Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On wishy-washyness

I appologies for the bad language in this clip it was sent to me by a parishioner after we had a conversation about the ghastliness of wishy-washyness in the presentation of Christianity in the popular mind.

Christ came to save, to change the eternal destiny of mankind. The Pope's Lenten call "to look on the one we have pierced", reminds us of the tremendous cost God paid.

I remember as a fifteen year old protestant child, when our Divinity teacher, an Anglican clergyman, was talking about the different beliefs members of the Church of England had about the Eucharist saying, "But, Sir, it seems that God went to an awful lot of trouble to leave us so confused". I think this believe led me eventually into the True Church.

Follow the Pope's advice and contemplate the pierced side of Christ, still it leaves me thinking, "God went to an awful lot of trouble to leave us so confused" or to allow us to be lost in wishy-washy uncertainty.

"Look upon the one you have pierced..." and put aside wishy-washyness.

picture credit

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I found this rather beautiful series of photograhs of Carthusian monks and nuns click here to see more and then I am afraid you have to search a bit yourself for the "diaporama".
It is not a difficult as finding the The Grand Chatreuse on a snowy winter's day but persistence will be its own reward.

Spawn of Satan: Competition Time

Valle Adurni has an interesting comment on this station of the Cross. They are not to my taste but they are beautiful, they are fixed to the wall but they are of a size you could happily hold in cupped hands.
The comment maker signs herself "Spawn of Satan" saying that this is name given her by her parish priest.
Why?, I ask.
What could she have done?
I suggested various options, spilling coffee on a new High Mass set, leading a rebellion in a Corpus Christi Procession, denying the Trinity, but no, I am convinced it must be worse.
Suggestions please

Recollection on St Patrick's Day

Fr. Nicolas du Chaxel fssp asked me publicise this Day of Recollection

With the gracious permission of the Archdiocese of Westminster, the priests of the Fraternity of Saint Peter will preach a Day of Recollection in central London on the theme :

- Preparing for Easter -
Saturday 17th March, 2007
Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street
24 Golden Square, London, W1F 9JR

10.30 Tridentine Sung Mass
Lunch (please bring a packed lunch)
1 pm . First talk
2 pm . Second talk

Followed by Confessions, & ending at c. 4.30 pm with Benediction
There is no cost to participate – You are warmly encouraged to invite any interested persons

Stabat Mater Dolorosa

The Holy Father tells us to contemplate the wounded side of Christ this Lent in order to understand the Love of God for us.

"Bias free" Blair

Dealing with problem families is not a question of "marriage versus lone parents", Tony Blair has said.
The prime minister said he believed that marriage was "a good thing", but he said anti-social problems were not limited to single parent families.
He said specific intervention was needed to target dysfunctional families whose "kids have gone off the rails".
Tory leader David Cameron has said that absent fathers and a lack of role models was fuelling gang culture.
Following the deaths of three teenagers in south London, within weeks of each other, Mr Cameron said he backed tax breaks to help families stay together and supported promoting a "culture of responsibility and respecting authority".
'Shut out'

At his monthly press conference Mr Blair said, when it came to the most dysfunctional families who were "shut out" of mainstream society, specific intervention was needed at an early stage.
"In my view, the debate is not about marriage versus lone parents. The debate is about how you target measures specifically on those families some of whom happen to be lone parents - but some of whom are couples."

He said it was important to support lone parents who wanted to get back into work and said Labour policies such as Sure Start and tax credits had benefited all types of families.

"Of course it is the case it is better to have kids in a stable relationship. Of course marriage is a good thing."
But he added that with the most severely dysfunctional families, their problems went "far far deeper" and required "tough measures with support at a very early stage".
'Bias free'
Mr Blair's comments came ahead of a speech later on Tuesday in which Education Secretary Alan Johnson will say family policy must not be biased in favour of marriage - saying taxation and law does not create strong families.
"Our family policy must be bias free... it's not who or what the parents are, it's what they do," he will tell a Relate conference.

"Bias free", well in the UK the tax policy actually advantages the seperated or co-habiting couples and single parents. Giving some tax advatange to married couples would give the impression that the Government actually thinks that marriage is worth supporting.

By not supporting the family the government is presumably saying something very clearly about what it considers to be important and what it considers to be at the root of society.

Vocations: How to get them

saturno tip to Southwark Vocations

Dioceses reporting successful rates of vocational recruitment have something in common, says the National Catholic Register.

In a summary of reporter Tim Drake's article "Vocations Surge" in a recent issue, the Register compiled a list of "six habits of highly effective dioceses."The first habit was putting the Eucharist at the center of vocational work.In an editorial the newspaper explained: "Eucharistic adoration is especially effective because it draws sharp attention to the great gift that makes the priesthood so extraordinary and so needed -- we have the priesthood to thank for God's real presence in the Blessed Sacrament." And the dynamic of silent Eucharistic adoration inevitably leads to the question, 'What do you want me to do, Lord?'

"According to the newspaper, the Web site worked with American bishops to deliver Vatican monstrances to dioceses to promote adoration in parishes. "Program leaders like David Craig have been astounded to see parishes produce their first vocations ever after Eucharistic adoration was introduced," the editorial stated.

Invitations: The second habit cited by the newspaper was the invitation. According to a U.S. bishops' survey, 78% of those being ordained began considering the priesthood after an invitation to do so from a priest.

Third, seminaries must be faithful to the magisterium in order to attract candidates. The Register editors mentioned three seminaries that are booming: St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Maryland; St. Vincent in Latrobe, Pennsylvania; and St. Gregory the Great in Seward, Nebraska.

Seminaries are not the only element that needs to be faithful. Candidates to the priesthood also come from faithful families.

The editorial cited a key role played by fathers, explaining: "There are beautiful exceptions, but the rule is that priests come from committed Catholic families in which the father is an active player in the family's faith.

