Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Forgetting Peter and Paul

I was a little dissappointed, the children of our school didn't come to Mass today. Before Holy Days were transferred they would all pile into Church on such days, now they are moved to Sunday no-one notices them and the assumption is they are all tranferred.
I, myself, too involved with Corpus Christi, forgot to announce the Holy Day at the main Mass on Sunday, though it was in the newsletter. I am told other priest's didn't even remember to do that.

Compared to the major Dominical feasts, like the Epithany, Ascension and Corpus Christi, Ss Peter and Paul are easily overshadowed. The other problem is that if Episcopal Conferences tell people religion is a Sunday only thing we can't blame people if they take them at their word.

I know our own Bishops are going to re-examine the whole issue of Holy Days, the problem is it is very easy to let genies out of bottles but how do you get them in again?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just a reminder

First Vespers for the Solemnity of St Peter and Paul have be said, and therefore today is 60th Anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Pope Benedict XVI.
The wonderful, "Tu es Petrus" by James MacMillan, for me was one of the highpoints of last years visit. There is something about those crashing chords and the weight of the brass that says something very poignant about the Petrine Office resting on the shoulders of this gentle old man. There is a sense of burden and yet there is something which soars upwards. Somehow this music conveys both the weight of the Church built on the rock and also it shining grace filled majesty. It is triumphalistic, it is a fanfare and yet there is also, something profoundly prayerful about it. It is both modern and yet there is rootedness in an earlier tradition.
It would be fun to write an essay on the theology of James MacMillan's music.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vin Nichols on the Priest at Mass

There is a fascinating sermon from Archbishop Nichols on Zenit about the role of the priest at Mass, Fr Z has got his red pen out to it .
Interestingly he is using the new Mass texts, I understand many priests are using at least the Eucharistic Prayers, now the interrim Missal has been published.

Here are some key points:
  • Among us priests Liturgy easily becomes a point of contention. It should not be so.
  • ....the Church is asking us to recover some of the richness and depth of our liturgical heritage and, at the same time,
  • We need a fresh approach in contrast to long-formed habits and familiarity.
  • We don vestments to minimise our personal preferences, not to express or emphasise them.
  • Liturgy is never my own possession, or my creation.   
  • Liturgy is not ours. It is never to be used as a form of self-expression. 
  • The Mass is the action of the Church.  That’s what matters, not my opinion.
  • ... the Liturgy forms us, not us the Liturgy. 
  •  At Mass I am the Lord’s instrument just as I hope to be in the day that follows.
  • ...things old and new can serve [the people to meet Christ]. Our choices though are shaped both by the instruction of the Church in its norms and guidance and by our duty to serve our people.
  • At Mass we need space – spaces of silence, spaces for the quiet recollection of the people, both before and during Mass.
  • In my view one quality enhances this sense of divinely filled space in which we worship God: it is the beauty of the Liturgy and its reverence.  A beautiful, cared for church is the best preparation we can provide.
  • .... whenever the Liturgy of the Church, the celebration of the Mass, truly enters our heart and soul, then the result is a vibrant sense of mission.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Other Victims

I was once accused of being a paedophile. It was guilt by association. I was a Prison Chaplain, I had just visited a prisoner in "the block" the segregation unit, he was a married man who had been a priest and ten years before he had been laicised, he had abused children too, his own and their friends. The press made much of the fact he had been a priest. It was one of the prisoners who yelled out at me, "Paedo", it hurt and actually it still hurts because it was done with such hatred and vehemance..

A friend of mine had worked as successful chaplain in a school in a northern diocese, then it was revealed his predecessor had who was in his sixties had as a newly ordained priest working in another school abused a boy. Everything started to collapse. He, my friend, felt the staff in this Catholic school started to exclude him, treating him as the enemy, numbers attending the voluntary Masses dropped away, children looked at him with suspicion, graffitti started to apear directed against his predecessor, and priests in general, then finally him. Again it was guilt by association, his friends cared for him but the bishop just wanted assurance there was no smoke without fire.

Another priest friend returned to his diocese having tried his vocation in a religious community, for a while he was left to do nothing, then the Bishop appointed him to an industrial chaplaincy, he was feeling pretty raw, the rawness was increased by the coldness and suspicion with which he was met in his new post. It took quite sometime before he discovered his predecessor had been removed because he was paedophile. I think it was when his trial happened. The bishop and those involved in his appointment had not considered it worth telling my friend.

Another friend was sent as a young newly ordained priest to a parish where there was a much loved, avuncular, older Parish Priest, some even named their children after him. In the Presbytery, however, he was a cold, secretive domineering drunk. He, with his housekeeper lived apart, from the assistant priest, barely talking to him, some people suggest she was his mistress. My friend complained to their Superior about the Parish Priest's "disfunctionality" but was ignored, eventually he was sent on the missions and succeeded by some other young priest. After Parish Priest's death it emerged that he committed paedophile acts whilst working as teacher and the Superior had known about it for some time.

There has been a lot of talk about official cover-up, some of it was obviously deliberate, even criminal, in other cases simple stupidity; bishops or religious seem caught like rabbits in headlights. I don't know if that is the case of the Rosminians and Fr Myers, it seems like it. Many clergy would suggest that our vulnerable adults protection policies seem to be dictated more by insurance companies and box ticking than by a genuine spirit of repentance, a desire to make reparation and a firm purpose of amendment. In the case of my three friends no one in authority has shown the slightest interest in how their experience has effected them, maybe that is bit touchy feely but apart from box ticking aimed at prevention of future cases, have we learnt anything?

