Sunday, December 31, 2006

Difficulties with the Incarnation


I put this (see below) in the newsletter and got a few irritated reactions from some of our parishioners, all incidently single men. One in particular was absolutely fuming after the evening Mass when we had a family of three older, very quite prayerful children and their younger brother who spent his time tearing around the church, I presume he will eventually become like his elders. I could not help but reflect that if a congregation like a marriage does not welcome children, it is sterile and will die. Children remind us God not only became man but also a child, most people can cope with that but maybe not with ...became man and dwelt amongst us. I always feel for parents who have to dwell with a small child for years not just a few minutes once a week.

CHILDREN AND MILLSTONES
It is a dreadfully distraction when members of the congregation turn round and glare at small children, especially when many of us know the difficulty that parents with children have getting to Mass. We should expect children to be distracting, it is their nature, as it is for adult Christians to bear their crosses, even if these are small children, and pray to be delivered from temptation to show any sign of irritation. Christian love is often simple forbearance, biting a tongue, not giving a shrug.

Remember what the Lord says about how much better it is for people to have millstones tied around their necks and for them to be thrown into the sea than that they should offend one of the little ones, it might apply to offending their parents too.
Small children have an obligation to come to Mass as much soured older people, try to make it easy for them and their parents. A parish family is sterile, and certainly does not reflect the Church’s understanding of family life if it does not welcome small children along with eccentric uncles, mad aunts and black sheep.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Petitions


What have Donald Duck, Martin Luther, Guisseppe Ratzinger in common? They all signed a petition organised by the Genoan radical, Fr. Paolo Farinella, against the Pope's plan to liberalise the old Mass, see here, then scroll down, just to be amused by the signatories.
Please do NOT be silly yourself!

On Saddam's Execution












DECLARATION OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE PRESS OFFICE OF THE HOLY SEE, FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI S.J.
With regard to the capital punishment of Saddam Hussein, which happened last night, the director of Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., released the following declaration to journalists this morning:
Capital punishment is always tragic news, a motive of sadness, even when it’s a case of a person guilty of grave crimes.
The position of the Catholic Church against the death penalty has been confirmed many times.
The execution of the guilty party is not a path to reconstruct justice and to reconcile society. Indeed, there is the risk that, on the contrary, it may augment the spirit of revenge and sow seeds of new violence.
In this dark time in the life of the Iraqi people, it can only be hoped that all the responsible parties truly will make every effort so that, in this dramatic situation, possibilities of reconciliation and peace may finally be opened.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Nine underground priests arrested in China




The priests had gathered together to study. The reason for their arrest is unknown. For some time now, the Patriotic Association has been conducting a harsh campaign to clamp down on unofficial communities.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Police of the northern province of Hebei arrested nine unofficial priests of the diocese of Baoding on 27 December.

The nine priests are: Fr Wen Daoxiu; Fr Li Shujun; Fr Li Yongshun; Fr.Wang Quanjun; Fr Wang Qiongwei; Fr Pang Yongxing; Fr Pang Haixing; Fr Dong Guoyin and Fr Liu Honggeng.

The group had met to study in a place around 30km south of Baoding. The reason for their arrest is unknown. It is likely that they were arrested just because they were meeting for a time of prayer during the Christmas season in a place unknown to the government.

Hebei is the region with the highest number of Catholics (1.5 million), most of them belonging to the underground Church that refuses to be subject to the control of the Patriotic Association (PA), an organization set up by the Communist Party that aims to build a church detached from Rome. The PA has launched a campaign of arrests of bishops, priests and believers of Hebei in a bid to subdue them. According to information of AsiaNews, at least six underground bishops of Hebei disappeared after arrest. Among them is the Ordinary of the diocese of Baoding, James Su Zhimin, 73 years, who was arrested in 1996.

The auxiliary bishop of Baoding, Mgr Francis Shuxin, was released on 24 August by the Chinese authorities after 10 years imprisonment.

Today is the Feast Saint Thomas of Canterbury

Saint Thomas of Canterbury is the Patron of the secular clergy of England, he has recently been demoted to being an optional memoria -a dreadful shame- we really do need his prayers.

Pray for me,
pray for your own parish priest,
pray for your bishop and
pray for all secular priests in England.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

holy Innocents

Brueghel's Massacre of the Innocents
Today's feast I think is the most extra-ordinary of the year. The Holy Innocents reminds us that God's mercy is great, for here are those who were not baptised, who no faith but who the Church honours as saints. Through God's mercy they are caught up in the Mystery of Redemption. In a way this feast shows the other side of the coin from the doctrine of Limbo, which was discussed by the International Theological Commission earlier this year, and was not subsequently "abolished" by the Pope. Limbo and the Holy Innocents remind us both of the necessity of baptism for salvation and yet that the mercy of God is confined by anything. Together they remind us of the necessity for theological tension.
Today I offered Mass for the victims of abortion, today's Holy Innocents, if you have the stomach read this from the Daily Mail, it has done the rounds on other blogs, so you might have already seen it.

End of Year Message


Just before Christmas the Pope addressed the Curial Cardinals and Bishops on the events of his Pontificate over the last, most especially on the four "Apostolic Voyages".
Read Sandro Magister's edited highlights.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Perfect Parents

Stuart and Alison have a ten-year-old daughter Lucy. They will do anything to see she gets a good education. It's a ruthless business these days getting the best for your child. For Stuart and Alison it all starts with the best of motives.Stuart gets a wake-up call one day when Lucy witnesses a vicius knife fight at school. He had no idea things had got that bad. He takes Lucy out of school to teach her at home while they search for an alternative. But as they do the rounds they find the others wre worse. Demoralised staff, needles in toilets. They can't put Lucy through that. There's only one school that isn't a war zone. But St Mary's is a Catholic school and they are atheists. End of story. But Lucy encourages them to at least look. All you have to do is pretend. But once the lying starts events soon spiral out of control and blackmail and murder follow.

My secret agent in at the ITV gave me a press DVD of this drama, it has everything all the elements one might expect from a television programme today, including a paederast priest. The Catholic Herald lambasted it as "television at its worst", I am not sure they saw it, the editor was obviously was too busy begging subscriptions from other people's e-Christmas mailing lists. In my opinion it was rather beautiful, on a par with "Barmitzvah Boy". It seemed to be very sensitive, the Catholic, the adage "where sin is there Grace abounds", came to mind. It is a story about Grace, even the paederast is dealt with sympathetically, indeed he is a dedicated priest caught in a trap of sin. It is a highly moral tale of the consequences of sin, but don't be put off by that it is good entertainment.
I am not sure when it is on but watch it, sometime this week I think, I am sure you will agree with me rather than Herald. My only criticism surrounds the staging of the funeral, I would be very happy being a consultant to any TV company willing to pay vast amounts to our church restoration fund.

Comments


I have found a whole cache of comments - they normally come through on email -for some reason these didn't. My appologies, especially to those people who I deleted by accident.
Remember charitable comments are always welcomed.

News from the Roman Streets


Some of my parishioners work in Rome, one with the EU another with a NGOs and another with the UN as a translator.