"Youth Day: The fifth and sixth habits reported by the Register are interaction with priests and attendance at a World Youth Day.

Youth need to meet and interact with priests or "it may never occur to many young men that the priesthood is a life that would appeal to them," the article explained.

Key among the venues for this interaction is altar serving: "For many priests, serving at the altar was the first place they first came to know men who had been called and understood what the call entailed.

"And the "World Youth Day factor is very real," the editorial said. It explained that these events give young men the chance to see that they can have "a big, positive impact on the world -- one that lasts for eternity."

The tomb of Jesus

It is coming up to Easter therefore it is time for every loon to...
I really can't be bothered with this nonsense but read Ben Witherington

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Since we're talking Wilberforce...

saturno tip to Amy Welbourne at Open Book
A Jesuit reader from Ireland writes:
It's worth noting that, with the exception of Bishop Samuel, all of William Wilberforce's sons became Catholics, as did Bishop Samuel's daughter. Their journey from a very evangelical Anglicanism to Catholicism was extraordinary.
The bishop and one of his brothers were married to sisters of the lady who married the future Cardinal Manning. The bishop and Dr Manning used to address each other as "Dear Brother", though the relationship became strained in later years.
Moments before he died in a horse riding accident, Bishop Samuel was talking about (and deploring) conversions to Rome.
Henry William Wilberforce, in the old Catholic Encylcopedia
Robert Isaac Wilberforce
Wilberforce himself was also a supporter of Catholic emancipation.
From Zadok, a photograph of Robert Isaac Wilberforce's tombstone in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Let us look at Christ pierced by our sins and be looked at by Him, says Pope

Before the start of Lenten exercises, Benedict XVI once again urges the faithful to take part in a Lent of contemplation. By looking straight at Christ’s ribs, we can discover that God is love and understand sin and the “boundless stream” of mercy. The Crucifix is the source from which we can draw the indispensable spiritual energy to build peace and happiness.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A few hours before the start of spiritual exercises in the Vatican, the Pope urged pilgrims in St Peter’s Square to enter “the time of Lent by looking straight at the ribs of Jesus.” In doing so he restated the theme he mentioned in his Lent message titled They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.
In mentioning his encyclical Deus caritas est the Pope stressed the importance of “looking”. He said that it is only by looking at Jesus who died on the Cross that can one know that “God is love”. “In this contemplation,” the Pontiff said, “the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move (Deus caritas est, 12). Contemplating the Crucifix with the eyes of faith, we can deeply understand what sin is, how tragic its gravity is and at the same time how incommensurable is the power of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.”
The lance that pierced Christ’s ribs is witnessed in the Gospel of John. “That act carried out by an unknown Roman soldier,” Benedict XVI explained, “bound to be forgotten, was engraved in the eyes and heart of the Apostle who mentioned it in the Gospel. How many conversions have taken place over the centuries because of this eloquent message of love that those who look on the Crucified Jesus receive.”
“In these days of Lent,” the Pope added, “let us not remove our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and high spirituality. By looking at Christ, let us feel that He is looking at us. The one we have pierced with out sins never tires to pour onto the world a boundless stream of merciful love. May humanity understand that it is only from this source that we can draw the indispensable spiritual energy to build the peace and happiness that each human being endlessly seeks.”
“Let us call on the Virgin Mary,” the Pope said by way of conclusion, “whose soul was pierced near Her Son’s cross, to help gain a firm faith. Guiding us on the Lenten path, may she help us put aside all that distracts us from listening to Christ and his word of salvation.”
And it is in Her the Pope entrusted the spiritual exercises which Card Giacomo Biffi will preach in the Vatican starting today till Saturday morning March 3 with the Pontiff’s and Roman Curia’s participation.
The archbishop emeritus of Bologna Mgr Biffi, a brilliant and wise scholar, will preach on the subject Look for things above, where Christ sits on the right side of God; think about things above, not about those on earth.
“I call on you,” said Benedict XVI, “to accompany us with your prayer, which I gladly shall return by way of meditation, invoking the divine power for each one of us, your families and communities.”

18-35? In Brighton this Friday night?

Fr Paul Turner, our Diocesan Vocations Director, is starting a diocesan group for anyone who is 18-35 who is trying to discern what God is calling them to, whatever that might be.

He is inviting speakers to give input and to lead discussion about "choice making" and discernment, discipleship, marriage, celibacy, prayer, priesthood, religious life. It will meet in our Parish Centre in Upper North Street (between the Church and the Hampton Pub) at 7.30pm monthly from this Friday evening.

There is Mass at 7pm by the way

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Irresponsible British Press: John Allen

John Allen says, "Reporting on religion in the mainstream British press is not only sometimes dreadful, it's dangerous, and something needs to be done about it."

He takes a swipe at The Times, The Mirror and The Financial Times, to us Brits it is pretty obvious that not only these papers but the good old BBC, who were accused by some foreign commentators of inflaming the Muslim reaction to Regensburg, needs something to be done about it. The British press shocked the rest of the world for its headlines after the election of Pope Benedict, with headlines such as "Nazi Razi" and "Rottweiler Pope".

Allen says, "something needs to be done about it" but doesn't bother to suggest a solution. The organ that is supposed to be doing the "something" is the Catholic Media Office, but that seems to be about as effect as a spit in the wind, and has been so for the last couple of decades.

Can anyone suggest what the" something" that needs to be done could possibly be?
Could it have something to do with the lack of clarity and confusion over our message. The reaction to the Pope's election I think reflected the hierarchy's perceived position on the then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The condoms issue that Allen refers to again reflects what many in the hierarchy are saying privately, even publicly, and what organisations like Cafod have as policy: no wonder the Financial Times gets it wrong. The media assume the mainstream Catholic Church is extreme and reactionary, that the norm is represented by the English Church's often dissenting spokes people.

