Friday, September 30, 2011

Prayers for a Mum

At Easter I received a woman and her family into the Church, along with her young son and his older sister, she has severe special needs. She is seven and needs constant attention, at night especially she is restless, shouts and laughs and bangs on the wall wakes up her little brother, she throws her toys around, needs changing several times. I really don't think her mother has had a whole nights sleep since her birth. She was hoping that she might get some help from social services at night but none has been forthcoming yet.

Really she needs a bigger house as her daughter grows, she is in a private rented two up two down, with tiny rooms but she isn't a priority but there is actually nowhere for a carer to stay.

She loves her daughter to bits but like many parents in her situation she is bit afraid if she makes too many demands her daughter will be taken into care, she is exhausted and stressed, she asks for your prayers.

Her situation mirrors that of many other parents with handicapped children, so many are already under pressure, with proposed "cuts" they are really going to suffer. Pray for them all.

Pope's Example

My good friend, may he blog forever, Fr Z has a good letter from Bishop Dorran of Rockford on the reception of Holy Communion in which he seems to be advocating kneeling. In fact he is not being prescriptive, though he is advocating following the example of the Holy Father. "His practice is to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue of recipients who kneel as they receive communion. That should say something to all of us."
Here, following the recommendation of the Bishops during the Swine 'flu, H1N1, threat, we stopped distributing Holy Communion under both kinds. I have been slow to re-introduce it, for various reasons, in part because less than half the congregation received under both kinds, most ignored the chalice. We also had vagrants - presumably non-Catholics - coming in and draining the chalice at least once or twice a week, we also have quite a few alcoholics in the congregation. It is one of the consequences of our outreach work, through our souprun to homeless. Because  so many of our congregation are not from the English speaking world they are not conditioned to receive under both kinds and they haven't been catechised - trying to do so becomes a continuous process that simply becomes tedious. Another reason, is that three or four people, only, who have asked for the restoration of the chalice, have always couched it in term of "having the wine". Yet another reason was the aging of our extraordinary ministers, I found it almost impossible to get anyone under 40, with "a marked devotion to the Eucharist", who was willing to do it.
I feared very much for one woman's safety when quite correctly she refused communion from the chalice to a man who obviously much the worse for drink who had gone to her directly, without receiving the Host and demanded she, "Give us a ....... drink".
What we do here, in order to save time, and to give people time to recollect themselves, and for the elderly to steady themselves, is to give Holy Communion along the sanctuary step. Our Church isn't big so even at Christmas or Easter the distribution of Holy Communion takes no longer than five minutes, if the priest does the moving it is more reverent and takes half the time. The Communion queue takes so much time because people have to move, communicate reverently and move off. Although they are unsupported by a rail or anything about a quarter of the congregation at most Masses tend to kneel to receive or say they would like to if they were able. The few families we have seem to take pleasure in receiving communion alongside one another. What I have noticed too is that amongst young people especially there is a steady increase in those who kneel and receive on the tongue. Quite a few of our people have asked for the return of communion rails but there is an ideological opposition to them by those who have the power to allow them, or otherwise: "over my dead body", I've been told.
I know that what we are doing is not quite the norm in England and Wales but then I think it is a reasonable adaptation for our circumstances.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From a Corner of Archbishop's House

Far be it from me to report on one of those covert conversations held in a huddle in a corner of Westminster’s Archbishop’s House, let alone one held close to the throne, partly because I never over hear them normally.
This one I was involved in, and yes there was a senior cleric or two involved, we were praising the Bishops of England and Wales for re-introducing “meatless Fridays”, my bishop came in for a great deal of praise. One of our number who has an enormous factory in his parish said a parishioner had reported a run on fish and chips and the veggie options had run out in the works canteen and that even the lapsed were being encouraged to abstain by their practising workmates. Another priest friend had said more or less the same before the Reception. I know from comments on the blog that in some places it hasn’t even been mentioned.
One priest said that he thought it was a bit of a shame that the motivation behind it was sociological, rather than ascetic, spiritual or liturgical.
A bishop said he thought it was a good thing that people were given the option of making a commitment to the Church over and above the Sunday Mass obligation, someone mention Holy Days and the bishop was called away.
A young layman joined us and the conversation moved to “Catholic identity” which was the stated reason for the re-introduction, looking around at the Ordinariate clergy, most were dressed in soutanes and fascias, he said we clergy could do a lot by dressing as priests and being seen as obviously Catholic priests, rather than simply as clergymen, in private and public.
One priest suggested bringing back the tonsure, maybe only partly frivolously. The conversation took a turn towards a criticism of the Seminaries for discouraging clerical dress until a seminarian actually becomes a cleric at the diaconate.
The conversation moved on to other areas that could underscore “Catholic identity”, mostly concerning the signs associated with the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist, kneeling for Holy Communion, seemed to be uppermost. From our little coetibus I was surprised how many priests seemed keen on the idea and had made provision. When we turned to re-orientating the Mass, no-one deferred, everyone said it was absolutely essential. When someone asked, the young layman I think, which of the clergy would be the first to do it, we all looked at our feet, except for an Ordinariate priest who said. “I’m doing it Sunday”.

Shoes of the Fisherman

From time to time the Holy Father speaks of the Church and the clergy embracing poverty, in the weathiest Church, Germany, he did the same.

The clip is from "Shoes of the Fisherman" which is almost forgotten today, was made in 1963, set against the background of impending nuclear war, it is about an eastern European priest held gulag who is released, is made a Cardinal and eventually becomes Pope. I suspect it had quite a significant influence on the reception of the Vatican Council, even, maybe, on some of the Council Fathers.

The poverty Pope Benedict wants the Church to embrace is not the simplistic abandonment of the cultural heritage of Christianity portrayed in the film but a recognition of the need of the Church to abandon itself to Divine Providence.

