Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tom Bennett's Tu Es PetruP

Here is Tom Bennett’s new Tu Es Petrus written especially for our 150th Anniversary.
I am afraid the background noise is the collection being taken.
I know that new music isn’t everyone’s preference but amongst those who love it, who were present on Monday night, it was very well received.
Tom is steeped in church music, he has sung in church choirs all his life and has been a choral scholar at Oxford University, where after graduation he still sings professionally, even so he would describe himself as an agnostic, who would want to believe.
He chose the text himself, because he knows it is of some significance to us Catholics. The music is a young man’s lectio divina on the word’s of Christ to Simon Peter. The composer seems to grasp the extraordinary significance of what these words imply, as Fr Tim Finigan said in his homily, there is a mistranslation in the English version of the Creed, we say [I believe] in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, he reminded us that in the Latin there is no “in”, we are actually called to believe the Church, not to believe “in” it. It strikes me that this is what Tom is meditating on in this music, is the terrifying implications of God’s words to Simon Peter. The dark chords, the dissonance, the rock hardness of the music, has was described by someone as “chilling”, it is, but then for so many people the struggle with belief is chilling.

This is a purely my subjective interpretation but it seems to me the words of Christ sung by the bass descend, literally come down on Peter, he, the soprano, take them up, the drill into his being, he and Christ sing together, the soprano resonates with Christ’s words, the words take root in the rock, and yet the voice of Christ hovers over the rock which seems to blossom and there uncertainty, human vulnerability.
There seem to be glancing references to Western and Eastern Christian musical traditions, as well perhaps Messiaen and even James MacMillan. There is discomfort here, unresolved questions.
What I don’t understand is the dove-like flight of the soprano and the end of the piece, it is obviously important, it ends but it doesn’t conclude the piece.

I don't think it would have worked in the Ordinary Form of Mass, in the Extraordinary Form, one can be a little more daring, even experimental and especially against the background of saccheriness of Schubert in G and the chant of the Propers, it was perfect.

thanks to our Choir Blog

Persecuted or not Persecuted?

His Grace of Westminster says we are not persecuted. He is right, there is little blood spilt in the Piazza of Westminster Cathedral no beying mobs yelling for his blood in Ambrosden Avenue, English society has moved on from the time when my presbytery was "built with windows too narrow for a man to climb through", protection against the locals in the past, fire hazard today.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols says we are not persecuted yet Lord Carey the former Archbishop of Canterbury says Christians are persecuted.

It all depends on what you call persecution, you have to have some resistance if you are going to be martyred; burn Caesar's incense and everything is hunky-dory, refuse and things get a bit difficult, that is precisely the situation that is brewing in the US.

Here, our adoption agencies are closed with barely a whimper. Connexions are welcomed in our schools. Oona Stannard and the then Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols seemed to be happy collaborators with the then Education Secretary Mr Ed Balls. I keep meeting young medics who choose psychiatry because the fear that other branches of medicine are likely to become more difficult for Catholics with a conscience. I must say I can't recall the last time I met a practicing Catholic who was a dispensing pharmacist. Increasingly Catholic social workers are finding difficulty in being involved in adoption. Similarly Catholic registrars can be presented with problems, do they or do they not register civil partnerships? What about their future when required to perform same sex "marriages"?
Then of course as the sensible Mr Sensible says, what about Sunday working?

There is no point in persecuting the compliant, Cardinal George, in the US, has said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square". I think there something about quality of leadership, I often wonder if is prudent or wimpish, but then I wonder about my leadership: Is it prudent or wimpish?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our 150th Pictures

Here is a link to our 150th Anniversay Celebration Flickr page. Music will take a little longer, moving images a little longer still.
I just love those red vestments.

Just remember, not that I am proud or anything, but my parish and its friends did this!

Processing the 150th

Everyone in the parish is exhausted after the inaugural Mass of 150th Anniversary. I was so delighted that everyone worked their socks of getting everything ready.
The music really was excellent, the church was full with people standing at the back, and the party afterwards was great fun.
I was so pleased that we chose the Extraordinary Form of Mass to begin a campaign of evangelisation, we had a few atheists, at least two Muslims, a number of Orthodox, quite a few Anglicans, especially amongst the singers and not a few agnostics and even blog readers as well as parishioners. It meant that people could come on their own level and still encounter God, even if it was just on the level of "God is beauty" and yes the music last night was extraordinarily beautiful. Some of the cavernous Brighton Anglican Church's might might put on Schubert regularly and do chant, probably not as competantly as us, when we do it well, but in the music last night in the intimacy of our church it was exquisite, the new Tom Bennett piece, that was truly special, difficult for some people but it worked so well in the EF - more on that later.
As people left they said things like, "Beautiful", "Moving", "Magnificent", "Thank you" (lots of those), several people said they wept because of the beauty.
I thought the good thing was it all hapened within 90 minutes!