Have a look at CWN where the journalist Vittorio Messori looks at the Italian press and identifies gay groups and the paharmaceutical industry as opposing Catholic teaching.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fasting: Creating a void for Christ

I get a little irritated with Cafod, our British branch of Caritas, especially during Lent, for the way it portrays fasting. It seems to give the impression that the purpose of fasting is so that we can save money in order to give it to a third world project, or if not that, at least so we can suffer in solidarity with the hungry.
These are very worthy aims but they miss and distort what fasting is all about.
Fasting is part of the very ancient religious practice of ascetical self denial. A Coptic Orthodox friend prides himself on his Church having 200 fast days a year. Muslim children I know delight in being mature enough to take part properly in the daylight fast of Ramadan.
For a Christian fasting is about learning to be hungry for God, learning to share in some small way in Christ’s suffering. It is related to but diferent from abstinence, giving up a particular type of food like meat or chocolate or sugar. Fasting isn’t just about the absence of food (and drink) but deliberately cutting oneself off from other external stimulations, the media, gossip or unnecessary conversation, even blogging.
Physical hunger creates an interior hunger. All the great spiritual masters would say that fasting should be accompanied by increasing spiritual exercises, our prayer, our spiritual reading and meditation, in short, filling the vacuum we create with Christ. The Pope reminded us that Lent is a time for configuring ourselves more closely to the Crucified Christ. He urged us all to rediscover the significance of fasting as a way of coming closer to Him. Fasting certainly isn’t about weight loss, or even personal growth or even directly about solidarity with anyone except the Crucified.
It is for a Christian about creating and recognising a deep, deep hunger for the Lord and especially in this Lenten season of identifying ourselves with his Passion and Death, from that if, God wills, we learn to act justly, to be generous to the needy.


Fasting makes you light headed so don't fast if are driving or using dangerous machinery.
Fasting makes you tetchey and even short tempered so avoid it if you are having marital problems.
Fasting affects the action of medicines.
It is not advisable for those with a history of psychiatric problems.
Only heretics fast on Sundays and feast days.

It is better done for short periods of a day or two, try Wednesdays and Fridays and the eves of great feasts.

What the Bishops wanted

I thought it would be useful, with the imminent signing and publication of the Holy Father's Exhortation following the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, to remind myself and you, what the Synod Fathers actually suggested, so look here, the Holy Father suggested that they should come up some propositions that could be the baisis of a document that he would publish as the post synodal exhortation. Most seem to be about deepening a sense of reverence, increasing the degree of actual participation in the Mass.
What fascinates me is the radical suggestions of the Bishop's which seem very much within the Church's Tradition, and an attempt to return to an authentic re-presentation of Sacramentum Concillium, the Vatican II's document on the liturgy.
There have been several documents that have been issued in recent years on the Eucharist, most have been ignored or at least have had little impact

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pope will sign Liturgy Document soon

The Holy Father met with clergy from the Diocese of Rome today, Thursday. It seem a rather beautiful good humoured occassion of Bishop and priests, not so much talking about business but faith and prayer and living the priestly vocation.
He said "I will soon sign the post-synodal exhortation from the Bishops Synod held in October 2005," the Pope announced. The theme of the Synod was "The Eucharist: origin and summit of the life and mission of the Church." "It will help in personal as well as liturgical meditation," said the Pope, "as well as in the preparation of homilies and celebrating the Holy Mass, but it will also guide, illuminate and help revitalize popular piety."

Umm interesting, I look forward to seeing it.

I was very touched by this:-

"I must confess a personal weakness," the Pope said, when answering a question about priestly activities. "At night, I find it difficult to pray. I just want to sleep," he said to much applause. "Nevertheless, it is really necessary to find some time for the Lord." "It's easier said than done," he added, "but we should always try to spiritualize our work."

read Amy for more

Triregno returns

Fr Zuhlsdorf announced that the Triregno, the Papal Tiara, has returned to adorn the brow of the statue of the Prince of the Apostles on the Feast of the Chair of the Apostle Peter.
Over the last two years people have searched for it in vain but this year.... ecce!

Fasting to Feasting

Tonight I am preaching at the S. Petrus in Valle, no not one of the Roman Stational Basillicas but Shoreham, the home of the blogger Valle Adurni, Fr Sean Finnegan. It is there patronal feast, The Chair of Peter, in theory they could have started feasting yesterday, with the First Vespers of the Solemnity.
Until the 70s there were two feasts of the Chair of Peter, one at Antioch, where Peter was first bishop and the other at Rome, they were almagamated in the 1970s. The illustration is the actual chair, which is in that extra-ordinary construction in St Peter's Rome by Bernini. The Chair from gospel times represents teaching authority, Jesus himself speaks of the Pharisees occupying the "Chair of Moses".
I am not sure what I am actually going to say yet, I love the passage at the end of the Sermon on the Mount about the wise man who builds his house on rock. Scott Hahn suggests that the "wise man" was Solomon who built the first Temple, the House of the Lord on Mount Zion, who was supplanted by the even wiser man, the Lord, who built his house, the Church, on the Rock, that is Peter, to stand firm forever. I think them I might go on to speak about God trusting frail human flesh and frail human relationships, frail popes and frail priests and bishops, and frail people too to be the Rock to stand firm forever.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

At S. Sabina

Pope urges Catholics to rediscover prayer, fasting, works of charity
By John Thavis Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to rediscover the traditional "penitential weapons" of prayer, fasting and works of charity in order to make Lent a time of inner renewal.
He made the comments during an Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 21 at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in central Rome. The liturgy began with a procession from the nearby Church of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill.
The pope, dressed in the purple vestments of the Lenten season, said the 40 days leading up to Easter should be a time to revive the "friendship with God that was lost through sin. "The church, he said, offers the same ascetic instruments that have proven effective through the centuries. "Jesus indicates the useful instruments needed for authentic interior and community renewal: the works of charity or almsgiving, prayer, and penitence or fasting," the pope said. He said these practices should be performed to please God and not to gain people's approval. Fasting, in particular, should not be motivated by physical or aesthetic concerns, but by people's need for "inner purification and detoxification from the contamination of sin and evil," he said. During the Mass, the pope placed ashes on cardinals, bishops, monks and lay faithful, marking the top of the head according to the Ash Wednesday custom in Italy. The marking with ashes, he said, signaled the need for penitence and reminded people that human life is transitory and precarious. Prayers offered during the liturgy included a special intention calling on all Catholics to show solidarity with the poor, with refugees and with those suffering discrimination, and to strive for justice and practice works of mercy.

