Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Impious Sale by Ramsgate Monks

Fr Mildew reports that the former monks of Ramsgate who have now relocated to the former Franciscan Friary at Chilworth are selling off at public auction some truly beautiful objects. Fr Mildew raises concern about selling chalices which have been consecrated for sacred worship, as if the act of consecration meant nothing, fortunately the reliquaries on sale appear empty.

Though I wish the monks well, I hate to say this but this seems to be an impious sale that I like Fr Clifton find very distressing. The catalogue can be seen here. I only hope and pray that these sacred objects are bought and restored to the holy use for which they were intended. However their fate is more likely to become part of some decorative scheme or possibly even to be used for a sacrilegious purpose, auctions are like that.

What was it that Pope said about those things considered holy by previous generations?

St Benedict says monks should sell things a little cheaper than market prices. I am sure that if the monks are happy with the estimated figures, which seem surprising low these holy objects could be sold by private sale to clergy who would use them well and guarantee their continued sacred use. I would be willing to do it for them.

Many of the objects were donated in memory of loved ones, there is a ciborium with an inscription asking for prayers for a young pilot killed presumably in the Battle of Britain and lots of other things which were never intended for sale but as offerings at the altar for the souls of the departed. I just hope the Abbot has permission from the donors descendants for their disposal.

It appears disrespectful to their memory.

The monastery can be contacted here, I think. I have of course sent them a link to this post, perhaps in charity you might contact the monks too.
I am sure they are good men but just being foolish and obviously ill advised.
I have heard on the grapevine Farnborough Abbey are interesting in acquiring as many of these items as possible, "too keep them in the monastic family".

Fr Mildew's post: 
"I have raised the question of whether the monks had a right to do so and the legalities the Diocese will look into. However, and whatever the case, I deplore the fact that these effects were not offered to the diocese before departure of the monks. You can see these effects and the catalogue of which they are a section by going to the auction web site. www.dominicwinter.co.uk and following the links to the auction of art and antiques 8th and 9th Feb. Now whatever else transpires they have no right to sell by auction two important chalices which are consecrated objects. There is an ADVERT for the sale in todays "Daily Telegraph" which illustrates two items. One is a "recusant chalice " (in fact it is one of two chalices in the sale). Now judging by the picture it is certainly an old chalice but cannot be a true recusant chalice. These were small chalices which could be unscrewed into two pieces for easy transportation by the missioners who travelled the country whilst persecution of Catholics was strong. The valuation is £3ooo.oo to £5000.00 which might be OK as a valuation if it is a recusant chalice but is a false figure for the chalice based on age alone. However this begs the question...A chalice is a consecrated object and should not be sold at all, only handed on. To sell consecrated objects is simony and against Canon Law.
There are several other items including a pair of Altar Candelabra by Hardman. The Abbey was built by AW Pugin who used Hardman's for all necessary silver work and ornamentation in Churchs designed by AW P.
I will endeavour to find out if the monks have right of ownership...but the chalices should be withdrawn anyway."

Missio Metropolis: Liverpool

Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool (exterior - side)
Catholic Commentary reports that the Archdiocese of Liverpool has been chosen to take part in a programme this Lent called Missio Metropolis, which will be evaluated to inform the forthcoming Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme of the "new evangelisation".

If you look at the Bishop's Conference website's description of what is going to happen, there isn't actually a great deal, except the Archbishop is doing what I presume he always does, he's presiding at the Liturgy and preaching.

The other 12 European dioceses where this is happening are Barcelona, Budapest, Dublin, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Mechelen-Bruxelles, Paris, Turin, Vienna, Warsaw and Zagreb, all of which have cathedrals in the heart of the main city of their diocese, presumably the difference this year is that the role of the bishop teaching in his diocese will be given a little more advertising and given a little more importance.

Monday, January 30, 2012

They Won't Leave the Pope's House

I thought you might enjoy this, the Pope releases doves, from Sunday's Angelus but "they won't leave the Pope's house", he says and chuckles. I have same problem with pigeons at times.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


A much respected Irish missionary has recently spoken of clerical celibacy coming to an end, it seems to be a popular Irish thing to suggest. The mess that the Church in Ireland is in doesn't quite give authority to the voice of  of those who dissent from the Tradition of the West.

Over the past forty years celibacy has been talked down by so many bishops and clergy, "that which previous generations considered holy ..." now by many is simply an embarrassment, even identified as a cause of our problems.

Today's (OF) second reading reminds us of the dynamic nature of celibacy, it is about wholehearted commitment to Christ, having no other concern but him. The celibacy recommended by Paul presumably because he has as its model the celibacy of Jesus Christ himself. The Greeks take clerical beards as being an icon of Christ, in the West we have regarded celibacy in the same way, it is an icon of that longing for God at the heart of the relationship of the Son for the Father, it is profoundly Trinitarian, in that it can only be lived in the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Our problems with understanding celibacy seems very much linked to our problems in understanding asceticism today, it simply isn't part of current Christian spirituality, but then neither is any form of heroism, it is part of a feminisation of the Church.