At the moment we are waiting for picturess and sound to be processed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Clarification on Civil Partnerships

I found this on the Bishops Website: Clarification on Civil Partnerships. It seems to restate the 2003 document on Civil Partnership.
Following a Guardian report today, 23 February 2012, it is important to clarify the position taken by the Bishops' Conference in 2003 in response to the Government Consultation on "Civil partnership – A framework for the legal recognition of same–sex couples”. Civil Partnerships are now part of the framework of British law. The current debate is about the specific nature of the institution of marriage and its distinctive place in the fabric of society.
23. We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them. They would in the long term serve to undermine marriage and the family for the reasons set out in paragraphs 9-12 above. They are not needed to defend fundamental human rights or remedy significant injustices for same-sex couples, as these have either already been substantially addressed or can largely be addressed by the couple entering into contractual arrangements privately. Moreover, the government’s proposals do nothing to tackle what is in fact a very much bigger issue, namely the lack of rights enjoyed by cohabiting heterosexual couples and their children, many of whom wrongly believe they are protected by ‘common law marriage.’ The government needs to publicise their lack of rights, and strongly advocate the obvious solution, which is marriage.
So what is being said here? It would appear to be a half-hearted attempt to clarify the confusing messages coming from Archbishop's House and the new "cottage industry explaining to the media what Their Lordships really mean".
Who has been writing to the CDF?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Do come - everyone is welcome.
If your a priest and wish to come, do attend in choro, let me know, so we can put out seats for you.

Poll: Government does not have the right to legalise gay marriage

Lord Carey: government does not have the right to legalise gay marriage

In an article for the Daily Mail, Lord Carey claimed the proposal to change the status of marriage ''constitutes one of the greatest political power grabs in history''.
In September, it was announced that the coalition Government would legislate for same-sex marriages by 2015.
A public consultation on how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples is to be launched next month.
Poll here

The Absurdity of the Benedictine Arrangement

I don't normally criticise the Pope but the "Benedictine arrangement", a crucifix facing the priest between candlesticks, doesn't work. Having argued very effectively in "Spirit of the Liturgy" for the priest and people together to face the image of the crucified Christ and having also argued, successfully, for them together to face the (liturgical) East, he then suggests that a crucifix is placed between the priest and people.

I can understand his fear of yet another round of liturgical changes, because his basic thesis is the liturgy is a "given" developing slowly through the ages rather than being in constant flux, he is aware of the pastoral and spiritual damage caused by changes being imposed by dictat, even by the reigning Pontiff.

My main dislike of contra populum celebration is that the altar becomes a barrier between priest and people and the altar which should be a focus for the unified worship of all God's people separates the priest from the people. The Benedictine arrangement is a reductio absurdum of this separation by emphasising the separation further with crucifix and candles and perhaps even flowers and relics, it is a far cry from the Missal of Pius V which calls for such things to be placed, not on the altar but on the gradine behind the altar.

The Missal calls for a crucifix rather than a cross to be on the altar, and yet the "Benedictine arrangement" calls for a crucifix to face the priest, unless one is to get the theological nonsense of a double-figured crucifix the people are faced with a Christless-cross and are left to view the priest, who has turned to be visible to the people, made less than visible by a standing crucifix. The cross becomes everything the cross is not meant to be, it divides and it obscures rather than unites and reveals.

In most churches we are often faced with the further absurdity of two crucifixes: one for the priest and one for the people, invariably the priest is sandwiched between the two. Again it is a source of division rather than unity, at the incensation which should be incensed, the priest's crucifix or the people's? When there is no tabernacle present which should be venerated, should the priest venerate "his" crucifix, and if so isn't it somewhat absurd to venerate the obverse side rather than image of the crucified?

Our main Mass has been celebrated has been celebrated ad orientem for the last few months and from yesterday so have  weekday Masses, at least for Lent, we are turning towards the Crucified, two of our Sunday Masses are celebrated contra populum with the Benedictine arrangement. As absurd as I think it is, it is far less absurd than placing the priest at the centre of worship, without the crucifix. I can only think the Pope realises that it is indeed absurd and is transitional.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


We begin with ash and end with fire!
Or is it we begin with fire and end with cold ash?
It is worth reflecting on the ashes we receive, they should be be made from the previous years palms.
One of our children was a little cautious about receiving them, I discovered he thought they were made from dead people, maybe even his deceased grandmother who had been cremated!
A whole palm frond, as opposed to a little leaflet or those so protestant palm crosses, are supposed be a sign of victory and triumph, used to greet the Christ as he enters hid Holy City, within a week they could become the instrument to strike Christ on the face, were they still lying in the street as he made his way to crucifixion.
When you burn them the oil in even dried ones burns like tiny tongues of flame - there is something here about fire and judgement - fire and the Holy Spirit - fire which quickly becomes cold lifeless ask.
In the English speaking world we place the ash on the forehead where we are Chrismated at Confirmation elsewhere it is place on the scalp where we are Chrismated at baptism. The place where we are annointed that is supposed to shine with the glory of God is marked with the filth of repentance.
There is a cycle of triumph, fire and ash that seems to be part of the Christian life contained in the Liturgy, somehow we hold all three in tension.
The ash reminds us we are dust and to dust we will return, tomorrow it will be gone, only Christ is unchanging, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Petition to Save Marriage

The Coalition for Marriage is an umbrella group of individuals and organisations in the UK that support traditional marriage and oppose any plans to redefine it. The Coalition has organised an online petition in support of marriage. It reads:

I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it.
Ther are over 13,000 signatures so far.
Sign the petition here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Making a Fuss

In the Gospel for the EF Mass readings the blind man of Jericho screams and shouts until Jesus notices. In the OF the four men who are carrying their paralytic friend make a fuss and tear the roof of the house just to bring him to the Lord's attention.

