Wednesday, December 24, 2014


The Church is ready,
We await the Lord's Coming.

Mass times are:
Mass during the Night 9pm (Christmas Eve) Sung
Dawn Mass, Extraordinary Form Sung (but without ceremonies) 9am
Day Mass Sung 10.30am

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Curia: Not a Job I Would Want

I was amused that one blogger had put up a scene from 'Full Metal Jacket' to illustrate the Holy Father's address to the Curia. I know that the Holy Father was actually offering an examination of conscience, and like all these things, first and foremost it is an examination of the authors conscience.

The problem is already middle ranking clergy are leaving Rome, or begging their bishops to apply to the Holy Father for their release. Many have already left, to the point where some dicasteries are drastically undermanned, to the point of not working effectively. Things, like dispensation which took a couple of months to process, can now take well over a year.

Morale in Curia is at an all time low, it was never very high. There were certainly some priests, and bishops too, who would have given their eye-teeth for a job in the Curia, and seen it as way to promotion and power, or of pursuing and academic interest, of those I have known that is not the majority, certainly there is often a detachment from parish life, but that is the nature of the job, it happens with priests (and bishops) and especially laymen and women in diocesan Curias.
One problem is going to be anyone dealing with the Curia, from a lay women seeking an annulment, to bishop asking for clarification, to a foreign State, will probably share the Pope's view that everyone working there is 'crap' and a looser.

A curial friend, who I think is quite saintly, once sent me his timetable, he lives in one of the clergy houses near St Peter's so unless there is Papal Mass or audience that day, that is where he says Mass. Like most of the younger clergy in the EF, 'it suits a contemplative life, and besides the boys prefer it, if one of them serves my Mass.' He means the Maltese minor seminarians who assist in the sacristy, and if you are fortunate will serve your Mass.

Rise 5am
Mass in St Peter's followed by thanksgiving 7am
Breakfast on the way to the office 8am
Start work 8.30am
Lunch 1pm but often that involves a meeting, often he works straight through, some (older) clergy take a siesta until 3.30
Return to Office at 4pm
Return home for Supper at 8pm
Read/study, very occasionally go out with friends
Prayer/spiritual reading 10pm
Bed 11pm

He does this 5 days a week, Saturday is the same except the office closes at 1pm

Sunday is day to catch up on sleep, and meet friends, occasionally pilgrims, if needed, he says Mass in Rome parish, he is not needed that often. He said once he had gone six months without saying Mass with a congregation. Apart from holy days he does this for 11 months of the year. Rome tends to close down for August and he returns to his home to stay with his family, and supply in his home diocese.
What struck me was the sheer boredom of his life, and the loneliness too. His salary I think is about 4500 euros a year, it is not enough to live well in Rome, most of it goes on books, travel entertaining visiting clergy and clothes, 'the Prefect insists we look smart!'. When we eat together as he insist on paying his share its normally a cheapish pizzeria, it is embarrassing he says when visitors expect him to pay for their meal too, he's by nature generous and always offers to do that, sometimes he gets caught out. He is incredibly disciplined, he says if he is not it would be so very easy to get depressed, or drink or worst as some of his confreres do.
I've asked him why he doesn't do some pastoral work in Rome, he says most parishes only really want Italians, 'there are lots of them'. He says he does his best to make friends with homeless but really there is little time.

Say a prayer for those in Curia, it is not a job I or most priests would want. At the moment it seems like a job from hell.

Monday, December 22, 2014

How far do you go? Chartres' Restoration

There is an account of the restoration of Chartres on NLM,
cathedral in ChartresIt has been controversial, there were various fires in the twentieth century that have left the walls blackened, the restorers chose to ignore the 16th century decoration, which was the last time, apart from minor work, that it was redecorated, and returned it to what can be found of its thirteenth century decor.

The problem with all restoration work is should it be done, how much of it should be done, to which period should it be returned to, and what should be destroyed of subsequent in order to return it to what was 'original'.

The other problem is what modern conveniences do you dispense with, how necessary is electric lighting, for example, in a 'restored' Church? The 13th cent work was supposed to be seen in natural light, after all.
Image of Chartres' 'Black Madonna' the famous 'black' Madonna has been restored. How far should restoration go, especially in a living building like a church? There are all those questions about how to maintain the the restoration, do you ban candles and incense and what about heating which seems to do most damage to ancient painting?

What do you do with sculpture for example where there are no clues about the original colouring, or were the sculpture was already decayed before being brought into an ancient building.

How far do you trust 'expert' opinion, and which experts, and what do you do ten years down the road when opinions are revised and your expert's opinion has fallen out of favour.

Does anyone know what is going to happen to the outside of Chartres, is that going to be restored and coloured too.

The restoration of Chartres is a metaphor for the restoration of the Church as a whole, with that perennial Catholic question: How far do you go?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Just a Christmas Card!

The Nativity .indd
Opening the post, a tear came to my eye today, for the first time since my ordination thirty years ago I received a Christmas card from my Ordinary, Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, the Apostolic Administrator of Arundel and Brighton.

I know it sounds soft, it was just a printed Christmas card, he had written 'Ray' at the top and signed it '+Peter', nothing more, but writing about it, I am still moved. Silly me!

