Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Off to Sicilly

I shall be away in Palermo until Sunday, the pack of bull mastiffs are wandering the Presbytery and the priests with whom I am exchanging parishes are now in residence.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Don't you love Our Lady?

According to Father Stefano Manelli, Saint Bonaventure held two Marian maxims:

First Maxim: "One should carefully beware of decreasing, even in the slightest, the honor that is due to Mary."

Second Maxim: "One should be ready to defend the privileges of Mary even at the risk of his life."
Canterbury Tales

Recently, in part because ARCIC II has been debated in the Anglican Synod  and in part because I have been re-examining my own theological thinking. It is also one of those things which celebrating the Traditional Rite has gradually been  raising too, as well as a visit to one of our more modern churches where there was an image of Our Lady but there seemed to be no Marian devotion, the image tended to the didactic rather than the devotional, which I found troubling, in a mildly nagging sort of way. It struck me as being neo-Iconoclastic. I remember a group of priests being a little unkind about a younger priest who had asked the hard bitten clergy of his deanery, "Don't you love Our Lady?"
I am left cold and unmoved by many modern sightings of Our Lady, I prefer mine with patina of history upon them. I have always rejoiced over the common sense of the Fathers of Vatican II in placing the document on Our Lady firmly context of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, she is after all the first and foremost disciple of her Son and a model and image of the Church. An authentic Mariology has always been the underpinning of an authentic Christology.

I think like many modern Catholics I can be rather cerebral about her, I am quite happy with the "Sceptre of Orthodoxy" but I tend to baulk at "Bring[ing] flowers of the rarest". I am quite convinced that that is not really Catholic. Today we might be more than a little uncomfortable with Fr Faber's tears and sentimentality and his, "Oh! How that would have pleased dearest Mama!" but it comes from a long and honourable tradition of Marian devotion, it is entirely congruent with the spirituality of the last thousand years, though compared to the East it is just a tad saccharine.

Getting devotion to Our Lady right is essential not just to our understanding of Christ and Christology but also to our own becoming by adoption Sons, our own deification - Fr Philip Neri Powell, has had some interesting posts on this recently. For us Catholics we have nothing to do with being cloaked in Christ's blood, we believe not disguised by Christ but actually become by Adoption what Christ is by Nature. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin teaches us how to be other Christs. I suspect a symptom of the loss of this understanding is directly linked to an undermining of Marian devotion, perhaps a recovery of Marian devotion, with its tenderness, its sentimentality, its filial obedience, trust and love might help us re-find that most basic of all Christian doctrines.

Perhaps we have something to learn from the Irish grandmother or Sicilian peasant (if there are any nowadays), over the next few days I shall try to find out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is the Church being cruel?

Michael and Mary have lived in Brighton for some years now, they are both asylum seekers.
The Labour government placed various restrictions on asylum seekers, not only can they not work but they also can't marry.
Michael has been here six years, he was a political activist. After a year in detection and "questioning" he was eventually released and escaped and came to this country. He is devout and was sustained by his faith through his time in prison.
Mary is from the same country, they knew one another as students, her father taught Michael. When Mary's father was arrested, in order to get him to talk they tortured her in front of him. She won't talk about what they did to her. She came to England about four years ago. She was frightened and came to live near Michael, they fell in love, they conceived a child. She comes to Mass daily. They want to marry. Mary is a daily communicant. Both families are devout, pregnancy outside marriage is shameful for them.

The State will not allow them to marry and although in every other way they are free to marry, because the State does not allow it, the Catholic Church in England and Wales excludes them from marriage.

Our government have stopped deporting asylum seekers to their homeland but is very slow to process asylum claims, it could ten years or never happen, but Mary and Michael have to live with the consequences. They can understand the State being cruel to them, they are used to that but the Church being complicit in that cruelty is something new.

Ultimately, do I have to persuade Mary and Michael that despite all they have been taught and all they feel in their guts, that living together as man a wife without the blessing of Our Mother is not sinful? They burn for one another, yet they also burn for the Lord, they are in the difficult position of having to choose between one another and the Lord, simply because the British government has decided to forbid people in their situation may not marry.

Pray for the many people in Mary and Michael's position.

