Monday, December 31, 2007

A Happy and Holy 2008

Bishops face Inquisition

Paulinus reports on a piece in the Observer, which claims that our bishops are going to face a parliamentary inquisition looking at Catholic "fundamentalism".

It would seem that they think there is something odd about Catholics wanting to pass on their faith to their children. Some MPs are concerned about Catholics not pushing same sex partnerships, but upholding Catholic teaching on marriage and family life, or not being entusiastic about having anti-Catholic polemics in school libraries.

The person the really have in their sights is Bishop Patrick ODonahue, who Damian Thompson who Damian Thompson is continuously lauding fo0r his stance on Catholic education.

As the Cardinal says, "they want the fruit but withour the root". I don't know much about other Catholic schools, I am very wary of Catholic Secondary schools, who really do seem to have lost their sense of Mission, but I do know that our parish Primary School is pretty good. It is good because our teachers have real values that they pass on. They believe in the sanctity of the family, they believe in the dignity of the human person. They actually believe in the importance of passing on the Catholic faith.

Church defends and promotes the dignity and holiness of the family, says Pope

At the Angelus yesterday Benedict XVI greeted the participants in the celebration of the family in Madrid sponsored by the Spanish Church; he asserts that the ‘good health’ of the family helps society’s growth.

“Contemplating the mystery of the Son of God who came into the world surrounded by the affection of Mary and Joseph, I urge Christian families to experience the loving presence of the Lord in their life. At the same time I urge them to bear witness before the world of the beauty of human love, marriage and family, finding inspiration in Christ’s love for mankind. Based on an indissoluble union between a man and a woman, it [the family] constitutes the privileged sphere in which human life is welcomed and protected, from its beginning to its natural end.”

In a veiled criticism of the Spanish government, which has legally recognised homosexual unions and has decided to eliminate religious education from schools, the Pontiff added: “Parents have the right and the fundamental duty to educate their children in their faith and the values that give dignity to human existence. It is worthwhile to work for the family and marriage because it is worthwhile to work for human beings, the most precious being created by God.”

Earlier Benedict XVI mentioned the significance of today’s celebration, the Feast Day of the Holy Family. He said: “In accordance with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, let us look at Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and worship the mystery of a God who chose to be born from a woman, the Holy Virgin, and come into this world the way all men do. This way He sanctified the reality of the family, filling it with divine grace, fully revealing its vocation and mission.”

The Pope mentioned important teachings by the Second Vatican Council on the family. “Husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children (cf Lumen gentium, 35). The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come” (ibid).

In remembering John Paul II for whom “what is good for people and society is strictly connected to the ‘good health’ of the family,” Benedict XVI reiterated that “the Church is committed to defend and promote the ‘the holiness and to foster the natural dignity” (Gaudium et spes, 47) of marriage and the family.”
Bishops look at a giant screen displaying the Pope Benedict XVI speaking during the traditional Sunday noon Angelus prayer, live hookup from St. Peter's Square, during a rally with tens of thousands of Spaniards filling downtown Madrid called to defend family values, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007. The Spain's Socialist government has angered the Roman Catholic church by legalizing gay marriage and making it easier for couples to divorce.

Midnight Mass in China

The scene above: a Midnight Mass in Huai'an, China. picture from here

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I love my Poles

I love my Poles, they have been worshipping in this Church for the last 60 years, well actually longer, there was a huge number of them here during the war. At times about every four or five years I think it is high time they found there own place to worship, or started contributing seriously to the financial costs of maintaining our rather bedraggled Church, and use their considerable talents to help evangelise the English. I find it irritating when I find that the corporal has been misfolded, or microphones have been moved etc. etc. etc. I love there piety and their commitment to the faith, and the richness of their family life.

I know when the interview with the Cardinal first appeared in a Polish language paper there was a bit of an outcry, see the highlights in the Telegraph:

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "I'm quite concerned that the Poles are creating a separate church in Britain. I would want them to be part of the Catholic life of this country.

"I would hope those responsible for the Polish church here, and the Poles themselves, will be aware that they should become a part of local parishes as soon as possible when they learn enough of the language."

Despite the archbishop's also using his Christmas message to appeal to the nation to be more welcoming to immigrants, Grazyna Sikorska, of the Polish Catholic Mission for England and Wales, said the community had been upset.

She told the Catholic newspaper The Tablet: "How can he demand that we stop praying in Polish? Is it a sin? I feel my inner conscience has been violated, leaving me spiritually raped.

"Fr Tadeusz Kukla, the vicar-delegate for Poles in England and Wales, said: "If we lose our national identity, we lose everything."

A spokesman for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said the archbishop was keen to work with the Polish chaplaincy. "He believes the Polish community contributes greatly to the Church in this country, but closer collaboration would make it even more effective."

I agree with His Eminence there is a serious problem, the Polish chaplain here sees there is a problem. The bishop-elect of Middlesbrough, Mgr Drainey, tried to deal with it by putting on a course to Anglicise foreign priests, I don't think that is the answer.

Many young Poles, even some who have been here for 50 or 60 years, don't have much English. During the time I have been here the number of Poles who attend Mass here have risen from about a hundred to three or four time that number. Most are young. Most are single. Most intend to to return home.

There is a very different attitude to the faith in the two the communities. Before Christmas I heard a few dozen confessions, the Polish priest heard a few hundred. At Easter he went to another south coast parish and heard confessions from 8am at night until 2pm in the morning. Amongst my congregation everyone goes to Holy Communion amongst the Poles, less than half would go on a normal Sunday.

