Monday, June 29, 2015

The Lord is Here

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The Lord is here! though a little out of focus.
I have been quit delighted to see the steady stream of  people coming to pray with one another and with their Lord. It is good to see even some of of the local clergy and especially good to have children from our primary school coming into pray, some of them seem quite bored but others seem rapt in prayer. I am becoming increasingly convinced that our faith must before all else be one of 'experiencing' God. Prayer is that experience. Children are by nature mystics, and children above all need to be given the tool to participate in our mysteries, and the only real way of doing that is to teach them the value of silence and (forgive me) 'interiority'.

Noise and activity drive out the interior life. I had a discussion recently with a woman who brought her 'terrible two' to a friend's Silver Jubilee Mass in the old Rite. She was amazed and delighted at how well behaved the child was. It might have been that child was entranced by the beautiful well executed music or maybe it was just mum was quiet and didn't have to stand up, sit down, read a hymn book, sing, respond etc., just hold her child and pray and maybe the child was caught up in that prayer, I don't know. I do know that children at the old Mass are better behaved than children at the Ordinary Form, it might just be that their parents are more likely to pray with their children at home, so therefore they are more used to it in church.

The thing is though, that the old Rite seems to be more recognisable to children who pray as a prayer, it is obviously the silence but also the idea that several things can happen at the seem time and simply blend together.

Perhaps things might be helped if Bishops and diocesan liturgists actually took Cardinal Sarah's call seriously, but then this is exactly what Cardinal Canizares was saying when he was Cardinal Prefect, and come to think of it so did Cardinal Francis Arinze and for that matter Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, his predecessor; in fact all the recent Cardinal Prefects have stressed the same position.
 Contrary to what has been sometimes claimed, and in total conformity with the conciliar Constitution, it is especially fitting that, during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic Prayer, all, the priest and the faithful, face together towards the East, to express their willingness to participate in the activity of worship and the redemption wrought by Christ.  This could be fittingly put into action in the cathedrals, which should be the exemplars of the liturgical life.
Why is it that bishops and maybe more importantly diocesan liturgists do not take the Prefects of the CDW at their word?

Forty Hours continues throughout the night tonight and ends at midnight tomorrow night with Benediction, come and join us if you are in Brighton.

Sorry if you can't see the picture, only special people can, apparently! It shows some children pray before the Lord.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Forty Hours in our Parish

Displaying 20150627_133209.jpg   This morning we spent getting ready for '40 Hours,  it actually starts on Monday at 8am and goes through the night until midnight on Tuesday. It is impossible to do it after the Masses, besides it will whet appetites, the red frontal is for St Peter and Paul, but the red drapery will remain.

To try and inspire people to come  we have been selling candles for people to dedicate intentions.
40 Hours is our way of contributing to our diocesan Jubilee celebrations, the legacy of our previous bishop, at the Amex Stadium next week. Most parishes in our diocese have, I understand, cancelled their Sunday Masses, in conscience I just couldn't bring myself to do that, so next Sunday our Mass schedule will be 9am Traditional Latin (Low Mass) and 10.30 our New Rite Missa Cantata, then off to the Amex to Concelebrate Mass with our new Bishop, Richard. I have been thinking of assist in choro, which I'd much prefer, except I don't want to sit surrounded by a load of small boy and girl altar servers.

If you are in Brighton come and pray with my parish and Our Lord between 8am Monday and Midnight on Tuesday. There is something quite beautiful about praying in the small hours with the young men of our parish.
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Male Guilt

A friend of mine reports this conversation:
"Father, my boyfriend is depressed; I want you to talk to him".
"Okay, can you tell me a bit more?"
"Yes, he left his wife and children to move in with me and now he feels guilty"
"So, what are you asking?"