During the visit of the Rowan Williams to Rome I posted a story a few questions about the Anglican Eucharistic celebration at St Sabina. I was a little surprised by the furore that followed in the comments, so I was rather interested in the reaction “on the street” in Rome to the visit. Apparently there was more than a little horror and shock, even laughter at the appearance of female clergy in clerical dress at Evensong in S Maria Minerva. At S Sabina the Dominicans saw no problem, however the Jesuit Rector of the Gregorian fumed about the event in private and then at a public lecture a few days later erupted with fury and indignation, his concern mirrored many other Roman theologians and Catholic members of the English community at the confusion that was caused, apparently many of the parishioners at S Sabina received Holy Communion because they thought the event was a Catholic Mass, the parish’s normal vestments and vessels were used. The rite had all the appearance of being a Catholic Rite. The Rector in his comments seemed to mirror some of the stronger, and in my opinion more uncharitable comments on this blog.

As a footnote to this post: apparently a young Anglican in clerical dress and holding the hand of his girl friend was jeered at in the street. This is what happens when signs and symbols and confused, and when people do not quite understand what they are doing.
All that being said, those who heard William's lecture on the Rule of Benedict and Europe were much impressed, by his insight and intelligence. If you haven't yet, read it as a Christmas treat, it is as full of insight as his condemnation of the Bush/Blair involvement in the Middle East.

Feast of St John the Evangelist


St John in Silence is the title of this icon. The author of the fourth Gospel is portrayed in meditation, contemplating the mystery of the God.
I put a rather ancient icon I own of the same theme in the Church today, I was rather touched when one of my parishioners asked, "Who is St John the patron of, is it mothers?"
"Silly thing", I thought to myself. Then on reflection I thought how much John parallels the Blessed Virgin, who "pondered all these things in her heart". John ponders and then his ponderings burst forth in his great song that is the Fourth Gospel. John is given as Son to Mary at the foot of the Cross and she to him as Mother.
I think Cathy who frets and worries about her adult boys really had an inspired and inspiring thought.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Deacon and dalmatics and things


Happy St Stephen's Day



This might be a tangent, but look below Cardinal Castrillon de Hoyos is wearing a dalmatic, the vestment of a deacon and a mitre.

The old custom was that Cardinal Deacons dressed like this but I haven't seen it happen in this pontificate before, not even at the Inaugural Mass; it is a first. If you can supply a picture of it happening I would be interested, it certainly happened during the previous reign. In the Old Rite priests would regularly function as priest, deacon or sub-deacon, nowadays most sacramental theologians and liturgists would regard this as not quite in keeping with the Concilliar theology of Holy Orders. It is for this reason that some bishops refuse to follow the instruction in the Ceremonies of Bishops to wear the dalmatic under the chasuble, expressing the fullness of their orders, especially for ordination, a rather misplaced understanding, I think.

Pope Benedict chooses not only his words carefully but also his actions and increasingly his liturgical signs.

There is a serious anomaly between the modern and traditional theologies on this matter. Simply put the ancient idea was that the priesthood held the fullness of orders, but was "bound", symbolised by the crossed stole, bound in place by the cincture; at Episcopal Ordination, once generally referred to a Consecration, his authority was unbound, as was his stole.


In the rumoured document it seems it is the priest not the bishop who will decide what rite to use. Mmmmm!

Urbi et Orbi


Pope: Even modern man, pleasure-seeking and desperate, needs SaviourIn his Christmas message, Benedict XVI said modern man, who is prepared to conquer the universe and who feels master of history, also suffers due to war, hunger and injustice. But the Saviour is needed also by those who are incapable of taking responsibility for their lives, those who are alone and those who “choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life”.Pope: Even modern man, pleasure-seeking and desperate, needs SaviourIn his Christmas message, Benedict XVI said modern man, who is prepared to conquer the universe and who feels master of history, also suffers due to war, hunger and injustice. But the Saviour is needed also by those who are incapable of taking responsibility for their lives, those who are alone and those who “choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life”.

HOMILY at Midnight Mass



Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have just heard in the Gospel the message given by the angels to the shepherds during that Holy Night, a message which the Church now proclaims to us: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:11-12). Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfils the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:5). Exactly the same sign has been given to us. We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.
God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby – defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him. The Fathers of the Church, in their Greek translation of the Old Testament, found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that Paul also quotes in order to show how God’s new ways had already been foretold in the Old Testament. There we read: "God made his Word short, he abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers interpreted this in two ways. The Son himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God’s love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of l ove, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.
And so we come to the second meaning that the Fathers saw in the phrase: "God made his Word short". The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture, for the experts who evidently became entangled in details and in particular problems, almost to the extent of losing an overall perspective. Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – he showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up – he says – in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity. Yet now further questions arise: how are we to love God with all our mind, when our intellect can barely reach him? How are we to love him with all our heart and soul, when our heart can only catch a glimpse of him from afar, when there are so many contradictions in the world that would hide his face from us? This is where the two ways in which God has "abbreviated" his Word come together. He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing he has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbour, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God. In this way anxiety disappears, joy is born, and the feast is created. During the festive meals of these days let us remember the Lord’s words: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite those who will invite you in return, but invite those whom no one invites and who are not able to invite you" (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This also means: when you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return, but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back. This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!
And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". The shepherds were told that they would find the child in a manger for animals, who were the rightful occupants of the stable. Reading Isaiah (1:3), the Fathers concluded that beside the manger of Bethlehem there stood an ox and an ass. At the same time they interpreted the text as symbolizing the Jews and the pagans – and thus all humanity – who each in their own way have need of a Saviour: the God who became a child. Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labour. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.
All this is conveyed by the sign that was given to the shepherds and is given also to us: the child born for us, the child in whom God became small for us. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20). Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." Amen!

Sunday, December 24, 2006



Crakow crib

The Birth Place of Christ


The Church of the Nativity has a small, low, single portal. the story is that was to some Muslims entering on horse back. Then go up aisle to the entrance to the grotto, you have to go down a flight of steps through an even narrower and lower door and if you want to touch the place where Jesus was born you have to get down on your knees and place your arm inside the star and reach down.
Christ who descended from Highest Heaven to assume the condition of a slave, teach us that if we are to faithful to you, we have to follow the narrow path and enter by the narrow door and descend to the place below where you meet us in absolute humility.
Lord have Mercy
Christ have Mercy
Lord have Mercy
First Vespers said therefore:



A HAPPY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS

TO YOU ALL

CHRISTMAS EVE: The ROMAN MARTYROLOGY

THE SOLEMN PROCLAMATION OF CHRISTMAS

The Eighth of the Calends of January
The year from the creation of the world,
when in the beginning God created heaven and earth,
five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine:
From the deluge, the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven:
From the birth of Abraham, the year two thousand and fifteen:
From Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt, the year one thousand five hundred and ten:
From David's being anointed king, the year one thousand and thirty-two: In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel:
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad:
From the building of the city of Rome, the year seven hundred and fifty-two:
In the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus:
The whole world being in peace:
In the sixth age of the world:
Jesus Christ, the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months since his conception having passed, In Bethlehem of Juda, is born of the Virgin Mary, being made Man:
THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH

In the great Churches of Christendom, in Cathedrals and Moansteries throughout the world at Prime this solemn proclamation of Christmas was sung, with acolytes and in some places even incense. The Chant is extra-ordinary too moving to the tone for the Passion when telling directly of the Lord. If you are doing this at home remember to genuflect as soon as Bethlehem is mentioned and continue thus to the end.
Unfortunately Prime has been abolished, so those of us who find this traditional mish-mash of misplaced dates charming do odd things like sing it at sometime before or after the morning Mass, or Morning Prayer or even, God forefend, before Midnight Mass. This year I am going to sing it at a separate service after our main Sunday Mass for people who want to stay behind for it. I love the idea of: The whole world being in peace.The point of it is to state God, the timeless stepped into human history and time, the infinite becomes finite.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rowan Williams warns of war's deadly backlash


Thousands of believers in Middle East 'at risk'
In Bethlehem, where the number of Christians has plummeted to less than a quarter of the figure in 1948 (Peter Nicholls)
Christians in the Middle East are being put at unprecedented risk by the Government’s “shortsighted” and “ignorant” policy in Iraq, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, says today.
In an extraordinary attack, Dr Williams accuses Tony Blair and the US of endangering the lives and futures of many thousands of Christians in the Middle East, who are regarded by their countrymen as supporters of the “crusading West.”
He has been backed by bishops across the Church of England, who say that Christians in the Middle East are now paying the price for the “chaos” in Iraq after the British Government failed to heed their warnings about the consequences of military action.

