Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bubble, bubble at the Tablet

Someone from the Tablet phoned me before Christmas to tell me about some special offer, if only I would sell it at the back of the Church. My short answer is always, "Only if you change the editorial policy." "How?", "Control Robert Mickens".

The mists of rumour surrounding the Tablet resemble the steam from the weird sisters cauldron. A few months ago there were rumours that there might be a change of editor, a name from Jonathan Cape was being suggested. I don't know if some of the Tablet Trustees are beginning to realise that Mrs Pepinster's style really is offensive to younger and mainstream Catholics, or if it was just something put round by disgruntled former Tablet writers. There were rumours of Archbishop Nichols, no great friend of the Tablet, complaining and insisting on change at a Tablet lunch and producing a slew of letters and emails critical of the editorial policy, primarily its continual carping and negativity towards the Pope. Slowly, slowly younger parish priests are finding the Tablet has no place at the back of their Church.

Recently one of the sisters Ms Curti interviewed Mgr Andrew Wadsworth of ICEL revealing a lack of journalistic research and ignorance that was just embarrassing.

Another sister, Abigail Frymann, The Tablet's "Online Editor" has a piece on the "Tablet Blog" in which she disparages the Ordinariate, complains about Westminster Cathedral being cold for the Ordinations of Mgr Newton et al and then whines about Ordinariate after a whole year only having 60 clergy and a 1000 laypeople, I think that is pretty good going actually. She then for some reason spends the rest of her piece banging on about the Australian TAC, not Anglican, not English, bishop John Hepworth. She forgets that the future of Hepworth was made quite clear at the promulgation of Anglicanorum Coetibus: that it was impossible for him to be ordained as a Catholic priest. It is just shoddy spiteful journalism and all under the heading "Ordinariate: floundering on the rocks?" Listen to the cauldron being stirred.

It reminded me of the other weird sister, Ma "P" herself complaining about the former Anglican bishop's wives hats and coats at the ordination! It was just bitchy.

As well, in this weeks Tablet, Greymalkin Mickens considers future papabili, you can hear him purring with delight at the prospect of the Holy Father's ill health, sickness or death, read Deacon Nick to remind you of the background.

One of my hopes for the coming year is someone reforms the Tablet, I don't want it destroyed, just something done about its bitchiness!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Peripheral Catholics

Some time ago I had dinner with a wealthy "Orthodox" Eastern European couple, I was told he was a Russia "Mafioso". She was his fourth or fifth wife.  They were married in some civil ceremony. He was quite open, even proud, about his extra marital conquests. They disagreed with me fundamentally about abortion, they couldn't understand life without contraception. They attended the Divine Liturgy very occasionally: funerals mainly, neither had received communion since they were children, she probably not since her baptism. When they are dying they will probably want the rites of the Church. She seemed to be into spiritualism and New Age spirituality. I'm not sure they had much of a sense of the uniqueness of Christ. He more than satiated my appetite me with stories of corrupt Orthodox clergy but he was very proud of having paid an enormous sum for the restoration of the iconastasis in the church in the town where his mother was buried, he'd also endowed an Orthodox school, "though the Bishop and his brother took a 20% cut, I got them down from 30%, ha!" I was more than pleased once the meal was ended to be able to escape to conversation with other guests.

I don't think they were exceptions as Orthodox, they were both baptised as Orthodox and had a sense of being "culturally" Orthodox, they had their own morality and their own theology too, they were vaguely anti-clerical in that they expected the clergy to be human and they were superstitious too. They were almost independent of the Church and yet they had a relationship with the Church, albeit a peripheral relationship.

On the whole they were like the majority of Catholics, certainly of a previous age, who were both attached and detached from the Church; let us call them a "peripheral" Catholics.
If they were Irish, Archbishop Martin might suggest they came to a mature judgement about whether they remained in the Church or left. If they were American their gift, because they were "pro-abort", would certainly raise an eyebrow in many quarters. If they were English we might be a little sniffey about them not being evangelised and, if they requested sacraments for themselves or their children, attempt to do some evangelisation. Indeed they would probably consider themselves lapsed, or "post-Catholic", they would certainly, I suspect feel less comfortable within Church today than they might have done a century ago.

I think there are several factors that make being a "peripheral" Catholic, more difficult today, in the last century the Church has changed.

The Church's increased forceful moral teaching, concerning abortion, sex and sexuality is certainly one factor, coupled with the expectation that everyone should receive Holy Communion has brought a sharp divide between those who can keep the Church's teaching and those who can't. I wonder if this is reason for the loss of so many of the young.
Another factor is the vernacularisation and simplification of the liturgy: now you have to speak, before you could remain silent; now you have to understand, before you could remain in the mystery of ignorance.