Polish parents who might come to England tend to leave their children at home to get a good Catholic education, they don't seem to trust the English education system. The content of sermons seems to be different, Polish clergy to be doctrinal and scriptural and would accuse English clergy of being light weight.

When Poles or other Central and Eastern Europeans come to see me they invariably want to speak about prayer, or their sexuality and they way it relates to the rest of their lives, both these subjects are taboo in amongst the natives.

On the whole I think the problem is that we have a form of Catholicism that does not meet the needs of the Poles.

I think the reason why so many Poles were upset by article is that is that it seems to assume that everything in the English/Welsh is alright, and it is everyone else who has the problem. Perhaps we ought to be complimentary of the efforts made by the Polish clergy, who seem to be incredibly hard working. I suspect there would be no criticism if the Portuguese, or Maltese, or Slovak communities were being spoken about, they have no chaplaincy provision, and the lapsation is almost total.
We should learn from the Irish immigrants, who we allowed to rebuild the Church in England, but maybe it is language that is the real problem. In a multi-ethnic and cultural diverse society, what is it that the Pope is suggesting?

Urbi et Orbi

Found this, just for those of us who are TVless or who were celebrating the liturgy when it was broadcast. I am not sure whether the Indulgence works with a recording. As all broadcast are slightly delayed, ...well just how cold can the turkey get?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

King silences Bishop

Today is the 5th day of Christmas, I hope you are still keeping the feast.

In 117o St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury was hacked to death by three knights in his own Cathedral.
One of the things I love about St Thomas is that he didn't go quietly, he shouted, he swore, he cursed his assailants. Whilst all this was going on the monks continued to sing Vespers. They left his bloody body before the altar where he had been slain.

Only when they recovered their courage and prepared his body for burial did they gradually realise his sanctity. It was the lice that did! Underneath the splendour of his outer vestments they found he wore the rough habit of monk and a hairshirt both full of lice, a sign of ascetism.
They burried his body hastily, very soon the healing miracles began.

One of the proofs of his holiness that I find amusing is that a monk had a dream about him, in life his Latin was less than perfect, but now he was in heaven it had become perfect, a sure and certain sign of holiness.

It is said tht this great Martyr in the present English calendar is merely an optional commemoration. At the Reformation his glorious shrine was dismantled, his image was the first to be removed from churches, his feast removed the liturgical books and he was declared an enemey of the state.

He is the Patron of the English clergy, he reminds me that priests are supposed to be on the side of the side of the crucified not the crucifiers.
His death led to Magna Carta in ther next but one reign, in which the English Church was guaranteed perpetual freedom and the King's absolute power was restrained by the law.

It is the Mass that matters

Cathcon High Mass in Munster a the end of WWII

On "silencing" commentators

Fr Zulsdorf has made a few comments on the previous post:

First, I think that over time market forces will take care of most of the stupid or wicked Catholic commentary. I believe in sort of a reverse Gresham’s Law when it comes to information on the internet: good information will eventually drive bad information out of circulation. A correlation of this law is that "people are smart". This last point is the one most frequently violated by liberals, who are far more likely to desire that only one side of an issue have a free voice.

Second, prelates may have a role in "silencing" some Catholic commentators. However, that would pertain when the commentators were falling into error about issues of faith and morals or creating confusion about the Church’s proper discipline, etc. For example, I think that it would not be out of the question for the Catholic hierarchy to exercise their office of oversight in regard some dimensions of the National Catholic Reporter. I believe something was done in relation to the former editor of America. It is difficult to balance all the elements in this. However, I think I must come down on the side of freedom to comment and then depend on those "market forces" to sort things out.I have as working paradigms in this issue the interesting exchanges between, for example, Umberto Eco and Card. Martini, or the press exchange years ago between Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper. I also am taking into consideration the way Pope Benedict opened himself to commentary and criticism in the preface of his book Jesus of Nazareth.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bethlehem priest punch-up

(AFP) — Seven people were injured on Thursday when Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests came to blows in a dispute over how to clean the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Following the Christmas celebrations, Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church, which is built over the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born.

But the ladders encroached on space controlled by Armenian priests, according to photographers who said angry words ensued and blows quickly followed.

For a quarter of an hour bearded and robed priests laid into each other with fists, brooms and iron rods while the photographers who had come to take pictures of the annual cleaning ceremony recorded the whole event.

A dozen unarmed Palestinian policemen were sent to try to separate the priests, but two of them were also injured in the unholy melee.

"As usual the cleaning of the church afer Christmas is a cause of problems," Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh told AFP, adding that he has offered to help ease tensions.

"For the two years that I have been here everything went more or less calmly," he said. "It's all finished now."

The Church of the Nativity, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, is shared by various branches of Christianity, each of which controls and jealously guards a part of the holy site.

The Church of the Nativity is built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago after Mary and Joseph were turned away by an inn.

Holy Innocents

Unto us is born a Son,
King of quires supernal:
See on earth his life begun,
Of lords the Lord eternal.

Christ, from heaven descending low,
Come on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their owner know,
Becradled in the manger.

This did Herod sore affray,
And grievously bewilder,
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer.

Choir Of his love and mercy mild
This the Christmas story;
And O that Mary's gentle child
Might lead us up to glory.