Dr Williams, writing in today’s Times, says that one prediction that was systematically ignored was that Western military action would put the whole of the Middle East’s Christian population at risk.
Writing from Bethlehem, where the number of Christians has plummeted to a quarter of what they were, he condemns the Government for failing to put in place a strategy to help Christians.
“The results are now painfully adding to what was already a difficult situation for Christian communities across the region,” he says. “The first Christian believers were Middle Easterners. It’s a very sobering thought that we might live to see the last native Christian believers in the region.” In some Middle Eastern countries where Muslim-Christian relations have always been good, he says that extremist attacks on Christians are becoming “notably more frequent.”
Dr Williams, who is visiting Israel with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, the Armenian Primate of Britain and David Coffey, the head of the Baptist World Alliance, returns to Britain today with a call for all British churches to take action to raise the profile of Christians in the Middle East. Dr Williams said yesterday that the Israeli-built wall around Bethlehem symbolised what was “deeply wrong in the human heart”.
Despite Dr Williams’s attack on British policy in Iraq, the Government insists that the strategy in southern Iraq, where about 7,000 troops are based, is bearing fruit.
Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, told The Times in an interview this week: “There is no evidence that the strategy is not still on course.” He said that Operation Sinbad, under which troops and reconstruction teams are devoting resources to improving Basra, was the key to Britain’s strategy.
The Government hopes that next year British troops will be able to adopt a “watching role”, leaving the trained Iraqi security forces to take over responsibility for Basra. “I think it’s highly unlikely that we will need the same number of troops to watch over the Iraqis as we have there at present,” Mr Browne said.
He insisted that the environment in Basra was “genuinely improving”. In October, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, gave warning in a newspaper interview that if the British troops stayed for too long they would risk exacerbating the situation.
Senior bishops threw their weight behind Dr Williams.Dr Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, said: “Nobody takes any notice of what churchmen say about these things. Now this has turned into a very sorrowful ‘I told you so’.”
read the rest of this article

Friday, December 22, 2006

Burning clocks: Cosmic Christ


One event that is getting bigger and bigger in the city is the "Burning of the Clocks", it marks the shortest day of the year, it is a very secular ritual. Now I have never been, I always end up hearing confessions at one of the Penitential Services here but in a way it is a sort of secular Penitential Service. Lanterns are made in the form of clocks lit with candles inside, they are processed through the streets, and then, I think, are taken down onto the beach and burnt.
We used to do this type of thing with young people and sins written on little bits of paper, I bet it still happens in some places.
I must say, I do regret that we have handed over the whole idea of procession and even spectacle to the secular world. I once tried to persuade a certain Prelate to take part in a Eucharistic Procession through the streets here, he was so incredibly uncomfortable with idea, not just of him doing it but anyone else, even me doing it, I haven't dared propose it to anyone since.
Burning of the Clocks though reminds us that this is the week of the shortest day, we have lost that sense of seasonality in the Church which seriously impairs our concept of Christmas, God becoming Man is the the super-Cosmic event. As the shepherds were tending their flocks, we might presume that Jesus was actually born in the spring, one ancient writer suggests it might have been at Passover I vaguely recollect, but the Church chooses to celebrate it at the time the days begin to lengthen, it is more about Christ our Light overcoming our darkness, than a commemoration of Jesus' actual birthday. The three Christmas Masses, Midnight, Dawn and Day gives us an insight into this wonder. Zechariah speaks of the Christ as the "Dawn from on High", in John's Prologue, he is the "Light that enlightens those in darkness". He is the "Sun of Justice", in him a "new age has dawned".
In Pope Benedict's Spirit of the Liturgy he argues very eloquently for us to recapture the sense of the Cosmic in the Liturgy, good to think about it at this time of year.
Holy Land pilgrimage diary - day one
Yesterday
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams; Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian; Free Churches Moderator, the Reverend David Coffey left London this morning by plane for Tel Aviv. They then travelled to Jerusalem for an evening of prayer and reflection.
'We drove to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv airport arriving at the Notre Dame pilgrim hostel near the Damascus gate to be greeted by a bagpipe and drum group. We were piped across the road and into the Christian quarter to meet the 13 Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. The meeting was hosted by the senior among them Greek Patriarch Theophilus. What a colourful and relaxed occasion. The meeting was followed by dinner back at Notre Dame (this time unserenaded by pipes) at which it became clear in speeches and song how welcome we were. The local churches need our support. Just coming to be among the Christians in this place is an act of fraternal solidarity. '
Pilgrimage Prayer
Fill us with confidence, Lord God, when your only begotten son comes as our judge. We welcome him with joy as our redeemer: year by year renew that joy as we await the fulfilment of our redemption by Jesus Christ our Lord, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. God, for ever and ever, Amen Collect, First Vespers of Christmas.

Source: Archdiocese of Westminster.


and today in Bethlehem

On the Incarnation


He climbed down every step of the ladder that separated him from us,to the extent of becoming a man, a child...So clearly visible is He in the child,with his way of loving and his kind of omnipotence.Those who begin to understand fall to their kneesand are filled with that great joy announced by the angel on the holy night.
Asian News
and
"In the face of the little Jesus we contemplate the face of God, which is not revealed through force or power, but in weakness and the fragile constitution of a child."
Vultus Christi
Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI

My appologies if you have come looking for something new these past few days, I've been a bit busy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

O Clave

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel, who open and no one shuts, who shut and no one opens: come and bring out the captive from the prison house, him who sits in the darkness and the shadow of death.

from Godzdogz

Pope: Man today awaits, albeit unknowingly, advent of Christ



The history of the past 50 years reveals expectations of salvation that comes cheap, which produce burning disillusions. The crib: “such an important element not only of our spirituality, but also of our culture and art”.



Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Gearing up for Christmas is not only about presents and fairy lights but about preparing one’s heart for the “extraordinary event that changed history”. In the view of Benedict XVI, it is up to Christians to do this, especially since there are so many people who not only live as if God did not exist, but who sometimes also see him as an obstacle to their fulfillment. Although “the history of the past 50 years reveals expectations of salvation that comes cheap”, which produces “burning disillusions”, mankind today “albeit with its contradictions, angst and drama” is waiting for, at times without knowing, the advent of Christ”.

Today’s general audience was rife with the sound of Italian bagpipes and songs of Christmas, to which the pope dedicated his reflection shared with 8,000 joyous people who filled Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. The pope was greeted with considerable warmth from the moment he arrived. He made his way leisurely down the corridor between the barriers, stopping to greet people who reached out to him affectionately.