The other week we had a meeting of the diocesan clergy with him, nothing of much substance and not very profound. He just talked about his delight in the priesthood, prayer and 'muddling through' it was the first time in thirteen years, apart from Chrism Masses, we had gathered as the Presbyterate and Diaconate. I was quite moved by that too.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Orthodoxy: a 'But...'

I found this video on Facebook, I presume it is happening in Moldava. It shows Moldavan Orthodox Christians taking down a menorah and erecting a cross. Note the 'jEWISH' in the title of the video.

I have many Orthodox friends, I am am an Orthodoxphile, my retirement fund consists of Russian icons. I have gained a great deal from my Orthodox friends, they question hyper-Latinism, I pray regularly for the end of the Great Schism and re-union, I believe in 'two-lung' Christianity.

I am aware that many Orthodox, not those I meet, hate us Latins. There is an unpleasant nationalism in Orthodoxy. There is anti-Semiticism in Orthodoxy, in some Orthodox church's one might find material no Catholic would dream of touching, let alone reading. There is an Erastianism within Orthodoxy that even the most whiggish Anglicanism would baulk at.

Much is talked about nowadays regarding Orthodox second or third marriages, more liberal friends often ask me how it works. I tell them, in most Greek parishes you just turn up with you civilly issued divorce certificate and arrange your next wedding, only if the priest is a bit of a stickler will there be any difference between the first and second or subsequent marriages. Crowns and processions, nuptial blessing, though technically disallowed, are practically always used, the idea of a penitential wedding has all but disappeared along with any sense of spiritual direction for the divorced and remarried.

I welcome Mr Putin's use of the idea of 'Holy Mother Russia' as a narrative to replace corrupt 'Soviet Russia' but it is important to remember Orthodoxy has often been used to support a Nationalism that Catholicism, because of it pan-national nature is incapable of supporting.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

1 Corinthians 11:2

I love old photographs of liturgy, I saw this video and meant to put it up, I notice Mgr Pope also was impressed by it and has it on his Washington Diocesan blog.

I have a fear nowadays about being labelled with abusive terms like "restorationist" or "crypto..." or "promethean",In the not to distant past I thought of myself as 'in continuity', or just a student of history or, even Catholic.

Ah, times and seasons!

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Immaculate on the streets of Brighton.

I was hoping to share the video of our procession of reparation of the Immaculate Conception, in order to see it go here
More pictures here
The week before we handed out almost 1000 Miraculous Medals, not for our parishioners but for them to give to other people, to evangelise.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Punch a Heretic Day or the Feast of St Nicholas

I like this. 

I know you will say to me we can't do this today, we have to find the odd Arian and embrace him. We can't call people Pelagians, 'Porridge eating scumbags' or pultibus Scottorum praegravatus, which is too racist for modern sensibilities to be translated into the vernacular.

St Nicholas is another of those Advent saints who insist on being faithful to the Trinity and Incarnation.

I love the old European custom of St Nicholas going around bishops houses disguised as a small child and demanding to know if they have been good in the past year and if they have giving them presents and they haven't giving them a good thrashing. In the case of bishops 'good' means loyal and faithful and true.
Patron Saint of travelers and Seafarers
The St Nicholas legends of course unite theology and morality, the Eternal Word becomes flesh so we might hear the Logos speaking directly to us, revealing the Will of the Father to us. That arch villain, the heresiarch Arius wanted to deny to deprive small children of Christmas, to steal their tangerines and toffees. The great and glorious orthodox Bishop Nicholas by defending the doctrine of (ὁμοούσιος) consubstantiation saved children from being butchered and virgins being sold into prostitution. We see this extra-ordinary change happening with the laws enacted by Constantine after Nicea, children and young women, even slaves are given a new dignity in the Imperial Code.

How right the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, is to say 'the separation of theory and practice of the faith would be the manifestation of a subtle Christological heresy in principle'. Wrong believing leads to wrong living, just the same as wrong living leads to wrong believing. A bishop or priest in mortal sin will always tailor what he preaches to fit his sin.

A Christian cannot live rightly if he doesn't believe rightly, 'show me someone in mortal sin and I will show you an heretic' or as I think Ullathorne or one of his contempories said, 'show me a sinner and I'll show you someone who hasn't learnt his catechism'.

Holy Nicholas keep us orthodox!

Happy St John Damascene Day

St. John Damascene Priest and Doctor of the ChurchHappy St John Damascene day!
I don't know if it is by accident or design that he is celebrated during Advent, but he is one of the great defenders of the Incarnation.

I thought I would have fun this morning, w3e had a class of 9/10 year olds in for Mass this morning, so I tried explaining iconoclasm and iconophilia to them.
St John of course was a resident of Damascus, in Syria which until 636 had been a Christian city, John was born 10 years after it conquest by Islam. It is worth noting that the Koran says more about Jesus than Mohamed, it is Jesus, not Mohamed who will come as judge at the end of time. Islam denies the idea that God could ever become Man and could suffer and die on the cross.