If anything I think we have gone backwards, there is less pastoral care of clergy than there was before the "abuse crisis" broke. There is a tendency for some bishops to regard their clergy as potential liabilities, causes for the inflation of insurance premiums, rather than disciples or co-workers in the Lord's vineyard, or co-cross carriers. A previous generation might have introduced fast days or litanies or a feast of Our Lady into the calendar for the healing of the Church and all victims, but we,we just produce more paper.

I was struck by Cardinal Kaspar recent remarks about Diocesan Synods happening every ten years, it made me wonder how reflective we are as a Church. Our critics see us as arrogant, unfeeling, and certainly not as seeking mercy, forgiveness and reconcilliation. I wonder, is it this penitential spirit that is absent in today's Church. A blindness that stops us, for example, being able to assess and evaluate the lapsation or poverty of catechesis, or the expereiments of the last fifty years. The problem is that if we make this evaluation today it would be from a sociological perspective not a spiritual one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is The Tablet misogynistic?

Reprinted from Dr Joseph Shaw's rather good blog:
Below is a letter published today in The Tablet, in response to their leading article (and other articles) on the use of Altar Girls at the Traditional Mass, from Annie Mackie-Savage, the Latin Mass Society Representative for the diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The bit in red is the bit they refused to print.

As a woman who acts as a local representative in Arundel and Brighton of the Latin Mass Society, I find your claim (Leader, 18 June) that not allowing female altar servers at the Extraordinary Form insults me is quite absurd.

I challenge you to provide your readers with evidence for this bizarre claim that the tradition of male altar service has anything to do with “ritual uncleanliness” (sic). On the contrary, this tradition is quite obviously a reflection of the fact that only men can be ordained as priests, and it is because male service at the altar emphasises the different roles of the sexes in relation to the sacrifice of the Mass that it has special value. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass represents the preservation for future generations of this and many other venerable traditions, and it is for this reason described by Pope Benedict as a “treasure” for the whole Church.

Before you reject these traditions as ‘insulting’ you should reflect on the fact that they formed the basis of the liturgical life of women, as well as men, for countless centuries. Is it not more insulting to women to picture us as helpless and passive oppressed victims of a misogynistic Church for nineteen centuries? Give us a little more credit than that.

Annie Mackie-Savage
Eastbourne, East Sussex

John the Baptist, airbrushed

Interesting, he is not included in the ancient Roman Canon, he is elsewhere in the Usus Antiquior where he follows "beáta et gloriósa semper Vírgine Dei genitríce María, cum beátis Apóstolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andréa, et ómnibus sanctis...". Which presumably indicates a growing devotion to him developing after the formalisation of the Roman Canon, certainly by the sixth century images and the inclusion of his name is everywhere and feasts are multiplied. By the sixth century in many churches he is depicted, if not in the central apse paired with the Mother of God, then he is often in the side aisle over what some suggest is the men's side of the church.

All this suggests a strong popular devotion to him, which now has dissappeared from the Church, like the morning mist. Except on his feastdays in the Usus Recentior there is no reference to him at all outside of the Lectionary, he's been airbrushed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


One of the movements that seems almost to have taken over the Church is Pentacostalism or Charismaticism. In many parts of the world it seems to be the only “strain” of Catholicism on offer. In many parts of Asia and South America it is Catholicism, so too in our schools and parishes in many parts of our country.
Its music dominates liturgy, smothering anything “authentically” rooted in the Catholic tradition. Its style of shared prayer too seems to have taken hold of Catholic gatherings, ousting the Liturgy of the Hours or traditional devotions.

Healing services replace the sacraments, or push them to the sidelines. Private Revelation, especially through lay leaders seems to trump official Church teaching.

Its main consequence is however its effect on Catholic thought, especially in preaching and teaching, primarily because here it shows its Protestant roots, in that it puts forward a preference for personal experience over and against the Magisterium. In this it easily becomes both anti-historical and anti-intellectual, in short Catholic-lite. It seems to dominate our schools and catechesis partly because it is by nature “person centred”, and also because it is so easy for a partly formed teacher or catechist to put forward their own opinion as fact, rather than seek to understand and make their own two thousand years Catholic Tradition, a Tradition developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and authenticated by Christ’s promises to the Apostles.

In some parts of the world this movement has to some extent been Catholicised, it has placed Eucharistic Adoration and Marian devotion at its heart, slowly it is learning to put the Magisterium rather than “prophetic” lay leadership at its head.

In the United States new religious communities like the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal seem to be able to unite Catholicism and Charismaticism. The same can be said of Bishop Dominique Rey in the French diocese of Frejus-Toulon, who describes himself as a Traditionalist Charismatic and seems to have as many vocations as the rest of the French dioceses combined. At the moment he is organising a major conference in Rome on Eucharistic Adoration. See Fr Simon Henry’s blog for an account of what is happening.
Here in England Fr Alexander Sherbrooke seems to be doing amazing things at St Patrick’s Soho.

For the most part here though, Charismaticism seems to set itself up against the "institutional" or "heirarchic" Church. One is more likely to have a member of a alternative lay "heirarchy" speaking at a Charismatic conference than a bishop or even priest. Lay leaders tend to decide on readings or themes for liturgies rather than following the rubrics of the Church, often these rubrics are deliberately broken: the use of pottery vessels, of the minumum of vestments, a choice of a non-church environment for the celebration, the addition of made up rites, the disdain for "tradition" are not uncommon. Indeed I heard recently of a charismatic Catholic layman baptising an adult, without necessity, because the Spirit told him to.