O and A, and A and O,
Cum cantibus in choro,
Let our merry organ go,
Benedicamus Domino

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Papal M.C. Interview: Old & New

Apparently RAI, the Italian television station have been fascinated by the Papal wardrobe, the significance of the 7th candle, the use of the portable throne - minus carrying poles. On the blogosphere people have been delighting in the return of things not seen since the beginning of the reign of John Paul II, or whoever. Other people have suggested this is all a little vulgar, and rightly have asked what has this got to do with the Gospel.

I suspect those who ask this question are unfamiliar with the Holy Fathers writings or speeches. From the very beginning of his papacy he has stressed "continuity". When taking possession of the Lateran he said that the role of the Pope was to present nothing of his own, but to be like the wise scribe, "who brings out from his store room things both old and new".

I have always considered "Dominus Jesus", written whilst the pope was still head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2000 as being the blueprint for this papacy. There he stresses the continuity of the Church from Christ to the present day.

The vestments and the furniture stress the continuity of recent history, the use of the Pope Leo XIII's throne, which was used by the Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI whilst presiding over the Second Vatican Council, is the most obvious example. His Wednesday catechises have stressed the continuity of the Church with Jesus, he began with the Apostles, continued with the first Fathers of the Church who knew the Apostles and now we are up to the Fathers of the sixth century.

As far as the liturgy is concerned, his concern is that Ordinary Form of Mass was, in his words, "created by a commission ex nihil". He wants to give the liturgy "roots", the easy short term way is to use the ornaments of the past. Long term of course he expects the Extraordinary Form to have an effect. For him disaster would be that every fifty years we decide to re-invent the liturgy and the Church too. As one liberal English bishop said to me four or five years ago, "We have moved beyond the Council -Vat II- we have to find the new Church", the exact opposite of all Pope Benedict stands for.

CNS -- The Vatican's Christmas liturgies and rituals include a mix of old and new to demonstrate continuity with the past, said the master of papal liturgical ceremonies.

"The vestments used, like some of the details of the rite, aim to underline the continuity of today's liturgical celebration with that which characterized the life of the church in the past," said Msgr. Guido Marini.

In an interview published in the Dec. 24-25 edition of the Vatican newspaper, the master of ceremonies spoke about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to use older miters and vestments at his Christmas events and the decision to place a crucifix on the altar in St. Peter's Basilica.

Under Msgr. Marini's predecessor, a crucifix was carried into the basilica during the entrance procession and placed alongside the altar.

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, asked Msgr. Marini to explain why the crucifix, the symbol of Christ's death, was being given such prominence even at midnight Mass when the church was celebrating Christ's birth.

"The position of the cross at the center of the altar indicates the centrality of the crucifix in the Eucharistic celebration and the exact orientation the entire assembly is called to have during the eucharistic liturgy: We do not look at each other, but at the one who was born, died and rose for us, the Savior," he said.

"Salvation comes from the Lord. He is the east, the sun that rises, the one whom we all must watch," Msgr. Marini said.

In his 2000 book, "The Spirit of the Liturgy," Pope Benedict argued that facing the east while praying is a physical expression of turning toward God, toward the sun that rises for the salvation of all men and women.

"Where a direct, common turning toward the east is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior 'east' of the faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community," he wrote.

As for Pope Benedict's use of older, much taller miters, Msgr. Marini said they are a sign of how the church moves forward in history without ignoring or forgetting its past.

"Just as in his documents, a pope cites the pontiffs who preceded him in order to indicate the continuity of the church's magisterium, so in the liturgical sphere, a pope uses the vestments and sacred furnishings" of previous popes, demonstrating a continuity in prayer, he said.

Celebrating Mass, presiding over prayer services and giving his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world), "the pope will wear his own miters, as well as those belonging to Benedict XV, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II," the master of ceremonies said.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

St Stephen's Day

The priest:
wearing a Pugin vestment.
The crib: prepared by Gerrard Hatton of "Cribs "r" Us", well actually he is a seminarian, working in a local parish, he seems to have designed several local cribs this year.
The altar, normally we have the candles and relics bunched up on the "horns" of the altar, but the current practice in Rome favours this arrangement.
The visitor: that strong woman

...and so to bed

When I am asked, What is the best bit of Christmas for you, Father?" I am afraid my answer is always, "Getting to bed."

We don't have a "liturgical environment committee", so Christmas Eve was spent getting the Church ready for the Holy Feast. There were the normal half dozen people ringing the doorbell for last minute confessions.

At nine o'clock the door bell rang and member of the Polish community, asked why the church wasn't open, either I had forgotten they were going to use it, or they hadn't told. I couldn't help being a little angry that despite the fact they almost out number my community, none of them had helped get the Church ready, and yet they wanted to be the first to use it and expected it to be made ready for them.

We had Mass at midnight, I got to bed at two, couldn't sleep until about six. There was Mass at 9am and 10.30am, followed by another Mass for the Polish community, this one I was expecting. Lunch followed, cooked by Br Francis, we had another couple of priests who came to share our goose. Br Francis is really one of my favourite people, the Bishop asked me to give him a home a couple of years ago, I was a bit reticent, but as it was his Lordship... The good thing about Francis, apart from being gentle, kind and wise is that we hardly ever see one another, the ideal house guest. Lunch finished, lunch finished about four ...and then bed, so good.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Pardon

One of my favourite Christmas Traditions occurred at York Minster, obviously before the Reformation. A great bower of mistletoe was hung above the High Altar and a general pardon for crimes was offered for all who would confess them, it remained in force throughout that city for as long as it remained there.

