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!

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...