St John saw Islam as being a Christian heresy, a re-capitulation and extension of Arianism, which ends up by denying God's ability to transcend himself and become one with his creation. The doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation affirm God becomes one with us, he descends to us, becoming Man, and raises us up so the we might become Divinised. For Islam at best man may become a servant or slave of God, but never a Son.

Iconoclasm is more than denying that God can be portrayed, on its simplest level it is about the destruction of icons but underlying that thought is a dis-ease with the notion that God can become one with us, that he can be seen in flesh and blood, the next stage of course is to deny that Holy Eucharist or the Sacraments can be a meeting with the Divine, and beyond that, that we cannot encounter sanctifying Grace.

The Protestantism of the 16th Century was the Wests Iconoclastic crisis, the Counter Reformation the triumph the Iconophiles. Perhaps our problem is that in the West we have never quite taken Second Council of Nicaea seriously enough and so the period after the Vatican II becomes another period of Iconoclasm. It can be seen literally in the purposeful destruction of imagery in churches.

 More than that, it has lead to the profanation of the Sacred Liturgy, to reducing the sacraments to something self referential, to seeing the Church as something quite human rather than of Divine origin and end, and of God's presence in the world. It sees the priesthood and episcopate as mere jobs that even someone in serious sin can do.

Vatican PopeIn many ways the Extra-ordinary Synod on the Family was a battle between iconoclasts and iconophiles, those who believe marriage is an image of the unbreakable union of Christ and his Church and those who don't.

There is an iconophile mindset that always wants to see the image of God and experience his presence, just as there is an iconoclastic mindset wants to move away from God and to shut him out. Iconoclasm is dangerous. |Euthanasia and abortion become so easy if we do not see in the vulnerable the image of God.

I am concerned by a iconoclastic mindset in the Church, not only does it 'wreckovate buildings' but it excludes images of Christ and ultimately the person of Christ from the Church's life, I was given some posters recently to be distributed advertising a Catholic event, lots of pictures of bishops, none of Christ: that is an iconoclastic mindset.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Dinner with Orthodox

I had beer at dinner last night, it is easy to forget Advent is a penitential season. I had dinner with some Orthodox friends. What Francis does in ἡ Πόλις, I did in North London. One of my friends joked 'I think one of the reasons your Pope looked so miserable, and turned up late for Vespers was that he discovered that despite it being the Feast of St Andrew it is also the fast of St Philip'. My friends have been fasting since the day after St Philip's day in mid-November and will continue until the Epiphany. So last night, no wine but beer and no fish as it wasn't a Sunday but delicious prawns grilled with garlic and dipped in good vinegar, especially as they had 'a Latin guest, so unused to the discipline of fasting!' As it was a 'joyful' fast there were lots of dates, nuts and fruit at thend of the meal.

We didn't talk much about the Pope's visit but my friends wife thought the Pope a bit sneaky about asking for a blessing for himself, which wasn't too bad but 'for the Church of Rome', that she said 'would be a bit like you blessing a homosexual couple or twice-married people, you can't bless something which all Orthodox regard as sinful'. There was an amusingly frosty look between husband wife, I laughed and said the Pope doesn't 'do' signs and symbols and that I thought that Patriarch Bartholomew's peck on the skull cap, like a father with a child who didn't understand the implications of what he was asking had dealt perfectly with an embarrassing situation that would have had not a few other Orthodox bishops, not to mention those monks of Athos, up in arms. A Cypriot guest recited the times his own bishop had had his own brother, also a bishop, 'struck from the dyptichs'; and then it was time to tune the tambouras and for coffee and music, very good music too and beautiful singing!

Monday, November 24, 2014


I remember a brief conversation with Cardinal Suenens soon after the election of S John Paul II. As a gauche seminarian I asked, "So what do Cardinals do after electing a Pope?" His curt answer, "Look for a successor".

Fr Henry reports Austen Ivereigh has a new book on Pope Francis out soon. Father reports Ivereigh's book as saying
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, helped to orchestrate a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign which led to the election of Pope Francis. 
Disclosing that: 
... there had been a discreet, but highly organised, campaign by a small group of European cardinals in support of Cardinal Bergoglio... Writer Austen Ivereigh, nicknames the group “Team Bergoglio” and says members toured private dinners and other gatherings of cardinals in the days before the conclave, quietly putting their case.
I can understand Pope Francis irritation with 'leprous courtiers', but then there was that Monsignor Pedacchio at the Congregation for Bishops who was supposed to have been faxing vast numbers of document to Cdl Bergoglio, or "Team Bergoglio", He is now the Pope's secretary.

As Ivereigh was Cormac's press officer, presumably  he relies a great deal on the Cardinal's inside information. His Eminence has frequently spoken of his closeness and friendship with His Holiness.

One of the stories which may or not be true but was told widely by several English College students, the college was of course Cardinal Murphy O'Connors Roman base, he has/had a suite of room there. Apparently during the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict there was a reception for the European liberal Cardinals and their political friends, apparently Cardinal Pell wasn't invited so he positioned himself in the window of a restaurant opposite the College and rather conspicuously recorded who went in.