Rumour Upon Rumour

Our Tina gives an interest link to a Tablet story about Caritas International's Lesley-Anne Knight, the former head of England and Wales' Cafod, being blocked from running for a second four-year term as Secretary General. Far from spite which is how The Tablet portrays the issue, my rumour mongers suggest there were doctrinal concerns for her veto, concern too over ABC, abstainence, be faithful, condoms policy pushed by Cafod.

The Roman rumour mill is an interesting thing, as in the seraglio a lot depends on who you listen to and how you listen, and questions you ask. Part of "the Roman Game" is the spreading of rumour, both to disconcert one's adversaries but also to get one's own party to stiffen their sinew, then of course there is the sheer old gossip factor, I am not sure what is coming into play over the rumours concerning the clarification of Summorum Pomtificum. But just to be on the safe side ......

Face of the New Missal

The CTS new has a picture of the cover of the New Missal, it seems to have a touch of the Gothicke to me but read the CTS's description.

I just hope the binding is good and strong, the old Collins Missal became tatty very quickly. I hope the cords on the spine are not just decorative but functional and indicate the Misal will tolerate be dropped and carried to the chair etc and suffer all the abuse a liturgical book should suffer, including getting a splash or two of Holy Water without the pages cockling. A liturgical book is a tool and should be robust enough to stand up to wear and tear.
Maybe some parish priest might get his servers to road test the binding!

Would it be safe to use the pages of the old translations I have done with for the Paschal Fire? It just seems strange to think I will not be using the prayers I have recited all my priestly life after September.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Liturgy: My Way

I am no liturgist, I get on with it and say Mass, if it is TLM I just get on with it, if it is the Novus Ordo I have my own way of doing it, as I suppose does every priest. In the Ordinary Form no two Masses are ever the same, it is not just the various options, it is that the rubrics are imprecise and encourage a variable product. Each of us has our own interpretation of what black is read and of how the red is done.

I'm a Benedictine arrangement sort of chap, we put out more candles (six) on Sundays and Solemnities compared to two on weekday ferias, I am told that is just my eccentricity, the neighbours generally just have two.
And take the elevation; I am a two handed man myself, I raise the host and chalice above my head but some of my neighbours do it one handed and raise the host to chin level, all we are told to do is to "show it to the people". I admit it, I am over the top, a few inches would suffice.

I tend to follow the preferred option and say the Offertory prayers silently, in most parishes that is unknown.
There are other things; I use a chalice veil and a burse. The chalice veil is "praiseworthy" but not mandatory, the burse, like the maniple, isn't mentioned but then there is rubric about "preparing the altar" at the Offertory, it keeps the corporal tidy, I spread it at the Offertory and refold it after purifying the the vessels, I do that at the altar, one of the options, though many priests do it at the credence table, or even leave it to deputed laypeople.
At Holy Communion we use a Communion Plate because its use "should be retained" which is what Red. Sac. tells us, I think I might be the only person in my diocese who does use one.

Fr Hunwicke draws attention to rubrics being either "substantial, because they prescribe the form or matter of a Sacrament; or accidental when they do not prescribe form or matter." He also remind us that they can also be preceptive, directive or facultative added into the mix we can add custom and also a certain confusion over rubrics, for example many dioceses in the UK would argue Ex Mins of H. Comm. may purify the sacred vessels because it has been customary and is done everywhere, etc. etc. There is also confusion; there are, once one has entered the sanctuary, three genuflections by the celebrant after the elevations and before the Ecce Agnus Dei but then we are also told about incidental genuflexions when entering and leaving the sanctuary and when passing before the tabernacle if one is not in a procession; some texts tells us they should happen and others they shouldn't. I have always understood those that tell us shouldn't happen stem from the time the presumption was that the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in fitting and noble chapel apart from the sanctuary.

Fr Tim recently published an article on mutual enrichment, again there is confusion, the Pope himself uses elements from the Traditional Mass. The former Secretary to the CDW happily celebrated the Novus Ordo using many of the rubrics of the Traditional Mass - I can't find a link to this at the moment. If you celebrate the TLM it is difficult not to do odd things in the Novus Ordo, I don't but I want to genuflect before and after each elevation, and after uncovering or covering the chalice, and there are time I have to struggle with a passion to kiss the altar. Now, I can't help but bowing by head at the mention of the Holy Name, the name of the Blessed Virgin and the doxology, which of course in both forms one is supposed to do but it tends to be only those who celebrate the TLM that tend to do it.