Ordinariate Reception

I have just had a delightful evening at Archbishop's House, it was really a fundraiser for the Ordinariate sponsored by the Catholic Herald. The picture above shows Mgr Keith Newton with Cardinal Levada.
I met most of the Monsignori, the former Anglican Bishops, what struck was how warm and outgoing they were, that they were actually affectionate kindly men. There were a few Ordinariate priests there too, again these men impressed me, so many had thrown themselves into a less than secure future for the sake of Christian unity, not too risky for a celibate but for a young man with a new wife or someone with children, well, impressive. The Ordinariate is up and running but it is still evolving, still in the process of solidifying, what it needs is funds. They launched an appeal in July, maybe the summer isn't the best of times to do so but so far they have only raised £50,000.
I was a bit disappointed I didn't get to speak to Cardinal Levada but he spoke impressively about how the Ordinariate was the Holy Fathers personal project, I feel it is worthy of financial support for that reason alone. If you can help by sending them something click here.

Fr Tim was there and kindly took the picture of Mgr Newton with me, he has a further report and more pictures, and also reminds me of people who where there I didn't to speak to, there are more pictures here too.
Be generous if you can, send something.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mary's Prayers

Pray for the soul of Kate whose Requiem takes place today.
She seems to have been extremely vivacious, the heart of a large family she always described herself as "lapsed" from her youth. She came to midnight Mass once a year. She died after a short illness surrounded by her family, laughing and joking, not sad or frightened but as she was dying she was saying the Hail Mary over and over again.
It was this that made her family desperately want a Requiem Mass for, and me more than pleased to offer it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The mutter of lovers

I was up in town yesterday, I have to go up again tomorrow to meet Cardinal Levada at a do for the Ordinariate organised by the Herald, yes, I am name dropping. Yesterday I went see the National Galleries exhibition of Altarpieces, it was exquisite, most were pieces already in the collection but lit and arranged as if in context. One room was arranged as a chapel, I tried to persuade a priest friend to go up to the central exhibit to go and start the Rosary.
Unfortunately it has now ended.

I sat next to a lady on the train who comes to the Trad Mass she said, "I don't feel it at the Ordinary Mass but at the Traditional Mass I don't feel I should be there, during the Eucharistic Prayer it is like, well listening to a lover muttering to his beloved".

Having redone the lighting in the Church - though after all these months it is still not done properly- and seeing exhibition, I wonder if we have overlit it a bit. There is something about intimacy and whispering and subdued lighting that leads to the "pillow talk" of prayer.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Benedict Effect

I reported before the Papal visit to Germany on the negative reporting in Der Spiegel.
Well look at this under the heading of Dictator of Relativism:
Benedict XVI is the embodiment of resistance to the idiocies of today, when the obsession with ratings and sex are more important than any article of faith. But he performs that role with a soft voice and the steadfastness of a deeply religious man. And he binds the loyalty of those people who stand with him in opposition -- some 1.2 billion Catholics in the global Church -- and who are often ridiculed as idiots for doing so. They are true to the words of the apostle Paul: "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world."

It is Benedict effect! I know one swallow etc. but this was in Der Spiegel!
my thanks to Dr William Tyghe for sending it to me.

Europe According to the Greeks

I was sent this, it amused me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mgr Andrew Burnham coming here

Mgr Andrew Burnham of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the former Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, is visiting this parish on 15th October and will celebrate a Solemn Mass at 12 noon.

This event is organised by the “Association for Latin Liturgy”, he will also speak on “The Liturgical Patrimony of the Ordinariate and the Reform of the Reform” at 2.15pm. Later he will celebrate Vespers.
I need a deacon, or two - it is Latin NO - if you can help let me know.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Have a look at this post,
and this one
Yesterday I received an email saying:
I need to tell you that your comments have caused widespread offence to members of the Christian Gay Community, and many of the comments made by other members of your blog, allowed publicity by you, are nothing less than inflammatory and inciting of hatred about members of the gay community.

It is an offence in this country to incite hatred against any group of people, and that is exactly what you are doing by allowing and promoting the kind of bigotry you are condoning. The comments are also causing grave offence to Catholics, many of whom I know are appalled by what you and fellow members of your congregation write.
It goes on and finally tells me that letters will be sent my superiors. Another couple of correspondents complained that I hadn't allowed their comments which insulted the Pope and Catholic belief and teaching and finally said they intended to have this blog closed.

It might be that I am extraordinarily naive but apart from one rather silly comment from someone suggesting a coup d'etat, I thought the comments made were reasonably balanced, I even permitted someone to advertise their book called, "The Gay Gospels".

There is something very worrying in our society when a priest cannot express his shock at a local MP saying that those who will not marry same sex couples should not be permitted to marry anyone, or when he says marriage is naturally ordered towards the procreation and education of children should be accused of "inciting hatred".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fr Lawrence Lew

According to NLM Br Lawrence Lew OP was ordained priest on Saturday, if he should read this, my congratulations to him, this video contains some beautiful photographs, almost as good as the Reverend Father's and most beautiful of all, a specially written motet in honour of Our Lady by James MacMillan, what a wonderful gift.

The Big Tent

Protests in Germany, protests in Austria, protests in Ireland, protests in ...., the list could go on and on. What are the protests against? The media would explain it as "Vatican teaching" or "Pope Benedict's views". The modern tendency is always to personalise and to subjectivise everything. The media is unable to understand the idea that "the Church teaches" and the Church's teachings are a given and that the Pope is a servant of the Church not its master.

There is a mad Ultramontanism on the part of many commentators that sees the Pope as being able to rule the Church by whim. The unfortunate problem is that Paul VI did seem to rule the Church by whim, the whole Spirit of Vatican II nonsense seems to have revolved around Giovanni Montini being the epitome of - sorry - Ultra-Montinism, new teaching introduced because the Pope wanted it, rather than having roots within a living Tradition. Joseph Ratzinger deals with this, at least tangentially, in Spirit of the Liturgy when he speaks of liturgy being introduced "ex nihil".

The problem is if a Pope can appear to teach on his own authority rather than as a servant of the Tradition, then why not any bishop or theologian, or anyone at all for that matter?

