Sunday, July 31, 2011

Give them something to eat yourself

The Catholic notion of Grace is that God invites our co-operation, that is why Our Lady's "Fiat" is so important to us and not to classical Protestants, for them Grace is irresistable.

There are 5,000 plus the women and the children, an enormous crowd.
The common sense approach is to send them way to the nearby villages but Jesus says, "Give them something to eat yourself".
"You deal with it!"
So they present him with the 5 loaves and 2 small fish.
He takes them, says the blessing, breaks them and they distribute them, and the disciples, here, presumably it means the 12, because they collect a basket each from what is left over.

There were the Apostles, a fishermen like Peter, angry young men like James and John, the Son's of Thunder, others some better educated maybe some worst, Jesus says to them, 
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Left to their own resources they have nothing to offer, the task is too big for them. It is only by bringing All Things to Christ for him to take and bless and break that they have anything to offer. They do that and it appears that by end the end of the Apostolic Age there are a network of Churches around the Mediterranean.

Today we have the world to convert, the Church in our part of the world is contracting, the work of Christ is being unravelled, is it because we rely on our efforts rather than Christ? All he has given us is the Church and its Sacraments, by human standards they are less  5 loaves and 2 small fish, what is that amongst so many?

We have nothing, all we can do is to bring the little we have to him in prayer and in the Sacraments for him to take, bless and give back to us to distribute. If we rely on him the meagre is turned into abundance, the weak are made strong, the frightened given courage.

Whatever we need to do, even save our own soul, we have to acknowledge our poverty and bring it to Christ. This is why daily prayer, daily Mass if possible, frequent confession, coming into the presence of Blessed Sacrament is so important. Left to ourselves we have  5 loaves and 2 small fish, with him our basket are full.

Cloyne Report

Thirsty Gargoyle has very worthwhile and enlightening look at the Cloyne Report, it is highly readable, in question and answer form.
thanks to Raven

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sexual Thoughts

A Franciscan priest friend of mine a few years ago fell down the escalator on the tube, it was always his practice to keep his eyes lowered to avoid seeing the semi-pornographic ads, he used to say, "I am a man, I'm a bit too fragile to cope with all that naked flesh". I have tried it in Brighton but I tend to bump into things.

I had to visit one of my parishioners who lives on the edge "pink" Brighton. It was a mistake to go on a warm summer's evening, I did my best not to look at what was happening in a couple of door ways on my way there but it is a little difficult to close one's ears. I don't get shocked when I see same sex couples holding hands, I look at the pavement if they are kissing. On my way home just a few doors away from where she lives I had to go past the entrance of one of Brighton's more notorious clubs, I had heard its name, because it was a bit of a scandal a few years ago when it was revealed it was owned by an Anglican clergyman but as it it is just outside my parish I didn't know where it was. Some of the men outside were barely dressed, others were dressed in such a way that they were obviously displaying their particular fetish. I was shocked to see amongst the small throng someone I knew.

I have always thought it was a priestly virtue to be naive, shortsighted and hard of hearing, always to presume goodness, moral virtue and the love of God in others. But what when people I am called to love and be a pastor to are plainly damaging themselves and are a scandal to others within our community I am in a moral quandary.

As far as sexual morality is concerned, we clergy, me, are rather afraid to say anything. None of us want to confront from the pulpit a situation where a great number of leading parishioners are living lives out of communion with Christ nor does anyone want be known as Fr X who always speaks about sex. And perhaps at Mass with a mixed congregation it perhaps not the easiest situation to speak about sex, adultery, prostitution, fornication, masturbation, homosexuality, sexual fantasies, sexual fetishes or even contraception. Maybe it might be more easily dealt with by a bishop in a carefully crafted pastoral letter.

The problem is this not an issue bishops concern themselves with, indeed as we have seen with the Warwick Street Mass not only does the Archbishop of Westminster seem to be telling people to keep their noses out of the matter "and their tongues still" but we are told Cardinal Levada and therefore the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has given such celebrations his blessing, with the implication that not just tolerance of such lifestyles and sexual activity, but even support, is expected from other clergy. The same Archbishop when asked about the Church and gay marriage said that we don't know what was in the future! Indeeed one bishop even wrote a Pastoral Letter suggested people go to see a film about two homosexual lovers. I have no problem with brotherly love, or even sisterly love, for some that is all they will ever have. I do have a problem with those things which are directly contrary to the Church's teaching. I must say I also have a problem with people who use prayer as protest outside churches, they are almost as bad as those who do it inside them.

Confusion in teaching is not helpful! I seem to spend a lot of time with people who seem to have pornographic fantasies going through their minds most of the time. I don't know if Brighton is an exception, maybe the loneliness of many who live here make it so, but I seem to spend a great deal of time dealing with people who are addicted to sex, who seem to prefer the world in their heads or on the internet to reality. The big problem is it evolves and the addiction deepens and take on their own perversities. There are lots of casualties, the individuals, certainly but also marriages and friendship and the whole attitude to Life. Someone whose sexuality is narcisistic and is merely about personal satifaction tends to become almost incapable of responding to anyone elses needs as they age.

One of the problems many of our young people have is that parents are often openly watching the things St Paul says, "should not even be spoken of amongst you". Is this sexual abuse? Yes, but it seems to happen in many of our "families", especially where the father is semi-detached. Where a child has been sexualised from a very early age a great deal of damage is done, it tends to stunt, without Christ, it seems almost impossible to grow to maturity. Now the first generation of children from the age of downloadably porn are coming to adulthood, often seriously hurting, because their sexuality sees others as being objects to be used rather people to be loved.