Post Resurrection we not need to shout or tear houses apart for the Lord to notice, he knows what we need before we even ask.

Making a fuss doesn't attract his attention but it does focus our attention, it does make sure we are serious about prayer. It also helps us grow in faith, we need to make signs of faith to ourselves, not to God. We need to have victories to help us grow in our relationship with  him.

Lent is about making a fuss. Abstaining from certain foods, fasting, vigils, a judicious use of penitential instruments; a slightly heavier crucifix around the neck or one on a slightly scratchy cord, or the endurance of a little pain such as kneeling on painful knees, even the discipline, celise  or hair-shirt, in solidarity with Christ's suffering do nothing for Him but they can help us focus on Him. The great problem is that they can become an end in themselves and a source of pride. Inflicting a bit of discomfort on oneself whilst doing everyday actions, rather than during prayer time, especially for those who find prayer a difficulty it can help to focus our minds on the Lord, such things should never be used if they distract from him.

As a young man I  remember how much my ardour grew for a girl I was fond of after walking six miles in the rain on a dark cold morning just to leave a rose on her doorstep on St Valentine's day. It increased my love for her but providentially not her love for me, she just thought it slightly weird. Such are the ways of lovers!

Monastère Saint-Benoît

Who are these monks? Was a question many asked last week when I begged for a little money to buy some choirstalls. The answer is: they are just silent men living a silent life. A longer answer is given on NLM in an interview with the Prior of the Monastère Saint-Benoît.

They are in the diocese of the excellent Mgr Dominique Rey, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon in the South of France and their foundation is his initiative. Apart from the diocese of Paris, his diocese has half as many vocations as the rest of the French dioceses together. The bishop himself happily promotes and ordains men to celebrate both Forms of the Roman Rite. Father Prior says of him-
The bishop and the diocese have been, and remain, utterly supportive. Bishop Rey’s approach is to always ask how he, as a bishop, can encourage and further the growth of the Church. He is willing to put his person and his diocese behind initiatives that he believes will further the Kingdom of God on earth. He looks for solutions, not problems. So too do his team – from the vicar general, his secretaries and canonists, his financial officer, etc. All work together in order to build up the Church – to be sure, on sound financial and canonical foundations also!
The bishop himself happily promotes, and ordains men to celebrate, both Forms of the Roman Rite. The Monastery of Saint-Benoît uses the Usus Antiquior. The Prior says it " about first becoming liturgical myself, about being steeped in the sacred liturgy, about letting it form whom I am and how I live, about allowing it to bring about that conversion of life that is at the heart of the Rule of Saint Benedict."

I can't help thinking that Summorum Pontificum was a great boost for contemplative communities. Monasteries are by nature slow moving but those monasteries which have adopted the Usus Antiquior seem to be the ones which are thriving. As one elderly French monk once said to me "the old Rite gave us less time to think about squabbling and less to squabble over." I kmow some monasteries use the same Office as secular clergy, it hardly seems to form "liturgical people".

Saint-Benoît is a tiny, almost embryonic monastery, their community has been borne out of a reat deal of suffering, it has been in gestation for a number of years, it came to birth on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception last year. I was touched by the final words of the Prior in the interview, when asked about the future:
It holds the next monastic office, the next opportunity to exercise fraternal charity amongst the brethren, the next occasion to endure suffering in faith and hope, the next opportunity to welcome as Christ the person who comes to the monastery who perhaps is not even aware of the need to search for God. And if I am faithful to what the Rule commands of me in each of these circumstances, the future holds – no, it promises – that God shall be praised and found, and that in this I shall be more conformed to Him.


You might enjoy this film about a wheelchair bound woman who goes on pilgrimage to Lourdes, it was on BBC 4 yesterday, it is French.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Varsi and the Church

The visit of Baroness Warsi to the Holy See was greeted as a success by both Church and State, the Baroness said broadly the right things that seemed to please the Secretarite of State, things like the European Constitution ought to have had a reference to God or even Christianity in it. It comes in the wake of David Cameron's statement about Britain being a Christian country and at the same time as the Queen spoke about the necissity of the CofE in safeguarding religious interests in the UK.

Here in Brighton as the financial cuts bite on the homeless and the poor it is apparent that the State expects "faith based communities" to plug holes. It seems that the logic of atheism, as far as governments or economists are concerned has lost its attraction; atheism tends not to feed the hungry or even educate the young or do much for the elderly. Even sociologists might start realising that atheism does not have a binding effect -re-ligere, to bind together- in a "broken" society.

Government needs religion but does religion need government? I always feel uneasy at the sight of bishops in the train of those who hold power; religion always seems to come off worst.

In any society bishops and those in power should be at peace, the ancient understanding of the bishop ruling the "inner mysteries" the spiritual and moral life of people and the Emperor or the State ruling the "outer mysteries" enforcing justice and morality created a positive tension. Now, the State wants to re-shape the very building blocks of society, in the US it is government wanting to impose its women's "health" agenda on the Church, at home it is the redefinition of marriage and family. Already through Connexions it is suggested contraception and abortion have been introduced to some if not all of schools, with the Pastors turning a blind eye or refusing to investigate.