The problem is that "peripheral" Catholics could always be encouraged to advance a little further into the Church, their increased loss means that invariably they now become antagonistic towards the Church of their forefathers.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

St Thomas

To be clothed in Christ, to bear his suffering and passion, to show Christ and him alone to the world this is what a bishop or priest is about, this is why I rather delight in offering the Most Holy Sacrifice in this vestment, clothed in the scarlet of the blood of Christ.
I am glad the New Missal restores this day to a Feast, we need to be reminded of the need for Martyrdom, St Thomas is the Patron of English secular clergy.

O God, who gave the Martyr Saint Thomas Becket the courage to give up his life for the sake of justice, grant, through his intercession, that, renouncing our life for the sake of Christ in this world, we may find it in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Apparently, formerly the breviary said:
"Calumniators informed the king that the bishop was agitating against him and the peace of the realm; and the king retorted that with one such priest he could not live in peace.

Hearing the royal displeasure, several godless courtiers agreed to do their sovereign a favor by assassinating Thomas. Secretly they traveled to Canterbury and fell upon the bishop while he was attending Vespers. His priests rushed to his aid and tried to bar the church door; Thomas opened it himself with these words: The house of God may not be defended like a fortress. I gladly face death for the Church of God. Then to the soldiers: I command it in the Name of God: No harm may be done to any of mine. Thereupon he cast himself on his knees, commended his flock and himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Denis and other holy patrons of his church, and with the same heroic courage with which he had withstood the king's laws, he bowed his holy head to the sacrilegious sword on December 29, 1170."
Here is BBC documentary on Becket's Martyrdom courtesy of Gloria TV

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Church Cleaning in Bethlehem

Greeks and Armenians fight in the sanctuary: is this a brawl, muscular Christianity or just two factions convinced they are right.
Such outbreaks in the Holy Land are not unusual.

When are Christians allowed to defend their rights?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Renovations at St Mary Magdalen

The Church in 2008
In the 1970s the altar was cut from the reredos, shortened and placed on the communion step, an "apron" was added to give space in front of the altar. For weddings and funerals several benches had to be removed.
The pulpit was lowered and one side was removed and destroyed.
The font was moved onto the sanctuary.
All the stone work in the church was painted white which quickly turned grey; capitals etc were painted with metallic paint.
The "linoleum" dates from 1950/60
The lighting system was installed  c1988 as a temporary measure.

The sanctuary was restored to its original dimensions,
the font removed,
the benches and floor sanded and re-varnished.

A new lighting system was installed
the radiators were also moved to widen the central aisle 
much of the paint has been stripped from the stone in the nave

2011 Midnight Mass
a stone floor was installed on the sanctuary in Dec 22nd, 2011

Baptistery completed  23rd Dec 2011 (almost completed - a hardwood surround needs to be inserted between the floorboards and the stone floor)

We are indebted to our architect Deirdre Waddington.

A postcards of the church c1890
Note the narrowness of the aisle, the apparent absence of lighting apart from candles in the sanctuary and the height of the original pulpit, which will be restored as an ambo.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

God Cares

homily notes
"Verbum Caro factum est"
"The Word became flesh"

Catholics are fleshy creatures, because our God is fleshy, we believe in a God who takes on our flesh, who becomes in-car-nate - enfleshed. "Caro" also gives us the words "care" and "caritas" or charity.

Our God cares deeply about us, he isn't vague and fluffy, certainly not a disinterested God, in many ways we are adverse to what the many today call "spiritual", at the In in a sense God leaves the spiritual world in the Incarnation and enters the world of the flesh.

In the OT God cares, almost fusses, about even the curtain and curtain rings in the tent of meeting. He cares about how the Jews worship, what food the Jews eat or don't eat, about how they dress or wear their beards, who they make alliances with etc. etc. What is the purpose of these rules and commandment? At the very least it is to demonstrate God cares.

So too for us, God cares - He cares about how we treat the man on the street, in the shop doorway. He cares about us - the greatest trick of atheists and heretics -ultimately of the devil - is to make us think God is distant, he doesn't care - about anything - least of all us. Isn't that the great cry of despair of so  many people today? "No-one cares whether I live or die!" The answer of Christmas, of the Catholic Church is God cares infinitely - God is Caring.

Secular Liberal society, even some who pretend they are within the Church, the Body of Christ, will say it makes no difference to God whether we kill the unborn or not, whether we uses or don't use artificial contraception, whether we are part of his Church or not, whether we are baptised or not, whether we come to Mass or not, or whether we accept his Church's teaching or not, or whether we receive his body, his true flesh, in a state of Grace or not. Or for that matter whether we desire others should be part of his Church.