This not so unusual a request. It is significant that it is a young man. I invariably get depressed young men, sometimes suicidal young men who want to speak to me about some spiritual problem, 'I can't pray' or 'I want to return to the sacraments' or even sometimes, 'I think I want to be a priest but...' and then when one gets below the surface there is a whole series of broken relationships, sometimes even of children from discarded relationships. I suspect if you heard their confession none of this would figure, maybe simply, 'Bless me for I have sinned, it has been X years since my last Confession in that time I have missed Mass over a number of years, I have been dishonest and I have been unkind at times', maybe even I have wasted food or some other eco-sin.

What is often neglected, is any mention of sins against the 6th and 9th Commandment, that could be because of embarrassment, or simply as I suspect just sheer ignorance that these are totally contrary to the teaching of Jesus. In fact I have rarely married a couple which is not co-habiting, nor experienced embarrassment when they give a shared address. Admittedly a few couples are living together simply because it is impossible to buy a flat without two incomes, and some, a tiny number are trying to live chastely.

We believe in the Natural Law: sex and procreation outside of marriage, aberrant sexual behaviour, pornography, sexual fantasy, coupled with drug and alcohol use and hedonism, in general are chickens which must come home to roost. Again as the Holy Father has been saying recently the misery that so many children experience, because their parents are continually rowing or because of an absent father and in the case of boys the absence of an effective male role model, only add to feelings of guilt many young men live with. Brighton has a very high rate of male suicide, someone suggested to me recently one of the problems is those who might give help are feminised, which only adds to problem.

I get a bit concerned when priests of a certain age (which they are mostly) say, 'we must be merciful'. The problem is that for the last 60 years we have done nothing else but be so 'merciful' that we have failed to be truly merciful and proclaim Jesus' teaching, which is the ultimate and only real mercy, or as Pope Francis says, 'God's final word is called Jesus'. For many young people, men especially, it is that they simply don't know how to live.

Maybe someone needs to sit down and write a simple 'Rule of Life', I suspect such a document will not come out of the Synod!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Was that the Pope's Carriage?

I haven't and I have to admit I most probably won't read Laudate si, I simply don't have the capacity or will to read and much more importantly digest such a magnum opus properly, and though I had certain capacity to understand the theology of his predecessor I lack the lucidity to follow our present Holy Father's thought. Being no scientist I am certainly willing to believe both sides in the the climate change debate. Being a Christian I believe that I am here for a short time and I have a duty to leave my 'environment', in the broadest sense, better for my presence rather than worst. I like to think of myself as 'traditionalist', which means having received, I hand on, that applies to material and temporal things as well as things spiritual and dogmatic. Us 'trads' tend to think we should live lightly on the earth and other people.

The Holy Father's main thrust is against selfish consumerism, I can think of none of the saints who was for it, He is against unjust distribution of wealth, that is because he hears God himself telling us the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, and his story of the division of sheep and goats and the terrifying sentence passed on the goats who fail to recognise the King in the poor and hungry.

There is something a little shocking, reminiscent of Paul VI's call for a world bank, in the call for international organizations to police climate policy, quite where that begins and more importantly ends I find worrying.

I must admit I was hoping that the Holy Father might come out with a few things that might actually 'green' the Church, I notice another blogger has already suggested abandoning those international youth rallies, it seems almost obscene to transport unnecessarily tens of thousands, or if official reports are to believed, millions, of young people across the world. I was quite pleased when the Holy Father told people from Buenos Aires not to come to his inauguration but to stay at home and do something useful with the money.

One of the things that seems a little worrying is that this encyclical seems to be saying is that the Pope is on a par with any other world leader or the head of the UN but then I long for the day when English tourists in Rome could turn to one another and ask disinterestedly, as they did in the early 19th century, "Oh, was that was the Pope's carriage that just passed us?" or simply mention "...and we saw the Pope walking in street".