For an immigrant Church, unfortunately I think we are still that, I think there is a danger in a yearning for respectability and pretending that access to power is the same as power or even influence. When supping with the devil there is always the danger that you yourself become supper.

We are called to "render unto Caesar .." to "pray for the Emperor" to be obedient to the laws of the state but we also have the example of John the Baptist speaking to truth unto power and paying the consequences with his head and Jesus himself suffering under Pilate. Always, in the presence of power the Church is asked to concede or to be silent. The example of Chrysostom, Ambrose, Becket, Fisher etc., etc. is that Bishops have always to be seen as first of all teachers of the faith and as witnesses to it.

Am I the only one who wonders quite what the pay off for the Warsi visit was? I am sure that friendship between the Church and our government is important, it is important that co-operation exists, that we accept the good intentions of those in government but it is also important that we draw a clear distinction between the ends of government and the ends of the Church, they are quite different. It is also important we do not allow quite negotiations in the halls of power to obscure a bishops real job of teaching in clear and distinct terms the message of Christ and his Church, the former is not a replacement for the latter.

It strikes me that it is easy to simply leave the faithful confused by too "nuanced" a message from our leaders. I'm confused by the apparent volte-face over civil partnerships; are we really supposed to believe the subtle arguments of Catholic Voices, if so is it really the role of a bishop to be so obscurantist so unclear in his teaching? I am confused by the Soho Masses, I am concerned by the screaming silence over the redefinition of marriage, by the failure of any teaching document on the subject; by sex education in our schools, by the role of Connexions in them. I am confused by Cafod's involvement with government, other aid agencies and condoms. I am confused about the involvement of former Catholic adoption agencies and their present involvement with the Church, are we now supporting those things which we actually don't? What about euthanasia and the Liverpool Pathway.

In all these things where the our bishops and the government have been speaking there is confusion and a lack of clarity, in many ways a sense that we condone policies inimical to the Faith.
As my grandmother used to say, "You can tell a man by those he company with". Ultimate the questions are about clarity, credibility, truth and transparency.


I am very pleased with the Parish Graphic Design Team, alright, it is really Crawf, Clare's husband who is a professional Graphic Designer who succumbs to his wife's feminine wiles and magics us up something pretty good, most of the time he is working on films or tv. I like the posters he has produced for us, especially this one for James MacMillan's talk.

At the beginning of every weekend I go to the back of the church and replace last week's newsletter with the new crop, and I am always rather disappointed by how many are left. Although to be realistic I should be surprised at how many are actually taken. I admit it myself, they are boring, the content is boring, the appearance is boring, they are produced on a photocopier that invariably scrunches up the copies, the reproduction is less than "sharp" and the paper is cheap.

My newsletter is pretty much like any other Church communication. A priest friend says he reads his diocesan newspaper on a Friday because it is a penance. The same could be said of Vatican documents.

A pre-concilliar understanding would identify the Church as a worshipping community and the priest as the offering the Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead, post-VII, amongst other images, the Church is the Herald of the Gospel or the Kingdom, the priest is now ordained "to proclaim the Gospel", and the truth is that in Europe and in the US we have been pretty bad at communicating the Gospel, at catechesis and the spiritual and moral formation of our people and clergy.

Obviously the best way, the most effective way of Evangelisation is by personal witness, and we are rubbish at that but then human beings always have been from the time of the Apostles onwards, yet "God chooses the weak ...". Rightly we are told not prepare our defence when called before kings and governors and yet the last two Popes have urged us to electronic and other media. It seems to me that for an organisation that is concerned about communication, mission, the good news, proclamation, we need to invest in getting our message over.

Our 150th celebrations have made me think about how we convey information, I've just order a new colour printer for the parish and I have been signing cheques to printing companies for posters and handouts, and I have been thinking about how to use people in the parish who have communication skills and how to interact with local news networks - newspapers, radio etc. It is a bit of a learning curve because my own default position like most priests is "no fuss" and "do it is cheaply as possible".

Our diocese is trying to encourage people to get out and knock on doors, in most places that is fine but I'm not convinced that in my parish that that is safe, there are far too many people in multiply occupied houses and far too many people who never open their front door to strangers, the inner city is different, people interact differently than in places where people have their own front door and garden. For us, therefore finding ways of calling or inviting people into the Church is even more important.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why choose the Traditional Mass to start an evangelisation initiative?