The Church is a big tent, he pitched his tent amongst us, it stands if it is more or less tensioned properly. The problem is that if you loosen a guy rope it begins to sag, loosen enough ropes and it falls down. The same problem happens if you over tension one of the ropes, everything is pulled towards it, again it risks falling.

Background to German Visit

The Pope arrives in his native Germany today, if you want some background Der Spiegel has a delightfully sour series of articles in English.
Part 1: The Pope's Difficult Visit to His HomelandPart 2: From Liberal to ConservativePart 3: 'A Poisoning of the Atmosphere Within the Church'Part 4: Rise of the Neocatechumenate MovementSo transparent is the author's loathing that practically every paragraph seems to give me hope that German Church is at last coming alive after years of decay, the era of Liberalism is over or rapidly aging.
Here is a little taster:
Liberal voices already had a rough time of it under John Paul II, but they have come under even greater pressure from Rome since his death. Mainz Cardinal Karl Lehmann was long the leader of the reformist camp in Germany. As chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, he did not shy away from conflict with Rome when it came to promoting a more modern form of Catholicism in Germany.

Those days are gone. The shift in the balance of power was almost physically palpable at a joint reception of the dioceses of Limburg and Mainz in the garden of the Limburg seminary in late August. The 75-year-old Lehmann, who is perhaps the last great liberal in his church, was on crutches after knee surgery and seemed weak. He responded to a question about reforms in Germany's dioceses with a weary, resigned look. The elderly bishop misses his companions from another era, who have either retired or passed away. "The others," as Lehmann puts it, are now calling the shots in the German episcopate. No more than a third of German bishops are still clearly on his side.
A few meters away from Lehmann, a prominent representative of "the others" was busily working his way through the crowd: Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, a young, energetic bishop who is shifting the once-liberal Limburg diocese decidedly toward Benedict's traditionalist course.
I am sure this visit is not going to be easy, so implore Our Lady's protection for Pope Benedict.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Evangelical Families

I have always been fascinated by the idea that much of Europe was converted by monks; the lives of loud, hairy warriors changed by the chanting of shaven headed disciples; barbarism by the order of the cloister.
It is something about opposites attracting, something about the power of the liturgy itself to change hearts. Reading St Bede one has the impression of Augustine arriving at Thanet and making his progress to Canterbury with an icon of Christ on a staff with an orderly band of monks singing the psalms, and in the wake of his road show leaving behind, if not converts, at least those hungry for conversion.
Reflecting on my own failure to convert hordes, I am sure that communities do it better than individuals: Jesus sends his disciple out in pairs. Further and more realistic reflection might suggest that even communities, certainly today, fail. In Augustine's day the Celtic monastic communities of the north, at least according to Bede seem to have run out of steam.
I suppose St Augustine would have brought with him not only choir monks but brothers, and presumably a gaggle of oblati and monastic servants or even slaves, whether these would have had families or not I am not sure.
The monastic model for evangelisation was about demonstrating Christianity.
I have always prayed for an obviously committed Catholic family to move into the parish with a host of children, it hasn't happened, yet. When I meet them in other priest's parishes, I am envious. They evangelise me.
Marina Corradi writes about a Neo-Catechumenate initiative in the East German town of Chemnitz, in which several large Catholic families have settled.
You are silent, because a "normal" Christian, already at wit's end with his few children in his own country, is mute before the faith of these families; witnesses of a God who asks for everything, but gives much more than what he has received. You are silent before the serenity of the four lay sisters who help families in their daily necessities: "I just wanted to be at the service of God," says Silvia, from Rome, with a smile that you rarely find in our cities. Do they see them, these faces, this singular joy, here, where they no longer believe in anything? When the Neocatechumenals explain that they have come from Rome and Barcelona to proclaim that Christ is risen, the people of Chemnitz recoil in distress, as if awakened from a deep sleep. Sometimes they respond, "We would like to believe you, but we can't."

Two generations without God are a lot, to the memory of men. But when, one day, some of Professor Rebeggiani's children began to sing from the balcony of their home – for the pure joy of it – the ancient song "Non nobis Domine sed nomini tuo da gloriam," the neighbors came to the windows to listen. And a widow asked the young people to sing the same song at the cemetery, in memory of her dead husband. They did, and one of those present approached them at the end: "It's been such a long time," he said, "since I heard anything that gave me some hope."
One of the things about the "New Movements" right across the spectrum is that they form communities, they live the faith, they have a sense of joy about them, they challenge contemporary values. The Pope sees them as the way forward, crucial to the reconversion of Europe. Our own bishops are perhaps a little more circumspect, they seem to see them as being divisive or they can be flawed, like the Legionaries of Christ, they can be a little mad and challenging. They are certainly risky, perhaps we haven't yet got to a situation of desperation. But it is the New Movements, with families, that really do seem to challenge and offer "new" to contemporary society.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Word of God

One of the great things VII wanted to do was to open up the scriptures to the Church, perhaps mindful of Jeromes: Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. The vision of the Council Fathers was that we should ber immersed in scripture, it should dominate our life, be the basis of our prayer and the source of the charity and social action in the life of he Church but ultimately because it is Life giving. The vision of those who voted placet to Sacrosanctum Concillium was a new generation of scripture hungry Christians, eager and hungry for the Word of God because it is the Word of God.

The problem is it hasn't really worked, the bored faces as the scriptures are read, the lack of knowledge even of the Gospels or of key Old Testament stories suggest not just a failure but that we are possibly worse of than we were before the Council. At least before because of the richness of our devotions to the person of Jesus we might have been able to say to Protestants: you know scripture but we know Christ.

