Friday, August 31, 2012

CCC Colloquium: 2012

One of the high points of last year for me was the first Colloquium of the Confraternity Catholic Clergy in Reading, we had about 60 priests turn up, with some really excellent talks from Bishop Mark Davies and Mgr Andrew Wadsworth. The rather impressive Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett, from Australia also attended.

This year's Colloquium promises to be even better, I understand our Nuncio had wanted to come but the was a clash of dates, but Archbishop Augustine Di Noia from the CDW and the newly ordained Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth is coming to speak.
If you are a member of the Confraternity book here. The dates are 23/24th October. If you are a priest and your not a member, join: its only £20 and the cost of the Colloquium is £40.

Over the last year the Confraternity has been steadily growing so it is expected that the numbers this year should go up to about 100, for the most part the younger clergy of England and Wales.

What is missing?

What is missing?

The first image is from a Irish Jesuit vocations poster, the second for the diocese of Derry.
I became a priest because I wanted to follow Jesus Christ and give him my whole life.

Is Jesus Christ missing from the Irish Church and the priesthood there? From these two efforts one could well be led to believe so.
Pretty well gives us a clue to what is at the heart and soul of the Church, eh?
Thanks to Rorate

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Canary in the Mine

Gaudium et Spes suggests that diocese should share or pool priests, it also encourages priests to work abroad, especially to help dioceses that through the newness of the Christian faith or because of persecution do not have enough priests. In some diocese in Ireland, as I reported here are substituting lay led services for Mass, and bringing about a great deal of confusion, others are importing priests from those places which are rich in vocations. There is a story about the diocese of Cork and Ross doing exactly that in the Irish Examiner. It certainly solves a problem of ensuring Mass is available but I must say I am uneasy about it.

There was a bit of a scandal a few years ago about the NHS recruiting midwives from Africa, the scandal was in some parts of Africa babies died because the midwives who had received their education and training in their homeland and should have been attending their births were working in Britain. For me that was an important "Life" issue. Higher salaries in Britain robbed African children of life!

It is slightly different, perhaps, with priests but perhaps simply bringing in priests from abroad is just patching a problem rather solving it. If a local Church isn't producing enough priests for its needs, there would appear to be a root and branch problem that touches the very heart of a Church's health. If a local Church isn't producing enough priests for its needs doesn't it indicate that it simply has lost the vision of the Catholic faith that sees the priesthood and the sacraments as life-giving?

I would suggest that an absence of vocations indicates a very serious problem with the sacraments, with the celebration of the liturgy, with the preaching of the Gospel itself, in a parish or most especially in a diocese. If there are no young men offering themselves for the priesthood, it is more than likely that there likely to be an absence of those wanting to embrace marriage -as the Church understands it- and to live a Christian family life, there is also likely to be a serious problem with every other area of Christian discipleship, including catechists and catholic teachers.

Vocations to the priesthood are like the canary in the mine, they are the first thing to die in an unhealthy environment. If in a few years a diocese will have only a handful of priests then within a generation the number of committed Catholics is going to match more or less the number of those priests. A shortage of priests should indicate the importance not of a clever management plan to manage decline but a radical audit as to whether and how the Catholic faith is being passed on. If it is being preached but not accepted then the Gospels give us a simple answer, "Shake the dust from your" and go elsewhere. We don't take that bit of the Gospel very seriously, today. Priest should not be museum keepers, preserving buildings and structures that no longer give life.

Maybe, simply acknowledging that the food that has been given in the recent past has not nourished or that the vine is too sick to produce fruit or that the workmen are simply not up to the task is something we as a Church are not good at but making such judgements seems to be part of the process of Evangelisation, as does shaking dust from feet.

My modest alternative proposal to lay-led services or importing priests is simple, import foreign bishops! If a diocese doesn't have enough priests or faces a steep decline, the problem must be with the "High Priest","the Chief Catechist", the Bishop. It seems pretty pointless to bring in Polish, Filipino or African priests only to have them drawn into a clerical culture that does not produce fruit, what is needed is a change of that culture, which only a bishop from outside can bring about.

Decollation of St John the Baptist

The new Missal heads today's memorial as "The Passion of St John the Baptist but it is quite unlike Christ's Passion.
I presume we are supposed to compare and contrast our own Christian community's Spirit filled lives with the live of Herod's court. It is all very disturbing, febrile with sexual tension; incestuous adultery with Herodias Philip's wife, the presence of Salome a young girl, presumably Philip's daughter, who dances so provocatively and delightfully and at a drunken party, even orgy,  for army officers and courtiers.
At he same time Herod is fascinated by what John has to say and protects John but can't protect him from this child and her mother, and more, from his own weakness of character. He is so weak and decadent that he promises half his kingdom to dancing child, he is driven entirely by his appetites.

For many in the Greco-Roman world, this vignette of the Herodian court was mirrored in the decadence of their own governors.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's Mass by any other name: stealth priestesses?

There is a very interesting piece from the Irish Independent entitled "It's Mass by any other name as women lead faithful in prayer". It and the comments following it seem to show a very serious problem in Irish Catholicism. It is about a Sunday lay led Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion. Today too, the Archbishop of Liverpool commissioned some lay people to conduct funeral services in the absence of a priest.

Increasingly in the Europe we are going to be faced with not having enough priests to celebrate Mass on Sundays. There are it strikes me several possibilities.