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Devil's work,

One of the things I am grateful to our beloved Holy Father for is that he has 'liberated' talk of the devil, he has made it acceptable to speak about malevolent supernatural powers, which is an important part of the restoration of the hermeneutic of continuity, though as the "Father of Lies" main area of operation is not so much in the real world but in the world of illusion and imagination, consequently though the devil greatest trick is to convince the world he doesn't exist his normal way of operating, at least among Christians, is to get them to imagine he is more prevalent and powerful than he actually is and to forget Christ has conquered.

Sunday's EF readings had the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin as the Gospel, I reflected on how terrible it was to be lost: the sheep would end up either dying of hunger or injured and pecked to death by birds or a wild beast and the coin would be trampled into the filth of an earthen floor of a dark cottage. The Epistle warned us: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour stand up to him strong in faith. Sheep might be pecked to death by birds, coins might be lost in the filth of a dark cottage's floor but for us, if we lost from Christ we will be devoured by the devil himself!

It strikes me as if  entire societies are being detached from Christ and the result is they are being devoured. Look at the recent Brazilian Gay Pride demonstration, which directly targets Christ, look at the effects on marriage, the family, the place of children in our society when we abandon even the pretence of Christian morality. Pope Benedict on his German trip, spoke of the terrible consequences for humanity when a society abandons a Christian moral framework.

 In Mexico recently there was convention at which behind closed doors of the Cathedral the country was exorcised. Wherever Christ is rejected or pushed out, the devil enters, he loves a vacuum and enters it quickly. As Pope Francis said, "If we do not pray to Christ, we pray to the devil". The choice is becoming clearer and clearer and more immediate: Heaven or Hell, there is no place in between.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My friend: Fr Jonathan

It is a great privilege to count this man amongst my friends, his ordination and that of a friend of his ordained about the same time, marked a  great change for the good in our diocese. Fr Jonathan is now the Chancellor of our diocese.

Viva Canon Lawyers!
and thanks Bones

Moral High Ground

Image result for creationWhen I was first ordained I was very much into setting up Justice and Peace Groups, but I soon became rather jaded, the whole Catholic J&P network just seemed to be dominated by people who wanted to undermine pretty basic Catholic teaching, They didn't share what I considered the Church to be saying about what humanity is, they didn't seem to value human life from conception to natural death, and those who did didn't place much value on what lay in between or be much concerned by social injustice.

I think many orthodox Catholics might share my feelings. Reading stuff on the web, amongst some there seems to be a dread of Pope Francis' new encyclical on the environment, I welcome it as a chance to offer the world a radically different way of living, that actually offers hope to our rather hopeless society and return the Christianity to the moral high ground where it can challenge 'the world the flesh and the devil'..

One of our excellent bishops, Bishop Egan had a rather good Pastoral Letter for last weekend.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cardinal Sarah on Facing East and Mutual Enrichment

I was very pleased to read this translation on Rorate of a piece which appears on Chiesa in Italian, it is Cardinal Sarah writing L'Observatore a few weeks ago.
Contrary to what has been sometimes claimed, and in total conformity with the conciliar Constitution, it is especially fitting that, during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic Prayer, all, the priest and the faithful, face together towards the East, to express their willingness to participate in the activity of worship and the redemption wrought by Christ.  This could be fittingly put into action in the cathedrals, which should be the exemplars of the liturgical life.
We do that.
Reading further, Cardinal Sarah discusses the two forms of the Roman rite, the ancient and the modern:
It would also be desirable that the penitential rite and the Offertory of the usus antiquior be appended to the next edition of the Roman Missal in the Ordinary Form.  This would underline the fact that the two liturgical forms enlighten each other in continuity and without opposition.
I would like to do that.
God bless Cardinal Sarah!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I get annoyed by those videos which show the Old Rite and compare it with worst examples of the New, never do these video makers compare it with better examples. In our parish for example the same chants, the same polyphony, the same orientation, was used for Old Rite Corpus Christi on Thursday and for New Rite Corpus Christi on Sunday, even to the disconsternation of a visiting priest the same Byrd Mass.