Today we have the scriptures in the vernacular but I suspect that is part of the problem. For many lay people and clergy too there is  too much detail. So much detail in fact that there is failure to communicate that what is being proclaimed is indeed the Word of God. At least in the Extraordinary Form, at High Mass, the ceremonies, the chants, the movement away from the altar, the lights and the smoke of incense at the Gospel, at least signified that some kind of theophany was taken place, that the "Word of God" was being proclaimed. Now, though we hear and can understand the words, it is very easy to forget what is actually happening. It is not apparent that God is speaking, the Word himself is being made present: sensible, hearable amongst us.
I might be wrong but I think our big problem is we have lost a sense that scripture is actually "The Word of the Lord", the utterance of God himself, in the case of the Gospel the direct speech of the Incarnate Word made present in the Church. Perhaps this failure is one important reason for our lack of "Gospel hunger". The details, the actual teaching, obscure the fact that God communicates, that he is Emmanuel, God amongst us.
The basic catechesis of the Extraordinary Form was: God speaks, whereas the Ordinary Form seems more about the details of the teaching - a difference between the wood and the trees, the presence of the speaker and his speech.

In both Catholic and non-Catholic catechesis the obscuring of this simple strain that the Word of God is indeed God's Word is really very problematic because it transforms the very nature of Christianity from being about a relationship with the Trinity to a set of moral precepts. The intention of the older Form was not to obscure the actual text of scripture, though the lack of amplification, the use of a sacral language might well have done this but its real thrust was to reveal God. The newer Form opens up scripture but the tendency has been to see the words as being more important than the idea of the Word.

I find it strange that in the older Form of the Mass I am content to be silent, in the newer Form I feel a compulsion to preach, I normally do it only once, some priests seem to what to do it all through Mass.
Sometimes I wonder whether preaching actually obscures God's Word rather reveals it. Catholics understand scripture as being of itself as "alive and active" but I suspect it can only be that if we have sense of that "awe" which the liturgy so often speaks of, that God actually speaks to us.

As a footnote there is an excellent piece here by Fr Christopher Smith in which he says of the Homily: 
Often Catholics think of preaching as the homily which explains the readings at Mass. Priests attempt to explain what the readings mean. Often they will ignore one or more of the readings appointed for any given day because he can find no obvious connection between them, or he forces a connection between them all. Each Sunday is seen as a discrete unit all to itself, and no attempt is made to set the appointed readings in the context of the other readings in previous or subsequent Sundays. He also attempts to do all of this in five or at most ten minutes. He might tell a joke or share a story, but because it is in Mass, he will generally respect the formal nature of the homily as a part of the Mass. And he will almost never preach outside of Mass.

I content that this situation is an unintended byproduct of Vatican II. Before Vatican II, the homily was not considered a part of the Mass. In fact, it was not considered essential, even on Sundays, although warmly encouraged. In some places, the priest took off, not only the maniple but also the chasuble, as a cue that this sermon was not a part of the Mass. But what has happened is that, the emphasis on the homily as an integral part of the Mass has led some priests to limit their preaching to Mass. It also has led many priests to preach when they probably should have not, because of illness, lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or just plain lack of ability to speak clearly and properly.
He also suggests that there are other areas where teaching can be done and where the Word can be heard, including the Office and Lectio Divina. I am not arguing for less scripture but a richer appreciation of what it actually is and asking how we create the hunger that Fr Smith describes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cameron pushes children out of marriage

David Cameron intends to legalise "gay marriages", apparently it is necessary for "equalities". It is the obvious consequence of the civil partnership legislation introduced 6 years ago. It is perhaps significant he intends this legislation to be introduced before the next election, just so Catholics and Evangelicals don't turn the election  into a debate on this issue.
For Cameron it seems just to be a matter of a change in the meaning of words but in reality it is the loss of the meaning of a word.

Marriage is not primarily about the couple, it is about children and family and society. Placing a homosexual relationship on a par with heterosexual marriage is an entire rethinking of the very nature of marriage and therefore of society itself. It is a part of the trend in the West, but maybe specifically in the UK to see children as problem in society, an interference with career development or earning capacity, an economic burden, a source of social problems. No wonder the recent UNICEF survey finds UK children the most neglected and unhappy in Europe.

 Again and again children are pushed out of the centre of our society. Goods and services legislation finally crushed Catholic adoption services, after of course they had already allowed adoption by non-Catholics, the divorced and remarried and single gay people, really removing any leg they might have had to mount any legal defence, hence the voluntary closing down of these agencies by most dioceses.

I am very impressed by the defence of marriage, and children, by Cardinal O'Brien and the Scottish bishops, let us pray we can be as effective. Perhaps one of our English difficulties is that we have failed to address adequately Life and family issues here since the publication of Humae Vitae, which has always been very softly pedalled.

Liberal Catholics suggest being open to Life - well actually children - is something we shouldn't get hung up on but actually it is basic to our understanding of what a human being is. We are made for children. Catholics see children as the basis of society, the family and human sexuality, children their procreation and education, should be at the heart of our economy and legislation.

It isn't just a matter of not killing children in the womb, it is a matter of welcoming children. I was talking to a Polish women who said under Communism a women was actually paid by the state for a child's first five years to stay at home to care for her child. Here parents are increasingly penalised and impoverished, the cost of housing is one factor, child care and the assumption that others should be paid to look after children is another.

Increasingly larger families are the prerogative of the wealthy, Cameron's legislation is just part of the anti-child and child-commodification which springs from a decadent capitalism, where the pursuit of financial gain has become a good in itself, without any understanding of what that gain should be for.

If Cameron can make such a seismic change in our society what will follow?
You might find this of interest.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Not a Sausage

I am sure you all remember Fridays in England and Wales are from today meatless.

I don't know how easy it is to get genies back into bottles once they are released but I think this an important step forward. I don't think I have ever eaten meat on Fridays, an Italian priest staying with me thought my abstinence was just another sign of my reactionary tendencies. Europe has largely abandoned abstinence I think it was one of the important factors in it secularisation.

There was a time when the last sign of lapsation was eating a ham sandwich on a Friday, older lapsed people tended to retain abstinence whilst the practicing, "in touch" with the Church, had given it up.
I'd be interested to know what happens in our school canteens today, maybe that might take a bit of time to work through.