What we seem incapable of doing is teaching people to control their sexuality, for so many is sexuality which controls them leaving them trapped in prison of their own -or others- making.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chant and Metrical - taste the difference

This, acording to Chant Cafe, is a very instructive video that illustrates the difference between plainsong chant and metrical renderings of the same text. It is.
Some of, most of, actually all of the metrical stuff is irritating, and hardly conducive to prayer but then not everyone thinks the Liturgy is prayer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just wondering: has the Liturgical Movement has done more harm than good?

Valle Adurni has got me thinking, yet again, in a provocative post in which he suggests Celtic spirituality isn't "Liturgical", that the ancient Irish Churches were too tiny for the masses to attend Mass, even for monastic communities to attend Mass. He suggests St Anthony in his 20 year struggle with temptation lived without the sacraments or attending Mass. The legend of Mary Magdalen tells of her going off into the desert as a penitent and only before her death receiving Holy Communion from once only in her life.

The Ethiopian eunuch of course does not even seem to receive that, he is baptised by Philip and goes of home.

The obligation to receive communion annually arose because people weren't doing even that. The reason why Greek babes are communicated at baptism is presumably because that was also likely to be the last time they would communicate. The Greeks remembering the Lord's words, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life in you".

Since the Vatican Council we have become obsessed with the Liturgy, to the point where the Church almost ceases to be without it. It seems to me that the pre-Concilliar or better the pre-Liturgical Movement Church was a much more complex structure. The church building was a more than a place for Mass, it was place as much for private prayer and devotions and para-liturgies as it was for the Mass. The altars or chapels of saints were often as significant as the altar where Mass was celebrated, in some cases more so. Often the altar or shrine was controlled by a lay confraternity rather than the clergy, sometimes the confraternities were more powerful, and wealthier too, than the clergy.
In Spain it is the still the Confraternities that organise the great street processions of Holy Week and whilst the Liturgy itself is often deserted.
The rituals surrounding devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, as well as funerals were essentially the preserve of laity, these were often the corporate expression of civic religion. In Malta where someone might choose to go to any number of Masses in town it is the festa that takes place in the streets that is the great expression of religion.
A friend of mine told me of attending Mass in Italy on Corpus Christi Thursday, though Sundays kept as the Holy Day. Mass was offered in the normal Italian half hearted way: polyester vestments, several tedious sermons, youth group with guitars, a small number of mainly elderly in the Church. Mass ended, then the organ began to thunder, a different set of altar servers appeared in cassocks and lace cottas, dozens of them, men and women in gowns, with other priests in baroque vestments, a huge high canopy with silver poles and ostrich feathers was brought. The bronze west door opened, trumpeters played fanfares, outside in the piazza bands were assembled, with the carrabiniere, the scouts, different banners were there to escort the Blessed Sacrament. The thing was this lay led, the clergy were there to carry the Blessed Sacrament, nothing more.

I just wonder whether the Liturgical Movement has done more harm than good, whether it has stripped the Church of its devotional riches and robbed the laity of taking an active part in Church's life, clericalising many aspects, including catechesis, that should properly be the domain of the laity.

I am just wondering - because something seems to be missing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Satanist Community Divided

There are various reports about the poor priest who was beaten up in Italy for celebrating Mass in the Extra-ordinary Form. Fr Z reports that he received a message saying, “You have been tough, but we will smash your head. Signed, Your friend Satan”.
Apparently one of the consequences of Summorum Pontificum in parts of Europe is that Pope Benedict has divided the Satanist community into Usus Antiquior and Usus Recentior Satanists. According to priest friend in Bologna, "the Old Riters are much more dangerous".

Which rather makes one's mind boggle... black masses with guitars and the youth group ranting into microphones or black masses with badly sung chant, which is more hellish?

Anders Breivik

Anders Breivik is an exception, even amongst the insane he is an exception, even if you regard him as being possessed by the devil, he is an exception, the devil's work is more subtle, generally.
It is only when an ordinary man, someone who is not a world leader or a known terrorist does something like this that one realises quite how fragile human society is.

What is truly amazing is that he is an exception.

The Catholic doctrine that mankind is wounded, fallen, suffers from concupiscience, is so different from the Protestant doctrine of utter corruption and total depravity.

We are all capable of doing what Breivik did, what is amazing is that we don't because we are not utterly corrupt and totally depraved.

The exception is of course the killing of the unborn.


I rather enjoy reading Dr Joseph Shaw's blog, I was interested that he should pick up on something written by one of my parishioners, Dr Tim Stanley a rather clever and amusing historian who is in the States at the moment writing on Holywood. In this passage he writes about Liberalism in American politics but he could be writing Liberalism in the Church.

No, the problem that the conservative faces isn’t intellectual, it’s social. Conservatism tends to be raw and unfiltered. In conversation, it punctures the Zen equilibrium that sustains everyone in Los Angeles. The industry works by networks and anyone who can’t sustain a long conversation about the importance of raw carrots and natural fibers to the functioning of Yin and the flowing of Yang won’t fit in. One Right-wing writer told me that following 9/11, he found work dried up. There was plenty of interest in his output (he’s deservedly famous) but when it came to small talk before pitches, or the gossip at the writers’ in LA Farm, he was immediately frozen out. “People would open with, ‘Isn’t George Bush a moron?’ And I would say, ‘No, I voted for him.’ And I could feel I was losing their respect.”
True, this suggests that Hollywood has a leftward prejudice. But the real problem with what the writer said wasn’t the content but the act of disagreement itself. Hollywood conversations deal in hyperbolic affirmations covering for lies: “You’re amazing. That pitch was the best ever. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Adam Sandler is the funniest man alive!” Disagreement and contradiction are acts of verbal rape.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fr Hoban's pain and a possible solution

If I was going to be martyred I think I could be quite heroic standing before a firing squad, especially with a few others. I would want it to be quick, long torture might produce less heroism. A slow death and years of ostracism and humiliation... well, may the Lord have mercy on my poor soul.

