Monday, 2 March 2015

Ad Orientem this Easter?

Mass - ad orientem - at the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Unite your Easter Mass with that at the tomb of the Risen Lord.

It struck me that the Easter Vigil is a great time - even if it is just that once in the year - that the offering of the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass might be very fittingly celebrated ad orientem. In a liturgy that is unique in the year, where so much else is different from the regular Sunday Mass, this could be an ideal opportunity to try out ad oreintem celebration for clergy who might like to introduce it or experience it in a parish setting where particular catechesis could be given to give added emphasis to the special nature of this annual liturgy.  I do know of priests that would like to try it but might be unsure of how it could most easily and helpfully be re-introduced to the pastoral experience of the people.  Certainly, once I tried it - and many others tell  me the same - it transforms the priest's praying of the Mass and if the priest is praying the Mass more comprehensively and in a more focused way, that can only be to the good of the whole community.

In the Exultet we will have been singing of Our Lord returning to us as the shinning Sun, the breaking dawn from the East. We would truly be standing together - priests and people - in that holy light, walking together towards that Pillar of Fire, which is Christ himself, revealed on the Easter altar:
The risen Saviour shines upon you!Let this place resound with joy,echoing the mighty song of all God's people!
Let it mingle with the lights of heavenand continue bravely burningto dispel the darkness of this night! May the Morning Star which never setsfind this flame still burning:Christ, that Morning Star,who came back from the dead,and shed his peaceful light on all mankind.
It also struck me that this could chime in with some of what Pope Francis said recently to the Roman clergy and how to say Mass in a way that recovers the wonder and beauty that should inspire awe.  Ad orientem celebration makes people think about what is going on precisely because it is different from the usual way we interact with someone "centre stage" at a performance or presentation. The Pope said:
People should feel the wonder and allure “that the apostles felt when they were called, invited. It attracts – wonder attracts – and it lets you reflect”.
For me the key of ‘ars celebrandi’ takes the path of recovering the allure of beauty, the wonder both of the person celebrating and the people...  and that way you recover a bit of the wonder.
While the idea is simple, “it is not easy” to elicit this sense of wonder and mystery. But nonetheless, the celebration of Mass is about entering into and letting others enter into this mystery.
The celebrant “must pray before God, with the community."

Pope Francis occasionally celebrates ad orientem.

Pope Benedict at the High Altar in St Peter's 
celebrating (as at all Masses there) facing East.

Pope St John Paul at the High Altar in the Sistine Chapel.

 Pope St John XXIII, 
offering Mass in his private rooms - ad orientem.

The Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen - the great communicator - 
offering Mass ad orientem.

A contemporary English Bishop - Mark Davies - 
offering Mass ad orientem (in the Extraordinary Form)

A reminder of some of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's writings on the subject:
Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together  at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle but the common movement forward, expressed in a common direction for prayer. 
Wherever possible, we should definitely take up again the apostolic tradition of facing the east, both in the building of churches and in the celebration of the liturgy. It must be plainly evident that the oratio [the Eucharistic Prayer] is the heart of the matter, but that it is important precisely because it provides a space for the actio of God. Anyone who grasps this will easily see that it is not now a matter of looking at or toward the priest, but of looking together toward the Lord and going out to meet him. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Church Furnishings, Statuary, Vestments and Second-hand Books

I've put a link on the sidebar to Cenacle Catholic Books and Gifts, who are based here in the Northwest. 
They also offer a service dealing in other church items. Some further details below.

Cenacle: Church Furnishings, Statuary, Vestments and Second-hand Books.

Cenacle has over the years developed a good working relationship with the clergy, religious, and private individuals, by helping to clear libraries, churches and monasteries.

We are always prepared to make offers for hardback books and items of value.

We add quality books and items to our second-hand section, or pass items on.

Any unwanted books, or damaged religious items we can dispose of correctly and sensitively, as we recognise that many items have been blessed.

If you have any church items, vestments, statues or books that you would like us to look at, please contact: Moray Ness on 01695 558603 or email:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Crusades

The Crusades are one of these historical events that have entered into the fabric of our imaginations. The problem is that the version often pedalled by the secular media is one that is anti-Church, anti-Catholic and anti-Faith. For those who have access to EWTN you can watch a different popular interpretation, the second airing of the EWTN mini-series The Crusades starting today Tuesday 24th to Friday 27 February.

Here is the schedule for the UK and Ireland

Combining epic dramatic sequences with insights from leading historians, this mini-series clears up the many myths and distortions surrounding the Crusades. Filmed in the Holy Land and Europe.