It was most probably ever thus: it was certainly there at the Reformation. Today's ferial Gospel reading can be read as a conflict between Charismaticism and the Apostolic Church, which we see in Paul's writings too.

The Charismatics: those who prophesy, drive out demons etc in His name are unknown to him:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
The Apostolic Church: A typological reading would see "the wise man" as Christ who built his house the Church on the Rock of Peter, by the time of writing of Matthew' Gospel, Solomon's Temple was seen as being built on sand and had been swept away. The Church in communion with the Rock, Peter, will stand firm until the end of time
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Relics: Treasures of Heaven

 One of my parishioners was raving about the BBC 4 programme on relics: Treasures of Heaven wich can be watched on I-Player. It is a lead up to the British Museum's forthcoming exhibition.
Here is the BBC's blurb.
Andrew Graham-Dixon explores the ancient Christian practice of preserving holy relics and the largely forgotten art form that went with it, the reliquary. Fragments of bone or fabric placed inside a bejewelled shrine, a sculpted golden head or even a life-sized silver hand were, and still are, objects of religious devotion believed to have the power to work miracles. Most precious of all, though, are relics of Jesus Christ and the programme also features three reliquaries containing the holiest of all relics - those associated with the Crucifixion.
The story of relics and reliquaries is a 2,000-year history of faith, persecution and hope, reflected in some of the most beautiful and little known works of art ever made. Featuring interviews with art historian Sister Wendy Beckett and Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.
I must say I am very uneasy about Holy things being treated as museum curiosities.
However this exhibition is bound to evoke some excitement and provoke questions about the Catholic Faith, the history and veneration of relics. I look forward to something coming from Ecclesdon Square to capitalise on this occassion for evangelisation. Maybe liturgies for the exposition of relics from the relevant office might be forthcoming.
The veneration of relics of course goes back to the Acts of the Apostles (ch 19) where St Paul sends "handkerchiefs" to people who want him to come and heal them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Corpus Christi

By the way there will be a Missa Cantata [Usus Antiquior] for Corpus Christi on Thursday at 7.30pm, followed by a procession around the block. Anyone got a spare canopy?
Parking at our school playground behind the Church in Spring Street.

Trouble with Priests

"The trouble with priests is you always let us down", so said a young man to me a some years ago when I told him I couldn't write a reference for him.
The same could be said about priests like Fr Corapi or Fr Kit Cunningham, highly visible priests so often fall short, one could make quite a long list of them. I like the idea in the Usus Antiquior of the priest making his own personal and public confession of sin,  before the servers and others themselves confess.

Looking at Church History God himself could well say, "The trouble with priests is you always let Us down". Avaricious, lustful, loose-living, drunkard, lax priests have always been part of the Church, maybe the majority. The difference today is that we seem to expect a higher standard from priests than anyone else and are devastated when our expectations are shattered. We actually expect saintliness today, though it was always desirable in the past, it was well understood when it was lacking that clergy were very human, very frail; just read Chaucer or look at those doom paintings showing damned popes, bishops, monks and clergy, along with lay people.

One of the reasons for vesting priests, keeping them behind roodscreens, closely prescibing their movements, even their voices, I am sure, was to disguise or hide them them, or at least to say this man at the altar is somewhow different from the man who drinks in the tavern, collects tythes, has a close relationship with his housekeeper, or flogs mercilessly the boys he teaches. Pre-concilliar liturgy did its best to emphasise liturgy was the work of God, not man. God worked, even if the man was corrupt and depraved.
They knew the truth of, "Put not your trust in Princes", there is something healthy in loyal anti-clericism that typified so much of Pre-Concilliarism continental Catholicism.

Nowadays vestments, sanctuary furnishings, the orientation of the Mass, the liturgy itself tends to put the priest front and centre. People talk easily about Fr X's Mass or Fr Y's Church, never I suspect has a priest's personality been so exalted in the life of the Church and never has there been a time when priests have so dissappointed and damaged people's faith when they fall.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Failure of Liberal Catholicism

Luke Coppen highlights a fascinatng article in two parts by James Hitchcock: The Failure of Liberal Catholicism which mainly deals with the US but is relevant to us.
Part One
Part Two

Why discontented liberals remain in a Church that continuously frustrates them is not easy to understand; it is not because of a belief in the Church’s divine character. They sometimes cite the Eucharist as their reason for staying, but logically their principles require them to believe that Protestant eucharists are equally valid.

Being a Catholic is reduced to the lowest common denominator, as by an NCR reader who explains it thus—“Relationships that I simply could not continue in a practical way with the hundreds of people over all of these years,” an explanation that could apply equally to professional organizations, alumni clubs, or groups of hobbyists. Another reader attends a “progressive” parish, “not because I need Catholicism to grow spiritually, but because this inclusive community nourishes me in ways I have not found elsewhere.”

A feminist declares that “women don’t need the Vatican. We don’t need the bishops. That is the real threat.” But in fact they do, because their identity is forged in obsessive rebellion against Church authority.

The repeated charge that those within the hierarchy are power-hungry is to a great extent an expression of the liberals’ own obsession with power, which is a major reason why they remain in the Church. A woman recounted in the NCR that she had not attended church for a long time, until another feminist “helped me see the power in greeting people before Mass.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

When is Life Life?