Pure and Simple has a rather sad article from the Irish Times which identifies the depression and hopeless of many Irish priests. It is essentially an interview with Fr Hoban, his pain is palpable, as is his sense of frustration. You get the impression from the article that this is the first time someone has shown any interest in him or his feelings. Fr Hoban blames the bishops and blames Rome, he sees the somewhat heterodox Association of Catholic Priests as being the last toss of the dice. There is real pain here, Fr Hoban and his confreres need our prayers and whatever consolation they can be offered.
I fear for my brother priests in Ireland,  for their spiritual and emotional health some will opt out others will struggle on but with the joy gone.
But the paranoia has also infected the priests’ day-to-day pastoral work. “A woman comes to the door who may have psychiatric problems . . . What do I do? Take a chance by letting her into my front room? There is no doubt that priests have withdrawn, that they’ve become ultracareful and ultrasensitive on how they might be compromised.
This is not good for Christ or his Church.
What is seen in Ireland and highlighted by the "abuse crisis" is I suspect present elsewhere in Europe. Low quality bishops,  priests not seeing anyway forward, many seeing the Church is actually going backwards, a conservatism embedded in the seventies, a distrust of Rome, misgivings about young traditionally minded priests, is not just an Irish problem, it is everywhere in Europe. It is I suspect ultimately what the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is really supposed to address.

The problem with Ireland, as so many have identified, is Ireland's bishops, my wise and balanced friend Fr Sean Fineagans make this perceptive comment:
Now let us look at the bishops. Before the 60s, it was normal that episcopal appointments would be finally approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or 'Holy Office'). Pope Paul VI changed this to final approval by the Secretariate of State. This is because he wanted to pursue a policy of detente all round; ecumenism and Ostpolitik were the watchwords. So henceforward bishops would be diplomats; nice guys, people who could pour oil on troubled waters, men who would not rock the boat.

These are the men who would not pursue child abusers, for fear that a storm might arise. They are good men, nice men; they are just not what is needed now, if ever.
In a post today he says:
That is why I think that what the Church needs is not bishops like Willie Walsh, much-loved and kind man as he is, but men like Charles Chaput who really get it.
But as I say this is a problem everywhere, especially in Europe, if only someone would start a campaign to give back to the CDF the appointment of Bishops, we need learned theologians and hard nosed canon lawyers who capable of leadership.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy - Coloquium

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury;
Mgr. Andrew Wadsworth (Director of ICEL) and
Edmund Adamus (Director of Pastoral Affairs Westminster)
Are the keynote speakers at the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy's first Coloquium:

12 noon Thursday 27th to 4pm Friday 28th October 2011
Reading Oratory School, Woodcote, Reading, RG8 0PJ
Lectures, Discussion, Masses, Prayer, Relaxation and Fraternity
All-inclusive Cost - £30.00 (only!) for all meals, refreshments and overnight accommodation.
Day Visitors are also welcome (at £15 per day)
If you want to go click here

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sweetest, Holy Patroness: Sermon on the Magdalen

A few roses arrived first thing this morning with a card:

"Pray for a sinner sweetest holy Patroness"

Nowadays in the Liturgy we celebrate Mary Magdalen as the first witness to the Resurrection, the messenger to the Apostles, that is clearly important. We can speculate whether Peter and John would have gone to the tomb if the Magdalen had not come with her barely credible message.

It is important to remember the Magdalen had a past, we don't know quite what it was, the Evangelists are possibly too polite to say, all they do say is she had seven demons cast out of her, not one but seven, and we are told this immediately after the story of an anonymous woman "who was a sinner" who pours out costly ointment and tears over Jesus' feet.

St Gregory is willing to suggest that most of the Gospels' various anonymous women, including Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus' sister are the same woman; the Magdalen. The common thread seems to be "feet", Jesus's feet. St Gregory even speculates that her sin was prostitution. Today we would ask why was she she might be a prostitute, if she was. We might speculate that she had undergone some dreadful childhood trauma, perhaps sexual abuse, perhaps a broken family, perhaps poverty has led her to sell the only thing she and so many poor women have to sell, her very self. Yet if this so she has now acquired the ability to buy costly ointment, or perhaps she has overheard Jesus' words to the rich young man, "Go sell all you have..." What has she sold to acquire this costly unction?

She pours out costly ointment, she pours out her tears as a penitent, she humbles herself, demeans herself, some might thing she is merely showing off, being flamboyant, drawing attention to herself. Maybe she, maybe her motivation is mixed, human beings tend to have mixed motives,  Jesus is not concerned about the hidden recesses of her psyche, just her generosity. She has loved, she is forgiven much, her sins her many sins are swallowed up in Christ's generosity.

I've been thinking alot about the Eucharist and Christ's generosity, he gives us his body, soul, humanity and divinity in Holy Communion. He gives us his whole self without reservation, holding nothing back, without restraint, to the point of death. The eternal God, the omnipotent God, the God who is all, gives us all in Holy Eucharist, we are caught up in the absolute self-giving of Son to Father, of God to God. The generosity of the pouring out of tears and ointment, of self abasement is swallowed up in the pouring out His Body and Blood. The Magdalen's tears and obvious pain in the Garden on Easterday are even deeper than the tears of the women in Simon's dining room.