Some people hate the idea of intrigue, because of course it is terribly human, and yes, open to corruption and all sorts of evil, they naively assume the Cardinals enter the Conclave as blank sheets of paper and await the Holy Spirit to move them to vote for particularly Holy candidate. If only it did happen that way, if only that was how bishops were chosen, or priests were selected for some office in that way but it always seems to be about he advancing of a faction rather the God's Kingdom.
Messy thing the Church, I am sure Ivereigh's book will reveal more mess and is itself part of the intrigue!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What does the Pope mean by 'mean'

 There is a curious little video of the Pope's audience in which he starts his Christmas catechesis, I am not sure if something is lost in translation but he gets people to shout out in response to his question 'What does the name of Jesus mean?" they respond "God with us!"

"Jesus" means, Saviour or Liberator, Emmanuel means "God with us".
Matthew 1: 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (which means, God with us).
Obviously this is a problem with our interpretation of what the Holy Father means by 'means'. Possibly if I didn't need to rely on translators I might not see this as a problem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Most Pastoral of Popes

Sacraments I am sure are supposed to be life changing events, rather than a simple reward for turning up. From very early on until that old modernist Pope St Pius X changed things - those people who are anxious about Francis would have been  apoplectic about Pio. He not merely  changing the Apostolic order of the sacraments - Confirmation after Communion - but wanting to introduce not merely frequent but even daily Communion. Communion not just for Holy monks and hermits who had proved themselves in ascetical discipline, in long vigils and depth of prayer but on a regular basis for those who had only recently attained the age of reason and probably hadn't yet learnt to use it. It was madness!

For almost 1,800 years, ever since Paul had written to the Corinthian suggesting that the Holy Eucharist kills, and is dangerous, and indeed can both give Salvation but also Condemnation and death, Communion was something which most sane people took part in rarely, to the point where the Council of the Lateran made annual reception a precept of the Church, even then pastorally minded bishops seemed not to insist too strongly, except in the case of imminent death.

One of the nonsenses spread abroad by those 1970s liturgists is that in that mythical period ‘the early Church’ people were receiving not merely regularly but frequently, in all probability every Sunday, I think the evidence for that is very flimsy!

The point is of course that the sacraments are Life Giving Events including, maybe especially so, Holy Communion, Pius’ reforms made them mundane and lead to the abuses we have today where just because you are whatever years old or in Miss X’s class, or at Mass you receive the Communion, Confession or Comfirmation, So now the Sacraments are received frequently they have come to mean very little in the life of the Church or the spiritual development of its members, their power to impart Grace or Salvation hardly figures in contemporary catechesis, the liturgy has become not so much a mystical meeting with Heaven but 'a celebration of the community'.

So many of the ills of today’s Church can be laid directly at the door of this most interfering of Popes, the most important being that Sacraments do not change lives. Of course in the teeth of all that his predecessors had upheld down the ages, he thought he was being 'pastoral' - God preserve us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oxford Universities Shame

It was announce last night the debate between Tim Stanley and Brendan O'Neil in Oxford University, about the effects of "abortion culture" has been cancelled. From what I understand the pretext was the venue, which is not in use tonight for any other function, was not booked properly.

The reality is that Christ Church JCR really wanted to curtail freedom of speech, the debate wasn't even about abortion but its effects on society. It is truly shameful that in one of the greatest universities of the world should be afraid of debating even, “This House believes that abortion culture harms us all”.

 What a shameful reflection on what has become of a great University, once a bastion of freedom of speech and expression! How perverse, frightened and cowardly are the JCR committee!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Church Investing Her Talents

 Christ the Pantocrator and the Last Judgment, 1300. Mosaic in the baptistry of San Giovanni, Florence, Itary.
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
What I meant to say was if the Church starts encouraging sin then it isn't the Church, it would go against its very nature as Church, just the same as even liberal Jewish synagogues do not encourage ham sandwich eating, at least on the premises!

The Gospel for this Sunday is about using the talents God has given us. It could be that, it could also be about producing fruit. I am sure many American Protestants would see that Gospel passage as being about the glories of Capitalism, we Catholics would look deeper.
Reading it in the light of the New Evangelism Holy Church has been imbued with so many riches and one day the master will return and want the profit on his investment. He has pored out riches on us and will return one day, until he does he expects to make disciple and to Evangelise. For most of us, priests and people, Evangelism is what precisely? Most have never done it, most don't how to do it, most don't know what its purpose is and most are not even convinced it is necessary at all.

As a priest I think I am going to be like the man who dug a hole and buried the wondrous gift my master had given me, The problem is that most of us regard not merely proselytism but evangelisation as solemn nonsense. We see little difference between Evangelical Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxism and Catholicism, or for that matter Paganism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We are hardly convinced  that attending Mass on Sunday is more important than doing a good work, some other form of prayer, a round of golf, shopping or staying in bed. Indeed many of us priests turn it into some kind of teaching experience or group hug. Most of us regard what we teach as no truer than any other truth. Most of us tend not to believe sacraments are life changing experiences.

