Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nothing of Value Here


My congratulations to Libby Lane and the dear old CofE, with her ordination to the Anglican episcopate in a sense it has reached its ultimate end begun at the Reformation.

A friend took me to a rather beautiful pre-Reformation church, in a side chapel, in the wall was set a small modern metal door covered by a little white curtain, it was the aumbry or tabernacle, stuck to the door was a notice, "this safe contains blessed bread - there is nothing of value here".

In this time when we seem to be invited to explore the nature of what it means to be 'Catholic', one of the most obvious threads is Catholics believe God is truly and actually present in the sacraments.

Cantigas de Santa Maria

This is one of my favourite websites, it supplies me hours of pleasure, it is a wonderful collection of  over 400 songs to the Blessed Virgin in Galician-Portuguese during the reign of Alfonso X El Sabio (1221–1284), if you are into thirteenth century music the Cantigas should already be known to you. Though the wonderful site which offers square and round note options, as well phonetic pronunciation for those with rather weak 13th Century Galician-Portugese, only appeared last year.
The only problem is that there is no Latin translation online yet, as far as I know

There are lots of recordings of performances on Youtube.

This is one my favourites, ideal for an evening with Mary.
I hope it gives you as much pleasure as it gives me.

This is in praise of Holy Mary. 

I have praised and praise and shall ever praise Holy Mary.

For among all the most honored men alive today, 
She has shown me more 
blessings, which I shall now relate. 

She caused me to descend from good lineage 
and willed that I should justly 
reign and be king. 

And with Her mercies She aided me in my grave illnesses, 
therefore, rest as- 
sured, I shall serve Her in return. 

And to those who bore me ill will and conspired 
and plotted against me She 
gave what they deserved, 
as I shall prove. 
She freed me from great poverty and gave me wealth, 
for which I shall name 
all Her great attributes that I can. 

For She who does not err nor ever erred made me lord of a fine land 
and 
helped me in every war when I called on Her. 

She delivered me from misfortunes, death, and injury. 
Therefore know, good 
men, that I shall die for Her. 

All you join with me now to pray with all our hearts 
that She may help me 
in Her great mercy, for I have need. 

And whenever She so wills, may She take me from the turmoil 
of this world, 
and may I look upon Her whom I have always loved.

Another version

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sic transit


In the 1960s there were four hundred students in the chapel for this Mass at Ushaw, today, a little over 50 years later the seminary is closed.
It is very easy to say it was the Council but the seeds of whatever was to happen were already there, walking into the chapel in the hearts of those priests and students.
The post-war period was one of great flourishing in the Church in England and Wales, seminaries doubled in size, there was massive building of schools and churches, by the 1970s it was over, the decline had begun.
A friend visit four Orthodox seminaries in Moscow recently, each had 700 plus students, in the 1960s these seminaries did not exist.
Christ is Lord of History, when the Church appears strong then it is weak, when it stands before the Cross then it is strong. Huge numbers lead to complacency an d self referentialism, the barren Cross is our only hope.
 
Thanks to Fr Andrew Wadsworth for the video. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chid Victims

 
I used to think of St Agnes as a fiesty teanager or a self confident young woumen in her twenties but the relic in her Church in the Piaza Navona belies this. It is her skull, so small it can be held in one's cupped hands. She was obviously a child, not even her second decade, maybe not even five or six. She died for the faith, like the Holy Innocents, like those many children, slaughtered or left to starve by ISIS or the aptly named, Boko Haram (boko meaning education haram meaning forbidden or sinful), who with child like faith said, "We will not give up Jesus". There is something frightening in that the Church holds St Agnes as a Virgin Martyr. We are forced to recognise that sexual violence in her martyrdom, it is not something new. Sexual violence, against the vulnerable has always been a weapon of war. The Romans had a superstition about executing children, hence those terrible stories about little S Agnes being exposed in a brothel.

War, and conflict in general are never really about glorious armies facing one another but crueler things, starvation, poverty, disease, dispossession, psychological and sexual oppression. In fact disproportionately it is always the weak who suffer most. The weakest and most vulnerable are always children, children going hungry, children homeless, children orphaned and unwanted, unprotected, even children consider vermin.

Its not just in war zones that children are victims, every broken family, every poor family, in every workless family children suffer.
As the Pope said yesterday, “I have heard that families with many children are among the reasons if poverty. It seems to me that this is a simplistic opinion. The main reason for poverty is an economical system that has removed the person from the center and has replaced it by the god of money.”

Where sex is used irresponsibly, yes, where "couples breed like rabbits", where it is separated from procreation and the life that is suppose to result from it, children suffer. The Church talks about 'welcoming children as a gift of God', teaching which for Western culture today is extraordinarily subversive. 'Responsible' or loving sex always considers the result of the sexual act, for us it is never a quick fumble in the dark.