  1. What happened in this particular parish, a deacon or lay led Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion. 
  2. Some other liturgical action takes place such as the singing of the Divine Office. and people "fast" from the Eucharist because their community does not have a priest. Or some other liturgical action takes place such as the singing of the Divine Office. and Holy Communion is distributed.
  3. Nothing happens in a particular church and people are expected, if they can, to travel to the nearest Church where there is Mass
The problem is well illustrated by this story, the deacon or lay led Liturgy of the Word celebrations with the distribution of Holy Communion are mistaken for something "as good as Mass" by both journalists and ordinary lay people. This underlines the serious implications of the loss of an understanding of a sacrificial understanding of the Mass, and consequently the priest as being no more than the compere or community leader, indeed someone whose place can be taken by a deacon or lay-person with little or no loss.
The form and structure of such lay led services, which mirror the Mass in everything but the Eucharistic Prayer, only seem to add to the confusion.
The use of women as leaders of such services circumvents the debate we should have, and which most Protestant communities have had, as to whether the Catholic and Apostolic faith actually allows for the oversight, the episkope, of lay women. It is not something which has ever happened in either the East or West, it is something new, we seem to be making a huge theological leap without much thought or debate.
Well, maybe that is not quite correct, I am sure that many liberal theologians have thought this through quite seriously and see it as indeed a way of introducing female priests through the back door.

Be Brave, Brothers, Face East!

The Assumption Grotto in the US has removed its forward facing altar, so all Masses are now celebrated facing East. The Rector writes:
When I carefully studied the book The Spirit of the Liturgy by then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), I realized that we ought to be facing East once again and not towards the people since that position inadvertently created a “closed circle” that did not aim towards heaven, towards God (East), but towards man (symbolically indicating that man and not God was the focal point of the Mass). In the early years of my pastorship here, the low altar was used variously: first, facing the people; then facing East; and then, with a move of the altar farther back some feet towards the main altar, with the priest still facing East. We were getting progressively more in line with an ideal.

Over time I began to think it foolish for us to use the low altar while neglecting the church’s original. In addition, there was a problem having two altars. There ought to be only one altar prominent (main) in a church, not two. Moreover, for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass (now once again available to us), the low altar kept getting in our liturgical way.

Fine, you may say, but what is to be done should a visiting priest want to celebrate Mass facing the people? We have already provided for that in having readily available an altar that can be set in place in a matter of minutes. It too is suitably made, containing an true altar stone and thus worthy of Holy Mass.
It makes sense, there was apparently talk, there is always talk of course, in the CDW of issuing a statement/decree about the unicity of altars, only having one, on a sanctuary or in a side chapel. It was really designed to promote the use of original High Altars and promote eastward or apsidum facing Mass. The idea was dropped because of course it would have meant more destruction and most probably of the old altar rather than its johnny-come-lately sanctuary-mate. However having two altars, one in front of another, on a sanctuary is just a destructive sign of "the altar" which is the sign of Christ, the Rock.

The problem with anyone who has read Ratzinger on the liturgy, and takes him seriously, a has serious problems with not facing East. A few brave souls have actually started to celebrate this way, I have most of the Masses celebrated here face east, people asked for it after we had the sanctuary floor up for a month and it was impossible to say Mass facing the people, but I think most other clergy, those who have not read modern liturgical authors tend to regard it as more than eccentric. Most bishops would regard it as totally bizarre, and be suspicious of priests who celebrate Mass this way, indeed I suspect that Fr Perrone's "wheel on" altar is really for visiting bishops. The truth is that facing either direction is a free choice for any priest, in the Ordinary Form, it is as much an option as the choice of Eucharistic Prayer or Penitential Rite. It isn't like the choice between using the Introit or substituting a hymn where the preference should always be for the appropriate liturgical text.

I have been hunting on the net for the CDW response to an American who wanted to forbid priests in his diocese from celebrating Mass facing "ad apsidum" and was told he could not.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

From The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

From The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, a letter to be read at all Masses today, on what has been designated "National Marriage Sunday":
In all things, we as Catholics look to Jesus Christ as our model and teacher. When asked about marriage He gave a profound and rich reply: “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, ‘made them male and female’, and said: ‘This is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two become one body’.” (Matthew, 19: 4-5) In the Year of Faith, which begins this October, we wish to place a special emphasis on the role of the family founded on marriage. The family is the domestic Church, and the first place in which the faith is transmitted. For that reason it must have a primary focus in our prayerful considerations during this period of grace. We write to you having already expressed our deep disappointment that the Scottish Government has decided to redefine marriage and legislate for same-sex marriage. We take this opportunity to thank you for your past support in defense of marriage and hope you will continue to act against efforts to redefine it. We reaffirm before you all the common wisdom of humanity and the revealed faith of the Church that marriage is a unique life-long union of a man and a woman. In circumstances when the true nature of marriage is being obscured, we wish to affirm and celebrate the truth and beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and family life as Jesus revealed it; to do something new to support marriage and family life in the Catholic community and in the country; and to reinforce the vocation of marriage and the pastoral care of families which takes in the everyday life of the Church in dioceses and parishes across the country. For that reason, in the forthcoming Year of Faith we have decided to establish a new Commission for Marriage and the Family. This Commission will be led by a bishop and will be composed mostly of lay men and women. The Commission will be charged with engaging with those young men and women who will be future husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and with those who already live out their vocation to marriage and parenthood in surroundings which often make it hard to sustain and develop the full Catholic family life we cherish. We wish to support too, those who are widowed, separated and divorced and all who need to feel the Church’s maternal care in the circumstances in which they find themselves. The new Commission will promote the true nature of marriage as both a human institution and a union blessed by Jesus. The Commission will be asked to develop an online presence so that prayer, reflection, formation and practical information on matters to do with marriage and family life can be quickly accessible to all. It will also work to produce materials and organise events which will support ordinary Catholic families in their daily lives. During the course of the coming year we will ask for your support for these initiatives. Our faith teaches us that marriage is a great and holy mystery. The Bishops of Scotland will continue to promote and uphold the universally accepted definition of marriage as the union solely of a man and a woman. At the same time, we wish to work positively for the strengthening of marriage within the Church and within our society. This is an important initiative for all our people, but especially our young people and children. We urge you to join us in this endeavour. Pray for your own family every day, and pray for those families whose lives are made difficult by the problems and cares which they encounter. Finally, we invite you to pray for our elected leaders, invoking the Holy Spirit on them, that they may be moved to safeguard marriage as it has always been understood, for the good of Scotland and of our society.
I am sure that something similar will come from our own bishops soon.