I do not think there is a mystery in her not recognising the Lord, she was so consumed by her grieve and her loss, so turned in herself, so full of her own pain and sorrow, it is only when he uses her name that he breaks into the prison of her grief and releases her. She the women at his feet is told not "to cling" but raised to her feet, more than that she is sent to the Apostles to speak of the Resurrection, to tell of Christ ascending to "my God and you God", "my Father and your Father". From being a creature imprisoned in sin, abased, prostrate in the dust the Magdalen becomes the messenger of the Resurrection.

We share in that message, her news message of resurrection and hope, is the message brought by the Apostles and Saints down the ages. It is the message of love and sheer joy and generosity, it has inspired martyrs and holy monks and nuns down the age, she pours out costly nard, they poured out their very lives, hers is message of true Christian generosity.

And now for the controversial "Baroque" bit not preached:
How interesting that the response of the Counter Reformation to the pale, cold, tight-lipped parsimony of the Protestant Reformation was the exuberance of the Baroque. It is the theology of the Incarnation, of the Eucharist, of the essential goodness of creation, of God's presence in the material, all of those things Protestantism tended to reject, expressed in art. Pattern on pattern, art on art, craft on craft, colour on colour, voice on voice, it is luxury and generosity. The white wash of the Reformers was fought by marble and gilding, carpet and textile. The preaching gown, countered with lace and silk, the broken statue, the defaced wall painted with the exuberance of Titian and Caravaggio, the lost churches and cathedrals of the North with the Michaelangelo and Bramante temples in the South. The despoiled monasteries and silenced cloisters were replaced by the new Orders, the enthusiasm and generosity of the young followers of Neri, Loyola and de Lellis.
So today on our sacred Feast day, where are the fountains flowing with wine, the trumpets, the drums, the canons? Where are the golden cherubim, the flowers to cover the floor and perfume the air?Where are the choirs and orchestras, the dignitaries, the roasting oxen, the partying, the processions, the flags, the street shrines, the banners hanging from windows, the houses decked for the festival? Where are the fireworks?
Where are the new clothes for the poor, where is their food, where are the enemies being reconciled and the stranger welcomed? Where are the keys of the prison and goal? Where the medicines for the sick? Where are the bright faced young men and women willing to go to the ends of the earth or suffer martyrdom for love of Christ? Where were the streams of penitents earnestly waiting for mercy, having spent sad nights and bitter days with already returned penitents  preparing for this day of days?

Where the lavish gift and generous hearts?

Today extravagance for the Glory of God, seems pointless somehow, but then, it strikes me, so does God's extravagance towards us. Meaness is a vice, countered only by the generosity of the Cross.
The world needs demonstrations of generosity.

Happy Feast Day

Maria Magdalene, et altera Maria emerunt aromata,
ut venientes ungerent Iesum.
Et valde mane una Sabbatorum,
veniunt ad monumentum,
orto iam sole, alleluia.

Et intro euntes in monumentum
viderunt iuvenem sedentem in dextris,
coopertum stola candida, et obstupuerunt.
Qui dixit illis: Iesum quem quaeritis
Nazarenum, crucifixum:
surrexit, non est hic,
ecce locus ubi posuerunt eum.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taoiseach's Speech - a first reaction

Taoiseach's speech yesterday is worth reading. It is a carefully scripted piece of rhetoric, rich in bombast but short on facts, a rather unpleasant piece of popularism, designed more to capture headlines than to deal with a problem which is as much the responsibility of the Irish State as of the Irish Church. It is perhaps a distraction from Ireland's economic situation. It is interesting he did not address the Cloyne Report's criticism of the civil authorities, when things calm down it might be interesting to ask: why?

I do not think it is possible to defend the actions of the Irish Bishops, they were responsible for cover-up of crimes, whether that was caused by malice or sheer incompetence is a matter of personal judgement. They have lost the confidence of their people and earnt the contempt of the majority of Irishmen. No wonder Fr Vincent Twoomey of Maynooth recently suggested that all those old guard Bishops appointed before Archbishop Martin, which would include Cardinal Brady, should resign and the number of Irish diocese be significantly reduced. That might at least deal with the tensions in the Irish hierarchy that have obstructed it from taking decisive action.

Mr Kenny attacked "the Vatican", which seemed to be a thinly veiled attack on the Pope but one is forced to ask to what extent "the Vatican" is taken seriously by Irish Bishops. The now retired popular Bishop Willie Walsh infamously claimed he threw documents from Rome, unread, into his wastepaper bin. Was Willie the only one, and were these documents to do with abuse? Another question which should be asked.
He and his fellows have taught their people to ignore Rome's oversight and teaching.

The former Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, seems to have had a history of simply not being able to do his job, he suffered frequently from bouts of "ill health", at least one of his priests suggested that he was in a permanent state of depression, often incapable of fulfilling his diary engagements. Of a group of weak and ineffectual bishops, he was the weakest and most ineffectual and fragile. Rome doesn't do itself any favours with Bishops like him but just imagine the kerfuffle in Ireland if he had been removed.

The Association of Catholic Priests, with its own "Rome free" liberal Irish form of "We are Church" or "Voices for Reform", seems illustrative of where many "thinking" Irish men are coming from, not least Mr Kenny. One of the marks of the Irish Church in recent years is that has done its own thing, and solved its own problems. It is perhaps part of the Irish character, a result of being on the edge of Europe, as well as years of English oppression, to be independent and to mistrust outside authority. It has both served the Church well but also done it great damage. But then of course there is the Parnell factor too.