Another issue that might be worth raising here, just for devilment really, is the question of microphones. The Eucharistic Prayer is supposed to be vox clara but there is no mention anywhere of vox clara plus amplification in most churches it makes little difference but in a huge basillica its absence would render even the most stentorian of voices sotto voce would it be so wrong to reproduce that effect in a parish church?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NHS: A Question

The damning reports on the failure of the Health Service to offer basic care to the elderly, I suspect isn't so much a failure of the organisation but of compassion in the individuals who are part of it.
Practically every nurse has a degree nowadays in which contemporary ethics are taught, but it is a bankrupt ethics that prepares every nurse, and doctor, unless they take the conscience clause option to take part in abortion and prepares them to take part in debate about "quality of life issues" and therefore the financial cost of life to the Health Service and there is of course the the whole euthanasia debate going on in the background of our medical and nursing schools.

NHS staff are no longer have a respect for the supreme value of life because their ethics comes from a culture in which nothing is supreme. If I were frail and dying in a hospital bed could I really expect compassion from someone whose colleagues were regularly involved in abortion, perhaps having left a child to die in a sluice room somewhere?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Vaughan Controversy

We  didn't have our normal parish pump meeting after the 10.30am Mass, apparently the tea urn had "failed".
If we had I am sure that the main subject would have been Cardinal Vaughan School, it is certainly a subject that parents and grandparents, even in Brighton have feelings about. I hope it doesn't affect next weeks Catholic Education Service collection next week.

One parishioner told me that the problem was aired again on BBC's Sunday Programme. I think disputes amongst Catholics and their bishops should be aired in public, isn't there something about that in the Gospel?
I think today's Gospel had something to say about coming to terms with one's opponent in good time.


Ches applies his razor sharp mind to the issue and has an interesting piece and Fr Henry says, "what the school asks for is nothing more than what any and every Catholic is supposed to be doing anyway." In short the whole issue is whether the school should accept Catholics from the whole of London who are practicing, going to Mass every Sunday or from a limited but very posh area (see map) around the school who are baptised but not necessarily practicing.

It is an argument between Catholic-Lite: Archbishop Nichols et al and Catholic heavy(ish): the existing parents and governors. The Archbishop considers himself offering a "pastoral approach" and considers the parents to be elitist, at least as far as faith is concerned. The consequence of his actions will be dumbing down on faith requirements for entry but raising sky high the financial requirements for entry, Holland Park, West Kensington are hardly the places the average Sudanese or Iraqi asylum seeker lives, unless they are some one's servant. What the Archbishop wants to do is integrate the Vaughan into the diocesan schools structure and making it a "bog standard Comp". No one would argue the Vaughan is not elitist, it is and it attracts elite Catholic teachers, whether it will continue to do that is doubtful, it also attracts parents who want, despite hardships, want a CATHOLIC education for their children. That is going to end, and as far as Catholicity is concerned Vaughan parents will find the mediocre drive out the good.

As Ches points out all this smacks of New Labour, unfortunately Archbishop Nichols brings with him to this controversy his time as head of the Catholic Education Service, his collaboration with Ed Balls, his and Oona Stannard's support of the previous government's erosion of  parental rights on sex education of their children. I don't know if he was responsible for the appointment of the ousted Labour, anti-Life voting MP, Greg Pope as Stannard's deputy.

The Catholic-Lite tradition is hardly going to pave the way in the next great battle that the Church is going to be involved in: the defence of marriage against those who want to rob it of anything more than a contractual agreement between two people of either sex. Yes, I am quite familiar with what His Grace said about the possibility of the Church changing its teaching on gay unions.

Maybe it is only when the children of married Catholic clergy start demanding a truly Catholic education for their own children that change might come about.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Liturgical and Private Prayer

I had a discussion with a group of priests recently on silence in the liturgy. We all thought it was necessary but for the most part absent, certainly at Sunday Mass. Most of the priest suggested adding pauses in the Liturgy, even to the point of saying, "We are going to have 30 seconds of silence before ...". I couldn't help reflecting that imposed silence was used as a punishment in schools when I was a child. In the Liturgy one priest's silence becomes a whole congregations waiting.

