return to the Incarnation, the person of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, therefore a return scripture, to the Gospels. What always accompanies this is a return to the fraternity of Jesus and his disciples, whether it is Augustine or Benedict, Basil, Norbert, Bernard, Francis, Dominic, Ignatius, Neri, Bosco or any of the other great Catholic evangelists, they gathered brothers to live out the Gospel, this seems to be basic to evangelisation, it is what Jesus did. The faith of the Incarnate God cannot be separated from 'brotherly love', and it has always been expressed in gathering men together, to deepen their relationship with Christ.

Whether now we should speak about gathering men and women together, I don't know, that is certainly what seems to be the trend in the West/North. Maybe I am a misogynist or maybe the key to evangelisation is evangelising men, this is what Islam does, this is what Jesus did, this what Copts decided to do in their great renewal under Pope Shenouda.

Certainly there seems to be a need to form men in the Gospel, and men today need Christ's healing, and men feel alienated from the Church. At the back of my mind is an old adage: evangelise a mother, and she will bring with her her young children, evangelise a father and he will bring his wife and his sons and daughters and they will remain faithful.

As the Church teaches the 'compatibility' but also the difference of men and women to not explore that and to take it into account in our pastoral strategy and teaching seems to be folly, it is after all that that this difference is not just about priesthood but also leadership, and Christological iconography.

Friday, August 21, 2015


All those prophecies, all that Apocalyptic talk, there is a great deal of it around nowadays. Under Pope Benedict Catholic bloggers and social media users would get excited by the sight of Papal fanon or the asterix, nowadays attention seems to being paid to the prophecies of Our Lady of .... , or some strange dubiously orthodox internet seer.
Perhaps I ought to be more excited about the end of the world, I am 62 next birthday, and growing old and comfortable in my sin. In fact I am further from asking leave to retire to some cave in the rocks to prepare for the inevitable than I was a few months ago or even a few years ago.

Ageing might bring about a certain pessimism but I don't seem to be the only one. Laudato Si, for example seems to be one of the most Apocalyptic encyclicals, and the Pope's constant talk of the devil, and a 'new' Church, or at least new ways of 'being Church', add to a sense of dislocation. The great emphasis  of Cardinal Kasper's writings seem to be the old world and its Greco-Christian ways of thinking have come to an end, which is probably true but I am not sure they are ripe to be replaced the thought of those nineteenth century German philosophers who were essentially atheists. I am disinclined to replace my understanding of God for Kasper's 'anti-God'.

In many ways the Labour Party leadership election seems to illustrate a decline and fall, the end of a particular age in European politics. Apart from Corbyn there is no alternative apart from exhausted fag-end Blairites, and Corbyn will consign Labour to the the status of just another opposition party, playing second fiddle to the Scotish Nationalists. Socialism has run its course, it is unable to answer the serious problems of impending poverty, most Southern European countries have up to 50% youth unemployment, most governments are going to be unable to pay the increasingly high bills for pensions and for health services, for this reason alone euthanasia acquires increasing support from the political classes. Immigration is a necessity because low birthrates mean we are simply not replacing ourselves. Indeed postwar anti-family, and therefore anti-child, policies seem to have been enshrined within our culture to the extent that they are unchangeable at least until catastrophe forces change.

A woman on the radio recently said to another, who had decided not to have children, 'Don't expect my kids to wipe you backside when you old', there is a terrible truth in that. The Dutch king recently announced the end of  the welfare state, in its place a participating society. The most obvious way for anyone, other than the very wealthy, to participate in society is through family.