To the God who cares, the God who becomes care, "caro", all these matter infinitely, as we matter infinitely to him, as we are called to care infinitely.
My thanks to Fr Simon Henry for this video which was the basis for my Christmas sermon.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Te Deum Laudamus

A useful prayer for the Octave!

And so... A Happy and Blessed Christmas

 Our first Mass of Christmas began at 9.30pm, the next is Midnight, then the TLM at 9am, then 10.30am and finally 12.30pm; the first and the last Masses are celebrated by the Polish chaplaincy.
This the first time in four years we haven't had work going on in the Church over Christmas. The stonemasons finished the sanctuary and baptistery floors  yesterday and some of our good weekday Mass goers were polishing and dusting this morning.
The wonderful news is we haven't any money to do anything else for a while - God is good!
A Happy and Blessed Christmas

When I'm Eighty-Five

There has been talk about the Pope's health, his use of that movable platform in St Peter's, the possibility he has lost the sight in one eye and so forth.

I'm over a quarter of a decade younger than him; after the Midnight, Dawn and the Day Masses I just want to sleep; if I had to celebrate Mass in a vast basilica which was also broadcast to millions I would want to sleep for a week rather than then have to get up and have to address the city and the world.

When I am 85..., well I know 35 year olds who find getting up exhausting!

I just admire that incredible 85 year olds stamina.

Lord bless Benedict with strength. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Harmony at Parsonage Farm

As a sort of Christmas card one of my parishioners, Rupert, a student who is at university in Brighton sent me this video of his family in the 1970's, there were 14 children.

Joe the 18 year old cellist in the programme, is Rupert's father, 40 years on he has 10 children of his own, and the musical tradition continues to the present generation, some of his sons, Rupert's brothers, occasionally come and sing at Mass here.

The video, made by Harlech TV speaks of a gentler time. For me the star of the show is the rather wise and sensible mother, Molly, who along with her husband Roger is now dead. I pray she has now attained her ultimate goal, Heaven.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Anonymous Letter

Gosh, I got a really dreadful letter today, anonymous of course, complaining about everything; basically saying I was creating a schismatic sect as a priest, and as a human being I was a monster. It was copied to various people of course.

The reason is that I put a note in the newsletter last week saying that we were going to experiment by saying Mass ad orientem, that is only at one of our weekend Masses.

I had been saying all our Masses for over the last month in this way because the new marble floor on the sanctuary was being laid, the altar had to be moved into the nave and there was no room to stand behind it.

Having experienced it, the problem is that many of our people developed a liking for it. I received several letters and emails from parishioners and various requests in person asking that we should do it, the main reason seemed to be that it made Mass more prayerful.

Admittedly last year I had encouraged people in the parish to read "Spirit of the Liturgy" and "Turning Towards the Lord" and many of them have read both.

There were lots of other complaints in the letter about vestments, candlesticks, liturgical language, everything basically, oh and my Latin pronunciation, though my Greek (Kyrie Eleison, I presume) came in for a real pounding. I showed it to one of my parishioners and she described it as "hate mail".

Certainly the letter was about ad orientem celebration but more so about enrichment of the liturgy and about those things the Pope has been encouraging in the liturgy but of course for many every word, every action of his is seen as retrogressive or even an abandonment of the Council. There is bitterness out there.

And yes, feel pretty hurt by it.

Tesco: Evil Christians

Christians are “evil” if they resist the redefinition of marriage to allow for same-sex marriage, the Head of Research and Development at has said.
The company has already faced criticism for dumping its support for the Cancer Research ‘Race for Life’ and sponsoring London’s gay pride festival.

The “evil Christians” comment was made by Nick Lansley, Head of Research and Development for the Tesco website. read more

The Chief Executive, Philip Clarke, can be contacted here. Tell him you are not shopping at Tesco anymore.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Spiritual Vessel

David could not build the Temple of the Lord, although he was the Lord's Chosen One, he was a sinner, "a man of blood", an adulterer who had stolen Bathsheba and had Uriah killed, and he killed his own people too.

A sinner could not build a house for the Lord, lest the House itself was poisoned by sin. It is Solomon who chose wisdom rather than wealth or power who builds the Lord's House, though he himself loses God's favour after the Temple is built.

The Temple is a type of Mary, who is uncontaminated by sin, she is also the Spritual Vessel, the Vessel of Honor, Singular Vessel of Devotion, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant. She contains Grace himself. She is full of Grace, highly favoured, the Blessed amongst women, the Lord is with Her. She is the Immaculate Conception, the House which the Lord himself has built, there is no stain of sin within her.
She was chosen before all time, and from the first moment of her being was free from all sin, so that she might contain the Body, Blood, Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Mary is the fitting Spritual Vessel, the Vessel of Honor, Singular Vessel of Devotion, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant to contain her Son, she alone.