We teach by signs and symbols, meatless Fridays says a great deal. It talks about asceticism as part of Christian life, it speaks about Catholicism touching the whole week, not Sundays, it speaks too about faith and our bodies, our diet, our choices about entertainment, public witness and a great deal more. It also says Catholics are different.

I really do commend our bishops on this initiative, including my own who I think was one of the" movers" on this, as a piece of practical catechesis it is worth a thousand sermons.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Alexander Borgia wasn't all bad

The Descent from the Cross c. 1435. Oil on oak panel, 220cm × 262 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope did a few good things, one was to suppress the Feast of the Swoon of the Virgin, he taught that scripture say "she stood" at the foot of the Cross.

He also stopped an impending war between Portugal and Spain, which could have been a world war, by dividing the globe between the Spanih went west, the Portugese east.

Getting them in

I'm wondering what this yet to be revealed "Preamble" the SSPX are supposed to sign is about. Presumably something about the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, something about the reality of Rome, that it is the city that exists with all the sanity and nonsense of now, rather than some mythical perfect "eternal Rome" that some SSPXers try to imagine, how can one describe them - idealised Ultramontanes?

There is something of the perfectii about some of the Society, which can set up personal judgement against the Church. Quite how the Holy Father and Cardinal Levada can frame a document which divides sede vacantists, from Catholics, is beyond my understanding, especially if one adds into the mix, amongst the French at least, a certain Gallican independence of thought. Simply put, will Bishop Williamson be able to sign it?

Defining "Catholic" is tough, with almost formal schism in Austria on the one hand and Bishop Fellay's men on the other, the Catholic Church is indeed a broad one.
But if we bend over backwards to keep Liberals in the Church how far forwards do we bend to get the extremes of the SSPX in and how extreme can they be?

Crash, bang, wallop

My other computer crashed and seems to have wiped its memory - all seems to be lost!

Back-up? I'm a doddery priest that doesn't understand the electricity.
So if you have sent me emails or packages or whatever and are expecting a reply, it is the machine.
It is the only machine I use for emailing, so it probably means I've lost your email address.
Eheu! back to the quill.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We are Catholic

Hate the music but I love the images
thanks to Juventutem who got it from here, interesting blog.

Le Dome and the Exaltation of the Cross

The Feast of the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross is the beginning of monastic Lent. I like the Orthodox practice of tonsuring infants after baptism so they all become monks.

The monastic thing has always haunted me, the silence, the Divine Office , the community, the poverty, the stability. I tried it for a short while with the support of my then Bishop and the kindness of a certain Abbot but the lure of the world, I am worldly, the lure of the world....

I couldn’t stop thinking of how nice coffee in Paris would be, and the thought of never, ever, going to the Opera, ever again, not that I go that often and the prospect of always, 365 days a week, having the same brand of packet soup for lunch, proved too much. But it was the thought of never ever sitting in a cafe on the Left Bank which became quite obsessive, it has not bothered me since leaving the cloister and I haven’t actually been to Paris since leaving.

There is a rebellious spirit that I suspect we all have, the preference to do, not God’s will but our own. St Benedict reminds us, “what we have lost by disobedience let us regain by obedience”. The Cross is the great sign of obedience, of “preferring nothing to the will of God”. The heaviest Cross is often the tiniest, we can be heroic when being sawn in half but little things, that is where the weight lies.

I am struck by the triviality of the sin of our first parents, it is a childish act of scrumping, of disobedience. ”Sin entered the world through one man...”. How small a sin it was, it could have been a cup of coffee a Le Dome or wanting a different first course but the effects spread, what we once craved can become infinitely distasteful. Adam’s sin makes him hide his body from Eve and it makes it impossible for him to face God and impossible to remain in the Garden. It very quickly leads on to Abel’s death, it is a discarded apple seed spat into a still pool, into the face of God, the ripples spread.

The only answer, the only way stop the ripples of sin in the world is the Cross and if we haven’t the courage to stretch out our own hands to embrace the Cross, then at least we can cling to the feet of the Crucified and cry Kyrie Eleeison.

thanks to Da Mihi Animas for the video

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Pope the Young Couples

Full text here

He who is able to kneel before the Eucharist

Following on from my last post, Words, Words, I was interested to see that on his visit to Anconna yesterday the Holy Father has been doing some catechesis:
"He who is able to kneel before the Eucharist, who receives the Lord's body cannot fail to be attentive, in the ordinary course of the days, to situations unworthy of man, and is able to bend down personally to attend to need, is able to break his bread with the hungry, share water with the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned," ....

I know our bishops have "recommended" "bowing" before receiving Holy Communion. I hope I am not being disloyal to by criticising this, but recommendations are often easily ignored and "bowing", well it doesn't quite work. Most people simply don't bow when we are supposed to. In the liturgy there are by tradition different kinds of bow, the tiniest almost imperceptible nod at the name of the bishop or the Sovereign Pontiff, a bow of the head at the invocation of the Holy Trinity and at the names of Jesus, Mary and the name of a saint on his/her feast day.There are the courtesy bows between priest and server, there is the bow made to the altar when the Blessed Sacrament is not present, the bow made by the deacon when receiving a blessing or when the priest prays before proclaiming the Gospel.
Oh yes, there is the bow that replaced the genuflection at the Incarnatus est, which converts from Anglicanism make, is in the rubrics but is invariably ignored.

Problem one with bowing is that it is a little indefinite, how deep should it be: an imperceptible nod or as deep as monk at the Gloria Patri? So which kind of bow are their Lordships recommending? to save the embarrassment of getting it wrong most will ignore this recommendation, with genuflection or kneeling there are no degrees, one either does it or not.

Problem two with bowing is that it is associated not with latria worship but dulia, reverence or honouring of people or objects. In Britain it is still used as a secular gesture when meeting the monarch, and in court or at war memorial.