Masons at Mass

There was a Mass for Freemasons in Brazil!

In Britain there was a period shortly after the Council when there was confusion over whether or not a Catholic could be a Freemason. English Mason are different from the anti-clerical church burning clergy murdering atheists of the continent. If they are anti-Catholic then it is only in that English way of preferring religion to be controlled by act of Parliament rather than God himself.

There was a time when Freemasons were strong and significant influence amongst the Anglican bishops, and Protestantism generally and indeed every part the establishment, amongst the police and local magistracy they were at one time apparently quite pernicious. Now it seems in England their Lodges are almost empty.

However the ban on Catholics being Freemasons, or more correctly the declaration that Masons are in a state of grave sin and are not permitted to receive Holy Communion was not restricted to any geographical area or groups of Masons that espouse any particular cause, it was applied to all Masons, everywhere.

The problem is not so much with the secrecy of Freemasonry or even their strange rites, to suggest that they are ultimately Satanists as some Catholic writers do seems to be a little far fetched. The problem is a little more fundamental than all that. It is simply that Masonry teaches equality of belief. Freemasonry comes directly from age that gave birth to the Revolutionary "virtues" of  liberté, égalité, fraternité, especially the last, "brotherhood".

There is a "Supreme Architect", a positive force within the universe, his design is mediated throughout history and throughout the world, there seems to be an influence of 18th century Deists here, who taught God was in everything. The problem for Catholics, and indeed all Christians, unless of course that Christianity has been shaped by Masonry, is that Jesus Christ is not the unique revelation of the God, but one of the revelations, along with Osiris, Mohammed, Buddha or whoever or whatever. The value of these teachers is not so much in who they were, as Jesus, the Son of God, would be for a Catholic, but what they said or taught, but always seen through the Masonic lens of universal Brotherhood. Thus Jesus is important but only in so far as he taught love of neighbour. Thus Masonry seriously subverts Christianity.

The progress through the various "degrees" of Masonry is there to teach adherents that the principle mark of the "Architect" is Brotherhood, which is really at the heart of so many 18th century documents, such as the American Constitution or the writings of the French Revolutionaries, almost reaching it zenith in the writings of Tom Paine. As one progresses through the the "degrees" it seems that one is confronted by one's fears and taboos in order to find liberty.

The accusation of Satanism within Free Masonry isn't really well founded, except in so far as it is one of the taboos or fears that needs to be confronted, and as we might say today "worked through" on the way to "liberty"; freedom from religious constraint. Masonry comes from the same stable as the English libertine "Hell Fire Club" which had as a basic principle a freedom from sexual or moral constraint, at its worst Masonries principles of "Brotherhood at all costs" is present in the post French Revolutions Terror.

Neither the Hell Fire Club or the spirit of the Terror are present in English provincial Masonic Lodges and indeed Christian prayers might well be said by the local Anglican vicar but at its heart is the teaching that Jesus is not uniquely the Son of God, this is the grave sin of a Catholic who embraces Freemasonry, this is what makes it impossible for him to be in communion with the Catholic Church.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Retouching the face of Christ

Damaged: Moisture in the church caused the surface of the fresco to deteriorate

Presumably you have heard of the Spanish woman who decided the picture of the face of Christ in her local church was a little damaged and so thought she would do a little re-touching.

It ended up like this:
'Repaired': The image bears more resemblance to a character from Planet of the Apes than to Jesus after a woman in her 80's 'repaired' it without permission
The story is rich in metaphors. I'd hate to think what else this old lady might get up to in her parish.
I am sure the same or worst would happen if the parish priest got his paint brush out but I rather think he has a responsibility for preserving the face of Christ but if the image is lost or damaged or obscured by old ladies... what then?

It should have looked like this
:Original: Elias Garcia Martinez's 'Ecce Homo', which has been admired by worshippers at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Zaragoza, Spain, for more than 120 years

Friday, August 24, 2012

One of the kindest things

It is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor 80th birthday today and so today he relinquishes his role as a voting member of the Conclave and as member of the Congregation for Bishops.

As the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton he ordained me and showed me and many others so many acts of kindness. He cared for his priests.
He gave me permission to try my vocation as a monk and after a few months came down to the monastery and spent a few days on retreat, we talked quite a bit about God and prayer but never whether I was I going to stay or come back to the diocese, he said, "I just wanted to come and be with you". It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.
It is sad that a few months later his kindness to another of his priests did so much damage to him as Archbishop of Westminster.

Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli's little leaflets

At the back of Saint Ambrose and Charles on the Corso in Rome there are always a few people around a display of leaflets at the back of the church. They are attractively typeset but that is all, they are free, for the most part a single sheet, designed for anyone to read on the bus, apparently 2 million have given away.
What they are is simply put catechetical leaflets in question and answer form on various aspects of the faith.
They are written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli Rector of the International Ecclesiastical College.