Why choose the Traditional Mass to start an evangelisation initiative? That is really what we have done by choosing it to open our 150th Anniversary Celebrations. Our celebrations are about inviting people into or back to the Church and to be honest those are coming to speak are coming to explain why we worship and believe as we do.
There is an item on today's Gloria news cast from the Trent diocese newspaper which suggests the exact opposite of what we are doing, I am afraid we ar trying to create a spectacle.
In part we have followed what happened when our curch opened the nave, until then everyone was crammed onto the sanctuary, with altar on the south side of what was to become the Lady Chapel. Then they employed professional singers and an orchestra, they had the Haydn Imperial Mass* (the Nelson Mass), we can't afford that so it is Schubert in G for us. But it seems that they wanted to encourage people to come and gawp or be awed by unfamiliar Catholic spectacle. They simply wanted people to come, to take pleasure in what was happening, to be moved, to find others were praying around them and experiencing our first High Mass as a profound spiritual but also cultural and sensual experience.
We deliberately followed our fore-fathers' example: the structure, the ceremonial are most probably almost as unfamiliar to Catholics today as they were to Brighton Protestants 150 years ago. It would seem that the nave of the church was built for the growing number of Catholics in the town but also to draw in non-Catholics who might be moved by seeing the Catholic Church at worship.
It is easy to forget that so much of the missionary work of the Church was done through its worship and the old Mass; the people of Kent were moved by Augustine's chanting monks, the Jesuits were rowed up South American rivers to the sound of violins, flutes and voices. Engaging the heart and senses seems to have been the first act of missionaries in the past, using beautiful music, stimulating a sense of wonder, causing people to reflect and to be still, to recognise God as Beauty, to look for his presence in their hearts.

In the newsletter last Sunday -space was a bit short- I put this:
Why are we using the Older Form of Mass to open our 150th Anniversary Celebration?

• Because we want you to bring friends along - both religious and non-religious, Catholics and others.
• We want to present worship that is beautiful and part of our ancient liturgical Tradition.
• We want something that presents the essence of the Catholic Faith simply and experientially rather than word based.
• Something which is deeply rooted in our western cultural tradition and where the music will be part of the celebration rather than an adjunct to it.
• Something that can be approached on many different levels by different types of people.
I suppose I should have stressed that people should try and invite youmger people rather those who have had 40 years of having this type of celebration art the arts that surrounded it rubbished.

*We can't afford to put on the Nelson, we are settling for Schubert in G

Some Needy Monks

I have some friends who are founding a new monastery, using the Usus Antiquior. The bishop has given them his blessing and a church but their resources are quite limited; buying a fridge, some beds and a few tools has more or less emptied their purse. They have found some choirstalls, going really cheap, but as they are rather big and heavy the transport costs are very high, they need 3,000 Euros which cover the stalls, transport and re-furbishment and erecting them in their church.
Yes, they look awful but these are resourceful monks!
At the moment they want to remain anonymous but if you can help contact me and I will pass on your details.
They have almost enough money promised for the stalls and have gone to collect them.

If you want to become a donor for future projects I'll pass on your details.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dawkins Googlie

It is cruel to mock but I was amused by the pompous old "high Pope of Darwinism", Dicky Dawkins whose doctoral thesis "The ontogeny of a pecking preference in domestic chicks" was rather overlooked in '68 when everyone else was rioting, was bowled a rather nice googlie by the slightly less pompous Giles Fraser on BBC's Today Programme.

Listen here

Schubert, a Bus and James MacMillan At Our 150th

We are kicking off our 150th anniversay celebrations of the opening of our church  on February 27th at 7.30pm with a Missa Solemnis, the preacher is the renowned teacher of dogmatic theology, newspaper agony uncle, prolife priest, blogger etc etc. Fr Tim Finigan.
The music is going to be pretty spectacular too: Schubert in G, a bit of Bruckner and a new Tu Es Petrus by the young Oxford composer Tom Bennett, who is also singing with some other Oxford young professionals, together with local semi-professional who kindly help us out occasionally, and also help out Gus Christie at Glyndebourne.

On Sunday, 4th March at 12pmish, after our sung Mass we are blessing Brighton and Hove's "Mother Riccarda" bus, named after our prospective saint.

Then on Friday 9th March at 7.30pm James MacMillan is lighting the touch-paper on a series of talks/lectures with the “The Future of Music, Modernity and the Sacred; a composers perspective”. I like James' music but I also like the way he talks, I like how faith touches his art.

Everyone is welcomed to come to the and James's talk and to any of the events that happening later on such as Mgr Andrew Wadsworth Secretary of ICEL who will be speaking give a talk "The Future of the Liturgy" on Tuesday 1st May aqnd Aidan Nichols OP the Balthazaar and Ratzinger scholar who will be speaking on Thursday 7th June on "The Future of the Chuch in England".
Mgr Keith Newton of the Ordinariate has agreed to come to speak about "The Future of Ecumenism" and Fr Alexander Sherbrooke on "The Future of Evangelisation".

Yes, put the dates in your diary, and come, the Church really comes to life when there is standing room only.

Bishops' statement on the Ramsgate Sale

There is a statement on Bishop's website: Church Treasures Saved on the Ramsgate sale.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Atheist Manifesto

After a bitter sour atheist stopped prayers before council meetings in Bideford, we are reminded just how frail a grip Christianity has on its ancient place in the public forum in Britain.
Paulinus speculates on what form an atheist manifesto might take:

[1] No public prayers or religious services as part of public life. This includes the end of the Remembrance Service each year – 'remembrance' is a private act and everyone should be allowed to do it in their own way. The State has no role conducting or organising ‘spiritual’ acts in any way.
[2] All schools to pass to secular control. No religion to be taught in schools, but also all mention of religion, including any anti-religious texts to be removed. No spiritual or moral guidance about behaviour to be given at all. These are private matters and not a matter for the State
[3] As a matter of justice, of course, the communities that paid the capital costs for schools should be recompensed for the nationalisation of schools.
[4] The removal of all art, painting, sculpture, books or films with any mention of religion- either pro- or anti- to be removed from public libraries and galleries (this will include Bibles, Korans, Works of Philosophy with religious , anti-religious or metaphysical themes, religious works of art and anti-religious works of art). No public funding for any art , theatre or film with a religious, or for that matter anti-religious subject. This is not the business of the State.
read more

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why are those Yanks so different?