A Little Allegri

The music is wonderful, may be the merciful Lord will send me a choir one day!

Good stuff from the Pope on Lent

From todays audience.
(AsiaNews) – Lent, which starts today, Ash Wednesday, is an “opportunity to become Christian again”, to “rediscover our baptism”, which “often is not very efficient in our daily life”. Ash Wednesday, “a particular day, characterized by an intense spirit of meditation and reflection” was the theme tackled by Benedict XVI today when he addressed the faithful who took part in the general audience. The event was once again held in two parts, first in the Basilica of St Peter and then in Paul VI Hall to accommodate the number of people present: around 7,000 in the hall and 3,000 in the basilica.
Speaking during the general audience, Benedict XVI said that Ash Wednesday, which he will celebrate this afternoon in the Roman basilica of Santa Sabina, introduces the period of the 40 days separating it from Easter “a time of listening to the Word, prayer and penitence: days in which to revive the stages of salvation”.
The pope recalled that in the early Church, Lent was a “time of immediate preparation for Baptism, to be administered during the Easter vigil” as an invitation to “rediscover” and to give new strength to baptism. Today it has become a “renewed catechumenate to renew our baptism in depth”, “an occasion to become Christians again”.
A time of conversion, then, because “conversion is never made forever”, rather it is a “journey” which “cannot be limited to a particular time, it must embrace the entire span of our existence, every day of our life.” Converting, in the words of the pope, means “seeking God”, “going with God”, “humbly following the teachings of his son Jesus”: “It is not an effort to realize ourselves”, because “the human being is not architect of himself, we did make ourselves.” “Conversion consists precisely in not thinking that we are our own creators, and thus discovering the truth, accepting with love to depend in everything on love from God” because “depending on this love is not dependence but freedom”. “It is no use pursing our personal success, which is something that passes”. Rather, for the Christian, Christ must become “my all in all”, said the pope, citing as phrase of Mother Teresa.
In Lent, then, we are ever more stimulated to “tear out” the roots of vanity, to “educate our heart to love God”. The sincere desire for God “leads us to reject evil and to do good, which is above all a free gift of God”, “our true happiness”. This is why Lent, “while inviting us to reflect and to pray, also urges us to emphasize penitence, prayer and fasting” and works of charity towards our brothers, “spiritual paths to follow to return to God in response to the continued calls of conversion in today’s liturgy.”May the Lenten period, added Benedict XVI, “be for all a renewed experience of the merciful love of God, who on the cross poured out his blood for us. Let us submit ourselves humbly to his teaching to learn how to give, once again, our love to our neighbours in our turn, especially those who are in difficulties.”

Rome's Stational Churches

The North American College (NAC) website has the Stational Churches of Rome on its website. These Stations were the places where the Pope celebrated Lenten Masses. Traditionally the whole Papal Court moved in cavalcade from one to another.
Saturno tip to Amy Welbourne, check out her site for some other good Lent stuff including a sermon from St Gregory the Great and a pretty cool letter from the Bishop of St Antonio on sin and Confession.

Remember Man that you are dust and to dust you shall return

Saturno tip for picture to Hallowed Ground
Contemplate, O Man, what you will be without the free gift of God. Remember not just the fleeting death of the Body but the eternal death of the Soul. Examine your heart, contemplate your sin, then fear and tremble, keep this ever before your mind: You are Dust and to Dust you will return.
Now look upon the Crucified, unite your soul to His. Bring to mind the cost at which you were bought. Look at the One they pierced, the One who for you endured death and have hope and rejoice. For God by His own great Love cast away His Son to save, not even a slave, but dust, a dead thing.
The Most High descended to the very depths for You. To raise you to the Heights of Heaven. Contemplate, O Man, and Tremble and Rejoice.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007


I was in the seminary before I realised that abstinence meant not eating meat.
There are just two days of abstinence now, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I am sure that the Church introduced abstainence as a sign of solidarity with the poor but not just that. It is also about Life being sacred. The slaughtering customs of Judaism and Islam both involve prayer, a recognition that killing is somehow treading upon sacred ground, something we need at least to draw a breath on before doing it, it is not something that is ever to be taken lightly. Good Friday, the day God is slain on the Cross we cannot think of taking life or spilling blood, the Church applies the same rigour to Ash Wednesday.
In the 21st century when meat comes packaged in such a way that it is disconnected with anything that might have once been alive, the Bird Flu outbreak in the Norfolk turkey sheds reminded us how cheap and how inconsequential the breath of life has become. I used to shoot a bit, I was very against the hunting ban because of its consequences on rural life, with these activities there is a certain effort or even ceremony involved in the killing. I love eating meat, I think there is something a little odd about vegetarianism but the industrial scale of production - 10,000 turkeys killed on one farm - and the very cheapness of meat is an indictment of our society.
The traditional Christian attitude to eating flesh was that it was for feast days because it was expensive, and not just financially, those who eat it were in a direct relationship with those who killed it and in the past one invariable had a "personal" relationship with the animal that was killed, one reared it, maybe even named it or one hunted it, along with the choice cfuts there was also the blood gore and intestines.
I know this is one of my rather cranky things but one of my Lenten things is trying to cut back on my carniverous activity to try and re-acquire a sense of the the holiness of a lamb chop or a pork pie.