I don't know if early Christians literally did genuflect, in the words of St Paul "bend the knee at the name of Jesus", one could make a good case that some did. In St John's Gospel whenever Jesus says "I am" people do fall to their knees, in the Apocalypse the Saints,  are always on their knees, in the other Gospels Peter is always falling to his knees, the same with the Magdalen, so it seems possible, at least, that this gesture goes back to the primitive Church and Apostolic Tradition, and possible, it was used in worship.
In the West kneeling is gesture, first of all, of pleading, (do grooms still propose kneeling?) and of deep reverence. It is essentially a gesture of reverence, in the New Testament, it is gesture of acknowledgement of Jesus' divinity.

Bowing to the Eucharist suggests honouring a Holy Thing, like an altar, a person or a statue, genuflecting is much more about acknowledging the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus Christ, God with us. The suggestion that we bow to the Eucharist, especially at the most intimate of the reception of Holy Communion, seems to me, and I acknowledge the Bishops are better informed than me, to be destructive of faith, reducing the Eucharist from a person to an object, from the Presence worthy of worship to a thing that we are merely "recommended" to venerate.

The acknowledgement of the Eucharistic Christ by a physical gesture, getting down on one's knees, as one ages it gets more difficult, has an interesting catechetical dimension, it is about doing something. Actions are perhaps our best form of catechesis: speaking is less good than showing, showing much less good than doing. Here the Pope unites it directly to the corporal works of mercy. The best form of catechesis is doing, the worst form is telling. In an age when our faith becoming increasingly "private", public gestures like kneeling, like being able "to bend down personally to attend to need, is able to break his bread with the hungry, share water with the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned", are important. As are the newly re-introduced "meatless Fridays" for which I commend our Bishops.
thanks to Fr Simon Henry

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Words, Words

Words, words, words, words, words, words ..., and who listen?
About everything, more or less, as a priest I am told to catechise, yet more words, and who listens?
The Trinity: catechise.
The Incarnation: catechise.
The Mass: catechise.
The Real Presence: catechise.
The Atonement: catechise.
Prayer: catechise.
... and so the list goes on and on and on, ever lengthening.
Frankly, I am tired of it. I preach and teach and it seems as if few listen.
In the Church there is endless, endless talk.

So, a brief question: how did we manage when Mass was in Latin, and sermons happened once a week, often only at the High Mass, which few attended?
Were we less devout? Did less people practice? Were more people ignorant? Were there less vocations? Less evangelisation? Less apostolic work?

Or was it that our "Rites" themselves taught?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Pope Welcomes Ambassador and Criticises British Society

Nigel Baker, the former Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales has presented his credentials to the Holy Father as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Holy See.

A large part of the Pope's speech was concerned with the summer riots in Britain:
......... I take this opportunity once again to encourage all who would resort to violence to put aside their grievances, and to seek instead a dialogue with their neighbours for the peace and prosperity of the whole community. As you pointed out in your speech, your Government wishes to employ policies that are based on enduring values that cannot be simply expressed in legal terms. This is especially important in the light of events in England this summer.
When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others. Policy makers are therefore right to look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, to examine ways to favour long-term employment and to spread wealth much more fairly and broadly throughout society. Moreover, the active fostering of the essential values of a healthy society, through the defence of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak, will surely help to rebuild a positive sense of one’s duty, in charity, towards friends and strangers alike in the local community.
Couched in diplomatic language it strikes me that the Pope is actually being highly critical of contemporary British society.
+++added later

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Through Him to the Father

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is important, actually it is a life and death issue.
I was invited to speak at prayer group meeting a while ago, it was lay lead, it was pious, lots of good people. What struck me was most of the prayer was addressed to Jesus, nothing wrong with that but apart from singing a song which started "Abba, Father", which seemed to have a rather dubious Trinitarian theology, there was hardly any reference to the Father.

It was the Father Jesus came to reveal, he is the perfect icon of the Father. In the liturgy prayer is, for the most part addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, the model is the doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, "Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum." Though the Eucharist is a thanksgiving for Jesus Christ, it is addressed to the Father, Jesus is not the focus of the Mass, or our devotions, or the Church: the Father is. Always we go to the Father, through with and in the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. If our worship merely brings us to the Son without going further into the mystery of the Father then presumably it is foreshortened and towards heresy.

Obviously, it is true, "to see me [Jesus], is to see the Father", hence the Church eventually came to address, occassionally, even liturgical prayer to the Son. It encouraged devotions like prayer to icons, at first to the ambiguous image of the Incarnate Word, the Pantocrator, then later to the crucified Christ, and ultimately to the Sacred Heart. I say "ambiguous image of the Incarnate Word, the Pantocrator", because as Christ is the perfect icon of the Father those great mosaic images in the apses of ancient basillicas can be read as images of the unseen Father.

I think one of the problems with the "ad populum" orientation of the Mass is that it gives too much emphasis to Christ, or better not enough emphasis to the Father, even the so called Benedictine arrangement described by the Pope in Spirit of Liturgy, stikes me as being highly problematic:
The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord. Therefore, they stare in the same direction during prayer: either towards the east as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes, or, where this is not possible, towards the image of Christ in the apse, towards a crucifix, or simply towards the heavens, as our Lord Himself did in his priestly prayer the night before His Passion (cf. John 17.1). In the meantime the proposal made by me... is fortunately becoming more and more common: rather than proceeding with further transformations, simply to place the crucifix at the centre of the altar, which both priest and the faithful can face and be led in this way towards the Lord, whom everyone addresses in prayer together.’

"The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord." is incorrect, if the Lord here, and the context seems to suggest it is, is Christ. Though one can share with the Pope a discomfort about constant liturgical change, gathering in a circle around a crucifix, is obviously a little better than gathering in circle staring at one another but it hardly suggests a truly Trinitarian act of worship.
Ad apsidum or ad orientem worship directs the priest and people through the Cross to the Father; through Christ, in Christ, with Christ we move to the Eternal Father.
The emphaisis of the theology of the Mass as "meal" very easily excludes or diminishes the Trinitarian dimension and becomes merely a devotional act of eating with Jesus. The problem with minimising the sacrificial nature of the Mass isn't simply the neglect of Christ's Passion but rather a minimising of His offering to the Father and the Father's acceptance of it.