It is annoying when other people make a point you intended to make - and make it better! Fr Sean has done it.
All this fuss in the US about the Catholic Church paying for abortions, sterilisations, contraception and so forth, in England the Church has been doing it for years, without  a word of protest or a blink of the eye.
Admittedly in our own dear country, first of all the Health Servce was introduced, precisely to fund medical care, only gradually were other things added to the mix, until now the NHS kills babies in the womb and we are on the brink of it killing the old and infirmed.
It is alright though, we are not alone, "Health" Services in the rest of Europe are more-or-less the same.
As Catholics instinctively we support the American Catholic bishops but if we do, then what about our own situation?

What worries the Bishops of the US does not worry our own European Bishops, even those in the Roman Curia who happily sign cheques without a single moral qualm for Health Insurance yet to not do so their brothers across the pond seem willing to go into open rebellion against the Obama regime.

It doesn't worry us or our bishops at all but their action reflects back to us our own lack of moral perception and hardness of heart. Why should something so distasteful in the US be so acceptable in the UK?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Hale Chalice and Pugin Bequest Saved but What is Lost?

A fine and rare Charles I recusant silver-gilt chalice by William Rainbow, 1633, the hexafoil base engraved with The Passion of Christ, all six panels within engraved gadroon borders, the domed centre rising to a hexagonal disc and with a similar stem divided by a fluted and pierced knop with 6 lozenge shaped bosses, the tapering bowl with later Latin inscription "MOMENTO DOMINE GENTIS CANTUAR : HALES AVITIS ARIS SAVA" "PER TEMPORA FIDELIS ERTINCTA A.C. MDCCCLXXXV"

The Carologianian Chalice which had been in use at Masses for the now extinct Hale family from Canterbury along with various items that were definitely left Pugin to St Augustines Church have had at least a temporary reprieve from the hands of the auctioneer. A great deal  of embarassment has been caused to the auctioneers but still, lesser objects are up for sale like the ciborium inscribed on the underside:
"Pray for the Soul of Patrick John Brady R.A.F. Killed in Action 9th August 1941",
or the chalice illustrated below simply asking for prayer for "H.L." with the date.
There are numerous other ex voto objects with similiar inscription, collectively they probably wont raise more than a few thousand pounds but they were given for a particular purpose, to be at service of the altar. They are not significant, not important, simply the gifts of the ordinary people.

Possibly amonst the other objects are bits and pieces of Pugin's gift to the Abbey Church, St Augustine's which itself was a ex voto offering, there is no proof, just the probability that other Hardman made and Pugin designed aricles were intended as gifts to the Church, now they are going under the hammer.

The Abbot of Chilworth has consented to withdraw some of the "significant" items but it strikes me that all the items are significant, yes even chalices given to the monastery for now no longer remembered monks. Families who have given ex voto a son, would give the monastery ex voto a chalice for his use.Now the sacred object, the holy and venerable chalice he had held in hands is to be sold. The monastery through necessity has had to move from Ramsgate to Chilworth, they left the bodies of their dead behind, now another link has been cast off.

The Fifth Commandment says, "Honour your mother and father, and you will live long in the land". It is not just about parents it is about rootedness and belonging. We have a future, if we have a past. That which was counted holy by previous generation cannot suddenly be discarded - or sent to the auctioneers.
Monks of old knew the importance of remembering and it was for this reason they were entrusted with memories; the bodies of the dead, the writining of the Chronicles and the preservation of book and treaties, wills and laws; in many places even the instruments of Royalty and king-making. The reason was that they were trusted, trusted to value the past so that their might be a future. 

It is quite significant that in Rome at the moment a conference about child abuse is going on,. Over that issue what we have lost is "trust", the result of the scandal is that Bishops and Priests and the heads of religious orders have shown themselves to betray trust.
Over this auction we have lost trust. For people called to proclaim the Gospel "trust" is essential, if we are to be credible witnesses to Christ. If things given to us on trust are treated as trivial and discarded easily, then we break trust and show ourselves untrustworthy.
If we are not trustworthy then we have nothing of value to say.
The great crisis of the Church today is simply that we have lost our credibility as witnesses. If we cannot be trusted in small things we cannot be trusted in great.

Let us pray for those who have given us things on trust.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Dominic Winter Auctioneers on the Fence over Ramsgate

I rang the auctioneers Dominic Winter about the sale of the Ramsgate cache today just to ask if the auction is going ahead tomorrow.
It is!