It was there before the Altar and this bower that enemies would be reconciled, kiss and embrace to honour of the birth of the Saviour. The kissing bower was not about a preamble to an office flirtation but a sign of fraternal reconcilliation.

And Christmas time it was seen as a good kingly thing to do, to release prisoners and slaves, others would relinquish debts, and seek to be reconciled, all this lasted from the Conversion of England by St Augustine but was swept away by the Protestant Reformers.

Christmas tree, in many places were seen as the Tree of Life, originally erected out doors and hung with apples, which were sometimes gilded, eventually the fruit was replaced with glass balls.

The Evangelist Mary

I think this sums up a great deal of the Holy Father's understanding of evangelisation, it is from yesterdays Angelus talk

Mary is the incomparable model of evangelization, she who did not communicate an idea to the world but rather Jesus, the incarnate Word. Let us invoke her with confidence so that also the Church in our time proclaims Christ the Savior. Every Christian and every community feels the joy of sharing with others the good news that God so loved the world to give his only begotten Son so that the world might be saved through him. This is the authentic meaning of Christmas, that we must always rediscover and live intensely.


In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

Patriarch of Jerusalem's Christmas Message

I have always had a great deal of respect for the Latin Patriach of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah. Few years ago, in my last parish, he came to say Mass several days running whilst he attended a conference in Windsor. He brought with him a small delegation of fellow Christians. He told me personally of the oppression of the Christian minority, those who were with him, out of his hearing memebers of his delegation told me about the oppression that he continually suffered and his personal bravery.
The Israeli press have gone into high spin over part of his Christmas Message, this has been taken up by the Jewish newspapers worldwide, especially in the US. Pray for him and the Christians of the Holy Land as you think of Bethlehem this year.

"In this land, which is holy for three religions and for two peoples, religious states cannot be established because they would exclude or place in an inferior position the believers of the other religions," he said. "A state that would exclude or discriminate against the other religions is not suitable for this land made holy by God for all of humanity.
"Political and religious leaders must begin by understanding the universal vocation of this land in which God has brought us together throughout history. They must know that the holiness of this land does not consist in the exclusion of one or the other of the religions, but in the ability of each religion, with all of their differences, to welcome, respect, and love all who inhabit this land." Zenit

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Compare and Contrast

The current formula for the Rite of Reception of an Adult into Full Communion with the Catholic Church run as follows:

After the Profession of Faith (the Creed)
“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

The profession of faith in the 1962 rituale Romanum is:

I, N.N., .... years of age, born outside the Catholic Church, have held and believed errors contrary to her teaching. Now, enlightened by divine grace, I kneel before you, Reverend Father ...., having before my eyes and touching with my hand the holy Gospels. And with firm faith I believe and profess each and all the articles contained in the Apostles' Creed, that is: (The Apostles Creed is recited).

I firmly admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and ordinances of the Church.

I admit the Sacred Scriptures in the sense which has been held and is still held by holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and I shall never accept or interpret them in a sense contrary to the unanimous consent of the fathers.

I profess that the sacraments of the New Law are truly and precisely seven in number, instituted for the salvation of mankind, though all are not necessary for each individual: baptism, confirmation, holy Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. I profess that all confer grace, and that baptism, confirmation, and holy orders cannot be repeated without sacrilege. I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the aforementioned sacraments.

I accept and hold in each and every part all that has been defined and declared by the Sacred Council of Trent concerning original sin and justification. I profess that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, real, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ is really, truly, and substantially present, and that there takes place in the Mass what the Church calls transubstantiation, which is the change of all the substance of bread into the body of Christ and of all substance of wine into His blood. I confess also that in receiving under either of these species one receives Jesus Christ whole and entire.

I firmly hold that Purgatory exists and that the souls detained there can be helped by the prayers of the faithful.

Likewise I hold that the saints, who reign with Jesus Christ, should be venerated and invoked, that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to be venerated.

I firmly profess that the images of Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God, ever a Virgin, as well as of all the saints should be given due honor and veneration. I also affirm that Jesus Christ left to the Church the faculty to grant indulgences, and that their use is most salutary to the Christian people. I recognize the holy, Roman, Catholic, and apostolic Church as the mother and teacher of all the churches, and I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles and vicar of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved. This same Catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved, I now freely profess and I truly adhere to it. With the help of God, I promise and swear to maintain and profess this faith entirely, inviolately, and with firm constancy until the last breath of life. And I shall strive, as far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and publicly professed by all who depend on me and over whom I shall have charge.

So help me God and these holy Gospels.

The convert remains kneeling, and the priest, still seated, says psalm 50, or psalm 129, concluding with "Glory be to the Father."

After this the priest stands and says:

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Our Father (the rest inaudibly until:)

P: And lead us not into temptation.

All: But deliver us from evil.

P: Save your servant.

All: Who trusts in you, my God.

P: Lord, heed my prayer.