One Irish priest wrote to me recently saying at the moment being a priest in Ireland was like "living through the Terror". There seems to be a real attempt to "dissestablish" the Irish Church, certainly to take away its wealth, thus removing it from social care, from education, from healthcare, to rejoice in its lack of moral authority, to the point where it is incapable of defending the family, of defending Life. It is almost as if Ireland stands on the brink of a late Reformation.

Pray, pray hard for the good Irish priests struggling to do their best in a world that has become very hostile to them, they are being tested like gold in a furnace.

St Patrick and all Saints of Ireland pray for them.

read Deacon Nick's comment on Kenny's misrepresentation of the Pope

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ordination Pictures

When the members of the Institute of Christ the King first got their new canonically approved habits and started appearing in public, I asked one member, "What is all that for?" I must have been grinning, because he replied, "To bring a smile to your face".
So just to cheer a few people up, with unabashed and extravagant, triumphalistic over the top exaltation in the priesthood, with a touch of real beauty...
Click here and then here.
I am afraid these pictures make Otto von Hapsburg's Requiem look decidedly dull.
Thanks to NLM

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Preserving t/Tradition

Some of the chant tones of the Liturgy go back to the time when East and West were united, a few are even more ancient and seem to back the Temple, because they are not only common to both East and West but are also found in Jewish Liturgy.
It is the ancientness of things that are passed on that fascinates me. Hearing, singing music heard and sung by Christ himself with Apostles gives me a quiet thrill, it speaks of the deep rootedness of our faith. The presence of these things in the Liturgy reminds me of the nature of Divine Providence preserving and guiding the Church. The reforms of the 60s and 70s remind us of the fragility of these things, except in a few monastic establishments the whole canon of the Church's chant could almost have been lost.

There are other things which are tradere, handed on, which if not of Dominical  or Apostolic origin are so ancient and were somehow preserved within the rites and very culture of the Church. Paul VI, apparently, intervened personally to retain the mixing of water and wine, for example, that is most probably of Dominical origin. The triple signing with the cross before the Gospel too seems of pretty ancient origin, some suggesting an origin in Ezekiel 9:4 and Temple worship. The very conservative nature of the Roman Church means that possibly more has been preserved in the West than the East.

What we do is incredibly fragile, it can be easily lost, destroyed or cast into oblivion by accident. Balthazar speaks about a dimple, a tiny blemish, being integral to a face and ultimately to a person's identity. We do the Church no service, and possibly we do the Gospel itself a serious harm by discarding those things passed on to us, even if we end up by doing things we do not understand.

There are other things that are of ancient origin, not least, our rites surrounding death.
I was a little shocked to read this account of a Bishop's cremation, I am indebted personally to Bishop Michael, he taught me a little theology and showed me kindness, and I admired him not only for his devotion through a long illness to his people I also admired his attention to Justice and Peace issues which was deeply rooted in his theolgy of the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Whilst many of the martyrs were burnt, their bodies reduced to ashes, Christians, from the beginning, have always buried their dead; in many cultures it has been the thing that distinguished Christians from pagans. The present code of Canon Law, it could be argued, accepts or at least tolerates cremation, however it still demands a place "of rest" for the remains, scattering is certainly not a Catholic option, Christians should have a "grave" but does it matter how we end up in our "grave"?
Throughout Christian history diverse practices have followed death. "Sepulchre" literally means "flesh eater" and although in the case of the great their bodies might have rested permantly in their sepulchre, in many places bodies were their until the flesh had gone, in Naples burial in a grave is for a limited time, (7 years?) after which the body is removed and placed in tomb normally in a wall or columbarium, the Capuchins in Rome bury and then arrange the bones of deceased brethren (tastefully?) in their crypt. Crusaders used to boil the flesh of their more important fallen comrades and return the bones to their homeland, and although the bones might have crushed to fit them into a smaller container for ease of shipping, they were never pulverised, as happens after a modern cremation. It was always considered not the ideal.
There is something important about reverence and somehow preserving the the integrity of the body in our tradition (small "t", customs) or should that be "our Tradition" (big "T" handing on of the faith). The Reluctant Sinner makes various obsevation about relics, the resurrection of the body and so forth, he doesn't say that an important issue is that we do what Christ did, or was done to him, even if we don't understand it.

In truth we do not really know why burial itself was so important to our forefathers, it just was, and it seems dangerous to go against what has been handed on to us, lest throwing out bathwater babies are discarded too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Will it possible to be Irish and a Catholic?

The answer is: NO, if the Taoiseach's, the Minister for Justice's and the Minister for Children's proposed new law which will require priests to break the seal of confession if someone confesses to them the crime of paedophilia actually comes to fruitition. Ireland will be the only non-totalitarian state to attack the the Church in such a way.

The problem is of course that only the truly repentant are likely to confess directly to such a sin, the unrepentant stay away from the confessional, the partially repentant use that rather ubiquitous Irish coverall for sexual misconduct, "I have been indecent on several occasions". All the new law will do is stop the paedophile/paederast consider going to confession, maybe deluding him/herself that he is saving the priest from a prison sentence.

It seems too that perhaps the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Children are unfamiliar with confessional practice, which is an indication of the state of religious knowledge amongst Irish intelligentsia. Do they really expect the priest sitting in a dark Dublin confessional listening to an anonymous voice who hears such a confession to run round to the penitents side of the confessional and photograph the anonymous penitent on their 'iphone and text the photograph to the authorities or perhaps a missioning priest at the end of a week of confessions to drop into the local Garda station and say "I have heard three definite anonymous confessions to paedophile/paederast confessions and one hundred and fifty three possible ones".
It is significant that such a proposal has never been voiced regarding kidnappers, murderers, bombers or terrorists, such is the state of the revulsion of modern Ireland with Catholicism today.