Where is it?

I am quite tempted, if it I can afford it, to buy this picture, can anyone identify the Church?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Response to the Irish Government

I would commend the Thirsty Gargoyle's comments on The Vatican's Response to the Irish Government, on the recent accusations by the Irish Government.
Reading some of the comment in the Irish papers over the weekend, there seems to be extraordinary inability to engage with simple plain facts.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Illiberality of a Local MP

The MP for the constituency next to us has just written to David Cameron saying Churches, which refuse to conduct gay marriages, should be stripped of their licence to perform any marriages.

An interesting piece of illiberality from Mr Mike Weatherly MP for Hove, from the next door constituency.

There was an interesting exchange between Piers Morgan and Rick Santorum in the US. Morgan, who is apparently an English Catholic, accused Santorum who is a Catholic of bigotry because he upholds the Church's teaching on marriage.

I think just because we disagree on public policy, which is what the debate has been about which is marriage, doesn't mean that it's bigotry. Just because you follow a moral code that teaches something wrong doesn't mean that -- are you suggesting that the Bible and that the Catholic Church is bigoted? Well, if that's what you believe, fine.

I think that -- I shouldn't say fine. I don't think it's fine at all. I think that is -- that's contrary to both what we've seen in 2,000 years of human history and Western civilization and trying to redefine something that has been -- that is seen as wrong from the standpoint of the church and saying a church is bigoted because it holds that opinion that is biblically based I think is in itself an act of bigotry.
MORGAN: Well, I'm a Catholic, too. I just think, unfortunately, we're in a different era. We're in a modern world. And the fact --
SANTORUM: I don't think -- Piers, I don't think the truth changes. I don't think right and wrong change based on different eras of time. Things are -- there are some truths that are in fact eternal and are truth and based on nature and nature's law. And that's what the church teaches and that's what the Bible teaches and that's what reason dictates. And if you look at it from all of those perspectives, I think it's a legitimate point of view. I certainly respect people who disagree with it. But I don't call them bigoted because they disagree with me.
An interesting parallel!
Mr Weatherley, a Conservative MP, maintains his own form of bigotry, which is unable to even attempt to understand, not just what Christians have always taught and believed about about marriage; there are a large number of Evangelical, Coptic Orthodox and Catholics in his constituency but there is also the sizeable Orthodox Jewish community and not an inconsiderable number Muslims, all who hold to a traditional notion of marriage: that marriage is primarily for the begetting and raising of children. Mr Wearherly wishes to push those who believe that to the margins of society.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

New Translation?

Not much reaction, not as messy as I feared: most people used the hand outs we prepared.

Few commented on them, no one negatively, one person enthused about the beauty of the Gloria and how it seemed eaasier to say, but only one.

I was just so glad to implement them, though the nasty paperback interim Missal is quite undignified and difficult to use.

Fraternal Correction - Sermon notes

I am convinced that people flocked to the Church in the first centuries because of its kerygmatic proclamation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

The letters of the Apostles preceded the writing of the Gospels and are more concerned by what the Father, Son and Spirit did and continue to do through the Pascal Mystery, than details of Jesus' life or even his moral teaching. The thrust being, in order to reconcile us to himself, and enable us to share his inner life God sent his only Son to suffer and to die for us that we might share in his Sonship, and to those who became sons the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify them and to transform them. This transformation, healing, sanctification was noticeable to both those inside and outside the Church. They experienced healing.

Simply, its message was once we were strangers, through Christ and his Church God becomes our Father, and we become sons. Ultimately the kerygma is about family and Divine Fatherhood.

During the summer riots, practically everyone, left or right, pointed to the root of the problems as being a breakdown in family, and at the heart of the break down, most suggested, an absence of a "father figure".

I was recently sent a document on sexual disorders and their treatment, written by a psychiatrist and therapist, the basic argument was that homosexuality and other sexual disorders were caused by peer rejection in childhood and ineffectual fathering, really the absence of a loving father.

The writer claimed that healing came through forgiveness of the hurt done by one's natural father and coming to understand the love of our supernatural Father. That, he claimed transformed the lives of his clients.

I do not think that relationships and psychology of the Greco-Romano world were any different from those of our own time, people were if anything even more neorotic than us. Indeed riot, sexual abuse, violence, financial and emotional insecurity, fragmented families seem, from the literature of the time, to have been even more prevalent. It was against this background that the message, "God wants to be you Father and can change you", was preached to such an extraordinary effect.

Ezekial and the Gospel remind of the importance in the spiritual life of fraternal correction, "fraternal" correction can only happen within a family.

One of our parishioners spent a few days recently with a Catholic of the old school, whose response to every problem in the Church was: why doesn't the Pope just excommunicate them? I am not unsympathetic to that suggestion but actually that has never normally been the Church's answer. Normally, when there is breakdown in the Church the problem is a theological one. At its root, a misunderstand, not just of what the Church is but generally of who God is too, it is normally a Trinitarian problem a loss of the sense of God as Father.

The psychologist would say the same about psychosexual problems.
One of the things that strikes me about the new translation of the Missal is that they are clearer about our relationship with the Eternal Father, I am convinced that a significant part of the problems we see in the Church today, in society too and in the family, rest on a defective understanding of the the Fatherhood of God. Maybe our own spiritual problems rest on that too, the failure to grasp the intensity of the Father's love and passion for us.

With an impotent Father we are going to be useless at evangelising, at promoting vocations, at teaching about the family, at holding together as a Church, at having anything to say to society, at changing people's lives.

A footnote: The new translations are the beginnng of a reorientation of our worship and theology, and a rediscovery of the Fatherhood of God.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Alright, Who did this?

Graffiti appeared overnight on a Preston wall. Is one of you trying to evangelise?


Cardinal Levada is due to retire as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It can't be easy taking over from a Pope and one isn't quite sure whether particular actions are his or the Pope's.