The Body, Blood, Soul, Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ which we are given us in Holy Communion is not some lesser Body, Blood, Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ than she carried, it is the same unchanging Christ. Hence St Paul tell's to examine ourselves before receiving Holy Communion, lest we eat and drink our own condemnation.
Mary is our model, she alone was worthy to contain Jesus Christ, we at least must be free of all serious sin and must have a real hatred of sin to be receive  Christ. The Grace she receives is entirely God's gift.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cameron doing religion

I've been trying to figure out what the Prime Minister meant in his recent speech.

"I claim no religious authority whatsoever," except as Prime Minister he appoints CofE bishops he said. "I am a committed, but I have to say vaguely practising, that seems to be where most English people are at Church of England Christian, who will stand up for the values and principles of my faith like introducing the law that equates marriage between persons of the same sex with, err, marriage but who is full of doubts. Like many (I am) constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues." For many members of our society "religion" is based on a few remembered or half remembered phrases or stories or on feelings, on a half seen image of Christ, whose divinity is questionable, who have serious doubts about fundamental doctrines, such as the Resurrection but there is a desire to believe.

Describing the King James Bible as "a high point of the English language" with "arresting phrases that move, challenge and inspire", Mr Cameron said it had helped bind Britain together. He sees religion (re-ligere to bind together), set of common myths that somehow form the basis of our national culture.

"We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so," he said. But how does he define Christianity? "The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. Is he upholding the traditional Tory notion that Christianity is really about "values": honesty, integrity, charity, respect for law and order, neighbourliness? It is really the "Big Society". The alternative of moral neutrality Relativism and Individualism, the fragmentation of society? should not be an option. You can't fight something with nothing. A bit vague. If we don't stand for something, we can't stand against anything." But what are we against and what are we for?

But Mr Cameron, who was attacked over the summer by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for pushing through "radical" policies "for which no one voted" took the opportunity to have a gentle dig back.

"I have never really understood the argument some people make about the church not getting involved in politics," he said. "To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions. So I don't think we should be shy or frightened of this.
Now let's wait for the Sunday papers to have a few rabid atheists chewing tis over.

Friday, December 16, 2011

If you didn't see this 12 minute video at Fr Z's a few days ago it is well worth watching, there are English subtitles. It is the story of one small group of martyrs from the Spanish Civil War of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
There are some odd liturgical things and the brutality of what really happened is cleaned up, a bit, presumably for a family audience. They are ordinary men called to extraordinary heroism.

Martyrs of Spain, pray for us in our need.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ordinariate: Bricks and Mortar essential to Patrimony

I have been intrigued by Damian Thompson's piece on the Ordinariate, I have certainly been wondering about that illusive church and why the Nuncio should use the word "meticulous" to describe the bishops implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus and why despite what the Apostolic Constitution says the English and Welsh bishops seem to have a veto on ordinations. "When the Archbishop of Westminster came to talk to us", said a friend who is part of Allen Hall formation group, "he thanked Dr Wang for arranging the very speedy Formation prior to ordination, and (tellingly) added "I don't think we'll let it happen so quickly in future". I am not sure that is what Anglicanorum Coetibus says.
I checked out Damian's story with another Ordinariate friend and received this email, emphasis is mine:

DT is right, of course, but to a point. It's unfair to suggest (as he does I think) that the Ordinariate leadership are holding this up - it's very difficult to ask for something when you have no money! That said, everyone I've spoken to about it seems to be of the mind that we must have churches soon, and I agree. These will not only ensure that the fragile Ordinariate Groups have a secure base and a future, but form a significant part of our fundraising initiatives. If people see that we have buildings to support, to beautify, and to establish our distinctive ecclesial life, they will respond. It's hard to get people to 'buy into' a project which, thus far, has been more on paper than anything else. They will also form important centres for evangelisation - one of the key aspects of Anglican pastoral practice is the subsequent evangelisation of those who come forward for occasional offices (baptisms, marriage, funerals, etc). If we are constantly referring such people to the Parish Priest of the church we live out of, that will never take off.

I am of the mind that we should take every single church building offered to us and make something of it whilst we're still on the crest of the wave.