Today in the great clash between cultures, the culture of Life and the culture of Death, children will be the first victims.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Common Enemy

 Zenith of French Glory cartoon by Gillray
I agree with Giles Fraser, at least in this little piece where he writes about the French idea of laïcité.
Linked arm politicians marking through Paris streets in solidarity with..., with what? worries me. Yes, I can understand solidarity with the victims of terrorism, with those killed but is this really what David Cameron et al were expressing? Probably, they were thinking more of media reaction to their absence, and solidarity with public outrage, or perhaps the wound was too raw to think too clearly.

I am sure that Muslims who like the Pope might think that gratuitous insults provoke some reaction, certainly not killing or violence, but some reaction, but then what reaction can there be from those who are marginalised and on the peripheries? They are after all powerless, whilst the state and even cartoonists in comparison are all-powerful. It might be easy for a French Muslim to conflate the state's policy of laïcité and Charlie Hebdo's cartoons into one.


What I like about Fraser's article is his understanding that the French revolutionary ideas, and the Enlightenment are actually at war with religion. The new exodus of Jews from France is caused in part by Muslim attacks on Jews, in part by a growing intolerance of religion within French society but also as a direct result of laws that are restrictive or intolerant towards religious expression. Fraser gives examples of 'pork or nothing' school lunches, of restrictions on religious dress but in France as in other parts of Europe there are also moves to ban halal and kosher slaughter of animals and to prohibit infant circumcision, if one adds to that an active hostility in education to any sense of religion, and active promotion of values which contradict essential religious values, the promotion of a gay agenda, attacks on the family, a reinvention of morality, one can understand not just Islamic and Jewish dis-ease with an increasingly secular world, and a world that is evangelically antagonistic to religion.

Benedict XVI's Regensburg address, where he speaks of religion without reason has been justly cited by many Catholics commenting on the Paris killings but this forms a diptych with his address to the Bundestag, which is perhaps of even more importance, here he addresses what happens when the state becomes the sole arbiter of right and wrong.

Pope Francis said, "In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions".

Most Muslims, most religious people, would agree with him. Europe is sick but not just Europe, the same accusations can be made against Western society in general. The great ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, so attractive in their infancy have in their old age been transformed into the early sexualisation of children, the commercialisation of sexuality, the destruction of the family, pornography, drug and alcohol addiction, the estrangement of the elderly, of the young, youth unemployment, benefit dependancy, in fact a whole host of sicknesses and a a spiral of hopelessness. 

Catholics can understand something of Islamic alienation from a society that has declared war on its fundamental values. I was waiting for a bus recently at the bus stop a few yards down the street a couple of women were kissing, a Muslim mother with two small children saw what was happening and covered her children's faces with her coat, a few seconds later o0ne of my parishioners and her child walked past, they still at, she saw them and saw me and stood with her back to them holding her child's head so he couldn't see. Though there are serious difficulties (see the video at he end) Catholics and Muslims share a common enemy: secularism.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ex ore infantium et lactantium

Father Peter 1943 Catholic Extension Cutouts Booklet
I was amused, as I often am by Fr Hunwicke, who sometime ago hoped his grandson might grow into pedantry.

I love the pedantry of children, one of our children complained quietly to me that a visiting priest didn't say the Traditional Mass right, "He said, "miserere nobis" the third time in the Agnus Dei, instead of "dona nobis pacem". The same six year old went off  and learnt the Alma Redemptoris when someone mention that it, rather than the Salve, should be sung during the Christmas season.

A friend gave one of his 11 year old servers some Fr Peter cards for Christmas within few days it was all cut out and he was 'playing' Benediction and Missa Cantata in his bedroom, probably with reference to Fortescue. It was his favourite Christmas present.

I was sent photographs but I am having difficulty putting them online.




Thursday, January 08, 2015

Je suis non Charlie

Cold blooded murder and terror is barbaric, shooting journalists or cartoonists in a magazine is deplorable, it is indefensible. Killing is always a grave offense against God. I would certainly want to show support with the dead, the injured and the bereaved. Terror must always be met with the full force of the law, there should be no hiding place for those who killed at the Charlie Hebdo office. Nothing can justify the killing of the innocent.

The Paris killings are deeply troubling, they show the problem of a dominant society that contains a minority that do not share its values, in fact a group that has values that are directly opposed to its values and find those values deeply offensive. France likes to think of itself as the epitome of the secular state and is therefore incapable of understanding the deep offense caused to religious sentiment by offensive imagery.