I am pretty sure that today we celebrate the Old Rite in a certain modern style which only liturgical purists might possibly have done in the past. An obvious example is the readings are invariably heard, and read in such a way that they should be understood, even at Low Mass. There are plenty of stories of the Old Rite being celebrated in a way that would horrify many today. A story from here, tells of a priest who had forgotten his false teeth sent the server to get them, who brought them covered on a silver salver, the priest took them turned to the congregation and put them in his mouth. Again in the period of the Liturgical Movement there was plenty of experiment, especially once the dialogue Mass was allowed in the 1920s,

That being said the Old Rite gave a very different complexion to the relationship between priest and people. I was recently sent a questionnaire about how I see leadership in the Church. It is always a concept I feel uncomfortable with, in many ways I suspect it is a very modern question. It might be interesting if FOTA prepared one of their excellent papers on it. My own feeling is to paraphrase Cardinal Winning, "The Catholic Church [in Scotland] has one leader, and that is not me, it is Jesus Christ". Rather than "leadership" in the past we most probably would have spoken more about obedience, whether it was of a simple priest, a bishop, or even pope.

Anyone preparing to celebrating the Old Rite first of all has to learn a different way of being a priest, he has to learn to be a servant, like the Centurion's servant "to come here, and go there". The Old Rite is very prescriptive about how the priest moves, where moves, how he uses his body, where he looks and even where he directs his eyes. The control over his body and movements results in a control over his mind and thoughts. The thing is that the rubrics are freely available to any ten year old who can read Latin or anyone who has a copy of Fortescue, O'Connel and Reid, or the like, this is important in as much as it democratises the liturgy and leaves the priest open to accountability and able to be judged on his obedience to the demands of the Church. In fact the heart of the spirituality of the Old Rite is one of being under obedience, the obliteration of the individual, to the point where in a large Church, with a number of priests one is often uncertain which priest is celebrating Mass, it is often just hair colour, or body shape that enables one to distinguish who is the celebrant.

If the priest in the New Rite chooses to celebrate ad apsidem, which is his right, in the same way as it is his right to choose which penitential rite or Eucharistic Prayer to use, he is well on his way to  begin to submerge himself in the the liturgy and the mind of the Church, and yet of course he has already made a 'leadership' decision. Similarly if he opts to celebrate the Old Rite, he has done more than any of his pre-concillior predecessors had the power to do. However the Old Rite teaches obedience, there is an entirely different attitude to preparing a liturgy in either Form of the Rite. At low Mass in the Old Rite, the priest merely opens the Missal and begins continuing until he ends, it is almost mechanical. In the New Rite even if Mass is said as 'rubrically' as possible there are a variety of options. If Mass is sung, in the Old Rite he and the choir simply sing what is in the Graduale or the Liber, if one is very fortunate the choir might be able substitute polyphony or some other musical form for some of the chant, possibly even adding the organ or even an orchestra or a band, and possibly even singing the chant in a particular historic style. For the priest and sacred ministers however it is saying or singing the black and doing the red.

The lack of liturgical choice, except to endeavour to do more perfectly what the Church demands is an important factor in the traditional spirituality of a priest. If one couples his liturgical congruence to a congruence to the mind of the Church with a traditional understanding of a priest's theology to constantly subject his intellect to the mind of the Church, together with traditional priestly asceticism, one ends up with a very different attitude to what is often referred to as 'leadership'.