Richard Collins says they are on-line on the San Carlo website, see the side bar.

Thank you Richard.

I think they would be very useful on the back of a newsletter or used in a discussion group.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Of Serpents and Ophicleides

Bring back the serpent? Is the title of a post on Chant Cafe, really I suppose to show some rather amusing pictures, mainly of ophicleide players.
Before the Solesmes' study and reforms under Guaranger chant was sung very badly; people had forgotten how to read square notes, there was no one understanding of how it should be sung. There are accounts of choirmasters in the 19th century beating time slowly with a stick, literally, like a metronome, every note having equal value, every syllable stressed. In other places neums were sung like conventional round note notation forcing treating single notes as crotchets and joined notes as quavers.
Quite how the accompaniment was done on these brass instruments again varied, rather like beating time with a stick it seems as if the playing was rather staccato.

Both these instruments could be substituted for the contemporary guit-box.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Last Jesuit

Father Hugh Thwaites SJ has died: pray for him, may he rest in peace.
Quite fitting he should leave this world during the Octave of the Assumption and on the eve of the feast of his beloved Queen and Mother.

Someone once described him as the last of the English Jesuits, some thought of him as a living saint, some of his Jesuit confreres would just roll their eyes at the mention of his name.

He was wonderfully eccentric, I remember a balding friend of mine being told by him to get a scrubbing brush and to vigorously scrub his scalp everyday, my friend thought it was advice to stop hair loss, but just maybe it had something to do with asceticism.

When the English Jesuits became austerely rational and embraced everything modern Fr Hugh in a very Jesuit agere contra way seemed to go to the other extreme. I only met him occasionally but he was an important influence on many mutual friends, he taught people to live by faith. I remember a terrifying experience of being driven by him in a dreadful battered patched car, I think one of the wings and a door were a different colour to the rest, he said it had been given to him a by a drug dealer, when I expressed surprise, he said, "He is not a very wealthy drug dealer but he is repentant".

I am told that his course for converts was basically teaching people to say the Rosary. He would come out with extraordinary statements like, "Creation: I suppose God did it to please Our Lady". Which on one level is pietistic and yet really is deeply profound, it fits into his vision of the absolutely generous God who for the sake of one poor sinner, let alone his Mother, would create a world and pour out grace upon grace upon grace.

He had the extraordinary gift of inviting people people to abandon themselves to God, for some it was a terrifying prospect for others a true invitation to holiness. My thoughts of the Cure D'Ars are I think much coloured by Fr Hugh, both disconcerting figures. In the age of the "new evangelism" Fr Hugh was a wonderful example of the old Ignatian evangelism: he would live his faith, purely and simply and talk to anyone and everyone about God.

I hope that today's Jesuit will remember him fondly and grant him the funeral he would have wanted, in the traditional rite.

see Fr Eamon's reminiscences of him and there is is extract from his war-time memoirs here

from the comments:
The funeral Concelebration Mass of Father Hugh Thwaites SJ will be at Corpus Christi Church, 757 Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth BH 7 6AN on Friday 31 August at 12.00 noon

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Loss of Trust: the fruit of Modernism

Today is the memoria of St Pius X the great warrior against Modernism.

An interesting poll on Cramer's blog shows only 6% of people believe David Cameron is "in touch with the concerns of ordinary people". There are lies, damned lies and statistics, and polls are obviously rather imprecise gauges of public opinion.
Modern man is sceptical, he has been taught not to believe, he has been educated to discount other people's "orthodoxies", he is essentially a "relativist" it applies to religion, which for the non-religious is fine but actually this relativism applies across the board. One of the meanings of the word "religion" re-ligere is "to bind together", our scepticism breaks down the bonds that should bind us and our society together. One of the great problems with politicians today is that no one is really interested in what they have to say, apart from "equalities legislation" there is no big political idea today, governments today are voted "out" but never voted "in". Politicians are amongst the least trusted members of our society and the world of politics seems to have degenerated into a world of its own, apart from supplying us with soapbox scandals, it as unrelated to everyday life as the most obscure parts of obscure theology.

This Relativism is as really about a breakdown of trust, it is the social dimension of Modernism, it is part of a world view that says it is impossible to "believe in" or to trust any belief system, religious or political. It attacks every part of society that depends on trust from the family and friendship to banking. Pius X's attempts to curb those who denied that God could be trusted, that there is in objective Truth was the first prophetic attempt to defend us from a cancer which has taken hold of modern culture. We have moved from a world in which City bankers would rejoice in "My word is my bond" and where honour and integrity were expected to  a world were lies and double dealing are expected.

The loss of trust within our society, since the time of Pius X has affected how we relate not to just to institutions but to one another.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Where have all the celebrities gone?

This video is rather distressing, it shows the arrest of an little girl with Downs syndrome, Rimsha, daughter of Misrak Masih, from Islamabad.
Father Simon Henry asks where are Madonna and Sting and the rest of the liberal  celebrities when Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned and even killed and let us not forget Asia Bibi still in prison in Pakistan.
I tend always to agree with Fr Henry and Fr Tim who raised the issue of Rimsha last night, but unfortunately I think we should ask where is the Church too, when Christians are being persecuted, do we have a national office for the support of persecuted Christians at Eccleston Square? What exactly is the Catholic Church for all those Christians who are suffering especially under Islamic countries.
It is regrettable that we do not have stronger relations with the Islamic community. What should we do? Would holding a demonstration outside the Pakistani Embassy help? What about getting people to picket the local mosque to try and persuade worshippers to contact the Pakastani government?
Examining my own conscience I really have to ask what am I doing to come to the aid of my Christian brothers and sister, like most Christians in the west the answer is not much. In my presbytery basement we have Brighton Voices in Exile, an advocacy group for asylum seekers but the truth is they are as much likely to help people exiled because of they are homosexual as much as because of their Christianity.