With non-Catholics I often suggest that life begins at 60, or some societies it began when one had served in the army, or when one had produced one's own offspring or at puberty or at the age of reason, basicly I try to get them to think that Life beginning at birth is a bit of an arbitary choice, then I tend to point out other cultures, principly Jews and Muslims, tend to believe it begins at "quickening" but really the only logical conclusion is Life begins, as every Catholic knows, at conception.

I was reading a post on the Bones, about George and Diane, a Brighton couple, in my parish, who have just been made homeless by the local authority. The latest episode is they have been locked out of the home, seperated from Diane's medicines, which she needs, and from their mobile phone, which them is their main contact with the world. They have been offered housing in Brighton's "Crack Central" a seafront hostel for drug users, which isn't that helpful considering Diane's mental health and previous drug problems, as a result she is having a breakdown.

For me it raises lots of ethical issues. Some societies decided on "Life" on an age basis after conception or birth, other societies based it on class or race, wealth or intelligence or some other factor. Geneticists like Marie Stopes and Julian Huxley led campaigns that tried to implement laws that would remove the right to life of various groups such as the "the Negro races", "the feeble minded", the poor, the indigent, the sickly and in the case of Stopes, the short-sighted! In Germany the horror of this type of thinking was the basis of the Nazi regime's policies of euthanasia but the sterilisation of the poor and the feeble-minded took place elsewhere, notably in the the US. Geneticists want to grade human beings according to some criteria, tied into this are those who push for euthanasia, I have sympathy with those who decide their own life is a burden but it opens the door so easily to those who might decide someone else's life is a burden or not worth living.
From there Pandora's box is open and departing from there we end up in a total mess. All life human is sacred is the only answer.

In the case of George and Diana and so many "challenging" people like them, it strikes me that they are being treated as though they are less than human, a problem to be dealt with, a source of irritation for the community. They are being forced out of their home, thrown onto the streets and housed in place they consider physically, morally or psychologically dangerous. Is there a trait within all of us that tends towards grading human beings in some way, seeing them than less human and therefore able to be deprived of human dignity.

For Catholics, ALL human life is sacred, from conception to the grave but also from the poorest to the most wealthy, the most sinful to the most holy,  the most mentally feeble to the brightest, including the most immoral, the most deviant, the most depraved, the most etc etc etc.

Two Hates

I don't know too much about Pro Ecclesia, I rather admire Daphne McLeod's staunch defence of Catholicism.

As a footnote to the story about Cardinal Burke’s cancellation of his Pro Ecclessiae engagement the Herald runs a story saying the conference has been cancelled, in which it appears that an unidentified person has been telling the management of Westminster Central Hall “Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice were not the kind of people who should speak in their hall.”

I hate that type of thing, it seems to be so much part of the Church in England and Wales. Accusations are made, minds are poisoned through a mixture of detraction and calumny, where the accused knows neither the substance of the accusation or the accuser. He is left unable to defend himself and yet his reputation is destroyed. It is wicked. So often this seems to be the weapon of choice of the liberal Catholic establishment.

The other thing I hate in this story is Pro Ecclesia's choice of “Robert Sungenis... founder of Catholic Apologetics International, [who] had been criticised for his views on Jewish people” being invited as a substitute for the Cardinal.

Why, oh why do apparently orthodox Catholics ally themselves with the politically rightwing? I believe very much in the saying attributed to St. Athanasius, “You can tell an Arian [a heretic] by the way he treats the poor”. If Mr Sungenis is anti-semitic then one should suspect him of other unorthodoxies. Just because someone is anti-abortion, anti-anti-marriage, anti-horrendous liturgy doesn't necessarilly mean they are pro-Christ or as some us would say orthodox Catholics, that depends on the acceptance of Christ himself and the teaching of His Church.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Controversial Bishop

Today in our diocese is the feast of St Richard Wych, Bishop of Chichester 1197 -1253. He began his episcopate unwanted by the King, unwanted by his diocesan Chapter of Canons and unwanted most of the diocesan clergy and a large number of his contemporary fellow bishops. There is one source which speaks of him hammering on his cathedral door only to be ignored.
He was very much a European intellectual, having taught at Oxford, Paris and Bologna, he eventually became Chancellor of Oxford.
Asking around about the deferral of the ordination of a former Anglican clergyman I am told by a couple of sources that the problem is he is "controversial", which nowadays seems to be a euphemism for "orthodox" or "catholic". St Richard would well have been described as "controversial". He insisted on his clergy celebrating Mass decently, on them being prayerful, on them having some degree of understanding and learning. He suppressed heresy and immorality with rigour. he promoted the more radical "new movements" in particular the Dominicans, with their then controversial radical orthodoxy and orthopraxy, firmly rooted in the new learning and Catholic Tradition. He was intolerant of the vain and self serving.

St Richard pray for us. Amen

Made for Life

There two rather interesting videos here and here by the US Bishops Conference.

They are not terribly hard hitting, but I suspect in England and Wales we would be a little shy of producing such material, dealing with things that liberal Catholics would consider "controversial" issues, such as marriage, family, openess to children.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brighton Wall Painting

We had a Deanery meeting in Preston Park, north Brighton, on the way back I walked down to the main road to catch a bus and dropped into the old Anglican Church and discovered this on the wall:

It is the Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket from the 13th century, notice the cubic, veiled, free standing altar. There was a fire in the 20th century in the Church which destroyed alot of painting, there is a watercolour from 1880 showing what was revealed in the 19th century, when the whitewash of the Reformation iconoclasts was removed.