Gone, will be the possibility of any priest demanding a firm purpose of amendment from a penitent and demanding he or she seeks help, or identifying themselves to the authorities before receiving absolution.
Now we can look forward to priest martyrs to the confessional.

How far is a priest supposed to enquire int people's sexual proclivities, will the State take control and issue guidelines?

St John of Nepomuk pray for them.

As a non-Irishman it strikes me that it was the Irish state which left the Church, underfunded and unsupervised, to deal with those who anywhere else in the world would have been cared for by the state, has, itself, now turned on its former partner in crime. The other factor which is perhaps important  is that elsewhere statistics seem to indicate child abuse is no higher within the Church than elsewhere in a given society, I just wonder if this is case in which one should look at those who attack the Church and the degree of child abuse generally in Irish society. It is true that the problem in Ireland is not just with abuse but with "cover-up" but again, the Irish state has at every turn has been complicit in the cover-up at every turn.

This could be seen as just another turn in the the rather sordid relationship between the Irish Church and the State. Whether it the British or Irish State the Irish Church has always been subservient, a marriage of unequal partners.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Choir Blog

I have just learnt from our choir's blog what is happening on our patronal feast day, it is a little Haydn. I had agreed we would celebrate to our normal Friday evening Traditional Latin Mass, along with the Ordinary Form in the morning, and keep her feast as External Solemnity on the following Sunday too. We are also celebrating her as an end of term school Mass on the preceeding Wednesday.

I am very greatful to Clare our director of music for gathering singers together, especially those in the parish who can't read music and friends from local churches, and further afield who can. At times the music here can be incredibly beautiful. I was very moved by the music on Good Friday which was sung by Clare and some women friends who really love the Church's music. They have just started having master classes at St Cecelia Abbey with the choirmistress. I love women singing chant.

Check out our Choir blog, there are also some pictures of last Saturday's High Mass celebrated by a newly ordained German priest Fr Kernach.
The following are photographs taken by Nick Bristow one of our paishioners.
Mass ended with the Te Deum with incensing of the altars, then Father gave first blessings, which not on their blog.

I do love those vestment, very 1930's, very noble and yet simple, yes, the albs are not not very nice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Repentant Sinner

As the Parish Priest of the Brighton's Magdalen I have a great interest in repentant sinners, in the Traditional Rite, she is celebrated as a penitent, in the New Rite, we are a little more confused about her.
There is a rather beautiful story about the conversion of Eve Lavallière, a fin de siècle actress on the always worthwhile Tea at the Trianon, The French do repentance so well, we English are perhaps a little more into compromise.

I think somehow it is the influence Mary Magdalen, her body was at Vézelay in Burgundy, now there is just a fragment but it is her influence on the popular mind that is important, even if now in the Liturgy she is less of a creature of contrasts.

Some people come here just because of the dedication of the Church to her. I don't know if  "St Mary Magdalen", was deliberately chosen because she was the Great Penitent or not. Certainly in the 19th century this part of Brighton was the red light district, the home actresses and courtesans up the hill and of cheap brothels and bordelloes down the hill, towards the sea. The church stood between the two groups.

With the British Museum exhibition of relics, I have been thinking we ought to do more with our own relic of St Mary Magdalen, even if memory of her as a penitent is itself a "relic" in the popular mind.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

“The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy"

Rome Reports reports a new document “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy - An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors.” It's a manual on how to be good confessors.
The full text in PDF can be found here.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Hunwicke on Humour

I thought you might enjoy Fr John Hunwicke's after dinner speech at the Anglicanorum Coetibus Conference in Texas, where he has shared a platform with Mgr Newton: it begins at about 8.45. I am afraid it is just audio and it has a few silent glitches but it is good stuff, a consolation for those of us who miss his blog.

He speaks about Anglican humour, that important part of Anglican Patrimony, which actually is really so English, I am told some Catholic clergy don't quite ken it.

 I suppose that might be a reason why some people still see Catholicism as a foreign import, for foreigners, promoted by foreigners. It is only when we get the Church's the humour right we might be more ..., well, at least at ease with ourselves. 
Maybe we should set up an Eccleston Square Commission on Humour.
The saintly Abbot Aelred Sillum said to a friend of mine on the eve of his Ordination, "Two pieces of advice; One: Treat Ordination as the most serious thing in the world. Two: Don't treat it as the most serious thing in the world". It is that tension which is important and needs a certain deftness of touch and mind, and heart.

Cardinal Mahoney got Murdoch a Knighthood

Rupert Murdoch, left, and Cardinal Edward Egan

Rupert Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory in 1989. He had apparently been recommended for the honour by Cardinal Roger Mahony, after giving money to a Church education fund. A year later he donated $10 million to help build Los Angeles Catholic cathedral, so says the Catholic Herald.

There is a certain irony that Murdoch is tied in with Cardinal Mahoney. One suspects that the "Church education" is that extraordinary annual fest of liberal Catholicism, the Religious Education Congress, complete with dissident theologians, incense dancing nymphs and everything I find cringe making, very much reducing the Catholic Faith to the level of the Sun, or the News of the World. Under the Cardinal's tenure the diocese of Los Angeles paid out $660 million to the victims of abuse, there are many more in the pipeline. Mahoney has been described as "the master of cover-up". Many ask why Cardinal Law went and Mahony managed to cling to power: could the answer be Murdoch.