All: And let my cry be heard by you.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

God, whose nature is ever merciful and forgiving, accept our prayer that this servant of yours, bound by the fetters of sin, may be pardoned by your loving kindness: through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The priest again sits down, and facing the convert pronounces the absolution from excommunication, inserting the word perhaps if in doubt as to whether it has been incurred:

By the authority of the Holy See which I exercise here, I release you from the bond of excommunication which you have (perhaps) incurred; and I restore you to communion and union with the faithful, as well as to the holy sacraments of the Church; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lastly the priest imposes some salutary penance, such as prayers, visits to a church, or the equivalent.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Arab Christmas Hymn

I've nicked this from Ttony's blog
It is Arab Christmas Hymn, the theological ideas are very beautiful, quite patristic. The singer is wonderful.
While you listen, pray for our Palestinian Christian brothers who suffer so much.

Blair a Catholic

Tony Blair was received into the Catholic Church last night by the Cardinal. One can only be pleased at the conversion of anyone. I congratulate him on this act of God.

So now Tony show us the fruit of your conversion.

I think it would be quite appropriate for the Cardinal, who admitted Mr Blair to full communion with the Catholic Church to make some statement about who can or cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. Personally I would have serious problems with giving Mr Blair Holy Communion. I am reminded of his pro-civil partnership "skip for joy", his appalling voting record on Life issues.
I really cannot think of him as anything other than a public sinner, who spent much of his Premiership fighting against everything the Catholic Church teaches.
Persuade me otherwise Your Emminence.
I am actually open top persuasion, I do want to believe the best of what the Cardinal and Mr Blair has done, but without explanation from one of them, some of us are going to remain a little scandalised.
SPUC has issued the following press release:
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children During his premiership, Tony Blair became one of the world's most significant architects of the culture of death - promoting abortion, experiments on human embryos, including on cloned human embryos, and euthanasia by neglect."SPUC is writing to Tony Blair to ask him whether he has repented of the anti-life positions he has so openly advocated throughout his political career".

I for one look forward to seeing Mr Blair's answer.

Green Vatican

A thought on the "Happy Christmas, Papa" post earlier this morning:

Fr Justin said...
You know, that chair makes a lot of appearances these days in a lot of different places; it must be a struggle to move it from one location to another. Wouldn't it be simpler to mount it on a platform with some handy carrying poles? They could save time by the Holy Father sitting in it while they are doing so. Time and motion studies would recommend it.After all, we are all trying to live simply these days.
22/12/07 9:32 AM

Oh, and think of the carbon footprint of those popemobiles!
22/12/07 9:32 AM

Earlier this year it was announced that the Paul Audience Hall roof would covered in solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, a green papal initiative.

Last winter a friend of mine said he was going to start wearing a biretta to be able to reduce the heating in his house, but I think Father is right we need signs from the top.

The Catholic Church has always been green. In the picture above both Pius XII and Paul VI are using the Carbon neutral popemobile, together with manually operated air conditioning units, and a portable environmental modification unit, which is being held over the pontiff, creating a friendly environment without unfriendly building work and rendering "sunblock" unnecessary.
Pope Pius is also wearing a solar helmet made of shiny reflective metal to keep the head cooled, with the advance in solar panel technology, this type of headgear can be adapted to run one's own personal music system.
Be environmentally friend, be Catholic.

Crib's up!

I have been making a crib this Advent. I brought some little crib figures in Naples last year, someone gave me a glass dome for a statue, so with a few bits of bark, scrumpled tissues, bits and pieces from the garden and half a pot of glue - Ecce!

Happy Christmas, Papa

The Leonine Throne, or the Throne of the Second Vatican Council or as some might call it the Throne of Continuity made another appearance. The Pope exchanged Christmas greetings with the memebers of the College of Cardinals resident in Rome yesterday. I just wonder what they say:
Cardinal, "Are you doing anything special for Christmas Holy Father?
Pope, "Ah, the usual the Christmas thing, I'll go to Church, as it its Christmas, but really it'll be the normal quiet time".
2nd Cardinal, "I'm getting a scaletrix do want to ome around play with it on Boxing Day? Cardinal Daneels is getting a new bike."
3rd Cardinal, "What I want for Christmas is my own Dicastery, I have been very good".
There is a report of his speech here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Confiteor Eminencissime Pater

Blow up Church saturno tip to Thorn in the Pew
When I was a seminarian, I rather annoyed my then Bishop. He had decided to start a thing called "Renew", imported from New Jersey, there were lots of "ideas" for "Liturgies" and "small group sharings", and "comunity events". Some of which were not half bad, a lot of it was quite risable.
Knowing gentle mockery is often such an effective weapon especially in the Church where we all take ourselves a little too seriously, some of us started a counter movement called "React".
Renew had a logo of an oak tree with six acorns: "React" had a oak tree with six papal tiaras on it.
There were lots of useful suggestions, one I remember was pouring hot coffee into the sound hole of a guitar. There was a "Renew Song". We produced "Canticles of Reaction (and derision)" most of which were a gentle mockery of the then contemporary hymns. One of my contributions was a suggestion for inflatable Gothic churches, in places were ghastly monstrosities were being built.
I know the Archbishop of .... fell about laughing when someone gave him a copy of "React", he was an avid reader as new material came out, my own bishop was less than amused.
Sorry Your Eminence, I was responsible along with Frs F and S, I am sure you suspected it all along.
I think most people have forgotten about "Renew" now but I am glad the inflatable Church has finally seen the light of day.