Interesting, that the martyrdom of St Thomas is mixed in with the normal schema of eschatological subjects one might expect on an east nave wall. It is perhaps a century later, and much cruder than the Christ in Majesty at Clayton in the tiny Saxon church there, which is a mile or so further north.
The Clayton wall paintings are incredibly moving, I was staying in the village one weekend and knew nothing about them and wandered into the little unprepossessing church, they are breathtaking.
The photographs don't really do them justice, the colours in both churches are red and yellow clay with a little soot black. The limited palette only seems to add to their beauty. There are one or two other examples of such paintings in the area. It is likely they are all the work of painters from the Cluniac Monastery of Lewes Priory.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Voice of the Church at Pentecost

All are beautiful

Mozart is exuberant

Taize is mysterious

but this...

this is the authentic voice of the Western Church at prayer at Pentecost.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"And also with you" damages us

Pax at Brompton Oratory: picture from here

Speaking recently to someone about the new translations: they couldn't quite see the point, in particular they couldn't see the point of, "And with your Spirit".
And that, indeed, is the point!

The current ICEL translations have cut us off from this Christian greeting which goes back at least to the first century. For 2,000 years Christians have used it, those four words have formed the theology of ordinary Christians, replacing them by "And also with you", meaning ,"same to you", has done immense damage to the thinking of English speaking Christians over the last 40 years. No wonder some priests prefer to supplement or replace it with the even more prosaic, "Good morning everybody". Not understanding or seeing the point, demonstrates the serious rupture that has gone on in the Church's thinking in the English speaking world.

"Dominus vobiscum: Et cum Spiritu tuo", implies one is saying something quite different than the current response, it causes us to acknowledge that the Spirit of God is upon us, that Grace is present in our lives and that we have capacity to receive Grace. "Also with you" gives us a closed circle, were there is a problem with Grace.

At the heart of the problems we experience, at least in the English speaking Church, is a distancing from Sanctifying Grace and our ability to receive it. Lex orandi: lex credendi. I think the correct translation of these four words will do a great deal heal a dangerous trend. Their absence hits at the very heart of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and our anthropology, it does indeed damage us seriously!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Holy Spirit is Green

I like the specific mention of "dew" in the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer II, which is a clear translation of "Spiritus tui rore sanctifica", as opposed to the present lame duck translation "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make then Holy", where rore, dew, is omitted entirely.

"Like dew" is such a good image of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes with the sound of roaring wind and tongues of fire but for the most part it comes "like dew". It is gentle, almost imperceptibly. Charismatics and Pentecostals give the impression of being taken by violence, almost being raped by the Holy Spirit, but that is not the sense conveyed by the Church's liturgy. In the New Testament itself St Paul identifies the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Holiness", the list of fruits of the Spirit are those things which make a Christian Christ-like growing like a seed, unperceived.

Passover was the barley harvest festival, Pentecost the wheat harvest festival; barley was chewy, impossible to grind finely, wheat, gentler more digestible.
In the Byzantine Rite green not red is the Pentecost colour. Green illustrating the Holy Spirit's fecundity, hence in the West green is used in "Ordinary Time", formerly "Time after Pentecost". It is during this time of the Holy Spirit, that like the dew the Holy Spirit was gently at work in the Church, sanctifying it. Red, I suspect was the Roman Church's Pentecost colour because its experience of the dew of the Holy Spirit was so often about shedding blood in martyrdom.

In various parts of Africa and South America, where rainfall is virtually unknown, the growth of anything is dependant on unseen dewfall.
How we perceive the Holy Spirit is important, is it the thunderstorm of "Majesty" with percussion, synthesizer, mics and arm waving, or gentle plainchant with its soaring notes? Is it young men and women stomping in their new found conversion or old men and women in the fortitude of faith quietly trusting in God's mercy? If it is the former then for 2000 years the Holy Spirit has been absent in the Catholic, if it is the latter then he has been present in great abundance.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Stumbling Blocks to Ordination

Surprising as it might sound not a few of my friends have had difficulty getting ordained, one resorted to growing a beard and strumming a guitar just to prove he wasn't too Catholic. Another, well, that is too recent to tell but again it seems to have been a matter of Catholicism; he was, the pastoral situation he was placed in wasn't. In my own case, seminary was painful, one instance, I was told I should hide, preferrably throw away some books by a rather shady theologian I used to read and quote. The theologian was elected Pope, the priest who gave me the advice left the priesthood to marry a headmistress, such is life.

I believe no one has a vocation to the priesthood until he stands before the Bishop on his ordination day. Ordination is not a right it is always a gift, given through the Church.

People get annoyed with me for not replying to emails, I get quite a few from people I don't know, asking for prayers, advice, pretty basic information or just wanting me to report stuff on my blog, I can't really keep on top of it. I mean to get back to them and then don't.

Today I have received a number of emails from people about a fellow blogger, who I admire a great deal, though I have never met him, who announced his ordination as a Catholic priest has been deferred.

He has been the blogging face of the Ordinariate and has shown to many, the occassional schoolmasterish waspishness, but more importantly the wit, the erudition, the love for the Catholic faith, and obedience to the Magisterium, and without being Ultramontane, admiration for the person and the office of the Pope, which is present in the Ordinariate.