We also need to ensure that Anglican clergy who approach the Ordinariate without groups are not encouraged not disappear to the diocese (unless, of course, that's what they really want). If Bishop X offers a church somewhere, we'll need clergy to go and plant it - at the moment almost all of the Ordinariate priests are looking after groups.
The slowness of the arrival of the Ordinariate liturgy is perhaps another factor but it is a Church building, a home, making the Ordinariate bricks and mortar that seems key. Bricks and mortar are essential to the patrimony.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volunteers, volunteers

We have had no end of people ringing up to volunteer to help feed the poor on Christmas day, including a TV cook. The rest of the year, when the rain is coming in off the English channel and you can barely stand, is a different story.

Is this about a growing solidarity with the poor or just a desire to feel good?
There used to be that TV advert about a dog being not just for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We have moved on

I am still not feeling well so I to missed a clergy gathering to discuss the legacy of Vatican II.
I am a Catholic, I not a Concilliarist. I occassionally take a cheap shot at Orthodox friends by accusing them of being trapped by the Spirit of Ephesus II. My problem with Councils is the whole  "the Spirit of " business. The Spirit of any Council is not its teaching, perhaps only now are we getting to grips with the "Spirit of Trent". The difficulty with Vatican II is that its teaching wasn't contained in a few short memorable canons which defined the faith but in dense and sometimes contradictory documents, written within the highly nuanced obscure philosophical terms of the period. In order to unlock its richness one has to understand that philosophy. At the same time Vatican II happened within the Spirit of Vatican I, with its highly ultramontane and authoritarian concept of the Curia. As someone once said of the Council Fathers, "You have to remember some of these men were the friends of Salazar and Franco, the majority were not imprisoned under Hitler and Mussolini", I think he meant they were compliant.

The Orthodox understand Councils by how they are taken up by the Church - something akin to Newman's understanding of sensus fidelium. We do that of course but we also have the singular role of Peter's successor in interpretation and identification of the Magisterium. The Council happened we have moved on, we moved on to the great documents of Paul VI: Humanae Vitae, the Credo of the People of God , Populorum Progressio, Indulgentiarium Doctrina etc. and the Encyclicals of JPII and Benedict XVI, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Indeed the last half century has been an attempt by successive Popes to clarify the teaching of the Council.

The Tabet blog, which I have just discovered, is bashing Bishop Davies for saying that faith has not been passed on in recent generations. Sr Gemma Simmonds of Heythrop says in gushing terms. "The greatest gift to our time is the enduring legacy of the Council [VII], the most authoritative gathering of the Church on earth." I would like to debate with her what she meant by "authoritative".

She then goes on to deny a principle teaching of the Council, that the liturgy "is the source and summit of the Church's life", by saying, "Going to Mass on Sunday is certainly a way to express and nourish faith, but it is not the fullness of faith, which is something that has to be lived in the context of the ordinary in solidarity with all that is good and true and beautiful in our world." I tend to agree with someone who comments on this post and reminds Sister that in Jesus Christ we encounter the fullness of faith.

For me Sister and the commenter who speaks disdainfully of "the Institutional Church", as if Christ found a Church without Apostolic leadership, seem to encapsulate a way of understand VII that praises it as concept yet denies its teaching.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Upset and Betrayed

"I am upset, I feel betrayed", said one of parishioners today, let's call him Peter. He would describe himself as "gay" but would say he was Catholic first. His lifelong partner, Paul, died two or three years ago, they were both converts, they shared a house, said their prayers together and lived a chaste and holy life.

What Peter was upset about was that they had both, as loyal sons of the Church, decided not to have a civil partnership because they understood the 2003 CDF document “Consideration Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons”, as condemning them. They had also taken into account the English bishops statement of 2004 that such partnerships “do not promote the common good and we therefore strongly oppose them”.

Although they had made wills that left property to one another, what Paul hadn't done was to ensure that Peter was named as his next of kin. Paul had a stroke and was unable to communicate, he eventually went into a protracted comma and died. His sister who was actually his next of kin hated Peter and excluded him from any involvement in Paul's care. "She wouldn't even let me near him when died and rather than a Catholic funeral she insisted on a humanist one, just to spite, Paul would have hated it", Peter said.

Both Peter and Paul were Catholic before anything else they reacted strongly to any suggestion that their relationship might be considered sexual. Peter found the words of Archbishop Nichols, a volte face  “Same-sex partnerships are not marriage because they have no root in a sexual relationship which marriage does,” he said, “and that’s the distinction that I think it’s important for us to understand, that marriage is built on the sexual partnership between a man and a woman which is open to children, to their nurture and education.” "If only I had known that four years ago we would have been spared the misery we both went through", Peter said.

When priests like me, or other bloggers, criticise Archbishop Nichols for changing the Bishop's Conference teaching on same-sex partnerships and bring confusion we are not being "mischievous" as he suggests, we are showing concern for men like Peter and Paul.