The problem is that for many 'family' simply doesn't exist, it is certainly not there in 'same sex marriage' and we have changed our very understanding of human sexuality. In Japan for example where reproduction is barely happening, one of the major problems seems to be that pornography and masturbation, seems to have taken place of the real thing, In the West the LGBT agenda, which our politicians have embraced, seems to be concerned about the removal of all sexual taboos and restraints. Sexual or gender confusion which will affect not only our children's moral, emotional and psychological health and future generations too. Exposure to pornography seems to be something even very young children cannot avoid. How will children and families cope with 'government approved morality'? How will we hang onto sanity?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spanish Inquisition was 99% Myth

A BBC documentary. After centuries of of lies and myths aimed at the Catholic Church we now know the Spanish Inquisition never happened, no one was burned, put on the rack or any of that. It makes you wonder, how much "settled history" is actually not true.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fr Andrew Pinsent,

Fr. Pinsent
Aleteia has a very interesting interview with Fr Andrew Pinsent, the most brilliant priest of my diocese. He used to work on the CERN project, he was one of those scientists who was drawn into worship by the wonder of the infinite. I have always had a great admiration for him and his insights. The interview begins with Father saying:
We do a certain amount of pre-Communion preparation and maybe confirmation preparation and that gradually dies off into adulthood. If a student is lucky enough to have a good university and a good university chaplaincy, there’s a chance of getting input during university years. After that, in my experience, there’s almost nothing.

When you think about it, this is completely crazy. They expect young people to go out with pre-Communion training into the world, and be fruitful as Catholics.

Well perhaps by some miracle, some of them still go to Mass and some still practice their faith, study their faith and so on. But what we’re doing doesn’t seem very sensible.
A lot of it is about Evangelium, which he co-authored with that other remarkable priest Fr Marcus Holden, there are lots of interesting insights throughout, but this is perhaps the most important.
Grace is actually the number one issue in the Church and in Catholic theology today. And the issue is really this: What is a Christian? In practice, in the minds of many Catholics today, a Christian is really just like anyone else, perhaps just trying to be a bit better. And this is not what a Christian is.

A Christian, by grace, becomes an adopted child of God, able to call God “Father.” That’s a unique privilege of the grace of Baptism, and people don’t know this. What we’ve got actually is not anonymous Christianity; it’s more like anonymous Buddhism with Christian language. That’s quite a common kind of spirituality today.

What I want to do is recover a healthy sense of the proper distinction and relationship between the life of grace and the life of nature.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Another Parishioner Gone

I have lost another of my parishioners, and I am pleased!

Today, the Vigil of the Assumption one of my parishioners, he doesn't live in the parish but he came to the Old Rite Mass here on Sundays and Friday, is entering one of those rather strict monasteries. Pray for him, I am offering Mass for him this evening. Someone rather lamely said to him, "write, let us know how you are getting on', his reply was, 'Yes, I will if I leave'. He is allowed a letter year as a novice. Hence I will give neither his name or his monastery, the violet of the Vigil of the Assumption in the Old Rite is a suitable marker of his transit from this world to the monastery.

I could well imagine this particular man marching through the desert under the burning sun with a cohort of Foreign Legionaries or yomping on some Welsh mountain with a squad of the SAS, the monastery he has joined is that type of place. Other monasteries might well specialise in academic or artistic pursuits, this one in silence and being dead to the world!

It is interesting to see where God leads us, another of my parishioners has just celebrated his tenth anniversary as a Catholic. There is nothing boring about my parishioners, each is an individual, each life is a manifestation of Grace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Virgin St Clare

Yet another Virgin! St Clare shared Francis' poverty, she and her sisters wanted to be enclosed and yet mendicants, without land or revenues.

Virginity is about having neither husband nor children. It is about emptiness, desolation and aloneness. It is about an inner craving that will never be truly satisfied in this life. It is meant to produce an inner yearning for spiritual fulfilment that will only be accomplished in the life to come.

No wonder the modern world and even the Church despises continence, virginity and widowhood. For the Christian these things are about a future fulfilment, looking beyond this life. it is about Hope and about the Kingdom that we pray will come.

And yet continence, virginity and widowhood are not about living in a fantasy world but living with that emptiness, that poverty; the acceptance that the Cross. Being crucified with Christ, is the natural state for a Christian.

Will anyone be discussing these things at the Synod?
Has anyone heard a sermon on virginity lately?