Married priests both of the East and those recent additions in the West from Anglicanism and Episcopalianism etc do a good  job, they function well, though those with young families are often torn between family and church but with the priesthood we are speaking, I would hope, about more than function, we are concerned about "being", what a man is, what he signifies, what desires are in the depths of his being, in his very entrails.

When Jesus speaks about those who choose celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, always he holds up a hope of an eternal reward. With celibacy in practice, there is a dynamic of incompleteness and longing. in Christian celibacy that can only be satisfied by God. There is voluntary woundedness, even a desire for the continued wounding of the Cross that is incomprehensible to the world and secularised church that speaks of holiness as wholeness and finds death to self as folly and a stumbling block. The desk and grey suit, professionalism, smoothness and the corporate sense do not sit well with celibacy.

I find it fascinating that our Eastern bishops whenever celibacy is raised in a Synod, as happened at the Synod on the Eucharist, are the first to defend it and to regard it as the great treasure of the Western Church, a treasure they recognise and we do not. The Eastern experience comes from something lived, where there are both married and celibate clergy, though even in the East, though all bishops and the higher clergy are in theory "monks" most have never gone through a novitiate of any kind, they are above all those who have chosen celibacy, whereas those who are married, have chosen the lesser part. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Maynooth Closing a Few Doors

There has been grumbling in Ireland and even in NCR because the trustees of Ireland's only seminary outside Rome, Maynooth is trying to seperate living accomodation of those studying for the priesthood from the students of the secular university that now occupy buildings that were formerly entirely given over to priestly formation.
Shane sent me a link to an article of 1978 talking about the folly of a seminary that in so many respects had become a secular college.
If one wants social workers then students to a secular institution, if you want men totally dedicated to Christ, to prayer, to the spritual life, to asceticism, to the the study of the person and ways of Jesus Christ then they have to spend time with him, to come away and live apart.
The NCR article by Eugene Cullen Kennedy seems to demonstrate the secularism that many would want their clergy to take on.
Whether a few doors and a seperate dining hall are enough to save Maynooth we will learn later this year when the Holy Sees report on the Irish Church is made public.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rage and Wrath

I've already said how interested I am in the growing public anger with President Obama of the US bishops
Below is an extract from a speech by Bishop David A. Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburg
Kathleen Sebelius and through her, the Obama administration, have said “To Hell with You” to the Catholic faithful of the United States. •To Hell with your religious beliefs,
•To Hell with your religious liberty,
•To Hell with your freedom of conscience.
We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under. As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded, “in effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
In Fance Christians have been on the streets:

In England characteristicly we tend to discuss things in London Clubs or Westminster committee rooms, perhaps we are too enamoured by the Establishment to openly confront it, as happened over adoption agencies. Though, over one scrap a decade or two ago a  auxilliary bishop did say to me, "Well, the Government should always knows we could close our schools". I think he was an exception, he is now deceased.

A question: how militant can we legitimately get?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Change and Revival in all around I see

The Church  in 2008

The Church at Christmas Midnight Mass

This is how the Church was the week before Christmas, it shows the lighting brackets.

One of things that seems to be popular is our 10.30 Sunday Mass which we have started celebrating ad orientem, the numbers have gone up quite noticeably

We were talking about Candlemas earlier today and watching this old video, everything seems to have improved, not just the Church but our serving, our choir, everything - except my singing.
Incidently, have a Candlemas Missa Cantata, with procession, this year, at 7.30pm. I think this video was taken the year the roads were impassable with snow - say a prayer for this years.

We were talking about Candlemas earlier today and watching this old video, everything seems to have improved, not just the Church but our serving, our choir, everything (except my singing).

Obama Unites US Church

President Obama has most probably done the Catholic Church in the US a great favour by forcing it into a position where it has had to unite to oppose his healthcare proposals. Though Archbishop Nichols might be oblivious to "what is down the road", his American brothers are only too aware. It is the removal of the Catholic Church from the public forum, the severe limiting of  its service of the community and probably it itself having to lay off tens of thousands of its lay employees to avoid having to go against conscience and pay for contraception or sterilisation.
In England such concerns would be expressed behind closed doors, normally ending up with the Church conceding to the Governments position, in the US the Bishops have used the media coverage to explain to the public the Church's teaching, here we are less robust and our people suffer doctrinal confusion.
The Wall Street Journal has this to say:
Less predictable—and far more interesting—has been the heat from the Catholic left, including many who have in the past given the president vital cover. In a post for the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters minces few words. Under the headline "J'ACCUSE," he rightly takes the president to the woodshed for the politics of the decision, for the substance, and for how "shamefully" it treats "those Catholics who went out on a limb" for him.