I must admit to personal problem I have of integrating personal prayer with liturgical prayer. I think it all hinges around silence, and yes, a problem with actuoso participatio. I suspect in the minds of most people there is little integration between private prayer and liturgical prayer, at best the liturgy is a form of lectio divina but isn't really what most Catholics would identify as "prayer". It is a problem, a very serious one. Personal prayer for most people under a certain age is silence. Sitting on one's own, meditating, silent reading or reflection has replaced family Rosary, Litanies, the Angelus and all those things which where the mainstay of Catholic prayer and although they are not liturgical, they certainly are corporate and vocal and therefore akin to the liturgy.

My friend Fr Michael Hollings used to tell the story of the shock of the Abbot of Caldey who had a group of 6th Formers staying in the monastery for a week, they joined the monks for the Liturgy and everything else, at the end of the week one lad asked the Abbot, "When do the monks actually pray?" The same question surely can be asked in most parishes: When does prayer actually take place? The readings can be read in a non-didactic prayerful way, there sermon can be preached to speak more of God than the preacher, intercessions can be announced in such a way that the lead us to prayer, we can use the preferred silent option for the Offertory, all this should lead to Church gathering for the most profound prayer of all, the Canon or the Eucharistic Prayer but as the Pope says in the Spirit of the Liturgy "the Eucharistic Prayer is in crisis", his suggestion is not only a re-orientation of the Mass but also a return to the silent Canon or even silence but a with few key words as subject headings for prayer.

I have a suspicion that in ancient times, when silent reading and probably silent prayer were unknown, that the Canon was quite a noisy affair with everyone quietly vocalising their own prayer along with the priest.

One of the things that caused comment during the Papal visit was the quality of the silence at the Masses one of factor that was not commented on at the time was the Pope's use of Latin for the Eucharistic Prayers. The use of Latin has a tendency to veil the liturgy, its incomprehensibility helps the liturgy become a sort of focused silence. There is a good article by Fr Christopher Smith over at Chant Cafe on the use of Latin.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Out of Darkness


At last, at long last our new lighting system is up and going! It needs some tweeking, a few lamps aren't working properly but it really does transform the Church.
Gone are the ghastly factory lights and the nasty blandness, the colour change is real not a camera problem. We have managed to focus light on the angel corbels of the roof the altar and the stations.

Before the before
This is a black and white photograph of the Church 2 years ago, before we began the restoration work.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Oddie and Hilarion

This has been sitting on my machine, unfinished, since yesterday morning, I note Rorate pipped me to the post..

There are two interesting pices on Ecumenism one an interview with Archbishop Hilarion on Catholic Orthodox dialogue and the other by William Oddie on the new round of ARCIC.

Sometimes I wonder whether Orthodoxy sees dialogue with the Catholic Church in the same way as we see dialogue with Anglicans. Those who take  part in the secret discussions give reports that the Orthodox taking part are neither the brightest nor the best and seem not to take discussions too seriously and spend a lot of time squabbling amongst themselves.

That being said, for us whether unity comes or not, dialogue with the Orthodox is about rediscovery of a common Tradition, it is essentially anti-liberal, it looks to a time when East and West had a working relationship, when there was Christendom and attempts to rebuild that.
Dialogue with Anglicans is something totally different, full sacramental union is not the object, nor really is working together. On the contrary ARCIC III seems to me to be  a seminar in which Professor Ratzinger has set some particularly lazy students who have in the past refused to face up to reality and have in the past fudged as much as they can, a topic which attempts to get them to face the cold realities of their differences: “Church as Communion – Local and Universal,” and “How in Communion the Local and Universal Church Comes to Discern Right Ethical Teaching”.

 After ARCIC III are Anglicans and Catholics going to agree on the evils of abortion, or the assaults against the family or for that matter on gay rights to "marriage" or womens right to "ordination", or the divorced to "re-marry"?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Centre does not Hold

Apparently one tenth of Irish clergy and a third of German theologians are calling for radical change in the Catholic Church. The normal type of dissident thing: voluntary celibacy, ordination of women,  openness to gay unions, presumably openness to contraception, abortion etc., less or no interference by Rome, etc. etc. etc. It is the same old stuff.

Both Ireland and to a lesser extent Germany are experiencing a huge hemorrhage of laypeople from the pews. I can understand, even sympathise with, Irish clergy who look around them and see all that has been built up by previous generations lying dust and ashes, and feeling that the status quo just doesn't work, that continuing on the present path is disasterous.