Many of those protesting the Charlie Hebdo murders on the streets of European cities are presumably not merely liberal secularists but members of the far right too, an alliance of the two is highly worrying, especially for a society like many in the West that are dependent for basic services on recently arrived immigrants, primarily because their own birthrate is so low.


There have been suggestions that the Charlie Hebdo murders were an attack on free speech but France like the rest of the West is against homophobic, rascist, sexist speech and has laws to restrict that kind of freedom. Charlie Hebdo is actually purile and offensive though it might be seen as court jester of French liberal establishment. It is not freedom of speech it defends but its own right to be gratuitously insulting, take a look at some of its front covers, some of which seem to be in the style of that German satirical publication of the 20s, 30s and 40s. It is a mark of any civilised society that all its members have some entitlement to be treated with respect. In a healthy society one moderates one's tone and uses language which is respectful, especially of an underclass or minority which is potentially explosive.

The Charlie Hebdo murders should invite greater freedom of speech, perhaps revisiting Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture should certainly cause us to ask why Islam and the sword often go hand in hand, the vast majority of Muslims are the victims of murderous thugs rather than the thugs themselves but the relationship of Islam and violence needs to discussed. So too does the State's relationship with justice which was raised in his Berlin address earlier in his visit. The West contains a great number of disengaged young men and women who are increasingly alienated from our society, laws no longer bind, there are swathes of our society who make up their own rules, who have their own codes and see the establishment as corrupt and oppressive.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sound of the Protestant Reformation



Isn't this nifty?
The bibelregal is the sound of the Protestant Reformation,
Henry VIII owned several, he even a special regal tuner, Protestant Neuremberg produced them by the cartload. Luther, that wicked anti-semite with bowel problems had one, as did practically everyone in Protestant Europe, they were mass produced.
I must say I wouldn't mind someone giving me one, obviously not to accompany nasty Protestant hymn singing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Waiting!

The Church is ready,
We await the Lord's Coming.

Mass times are:
Mass during the Night 9pm (Christmas Eve) Sung
Dawn Mass, Extraordinary Form Sung (but without ceremonies) 9am
Day Mass Sung 10.30am









Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Curia: Not a Job I Would Want


I was amused that one blogger had put up a scene from 'Full Metal Jacket' to illustrate the Holy Father's address to the Curia. I know that the Holy Father was actually offering an examination of conscience, and like all these things, first and foremost it is an examination of the authors conscience.

The problem is already middle ranking clergy are leaving Rome, or begging their bishops to apply to the Holy Father for their release. Many have already left, to the point where some dicasteries are drastically undermanned, to the point of not working effectively. Things, like dispensation which took a couple of months to process, can now take well over a year.

Morale in Curia is at an all time low, it was never very high. There were certainly some priests, and bishops too, who would have given their eye-teeth for a job in the Curia, and seen it as way to promotion and power, or of pursuing and academic interest, of those I have known that is not the majority, certainly there is often a detachment from parish life, but that is the nature of the job, it happens with priests (and bishops) and especially laymen and women in diocesan Curias.
One problem is going to be anyone dealing with the Curia, from a lay women seeking an annulment, to bishop asking for clarification, to a foreign State, will probably share the Pope's view that everyone working there is 'crap' and a looser.

A curial friend, who I think is quite saintly, once sent me his timetable, he lives in one of the clergy houses near St Peter's so unless there is Papal Mass or audience that day, that is where he says Mass. Like most of the younger clergy in the EF, 'it suits a contemplative life, and besides the boys prefer it, if one of them serves my Mass.' He means the Maltese minor seminarians who assist in the sacristy, and if you are fortunate will serve your Mass.

Rise 5am
Prayer
Mass in St Peter's followed by thanksgiving 7am
Breakfast on the way to the office 8am
Start work 8.30am
Lunch 1pm but often that involves a meeting, often he works straight through, some (older) clergy take a siesta until 3.30
Return to Office at 4pm
Return home for Supper at 8pm
Read/study, very occasionally go out with friends
Prayer/spiritual reading 10pm
Bed 11pm

He does this 5 days a week, Saturday is the same except the office closes at 1pm

Sunday is day to catch up on sleep, and meet friends, occasionally pilgrims, if needed, he says Mass in Rome parish, he is not needed that often. He said once he had gone six months without saying Mass with a congregation. Apart from holy days he does this for 11 months of the year. Rome tends to close down for August and he returns to his home to stay with his family, and supply in his home diocese.
What struck me was the sheer boredom of his life, and the loneliness too. His salary I think is about 4500 euros a year, it is not enough to live well in Rome, most of it goes on books, travel entertaining visiting clergy and clothes, 'the Prefect insists we look smart!'. When we eat together as he insist on paying his share its normally a cheapish pizzeria, it is embarrassing he says when visitors expect him to pay for their meal too, he's by nature generous and always offers to do that, sometimes he gets caught out. He is incredibly disciplined, he says if he is not it would be so very easy to get depressed, or drink or worst as some of his confreres do.
I've asked him why he doesn't do some pastoral work in Rome, he says most parishes only really want Italians, 'there are lots of them'. He says he does his best to make friends with homeless but really there is little time.