Dominic Winter are certainly concerned that they are in the middle between the monastic community and everyone else, I suggested, like a "fence", which caused an in take of breath, they assured me that they had done everything possible to make sure they were staying the right side of the law, at least civil law but apparently the Abbot has not been answering the telephone. I feel for them, all the chalices they are selling are poisoned  and for a reputable auction house, which I am sure they are, this sale is beginning to damage their reputation quite seriously and the damage will grow, as it receives more publicity, unfortunately.

The Pugin Society had written to Dominic Winter several days ago, telling them that the Abbot had no right to sell property that belonged to the Pugin bequest to the Church in Ramsgate - their letter was sent to me and is printed below.
By the late afternoon they received no reply, apparently because of the difficulty of contacting the Abbot. I have emailed him too and received no reply, as have others. Concern over the sale of the heritage of the Church seems not to have broken through the walls of the cloister.

There have been further developments, apparently even if items are sold a group of Southwark priests is examining the possibility of finding legal means to get items like the recussant Hales Chalice back, which could be eventually be very costly for the monastic community, if they are forced to buy back property they have sold which they have no right to, especially if the also have to find the buyers premium.

A Canon Lawyer is trying to discover whether the Abbot and community has sought the necessary permissions from the Holy See to sell valuable and historic artefacts - apparently if it has not been done correctly there could be a huge fine payable - basically the profit from the sale. See Fr Mildew for details of Canons - and for more information. Fr Clifton has really worked hard on this.

All is made more complicated by the fact that the monastery owns land in Kent on which parish churches have been built, so the diocese of Southwark is afraid that the monastery might sell land, literally from under them and I am sure that the monastery is rather afraid that the £2 million they are trying to raise for their new monastery is going to dry up if people see that benefactions are treated with scant respect and it is also a little messy as the Southwark diocesan priest given responsibility for sorting out Ramsgate parish property ended up by joining the monastery within weeks of doing so.

Tomorrow in the Times there should be letter about the sale, probably not favourable to the community.

I understand a number of priests are intending to bid against one another, which should raise the prices but they might well have to give everything back, so be careful Fathers!

Letter from the Pugin Society
I am writing as Chairman of the Pugin Society in connection with your sale of 8th and 9th of February.

As stated in your catalogue, AWN Pugin built the church of St.
Augustine at Ramsgate at his own expense. He made a lifetime gift of the church to the Vicar Apostolic of London and ownership of the church subsequently passed to the Archdiocese of Southwark in 1851; who have owned the building since. At no time did the Benedictine Community at Ramsgate own the church.

He also gifted vestments and plate, as is attested in his correspondence.

I am of the belief that lots 425 (candlestick), lot 434 (sanctuary lamp), lot 453 (monstrance) and lot 478 (paten) are among the items gifted by Pugin to the church of St. Augustine and are therefore not the property of the Benedictine Community, and cannot be sold by them. This also applies to the cross and candlesticks illustrated on page 170 of the catalogue, and I would welcome clarification as to the status of these three objects.

Lot 35 (watercolour of the interior of St. Augustine*s) and lot 79 (portrait of Kenelm Digby) are items intimately connected with the history of the Grade I listed church and are vital to an understanding of its significance. I would respectfully suggest that their sale and dispersal are a degradation of the cultural and heritage value of this internationally recognised site.

I would very much appreciate your comment on the foregoing.

With thanks,
Yours faithfully,

MESSAGE OF BENEDICT XVI FOR LENT 2012: Fraternal Correction!

Rome Reports has the whole of the Pope's Lenten Message up, I thought this extract on fraternal correction was most interesting. How do we put into practice?
Fraternal correction seems to be entirely absent from contemporary Ecclessiology, its lack has meant that the Pope himself had to correct the Twowomba for example, or the CDF had to correct loonie theologians. One of the faults of the post-Concilliar Church though not of the Council is to make "ownership" of the faith a specialism rather than something which belongs to the whole Church.

“Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it.

Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction - elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness.

Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Queen's Accession, 1952

V. Domine, salvam fac reginam nostram Elisabeth.
R. Et exaudi nos in die, qua invocaverimus te.
Oremus. — Quæsumus omnipotens Deus, ut famula tua Elisabeth regina noistra, qui tua miseratione suscepit regni gubernacula, virtutum etiam omnium percipiat incrementa; quibus decenter ornata, et vitiorum monstra devitare, et ad te, qui via, veritas, et vita es, cum principe consorte et prole regia, gratiosa valeat pervenire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
R. Amen.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Group Masses

I am not interesting in condemning people for their sexual proclivities anymore than was the Lord himself when he was confronted with the adulteress but I think that it is interesting that in the comments that appeared on the previous post and elsewhere on the net about the Warwick Street Masses was the thought that this kind "customisation" could not possibly occur with the Trad Mass, it is something that seems to be exclusive to the Novus Ordo.

Again, as various commenters point out the problem is that the congregation is celebrating itself. It is the same thing as lies behind puppet or clown or balloon Masses, or even the great Solidarity Masses and political rallies of the 1970s in Poland. They are designed to include people but of course Masses designed for a particular group always excludes non-group members. Children's Masses exclude teenagers. Mass for Flemish speaking Belgiums excludes French speaking Belgiums. Many Poles who attend Polish Mass here would prefer to miss Mass than attend an English or even Latin Mass. I have a Nigerian friend who is very circumspect about celebrating Mass in the five or six local language he knows: they are divisive and sometimes lead to anger (rather than violence), he prefers English even for non-English speakers, though he is now discovering Latin.