The man in question has not spoken of why ordination has been deferred, except to say, "I think there has been some misunderstanding about the content of my blog". I have never found anything questionable on his there, though it has often caused me to question my presuppositions, especially about Anglicanism, and Catholicism, it has helped many understand how Anglicanism and Catholicism can co-exist. I have learnt a great deal from his blog. He is a wise old cove, he would make a very good confessor, I think.

As far as my emailers are concerned, I know nothing, and yes, I agree it is terrible shame. I hope it is not a blow to the credibility of the Ordinariate. To those of you still on other Tiberian shore do not allow this to scandalise or deter you.
Despite everything, I remain convinced that the Ordinariate is the only means of achieving the great vision of the Catholic Revival, longed for by so many great and holy men and women, learnedly described in our own time by Fr Aidan Nichols: an Anglicanism reordered after heresy and schism, an Anglicanism United But Not Absorbed.
Do as he asks, pray for JH.

The King's Book

A friend has a post on his Telegraph blog on the King James Bible's 400th anniversay.

Protestant's/Anglican's often criticise the Catholic Church for keeping the Bible fom ordinary people, I don't really mind that, though it isn't exactly true. ALS points out rightly the King James version was preceded by the Catholic Douai version, and vernacular texts of the Gospels and Epistles existed in Catholic England from the dawn of printing. It was the absence of technology more than obscuring clerics that kept the Bible out of people's hands, though the clerics were concerned about the accuracy and the political or theological manipulation of vernacular translations.

Our pre-Reformation ancestors seemed to have had a highly developed biblical sense, just look at the complexity of some pre-Reformation wall painting schemes or read sermons from the period.
It is important to realise the King James version was indeed that, the King's book, his translation. It was there to remind people the Bible, the Word of God, was translated and given to the Church by the King. In a sense the Word of God was subject to the King.

In a multi-lingual kingdom the Bible itself was a weapon of oppression, it was used to extend the use of the King's English, notably in Wales and Cornwall until the time of Wesley's became a religious desert, the same could be said for those areas where there was a strong regional dialect.

Eamon Duffy has dealt well and at some depth with the decline in literacy in post-Reformation  England. Before the Reformation, he says that the great army of chantry priests spent most of their time not praying for their particular dead teaching the young to read and write using liturgical texts, principly the Vulgate Bible. With our, even lamer than the old ICEL Missal texts, Jerusalem Bible lectionary I often joke that everyone ought learn Greek. This was precisely what happened before the Reformation with the teaching of Latin, it was done so the Vulgate could be understood. It was a matter of bringing the people to the Bible, rather than giving the State approved text to the people.

Martin Luther observed, "There was a time when there was one Pope on the seven hills of Rome, but now there are seven popes on every dunghill in Germany." It was precisely to stop this that the King's Book was carefully produced and carefully distributed. Even then one can assume it was precisely King James' Book that led to the bloody Civil War between Roundheads and Cavaliers, which could also be seen as a war between the Puritan's and King's own Anglican Church which led to Charles, James's son and heir, having his head cut off.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Hunwicke on the Obscuration of Vat II

Fr Hunwicke makes an interesting point about the new Missal translations, basicly he is saying those who are against the new translation are part of the thumbs down 4 Vat2 brigade. Interesting, eh? is the post-conciliar Missal, the Missal authorised by Pope Paul VI "by the mandate of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council", that was kept hidden, by faulty translation, from the ears of the faithful for four decades. It is, substantially, the Missal of Paul VI that the new translation will now begin to make accessible to the People of God. Enthusiasts for Vatican II, and its aftermath, and for Paul VI, should be applauding the new translation. It provides what they claim they want.

Remember: the Council never said that the Mass had to be in English; it simply authorised some degree of vernacular use. This guarded permission was subsequently extended, not by the Council but by a series of unilateral decrees emanating from the Curia. And the Council certainly did not decree that vernacular translations should be such as to obscure a large amount of the meaning of the authorised Latin texts. The Instruction which bears responsibility for the currently expiring translation, Comme le prevoit, had nothing to do with the Council. Again, its origin was in the Curia. People who claim to have a suspicion of the Curia and of its 'dominant role in the Church's life', should, if they have any consistency or logic, be prejudiced against the 1970s translation of the Mass.

The new translation, which our bishops, laudably, are bringing in earlier than most other hierarchies, means: back to Paul VI; back to the Missal which derived from the Conciliar impetus. Those fighting a rear-guard action against it should sort out their own confusions.

Conti's Prejudice: Lawless Glasgow

I suppose everyone has read Archbishop Conti's remarks about Usus Antiquior, I think is silly.

It could just be dismissed as the grumpy prejudiced ramblings of a soon to retire old bishop. It is however a very dangerous stance for a bishop to take. Bishop Henderson, who was an Auxilliary in Southwark once said to me, "As a Bishop I am supposed to love the unloveable, tolerate the intolerable." He could have added, "even with heresy I am supposed to be light handed, trying to win back rather than condemn and cut off".
By his statement Archbishop Conti has said that tradition and traditionalism is not welcome in my diocese, which seems to undermine the Pope's hope to reconcile the post Concilliar Church with its past. Young men attracted by the Church's tradition are not going to offer themselves to the diocese, priests who might be inclined, not so much to say the Mass but just to be loyal to the Pope are going to keep their heads down, wondering whatever other prejudice His Grace might have.
With his words Archbishop Conti has put a cordon around diocese cutting it off from a great deal of contemporary thought and study. He has also said that his personal prejudices are more important than the Church's law, which presumably indicates to his priests that they are free to impose their own prejudices on the faithful. Ultimately it means that under Archbishop Conti Glasgow is lawless. The impression given is that Glasgow is ruled by prejudice or whim of Archbishop Conti, not the Church's law.