Say a prayer for those in Curia, it is not a job I or most priests would want. At the moment it seems like a job from hell.



Monday, December 22, 2014

How far do you go? Chartres' Restoration



There is an account of the restoration of Chartres on NLM,
cathedral in ChartresIt has been controversial, there were various fires in the twentieth century that have left the walls blackened, the restorers chose to ignore the 16th century decoration, which was the last time, apart from minor work, that it was redecorated, and returned it to what can be found of its thirteenth century decor.

The problem with all restoration work is should it be done, how much of it should be done, to which period should it be returned to, and what should be destroyed of subsequent in order to return it to what was 'original'.

The other problem is what modern conveniences do you dispense with, how necessary is electric lighting, for example, in a 'restored' Church? The 13th cent work was supposed to be seen in natural light, after all.
Image of Chartres' 'Black Madonna'

http://desfontaines.blog.lemonde.fr/files/dsc_0250.JPGEven the famous 'black' Madonna has been restored. How far should restoration go, especially in a living building like a church? There are all those questions about how to maintain the the restoration, do you ban candles and incense and what about heating which seems to do most damage to ancient painting?

What do you do with sculpture for example where there are no clues about the original colouring, or were the sculpture was already decayed before being brought into an ancient building.

How far do you trust 'expert' opinion, and which experts, and what do you do ten years down the road when opinions are revised and your expert's opinion has fallen out of favour.

Does anyone know what is going to happen to the outside of Chartres, is that going to be restored and coloured too.

The restoration of Chartres is a metaphor for the restoration of the Church as a whole, with that perennial Catholic question: How far do you go?







Saturday, December 20, 2014

Just a Christmas Card!



The Nativity .indd
Opening the post, a tear came to my eye today, for the first time since my ordination thirty years ago I received a Christmas card from my Ordinary, Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, the Apostolic Administrator of Arundel and Brighton.

I know it sounds soft, it was just a printed Christmas card, he had written 'Ray' at the top and signed it '+Peter', nothing more, but writing about it, I am still moved. Silly me!

The other week we had a meeting of the diocesan clergy with him, nothing of much substance and not very profound. He just talked about his delight in the priesthood, prayer and 'muddling through' it was the first time in thirteen years, apart from Chrism Masses, we had gathered as the Presbyterate and Diaconate. I was quite moved by that too.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Orthodoxy: a 'But...'

 
I found this video on Facebook, I presume it is happening in Moldava. It shows Moldavan Orthodox Christians taking down a menorah and erecting a cross. Note the 'jEWISH' in the title of the video.


I have many Orthodox friends, I am am an Orthodoxphile, my retirement fund consists of Russian icons. I have gained a great deal from my Orthodox friends, they question hyper-Latinism, I pray regularly for the end of the Great Schism and re-union, I believe in 'two-lung' Christianity.

But...!
I am aware that many Orthodox, not those I meet, hate us Latins. There is an unpleasant nationalism in Orthodoxy. There is anti-Semiticism in Orthodoxy, in some Orthodox church's one might find material no Catholic would dream of touching, let alone reading. There is an Erastianism within Orthodoxy that even the most whiggish Anglicanism would baulk at.

Much is talked about nowadays regarding Orthodox second or third marriages, more liberal friends often ask me how it works. I tell them, in most Greek parishes you just turn up with you civilly issued divorce certificate and arrange your next wedding, only if the priest is a bit of a stickler will there be any difference between the first and second or subsequent marriages. Crowns and processions, nuptial blessing, though technically disallowed, are practically always used, the idea of a penitential wedding has all but disappeared along with any sense of spiritual direction for the divorced and remarried.

I welcome Mr Putin's use of the idea of 'Holy Mother Russia' as a narrative to replace corrupt 'Soviet Russia' but it is important to remember Orthodoxy has often been used to support a Nationalism that Catholicism, because of it pan-national nature is incapable of supporting.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

1 Corinthians 11:2


I love old photographs of liturgy, I saw this video and meant to put it up, I notice Mgr Pope also was impressed by it and has it on his Washington Diocesan blog.

I have a fear nowadays about being labelled with abusive terms like "restorationist" or "crypto..." or "promethean",In the not to distant past I thought of myself as 'in continuity', or just a student of history or, even Catholic.

Ah, times and seasons!