The message Mr. Obama is sending, says Mr. Winters, is "that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us."

Mr. Winters is not alone. The liberal Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, blogged that he "cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience"—and he urged people to fight it. Another liberal favorite, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., has raised the specter of "civil disobedience" and vowed that he will drop coverage for diocesan workers rather than comply. They are joined in their expressions of discontent by the leaders of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, which alone employs 70,000 people.
thanks to Luke Coppen
Comments: are welcome but make sure they are sensible, my tolerance of the madcap, or raving has reached its limit!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

CAFOD against Boris' Island

My attention was drawn to a letter in the Telegraph from CAFOD and Christian Aid. Why is the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development involved in in ecological lobbying about a distinctly London issue?

SIR - A new hub airport in the Thames Estuary would be a disaster for the environment, and, as a result, for people and wildlife in this country and globally. What's more, there is no clear support for this airport from the British aviation industry. We know this because similar proposals have been considered by previous governments on at least three occasions, and each time they've been thrown out If anything, the case for Boris Island will only look worse this time round, because action on climate change is needed more urgently than ever. Aviation is already responsible for more than a fifth of the UK transport sector's greenhouse gas emissions, and an airport accommodating 180 million passengers each year, as proposed by Boris Johnson, would be much larger than any airport in operation in the world today. Such a scheme would effectively be the death knell for the Government's promise to be the greenest ever, and would undermine its ability to show international climate leadership. That's why we will be opposing it every step of the way.

Paul Brannen, Christian Aid
Neil Thorns, Cafod
Martin Harper, RSPB
Craig Bennet, Friends of the Earth
and 10 others; see telegraph.co.uk

Telegraph Letters Sat 21 Jan 2012, Eric Hester seems to sum up my own thoughts.

SIR - It is not surprising that a letter disagreeing with a Thames Estuary airport as "a disaster for the environment" is signed by representatives of Friends of the Earth and the RSPB. It is surprising that it is also signed by representatives of Christian Aid and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development. If Christian charities that collect money to help people in poor parts of the world know nothing about the subject, it seems odd to sign a public letter. If they allow staff to spend time studying the facts about the airport, how can they can justify using them in this way rather than in the ways for which people donate money - helping the world's poor? Eric Hester
Bolton, Lancashire
An airport in the Thames estuary might indeed be environmentally damaging but there other agencies which have a role in pointing this out like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Friends of the Earth, or Green Peace even the Green Party but the involvement of the Catholic Church of England and Wales' fund for overseas development seems to stretching their mandate more than a little.
It raises the issue, yet again, as to whether CAFOD is opposing Boris' Island simply because CAFOD allies itself with British left-wing politics.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I am a little confused about the "Kikoists", the Neo-Catechetical Way; has the Pope approved of their rites or not, or rather are they obedient to the calls that their celebrations of the Mass are integrated into parish life or are private exclusive affairs and are they celebrated according to the liturgical books of the Church?

I know they have been given special permission to have the sign of peace before the Offertory and to have short introductions to the readings. What they do not have is permission to do is to receive the Body of Christ sitting, to use tables instead of consecrated altars, to appoint their own ministers to teach during the Liturgy.

There is a lot more that is concerning about them, their tendency to break away from the mainstream Church, to regard themselves in a sense as being some kind of "pure" Catholics and the rest of us as being in need of conversion, not so much to Christ but there own brand of the faith and the teaching of their own leaders.

To me they seem to be modern day Montanists, appointing their own ministers who have power above and beyond the heirarchy of the Church, they have their own rites and edit Catholic theology according to their own lights, they seem to have their own catechism too, not for them the Catechism of the Catholic Church but the writings of their own "prophets".

Saturday, January 21, 2012

St Agnes the Child Martyr

I find the little skull of St Agnes in her church in Piazza Navona very moving because it is so obviously the skull of a small child.

Saint Ambrose says:
Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of St Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet she is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs. In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck. You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned. His right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl's peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a double martydom, to modesty and to religion; St Agnes preserved her virginity and gained a martyr's crown."
The age of the child martyr is not dead in Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, in China and East Asia children suffer and die for the Catholic faith.

Abortion ads on your TV

 And now along with loo roll and breakfast cereal  the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) are to allow abortionists to advertise tearing a child limb from limb in its mother's womb on television and radio.
“BCAP noted that such organisations offer legally available services and, if they comply with other rules in the BCAP Code, there is nothing to prevent them from advertising their services like other currently allowed (post-conception advice services) PCAS, in a responsible manner which does not mislead, harm or offend audiences.”