We have always had Masses for particular groups. Guilds and trades would have had their own altars or chapels, often dedicated to their own patron, sometimes with vestments and other ornaments decorated with their own symbols but the Mass was always the Church's Mass, not theirs, it was always above personal or community ownership.

Is the Novus Ordo that different? The answer is really no! The problem is that we have so long flouted the Church's liturgical law, or taken a minimilistic approach to rubrics. Where do we get Mass facing the people from, when the Missal states clearly when the priest is to turn to face the people? Why do priests and those who organise liturgies choose songs, often with little reference to the Liturgy, rather the preferred option of the Enrance, Offertory and Communion Antiphons? Why do we metrical or highly rhythmical music?

It can be argued there is a radical difference in fidelity to the rubrics in the two Forms of the Roman Rite but then many priests before the Council seemed to have been quite cavalier about the use of the vernacular or omission of various payers, what is new is perhaps the addition of rites, but the very fact Pius XII warms against "liturgical archaeology" might suggest a trend to introduce things from the past.

One of the problems is readers. There is always going to be a problem with having a figure Tony Blair read in London, it is always going to change the dynamic of the Mass, as is having someone wearing gym clothes or a Chelsea football shirt - at least as far as a Spurs supporter is concerned. Indeed, I always have someone complain if two women read but then some different complains if two men read.
Bidding prayers too are problematic, but may be not so much so if the rules are followed carefully.

But in both Forms it is the homily which is most problematic, whether it is the Liberal in Soho preaching secular sexual ethics or the "Trad" at a Le Pen Front National Mass banging on about "France for the sons of Clovis". Perhaps we need less preaching and more catechesis.

Priests are always the problem!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

My Cowardism over Gay Masses

I saw this video here, yesterday and decided not to republish it, not primarily because I thought it would scandalise the little ones but because I was a little afraid of the reaction of some vague "establishment". I was cowardly; Fr  Tim has published it, I have taken courage from him.

The problem for so many priests is that we know these Masses apparently have the wholehearted support of Archbishop Nichols, or at least he will brook no criticism of them and indeed they were set up by another archbishop, Archbishop Longley, now of Birmingham, when he was an Auxiliary in Westminster under the direction of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. The impression is that they have the support of most of our bishops and indeed criticism is seriously frowned upon. That, in turn raises serious questions.

My serious objection is not that Mass is offered for a particular group. I am more than happy to offer Mass for the elderly, for children, for the sick, for women or men or particular language groups and yes, for men and women who are homosexual, or as the Catechism says, "have a same sex attraction". What I find scandalous, is that Mass is offered for a group of people who, as this video shows, obviously dissent from the teaching of the Church and gather primarily to challenge that teaching, rather than to worship. This does a serious disservice to those who struggle to make sense of their sexuality in the shadow of the Cross.

The Pope said to our bishops on their last Ad Limina Visit, "It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate".

Here indeed is not debate but dissent, which is going unchecked and those who challenge it are told by our most senior bishop, to "hold their tongue" and for his stance on these Masses claims the support of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.  This not about caring for "sexual minorities" but about giving license to a group within the Church that wishes to conform her doctrine to their own secular liberal agenda.

Then I suppose I could be wrong and simply be misunderstanding His Grace, but then a great number of clergy and laity are confused by the subtlety of his teaching, especially on this issue.
"Who knows what is down the road?"

Friday, February 03, 2012

Mother's Bus

Just had someone on the phone from the bus company, they named a bus after Mother Riccarda, my secretary had contacted them suggesting they might bring it along to be blessed.
Never done a bus before!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

150th Anniversary Lectures etc

This year we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the nave of the Church. There is a great High Mass of the Holy Spirit on the 27th of this month, with Fr Tim Finigan preaching, you know the normal type of thing Schubert's 2nd Mass in G with tympani and that sort of thing, along with a new Tu Es Petrus by a promising young composer Tom Bennett - good reviews in the musical press - and some brilliant young soloists.

Yes of course you can come.
The celebrations continue until the Feast of St Mary Magdaen in July, including, we hope a street party for the Queen's Jubilee and, if my prayers work, 40 Hours during the Dublin Eucharist Congress. I need young men to pray through the night - how do I get them?
The answer is obvious: ask Our Lady to find them.

What I'm most pleased with, however, is getting the following to agree to come and speak, it is so kind of them:
Msgr. Andrew R. Wadsworth
Mgr Andrew Wadsworth the Secretary of ICEL

James MacMillan one of the world leading contemporary composers

Mgr Keith Newton of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Fr. Aidan Nichols O.P.
Fr Aidan Nichols: the Balthazarian and Ratzingerian scholar and prolific author and thinker

The man who made it happen: Fr Sherbrooke (Photo: Andrew Stuart)
Fr Alexander Sherbrooke the Parish Priest of St Patrick's Soho and founder of the School of Evangelisation

Here is the Facebook page, though I hate Facebook,
and there should be a blog too soon.
We want to get as many people here as possible, so yes, do come and bring friends.

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...