The Herald asks if the Pope should remove Murdoch's knighthood of St Gregory. The same question could be addressed to the Queen, he is also a knight of the Order of Australia. However there is something distasteful about the Church bestowing honours on rather distasteful people. St Paul tells us there some things that should not even be talked about amongst you, Murdoch brings those things directly to the breakfast table, revelling in other people's heartbreak and pushing the exploitation of women with "page three" sexual titillation, let alone being behind News International, the multinational that seems responsible for quite serious crimes in this country.

I must admit here I dislike Papal honours, especially when they are tied to the wealthy, I also hate the faux monsignori who pop up at traditional functions wearing decoration from obscure military orders just because they go to the right cocktail parties, it smacks of simony. However, if someone was to offer me one, I might reconsider but I suppose that is the problem.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Doing the Red

A few years after St Philip and St Ignatius had gone to their reward a Jesuit rebuked the Oratorians for endlessly discussing the minutiae of the rubrics of High Mass, an Oratorian replied, "Oh well, it is better occupation than carrying gossip to every salon in Rome".
I am not that interested in rubrical detail, I try to say the red and do the black but there are lots of rumours going around about "the red". Chant Cafe this morning carries this about a new General Instruction of the Roman Missal:
This evening I receive a phonecall that read from the new translation and apparently the permission for "other appropriate songs" besides the propers has been seriously diminished. If what the caller said is correct, the introit, communion, and offertory clearly establishes the proper as the text.

There have been numbers of rumours, some of which seem to have a basis in fact, all based on the obvious that the Pope and Cardinal Canizares want a return to a more "Catholic" celebration of the Mass but are reticent about pushing too hard.

It is pretty obvious the Pope wants to limit liturgical abuses and to return to a God centred prayerful liturgy, in particular he wants to limit the indult for communion in the hand. There is a strong move to encourage more Latin in the liturgy to aid silence and prayer, and yet he is adverse to any more violent changes in the Liturgy.

One of the reasons given by one source for the alacrity in publishing the new translations of the Mass is that there was a strong possibility that an instruction might be given that all future Missals should be published in the vernacular and Latin side by side.

Speaking of which Father Simon Henry has a very interesting post on how the CTS have misrepresented the rubrics of the Mass in their material for the new translations.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Children's Liturgy

Many of my children enjoy going out to their own "children's Liturgy of the Word", to hear the scriptures in a simplified form, normally just the Gospel, saying some prayers, and generally, here at least, doing some "colouring in". Our children return during the Offertory, as quietly as possible and during the notices come up and to the sanctuary and tell us briefly what they have talking about.

It is good it happens, it is an option. I am grateful to those parents who organise it, I am also grateful to those children who decide to stay with us adults.

There are dangers however, first and foremost that it becomes an easy option for everyone, me included. That it is likely to be more about teaching than about liturgy or worship, therefore about individuals rather than God. That it says on a certain level, that Mass is dull and not child friendly. That it is possible to have "Mass", or to worship fully outside of the Christian assembly and that somehow the Liturgy of the Word unlike the Liturgy of the Eucharist is not quite worship.
On a more practical level it can just become a creche, which divides families whereas the Mass should be source and summit of unity.

The video clip shows it is possible not just to teach children chant and a little Latin but also how to pray and worship, and to be reverent. That should be the main focus of any liturgical formation. It also shows that we shouldn't underestimate children.

Older Catholics complain about children behaving badly in church, either with the added "my children would never have dared behave like that" or "I would have never dared behaved like". I am not sure whether children really did live under a reign of terror at Mass in the past. If they did, that might be one reason why so many of the past generation have lapsed. "E" numbers, child centred education, broken families are also contributory factors and they are beyond our control. The poverty of catechesis of their parents can be dealt with but if they are willing to co-operate..

One factor which has changed is the way in which children, and adults, are expected to respond to Mass. It is most notable with children at the Traditional Mass, where the basic message is very simple and very clear: we are here to worship, we do that by being quiet and prayerful.

Today the message is much more complex for children, and adults too. They are expected to engage with every action and response and with the readings too of course. Even as a priest, with a lifetime of scriptural, theological and liturgical study behind me, I find that too much. I drift off. If I was a four foot high, unable to see anything except the rear of the person in front of me, if I was expected to, but couldn't understand what was being said, I would behave atrociously. I would not find Mass a good experience, which most probably accounts for so much teen lapsation.

Recently I have been trying to get parents to bring children to the front where they can see, it is a bit of battle, parents are nervous. Even then I am not sure that is the answer. There is a need to find a liturgy where a three year old is equally at home as a university lecturer with doctorates coming out of his ears. The only place I have seen that happening is a certain traditional parish in Paris, where during the sermon the three year old behaved reasonably well but the university lecturer behaved atrociously and kept muttering about the stupidity of the priest and correcting his scholastic quotations and complaining about his French. I was relieved when the Creed began and she got back to her devotions in a book given her as a child.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

"The Splendor of Truth, Beauty of Charity" Exhibition Fails

I am rather dissapointed by this exhibition, "The Splendor of Truth, Beauty of Charity" to celebrate the Pope's 60th anniversary of ordination. Most of the exhibits seem to be decidedly "safe" and  rather self concious, even ironic. From the images of the exhibits I have seen none seem capable of saying, "The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us" on the contrary they seem to relish iconoclastic abstraction. As far as Christianity is concerned they embody an art of rupture rather than continuity, very much the "Spirit of Vatican II.
There is truly Christian modern art that speaks of faith but not in this exhibition. It is so important the Church promotes a truly Christian art, the Vatican hanging committee has failed in this respect, their exhibits are neither seem able to speak of the Truth of our faith nor of the beauty of Charity, some, most are just plain ugly.
Compare and contrast these two crucifixions:

The Vatican does possess outstandingly beautiful modern works of art, some are part of the fabric of St Peter's like the Manzu doors and other works by him, commissioned by John XXIII.