Now, I must get round to making a will, as things stand at the moment my brother, my next of kin, isn't a Catholic, I am not sure he will know what do with vestments or chalices or my little collection of icons or my rather Catholic books and other possessions if he ends up by inheriting everything. What I am more concerned with is what he might do with me, if I should become like Paul. I don't want to end up on the Liverpool Care Pathway or in a nursing home without the sacraments. When I get round to it I intend to leave everything to a couple of priest friends, my executors, to dispose of everything, one of them has done the same naming me as his executor.

Now being practical according to the Archbishop same sex partnerships are devoid of sexual implications therefore I wonder if I have a duty to propose a civil partnership with one of my executors, so everything surrounding my death and dying becomes his responsibility. I wonder, doesn't every priest have a duty to do this?

Yes, I am being mischievous but it sort of makes sense, and yes I know one of parishioners has already made the suggestion.

p.s. Paul was not the real name of "Peter's" friend.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Look what I've got

I've got 'flu, which is why I haven't been posting much this week.

I also have some very kind and at times generous parishioners.
Can someone tell me about this leaf from the Office of the Dead of a fifteenth (?) century Book of Hours which was given me recently. "Given" in the sense of "here is brown envelope, get yourself something".

The blue cassocks of the clergy suggest it is English. The strawberries are about fecundity, I am not sure what the blue flowers are. Notice the face of the corpse is uncovered and the bones of the previous occupant are exhumed, presumably to be put into common bone pit (or did we have charnel houses in England?).

The rest of the Psalm "Dilexi" is on the reverse.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Nicholas: not so nuanced

This is my icon of St Nicholas, it is 19th cent. Russian.

The roundels recall the legend that St Nicholas was imprisoned for beating up Arius, pulling his beard and punching him in the mouth. He heard the great heresiarch speak and couldn't bear hearing his blasphemies, he pulled his beard and punching him in the mouth. The Emperor Constantine was horrified that he should break the peace of the Council and had him deposed.
During the night Christ himself accompanied by his mother appeared to him and asked, "Why are you here?" he answered, "Because I love you, Lord". Christ gave him back the Gospels, the symbol of his teaching authority and his mother the omophorion (the eastern pallium) the symbol of his sacramental authority.

I love St Nicholas because he was so clear in his teaching, the other bishops sat around discussing subtleties and nuances. Holy Nicholas went to the heart of the matter recognising Arius as the enemy of Christ and his Church and indeed the whole of creation and risked all by attacking him.

Holy Nicholas, Bishop of Christ, pray for me a sinner.
Intercede for all the bishops and priests,
that they may recognise Christ and proclaim His Truth for the Salvation of the World.
Make them fearless in denouncing error and the contamination of heresy.
Give them courage, even in the face of the Princes of this World,
to risk all for love of Christ,
the True Bishop and High Priest, the Judge of Souls who will come in Glory.

Lord Jesus give us holy priests and even holier bishops.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Archbishop Peter Amigo

I just found this video clip of Archbishop Amigo's funeral (pronounced Ameego not as at commentator pronounces).
He was Bishop of Southwark for the first half of the 20th century. He was apparently terrifying but a great friend of the poor and much loved.
Fr Michael Clifton's life of him "Amigo, friend of the poor: Bishop of Southwark, 1904-1949" can be found here. Fr Clifton is also Fr Mildew.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Propers and Hymns

I found this video over on Paulinus' blog: we don't have this problem with our "young lady", she always sings the "Entance Chant" or as we call it the Introit.
It is so easy as a priest to live in a liturgical bubble, but really does anyone still sing hymns instead of the Proper Chants? We occassionally sing hymns and then the chant but never a hymn as a substitute for the Liturgical texts - such wickedness.
My experience is that it would be the young women correcting the older man about liturgical abuses.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Thinking

Sandro Magister refers to some recent episcopal appointments to illustrate some comments in a recent interview with Cardinal Marc Ouelliet, the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops. Ouelliet says:
"Today, especially in the context of our secularized societies, we need bishops who are the first evangelizers, and not mere administrators of dioceses. Who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel. Who are not only theologically faithful to the magisterium and the pope, but are also capable of expounding and, if need be, of defending the faith publicly."
I wonder if there really is a trend to appoint defenders and proclaimers of the Gospel instead of the nuanced political diplomats that seem to have been appointed since the Secretariat of State replaced the old Holy Office under its newer incarnation of the CDF as the final arbiter of episcopal appointments.

Cardinal Levada wishes to retire this month, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone turned 75 at the end of 2009, replacing both the head of the CDF and the Secretary of State could offer a real change gear in 2112. Perhaps the strange appoint of Msgr Charles Brown, from the CDF rather than the Secretariat of State, as Nuncio to Ireland could be an indication of some new Vatican thinking.