“Is mankind of our time still waiting for the Saviour?” asked the pope.
”One gets the feeling that many consider God to be outside their sphere of interest. Apparently they don’t need him; they live as if he did not exist and worse, as if he was an obstacle that must be removed before they could fulfill themselves.” And “even among believers, there are those who allow themselves to be drawn by alluring chimeras and to be distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deluding shortcuts to happiness.” However, the path to follow is that of preparing ourselves to draw close to the grotto of Bethlehem in the same spirit that Mary and Joseph did, the grotto where a “prodigy” took place: the “creator of the universe came out of love and made his home among mankind”. “It is not hard to imagine how they spent the final days of their wait to hold the newborn child in their arms.” May their approach become ours, so that “born among us, he will not find us distracted or simply embellishing our homes with lights”. Rather let us prepare our hearts to welcome the “advent of Christ, the only redeemer of man and all mankind” in a worthy manner.

The pope added at the end of the audience: “In a few days, it is Christmas and I imagine that final preparations for the crib are under way in your homes, that depiction of the Nativity that remains as striking as ever. I hope that such an important element, not only of our spirituality but also of our culture and art, will continue to be a simple and eloquent way of recalling he who came to ‘live among us’.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

O Radix Jesse



Todays Great O Antiphon

Vatican wants to play priests in Serie A



And I thought the Pope preferred playing the Piano rather than football but...


Malcolm Moore in Rome from the Telegraph
A senior Roman Catholic cardinal has announced that the Vatican wants to put together a football team of priests capable of competing in Serie A, Italy's top league.
The team would play in the colours of the papal flag — yellow and white.
"The Vatican could, in future, field a team that plays at the top level, with Roma, Inter Milan, Genoa and Sampdoria," said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, the equivalent of its prime minister.
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He said: "We can recruit lads from the seminaries. I remember that in the World Cup of 1990 there were 42 players among the teams who made it to the finals who came from Salesian training centres all over the world.
"If we just take the Brazilian students from our Pontifical universities we could have a magnificent squad."
Giovanni Trapattoni, the former Italian national team manager, who is in charge of Salzburg FC, has been mooted as a possible coach.
In 2002, Trapattoni took bottles of holy water with him to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea to refresh the Italian team. But they were knocked out in the early stages. Football is close to the hearts of some of the most senior Vatican figures.
Cardinal Bertone is a fervent Juventus fan and has in the past been a football commentator for a northern Italian television station. Pope John Paul II was a goalkeeper in his youth, while the current Pope received Pele during the last World Cup and paid a visit to the German team's training camp.
The cardinal said that football could play an exemplary role in the lives of young people and football stadiums were an ideal spot for Church recruitment.
"Stadiums are modern temples, frequented by thousands of youths. I once carried out a Stations of the Cross service in the Ferraris stadium," he said.
The cardinal announced the Holy See's ambitions during a ceremony in which he was awarded honorary citizenship of Alassio, near Genoa.
He did not make clear how the Holy See — technically an independent state — could legitimately compete in Italy's domestic league. Neither did he indicate how long he imagined it might take for the Vatican to reach Serie A standard.
The Vatican has a little known football team already — made up mostly of Swiss Guards — which plays against a small number of other states who have not been recognised by Fifa, football's governing body Its only international fixture, against Monaco in 2002, ended in a 0-0 draw.
Cardinal Bertone has set up a league of 16 clubs to compete in a new championship for the Clericus Cup.
The league will run from February to the end of June in Rome, and will have both group and knock-out stages. In 2008, it may expand across Italy.
However, he said: "I insisted to the managers in charge of the lads that the games should not overlap with Mass." Matches will be played only on weekdays.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Paris Mass

Charles and a few other people in the parish said they had never been to Tridentine Mass, though on holiday in Greece they had been to plenty of Byzantine Rite Liturgies. This is Mass from St Nicholas of Chardonet in Paris, it is run by the schismatic St Pius X group, so when you watch it pray for an end to the schism.
There is something quite wholesome, even human about this liturgy, the Church is full, there are lots of little servers who don't know quite what to do, the boy with the holywater needs to be held by the priest to prevent him running ahead, there are young parents with noisey children, the music is a bit irritating in parts; it is a nice Parish Mass.
I am afraid it goes on for a bit over an hour.
I found it on Fr Michael Brown's blog.

Pope on Gaudete Sunday

I love the photograph of the Pope throwing golden orb to the world, but I thought I should the context; the Pope framed by the Christmas Tree in St Peter's Square. Yesterday Italian children brought il bambino to church to be blessed.
Read Asian News for the Angelus Message.

O Adonai...

The great O Antiphon for today:-

"O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free."

Many thanks to Godzdogz

Look at O ADONAI on Vultus Christi for a fascinating meditaion on this antiphon.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Papal Calender

James, who I hope will be baptised at Easter along with John and Neal and another James, wanted to get hold of the calender of pictures of the Pope which is being sold for various international children's charities. James hasn't been able to get hold of one, so if you are in the same position Andrew has some of the pictures.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae. O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Tomorrow Advent takes on its final phase and the great "O" Antiphons begin. I have posted this ( a preview from Godzdogz, via NLM) for those of you who want to prepare for Vespers at home, now remember the rubrics, while it is being sung the Tower bell (singular) should also be rung and for the Rorate Caeli the Cantors should kneel wearing, as it is Laetare Sunday tomorrow, rose coloured copes. NLM has an interesting article on the nature of the colour rose, which isn't pink but rather a slightly faded red. Now being cruel Sean Tribe is Canadian, I don't think our native European wild rose, the Dog Rose (is that the Eglatine?) grows in Canada its colour is actually pink rather than the rather nicer, more masculine, dull red he suggests is rose.


You could also have a look at the Archbishop of Cnaterbury's St Anselmo Lecture, which is well worth a read.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

St. Paul's tomb



I have been looking for a picture of the recently re-excavated tomb of St Paul for you, this is the best I have found.

Andrew at Unum Sanctum placed a link in the the comments to more pictures on his excellent blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Tridentine Rumour - bit more


H/T Rorate Caeli
Benedict XVI intends to extend the indult of his predecessor, in fact withdrawing from the bishops discretionary power on the matter: the Missal of Saint Pius V is no longer abolished, and even if the ordinary Roman Rite is that originated from the post-conciliar liturgical reform, the old one -- used by centuries in the Church -- can subsist as an "extraordinary rite".The bishops, therefore, will not be able to deny the ancient mass anymore, but only regulate its eventual celebration, together with the parish priests, harmonising it with the need of the community. The corrections included would have reduced from 50 to 30 the minimal number of faithful who ask for the celebration according to the old rite. As for the readmission of the Lefebvrists, once the rite of Saint Pius V is liberalized, the deal should be easier.
AND
Rome, Dec. 13, 2006 (CWNews.com) - Italy’s National Alliance party is leading a petition drive among Catholics in the Liguria region, asking the bishops there to allow at least one Sunday Mass each week celebrated in the Tridentine rite.
The National Alliance, concerned about the steady influx of immigrants from South America and Eastern Europe into Liguria, argues that the use of the 1962 Missal would be an effective way to help integrate the new residents into the region’s traditional culture.
Formed by an alliance of the Italian Social Movement with members of the defunct Christian Democrat party, the center-right National Alliance has moved sharply away from its historical connection with Benito Mussolini’s fascist movement, and now frequently sides with Catholic Church leaders on public-policy issues.