For Catholics elsewhere there may be less scandals, less need for society to shake off  DeValera Church/State legacy but the situation is similar,  the status quo simply doesn't work. There seem to be three possible answers:
  1. do nothing except to contain problems, which seems to be what the Irish bishops are accused of and  is I suppose the conservative position.
  2. Leave or distance oneself from the sinking ship, which is what most laypeople tend to do, in which case the Church becomes irrelevant except for rites of passage
  3. If one loves the Church then one moves either towards the "left" or the "right".
The movement to the "left" it strikes me is a really a continuation of the very things that have caused our problems, it is position favoured by the liberal establishment, an embracing of the modern world whilst rejecting social injustice, it is based on theology from below, concentrating more on the humanity of Christ, its celebration of the liturgy tends be a celebration of the community, it is democratic and best both theologically, morally and liturgically: Popes, saints, lay theologians and personal whim are all the same, except that personal whim tends to win out. It is attractive at first but then as in liberal protestantism it cuts mankind off from God. Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, the Heirarchy are not there to reveal God because ultimately even God is a human construct.

The movement to the "right" looks either to the pre-Concilliar period or further back, seeing VII as continuity. It stands in contradiction to the world. It sees God as directly communicating through the Church, which is a divinely given structure. Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, the Heirarchy are all there to reveal God. It is anti-popularist, God is an objective reality who has a right to man's service.

What is agreed on is that the centre does not hold, there is a need for change and reform, "the right" understands this as well "the left" but it will claim that God has revealed himself once and for all in Jesus Christ. That the Church needs purification but this comes from penance and catechesis by a return to, not a jettisoning of Tradition. One of the things "the left" calls for is the appointment of bishops locally, it seems to be something the Pope would be very much in favour of but only if the electors are likely to appoint Catholics who are capable of passing on the fullness of that which is revealed.

Ultimately the question is about God and our understanding of Him.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thoughts on Catechesis

A cruel thing I am given too is to ask people after Sunday Mass what the Old Testament reading or the Epistle was: most people can't remember. Sometimes the more difficult extracts from the Gospel of John are equally quickly forgotten. I suppose I should ask people to tell me what the homily was about but I don't.

I am old enough to remember a time when most Catholics could remember great chunks of the penny catechism, and when the King James Bible and bits and pieces of the Book of Common Prayer flecked ordinary conversation. We remembered, now there seems too much to remember. 

The Old Rite in its wisdom focused on a restricted number scriptural texts, the Gospel is mainly from Matthew, the Epistles are pretty repetitive focusing on the more memorable parts. You get the impression the readings are their to teach rather than as in the Novus Ordo there simply for the sake of reading the scriptures. I really can't see the point of reading more or less the whole of an impoverished translation of Hebrews or Romans in the "liturgical assembly", when it just goes over peoples heads, better to create a culture where scripture has meaning for people and where they will want to sit, study and meditate. Indeed the old Missal was meant to be memorable, by the priest at least.

It amazes me that in the great days of evangelisation and expansion of the Western Church from the time of the conversion of Briton, Ireland and the rest of Northern Europe, right through to the evangelisation of the Americas and vast parts of Asia, up until the founding of so many of the African Churches, it was the old liturgy, in Latin that formed the background for this work. Indeed it was the Latin liturgy that inspired the great exodus of missionaries from Europe to practically every part of the world in the first part of the twentieth century.

Apart from teaching, by osmosis really, the value of silence and private prayer and the interior life, one of things that the old Rite imposed on missionaries and catechists was the need to be disciplined in the presentation of the Faith, to strip the Catholic Faith to its essentials. I am pleased that a version of the Catechism for young people is being published, it is short, it is simple, it is portable, it is a distillation of the CCC.

I think that a greater part of pre-concilliar catechesis was about doing things, keeping the commandments, going to the sacraments, saying the Rosary, putting up crucifixes and pictures of Our Lady, wearing medals and scapulars, kneeling, genuflecting, fasting, saying prayers, burning candles, celebrating feasts, joining processions, even giving money. Not only did these things supply a portal for catechesis in response to the very simple question of "Why?" or "Why should I?" but they also taught people how to live and die. Now we have replaced all these things by endless talk and endless discussion. I suspect that our real problem in catechesis today is that we teach into a void, we give the answer to questions no one is asking because we fail to stimulate questions.