What is evident is that the Council for the New Evangelisation is being increasingly highlighted and yet quite what its purpose is still seems very vague, it seems to be a bit of a dark horse. The Church is supposed to be "evangelical by its very nature", how the Secretariate of State quite fits into this vision obviously needs further development. The Ostpolitik of Cardinal Casaroli or even relationship with States in the glory days of JPII and Cardinal Sodano are rapidly waning. The weakening of the Church at grass roots level diminishes the Church's political clout internationally.

Under Cardinal Levada the CDF has been responsible for some quite remarkable moves, the setting up of the Anglican Ordinariate, the negotiations with the SSPX are but two examples, it is now much more than the Papal watch dog. The CDF since Dominus Jesus (2000) has become much more about teaching, rather simply bashing heretics.

Vespers for St Andrew

Vespers for St Andrew's Day on Radio 3 was from Brompton Oratory, very, very beautiful, a lot of Victoria, listen here.
thanks to NLM

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Archbishop Backs Equality

The Archbisop of Westminster said at a recent press following the Bishop bi-annual meeting:
We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision,
As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life. The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.
He did go on to say, "equality and commitment do not amount to marriage".

As is pointed out here, "The bishops conference position on civil partnerships appears to have shifted from 2003 when it told the Government that civil unions would not promote the common good and we therefore strongly oppose them".
It appears that the 2003 CDF document Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions only applies to Marriage, itself not "civil partnerships. I had obviously misunderstood as the bishops once did.

Ostrov - The Island

I like Russian cinema, Ostrov The Island is one of my favourite films. It is beautifully filmed.
It is about a holy fool, with a past, There is a lot about prayer and penance, faith and dying, and the tensions and joys of monastic life, human weakness and divine strength.

Most importantly it is about holiness.
It can be found here, sorry it is on You tube.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hitler's Law Still Persecutes

We have an organisation, Brighton Voices in Exile which works for asylum seekers and exiles working out of my presbytery's basement. I am amused at times by the shock of Afghani or Sudanese exiles who get the wrong door and meet a cassocked Catholic priest.

Recently a family that is a little different from most has started coming here to Mass. They are in exile from their native home country because they want to educate their child themselves, they are German. If they stayed at home, the parents would be put in prison and their child probably separated from them forever. The cause is the law introduced by Hitler, and still persecuting parents, which placed the eduction of children in the hands of the state, taking away from parents the right and duty to be the "primary educators" of their children.

Last year a US court granted asylum to a German family who wanted to "home school".

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bishop Davies on the Holocaust

The wise Bishop Mark Davies recently spoke in a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day. I am not going to quote from it, it is all worth reading.
He reminds his hearers of Pope Benedict's words about learning frrom history and about ideologies that seek to destroy and eradicate God himself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Work

Over the las few weeks we have been celebrating Mass and everything else in the nave. The altar has been moved so the new sanctuary floor can be laid. The pulpit has been dismantled and has been cleaned of its grey paint and a massive tower has been next to the altar so more paint can be cleaned from upper walls.

Here is a picture looking down the work which has been done during the week.

Look at what was done to the altar in the 70s, it was simply hacked away from the wall the decorative front was put against wall - badly and the end of the mensa was lopped off and placed under the tabernacle. The mensa was placed on some ghastly legs and place on the old communion step, just behind where it is in the first picture and between the two pillars at the bottom of the second picture.

Traditionally an altar should be rooted to the rock, now, a permanent altar is simply one that is for some reason unmoveable. When it is finally put back in place, it will be unmovable solely by its weight and the fact it is fixed to the floor, which is less than ideal but is the best that can be done.

The last picture is Rado who has been paint removing with a passing angel on top of the tower - too high for me, I don't do heights well.
The last picture is Rado with angels - on top of the tower.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


AW Pugin produced a manifesto "Contrasts" he compared his modern and industrial age with that of the "age of faith" and found the former decidedly lacking.

This morning one of my parishioners said he didn't believe in "human rights", I think it was a bit of a throw away remark but I am beginning to wonder whether a culture that promotes our "rights" make us selfish, the "age of faith", which is really feudalism, placed everyone under an obligation and imposed duties on them, to serve and to ensure harmony within society.

With the elderly being left in their own filth or to go hungry, with a winter of strikes looming, with economic meltdown we are facing, it seems the strong and the wealthy can indeed exercise their rights whilst the weak are trampled upon. 