Apostolic Christmas Trees


I have always been quite scrupulous, maybe I have been a bit neurotic and not put up a tree in the house until Christmas Eve. Well the truth is I normally don't get a chance to do it on Christmas Eve, after a few hours of confessions and organising decorating the Church, I am too tired. I'm tired too on Christmas day and besides it is a Holy Day and one is supposed to rest from sevile work so, I feel a bit embarassed to say this, they go up on Boxing Day, or even the day after.
BUT look you here! The Apostolic Christmas Trees are erected today, a huge pine tree in St Peter's Square and in the Audience Hall there is one with decorations on it!!! Although there are no lights or candles but is up with tinsell and ribbons.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pope: true peace needs respect for human rights


In the message for the World Day of Peace of 2007, Benedict XVI reaffirmed respect for life and religious freedom. To encourage the growth of the ‘tree of peace’, it is necessary to be led by a vision of mankind that is not marred by ideological and cultural prejudices or by political or economic interests that incite hatred and violence.
Respect of human beings and their rights constitute the true path towards peace, “a characteristic of divine action”, a gift of God and an obligation that binds individuals, states and the international community as a whole.

Help and Advice Needed

The most MeMe bit of architecture in my parish, maybe the whole country: The Royal Pavillion, built by the Prince Regent

I hate doing those MeMe things, just too much “me” not enough Him. Having said that I am vain enough to be flattered when people ask me to do them and just a little hurt when I’m not asked, though I must say I rarely read them other people’s blogs, so it is real vanity, but then blogging is........

We had a clergy deanery meeting today. Part of the discussion was on the low profile we as Catholics had within our very secular city. One thing that I suggested was inviting Catholic speakers down to Brighton, so this is what I want help and advice with, it is in the form of a MEME, everyone who reads this post can consider themselves tagged.
The Brighton MeMe
Which interesting speakers could we get down to Brighton to draw a significant crowd and who would have something interesting to say?
If you happen to find yourself on the list and not invited I apologise in advance.

We can’t afford airfares and the Pope won’t come.

Please put you ideas in “comments”, you could add reasons why someone might be suitable if you want to be extra helpful.

Ecclessia Dei interview


ANSA) – CITTÀ DEL VATICANO, 12 dic
The publication of the Motu Proprio on the part of the Pope which will liberalise the celebration of the Mass in Latin according to the missal of Saint Pius V is close` Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, member of the Commission Ecclesia Dei which this morning met to discuss the liberalisation of the Mass in Latin confirmed this. ” We have studied the document calmly” the cardinal affirmed. ” We have discussed together for more than four hours and have made some corrections to the text of the Motu Proprio” The next move belongs to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos ( president of the commission) who will present the text to Benedict XVI. Perhaps, added Medina, there will be another meeting of the Ecclesia Dei commission. Another member of the body, the Cardinal of Lyon, Jean Pierre Ricard did not want to make any comment, emphasising that he is “bound by the pontifical secret”
Comment by FranzJosf
Vatican, Dec. 12, 2006 (CWNews.com) - At a December 12 meeting, the Ecclesia Dei commission discussed a papal document that will broaden access to the traditional Latin Mass, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez confirmed after the Tuesday-morning session. The Chilean cardinal said that he expects Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) to release the document in the near future.
Cardinal Medina Estevez, the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is a member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which was set up in 1988 to supervise Vatican relations with traditionalist Catholics. He confirmed that the group’s December 12 meeting was dedicated entirely to a discussion of a papal initiative that will allow more liberal use of the Tridentine rite.
The cardinal told the Roman news agency I Media that the results of today’s discussions would be presented to the Holy Father by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (bio - news), the chairman of the Ecclesia Dei commission. He suggested that the Pope might then schedule publication of the document. Cardinal Medina Estevez indicated that he did not anticipate further discussion of the matter by the Ecclesia Dei commission.
Vatican insiders expect that the papal document, widely expected to take the form of a motu proprio, will give priests permission to use the Tridentine rite-- the liturgical form used throughout the Roman Catholic Church prior to Vatican II-- without requiring the explicit permission of the local bishop.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Comments

I love receiving comments but of late I have been rather concerned that some people can be slanderous or uncharitable or even heretical, if you wish to make these type of comments you can always start your own blog but they will be removed from here.
I do believe in debate and I am liberal enough to think free speech is a good thing but making unfounded accusations will not be tolerated.

I would also ask people to refrain from using ANONYMOUS.

A Priest Forever


Alvin Kimel of my favourite blog, Pontifications, has just been ordained a Catholic priest, formerly he was an Episcopalian Canon. In a rather beautiful piece he reflects on the meaning of his Catholic ordination and his former ordination in the Anglican Communion. He moves on from Apostolicae Curae and makes sense of his ordination.
He expresses a little more clearly than most of my convert Anglican friends what becoming a Catholic priest means.
Have a look.

My congratulions to him on his ordination.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Division in the CofE

Amy Welborne says
One really wonders how this is all going to end...Anglican clergy put their feet down.
Liberal bishops who support homosexual priests are to be barred from entering some churches and money intended for Anglican coffers will be withheld.
In a dramatic escalation in the Church of England's civil war over homosexual clergy, scores of evangelical churches will break their historic links with liberal bishops who oversee their parishes.
The deepening of the conflict represents the "ultimate" protest by conservative clergy against liberal bishops' support for homosexual priests who have used the Civil Partnerships Act to "marry" their boyfriends.
The rebel clerics are setting up a panel of retired bishops to provide pastoral care to parishes in dioceses run by liberal bishops. The move is similar to the provision of "flying bishops" to opponents of women priests when they were first ordained in 1994.
Up to 100 churches have said that they intend to split from their bishops and seek support from the new panel. That is likely to mark only the beginning of the schism, however, as the panel of conservative bishops will provide an attractive alternative to other disaffected parishes.
Leading evangelicals will meet the Most Rev Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Tuesday to deliver papers laying out the plans for a restructuring of the Church.
The archbishop will be told that dozens of churches in liberal dioceses feel forced to take the radical step of breaking with their bishops. The initiative has been organised by Reform and Anglican Mainstream, evangelical groups that represent about 2,000 parishes. The initial number of disaffected parishes could rise dramatically, however, because traditionalists from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church have expressed their support.
Other evangelical parishes might also follow suit if an incumbent bishop with whom they agree is succeeded by a liberal cleric.
The bishops of Chelmsford, Southwark and St Albans, who have all been supportive to homosexual clergy, are among those who will no longer be allowed to celebrate confirmations at many evangelical churches in their own dioceses.


I desire all Christians should come into full communion with Peter but I know how painful it is for many members of the Church of England at this particular time so pray for the members of the Anglican Communion.