I can't help thinking that when priests 'lead' we end up with all kinds of disasters, when they obey (Christ and his Church) then they build his Kingdom. It is John the Baptist, isn't it? "I must decrease, he must increase". What is rather frightening is that to those who believe the contents of the video, even if in a less Italianate and exuberant form, is what the priesthood is about are quite incapable of understanding what the great master's of priestly spirituality are saying. The Old Rite is divisive and subversive.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Clerical Narcism

I have long thought that the 4th Commandment: Honour your father and mother and you will live long in the land, was a key to many of our problems in the Church. I mean why are we no longer living long in the land, is it possibly that we do not honour our past and the things of our forefathers, in brief our mothers and fathers. Why are places that were once flourishing and Catholic, no longer so; this is the question Pope Benedict put to Roman seminarians just before his retirement, when he spoke of the "Council of the Media", the Council of Rupture, "this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed, the liturgy was trivialized ,,,"

Benedict's liturgical teaching, the 'liberating' of the Old Rite, his attempt to find 'roots' for the New Rite, which he considered rootless and his promulgation 'the hermeneutic of reform within continuity' are all signs that he wished to restore harmony to the Church, to somehow exorcise the idea that the Church of today is not the same Church as that of the past, in fact that which Jesus founded. The idea that that which earlier generations called holy is still holy for us today, is very much about restoration, as is the encouragement to read its documents of the Council and to read them in the light of Tradition.

There is an interesting article by Paul Vitz & Daniel C. Vitz about priestly narcissism, it is aimed primarily at explaining liturgical abuse but it might also give an insight into theological abuses, sexual abuse and the abuse of power. Do read it, it is worth the effort.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

St Norbert: Live like an Angel day

Happy St Norbert's day to Frs Hugh and the Chelmsford community and any other Premonstratention readers.
There is a little biography of St Norbert here.

In the Ordinary Form Mass the readings from the Book of Tobit end today: Tobias' companion reveals himself as none other than the Angel Raphael, who lives in the presence of God and brings healing to men.

I don't if St Norbert was the first monastic reformer to introduce white habits, the Norbertine Canons do suggest that St Dominic nicked the idea from them.

What I am rather taken by is St Norbert gave them a white habit, "in imitation of the angels in heaven, to sing the divine praises on earth". It was also a sign of angelic witness to the resurrection and of baptismal purity of course.

In a world in which religion had become corrupt Norbert revived it by a return to purity in imitation of the angels, for Norbert it began in worship and living in God's presence, and seeking his will. Norbert was a proto "Save the liturgy, save the world" exponent.

Whilst, "What would Jesus do?" seems too complicated a question for most Catholics, "What would an angel do", seems more easily answered.

So celebrate St Norbert by making today "Live like an Angel day".

Thursday, June 04, 2015

A new Politics

I am not a conspiracy nut, I believe that human beings tend to act like the starlings that circle over the ruin of Brighon's derelict pier that I can see from my window, they move together, there is nothing random about it. We seem to act together

One of the things that I have been fascinated by is the routing of the Labour Party in Scotland, in a way it is mirrored throughout Europe, good old fashioned socialist or Christian democratic parties  have lost traction with voters and really apart from "Equalities" have few policies that are very distinct from those of their mates who sat on the other side of the university PPE lecture theatre and now sit on the other side of the parliamentary debating chamber. There is a sameness in politics and politicians, it is only personality or lack of it that brings in a distinction.

The Labour Party here are asking advice from voters about their future. My advice would be forget about the rubbish of the past fifty years and go back to fighting poverty and being on the side of the worker, raise up the downtrodden and the disadvantaged, in fact I would give then the same advice Pope Francis might: start putting the family first.

The Synod on the Family could have been a wonderful moment for renewal not just in Europe but throughout the world, it now looks as if it is going to be nasty little congress to discuss everything which is anti-family, pushed by those who ideologically oppose the family or at least the Christian family. Yes, I blame Cardinal Marx and his brothers who for some reason want to distract the Synod from its purpose. Why? What a good question, cui bono? Catholic liberals tend to flock with political liberals. I am told that at one of those Conclave planning soirees it wasn't just devious liberal old Cardinals from failing Churches who gathered but politicians, financiers, media moguls.