Parish Saints

Few thoughts on being a canonised saint:

  1. You have to be a Christian in full communion with the Catholc Church

  2. You have to show you are in heaven and prayers work

  3. You have to be inspire to other Christians to heroic virtue

One of the things I like about Rome is that so many Church's are promoting the beatification of a member of their parish.

Err..., If I were bishop I think I would I set up a group of priests and lay people to investigate the possibility of the canonisation of parishioners.

There are so many people who really do live heroic lives. Although modern funerals seem to want to canonise everyone, as soon as they are dead they are forgotten. I think if we were on the look out for potential candidates for canonisation we might have a clearer theology of death and also of simple Christian living and see sanctity as the basic Christian vocation. We need heroes and heroines, and they are out there. I think we also need to encourage cults of some of the faithful departed, to maintain the memory of the community.

I always think that is one of the reason why a priest should be permanently, as far as possible, attached to a parish. One of his roles is the "rememberancer of the community", he should know the candidates for "sainthood" in his parish.

Pope Benedict on Nennolina

The insightful, blogging monk Don Marco has more on this extraordinary child's piety. I want to make her the patron of our 1st Holy Communion class. The good Father quotes the Pope on this child.
It pleased me that, a moment ago, you quoted a little girl, Antonia Meo, called Nennolina. Just three days ago I decreed the recognition of her heroic virtues and I hope that her cause of beatification may be brought quickly to a happy conclusion. What a luminous example has this little member of yours left us! (Note: Nennolina was enrolled in the "Benjamins" section of the Italian Catholic Action Movement.)

Nennolia, a child of Rome, in her very short life — only six and a half years —demonstrated a faith, a hope, a special charity, and other Christian virtues as well. Though she was a frail little girl, she succeeded in giving a strong and robust witness to the Gospel and has left a deep impression in the diocesan community of Rome. Nennolina belonged the Catholic Action Movement; today she would certainly be inscribed in the A.C.R. (Childrens' Catholic Action)!

For all of you can consider her your friend, a model to inspire you. Her existence, so simple and, at the same time, so important, demonstrates that holiness is for every age; for little children and young people, for adults and for the elderly. Every season of our existence can be good for us to decide seriously to love Jesus and to follow Him faithfully. In a few years, Nennolina reached the summit of Christian perfection that we are, all of us, called to ascend, she ran quickly the "highway" that leads to Jesus. And so, as you yourselves recalled, Jesus is the true "way" who leads us to the Father and to our permanent home, which is Paradise. You know that Antonia now lives in God, and from heaven, she is close to you; you sense that she is present with you, in your groups. Learn to know her and follow her examples. I think that she also will be happy about this: to be involved still in Catholic Action.

He also sums up my thoughts on celebrating Mass ad orientem, check out his blog.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Papal Astronomers on the move

Jesuit astronomers operating in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo,(photo) in the Roman countryside, will be moved to a different building, due to lack of space, reported Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.

The space in the observatory is needed by the Vatican to host diplomats and heads of state who visit Pope Benedict XVI.

The entire area of the observatory will be used, while the building's two domes will be museums, open only on request.

The observatory was built by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to respond to claims that the church was opposed to scientific progress. It became famous, when in 1969 Pope Paul VI saw, with the help of powerful Vatican telescopes, the landing on the moon of American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin.

A second Vatican observatory already exists in the US state of Arizona, atop Mount Graham.

Free Money

Asylum seekers queuing up outside Lunar House in Croydon to sign on once a month.
The people in my parish are always very generous to those in need.

We always say to people in the parish in the newletter that if they need financial help at this time of year to contact me or a member of our SVP. Despite offering free money we don't normally get much of a take up. Last year we had a family were the mother's boyfriend came home drunk and smashed up the lavatory, so there was no loo and the flat was flooded, we paid for it to be replaced.

The normal callers go to "Crisis" and are kept in the warm and have plenty to eat. There are occasionally people who have spent there benefit money and others who have a problem with any gathering of people, who only feel safe on their own.

The big draw on money this year has been the asylum seekers. I share my palatial sized house with an organisation called Voices in Exile, who look after them here, they have an office in the basement. Voices in Exile deal with over 250 people. About 30 of them receive nothing from the state, no money, no food stamps, nothing for accommodation. Some end up by sleeping in the open, others fit in to the most dreadful derelict accommodation or are taken in by strangers. A trust supports Voices in Exile and can find for those in the worst situation £20 a week, for food, accommodation, clothing, out of this have to find the train fare to Croydon once a month to sign on as an asylum seeker. This year we have been able to double this meagre sum for Christmas week.

The law says asylum seekers can't work, if you are mother with young children the state will find accommodation for your children, and you can live with them but you get nothing. In Brighton, if you are young and attractive you can always sell your body, I have known both young women and a few young boys in this situation. However if you have self respect or are a good Christian or Muslim or have been the victim of torture and rape it is often not an option you really want to take.

Amongst the asylum seekers I have known in Brighton have been former ambassadors, scientists, doctors and camel herders.
If you want free money we only give it to people in the parish, we can't do the whole world!

Dr Williams' denial

Williams at an Ecumenical gathering in Bethlehem
The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men was nothing but a 'legend'.
Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings. He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew's gospel and the details were very vague.
Dr Williams said: "Matthew's gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that's all we're really told. It works quite well as legend."
The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.
He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was "very unlikely".
In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: "Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival." from The Telegraph

I don't have too many problems with what the Archbishop had to say, I just think he was foolish to say it. He should have led his listeners into a deeper understanding of the Mystery of the Incarnation and not denied those images that have been used to explain it.