So if you are offended - complain complain complain! Under previous rules, only one advert concerning abortions, by the charity Marie Stopes International, has ever been aired on UK screens. The advert, in 2010, attracted more than 4,500 complaints.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reading Faithful

Do other parish priests have to put up with a faithful who read books AND church documents?
All I insist on from Clare our Director of Music and Andrew our Master of Ceremomies is that we do what we what the liturgical books tell us to do.
This is what appears on my choir's blog, entitled Should We sing the Gradual?
Switching from the Responsorial Psalm to the Gradual could be deemed controversial in many parishes. Despite the stipulation that the chant of the Graduale should be the first choice in the Novus Ordo, and the Responsorial Psalm is the second, our liturgical books give the Responsorial Psalm as the only option.


Fr Lucie-Smith recommended it and I think it is pretty good, you can watch Crusades on iplayer for the next few days.
Thomas Asbridge tries to address the violence of the Crusades in this new series, for the BBC, it seems to be relatively objective, not the normal Christians: bad, Muslims: good, that I have come to expect.
Asbridge in this first programme identifies the high devotion that inspired the First Crusade, and the reasons that the ideal soon fell  into barbaric bloodshed.

Belate Happy Birthday Georg

The Pope's brother Georg was 88 last Sunday.
I am intrigued by these fraternal telephone conversations, has brother Georg been suggesting his own bishop as Prefect of the CDF?
The word "Englishman" caught my attention here,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wordlessness and the Microphone

I might be a little dyslexic or just plain stupid but I can read a chapter or two of scripture time and time again and still not understand it. It happens with the Office of Readings, a passage carefully selected by some liturgist for my edification, and get to the end and wonder: what was the point of that?
It is words, words, words. We can be lost in sea of them.

Tonight we had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament followed by Benediction, it is Old Rite, opens with O Salutaris, ends with Adoremus, it is the same every week, in part because I am too lazy to choose hymns every week and to avoid a scripture reading which would necessary if we used the New Rite properly. I have aversion to doing the Church's rites improperly.

What I like about Exposition is that it is wordless, "God looks at us and we look at God". It is that simple.

Benediction is reasonable simple too, God is there, we kneel before him, burn incense before him, pray to him, receive his blessing. He is the centre, we are supplicants. If you want a statement of Catholic faith. either we are idolatrous bread-worshippers or else that which appears bread is God himself. It is simple. It is iconic. It teaches in a very clear tableau form.

The same with traditional Mass, priest ascends to the altar to offer bread and wine before the people, again a simple tableau. Time and again he turns to the people to remind them the Lord is with them.
It is simple!

At a deeper level, the priest offers the Eternal Son the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, down the ages he mutters, "Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, Per omnia saecula saeculorum" or something similar.

Words and actions together reinforce the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: the Incarnation and the Trinity. Other doctrines are certainly there but it is these two that are focussed on with lazer like precision. It is the simplicity of it  find captivating.

In many ways the rites that developed under the influence of the Liturgical Movement in the 1920s and 30s and reached their fruition in the Bugnini reforms of the1960s and 70s though having the elegance of line of the Art Deco and functionalism of 1950s Utilitarianism seem to have a scatter gun approach.

I am sure that the biggest influence on liturgy in the 20th century was the microphone, bringing with it the assumption that once words can be heard, they can be understood. It should be remembered that Liturgical revision took place in the "radio age", one suspects by men who thought hearing or listening was the answer to all the Church's difficulties. The problem is that when everything can be heard, all is heard but then everything tends to becomes noise, there is no focus no discrimination.
The understanding that words are not all is perhaps a good reason for the more complex verbal structures of the new translation of the Roman Missal and why so many younger priests are exploring rites where words are not the be all and end all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In Silence

St Anthony of Egypt heard the words, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor—you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me".
He did, he sold practically everything.
The next day he heard,“Do not be anxious about tomorrow". He then gave away the little of his property he kept for necessities and then spent fifteen years of his life in solitude, in combat with demons, slowly purifying his heart, only after this does he then go into the desert to live in absolute solitude in union with God.
What fascinates me about the story is the comparative ease with which St Anthony divests himself of the things of the world but the internal battle is so lengthy and only accomplished by much effort and suffering on his part, then begins Anthony's life of union with God, he then spends 20 years in solitude and ascetic union with God.
Only then does Anthony emerge to teach the spiritual life to those who formed a community around his cell.

I love the honest realism of the Egyptian saints; St Anthony reminds us that the spiritual life is not easy, that those who teach it should be rooted in asceticism and union with God.

I wonder if we say too much, too soon, when silence might be better.