If you are going to comment please do so charitably

Pope: "Urgent pacific solutions" for Middle East and Lebanon


Benedict XVI urged politicians of the country of the cedars to concern themselves solely with the good of Lebanon. This morning, he celebrated his first dedication of a new Church, an event that takes on a particular symbolic meaning in the time of Advent.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “Urgent pacific solutions” for the Middle East must be found, especially for Lebanon. Voicing agreement with the concerns expressed by the Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, Benedict XVI today reminded the international community once again of its responsibilities and of the need to commit itself to peace. He also drew the attention of Lebanese political elements to their duty to “have at heart exclusively the good of the country and harmony among its communities”. In this Sunday of Advent, around 40,000 people gathered for the recital of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, where structures have already been set up in anticipation of the arrival of the Christmas tree and for the construction of the crib. Addressing the crowd, the pope also talked about this period, in which one should strive to “build the ‘dwelling of God among men’.”
After reciting the Marian prayer, the pope said: “I am following, with intense concern, what is happening in the Middle East, where glimmers of a solution to crises tormenting the region alternate with tensions and difficulties that give rise to fears of further violence. Lebanon deserves special mention. On its soil, today as yesterday, ‘people different on cultural and religious levels’ are called ‘to live together, to build a nation of dialogue and coexistence and to contribute to the common good’ (post-Synodal apostolic exhortation, A new hope for Lebanon, n.119). Thus, in the face of recent developments, I share the strong apprehensions expressed by the Patriarch, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and by Maronite bishops, in their statement published on Wednesday last. Together with them, I call on the Lebanese people and their political leaders to have at heart exclusively the good of the country and harmony among its communities, inspiring their commitment to the unity that is the responsibility of each and every one and requires patient and persevering efforts, together with trusting and lasting dialogue (cfr ibid n.120). I also hope that the international community will help to identify urgent pacific and fair solutions necessary for Lebanon and the entire Middle East, while I invite all to prayer during this grave time.”
Before the Angelus, Benedict talked to those present about an inauguration he carried out this morning, of the new church of Santa Maria, Star of Evangelization, on the southern outskirts of Rome, “an event that, although it pertains to that neighbourhood, acquires a symbolic significance in the liturgical time of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the Christmas of the Lord. In these days, the liturgy constantly reminds us that ‘God comes’, to visit his people, to dwell amongst mankind and to form a communion of love and of life with them, that is, a family.” This morning, during the “dedication” of the new church, the first undertaken by this pope, Benedict XVI described a new church as “a building in which God and man desire to meet; a place that brings us together, in which one is drawn to God”. He continued: “Particularly in our social context that is widely secularized, the parish is a lighthouse that radiates the light of faith and thus fulfils the deepest and truest desires of the heart of man, giving meaning and hope to the lives of people and families.”
Taking inspiration from the bible narrative about the rebuilding of the people of Israel after return from exile, he highlighted the reality that “after the great optimism of repatriation, the people saw a desert country before them. How to rebuild it? External reconstruction cannot progress unless the people themselves are rebuilt first as a people – unless common criteria for legality and justice are established that unite all and regulate the life and actions of each one. The returnees need, so to speak, a ‘constitution’, a fundamental law for their lives. And they know that this constitution, that should definitively bring justice, cannot be the fruit of their own invention. True justice cannot be invented by man: rather it must be discovered. It must come from God. The Word of God rebuilds the city.”
The pope continued: “Church buildings exist so that the Word of God may be listened to, explained and understood among us; they exist especially so that the feast may begin, which God wants mankind to join not only at the end of time, but from this very moment. They exist so that knowledge of what is just and good may be awakened in us. They exist so that we may learn to live the joy of the Lord that is our strength. We pray to the Lord that he may make us proud of his word and make us proud of our faith, so that this joy may renew us and the world!”

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bruno will be ordained tonight

Say a prayer for Bruno Witchals who will be ordained to the Sacred Priest this evening. I had a funeral so I couldn't go. We have so many excellent young priests in our diocese, and many who are in the pipeline.
Bruno is in the foreground of this picture of a summer's day of prayer.

I am saying Mass for him, will you say a few Paters, Aves for him?

Pope on the Immaculate Conception





The pope said: “Not only did Mary not commit any sin, she was also protected from the common legacy of mankind that is original sin. And this because of the mission for which she was always destined by God: to be the Mother of the Redeemer. All this is contained in the truth of faith of the ‘Immaculate Conception’. The biblical foundation of this dogma is found in the words that the Angel spoke to the maiden of Nazareth: ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ (Lk 1:28). ‘Full of grace’ – in the original Greek kecharitoméne – is the most beautiful name of Mary, the one that God Himself gave her, to indicate that she has always been and will always be the beloved, elected, the one chosen to welcome the most precious gift, Jesus, ‘love incarnate of God’ (Enc. Deus Caritas East, 12).”
The dreadful translation that is used in England and Wales in the Lectionary is "highly favoured" horrible, horrible, horrible and misleading, how we need an accurate translation!
The privilege of Mary, of being protected from evil, has always prompted discussion among theologians and made the secularized world smile. Benedict XVI asked: “Why did God choose Mary of Nazareth of all women?” The answer of the pope goes back to the Bible, but also to poetry, citing Dante Alighieri who in his “Paradise” dedicated to the Virgin one of the most beautiful hymns of world literature: “The answer is hidden in the unfathomable mystery of divine will. However there is the reason highlighted by the Gospel: her humility. Dante Alighieri put it well in the last canto of Paradise: ‘Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son/ Humble and high beyond all other creature/The limit fixed of eternal counsel’ (Par. XXXIII, 1-3). The Virgin herself, in the ‘Magnificat’, her canticle of praise, says: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord... for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.’ (Lk 1:46,48). Yes, God was attracted by the humility of Mary, who found favour in his eyes (cfr Lk 1:30). And thus she became the Mother of God, image and model of the Church, elected from among all peoples to receive the blessing of the Lord and to spread it across the entire human family. This ‘blessing’ is none other than Jesus Christ himself. He is the Source of grace, with which Mary was filled right from the first moment of her existence. She welcomed Jesus with faith and with love she gave him to the world. This is also our vocation and our mission, the vocation and mission of the Church: welcoming Christ in our life and giving him to the world, ‘that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn 3:17).”
The pope recalled that Mary is a model for all Christians who in Advent await Christ with the same humility and dedication as the Mother of God did: “Dear brothers and sisters, today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception illuminates the period of Advent like a lighthouse, a time of vigilant and faithful anticipation of the Saviour. As we prepare to greet God who is coming, we look to Mary who ‘shines as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth’ (Lumen gentium, 68). With this knowledge, I invite you to join me when, this afternoon, I will renew the traditional act of homage in Piazza di Spagna [Spanish steps] to this sweet Mother for grace and of grace.”
At the end of the Angelus prayer, the pope recalled that on the day of the Immaculate Conception, those belonging to the Italian Catholic Action renew their membership. He said: “I give a cordial greeting to the National Presidency and educators of the Youth Catholic Action, gathered in Rome for their annual assembly, and I extend this greeting to all diocesan and parish associations across Italy. I encourage the Catholic Action to increasingly develop its formation commitment, so that its members may grow in holiness in life and ecclesial communion and be credible witnesses of the risen Jesus, hope of humanity. May the Immaculate Virgin bless the Catholic Action and support it in its generous intent to serve the Church and its evangelizing mission.”




Firemen garland the statue of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thoughts on the "Old" Mass

The Pope (then Card. Ratzinger) celebrating Holy Week in the "Old" Rite.


I can't really imagine a lot of priests wanting to say the "Old" Mass but I do think that priests like me, and the younger generation of priests, who have never celebrated it need the presence of this form of the rite to know from where our tradition comes.
The Pope has said repeatedly that "New" Mass sprang "ex nihil" from a post-Vatican II commission of "experts", see his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy”. Ecumenically, the criticism of the Eastern Churches is that we have dispensed with our tradition. I remember a conversation with an Orthodox priest who when I suggested he should become a Catholic, after over half a bottle of Ouzo had disappeared, asked, “How could any Orthodox come into communion with the Bishop of Rome when he assumes the power to remove 2000 years of tradition from the Church with a stroke of a pen”. Pope Benedict when taking possession of the Cathedral of the Lateran said that the Pope was not there put to forward his own views but to re-present the Church’s Tradition.
What the Pope tried to do (as Cardinal Ratzinger) both in his writings and speeches, as well as his actions was to give the “New” Mass roots. It is after all the “Old” Mass that is the root of the “New”, not a something which springs from the Protestant Tradition, thus even in the introduction to the Missal it is Gregorian Chant and Polyphony that are the norm for music in the liturgy not “Hymns Ancient and Modern” or the latest thing published by Mayhew or McCrimmond, it is certainly not the charismatic “Worship Service”.
The “Old” Mass teaches us that the liturgy is an act of worship and not a didactic exercise; the priest is the one who offers prayer and intercedes on behalf of the people, rather than a mere “worship leader”. I do believe that the “Old” Mass is necessary to remind us of the Churches continuity from the time of Christ through the subsequent two millennia to the present day. In the eighties I remember preaching about the Real Presence, frequent Confession and the importance of Marian devotion and being told by a sister, “that is just so pre-Vatican II”, she is now married and the New Movements use these things as the basis of their life and growth. During that time it was as if the Church had reset the clock to year zero and in the seminaries a theology of rupture and discontinuity was so prevalent. I used to keep my Ratzinger books in brown paper covers!