We dig a hole and we put God in it, we bury him and walk away. It is not the nature of God to stay buried just as it is not the nature of the Church to teach sin. The first reading from Proverbs speaks of a perfect wife, well, Holy Church is the Bride of Christ, the real Perfected Wife. "Her husband has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit"

I do believe Jesus when he says, "By there fruit you will know them". Here is the picture of a particularly fruitless part of the Church that is fast loosing itself not just to secularism but Protestantism.

There are exceptions, one believing bishop can make all the difference, it is sad that often those who are proclaiming the faith most clearly seem to grow wheat and tares together, or bring to shore both good and bad fish, even Jesus had Judas among his proto-clergy!

Good trees bring forth good fruit. The Church has a lot to proclaim, it strikes me that doctrinal confusion is not just bad for the Church but mankind because in hinders his salvation. So if the Church's ministers confuse or appear to be encouraging sin, 'a willful untruth' or the theft of 'one poor farthing', or if she is ambiguous about things condemned by the Lord himself and His Apostles, like divorce and remarriage or sinful sexual practices, it has done a terrible thing because it must always proclaim God's intention for Man: union with Him. The Church's function is to show the face of Jesus, to repeat again in every age Jesus' teaching, to offer a vision of the truth, of the reality of transforming sacramental grace, of the holiness of the saints, of the liberation of Jesus' teaching.

Any priest any bishop, can easily become despondent, we need to search out 'Apostle' who will help us proclaim the beauty of the Christian life; of our glorious final end, certainly, but also the beauty of Christian living, of marriage and chastity, of the Holy Eucharist and of prayer, of vocation in all its forms, and most especially the glory of serving Christ in the priesthood.

There is nothing more destructive than what someone recently called 'the bell-bottomed' theology of the 1970s, which seems to have had a resuscitation of late. Let us bury that and instead find ways to use the many gifts and talents, the jewels with which Christ has bedecked his bride, Our Moter the Church.
"... it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober." 1Thess 5:1-6
 File:The Ladder of Divine Ascent.jpg

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Ham Sandwich Test

Those Oxford chaps, like that glorious erudite and dazzling ornament of the Ordinariate, might indeed climb the stairs of the Ashmole in order to converse with the stony face of Benedict XIV Lambertini, who reminds him of Newman's teaching:
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
I tend to meet  Soli Zuckerman on the No 1 bus, when I visit someone in the hospital, he's a tailor who now works for Homebase or something like that. Tonight he was returning home for family Shabbat he is delightfully loquacious, I asked him about liberal Judaism "Rab", he said, "It is all about ham sandwiches and Quiche Lorraine, that's the key. Bacon, they stop at that".

He was telling me about a friend of his who is a member of the Liberal Synagogue at the end of my road, I thought it was being demolished, the last time I passed by the doors were open and everything was stripped out. One of Soli's friends married a third time, this time "he married out" and embraced "liberalism". "They might use English, they might have services in which women form a quorum along with men or even on there own, they might happily have a Lesbian Rabbi but they won't have a ham sandwich or pork pie for their shared lunches". I checked and Soli was right.

There is a bottom line for every religion, for Soli and even Liberal Jews it is pork, at least not in the synagogue. For Catholics, at one time the bottom line was Friday meat eating, now it is a bit more difficult but I suppose what the marble lips of Benedict XIV were saying is that for the hierarchy the promotion of sin is impossible, the Church cannot accept it.

As I have just seen one blog put it we end up in an Orwellian world, quite different from Christ's if we say,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Josophat: the Saint of Christian Unity

When saying Mass in St Peters for some reason I often got shown to the altar of St Josophat, today is his feast and there is an extract from Pius XI Ecclesiam Dei in the Office of Readings. Pius XI speaks of him as the Saint of Christian Unity, who gave his life for the unity of the Church.

13. He was convinced that he would be martyred, and often spoke of the possibility of such an event occurring. In one of his famous sermons he expressed a desire to be martyred; he prayed ardently to God for martyrdom as if it would be for him a singularly blessed gift. A few days before his death when he was warned of plots that were being laid against him, he said: "Lord, grant me the grace to shed my blood for the unity of the church and in behalf of obedience to the Holy See." On Sunday, November 13, 1623, his desire was realized. Surrounded by enemies who had gone in search of the Apostle of Unity, he went forth smiling and gladly to meet his fate. He asked them, following the example of his Lord and Master, not to harm the members of his household, and then gave himself into their hands. He was set upon and killed in a most barbarous fashion. Despite his wounds he did not cease till his dying breath to implore God's pardon for his murderers.
14. Great indeed were the fruits of this glorious martyrdom, especially among the Ruthenian bishops who knew how to draw from his death a living example of firmness and courage, as they themselves testified two months later in a letter sent to the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda: "We too are ready, as one of our number has already done, to offer our life's blood for the Catholic religion." As a result of and almost immediately after this martyrdom, a great number of people, among whom were the very murderers of the Saint, returned to the bosom of the unity of the Church of Christ.
15. The blood of St. Josaphat even today, as it was three hundred years ago, is a very special pledge of peace, the seal of unity. We call it a very special pledge for the present times because those unhappy Slavic provinces, torn by disturbances of all kinds and by insurrections, have been empurpled with the blood spilt in the terrible and inhuman wars of our own days. In truth, it seems to us that We hear the voice of that blood "which speaketh better than that of Abel" (Hebrews xii, 24), that We behold Our martyr turning to his Slav brothers and calling out to them in the words of Jesus: "The sheep are without a shepherd. I have compassion on the multitude." Verily, sad is their condition, terrible their distress! Alas, the great number of exiles from their native land, what an awful carnage, what great loss of souls! Looking now as We do at the calamities which have fallen upon the Slavs, certainly greater than those which Our Saint wept over in his time, it is extremely difficult for Us to keep back the tears which well up from Our fatherly heart.
I must say I have a sneaking admiration for Pius XI, not an easy man but in many ways an outstanding one, a bit more of a warrior than his successors. Though Pius XII might well have been its author, he was the guiding force behind Mit brennender Sorge. Most people will know Ad Mortalium Annos, again concerned with Christian Unity:
10. So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: "The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly."[20] The same holy Martyr with good reason marveled exceedingly that anyone could believe that "this unity in the Church which arises from a divine foundation, and which is knit together by heavenly sacraments, could be rent and torn asunder by the force of contrary wills."[21] For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one,[22] compacted and fitly joined together,[23] it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.[24]
 Different times!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fr Hatton speaks