Mother Riccarda on TV

Mother Riccarda got a slot on the news today, there is an old shot of the church interior and a short interview with Gerry Silverstone.
My thanks to the Diocese of Shrewsbury's press officer for the information.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ordinariate Anniversary and a Triumph

My congratulations to the the Ordinariate on it first anniversary. Mgr Newton writes poignantly in a Pastoral Letter:
What of the future? We face it with faith and hope, committing it to the Lord. There is a constant stream of men and women being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, we expect several new groups to be received at Easter and we are preparing for a number of ordinations to the priesthood around Pentecost. In addition several young men are exploring the possibility of ordination within the Ordinariate. This is all extremely encouraging but could be a strain on our limited financial resources. I ask you to be generous in your financial stewardship; not simply making your financial contributions in response to needs but in response to God’s overwhelming generosity to us in Christ “who though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” 2 Cor 8:9. If we all do this we will be able to prepare for the future with confidence.
One of the more interesting elements of the anniversary was the Oxford University Latin Sermon preached in the University Church by (Fr) John Hunwicke, the former Vicar  of St Thomas' Oxford who is still patiently waiting to hear if he is to be ordained as a Catholic priest of the Ordinariate.
Fr Z pipped me the post on this one, you can find JH's sermon, in Latin, and a paraphrase of which this is an excerpt on WDTRS.
The walls around us heard Newman’s ‘silver voice’ gathering in great herds of young men. As an Anglican, he worked for unity in writings such as Tract 90; but his voice was not the only one to do this. Edward Bouverie Pusey, most learned man of his age, author of an Eirenicon, preached a University sermon on the Eucharist, crammed with quotations from the Greek Fathers, which led to his suspension, for two years, from preaching before the University! A Bampton Lecturer, Eric Mascall, mathematician as well as theologian, defended Catholic truth and wrote of the unity of the Eastern and Western Churches. Such men exemplified Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s description of the Anglican theological method as “Divinity done within the sound of church bells”! These and men like them may have died as Anglicans, but they are such as Aidan Nichols, a Roman Catholic theologian, had in mind when he coined the felicitous phrase “separated doctors of the Catholic Church”.
It is a great sadness for me and for many both inside the Ordinariate and outside that John Hunwicke preached this sermon as a layman, with permission of Monsignor Newton. It is a sign of the openness to the Ordinariate and of respect for him personally that John Hunwicke was chosen by the University to preach the Latin Sermon this Year. This really should have been considered a small triumph for the Ordinariate but instead has been passed over with scarcely a word.
For many on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the Tiber JH embodies and articulates the "patrimony" not just of Anglicanism but more particularly of the Oxford Movement, not just in his erudition and knowledge of the Classics and the Greek and Latin Fathers but his ability to express their thought in a quintessentially English manner. For those who count themselves as the tattered, not yet swimming, remnant of the Oxford Movement his non-ordination, one of only two, is a source of anxiety which seems to suggest that the sons of Pusey are not quite welcome in the Catholic Church as the Pope might have suggested and the Church in England has not quite assimilated Newman's legacy.

Class: Complexity and Abstraction

I was rather taken aback by a comment on post a few days ago about what the Church has to say and how it says it to the "working classes".
In post Thatcherite Britain I am not sure what the "working class" means anymore. I know most parishes seem to have less plumber's and hod carrier's mates than IT specialists and on the whole, financially, even in these times, at the moment at least people seem to be better off and what is more, more people receive tertiary education than when I was ordained.
It is true the cloth cap and the headscarf are no longer a feature of our churches. Perhaps more noticeable are the absence of young people and men, we appear to have lost them. Another absence seems to be that of catechesis, those who stay do not seem to understand our faith.
There seems to be a growing gulf between what the theological elite (of either complexion) believe and what the man (or woman) in the pew believes. Survey after survey shows those in the pew do not believe what those in the sanctuary believe or are supposed to believe.
It strikes me again and again that the faith has become increasingly more complicated and most people are lost in its complexity and find the Churches teaching complicated and quite unrelated to real life.

Fr Bede Rowe doesn't speak about "complexity" but about "abstraction".
Modern theology moves this into a representational symbolism, which is not accessible, except to those in the know. If you like it is a kind of modern gnosticism. I know, of course, that symbolism has been used in Christian art and architecture for centuries, but only as something which gives an obvious picture an extra depth. In accord with classical Biblical interpretation, you should not just have hidden interpretation, or mystical interpretation, but also a plain meaning. One can go deeper if one has the time and the inclination, but one should also be able to stay on the surface.
A picture of the Annunciation can be filled with any number of hidden references that one is able to 'read' if one knows the key - symbols of virginity, of the presence of the Holy Spirit, of the crucifixion and death of the Son who is about to exist in her womb... but if it is not recognisably the Annunciation, then these other symbols only have meaning for the smug club who understands such things.
This is what I hate, anything that transforms our religion into a smug club for those who have the time (and education) to 'read' the hidden things.
Perhaps one of our chief difficulties is the failure to give clear teaching or to make a practice of  teaching in a way that is ambiguous.
I can't help wondering whether we teach too much, that we have a scatter gun approach today, that we are saying too much and using far too many words. "Words, words, words" could be an accusation against today's Church and churchmen.