Obviously St Matthew bears witness to the Tradition of "wise men from the east" coming to do homage, that is part of Revelation. They are not kings, there were three gifts; gold, incense and myrrh: not necessarily three wise men. St John Chrysostom suggests that there might have been forty of them, each bringing the three gifts.

There are no references to the presence of livestock, but as there is a reference to being "laid in a manger", it is not foolish to presume their presence.

Shepherds and wise men were obviously not there together. He is right too about the absence of snow and about the dating of Christmas in December.

The trouble with Dr Williams' statement is that it is part of the liberal protestant agenda of denial of the traditional signs and symbols. At the heart of the doctrine of the Incarnation is that the Son emptied himself of his divinity. What the infancy narratives are about is the descent of God, in Matthew and Luke, they are the preface to the Gospels in which Christ goes down and down and down until he descends into the very depths of his death on the cross and descent into hell. The animals in the stable are fitting in so far as they remind us of excrement and urine of the death on the Cross, and the rejection of Christ from the society of mankind.

The iconography of Christmas, the dating of Christmas itself, "in the bleak mid-winter" of mankind's need is a theological statement, it is about light in darkness, which the "darkness cannot overcome". When the need to find a date for Christmas arose, a time of darkness and cold is the most appropriate.

Certainly it is right to get people to see beyond tinsel and angels that look more like fairies , than the "mighty host of the Lord" who will fight and win the battle against Satan and sin. I suggested to my primary school that it would be proper to have boys playing angels in the school nativity play, and chanting like US Marines on a route march! Not a suggestion they took up.

Williams' statement belongs to that school of Liberals Protestants who explain the feeding of the 5,000 as "nice Jesus persuades everyone to be nice and share their nice sandwiches like nice people, so everyone was nicely fed, wasn't that nice, so let us all try and be nice and share this week". The trouble is that is not what God has revealed, through the scriptures.

Liberalism is always about denial and simplification and ultimately the dismal of God, orthodoxy is about acceptance and penetration of the mysteries of faith, so that we might know God.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Green Guilt

The good Dr Paulinus has this eerie video on his blog. I am no red necked climate change denier, we really must take the human effects on the environment seriously, but I am incredibly worried that there is a new dogmatism that is grabbing hold of the hearts and minds of the young. One used to hear alot about Catholic guilt, though outside of Catholic novels of 1930s and 40s I have never really met it. Green guilt seems very much on the rise, especially amongst the young. It brings with it a sense of hopelessness. I am more anxious about the psychological effects on the younger generation and the furtherance of a dystopic hopelessness, than the ecological issues.

So much of Green propaganda emphasises the utter hopelessness of humanity and the downward spiral that can only be arrested by a radical change in not just attitudes but actions too. I just wonder if videos like this will be replaced 20 years on by wilful acts of violence and destruction, a sort of violent fideism, springing from frustration with politics, democracy and hedonism.

Some Surrey Christmas Memories

I hate the secularisation of Christmas; I had a letter from an associate who said he was going to have nothing to do with presents, turkeys, mince pies and such like fripperies.
I suspect that for many of old celibates that Christmas is a bit depressing because in a way it belongs to childhood. My mother always tried to recreate the Christmas of my childhood. “I have got... because I know you love it”, I always wanted to say, “Yes, mum, when I was six I thought it was delicious but I am forty-six now”.
I hope I never did say that but I might have.

I had an aunt on my father’s side, she was a Surrey country woman, she lived in the villages around Guildford and Godalming all her life. She was the daughter of a farmer. She had the hint of that distinctive Surrey accent which is almost lost nowadays until the day she died.

She used to make the most odd Christmas mince pies, I think they must have had a very traditional past, I just can’t imagine her being original in her cooking.
They were made with the type of pastry that was normally used for pork pies, but it had tons of ground ginger in it, so it became like a ginger biscuit, she used to make her own mincemeat, always made the year before which had packets of ground cloves in it, and I think there was actually meat in it too. They were oblong with rounded ends and the tops had an image of a haloed baby scratched on the top. They were quite big about the size of a Cornish pasty. When they came out of the oven the whole house smelt of spices. The smell was wonderful though I think they didn’t taste very nice.
I am sure these were the type of mince pies that Cromwell wanted to suppress, redolent of popery and the visit of the Magi.
Presents for her, when we were younger and less sophisticated were always handmade, knitted generally, taking hours of patience and love.
I can’t remember if we had turkey, I have memories of brawn made out of pigs heads, and rabbits or hare and “stray” pheasants rotting gently hung up in a shed. I remember a Surrey landowner saying that his gamekeepers always turned a blind eye for the weeks before Christmas, there were always wounded birds in the hedgerows around that time of year.


There is an interesting post on Zenit about the de-sacralisation of Churches. Fr McNamara says that there is no liturgical act to "deconsecrate" a church only a canonical statement or document.

Last night I stayed up later than I should and watched a television programme about an eccentric Dane, Mr Vig, who wanted to hand over his rather ramshackle castle to a group of Orthodox nuns, they wanted to turn a room into a "Church", he wanted it "consecrated" temporarily, so they could then build a proper Church. The nun said, "Once a church, a church forever", later she said "It would be a sin to change it".

I suspect this was the Catholic notion, hence an absence for any ritual to de-conscrate, unlike the Anglican, which of course grew out of a period in English history when churches were desecrated wholesale, almost as a national fad.