Fr Gerrard Hatton is one of the younger priests of our diocese, he was ordained in 2011. here he speaks at A Day with Mary in Golders Green on Our Lady and the Holy Souls.
It is priests like Fr Gerrard who give me great hope for the future.

Pray for Holy Priests and even Holier Bishops!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Red Rags and the Order of Malta

Cardinal Burke has been criticized for doing his job as a canon lawyer, which is to obey canon law. Being obedient to the Church's law is presumably the very minimum we should expect from any priest or prelate. Not being able to criticise him for holding fast to the teaching of Jesus Christ most of the criticism from the vindictive lunatic fringe seems to be about the soft furnishings of his office, which as he is doing what he is supposed to do, is plain churlish.

I am not sure that a EF cappa magna would fit in my Church, two right angle turns from the sacristy to the sanctuary and narrow gangways would present health and safety issues for both the wearer and the congregation. The old cappa is quite a few yards longer than the one in Paul VI's post-concilliar clothing regulations that are in force for Bishops and Cardinals in the Ordinary Form.

Blood red, not white, is the proper papal colour, it symbolises the martyrs, most especially Ss Peter and Paul. The fact you need an attendant or minder to hold the other end of the cappa indicates the dependency of a Cardinal on others, it symbolises the burden of office, the stream of blood behind a Prince of the Church. It is actually street dress, or at least processional dress. It is supposed to make a spectacle, a witness,  of the Cardinal. Blood red silk flowing from his shoulders, is supposed to be a statement signifying 'that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.' which is what Pope says at the imposition of the red hat.

The Church has always recognised the Cappa is worn as a sign of the external vanities of the world, I like the prayer that is said when it is removed.'Take off of me, Lord, the old man with his manners and deeds: and put on me the new man, who according to God is created in justice, and the holiness of truth.' It's removal is actually more important than ts wearing because after its removal the Cardinal or Bishop ends up being clothed in the casuala, the little house, the Chucrh of charity. I suspect the phrase, 'created in justice, and the holiness of truth' resonates with Cardinal Burke.

I received a few rather gracious emails suggesting I was unkind for describing the Order as 'moribund' a week or so ago; this morning I received a charming phone call from a member of the Order of Malta explaining quite how un-moribund they actually are. I am apologise unreservedly. My intention was simply to suggest that the Sovereign Order would be very fortunate to have Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke as its Patron but I also suggested that the Order was Vatican library to go onlinein a place that would give the Cardinal a very influential place in the Church. I think to make reparation it might be worth suggesting that the Cardinal might well be fortunate to be associated with the Order. In fact, if we discount any malice on the Pope's part, and let us presume that the Pope is not extra-ordinarily stupid, then he has deliberately appointed one of the most outspoken, intellectually able, hard working, guileless Cardinals, and those who know him describe him as quite saintly, to what is probably a dream job. Yes, lots of lex orandi, most of the members of the Order of Malta I know are strongly attached to the Old Rite, but actually lots of lex vivendi going on as well.

I don't quite know how to describe the Order of Malta, it is actually a religious order, with a celibate core. It is also the other independent  sovereign state in Rome, though its territory is even smaller, it parallels the Vatican, it has its own Sovereign and clergy, even ambassadors. It is also a social support community, for the great and the good. On the ground it is an aid agency, it runs hospital, nursing homes, refugee camps, it is even in Lampedusa.

It is this that Pope Francis has made Cardinal Burke the Patron, as I have said elsewhere I expect fission to take place. At least twice before the Order has saved Europe and consequently the Church, will there be a third time?