Mothers Riccarda's Cause Moves On

I was pleased to announce progress in Mother Riccarda's cause, at Mass yesterday especially as I was announcing that this year is the 150th anniversay of the opening of the nave of the Church (more on that later).

From the Telegraph, by Simon Caldwell
A file on Mother Riccarda Beauchamp Hambrough has been sent to the Vatican to be studied by historians and theologians.
Her cause for sainthood was opened in July 2010 by the Diocese of Rome along with that of Sister Katherine Flanagan, marking the first phase of the investigations.
In a significant development, the causes of both women have together been sent to the Holy See’s Congregation of Causes for Sainthood, marking a significant, but early, step forward in the long road to becoming saints.
If it is concluded that the pair lived lives of “heroic virtue”, the Pope will declare the London-born nuns to be “Venerable” and the search will begin for two miracles to first declare them Blessed and then saints.
Both nuns belonged to a revived order of Bridgettine sisters nicknamed “the hot cross bun nuns” because of the distinctive crosses covering the tops of their wimples.
Mother Riccarda helped to save the lives of about 60 Jews by hiding them from the Nazis in her Rome convent, the Casa di Santa Brigida.
She born in 1887 and was baptised in St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Brighton, at the age of four years after her parents converted to the Catholic faith.
Yesterday Father Ray Blake, the parish priest of St Mary’s welcomed the progress of her cause. “I think it is fantastic,” he said.
“Here is Brighton we are following her cause with great enthusiasm and see her very much as our local saint.
“When I tell people at Mass that that her cause is going forward I’m sure that they will be overjoyed.”
While Mother Riccarda spent most of her life in Rome, eventually becoming the head of the order, Sister Katherine was at the forefront of efforts to open Bridgettine convents around the world some 400 years after the Reformation nearly wiped out the order.
Judith Whitehead, a niece of Sister Katherine, said she was astonished that the first phase had concluded so quickly.
“I am surprised that it has moved to the next stage in my lifetime,” said Mrs Whitehead, 73, of Shaftesbury, Dorset, who had given evidence to the initial inquiry.
“I thought that the progression of looking into her life would take about 10 years,” she said.
“It is amazing to have someone in your family who was so revered by everybody … the Bridgettines obviously think that she is going to become a saint.”
Father Simon Henry, the parish priest of St Gregory’s Church, Earlsfield, south London, where Sister Katherine was baptised, said: “To have a possible saint from the parish is wonderful.”
Born Florence Catherine in Clerkenwell in 1892, Sister Katherine trained as a dressmaker before she left the family home for Rome at 19 years with the aim of becoming a nun.
She went on to become the first prioress of new convents in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire; Lugano, Switzerland; and Vadstena, Sweden - where she died in 1941.
A year after Sister Katherine joined, the future Mother Riccarda - born Madaleina Catherine - also journeyed to Rome.
Because of her talent and intelligence she soon became deputy of the Order, called the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget, and remained at the mother house in the Italian capital.
When the Nazis took control in Rome in 1943, and began to round up the Jews of Rome for deportation to Auschwitz, Mother Riccarda risked her own life by smuggling fugitives into her convent.
Some Jews who gave evidence to the initial inquiry spoke of Mother Riccarda's kindness, saying they nicknamed her “Mama”.
She died in Rome in 1966 at the age of 79 years.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Concepts of Benedict XVI

I read before Christmas that the Pope was more than a little indifferent to some artist who was fussing about a portrait. The artist reminded the Pope "A picture is worth a thousand words". The Holy Father replied, "Ah, but a single concept is worth a thousand pictures".

What are the key concepts Benedict XVI has been proposing? What are the ideas will endure from this Papacy and become his legacy?

The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is the first and foremost concept. It is The Big Idea. We see this most notably in the document he issued in 2000 as Prefect of the CDF Dominus Jesus.

In many ways the work he had done as a young priest during the Council in preparing the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum already set the foundations of Dominus Jesus. Dei Verbum took into account modern biblical criticism, which from the second half of the 19th century had struck at the very heart of the trustworthiness of Revelation and reduced active faith to a mere somewhat sceptical assent or often non-assent to doctrinal propositions, it is Modernism and its slightly more sophisticated sister Liberal Relativist. It is defeating this that is Benedict's life work and legacy.