Carnival, carni vale, meat farewell.
By now the partying in the parish is full flow, dancing, feasting, opera going, street parties eating fat and meat and all of that sort of thing, then tomorrow at midnight amid the sound of party-poppers and raucous laughter the Church bell will ring out and silence will fall over the city. Then dancing will turn into solemn penitential processions, the feasting to strict fasting, the opera to sober oratorios, and all will say farewell to meat and fat. By Holy Week our bodies will be thin and sallow chastened by the rigours of a Holy Lent. The masks that have hidden our identity during carnival are cast off and trodden underfoot, we stand barefaced before the living God. Riotous partying will give way to rigorous conversion.
Well maybe not, there is a certain coldness about our Northern European feasting and fasting, Father Schofield, has an interesting post about carnival in Venice. I was once there for this extra-ordinary event, there was the touristy Canalettoesque partying, and the well mannered but fun student street partying, with plenty of broken glass crunching under foot on the streets along the canals. On Ash Wednesday all had changed, "La Princepessa" with whom I was staying insisting on boiled fish (actually lobster) for a light lunch, and a slightly sour white wine, as I was travelling.
On a previous occasion I had a Shrove Tuesday ("shrove" from "shrive" to confess) or Mardi Grasse (Fat Tuesday), with a Spanish/Portuguese family and we eat pancakes, well they were huge omelettes with all the things that wouldn't be eaten until Easter, bacon, chorizo, eggs, cream, cheese, butter, not the modern English skimpy little things.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New head of clergy congregation issues defense of priestly celibacy

So many of my congregation are celibate, some temporarily, in the sense of they are not yet married, others because of their sexual orientation or because of the breakdown of their marriages are bound like me to permanent celibacy. This is obviously the case too in those who have been widowed later in life. It is important that priests today rejoice in the lifestyle they have chosen for the glory of God and are able to speak coherently about the trials and joys of it, but more importantly that they live it well, not in the sense of being crabby old bachelors but as men who rejoice in the availability that celibacy gives.

Liberal bishops and priests so often suggest that they have chosen priesthood and have been forced to accept celibacy as part of the package, this is odd, because any important choice has ramifications for the rest of one's life. Cakes can not be had and eaten at the same time. Sally cannot be slept with if one is married to Mary and if one is head over heals in love with God nothing is preferable to Him, this is the great sign of priestly celibacy.
The Christian understanding of human sexuality is that it should be controlled and is controllable, through the love of God.
Maybe this intervention by Hummes might encourage ideas along the line of the priest being married to the Church; female religious being the brides of Christ, all ancient ideas and all very fruitful, and all very unfashionable in certain quarters.

Cardinal Hummes reviewed what he said was strong evidence that priestly celibacy has its roots in apostolic times, not later centuries. The cardinal said celibacy represents "a more full configuration with the Lord Jesus," who lived his own life as a celibate, and is a sign of the total love priests give to the church. For all priests, he said, celibacy should be a call to happiness and not a burden of suffering. Cardinal Hummes said celibacy is also a sign of pastoral charity. "Common experience confirms that it is easier to open one's heart to one's brothers fully and without reserve for those who have no other emotional attachments, no matter how legitimate and holy, except the attachment to Christ," he said.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Frivolous penitential thoughts

I have just been reading a bit on Fr Tim's blog about fasting. I had a phone call from a Spanish friend who told me a convent of Carmelites in a parish near him makes a huge(ish) amount of money during carnival selling penitential instruments for Lent. They have a two year waiting list.
Dan Brown has a lot to answer for.

I was looking at what we do for "children's liturgy" and thought rather than colouring in this Sunday we might ...

St Magdalen's Children' Liturgy

4/5 year olds will make a discipline for daddy
6/7 year olds will make a cilice for mummy
7+s will knit patchwork hairshirts for the altar servers

Now before you ring anyone this is meant to be joke.

Briton the worst place for children

While I was away the was a report published that said out of 21 countries Britain as the worst place for children, the US followed close on our tail.

Well it is not surprising as a law for "services and commodities" deals with the adoption of children. It seems indicative of government policy that children are objects. No wonder there is such a high teenage pregnancy and abortion rate in the UK. There are growing youth crime rates. The age for premarital sex is growing lower and lower. Marital breakdown increases, in fact it seems that it is actually encouraged by our government, it is cheaper for parents to live apart, or co-habit than to be married.
The cost of housing, the need for both parents to work for a mortgage, the expectation that parents will work long hours, the encouragement of mobility and therefore the fragmentation of the extended family and the denigration of the role parents are obviously all contributory factors.
But I blame our present regime and our present Prime Minister who has done nothing to safeguard the family. In this area, on this issue our Bishop should declare Crusade against all and any legislation that does not conform to the Church's teaching.

Neopolitan Thoughts

The first visit to Naples was amazing, a city of extra-ordinary contrasts. I had been offered a job there a few years ago as a chaplain to some Filipino sisters, who were working with poor immigrants, a bit odd as I have hardly any Italian, but then Filipinoes use English as a working language, I think they were deperate for their own priest. I didn't have time to look them up.

Poverty was so very evident but so too was devotion, the glorious churches like the Duomo, with its huge silver reliquary busts in the chapel of St Gennarius; his blood liquifies three times a year when it is brought close tho his bones. There are shrines in odd locations, little conservatories that elsewhere would be vandalised, normally with an ugly statue of St Pio (Padre Pio), here there are fresh flowers, the photographs of the recently deceased.

What delighted me was the sense that God and his saints are alive and active. That prayer works. That it is normal to have images of the saints in taxis, on buses, on street corners, in the home and in shops; public demonstrations of faith build faith and create an envioroment in which there is an expectation that God is at Work.

I look forward to going again and having more time.