It is worth reading this from the Order of Malta's Grand Chancello, Baron Albrecht von Boeselager:
“We are active now in 120 countries with bigger and smaller operations. We have between 80,000 and 100,000 volunteers, and 30,000 or so employees. It has become a big operation whereby the huge proportion of activities is not emergency relief. It involves activities such as our Homes Trust here in England, hospitals in Germany, volunteer organisations, social aid, first aid and care for the elderly, the homeless, the handicapped, but the limelight is always on conflicts and disasters.”
That said, one should not underestimate the order’s achievements in conflict and disaster zones. Take Iran: “The last time we were there was after the severe earthquake. We were surprised how well they were organised and how unideological. In the aftermath of the earthquake when the first phase of aid was over we were asked by the local government to coordinate all the NGOs and to train new local NGOs. We were astonished.”
There are many other examples. “In one African country our ambassador discovered in the central prison there was no separation between men and women. You can imagine what happened. And on one side, the government did not care and, on the other side, they were ashamed so they did not let anybody in to see it. But they trusted our ambassador and allowed him to build a wall just across the middle of the prison to separate men and women and, in addition, to build a small clinic. And this was only possible because he had direct contact to the prime minister and they saw he was not a dependent of anybody and did not have to report to any other national or international body.”
One last example. “In the last Lebanon war our ambassador negotiated the release of more than 1,000 hostages. The European papers were full of the stories of the western hostages but not of the Lebanese hostages. And he went with his diplomatic car into the battlefield in the Beqaa Valley to take the injured out and he was not attacked by either side.” All these examples are small pieces, says the order’s Grand Chancellor in his understated way, “but they underline how we work”.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


I've changed my header picture from that grey view of one of the piers in my parish. It is really the inspiration of the Book of Maccabees in the OF Office of Readings we have been having this week, as much as anything else.

But then there has been plenty of war talk going on in the Church at the moment, I don't know if it has been going on outside of England. Perhaps it is the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Sunday coming up. There has also been talk of schism too, its all a bit daft, for Catholics or should we say, as I think we must nowadays 'orthodox Catholics', there is no place to go, not even Malta!

The new spirit of Relativism is as Pope Benedict says 'lethal' for the Church and for faith, just look at this little extract from Eponymous Flower:
In France, there are only 14,000 diocesan priests. About half of them are older than 75. This means that the situation is dramatic. To conduct but one parish is already a big job. In France it has become "normal" that a pastor has to take care of a dozen parishes. A regular celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is impossible. In most parishes it is celebrated only occasionally. In the diocese of Langres, each priest must take care for an average of 50 parishes. In short, it is almost resigned to a spiritual catastrophe. The numbers of priestly ordinations is also discouraging. In 2009, only 89 diocesan priests were ordained in France. Far too little to compensate for the decrease due to death. These numbers seem like reports coming from the front with the losses to an army. You could cry.
Fortunately, there is good and encouraging news coming from the seminaries of tradition. The traditional communities and dioceses have offspring. More, their seminars are full. It is therefore to be hoped that more old rite seminaries will be opened. There is no danger that they remain empty, since there is a strong interest in tradition by young believers.
France embraced the whole relativistic 'Spirit of ...' agenda as much as anywhere, except maybe Germany. The French Church however didn't have the money to turn the community of faith into an efficient business where bishops have become highly paid Chief Executives. There are some bright spots in France like the rather traditional diocese of Frejus-Toulon which has as many vocations as every other French diocese outside Paris put together. The other hope for France is its monasteries, these too are often great bastions of orthodoxy, those which aren't have died out. The highly non-Relativist 'La manif pour tous' movement has shaken the French establishment and given new hope, it is itself heavily influenced by traditional Christianity.

What is happening in France will happen elsewhere, perhaps not quite so quickly or with such a violence but in ten years time if we follow the Relativist line, Europe and the Americas will follow.  New York, for example, this week announced the closure/merger of over 100 parishes. This is going to happen all over the place, simply because Relativism is lethal, it is unattractive and hopeless, it is attractive to people of a certain generation but repells the young.

For any General involved in a Church war, my advice is to wait, maybe pray 'santo subito', because the 'biological solution' will sort most of our problems out, and much quicker than natural law will sort natural breakers out. In the interim, lest the troops become complacent let us all redouble our efforts and use all the means we have at our disposal to 'convince, rebuke and exhort', for as the Apostle says to Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Faith Departed?

 Catholic Bishops and Anglican Bishops
It is easy to cast stones at dear old Mother Damnable but we tend to think we Catholics are a bit different. There was an article last month that claimed 2% of Anglican clergy didn't believe in God and 16% are agnostic, it went on to say
Clergy were significantly more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs the older they were and the longer they had been in the ministry. Nearly 90 per cent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with  only 72 per cent of those who became priests in the 1960s, the research discovered.
I think actually more older clergy tend not to believe or have lost their faith.

Perhaps the fiasco  at the Synod has challenged such a one sided view, it is worth remembering the substantial agreement that ARCIC has reached (until the CDF got hold of the documents) to realise that between the CofE and many Catholics there is hardly the difference of a cigarette paper's depth.