Recently I was talking to an older parish priest, whose health wasn't that good, who said that he felt his own Bishop wished he would just die in order to put someone more of the Bishops mind into his parish. That is pretty worrying, every priest has right to expect that he is fully supported by his Bishop if he acts within the law. I suspect that is not what this particular Bishop really thinks but it is terrible indictment of a Bishop's failure to be a real "Father in God" to all his priests.

A Bishop has every right to his prejudices but no right to express them, especially as function is to hold all in communion, to gather into one. It is the wolf who scatters the Lord's flock the Good Shepherd gathers them,
to love the unloveable, tolerate the intolerable.

Let us pray that with the appointment of the new Bishop of Aberdeen change is on the way.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Is it Prayer? #2: Servers

A continuation of Is it Prayer? #1
Gradually, gradually here we are making our liturgy more prayerful, the advantage we have over others here is a church that is slowly becoming more beautiful as we restore it. The environment helps a great deal.

The congregation here is quite transient, most people live in pre-Edwardian houses converted into flats, so there aren't many families here, after the first child couples tend to move away, hence there are not vast numbers of children. In a different parish I might do things differently but here we do not have trillions of children serving. Indeed I am not keen on children of either sex serving. It seems absurd to have a man, doing the most important thing a man can do, surrounded by small boys or small girls. Nowadays, with the scandals, it has also just become a bad sign and tends to trivialise the Liturgy. Though I was very impressed by a contribution of a six year old on Fr Tim's blog.

In the Eastern Churches the servers are ordained to the Minor Orders, which presumes some knowledge and some understanding of the sacred function of their role, it presumes they pray and have an active spiritual life within the Church rather than just being "Father's little helper". It also presumes they are as necessary as the priest within the Liturgy. Post Vatican II liturgy can be celebrated just as well without servers, I know a couple of older priests who generally celebrate without servers.

Here, we generally only have men serving, most can serve the Usus Antiquior as well as the Usus Recentior. They know what they are doing, they have a love of the liturgy, they understand that they are there to assist at the sublime sacrifice, that their own own prayerfulness assists the congregation in prayer.

We are fortunate with our Master of Ceremonies, he knows the Liturgical Law as well as me and being a lawyer can argue his case a little better than me. He also has an Oxford degree in theology, both his Latin and Greek are better than mine. That means that unlike most priests I do not have to worry about being the MC as well as Celebrant  during the Liturgy, which means I am free to pray to focus my own attention on God, which is incredibly liberating. As with Clare who runs our choir, Andrew knows his stuff, or rather the Church's stuff, so as far as the Liturgy is concerned it is possible to implement a vision of "collaborative ministry".

Pope Benedict's idea of ars celebrandi seems to suggest the priest is recollected and absorbed by the Sacred Liturgy itself, it is only then that he diminish and the Lord increases, gradually members of the congregation are catching on, people are beginning to come from surrounding parishes and I think there is an atmosphere of prayer at our Masses.

Because our servers are familiar with both forms of the Roman Rite the two forms do tend to influence one another. At least at our main Sunday Mass, our servers are beginning to arrive early enough to pray before Mass, they vest, prepare the sanctuary, light candles reverently, they chatter less in the sancristy. Recently we have started to pray the prayers at the foot of the altar before Mass in the sacristy, I started doing it in the vernacular, the servers asked for it in the Church's own tongue.

They are of course free to receive Holy Communion as they want to but they choose to receive it according to the norms of the Church kneeling and on the tongue, which seems to help the congregation to receive reverently. On occassion some choose not to receive which in itself is teaching, and I am quite pleased by.

They might be criticised for being a little too drilled or formal but they know clearly what to do. They themselves seem to be praying and have acquired the ars celebrandi which is as importantant to servers as it is to clergy.

We men are actually are comfortable if we know what is expected of us; when to genuflect, when to bow, how to walk, how to sit, how to stand. During the Triduum it was good to have people commenting on the "choreography" of the serving, I think they meant simply they knew what they were doing.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


I have an African priest staying with me at the moment we were talking about inculturation as one of the themes of Vatican II. See Sacrosanctum Concillium 37ff

I can accept white vestments as a provision for funeral in Asia where it is the traditional colour for mourning (was it ever intended they should be used in the West?), using drums instead of bells, portraying Our Lady as African or Asian or Anglo-Saxon, using, at least outside of the sanctuary, Asian or African modes of reverence. However it wasn't inculturation but exculturation which I thought was interesting. I remember both Cardinal Arinze and Ranjith complaining that many missionaries imposed, almost with imperialistic disregard western modes of informality on Asian and African liturgy. A nod of the head might be acceptable in North London but in Abuja or Columbo bowing or even prostration, walking or crawling backwards might be more cultural suitable.

In the West, I wonder, has the Liturgy, and the Faith generally, been inculturated or exculturated.

Visiting a great and ancient cathedral where perspective, proportion, sculpture, painting point to a particular sacred focus, the altar or the tabernacle something absurd seems to be being said when a priest quite literally turns his back on it all and says Mass on an ill suited johnny-come-lately liturgical carbuncle of an altar.
Are we inculturating or exculturating when we ignore the beauty of the great musical masterpieces and substitute something written a few days ago by a not very talented jobbing musician, whose work has not stood the test of time.