St. Joseph Moscati

I was very touched by the devotion to St. Joseph Moscati in Naples. He was a doctor who died in 1927 who treated the poor freely and gave generously to their needs. It was very touching to see the devotion of many Neopolitans to this new saint. His relics are in the altar of the New Gesu people come up and touch the front of the altar and then kiss a rather modern bronze statue, and hold its hand. There is a museum of his rooms and various things associated with him and halls literally covered with little ex voto silver offerings in thanks for prayers answered. It is all very moving and shows what a modern cultus should be about.
Look him up, and say a prayer to him.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tomorrow I have to be in-

in Napoli
I won't be blogging until Friday or Saturday, if you comment on anything, you will have to wait until then to see your wisdom and wit in lights.
Of course this trip has nothing to do with pleasure, enjoyment or fun, it is pure work, penance and mortification.

Albania: The First Atheist State

This weekend we had Fr Martin Thompson here to preach about Albania and to give us the privilege of helping this poor, abused Church which has undergone a long and brutal Good Friday continue its slow Resurrection.

Following is from a series of articles by Robert Royal based on his book, The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive Global History, published by Crossroads.

WARNING: it is not for the squeamish.

Albania is a small country that prides itself on its fierce national identity and long Christian history. The faith came early to Albania with St. Paul. Its bishops were prominent in early councils. Albania claims among its distinguished sons and daughters: Saint Jerome, who translated the New Testament into Latin; Pope Clement XI; and Mother Teresa, a Yugoslavian of Albanian background. Albania suffered terribly during World War II. But its worst horrors arose with the 1946 creation of the Communist People’s Republic of Albania. Only the witness of those who resisted, including many Christians who were persecuted to the point of martyrdom, kept the most basic of human ideals alive.
As early as 1945, Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator, paid indirect homage to the Albanian Church even as he described the Party’s goals: "The Catholic clergy is a well-organized body, with strong traditions and close links with the Vatican. Therefore, we should confront its organization with our better organization, confront its policy with our political line, and oblige it to fight on our ground, and not on its own." That would involve persecution, expropriation of property, the wholesale slaughter of the Catholic leadership, and attempts to create "the first atheist state on the planet."There was good reason to pay attention to the Church. Franciscans and Jesuits had played a major role in modern Albanian culture. The Franciscans may have arrived as early as St. Francis’s return from Syria in 1219 and they educated Albanians of all religious backgrounds. The Jesuits did not arrive until the 19th century, but they helped promote Albanian nationalism in a nation still heavily influenced by the Ottoman empire. Other orders — Salesians, Servites— established communities of nuns who ran hospitals, kindergartens, and trade schools. In sum, religious were integrated into the heart of national life.
Soon after the Communist takeover, two Franciscans (Lek Luli and Anton Harapi) and two secular priests (Lazer Shantoja and Andrea Zadeja) were summarily executed. Shantoja was so badly tortured before he died, his forearms and leg bones broken, that he could only "walk" around on elbows and knees. His own mother asked his captors to kill him. Jesuit Vice-Provincial Gjon Fausti, the seminary rector Daniel Dajani, and the Franciscan editor of Morning Star, Gjon Shllaku, were shot. The government also executed the Muslim lawyer, Muzafer Pipa, who bravely defended Jesuits and Franciscans.
A notorious instance involved Vincent Predushi, a Franciscan and Archbishop of Durres. He was a student of Albanian folklore and traditional songs. He also wrote poetry and translated some of the best poems from other European languages. But this eminence only hastened his arrest. Sentenced to 20 years, at one point he was tied up and hung from the prison bathroom ceiling. The archbishop was 65 years old at the time. Another bishop, George Volaj, of the diocese of Sappa, had the distinction of becoming the youngest bishop in the world in 1940 (at age 36) and the youngest bishop to be martyred seven years later.
An even more brutal fate awaited Father Nikoll Gazulli, a pastor in the Shkodra archdiocese. Father Gazulli fled but was tricked into returning to administer extreme unction to a dying villager. Betrayed, he was shot in the back, though not killed. As an object lesson, he was hung, still alive, in front of the village church for several days.
Many lay people were also tortured for failing to denounce the "crimes" of the clergy (whole parishes of Albanian Catholics asked to be arrested in place of their priests and met to say the rosary in the priest’s absence). Maria Shalaku, from Kosovo, was pronounced too depraved for quick execution: she was condemned to "be slowly burned alive to ashes."
In the prisons camps, the slow torture took many forms. Jan Gardin, a Jesuit survivor, recorded in his journal:
"Most of them were beaten on their bare feet with wooden clubs; the fleshy part of the legs and buttocks were cut open, rock salt inserted beneath the skin, and then sewn up again; their feet, placed in boiling water until the flesh fell off, were then rubbed with salt; their Achilles’ tendons were pierced with hot wires. Some were hung by their arms for three days without food; put in ice and icy water until nearly frozen; had electrical wires places in their ears, nose, mouth, genitals, and anus; burning pine needles placed under fingernails; forced to eat a kilo of salt and having water withheld for 24 hours; boiled eggs put in their armpits; teeth pulled without anaesthetic; tied behind vans and dragged; left in solitary confinement without food or water until almost dead; forced to drink their own urine and eat their own excrement; put in pits of excrement up to their necks; put on a bed of nails and covered with heavy material; put in nail-studded cages which were then rotated rapidly."
But the people remained faithful. When religious services were permitted again in 1990, they immediately drew thousands. The government returned religious properties in 1991, the same year that Mother Teresa made a brief visit and opened a convent. In 1983, it compared John Paul II to Mussolini; in 1993, it honored him for defending the Albanian people for 15 years. The Albanian Church triumphed — at a high price. Of 156 priests before the persecution began, 65 were martyred, 64 died during or after imprisonment. Tens of thousands of common people perished for religious reasons. No people passed through a worse trial in the 20th century.
Pope John Paul II has said: "History has never seen before what happened in Albania. Dear Albanians, your drama must interest the whole European continent: Europe must not forget."