Even the "Taj Mahoney" in Los Angeles has those beautiful tapestries which almost rescue the building:

Christian art is possible, even in the 21st century but if this its future ...
better not to bother!
I'd be grateful for some links to some beautiful, or exciting modern examples of Christian art. If I get time I'll put some examples up.

David Jones died 1978
Such as...

Monday, July 04, 2011

Mass of a newly ordained priest

I am delighted to offer hospitality to any priest. The strange thing is older priests visiting Brighton tend to sit in the congregation dressed as laymen, middle aged priests want to concelebrate but younger priests are quite different, often they want to celebrate their own Mass, and not unusually in the Extraordinary Form, or at least in Latin. It is a generational thing, it is also an illustration of a change in the Church.

This weekend we are entertaining a young German priest, Fr Frederic Kernbach, who was ordained on Pentecost Sunday for the diocese of Paderborn. He will celebrate a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, this Saturday, here, at 11.00am, after the Te Deum he will give first blessing.
Fr Richard Biggerstaff who is part of our diocesan vocations team is preaching and Fr Sean Finneagan who has just written the history of diocesan seminary will be deacon, me, I'm subdeacon.
Come, if you are able, bring some friends, you can park in our school playground behind the church, all day if you want.

I am rather pleased it is the Feast of on of my Patrons St John Fisher and I know this is a bit silly but after my own Silver Jubilee in 2009 I was given a rather beautiful plain 1930's red High Mass, the whole thing hasn't been worn, so it will be good to see it in use.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


I preached on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul about the wickedness of the Catholic Church, the corruption of Popes, the perversion of Bishops, the sinfulness of Priests, the infidelity of the laity. I reminded my congregation of Pius VII's Secretary of State, the admirable, Consalvi's quip to Napolean when he threatened to destroy the Church, "... but Imperial Majesty, the clergy have been trying to do that for eighteen hundred years". I reminded them that although the Lord had told Simon he was "the Rock" on which he would build his Church, in the next breath he says, "Get behind me Satan".
The thing is, if you believe Jesus, in the Incarnation, there is nowhere else to be except in the Catholic Church, which is what this convert is saying:

My longing to become a Catholic boils down to the fact that I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and I take Christ at his word when he says to St. Peter,
‘thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth it shall be loosed also in heaven” Mt 16: 18-19.
So if Jesus says He is building a church on St. Peter there is no other church that fits the bill. Either that or this verse means nothing, therefore the Bible means nothing (it cannot be the Word of God) and Jesus cannot be whom He claimed to be, etc. Either Jesus is God, the Christ, the Second person of the Trinity, and He keeps His promises and the Word of God means something (everything) and has to be taken seriously or it is all a load of rubbish, as Jesus said, ‘a house divided upon itself cannot stand’.

Sister Teresita,

If you haven't heard of her before, I think you will enjoy this.
Sr Teresita 103, she joined her Cistercian convent in Guadalajara on the day Pope Benedict was born. She is going to meet him during world Youth Day.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Boxes and Rails

I recently visited St Patrick's, Soho Square for the Juventutem Mass, I spent all of the Mass hearing confessions. It was interesting that there was no confession room, therefore no option for face to face confession , only those very trad double sided continental boxes, with a grill and a curtain and a shutter on both sides and double doors in front of the priest to close when a penitent came. I haven't used one before, I was a little worried that I might have a penitent on both sides which fortunately that didn't happen: I wasn't quite sure of the etiquette. The good thing about hearing confessions in such anonymity, is penitents tend to stay focussed on confessing sins rather than wanting counselling.
The other good thing is because the box is so public, I felt quite safe, which I don't always in an "open" modern confession room.
St Patrick's has finished their £3m restoration and very nice it is too. Here, at St Mary Magdalen's our budget is more modest and therefore our progress is much, much slower. One of the features I was glad to see were the rather handsome altar rails. Here, in Brighton, people ask for the restoration of the altar rails and a lot of people choose to receive Holy Communion kneeling but in this part of the Church there is an ideological problem with them. It would just be a waste of time and money to go through the process of designing them, making drawings and applying for permission to install them.

Apart from the obvious advantages for those who wish to receive the Lord kneeling, the young don't have a problem but the elderly do, is that the form a barrier between the nave and the sanctuary. I have been trying to encourage parents to bring small children to the front so they can see. If I were less than 4ft high and had to spend an hour looking at someone's rear end, I would be very naughty! However, parents are a little nervous about it, one dad said he was terrified his five year old son might run onto the sanctuary and pull the altar cloth off. Altar rails would solve the problem.

Interestingly, the Churches around here that are able to be kept open, without supervision, all have a strong distinction between the nave and the sanctuary, either rails or a very raised sanctuary. This gives the impression that the sanctuary is alarmed or has some othe security provision, without a barrier of some sort people seem happy to wander around at will.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Blog on Gloria!

That nice lady on Gloria TV reports on my words on Corpus Christi, she starts her report by a story about an Austrian parish, which seems amazing.
Amazing that the local Bishop hasn't excommunicated the parish priest, placed the parish under interdict and sent in a team of catechists to teach the Catholic.
We can whinge amd whine about our English Church's mediocrity but I really can't imagine any of our Bishops tolerating this kind of heretical nonsense, or the "Western Mass", or the Lintz Corpus Christi Procession.

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...