Personally I find it deeply sad when a church is turned into a museum, or a concert hall, a house, let alone a pub or a night club, casino or bingo hall.

For the Russian nun, I am sure the theology of consecration or blessing, was that once something was given to God it could not be taken back, this notion is found in the Old Testament of declaring something "Corbin". It is linked to sacrifice, sacrifice is not essentially about killing something, but putting it beyond human use. It is also linked in Orthodox thought to Covenant, God giving his promise to man and man giving his promise to God. God cannot take his promise back from man and man cannot therefore take his promise back from God. This is what underpins our theology of marriage, and the indelibillity of certain sacraments, and used to underpin such notions as oaths and solemn vows and promises.
The problem seems to be a loss of the notion of the "Sacred".

Christmas: Sol Invicta Myth

Time was when I, like most people, took it for granted the winter solstice and, in particular, the Roman Feast of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun were simply pagan celebrations that hung around into Christian times. In fact, when I set out to write this book I still thought this. But I discovered the reality is far more complicated and interesting. Indeed, it turns out this widely assumed "fact" that "everybody knows" is probably another sample of pseudo-knowledge. For according to William Tighe, a church history specialist at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg College, "the pagan festival of the 'Birth of the Unconquered Sun' instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the 'pagan origins of Christmas' is a myth without historical substance."

For the fact is, our records of a tradition associating Jesus' birth with December 25 are decades older than any records concerning a pagan feast on that day.

[T]he definitive "Handbook of Biblical Chronology" by professor Jack Finegan (Hendrickson, 1998 revised edition) cites an important reference in the "Chronicle" written by Hippolytus of Rome three decades before Aurelian launched his festival. Hippolytus said Jesus' birth "took place eight days before the kalends of January," that is, Dec. 25.

Tighe said there's evidence that as early as the second and third centuries, Christians sought to fix the birth date to help determine the time of Jesus' death and resurrection for the liturgical calendar—long before Christmas also became a festival.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Latin in Rottingdean

Rottingdean's Catholic and Anglican Churches both are very pretty.

I have been asked to celebrate a baptism in Extraordinary Form for a young Portugese couple ion January and today I have just celebrate my first Latin funeral for ages, in the ordinary form. Ron the deceased wanted a Latin Requiem. As it wasn't in my parish so I didn't suggest we could have faced east, used black rather than purple vestments, and used the traditional absolutions, things the parish priest would have been happy to have concurred with.

It was in the little village of Rottingdean, Catholics are buried in the ancient village cemetery, the Anglican Church's churchyard. So we walked a long the street in chasubles to meet the coffin at the lychgate, very cold the village pond which we had to pass was frozen, I am glad I brought my biretta.

Ron, being a music lover, only had a couple of hymns.

Dialogue and Evangelisation

Holy House of the Blessed Virgin Izmir
A Catholic priest was hospitalized Sunday after being stabbed, the Italian Embassy in Ankara said, in the latest in a string of attacks on Christians in Turkey. Police said they had detained the suspected attacker.
The assault on Italian Franciscan Adriano Franchini was likely to add to concerns about whether the predominantly Muslim country — which is bidding for European Union membership — can protect its Christian community.
Franchini was stabbed after Sunday Mass at St. Anthony's church in the port city of Izmir, said Simon Carta, the Italian consul there.
The priest is responsible for the Capucin order in Turkey and heads the Church of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Carta said. He said the priest was conscious when he was taken to a hospital. his injuries inflicted by a sixteen year old boy are not life threatening.

I have had a short correpondence recently with a couple of members of a parish run by another religious order in Turkey, who seem to do everything they can to thwart any possible attempt to evangelise, not it appears, for fear of attack but rather because of their committment to "dialogue" with Islam.

Sandro Magister has another insightful article, this time on the recent "Note on Evangelisation" by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is supposed to clear up the confusion between dialogue and evangelisation.

Beatification of six year old soon

Dear Jesus, I want to be Thy lamp that, close to Thee,burns with a flame of love,Thy lily that remains always to adorn Thy altarand to adore Thee.
Yesterday, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI received in a private audience His Eminence, the Most Reverend Lord Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate the heroicity of the virtues of the Servant of God Antonietta Meo, called Nennolina, a little girl born in Rome, in the parish of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, on 15 December 1930, where she also died on 3 July 1937. Nennolina is buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The Venerable Servant of God attended the school of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also in the parish of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pope Decries 'Pleasure at All Costs'

ROME (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI warned Sunday against seeking happiness in drugs or other "artificial paradises" and the self-centered quest for "pleasure at all costs."
Instead, the pope held up Mother Teresa — the Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor in India and elsewhere — as an example.
"Every day, she lived next to misery, human degradation and death," the pope told thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. "Yet, she offered the smile of God to everybody."
The pope, speaking during the traditional Sunday noon Angelus prayer, said real happiness cannot be found in cultures "that put individual happiness in the place of God, a mentality that has its emblematic effect in the quest for pleasure at all costs, in the spread of the use of drugs as an escape, a shelter in artificial paradises, which turn out to be completely illusory."
In an annual tradition, children came to St. Peter's Square bearing Nativity figures of baby Jesus for the pontiff to bless.
Earlier Sunday, Benedict consecrated a new church on the outskirts of Rome, blessing the parish's children.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...