God is dead!

A story from an Albanian childhood:

Niktoline was nine, before the Churches were closed he had served daily Mass for the village priest, until the priest had told him not to come anymore, he didn't care about the danger to himself, it was only when the priest told him he was endangering his parents that he finally, but then only reluctantly stopped coming to Mass.
His teacher called him out in front of the class, she asked the boy if he believed in God. “Yes, I believe”, he said calmly. She became apoplectic with fury, she hammered her desk and shouted over and over again, “God is dead! GOD IS DEAD!”, until she was almost unable to shout.
On his way to home that day Niktoline’s classmates taunted him, repeating the teachers, “God is dead” chant. Finally he could bear it no longer, he turned to his persecutors, presumably he prayed for God's help, then he shouted, “God is not dead, he is alive”. Immediately his persecutors fell silent and ran away.
Niktoline is now a priest, in his journey to the priesthood he spent four years in an Albanian labour camp because of his faith.
The diocese o Shkodra will soon be launching a website of the stories of 40 of those executed between 1947 and 1989 for the faith, as part of their preparations for the Beatification of the Martyrs of Albania later this year or next year.
Even if you don't know their names or stories ask their intercession. So great was their suffering, Christ will not refuse their intercession on our behalf.
Niktoline had the courage to stand up for Christ because of the example of the priest whose daily Mass he served, he is one of these Holy Martyrs.

Marini in Brazil

Archbishop Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, discusses liturgical soft furnishings in Brazil, in preparation for the Pope's forthcoming visit.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pius XII canonising Pius X

There are some rather wonderful pictures of Pius XII at the canonisation of Pius X at Hallowed Ground.
While you are there look at the old pictures of Lourdes.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Saint Josephine Bakhita

There is a beautiful post on Don Marco's site about this amazing woman, it is entitled, "A Saint For Those Who Are Prisoners of Their Past". He also has a lovely passage from Newman on friendship.
I enjoy his site, he is a Cistercian monk at S Croce in Jerusalem (actually in Rome). His posts always give you something to think about and occassionall bring a lump to the throat, as this one does.

On Pastoral Letters

I was reading Fr Sean's blog, Valle Adurni, he reproduces some extracts from our Bishop's recent pastoral letters, I was discussing it with another priest who is staying with me, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a rather erudite Indian liturgist in Rome, then a Monsignor, who now is now, well ...., let's say he has had preferrment but is still involved with liturgy.

We talked about homilies and then ended up talking about pastoral letters. There was an American priest with us as well, he said that his Bishop sent out a DVD as his Pastoral letter, at first it was him simply sitting at a desk talking to a camera but people complained that they were a bit boring, so now they are little TV programmes with music and clips of diocesan events, churches and so forth and maybe an interview.
The priest went on to explain that the cost had risen so much to produce them that they had to be sponsored by local businesses, with a side bar featuring the logos of those who contribute to the production cost. He then told us that wealthy parishes had over head projectors and screens that drop from the ceiling, poorer parishes had to put up with someone wheeling in a television monitor or even one being placed on the altar. I had a vision of Ronald Mcdonald "This pastoral message is brought to you courtesy of the Mcdonald's hamburger chain".
Monsignor grew angrier and angrier spluttering his fizzy water, almost choking, wel he did it ina rather urbane way. Then he spoke about the priest or the deacon being the voice of the Bishop in the local Church, suggesting that if the voice of a priest or deacon was good enough for the Gospel and to annunciate the sacred words of Liturgy then it should be good enough to satisfy the vanity of any Bishop. He then, still urbanely choking on his Agua Pellegrino, went on to talk about the Liturgy being a spoken (or sung) and a human thing, that it couldn't to be mediated by such electronic means, putting the the TV on during Mass was an interruption to the sacred liturgy, a typical sign of American consumerism and decadence, an act unworthy of the sacredness of the Liturgy, something that was in sense a denial of the Incarnation, and the human mediation of the liturgy. It showed either ignorance or contempt for the sacred character of those who were by ordination his logothetes ....... and so forth and so forth and so forth, including that Peter and Paul's letters were actually originally [interesting idea] Pastoral Letters.
"What do you do in your parish?" the America priest asked me.
To calm down the Monsignor I said, "Oh we still use the wind-up gramophone. I always say if it was good enough in Benedict XV's reign, it is good enough for John Paul II's". It didn't cause Mgr to calm down, he just glared, in truth, I think he was playing up to us a bit, so I had to confess our tape player had be broken since I arrived in the parish and I had not then yet replaced it.
I am afraid it is still not replaced, so people just have to sit and listen to me trying to declaim what the Bishop has designed to be heard in a chatty converstional style. It seems a dreadful waste and not living simply to buy a decent machine just to be used for less than an hour a year, which would be the total of Bishop's letter-time. We don't use recorded music in Church.
I didn't ask about the JPII video messages to World Youth Day, but maybe they are used outside of the Mass.
Thoughts anyone?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Requiescat in pace

Pray for the soul of Second Lieutenant Jonathan Carlos Bracho-Cooke, who was 24. He became the 100th British soldier to be killed in Iraq, his family live in St Mary's, Preston Park, a neighbouring Brighton parish. Argus story here

His mother is active in helping prepare couples for marriage in the deanery.

There are so many soldiers who are related to members of my parish, their parents are desperately worried. How important it is that we pray for their safety and for an end to this War.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wearing the right thing

A friend of mine is going to be the Chaplain to the High Sheriff of one of the Home Counties next year, a very English thing. Nothing to do with guns and that American stuff. If anyone can put something in the comments on the functions of such an exulted personnage it will be of interest.