Medal of the Immaculate Conception (Miraculous Medal)

Tomorrow on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception I will be blessing and distributing Miraculous Medals, properly they are called Medals of the Immaculate Conception, after Masses tomorrow.

On the night of 18 July, 1830, a "child" awakened Sr. Catherine Labouré in her Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul convent at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, telling her to go to the convent's chapel where Mary awaited her. There Mary told her:
God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world. Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who seek them. Another community of sisters will join the Rue du Bac community. The community will become large; you will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent; I will always have my eyes upon you.
Later that year, on 27 November, Catherine saw another vision of Mary. She describes her like this: Her height was medium and her countenance, indescribably beautiful. She was dressed in a robe the color of the dawn, high-necked, with plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a white veil, which floated over Her shoulders down to her feet. Her feet rested upon a globe, or rather one half of a globe, for that was all that could be seen. Her hands which were on a level with her waist, held in an easy manner another globe, a figure of the world. Her eyes were raised to Heaven, and her countenance beamed with light as She offered the globe to Our Lord.
Mary told her that the globe represented the whole world, especially France, a country whose faithful had recently suffered horrible persecutions in the Revolution's Terrors and was still going through "Enlightenment" perfidy. The vision changed to Mary, still standing on a globe, rays of light streaming from her fingers, enframed in an oval frame inscribed with the words, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." The whole vision "turned" showing the back of the oval inscribed with the letter "M" entwined with a Cross, and the hearts of Jesus and Mary, the former surrounded with thorns, the latter pierced with a sword. 12 stars circled this oval frame, symbolizing the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles, and showing Mary as the Mother of Israel, per the Apocalypse (ch. 12). Mary told her to strike a medal in this form, and that all who wore it after having it blessed would receive graces.

Sr. Catherine's spiritual director told Catherine's story to the Bishop of Paris, who not only allowed the medal to be struck, but received some of them himself. One of these he had with him when ministering to Napoleon's dying, heretical chaplain. The dying man had obstinately refused to reconcile with the Church, but as the Bishop was leaving after trying one last time to get him to see the error of his ways, the man suddenly broke down and repented. The Bishop attributed this to the Virgin's intercessions through the medal.

Another miraculous conversion involved that of a wealthy Jewish banker-lawyer named Alphonse Ratisbonne. He was actually dared to wear one of the medals and to pray the Memorare. This he did, and as he visited a church to arrange a funeral for a friend, he had a vision of Our Lady as she appears on the Medal. He instantly converted, and became a priest.The Medal of the Immaculate Conception, now known as the Miraculous Medal, has become one of the most commonly worn sacramentals in the Roman Church.
From Fish Eaters

One used to hear lots of stories of the extra-ordinary events that flowed from this Medal, it became known as "miraculous" because of what it accomplished. The Tyburn nuns threw Miraculous Medals over the garden wall of a house they thought would make a good convent, the house came on the market and is now their present convent. I have to admit that when I heard this parish might actually become vacant I followed their example and I sneaked down here and secreted a Medal on a wall, it was still there when I was appointed.
One hears of lots of stories of graces received from the use of this Medal, if you have had experiences write about them, briefly, in comments.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Motu Proprio Rumours

Fr. Z has rumors, confirmations and educated guesses.
That SMS is the third confirmation I have gotten. So, I feel safer about saying what I am piecing together. Remember: this is based reliable sources but it is still supposition on my part. I sift the exaggerated stuff out and try to get a consistent picture. In no special order…
1) The document will definitely be a Motu Proprio. (That means it will be from the Pope and not a document of a Congregation or joint document issued by different dicasteries.)
2) At the beginning of November it was in its final draft, after four revisions.
3) During the third week of November it was suggested that the document might come out in about three weeks. This would put it around… well… now.

Pope: In mosque I prayed to the one God for all man

In today’s general audience, Benedict XVI recalled his prayer in Istanbul, not foreseen but very meaningful, and he augured that secular Turkey will guarantee full religious freedom and become a bridge of friendship between East and West. From Istanbul, Bartholomew I said he was sure the apostolic journey would bear fruit for dialogue among Christians.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The prayer in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque was “not initially planned but it turned out to be very meaningful”. It was a prayer to the “one Lord of heaven and earth, merciful father of all mankind”. Addressing today’s general audience, this was how Benedict XVI described his silent prayer on 30 November in Istanbul.
The Pope “thanked divine Providence for this” and said: “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood.”
The Pontiff augured that Turkey “will be a bridge of friendship and collaboration between East and West” and he thanked the Turkish people “for the cordiality and sympathy” they showed him throughout his stay, when “he felt loved and understood”.
For Benedict XVI, in secular Turkey, “the distinction between civil and religious spheres constitutes a principle and the State should guarantee effective religious freedom.” At the same time, he continued, “Christians and Muslims should collaborate together on issues like justice, peace and life.”
The Pope then prayed to God, so that He may “help the Turkish people, their rulers and representatives of different religions to build a future of peace together” and so that He may “make this apostolic journey fruitful and animate across the world the Church’s mission to announce to all nations the Gospel of truth, peace and love.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, dwelt on the same subject during a speech delivered after last Sunday’s function. He said: “We are sure that the voyage of the Holy Father to the Ecumenical Patriarchate will bear fruits for dialogue between Christian churches, especially between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and more generally to inter-religious dialogue. This real improvement in our ties will contribute to peace on our planet.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, he added, “has long been an initiator and promoter of dialogue between religions and civilizations: it sees with great satisfaction the desire for improvement in interpersonal relations worldwide.”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

St Nicholas - a bit more


I have a devotion to St Nicholas. I rather like the idea that we know very little about his life, it is almost as if he is more powerful after death .
The idea of saints as being powerful intercessors is an important part of Catholic devotion. It is the response to prayers -in a sense, the cash value- of saints which earned their place in the hearts of our forefathers, no more so than Nicholas the Wonderworker.
In this new period of ecumenism we need explore again what we have almost forgotten and what the East still continues to hold as of great value.
Devotion to the saints affirms the ultimate destination of Christians, we need them to focus our rather woolly understanding of heaven and our communion with them in Christ.
Their lives and their subsequent activity reminds us of the effects of sanctifying grace and the power of God mediated through his Church, we need to be reminded that we as Christians live in a supernatural world.
These things, the great periods of iconoclasm in the first millenium, and in the middle and end of the second millenium, have sought to destroy, corrode and undermine: from these Godless things may the saints preserve us.

St Nicholas




December 6th is the feast of St Nicholas, ancient patron of the medieval parish Church of Brighton there is an twelth century font with carving of St Nicholas, the Last Supper and the Baptism of Christ see here .