Suggestions please.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not like with like

Some  balloons were left in the church after the Traditional Latin Mass on the Assumption, one of the servers quipped they thought they had seen the Cardinal Graf Schönborn in church, it was some children of course. I thought it was a bit of mutual enrichment.
The video, above, was on one of those sites I find provocative, and I enjoy reading, there is a rather beautiful High Mass, I think being celebrated by the SSPX, it then moves Schönborn balloon Mass. It is not comparing like to like.
The TLM of today isn't the TLM of the Concilliar and pre-Concilliar period - thank God. From what I can see that was a period of experimentation and rubrical laxity, even Fr Paul Crane the founder of Christian Order had his altar on castors so it could be wheeled forward for ad populum celebration. The strict distinction of low and sung Mass had broken down somewhat, vernacular hymns were common, even the singing of the Ordinary at low Mass had crept in in places, as had the use of vernacular for the lections, at least in some places - a practice still in use by the SSPX on the continent and permitted by Summorum Pontificum. In many dioceses the rule was that from "amice to amice" low Mass should not exceed half an hour, which meant many priests left great junks out. Of course Pius XII had encouraged the "dialogue Mass" and various priests experimented with ways of getting the people  involved.

Neither is the vision of the Novus Ordo in this video correct, personally I can't recall a time when I have held a balloon whilst in church, the Novus Ordo is not a lawless rubric free country. The idea that you make it up as you go along is sheer black propaganda, spread by both the extreme left and right.

Most of the Masses I celebrate, in either Form, are strictly according to the rubrics, including the turning from the altar to the people at the proper times. At a said Mass I read the entrance and communion antiphon, at a Mass where our choir is present, following the rubrics these are sung in preference to hymns, we also follow the rubric in singing the Gradual in preference to the Responsorial Psalm, because we have bought copies of the new Graduale, we even sing the Offertorium.

Because I hate the sign of a priest being surrounded by small children at Mass our servers are all men, people have the option according to the rubrics of the GIRM, if the wish and many of my younger parishioners do, of receiving Holy Communion kneeling.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Spitting in the Face of Holy Russia: Pussy Riot

The desecration of Christ the Savior Cathedral by the Bolsheviks and its subsequent destruction is not something that features much, well actually at all, in the news stories about Pussy Riot. It was the dominant religious building in Moscow before the Revolution, its obliteration was the great triumph of atheism. The intention was to build a monumental "People's Palace" on the site but the plans never materialised, instead a swimming pool was built instead. The present was built after the fall of Communism.

For Russian believers this Cathedral symbolises the very heart of Christian Russia, reborn after the murder of  countless of believers and the wholesale destruction of religion in Russian. The demonstration against Putin was one thing but the blasphemy and mockery of religion in the Cathedral was a reminder for believers of the type of thing organised by the persecutors within living memory, it was spitting in the face of the holy Russia.
Can the fatuous western "supporters" of Pussy Riot understand the nature of their demonstration?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Law

Interesting post on Australia Incognita calling for the restoration of the 3 hour Eucharistic Fast. I always tell people that the fast is a minimum of  1 hour.

I remember going to stay at a monastery in the middle of winter, it was bitterly cold, the monk who showed me to my room said, "And for the unmortified there is a radiator and for the entirely lax there is an electric fire." I remained mortified until he left and then became entirely lax. It is human nature to choose an easy life especially if it is offered to us. There seems to have been a deliberate trend to minimise and neutralise to replace the bright colours of Catholic asceticism with beige and effete modernism.

The problem is that the piety that willing embraced the older fast from midnight, which was reduced under Pius XII to three hours, is no longer there. The Law has to bend, otherwise it is broken. it is only the willing who obey it. Good law has to be easily kept by most people at best because people recognise it as being good or at worst because it is possible to coerce people to keep it. For many reasons I would certainly like to see the restoration of the old fast but how does one make people want to embrace it? The law alone does not suffice. There is a need restore the piety and reverence that gave birth to the law in the first place.

Many seem to think the answer to the Church's problems is more law and strengthening the penalties for breaking the law but laws that are ineffective or imprecise or disobeyed are bad laws. The Church is ultimately rather powerless, what binds us to it is charity, what makes us obey it is willing loving submission or at least a culture where keeping a particular law has become part of the warp and weft of our lives.

Having dismantled centuries of custom and practice it is impossible to restore it merely by diktat.

Assumption: Catholic Harvest Festival

I am rather keen on the church-home link, people should take things home from Church, St Paul seems to have started it, Acts 19.12 says, " that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them." My own theory is that "things" were very important to the early Christians, I am personally convinced the fact that Gospels make explicit mention of the shroud and sudarium, is that they were kept by the early Church. Relics, holy objects, holy places were and are important in a faith that believed "the Word became flesh". The account of the death of Polycarp, the disciple of St John recalls how members of the Church came to mop up his blood with cloths. Again the care of the bodies of dead Christians, especially of the Apostles Peter and Paul, is significant.