It now seems that many of the condemnations  issued by Levada's predecessor were done under obedience and at the direction of Pope John Paul. The Benedict XVI and Levada relationship has been gentler. Rather than condemning or imposing censures we have seen the CDF engaging with dissidents, either requesting clarification from them or making clarifications of doctrinal points. It is only occasionally, and normally after a long correspondence as in the case of the Australians Fr Kennedy and Bp Morrison, that recourse to law has been used.

There have been one or to fireworks under Levada's headship both extraordinary acts of the use of the Church's law: Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus, both being imaginative scalpel-like cuts through endless discussion and both being essentially pastoral, in the interest of souls. Let us pray there will be a third such act before the end of the month.

The situation has changed in the Church, the old Dutch, Swiss and German dissidents have disappeared, almost. New one's have replaced them, more numerous but less of an academic force, no longer giants but dwarves, lots of them, but there is a new confidence in the Church and in orthodoxy. Rather than making martyrs we need to persuade, coax, cajole and above all teach, because the new dissidents arguements are pretty weak, for the most part they are no longer "intellectual" problems but pastoral ones.

Yes, "there is a need to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate". The Benedictine and Levadian way, the way of the teaching Church, is to challenge error, to ask it to explain itself, to point its folly, but is essentially a pastoral approach and should be a matter solved in parishes and dioceses before ever Rome gets involved.

Just a few thoughts - an invitation to a reception to meet him arrived in the post the other day.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

20th Cent Popes

There is an interesting series on 20th century Popes on Vatican Insider.

Pope Ratti disdained any form of nepotism, never granting special audiences to family members. When one of his engineer nephews did some work in the Vatican, Pius put in writing that the work would not be paid. He was also allergic to flatterers. A pope of great missionary impulses, under his pontificate eighteen agreements would be concluded with various states for the purpose of guaranteeing the greatest freedom possible to the Church. On 13 May 1929, he said «When it is a question of saving souls, we would feel the courage to deal with the devil in person».

Benedict XV
Reflective in character, not afraid to lose his temper, but extremely resolute, the Pope of the Church loved punctuality, to the point where he gave watches to his colleagues, telling them: “Here, take this. This way you will never have an excuse to arrive late.” In one of his autographs of 1915 he writes, “A good watch can help us in being careful and ready for every appointment, without wasting time on useless anticipation or appearing discourteous with unjustified delays.” Indeed, that focus on punctuality will be fatal to him when, at dawn on 17 November 1921, he had to wait a few minutes for the gendarme to open the door of the Sacrament Room in Saint Peter’s Basilica. He had to go say Mass that morning for the sisters of Santa Marta, and that brief wait in the chilled air gave him a cold that turned into bronchitis, carrying him to his grave on 22 January 1922.


I have an American friend - a friend from Brazil will now write to me and say: no, you mean a friend from the USA - my US friend has a dreadful habit of calling everything "awesome", especially things dripping with fat, such hamburgers, and Reuben’s women, and on rare occasions, even me. I once had a girlfriend whose clipped and critical English mother referred to everything as "awful", including me and then my friend, who is now her husband.

"Awe" is a word that is rather difficult to define here are some dictionary definitions: "mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might:" or "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc.,"

Properly, it strikes me; "Awe" is something that belongs to our relationship with God. Peter kneels before the Lord after the miraculous draft of fishes, Peter and the others at the Transfiguration, Seraphim and Cherubim seem consumed with awe in the Apocalyptic literature, especially the Book of the Apocalypse.
It is very tempting to have a go at Archbishop Conti but let us leave it at "awe" and kneeling or prostrating or covering one's face seem to be closely associated in the scriptures. Kneeling or prostrating or bowing to the ground is something which goes with communion with Christ.

There are lots of things that inspire "awe" in me, some confessions and deathbeds but mainly the Church's Rites. Saying Mass should inspire awe in me, I regret to say it doesn't happen often, not in the way it used to when I was first ordained, when at the consecration it was almost difficult to breathe, or when I first learnt to pray and felt and I felt I might die in the dreadful velvet darkness of the light of God. Sometimes that still happens, normally when saying the ancient Mass in some ancient Church whilst on holiday.

It is an emotional thing, not some mystical experience, though it does help to build a sense of the proper relationship with God, little ole finite us encountering the Infinite, Omnipotent, Impassible, Transcendant One. It strikes me the Orthodox deliberately set out to create an awe filled liturgy: glittering gold, colour, icons, flickering candles, incense, ancient chant, prayerful people all help. Turn on a fluorescent tube and it can all disappear. Our own rites I find even more moving, the silence of Low Mass, the low bowing during the Tantum at Benediction, High Mass with a half competent choir, it is all full of awe.

Yes, it is the ancient rites that inspire me; partly I admit because I celebrate them only occasionally, therefore they retain specialness. I think they rarely do, but the question is, can the new rites create the same sense. Again, one of the problems with them is they are invariably they are carried out in perfunctory minimalistic way. One of the reason for this but also a reason in its own right is that there was a deliberate dumbing down in the 70's, a fear of manufactured awe, hence the stripping away of gestures that were designed to express awe, getting rid of all those painful genuflections, after 60 they apparently begin to hurt, and the ridding of pernickety rules about where hands and fingers should be. The over lit and barren architecture of the time didn't help, neither did the starkness of vestments and other liturgical accoutrements. "Noble simplicity" is of its time, it is not de fide, the Church speaks on faith and morals inerrantly not the arts, even liturgical arts but for some seems to have become de fide.

The Novus Ordo celebration of Holy Week I find is awe inspiring. Concelebrated Mass, sung by a monastic community, with the correct chants is, or at least can, be awesome. Time stands still singing the endless psalms of Matins in choir in an ice cold church in either Rite, even in the vernacular.
The new texts of the Mass, the rethinking of the Liturgy, give us an opportunity to begin to make our Rites awe filled again. I think one area we should examine is the whole question of singing the Mass, and silence and stillness and timelessness.

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...