I am not sure that there is much devotion to St Nicholas in Brighton today.


The great veneration with which this saint has been honored for many ages and the number of altars and churches which have been everywhere dedicated in his memory are testimonials to his holiness and of the glory which he enjoys with God. He is said to have been born at Patara in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Myra, the capital, not far from the sea, was an episcopal see, and this church falling vacant, the holy Nicholas was chosen bishop, and in that station became famous by his extraordinary piety and zeal and many astonishing miracles. The Greek histories of his life agree that he suffered imprisonment of the faith and made a glorious confession in the latter part of the persecution raised by Diocletian, and that he was present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. The silence of other authors makes many justly suspect these circumstances. He died at Myra, and was buried in his cathedral.


This summary account by Alban Butler tells us all that is known about the life of the famous St. Nicholas, and even a little more; for his episcopate at Myra during the fourth century is really all that seems indubitable authentic. This is not for lack of material, beginning with the life attributed to the monk who died in 847 as St. Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople. But he warns us that "Up to the present the life of this distinguished Shepherd has been unknown to the majority of the faithful", and sets about enlightening their ignorance nearly five hundred years after the saint's death. This is the least unreliable of the "biographical" sources available, and a vast amount of literature, critical and expository, have grown up around them. Nevertheless, the universal popularity of the saint for so many centuries requires that some account of these legends should be given here.
We are assured that from his earliest days Nicholas would take nourishment only once on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that in the evening according to the canons. "He was exceedingly well brought up by his parents and trod piously in their footsteps. The child, watched over by the church enlightened his mind and encouraged his thirst for sincere and true religion". His parents died when he was a young man, leaving him well off and he determined to devote his inheritance to works of charity. An opportunity soon arose. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognized his benefactor and overwhelmed him with his gratitude. It would appear that the three purses represented in pictures, came to be mistaken for the heads of three children and so they gave rise to the absurd story of the children, resuscitated by the saint, who had been killed by an innkeeper and pickled in a brine-tub.
Coming to the city of Myra when the clergy and people of the province were in session to elect a new bishop, St. Nicholas was indicated by God as the man they should choose. This was at the time of the persecutions at the beginning of the fourth century and "As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, the divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians. But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra." St. Methodius asserts that "thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison", but says nothing of his presence at the Council of Nicaea in 325. According to other traditions he was not only there but so far forgot himself as to give the heresiarch Arius a slap in the face. Whereupon the conciliar fathers deprived him of his episcopal insignia and committed him to prison; but our Lord and His Mother appeared there and restored to him both his liberty and his office. As against Arianism so against paganism, St. Nicholas was tireless and took strong measures: among other temples he destroyed was that of Artemis, the principal in the district, and the evil spirits fled howling before him. He was the guardian of his people as well in temporal affairs. The governor Eustathius had taken a bribe to condemn to death three innocent men. At the time fixed for their execution Nicholas came to the place, stayed the hands of the executioner, and released the prisoners. Then he turned to Eustathiujs and did not cease to reproach him until he admitted his crime and expressed his penitence. There were present on this occasion three imperial officers who were on their way to duty in Phrygia. Later, when they were back again in Constantinople, the jealousy of the prefect Ablavius caused them to be imprisoned on false charges and an order for their death was procured from the Emperor Constantine. When the officers heard this they remembered the example they had witnessed of the powerful love of justice of the Bishop of Myra and they prayed to God that through his merits and by his instrumentality then might yet be saved. That night St. Nicholas appeared in a dream to Constantine, and told him with threats to release the three innocent men, and Ablavius experienced the same thing. In the morning the Emperor and the prefect compared notes, and the condemned men were sent for and questioned. When he heard that they had called on the name of the Nicholas of Myra who had appeared to him, Constantine set them free and sent them to the bishop with a letter asking him not to threaten him any more but to pray for the peace of the world. For long this was the most famous miracle of St. Nicholas, and at the time of St. Methodius was the only thing generally known about him.
The accounts are unanimous that St. Nicholas died and was buried in his episcopal city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian there was a basilica built in his honor at Constantinople. An anonymous Greek wrote in the tenth century that, "the West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in the isles, in the furthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. Images of him are set up, panegyrics preached and festivals celebrated. All Christians, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, reverence his memory and call upon his protection. And his favors, which know no limit of time and continue from age to age, are poured out over all the earth; the Scythians know them, as do the Indians and the barbarians, the Africans as well as the Italians." When Myra and its great shrine finally passed into the hands of the Saracens, several Italian cities saw this as an opportunity to acquire the relics of St. Nicholas for themselves. There was great competition for them between Venice and Bari. The last-named won, the relics were carried off under the noses of the lawful Greek custodians and their Mohammedan masters, and on May 9, 1087 were safety landed at Bari, a not inappropriate home seeing that Apulia in those days still had large Greek colonies. A new church was built to shelter them and the pope, Bd. Urban II, was present at their enshrining. Devotion to St. Nicholas was known in the West long before his relics were brought to Italy, but this happening naturally greatly increased his veneration among the people, and miracles were as freely attributed to his intercession in Europe as they had been in Asia. At Myra "the venerable body of the bishop, embalmed as it was in the good ointments of virtue exuded a sweet smelling myrrh, which kept it from corruption and proved a health giving remedy against sickness to the glory o f him who had glorified Jesus Christ, our true God." The translation of the relics did not interrupt this phenomenon, and the "manna of St. Nicholas" is said to flow to this day. It was one of the great attractions which drew pilgrims to his tomb from all parts of Europe.
It is the image of St. Nicholas more often than that of any other that is found on Byzantine seals; in the later middle ages nearly four hundred churches were dedicated in his honor in England alone; and he is said to have been represented by Christian artists more frequently than any saint except our Lady. St. Nicholas is venerated as the patron saint of several classes of people, especially, in the East, of sailors and in the West of children. The first of these patronage is probably due to the legend that during his life time, he appeared to storm tossed mariners who invoked his aid off the coast of Lycia and brought them safely to port. Sailors in the Aegean and Ionian seas, following a common Eastern custom, had their "star of St. Nicholas" and wished one another a good voyage in the phrase "May St. Nicholas hold the tiller". The legend of the "three children" gave rise to his patronage of children and various observances, ecclesiastical and secular, connected there with; such were the boy bishop and especially in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the giving of presents in his name at Christmas time. This custom in England is not a survival from Catholic times. It was popularized in America by the Dutch Protestants of New Amsterdam who had converted the popish saint into a Nordic magician (Santa Claus = Sint Klaes = Saint Nicholas) and was apparently introduced into this country by Bret Harte. It is not the only "good old English custom" which, however good, is not "old English", at any rate in its present form. The deliverance of the three imperial officers naturally caused St. Nicholas to be invoked by and on behalf of prisoners and captives, and many miracles of his intervention are recorded in the middle ages.
Curiously enough the greatest popularity of St. Nicholas is found neither in the eastern Mediterranean nor north-western Europe, great as that was, but in Russia. With St. Andrew the Apostle he is patron of the nation, and the Russian Orthodox Church even observes the feast of his translation; so many Russian pilgrims came to Bari before the revolution that their government supported a church, hospital and hospice there. He is a patron saint also of Greece, Apulia, Sicily and Loraine, and of many cities and dioceses and churches innumerable. At Rome the basilica of St. Nicholas in the Jail of Tully (in Carcere) was founded between the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh centuries. He is named in the preparation of the Byzantine Mass.