One of the "proofs" of the Assumption is the absence of relics of her, her empty tomb.
Baroque painters loved to picture the Mother of God floating up to Heaven but the classical doctrine of East and West is simply that "she was taken" by Christ, to be with him, where he is. The dogma tells us she was taken up body and soul, which does not necessarily mean this happened at the same time, indeed the legend tells us that she "fell asleep" surrounded by the Apostles and was entombed, and only when her tomb was opened did the Church begin to understand that she had been Assumed into Heaven.

The important thing is that the Assumption takes place in secret and in silence, there were no witnesses, only the devout pondering on the mysteries of sin, death, the Incarnation, the role of Mary and her son's relationship with her, as well as the experience of Mary in the Church's life and the lives of the faithful.

Last night after the traditional Mass we blessed herbs, especially medicinal ones and flowers, according to ancient tradition - we should have had fruit but no-one brought any - the Assumption or Dormition, "the little Easter of summer" is Catholic "harvest festival", the prayers of the old rite lead us to see the Assumption as a presentation to God of the "first fruits" of Christ's harvest, and therefore the coming harvest as being a foretaste of the time when Christ will come and gather the good wheat into his harvest, Mary is the first sheaf cut from the coming harvest. Rather than tins of baked beans the theme is really about health-giving herbs, an image of Mary;  the "Salve", the health of the sick, and an image of the Church too, those healing leaves that grow where the waters of baptism flow.

Bringing to the church and taking home the blessed first fruits of the harvest reminds us of Mary's Assumption and that one day we with her, our hope, we will be "safely gathered in", as the old Protestant hymn says.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Recognition for the Sons, an Assumption Gift

A beautiful Assumption Day gift:
From the Son's of the Holy Redeemer

Official Statement
from the
Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer

On this festive solemnity of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God body and soul into Heaven our spiritual joy and fraternal rejoicing is great indeed:
Beneath Her mantle and on this occasion of Her solemn feast, today, 15 August, 2012, our community, The Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, has been granted canonical recognition as a Clerical Institute of Diocesan Right by His Lordship the Right Reverend Dom Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen.

We invite you to rejoice with us on this solemn feast of Our Lady through Whose Perpetual Succour, we have received a great favour from Our Lord. 

We also announce the community’s public profession of vows that will take place in Our Lady’s Chapel (at the head of the pier) Stronsay, on 22 August, feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at 18.15 (6.15 p.m.). 

The profession will be celebrated by His Lordship, the Right Reverend Dom Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen. 

(Limited overnight accommodation is available. The ferry leaves Kirkwall at 16.00 and arrives in Stronsay at 18.05).
I am so pleased for the Sons, it now means that they can profess members of the community and ordain them and take a fuller role within the Church.
Another good thing done by Bishop Hugh Gilbert!

You might enjoy this video its a bit old 2003 but it gives something of the lives of this extraordinary community.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I remember years ago being invited to speak to a group of Anglican ladies and being met with a audible hiss when I said I was studying theology. At the same time in pious traditional Catholic circles someone who described themselves as a "theologian" was automatically considered as being destructive of belief rather than building it up.

There were parallels in the study of scripture too, which rather than opening up the mysteries of divine revelation, the vision of VII, tended to close them down by spending most of its efforts, inspired by twentieth century Protestantism, in "demythologising"and denying the divine authorship of sacred texts. The same happened in Moral Theology, rather than teaching people how to live according to the Law of God, its prime purpose seemed to be how to dismiss God's Law.

Many of those who signed yesterdays letter to the Times describe themselves as "theologian" or even "priest and theologian". I am at a loss at understanding quite what this term means, in its context it presumably indicates some teaching or writing about theology, in the secular academic world this tends to mean some form of religious sociology, a rather dry and narrow discipline, that tends to be a critique, a deconstruction, of something rather an embracing of it. Far from being in the mould of St Anselm's definition of theology, "Faith seeking understanding" it seems more to be about a lack of faith that seeks confusion.

In academic theology, faith is not prerequisite, in many ways it is an atheology, an anti-theology. The great Evagrius of Pontus says, "A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian." For him theology was done on one's knees rather than at a desk, it begins with a vision of God's Glory, like the disciples at the Transfiguration and encountering the Risen Christ; hence St Thomas can say that all is straw compared to what he has seen.

Theology and contemplation are intimately linked, without a prayer-life, without a strong desire to grow in holiness it is impossible to be a theologian. Without an overwhelming craving for an ever deepening communion with the Catholic Church it is impossible to be a Catholic Theologian

Monday, August 13, 2012

Catholic Dissenters in the Times

Far be it from me to ever suggest to anyone that "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", the Pope did that before his UK visit to the Bishops of England and Wales at their ad Limina visit to Rome.

In the Times this morning this little bit of dissent appeared signed by those listed below, most I know nothing about:
James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria Exall, Chair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest
Martin Prendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality
Sophie Stanes, Lay-person
Joe Stanley, Lay-person
Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church
Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church
Matias Wibowo, Lay-person
Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist
This is a clear attempt to undermine the bishops. Some like Ms Beattie are associated with a well known "Catholic" weekly, others I think are involved with the Soho Masses.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gold for the Blessed Virgin

Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar provided one of the most emotional moments of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games when she crossed the finish line in the 5000 meter race to win the gold. She then pulled a picture of the Virgin Mary out from under her jersey, showed it to the cameras and held it up to her face in deep prayer. An Orthodox Christian, Defar entrusted her race to God with the sign of the cross and reached the finish line in 15:04:24, beating her fellow Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who was the favorite to win.

Friday, August 10, 2012

St Laurence: thoughts on the diaconate

Everyone knows the story of  St Laurence, the great martyr, the only non biblical saint honoured throughout the Latin Church with a feast.