I have been thinking about what to do for Lent in the parish , whether to use the excellent Evangelium course (God bless Fathers Marcus Holden and Andrew Pinsent from my own diocese) or to put on Stations of the Cross and Exposition and other devotions instead, or find some way of combining the two.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Bishop Bashing

Gloria TV carried the above newsreel; see the first two items.

Both Bishops are met with heckling in the case of the French Bishop because he intended to move a popular parish priest. The Orthodox bishop, I couldn't catch his name, but he introduces readings in the demotic modern Greek, and the people cry out "Excellency, not in the demotic!"

But somehow it is unthinkable that an Orthodox would do the things the French Catholic Bishop of Evereux did. Apparently he attended an ordination of women, but I am told did not lay hands on them, in the Anglican Cathedral of Salisbury, where apparently he is a Canon. He has also demanded his priests read the Koran during Mass.

Why is there a difference? Why would an Orthodox bishop be disciplined, even deposed for acting in a similar way? The obvious reason is the hermeneutic of rupture in discipline and catechesis but there is in the East a sense of all being subject to fraternal correction, a sense of interdepedancy of bishop, clergy anf laity, and a common sense of Tradition, which elects bishops and deals heresy locally, whereas in the West there is only an appeal to Rome, and if Rome reacts at all it is simply with at worst a stiff letter.

Two Kingdoms

Today's Gospel:
King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread,
and people were saying,
“John the Baptist has been raised from the dead;
That is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Others were saying, “He is Elijah”;
still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”
But when Herod learned of it, he said,
“It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers,
and the leading men of Galilee.
His own daughter came in and performed a dance
that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once on a platter
the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner
with orders to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
A chill always runs down my spine reading this Gospel story, it could well be set in the Pornopolis of Brighton.
Just as the Exercises of St Ignatius focus on a meditation of the choice between the two cities, so I suppose the Gospel writers are trying to compare an earthly kingdom with the Kingdom of God, by contrasting the ascetic John the Baptist who announces the coming Heavenly Kingdom with sensual Herod who is willing to give up half his worldly kingdom to a dancing sexey nymphette of a niece!

John denounces the adulterous incestuous relationship of Herod and Herodias, at the birthday party we are given the impression of excess, of drink, of boasting and of a reckless king unable to control himself. Are we even to imagine a sexual relationship with Salome? With Herod we are to imagine anything is possible. His is a corrupt court in which a young girl offered anything she might want conspires with her mother and requests a bloody severed head hacked off the body of the prophet of God, so much for childhood innocence. The sin of Herod and Herodias corrupts the child drawing her into their tangled web.

I think the reader is supposed to see the whole courtly gang as being in opposition to God, blithely ignorant of God, yet destructive of him. We are also supposed to understand that whatever the Kingdom of God is about, it isn't about licence, indulgence, sexual promiscuity or lack of restraint, these things lead us to something monstrous and inhuman.

It is the choice between sensuality an ascesis.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


This is really a reaction to a post by Fr John Boyle.

Very, very occassionally I concelebrate Mass with a bishop who when in his diocese refuses to say "... and me your unworthy servant", it is always "... and me your servant". Unworthy, anaxios, is very ancient in the liturgy, we have to admit before receiving communion, one has to be found axious before being admitted to ordination. The man isn't blind and therefore unable to read the Missal but I admit I have never asked him why he deliberately alters the given text. Ultimately of course there is no excuse for altering a liturgical text unless one's theology is at variance with the rest of the entire Catholic Church. A friend was at an ordination recently, the bishop there spoke of the bread and wine "represented" the body and blood of Christ, I would hope he misspoke, or was misheard, but maybe not.

I was speaking to a woman recently who described herself as a sede vacantist, I must have looked very shocked because she immediately excused herself and said she hadn't meant the Holy See but her own diocese. I am afraid I was still shocked, but then she went on to explain various liturgical and catechetical abuses that took place in her diocese, which I must confess I would find difficult to accept. She had written to her bishop he had been arrogant and rude and completely unsympathetic and claimed much of what gave her pain was of his instigation. Though I could understand her feelings I told her that if she was not in communion with her own bishop then she could not claim to be in communion with the Holy See, that the Catholic Church was a Communion of Churches which were in Communion with one another through their bishops. That despite her feelings she had pull herself together and regard her bishop as her "Father in God".