A crucial part of Dominus Jesus is not only the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the trustworthiness of Revelation but also of the uniqueness and trustworthiness of the Catholic Church. his emphasis on reading the Second Vatican Council in terms of the continuity underpins this and for all the fuss made about Summorum Pontificum its prime purpose is to underline the continuity of the Church.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brick by brick Summorum Pontificum

Every year we have a Mission Appeal, I always like to hear about how the Church is growing but often the priests who come to preach have a certain idiosyncratic way of offering the Sublime Sacrifice. I mean in the past I have had priests who don't know how to vest, who have wanted to celebrate Mass with just a stole or wear the stole over the chasuble and have odd gestures (like, heaven forfend, extending their hand at the Dominus Vobiscum before the Gospel).

Today we had a letter arranging the annual Mission Appeal, so in what will be five years on from Summorum Pontificum, with the Roman Rite celebrated in two usages, and us having a weekly Sunday Mass, I told my secretary that we needed a priest who could celebrate our 9.00pm Mass in the Usus Antiquior.

And..., I was delighted and surprised the answer was, "No problem".
Well done African Missions Appeal!

Monday, January 09, 2012

What to do about bad homilies or priests who aren't Christ

I hope I don't preach bad homilies but who knows. I must admit there are some homilies which I think aren't brilliant, some which rely more on form than substance.
I am more concerned with other areas of priestly failure, like saving souls. I think this bit of advice applies to all who realise that most bishops and priests who fall short of Christ the High Priest.
It is from the blog of the High and Mighty Fr Z, may he blog forever.
A reader writes asking about “bad homilies”:
Every once in a while, you get a real clunker, one that isn’t just theologically weak, but turns what should be a feast into over microwaved junk. What is the proper response?
You want to know what to do?
Get down on your knees and pray for the priest who gave it.
Do penance for his intention.
Be happy you have a priest when many – many – don’t.
That is what you do.
And if there is some occasion to offer him positive encouragement, do so, with a cordial aspect and kindness.
And consider kissing the hand of the priest who consecrates the Eucharist, forgives your sins, and with anointing imparts even remission of temporal punishment due to sin when you are about to die.
After that, you want to know what to do?
Get down on your knees and pray for more priests. Pray for all priests and bishops and seminarians too. Pray for young men to answer a vocation to the priesthood.
Fast more.
Do more penance for these men and for vocations.
And remember how happy you are to have a priest when many – many – don’t.
That’s what you do.

More good things from Lancaster, Bishop Michael Campbell's diocese. They are promoting Confession by ensuring every Wednesday from 7pm to 8pm churches are open for Confession - simple ideas but they always tend to be the best.

Some things from the diocesan website:

The special invitation to experience Christ’s love through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a major new initiative of Bishop Michael Campbell OSA. The Light is on For You! initiative highlights the importance of this sacrament in the life of Catholics and increases its availability, hoping that every Catholic will visit this source of God’s mercy and healing love.

This Lent, all Catholic churches in the Diocese of Lancaster will be open on Wednesday evenings, 7:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. for confession and quiet prayer. Here are some resources to help you and the parishes of the Diocese on this journey:

RESOURCES:Practical SuggestionsExamination of Conscience for Married CouplesExamination of Conscience for Religious & PriestsExamination of Teenagers & Young PeopleReconciliation Guide for ChildrenLancaster Colour PosterLancaster Black & White PosterLancaster FlyerParish Bulletin AnnouncementsSample Prayers of the FaithfulBishop Campbell's Letter to Priests of the ParishesBishop Campbell's Letter to the Schools & Colleges of the Diocese

Pope Praises Green/Left Policies

The Pope seems to have cut new ground today in his New Years address to the Diplomatic Corps by praising the October decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union banning the commercial patenting of embryonic stem cells and commending a resolution adopted in the same month by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.

Both these resolutions were put forward by a coalition Socialist and Green politicians. Increasingly the Holy Father has been talking in terms of human ecology, of respect for the environment and generally taking up the green cause in order to speak of the sanctity of human life and of natural law.

Unlike our own British political parties, of both right or left, whose only real policies seem to be about reducing everyone to a customer or consumer, where market forces are left to run riot and the only "big" political idea, again for right and left, seems to be "equalities", there is a maturity amongst some European Socialists which tends to see the Common Good and Catholic Social Teaching as the guiding principle.

Michael Merrick has an interesting examination of the decline of British Catholic Socialism that is worth reading, Like what he says about the need to read Humanae Vitae along with Rerum Novarum.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Gold is about shining and light.
It is incorruptable, it does not change or corrode.
It is of great value.
It is about royalty, in many ancient cultures it was reserved to kings and gods
It is connected to anointing, a crown marks the place where a king is anointed.