He is a deacon; I had an Irish lady email to complain about "married deacons" who are being introduced into Ireland, she means permanent deacons of course, they were resisted in her country for a long time.
I have a friend who has just taken over a parish and the local clergy (priests) have been advising him to rid of  the permanent deacon in the parish he is just about to take over, partly because he is a bit disruptive in the parish, hasn't much grasp of theology and isn't that devout, he seems to have been trained on the cheap, without much regard to his spiritual formation, apparently he turns up Sundays and spends the rest of the time gossiping.

Deacons are a bit of problem for us in the West, our theology of Holy Orders doesn't quite have room for them, it is based too much on priests. Some of the VII Fathers, familiar with the Fathers and the theology of the East, wanted to broaden it but that depended on raising the role of the minor orders within the life of the Church, but that was somewhat dashed by the Council deciding to abolish them whilst restoring the permanent diaconate. In practice we end have ended up with a bishop as a priest plus and a deacon as priest minus. In Ireland, as elsewhere, the new openness to the diaconate is obviously the result of the shortage of priests, they can stand in for a priest, and for all the meaningful words, they are simply a substitute, a stand in.

The story of St Laurence tells us that the deacon was there to care for the poor, and to look after the Church's treasure. Historically, he was one who did the pastoral work, who took care of almsgiving and the Church's administration, he might also have been a catechist but everything he did was in communion with the bishop, in the story of St Laurence he shares in both the death of Christ and of his bishop Pope Sixtus. I cannot help thinking today  Diocesan Financial Secretaries, Head Teachers etc. ought to be deacons.

It is entirely praiseworthy that bishops are beginning again to wear the pontifical dalmatic, it should be remembered that Eastern bishops wear the sackos, the dalmatic like garment but not the chasuble, because rather than bishops being priests plus they are both priest and deacon. The deacon shares in the bishop's servant role and hence wears one of his vestments, which signifies his service of the Church.
It is worth considering the seven deacon's of Rome were not the Presbyter's assistants but the servants of the Bishop. In ancient sanctuaries the deacons stood around the bishops cathedra whilst the presbyters sat with him. At a deacons ordination, unlike a priests, the bishop alone lays hands on the new deacon.

One of the stories of St Laurence is that one the treasures he cared for was the Holy Grail which was sent to Valencia, his hometown, there is still an apparently 1st century Palestinian cup in there cathedral treasury there today. Modern theologies of the diaconate seem to want downplay the cultic role of the diaconate, in the Traditional Rite not only does he prepare the chalice but also offers it with bishop or priest, it is his role to  prepare and care for holy things, yet he does not take the place of either bishop or priest. In the Ethiopian he doesn't even read the Gospel, the priest does, assisted by the deacon. In the Byzantine liturgy for a great deal of the time he stands at the head of the people leading the Litanies, in the West, now he is supposed to lead the Prayer of the Faithful.

There are several accounts of newly appointed bishops getting rid of the previous regimes troublesome deacons by ordaining them presbyters, thus taking them away from the coffers and separating them from the poor and from immediate contact with the bishop's ministery.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Ugly Black Babies!

This little video is of a confrontation between an American abortionist and a couple of Christian activists. It is carried by LifeSiteNews.
The abortionist, Dr Ashutosh Ron Virmani, follows the Maries Stopes racist line; he speaks of "ugly black babies", he also follows her line on the poor; I suppose he would also follow her line about Gay people, who she didn't like either. Obviously, Dr Virmani is being harassed by Christians, and is American.

I am sure we can be confident no abortionist in the UK does it because they hate people, do they?

Benedict on Dominic's Prayer

In his catechetical series on prayer Pope Benedict spoke today about St Dominic, the man who was "either speaking to God or speaking about him". I find something stifling about later "methods" of prayer, the Carmelite or Ignatian methods for example. It is interesting that the Carthusians, founded a century before Dominic gave no place for "mental prayer", just the Office and Lectio Divina, thi reflect the ancient practice of   "just get on with it", do it, don't worry how. Dominic seems to be saying everything should be done prayerfully.
It is significant that Pope notes "the importance of external attitudes in our prayers".

Dominic seems merely to want to enthuse the whole of life with prayer.
In the founder of the Dominicans, "we can see an example of harmonious integration of contemplation of the divine mysteries and apostolic activity." It was said of him the he always "spoke with God or of God." "This observation indicates his deep communion with the Lord and at the same time, the continued commitment to lead others to this communion with God."

Although he did not leave writings on prayer, "the Dominican tradition collected and handed down his living experience in a work entitled: the Nine Ways of Prayer". " which "helps us understand something of the inner life of the saint, helps us to learn something about how to pray".

Each of these nine ways of praying is done "always in front of Jesus Crucified," with " a corporal and spiritual attitude, that intimately interpenetrating, favor recollection and fervor. The first seven ways follow an ascending line, like the steps of a journey, towards an intimate communion with God, with the Trinity: St. Dominic prayed standing, bowing to express humility, lying prostrate on the ground to ask forgiveness for his sins, on his knees in penance to participate in the sufferings of the Lord, with his arms open staring at the crucifix to contemplate the Supreme Love, with his gaze directed towards the heavens feeling himself drawn towards the world of God."