If I were a more courageous and more worthy priest I suppose I should have written to her bishop and rebuked him for not acting as if he were in Communion with rest of the Church and for creating difficulties for this particular lamb of the Lord's flock. Priests, more than laity have a responsibility for ensuring the Communion of the Church with the Apostles and especially with the successor of the Apostle Peter and in a way this post is a bit of bit of an apology, to her, for being a bit of a wimp in this respect, ultimately I will have answer for it before God. Pray he will be merciful to me a sinner.

Now I wonder why none of the priests at this ordination when the bishop spoke of the bread and wine which "represented" the body and blood of Christ did not correct him, crying out with one voice "Anaxios, anaxios" and demanding he correct himself?
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me -
and by then there was no one left to speak out for me.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Popularising the TLM

Tonight we celebrate a Missa Cantata for Candlemas in the Extraordinary Form, I have tried to encourage people to come along. It is a good entry point for the TLM. I know the current interpretation of "actual participation" basically is about praying the Mass, but since the 70s, it has meant doing things and singing and moving around.

Tonight after the fivefold blessing of the candles people can move up to the sanctuary and then process around the Church to the ancient chants and clanging of bells, with the smell of incense, holding their freebie blessed candle, then join in the Missa di Angelis.

It is all about the senses, it is all about strictly controlled liturgy and ultimately it is about prayer, "God kneeding the soul". We have everything in a booklet so there is no need for me to read the lections in the vernacular, so, as the action of the Mass happens people can either join in or meditate on the holy light they are holding. We always give proper big candles too, it helps. So apart from the sermon no vernacular!

For those unfamiliar with the EF this is so much easier to understand than Low Mass, there is silence but not too much to terrify, there is kneeling but not too much hurt.

My New Year's resolution is to try and celebrate the EF more solemnly, it is the best way to popularise it.

If we have a photographer I'll put some photograph's up later.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Frequent Communion a Rupture

Interesting stuff on the blogs about the order of the sacraments. Liverpool Archdiocese wants to restore them to what they were before that old innovator Pope St Pius X interfered by allowing the reception of Holy Communion before Confirmation.
Fr Hunwicke praises the move, Fr Sean has reservations, especially about removing Confirmation as a sacrament conferred by the Bishop.
I am an old trad and therefore favour most things from the first millenium. I certainly see the move by St Pius as being an act of rupture and quite a serious one which prepared the way for even more ruptures in the rest of the 20th Century. That being said, I must say the continuous catechetical process Liverpool proposes would fill me with terror if I were a lay person.

The main reason the Sainted Pope Pius broke with the ancient Tradition was because of his own Eucharistic piety: simply put he wanted to start a habit of not only regular but also frequent reception of Holy Communion. The assumption today is that this is always a good thing but it strikes me that from St Paul onwards the Church discouraged frequent communion thinking it lead to laxity. At the very least that at the Eucharist there were always those who did communicate and those who didn't:
"Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by (the) Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
The Fathers are continually pressing for more and more reverent Communion, I am no patristic expert but it seems that by the fourth century very very few people ever received Holy Communion, except as part of initiation in the East and Viaticum in the West, if they were fortunate enough. The division between communicants and non-communicants shaped the ecclesiastical structures for both East and West. By 1000 AD Holy Communion was something for priests and monks and nuns, widows and virgins, and in the West was certainly one of the reasons for the imposition of celibacy (but let's leave that bone alone here).

John 6 of course says, "unless you eat... we will not have Life", but many would suggest this meant receiving once in one's lifetime, as seems to be the practice for many Orthodox who receive communion in infancy at Baptism after Confirmation and rarely ever again. This too is the reason, presumably, why most ancient Missals, like the Roman Missal simply do not have Rite of Communion for the Laity, it just did not happen very often. It was only after the Great Schism that the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) issued the Paschal Precept, which ensured - for the law abiding - at least an annual Communion, despite the statements of various Synods, as far as I know, this never happened in the East.

Getting back to the "Confirmation Debate", it seems that priests always Confirmed those who hadn't been Confirmed before giving Viaticum and Extreme Unction.

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...