Frankincense is about worship.
It is sweet smoke symbolising prayer and oblation.
It was used domestically but primarily to honour gods.
"Frank" here meaning pure, not "French", of course.

Myrrh is a sweet resin, that could be burnt as incense but was often mixed with oil as a perfume or medium for annointing.
It was used to mummify bodies in ancient Egypt, it was taken to Jesus' tomb by the women.
Myrrhon is the Byzantine equivalent of Chrism.
Its presentation to Jesus is presumably a reference to His being the Anointed One. the Messias or Christ and to his immortality and regality.

The Star: rather than a comet or any other mysterious star could it be the sun, heralding a new age, like "the Dawn from on high"? Is this a reference to "ad orientem" worship?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Russian Asceticism

I was rather struck by this picture on the always interesting  Fr Simon Henry's blog, it is a Russian Bishop taking part in the Epiphany Baptismal rites, in which Orthodox renew their baptism in remembrance of Christ's glory being shown forth at his baptism.
In many places where Holy Communion is rarely received  or even attendance at Sunday Liturgy is lacking this "renewal" becomes an annual marker of being Orthodox. In some parts in is a pleasant dip or sprinkling in Russia a rather fearsome an act of asceticism, reminiscent of the martyrs of Sebaste who were left to perish on a frozen lake. There are more photograph's here.Orthodox Epiphany : Epiphany in Russia

There is something manly about plunging into an icy pool in the middle of winter, I have been trying to think of Western parallels, apart from rigourous Lenten fasting or all night vigils, I can only think of St Patrick's Purgatory in Ireland or the blood and chains of certain unreformed remote Spanish or Italian Holy Week celebrations.
Coptic Orthodox men in Brighton seem to love to shame me by telling me of the vast numbers of fast days in their calendar and Muslims of their Ramadam austerities, there seems to be something about austerity, even physical pain that is attractive to men in the service of God.

Two Way Street

"They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it" Lumen Gentium 14
With lots of Anglicans, and now with the setting up of the American Ordinariate, Episcopalians are becoming Catholics, many Anglicans are telling us "It is two way street, it goes both ways, just as many Catholics are joining us".
It is true, many Catholics are indeed embracing Anglicanism which indeed for Catholics who believe what Holy Church teaches about herself is indeed truly sad.
I have know Catholic priests who have Anglicans in all instances but one because they wanted to marry, the one instance was because he wanted a boyfriend.
Ultimately anyone who leaves the Church does so because he no longer believes what she teaches to be true.
Maybe it is a lack of honesty for some people not to leave.

Thanks to some American friends, there are some interest stories here of converts from the Church.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Heating's off but look at St Augustines

At the moment the heating is off in my church and house, I'm shivering gently. I am sure it is minor and the sweet Mother of God will deal with it through a competent heating engineer. It is not just my church I'm concerned about, in fact our problems are small fry compared to St Augustine's Ramsgate.

There is a good article in the Telegraph on St Augustines.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Music of the American Baroque

This might be a load of nonsense bringing these two ideas together but it is an excuse for beautiful music, so here goes. Is there a connection?

I was talking to one of our students recently she showed me a picture on her phone of her siblings they were all under 18 and where all playing orchestral stringed instrument, the littlest one had a half sized cello, they part of El Sistema, the remarkable Venuzuelan musical education system, that seems change poor children into orchestral musicians. The youth orchestra makes an incredible impact wherever it plays.

Sandro Magister has a fascinating piece on the music of the Reductions, the Jesuit Missions in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. If you like Baroque music then have a search on Youtube for the music of Domenico Zipoli and Martin Schmid, European Jesuits working in South America.

It opens up all sorts of question about how evangelisation took place and can take place today.

This last piece is a favourite of mine, a Magnificat by Hernando Franco working in Mexico, I like the gentle move from chant to polyphony.
Whilst you are listening, we really do need a few more good singers here - see what you can persuade Our Lady and the Wise Men to do for the space of a Magnificat - God is good.

The pictures here are quite interesting

Here is someone playing reconstructions of pre-Columbian Mayan flutes - interesting sounds - some are quite horrific looking instruments - the skulls and heads, I mean.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Latin that I will never use

Have a look at this video, if you dare.
It is very interesting that even in contemporary liturgical textiles there seems to be a craving for a "continuity" even if that continuity is expressed in discontinuity.
I think this is a feature for this blog here.
Yet even Slabbinck are going Roman, times and seasons, times and season, but then then there is this.
But they are based in ...Belgium.

Marriage: Mend it don't end it

High Court Judge and former family lawyer, Sir Paul Coleridge wants to halt the "appalling and costly impact of family breakdown" and said people are looking to "recycle" partners instead of trying to fix their marriages.
read more

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...