The Pope stressed that the last two ways " correspond to two forms of piety that the Saint normally practiced. First, personal meditation, where prayer acquires a more intimate, fervent and soothing dimension." After the Liturgy of the Hours or Mass, " St. Dominic prolonged his conversation with God, without any time limits. He would sit in an attitude of quite recollection and listening, reading a book or staring at the Crucifix. He lived these moments of his relationship with God so intensely that his reactions of joy or tears were outwardly perceptible. " " Witnesses say that at times he would go into a sort of ecstasy, his face transfigured, but immediately afterwards he would humbly resume his daily activities recharged by the power that comes from on High.." Then prayer while travelling between one monastery or another, he would recite Lauds, Sext, Vespers with companions, and, crossing the valleys and hills, contemplate the beauty of creation. At such times a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for so many gifts would gush from his heart, especially for the greatest wonder of all: the redemption accomplished by Christ. "
This saint reminds us of the importance of external attitudes in our prayers. That to kneel, to stand before the Lord, to fix our gaze on the Crucifix, to pause and gather ourselves in silence, is not a secondary act, but helps to us to place ourselves, our whole person, in relation to God. Once again, I would like draw attention to the need to find moments to pray quietly everyday for our spiritual life"

Monday, August 06, 2012

Dogs again

I really am horrified by the the desacration of the Blessed Sacrament in Australia, reported in the last post, it makes me feel both angry and sick.

Australia is the land of Bishop Morris and Fr Kennedy, both aged hippies who rejected the Catholic faith years ago. In the case of Bishop Morris I was surprised that his brother bishops seemed to take no action, indeed when his forced resignation was announced many seemed to support him. In the case of Fr Kennedy, for years he baptised invalidly and preached heresy with no censure from the Archbishop Brisbane, until Rome acted he was a "priest in good standing", as that was so one ask whether Bishop Bathurst is really a "bishop in good standing", could he be if he is tolerant of heresy an error in his diocese.

Fr Greg Reynolds' bishop had indeed suspended him but yet tolerated his celebrating Mass at which he preached heresy and set up his own church, an anti-church to the Church, for dissident Catholics. I really cannot understand why this priest having celebrated the sacraments whilst suspended was not excommunicated, if he continued to celebrate Mass then those who attended should also have been excommunicated.

Harsh? That is certainly what the liberal would claim. If I were the Pope I would place the whole continent under interdict until reparation was made, I would demand every bishop wore sackcloth for a year. It should certainly, at the very least make me, consider removing the indult for communion in the hand,

What strikes me as being strange is that Archbishop Hart, Reynolds' bishop takes a rather high handed approach towards the liberal secular Melbourne daily, The Age, for the way in which they report the story, they refer the Holy Eucharist as "bread and wine" and treat the whole incident as a bit of a joke, yet the Archbishop doesn't seem inclined to examine why the newspaper, published in his diocese, doesn't seem to have a higher understanding of a fundamental Catholic belief: could it not be that years and years of bad liturgy and poor catechesis have so degraded Catholicism that the bread of Angels has become crumbs given to housedogs? It should make him realise that far from being "awesome mysteries" most parish liturgies seem to give the impression we are distributing merely bread and wine. This just a notch down from the diocese of Linz's foccacia on stick Corpus Christi procession, and a few notches down from those people who used to ask me when I was going to let them "give out the wine again" or bishops who talk about the "Eucharist representing Christ" or priests being ordained to "build community".

Make some act of reparation for this sacrilege, and most especially for those who don't see it as a sacrilege.

Dog Receives Holy Communion

There is another scandal from Melbourne, now admittedly Fr Reynolds is suspended but...
FATHER Greg Reynolds wants his church of dissident Catholics to welcome all – ”every man and his dog”, one might say, risking the non-inclusive language he deplores – but even he was taken aback when that was put to the test during Mass yesterday.
A first-time visitor arrived late at the Inclusive Catholics service in South Yarra with a large and well-trained German shepherd. When the consecrated bread and wine were passed around, the visitor took some bread and fed it to his dog.
Madness breeds madness!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Pussy Riot

What does the Church do in the face of sacrilege?
In Moscow the Orthodox Church is pressing for the maximum penalty, as much as 7 years imprisonment, in the case of Pussy Riot who demonstrated against Putin with a blasphemous "prayer".
Before the arrest, I suspect even in Russia no-one had heard of them, if the Church authorities had not pressed charges it is likely they would have been a headline on Moscow news for one night and then been forgotten. As it is, even I have heard of them, and some of the media seem to want to present them as new dissidents, modern Solzhenitsyns or Sakharovs.
As with crucifixes in glasses of urine, the "art" is really in creating a reaction, the object or performance is incidental, what is being sought is outrage: no outrage, no art.
Apart from pressure from the Kremlin, the Moscow Patriarchate seems as bound up with the Putin Presidency as it was with the Tsar, there seems to be sense that simply ignoring the outrage to believers will show a moral weakness on the part of the Church that will set at at nought the hard won legal recognition the Church has sought since the fall of the USSR. Of course for many Russian believers the Pussy Riot is redolent of the atheistic contempt for the sacred of the communist era, not responding to it vigorously will merely encourage more of it. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Olympics #3: 100,000 Condoms

I must say I rather enjoyed the Olympic opening ceremony, especially the egalitarian lighting of the "cauldron", it was good to see Cameron's big society given visual form and it was wonderful to see how billions of pounds could be spent in such a short time, though I guiltily wonder just how many NHS hip ops that was or whether the money could have been spent on mosquito nets in the third world - but that is the Judas question, so we shouldn't go there. I hadn't realise that the industrial revolution changed us from Hobbits to Orks but others have said that but it was a useful metaphor to use on Life Sunday.

I don't know when the "show" bit started to become so important and preceded the march of the future the worlds PE teachers but what I can't get my head around is why, apparently 100,000 condoms were distributed to the competitors.

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...