I am not sure it was ever true, but Pugin's vision was one where man was conscious of his intimate connection with the sacred. At its heart was man as as worshipping God or as we might say today "as a liturgical person". For him that was a radical alternative to his society. It was also a Christian alternative to the visions of Bentham or Marx and Engels or any of the other constructors of new worlds of the 19th century. It raised man up from meanness conveying an idea of "Glory" rather mere utilitarianism - see the last of these illustrations, "The Public Conduit" both serve the same purpose of conveying water to the thirsty but the East Cheap Conduit is a celebration of so much more than merely making water available.

A friend hates the Fr Z catch phrase, "save the liturgy, save the world" but actually the liturgy, learning to acknowledge God and our obligation to him, is salvific, it places us in context, it changes the whole balance of society, it makes us human.

Pushkin the Oratory Cat

Cats: I know people who are besotted but me: they make me sneeze. However Pushkin the Birmingham Oratory cat has, apparently, produced a book: Pushkin the Pontifical Puss: Tails of an Oratory Cat.

For insights, from a cats point of view, into Birmingham Oratory life, extracts can be read here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on Music

Happy St Cecelia's Day
A few thoughts on music.
We Catholics, we use music differently than Protestants or at least we should. For us music is supposed to soothe and quieten the soul to contemplate God; for Protestants it supposed to rouse the emotions. Catholic music, at least within the Sacred Liturgy is about prayer and communion with God: Protestant music is much more allied to preaching and the proclamation of faith.
Catholic music is, as the General Instruction tells us, above all Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, other music isn't proscribed but the model is music to quieten the soul rather than excite it.
Some of our choir have become pretty proficient at chant; Clare our Director of Music goes off to St Cecelia's, Ryde with a little group of women to do a master classes  with their choirmistress, she's been invited to teach a few other parishes about chant. In a world where trivial candyfloss is regarded as the equivalent of chant, the trouble is that we are regarded as odd, "You do things differently at St Mary Magdalen". As far as I know we are one of the few parishes for miles around that use chant: so much for the General Instruction!
At our one sung Mass (Ordinary Form) we try to avoid the hymn sandwich, we do have a hymn to begin with, then the Introit during the incensation, we alternate the Responsorial Psalm with the Gradual, at the Offertory we can have the chant from the Graduale, a motet or a hymn, at Commununion we always tend to have Proper chant but also a devotional hymn, or motet. The recessional is often a hymn, a bit of community singing.
I am not sure that most of our congregation understand why we use chant, despite the occassional bit of catechesis, in the inner city our congregation changes so quickly. For most people chant is just a bit of peace and contemplation whilst something else is going on or a musical lacoona. We have tried the English chant, written for the new Missal translations, to me they sound faux and are difficult to sing. Latin is easier though understanding the text, despite producing handouts, is difficult.
As one of my priest neighbours says, "Sunday Mass tends to be a bit of a bear garden", at least compared to quiet weekday Mass. The problem is of course prayer, though I am not quite sure how you teach two, three, four or five year olds about prayer and worship, perhaps  in "Children's Liturgy" rather than "colouring in" they ought to be listening to recordings of chant and taught to pray.

Just asking

The Christian Institute carries a report on the lobbying campaign of the Scottish bishops against the redefinition of marriage. 14,000 cards have been sent to the Scottish Government, so far and I suppose that Scottish Catholics have had the concerns of their Pastors made clear to them.

Umm, what is being done England and Wales? I don't want to cause trouble, I am just asking, I thought it might be important for children, for the family, for society, that sort of thing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

At the House of Lords

It is not every day off I spend taking wine with the great and good in the Palace of Westminster, today was an exception. My name tag, which I think was produced by the House of Lords, said that I was a "Catholic Affairs Commentator"; posh name for a blogger.
The occasion was a reception for the Friend's of St Augustine s Church, Ramsgate. A.W. Pugin's wonderful church and home, he paid for himself, it is place he chose to buried, it was supposed to be a show place for his vision of the Neo-Gothic. It fittingly took place in one of the Pugin decorated rooms of the House of Lords.

It was served by the Benedictines but two years ago they handed it back to the diocese. It seems as if it was possibly likely to become derelict, there were leaks in the roof, the electricity supply was condemned, the heating system had stopped working. A lot seems to have been put right but the architect was talking about rot in the timbers, the roof needs to be taken of to treat it, ironwork is rusting and damaging the stone, placing in jeopardy the glorious stained glass. There is tremendous amount of work to be done which should cost in the region of a million pounds.
Have a look at the Friends of St Augustine's website, we are in need and many of you have been generous to St Mary Magdalen's but St Augustine's is so important to Catholic architecture throughout the world I really do urge you to go the donate button.
The parish site is interesting too, they offer both forms of the Roman Rite.


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...