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

Clergy meetings are normally my idea of purgatory but not the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, if you are a priest or deacon I suspect you will enjoy the forthcoming colloquium: book now, or if you aren't a member join now by going to the website. Fathers, it only cost £50, and joining the Confraternity is only £25

This year’s conference takes place in the beautiful and historic setting of St Edmund’s College, Ware. We will make use of the school’s fine Pugin chapel for our liturgies.
27th - 28th October

Speakers include

Fr John Hunwicke
of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham,
who will speak on the Magisterium

Fr David Marsden
a member of the recently founded Irish Confraternity,
and lecturer at Maynooth,
who will speak about priestly formation

Fr Nicholas Schofield
archivist to the Archdiocese of Westminster,
who will give an introduction to the fascinating history of
St Edmund’s College.

Bishop Alan Hopes and Bishop Robert Byrne will both join us during the Colloquium.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Dominic, an alternative to Francis

Happy St Dominic's Day!

I can't help comparing and contrasting the two great 13th Century founders. Why did Dominic not become a Franciscan or Francis a Dominican?

Both started mendicant penitential orders which would dominate the middle ages. Francis was concerned about going out to the poor and appealing to the emotions, he managed to capture the popular imagination, to the point where he still, today, appeals to the popular imagination. The myths that surrounded him even in his life are with us today. Dramatic gestures seem to have been a speciality, He kissed babies and lepers, he embraced the poor, challenged the rulers of this world. He was suspicious of learning, and intellectualism. His concern was that his disciples embrace the 'spirit' of his reforms and intuit what they were, hence after his death his order split and fragmented, parts of it ended up in heresy.

Dominic, even in his day was much less popular than Francis, his concern was for the abandonment self, but also for a strict unity. Whereas Francis rejected learning Dominic embraced it, though he never dismissed popular piety and preaching simply to ordinary people he understood the need for a deep intellectual underpinning and set up a studium in Rome at Sopra Minerva. 'Preach the Gospel always, and if you must use words' , though it is apocryphally attributed to Francis sums up much that the early Franciscans were about, Dominic on the other hand 'used words either to address God or to speak about him', the preaching of the 'Order of Preachers' was about words, and using them precisely.

I wonder if the next Pope in deference to his predecessor might choose the name Dominic.

Friday, August 07, 2015


There is fruit on Papa Stronsay, they are in the middle of harvest in the green house, the cherries have just past, but then they are fruitful; all those young men they attract, despite or maybe because of the ghastly weather, the distance from anyone's home, the extraordinarily uncomfortable looking habits, the long hours in prayer, the penance, and although I haven't visited, though I have met some, what people remark on is the joy they have.

Fr Hugh writes about a meeting of the English Benedictines that has just ended, they have been discussing their future. In many ways their discussion is emblematic of the rest of the church, they are the 'canary down the mine'. The health of contemplative religious is an indication of the health of the wider Church.

One could make the that suggestion that the Traditional liturgy seems to make monastic life flourish, if one did, one could cite Norcia or Fontgombault and its several daughter houses or La Barroux or the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and Silverstream too have just professed Benedict Andersen, my congratulations. It might well be 'trad' communities do seem to flourish, but I would suggest that was only part of the answer. Some might be attracted to the religious life just because they are liturgical pedants, most monasteries need at least one. Liturgy is certainly important to monastic life as it is to the rest of the Church but there is something more, liturgy is the fons et origo but it is a means to an end, as the Church itself is, that end is union with God.

CfqLEYPpWRBezSJ-oWHtqmpI19mFkVHy0cJOzBWm2sk=w388-h291-noUltimately religious life is about holiness, about saints, about growth in the supernatural virtues, about Faith, Hope and Charity, it is about effective brotherly love, as should the Church as a whole.
The big question, which we dare not ask is, can we see the theological virtues being lived out, is the Church, is a monastery producing saints? Are vessels of clay shining with supernatural light?

The great problem  in religious life is perhaps the modern heresy of Gradualism, it infects parishes too, the idea that we cannot be saints today, that we do not encounter God, that we are not changed by God. What this means in reality is that there is no need for Faith, we are not reliant on God, or Hope, that God will take care of all things, or Charity that we are called to love with supernatural power. Whether it is the Universal Church, a parish, or a monastery or even a Synod the loss of the supernatural, of Grace is the killer, and yes the Sacred Liturgy is the key! Does a community believe it is a supernatural act, and therefore a fruitful thing, or just a community exercise.