The conversation turned to what does the Chaplain to the High Sheriff wear; important he wears something and that it is the right thing. I actually believe the old adage, "If he doesn't wear; it shows he doesn't care". My friend is known for his caring. The proper thing is a feriola, a light very full cloak with a stiffened flat collar, and perhaps a saturno, or a Roman hat, in beaver of course not felt.
For those of you who want to know more, there is a very useful book Costume of prelates of the Catholic church, according to Roman etiquette (c1909) . Best viewed on a laptop or widescreen
I am hoping that someone will do an update.
There is a very interesting bit (for some people) about the clerical collar, apparently it isn't the white sweatband but actually the coloured thing underneath, black for a priest, now purple for a bishop, red for a cardinal.

Audience Today

In today’s general audience Benedict XVI reaffirmed the importance of the family in and for the Church as a witness of Christian love made up of “altruism and mutual care” as well as an element for the growth of the entire community. The pope dedicated his address to the spouses Priscilla and Aquila who were part of “the orbit of Paul’s many collaborators”.

Care in the community

I had a meeting last night to discuss the future of our soup run and today another meeting to discuss the future of our parish SVP conference.
During the Ann Roberts long illness I didn't really want to interfere but infact it has carried on by the remarkable people who devote an incredible amount of time and as I found last night and their money as well, to the needs of the poorest people in our city. The SVP has just run out of steam.

At the heart of any parish there has to be caring for those most in need, the soup run is remarkable, every weekday night two or three people make sandwiches, soup, hotdogs whatever and flasks of coffee for about 30 people. They never know if there are going to be 2 or 3 people or 50. Most of them don't drive so they tote bags and flasks down to the seafront, normally there are only two of them sometimes just one, we are going to try and get a few more people involved so people can have a day off or a cold without people starving.
The SVP I am going to try and restart with younger parishioners, it is pretty evident in our parish that we are not serving even our own parishioners as well as we should. We need someone who can work with the school where some parents are in serious need especially new immigrants. Everywhere nowadays there are parents with addiction problems, maybe more here in Brighton than elsewhere. We also have people who are supposed to be "cared for in the community" but in practice aren't. There are people who have long term mental health problems and people who need some "life style coaching", such as suggestions like, "you have been wearing that shirt for three weeks now ... " or I'll give you a hand to scrape the food of your floor, it is getting a bit squelchy isn't it?
Yesterday as well "Brighton Voices in Exile", a charity for immigrants, started using my basement as their office. I am afraid its a bit of cop out for me, previously I was using it for homeless immigrants but I thought it better after one or two of them had a brush with the police because of drug use in the street that we found an alternative use. Interesting, they were Muslims and never once abused my hospitality.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Photographs from Candlemas

Clare took these photographs of Candlemas on her mobile. It was a bit brighter, than the photographs suggest, there were actually some electric lights on, enough to make to the distribution of Holy Communion safe. I am celebrating, the concelebrant is Fr Mark Elvins OFM Cap.
I love the picture of the the crucifix.
The great beauty of celebrating ad orientem is that it is the image of the Crucified that dominates the celebration not the face of the priest, the Pope talks about that in Spirit of the Liturgy. For the priest then the Mass becomes an action through Christ.
What becomes clear in celebrating Mass "with" the people is that the priest is doing something for them but what I have realised doing it with a growing congregation (normally it has been a side altar in an Italian Church, perhaps with a server, is that the Mass is an Epithany, in the sense that apart from the elevations ( a late addition to combat heresy), the first time the people see the host is at the Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the Lamb of God). I can understand that doing it everyday gave a very different theology of priesthood, the priest becomes the "revealer" of the divine. Someone who is called to show forth Christ not just at the Liturgy but in his life.
There is a parallel with John the Baptist who in the Old Rite had a much more prominent part in the Eucharist, as he does in the Eastern Rites. On the iconastis, in the Deeisis, he was always a complimentary figure to Our Lady. Now that is an interesting subject for a doctoral thesis, "John the Baptist Model of Priesthood", Dr Uwe Michael Lang suggests that the image of Our Lady and the image of the Baptist might have designated the women's and men's aisles of a Church, which gives an interesting spin on the model of the relationship of men and women in the pre-modern Church.
On Candlemas, I actually didn't preach, it was my Friday penance. I normally preach briefly at every Mass I celebrate. Someone said that it made an incredible difference, in that the liturgy itself spoke. Again I think facing the people makes one think in terms of being a teacher, not a bad thing, but it is not the primary role of the priest, or rather it is but as St Francis says, "Preach the Gospel everywhere and if you must use words". Maybe we use too many words, and meaning is lost in the words. Celebrating "ad orientem" means that one is less of a director, co-ordinator or animator of the liturgy more of a servant of it. Again that Baptist idea comes through, "he must increase I must decrease". I think if the Holy Father encourages the "ad orientem" option in his response to the 2005 Synod on the Liturgy, we will have a richer theology of priestly spirituality. That document should come out soon, it is presumabley held up by the expected Motu Proprio. Well actually the Missal says quite clearly on several occassions "the priest TURNS to the people" so maybe it is merely just an option. I think every priest should know celebrate facing east at least occassionally just for the sake of this richness.

As a footnote the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says "It is desirable that the altar should be detached from wall, so that Mass maybe celebrate facing the people, which is always desirable." The Congregation for Divine Worship clarifying this rubric said that "which is always desirable" applied to the detachment from the wall not celebrating Mass facing the people. Interesting!

What is a Viola da Gamba?

A comment from the last post asked, "What is a Viola da Gamba". This one.
Nothing too much to do with Catholiscism, except it seemed to flourish in Recusant houses in England, until the end of the Stuarts. Maybe its subtle, mournful sound reflected their mood more than the bright vulgarity of the violin family. (The adjectives are meant to be controversial and reflect the authors rabid tradiness).
Listen here
And here for early music nerds is a baryton, a viola da gamba with added pluckable strings, being played, I have never heard one before. I just happened to find on You Tube when looking for viola da gambas .

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...