In the West, the very hermeneutic of discontinuity, at least on a cultural level has come back to bite the Church savagely on the backside. So often the Church that produced the great medieval master builders or renaissance painters or baroque musicians is so obviously, not today's Church. The very disregard for the vast riches of Christian culture has been a very grievous blow to both the Church and the West. In many ways the Church itself has contributed to the growth of Secularism by our own disregard and contempt for our heritage.

Pope Benedict's words, "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful" are worth applying to not only the Traditional Liturgy but also to Catholic culture generally.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Blessed Aloysius Stepinac

The Apostolic Voyage to Croatia begins today see Petar's latest video: Blessed Aloysius Stepinac

Slur on our Bishops

Apparently The Tablet is campaigning for the ordination of women, well it would, wouldn't it? I suspect that it is very conscious recognition that its future is as a liberal Anglican magazine as its Catholic readership dwindles.

What I find worrying is the impression that some have is that our bishops are supporting women's ordination, not just by allowing the sale of that magazine at the back of every Cathedral in the country, which I suspect indicates no bishop ever reads it, but The Tablet also carries this slur, which really does need refuting.

‘Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic studies at Roehampton University, said bishops in England and Wales were maintaining a public silence on women’s ordination but were nevertheless allowing lay Catholics and theologians the freedom to express their views. As an example, she pointed to the fact that Conor Gearty, professor of human rights law at the London School of Economics, recently delivered a ‘Faith Matters’ lecture at Westminster Cathedral Hall supporting women’s ordination’. p. 7

I am sure Archbishop Nichols would be horrified to read this, as would every other bishop in the country. All of our bishops are loyal to the Magisterium, it is an act of supreme wickedness on the part Professor Beattie to suggest any disloyalty on their part, perhaps she might like to name names.

I do not know if I risk legal action, but I suggest the Professor is telling untruths or at the least has an over active imagination.

Friday, June 03, 2011

I have tried Liturgical Dance

Wet liberals like me are always looking for ways of communicating the faith, the uniqueness of Christ, we don't want to ram it down people's throats. We realise Catholic schools don't work*, well, not to produce practicing Catholics. Ascension Day is pretty good for "public signs". When I was younger I tried Ascension Day kites and those fiery paper bag balloons, you really need a hundred or so for a real effect.
I have tried so many things that are relevant, never puppets but I have to admit it I have tried liturgical dance, not doing it myself and never at Mass but I once had a group of charismatic missioners in my last parish. I have even tried projecting images on the ceiling during a Vigil.

The trouble is these things, like contemporary Catholic education don't work, and now I have run out of bright ideas, like so many priests. So many younger priests have positively rejected them. There is one option open to us, which is to look at the riches of the past. Here is what Traditionally happened, before Ascension there was a period of prayer, Rogation Days, following Christ, imploring his sanctification of the world and blessing of new growth.

*a radio programme produced by Mark Dowd in peparation for the Papal visit, this extract has pupils at a Catholic school speaking about what it means for them to be Catholic, the last speaker is "Youth Chaplain".

Thursday, June 02, 2011


The Ascension is much underestimated. St Luke conveys a central mystery in a few sketchy lines. Ephesians, maybe, is clearer:
Ascension is to Christmas what Theosis (or Deification) is to the Incarnation.
Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men. Now that he ascended, what is it, but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

God descended that Man might ascend.

God came down so that Man might go up.

Where the Head is their shall the Body be.

He shared in our humanity so that we migh share in his divinity.

He became Man so that we might become God.

He became sin (which we are by virtue of our fallen humaity) so that we might become holy (which he is by virtue of his divinity)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Is this why Cardinal Burke is not coming?

Trying to find out why Cardinal Burke is not coming to speak in London, I have just read the flyer I was sent, by Pro Ecclesia, it says,

... Sadly, because our bishops are obdurate in their refusal to allow our glorious Catholic faith to be taught in our schools ...

That alone, which is purely opinion, would make any Cardinal decide to turn back at the airport.
Facts are useful, opinions are not.

Our bishops are not obdurate, the ones who speak to me are as anxious about our schools as anyone else.
What a wasted opportunity.

Pentecost Novena Begins Tomorrorrow

Alright, I know it isn't quite, at least in this sceptred isle, unless of course you follow, in this case, the scripturally more accurate older calendar.

We have a Ususus Antiquior Missa Cantata at 7pm here.

I am beginning a Pentecost Novena, the mother of all Novenas. The nine days between Ascension Day and Pentecost are the original model for all Novenas, I met the son of one of our recussant families recently they gave up the faith after years of persecution just as things were becoming easier in the early 19th century, it is my whim, and God's will, he should be a Catholic.
I am also praying for a few personal and parish things.

Ora Pro Invicem
If you want to enter an intention in the combox before the end of tomorrow let us pray for one another's intentions, the can be Anonymous but the combox will close beforse Compline tomorrow and I expect to hear on a post Pentecost post whether intention have been answered, or not.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

or in the Church's tongue
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.

Oremus. Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.


Cardinal Burke Cancels London Engagement

It appears Cardinal Raymond Burke has cancelled his visit to speak at the Pro-Ecclesia et Ponifice meeting in London later in June.
Anyone know why?
We seem to be developing a tradition in England of inviting prominent ecclesiastics, only to have cancel or be cancelled, what is going on?

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...