What if we did address, "The living conditions that put the family to the test and render it vulnerable, starting with poverty," What if we took seriously Pope Francis' call that, “We must endeavour to stay ever closer to families afflicted by poverty”.... “In effect, social misery affects the family and at times destroys it. The lack or loss of work, or its precariousness, have serious repercussions on family life, putting relationships under stress. The living conditions in the most disadvantaged areas, with problems regarding housing and transport, as well as the reduction of social, healthcare and educational services, cause further difficulties. Added to these material factors there is also the damage caused to the family by false models, propagated by the mass media, based on consumerism and the cult of appearances, which affect the poorest social classes and increase the disintegration of family bonds”.

It is not merely murder or sodomy that cries out to heaven for vengeance, it is also oppression of the widow and orphan, and depriving the worker of his just wages or of any wages, or simply leaving him to starve.

If we give priority to the family rather than the individual then we start with a radically different model of humanity. If we could build a new politics that saw the human beings not as a selfish and self obsessed individuals but as family members that had a self-sacrificing love for the other members of his or her family and society as a whole.

Joe Shaw draws attention to an article in the Economist that casts light on the malaise within our society.

We need to ask whether the politicking that has dominating the world since WWII is still of value. Can we still continue with something which was either a critique of or collaboration with 19th century Capitalism, Are we ever going to have full employment again? How do will deal with class conflict, which has now transmogrified into gender conflict? How do we address the cheapening of human life, the elderly, the unborn, people from sub-Sahara Africa? How will  we deal with young people who may never work or societies where substantial people will never marry because of sex selective abortions? How do we deal with the lack of fulfilment so many people experience?

I think these might be some of the questions Pope Francis in a rather Blatteresque way is asking us to address. As in much that concerns the Church the answer is often clearer than the question, for us the answer is: THE FAMILY stupid!

By the way we have a Missa Cantata at 7.30pm tomorrow (Thursday() very simple: Byrd 3 voices, a small procession and Benediction, there is parking in the school playground behind the Church.

Does any one have a spare canopy that is looking for home?

Monday, June 01, 2015

A Portrait of the Trinity

I have a vague idea of seeing this in southern Spain but I am sure of its location. Snotty Protestants might have a difficulties with it but we Catholics are made of more enlightened stuff. Though one might prefer not to portray the Trinity, except possibly in an abstract way, of the Athanasian Creed one has to remember any depiction is merely analogous, unless one is presenting an actual happening like the appearance of the three Angels at the Oak Mamre.

Defining God in human terms, even as 'He', is always dangerous, unless revelation itself does. defining God as 'she' as those sillier Anglicans want to do, is just to denigrate revelation and further move into paganism.

We certainly know what the Second Person looked like: a man like us in all things but sin. The First Person is a little more difficult, Jesus names him as Father, Genesis uses similar language by describing as as source and origin of all that is, but yet there is a danger in making finite the infinite.

The Third Person is even more difficult to portray, he appears as a dove at the Baptism of Jesus and as a rushing wind and tongues of fire at Pentecost but actually his presence is made known in his works, through his many gifts and through his fruit.

I like the idea that he, or rather his works are portrayed by Mary, the highest honour of our race. It is Mary that we see the work of the Spirit, by his power she is conceived Immaculate, by his over-shadowing she conceives the Eternal Word, by his presence she has before her both on earth and in heaven the Beatific Vision and by his power she is taken up body and soul into heaven.

Through her Son, in the Spirit, she is united to the Father. I suspect critics of this statue might be less inclined to criticise an image the Trinity surrounded by all the saints yet the saints unlike Mary have to wait to be united to their bodies, they too look to Mary as the source of grace.

What is good about this statue is it reminds us of the fundamental doctrine of divinisation, of us dwelling in perfect union with the All Holy Trinity that Jesus promises and is the end of the Christian life.

For me one of the problems is the little Napoleonic eagle-like dove roosting on the Cross, yet the artist is presumably trying to indicate or reinforce the presence of Spirit hovering over Mary.

Of course what we can say about Mary, we can say about the Church so we can regard this statue as the Church too, even so it is an analogy and one way of thinking about the Trinity.

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...