A friend of mine has taken over a parish which was run for a decade or so by a priest who had lost his faith and last year those splendid young Irish Domicans expelled an ancient biblical scholar who had for years gone around saying he didn't believe in God and trying to undermine the faith of others. Many younger clergy had speculated that a recently retired bishop was really an atheist or at best agnostic. During the abuse crisis it struck many as odd that abusing priests could ascend to the altar or pulpit and offer the most Holy Sacrifice or preach as if nothing had happened, not believing could be the only excuse.
I loathe clergy meetings, after a bit of praying at the beginning God tends not to get a look in when we make plans for his Church and his people. I had somehow hoped that meetings of Bishops might be different, and Synods in the Holy See would be even more different but as it turns out ..., well look at the mid-term document of the Synod: God was decidedly absent, deliberately excluded.

There are some pretty obvious signs of non-belief; being content to remain in mortal sin is pretty obvious, never speaking of God might be another, perhaps having cob-webs in the episcopal chapel or not having one another might be another, never praying unless there are others there to be led is another, finding people with faith tedious or not being able engage with them presumably is another sign. The surest sign of a priest or a bishop without faith is the fruitless of his parish or diocese, no vocations, emptying churches, a lack of love or concern for the liturgy and most of all for the reverent celebration of Mass, a lack of concern for souls and morality, and above all a lack of growth, a lack of holiness. 'By there fruits you shall know them'.

I am told if you want to be a priest nowadays psychologists have devised some pretty tough tests, just to make sure you are telling the truth, and not a pederast or mad, surely it would not be too difficult to devise some test for faith. I would love to make it a rule that only priests with faith could become Pastors of a parish and certainly only priests with burning faith, that catches others alight could become bishops. I don't know how you ensure that, any ideas?
Lord, give us holy priests and even holier bishops!

Faithful Departed?

HM The Queen lays a wreath on behalf of the Nation at the Annual Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall London 9th Nov 2008.I am preparing my Remembrance Sunday sermon. It is always a bit trickey, there is no option to offer a Requiem Mass for any else but the 'Faithful Departed' in the Missal. So I am manifestly not praying for all those Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics and atheists who died in the great conflicts of the twentieth century.

The rather frightening truth is that we Christians though trusting in the abundant mercy and love of God actually know little about the fate of the unbaptised or those who were not faithful, and it isn't our tradition to pray aimlessly. There is no prayer for all the dead as a lumpen mass in our Tradition, some priests might do a bit of tweaking or intellectual/spiritual gymnastics. We can speculate that after death those of goodwill might embrace faith in Jesus Christ, or we can speculate that a commitment to or belief in 'goodness' might be the equivalent to being one of the faithful departed, or even come out with an an 'anonymous Christian' theory a la Rahner but this isn't what the prayers say, and though it is comforting, it is a bit like Limbo, it is speculation or a clever idea.

To be numbered amongst the 'faithful departed', would seem to suggest not merely being 'departed' but actually having had faith, and having lived or at least having died in it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

St Charles Borromeo's Century

My sense of history is based on wigs, it moves from codpieces to doublets to full bottomed wigs, shorter wigs to no wigs. I fit people into the timeline by what they wear in their portraits, it helps to associate one group of people with another. It is a bit more difficult with the Church where there is a marked absence of codpieces, doublets or wigs.

To help others who are similarly historically illiterate, I have put a wiki timeline of the Church in the 16th century, it is far from complete but it is helpful to see people like St Charles Borromeo, whose feast day it is today, not as a lone Saint but in his time 1538–1584, as part of an historical movement.

The sixteenth began and the Church was in turmoil, it reflected the state of Europe at the time. Wicked Alexander VI is followed after the brief reign of the poisoned (?) Pius III by Papa Terribilis, the bellicous Julius II, the Papacy was more concerned with secular power politics than religion.

In Germany Luther was preaching against Papal vices and much of Northern Europe would be lost to the Church. In Florence Savonorola 1452–1498 had condemned the vices and licentiousness of the Renaissance; with Greek learning came the Greek vices. Sodomy was one of the main vices he had in his cross-hairs. The gay lobby were not entirely guiltless of his burning.

Savonorola's reform movement was something that was carried to Rome, despite his own Greek vices, Michaelangelo had a great devotion to him, as did Philip Neri 1515 – 1595, often called the Second Apostle to Rome. Savonorola the preacher failed, whereas Philip retreated to the catacombs to pray, emerging to gather around him a youth movement, of young aristocrats, seeking holiness. At the same time Camillus de Lellis 1452–1498 was founding his hospital and order of praying nursing brothers.

There was a new spirit in decadent Rome, St Ignatius and Francis Xavier and the early Jesuits had arrived and were given churches, Young Catholic intellectuals were coming from all over Europe. Like St Edmund Campion 1540 -1581, they were praying and studying in Rome. Campion was amongst that great procession of young men who trudged from Rome through Milan to meet St Charles Borromeo, then often going through Geneva to be encouraged by Francis de Sales 1567 – 1622, they were going to their death in England and Northern Europe.

At no time had there been such a flowering of holy men in the city that was until recently known for its sin and corruption. In the young the Communion of Saints was made visible on the very streets and in the Churches of the Eternal City and through them in the rest of Italy and Europe.

What I am trying to say is that from the traincrash of all that led up to the Reformation of the 16th century, of the misery that faithful Catholics endured at the hands of sinful and wicked Popes and Prelates God brought about the sublime holiness of the Glorious Counter-Reformation.

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...