Ep 1 Journeys of Faith
Tuesday 24, 02:00, 10:30, 21:00.
(30 mins)

Ep 2 The Crusader States
Wednesday 25, 02:00, 10:30, 21:00.
(30 mins)

Ep 3 Christendom Responds
Thursday 26, 02:00, 10:30, 21:00.
(30 mins)

Ep 4 Failures and Successes
Friday 27, 02:00, 10:30, 21:00.
(30 mins)

In the USA the times are as follows: 

A look at the history and reasons for the Crusades, which originally was called an 'armed pilgrimage', aiding safety for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land against Muslim conquerors.
Tuesday 02/24 at 3:00 AM ET, 6:30 PM ET

You can also get the series on DVD from St Clare Media.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Lenten Liturgical Thoughts

I came across some reminders of proper Lenten liturgical practice by Jimmy Atkin.
While practical needs and constraints might not let us do everything to the letter, it is always good to remind ourselves of the ideal and what we should be aiming at. So here are some of the reminders he gives.

1. Instrumental music with no singing.  The simple Latin chants of the Mass at the Sanctus and Agnus Die are ideal for singing without accompaniment.

In some parishes, instrumental music is used at certain points during Mass. A passage will be played on an organ or on another instrument or instruments, even though nobody is singing.
But not in Lent (with a few exceptions).
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states:
313. In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.

 2. Flowers on the altar.

It is common for the altar to be decorated with flowers during most of the year.  That is, there will be flowers around the altar, though NOT on top of the altar table itself. The artistically(?) arranged posy bowls should never be actually on the mensa, the altar top. The re-table or shelf behind the altar was always the place for these. Now that many ad orientem altars have been abandoned for a forward facing table, this has led to all sorts of "decorations" appearing on the consecrated mensa top (other than Father's spectacles!)
Flowers should not about the altar in Lent (with a few exceptions).
The General Instruction states:
305. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.
 3. Emptying holy water fonts.  I've heard of this here and there. Very odd!

In recent years, some parishes have taken the holy water out of the holy water fonts during Lent. They have even filled them with sand in some cases. The idea, they say, is to convey the thought that Lent is a time of spiritual dryness--a "desert" experience--that precedes Easter, in which we refrain from using the sacramental of holy water. Despite its popularity in some places, this practice is not permitted. It has been the Church's practice to empty the holy water fonts during the Sacred Triduum, but for a different reason. It is not permitted to have them empty through the whole season of Lent.

The Congregation for Divine Worship has stated:

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:
1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being "praeter legem" [i.e., "apart from the law"] is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the sacraments is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church.
The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday) [3/14/03: Prot. N. 569/00/L].

4. Veiling crosses and statues before the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

In recent years, some parishes in the United States have veiled or otherwise removed crosses and statues as soon as Lent begins. They're jumping the gun. This practice is permitted beginning with the Fifth Sunday of Lent, but not before.

The Roman Missal states:
The practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from this [Fifth] Sunday may be observed.
Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.
Notice that the practice is optional (the practice "may be observed" not "is to be observed").
If it is not observed, in a particular parish, from the Fifth Sunday of Lent, there is additional encouragement to do remove or veil crosses after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.
The rubrics in the Roman Missal for that day state:
At an appropriate time, the altar is stripped and, if possible, the crosses are removed from the church.
It is expedient that any crosses which remain in the church be veiled.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

King Richard III

King Richard III's pennant for the Mass

Those who read my post last month will know that we are planning a full High Requiem Mass for King Richard III on Thursday 26th March at 7.30pm - the same day that his mortal remains are to be reburied in Leicester Cathedral .  What I had not realised was that in the meantime, they continue to undergo the indignity of being kept in a box in a laboratory.  There is a petition asking Leicester cathedral that they might be kept in some more appropriate place, such as a chapel of rest.  The petition is supported by the Looking For Richard Project Team (Philippa Langley, Dr John Ashdown-Hill, Annette Carson, Dr David Johnson, Wendy Johnson, Dr Raymond Bord).  

You can sign it HERE.

I'm afraid that it is another case of lack of respect due to any human being made in the image and likeness of God which is so prevalent in our society today. It is not maudlin sentimentality that thinks his remains should be treated with respect but a proper understanding of the theology of the body and the failure to do so shows a lack of Christian sensibilities.  

Watching an old episode of "Time Team" just the other day, Tony Robinson described a relic chapel as macabre because it would have been full of old bones.  He didn't seem to appreciate the irony that they regularly dig up human remains on the programme and describe the finds as wonderful.  So venerating them and giving them a place of honour in a church relic chapel is "macabre" but disturbing the graves of those properly buried is great family entertainment.  I'm not suggesting we should not excavate archaeological sites but why the Church should be macabre in keeping relics while the "Time Team" can freely rejoice in displaying them to the world in plastic seed trays is quite beyond me.

Of course, the Christian sense of human dignity in and after death is also most often abused even by Catholics these days.  There seems to be a growing tendency for people to do all sorts of secular things with the ashes of their loved ones. For Catholics, the Church teaches that ashes should be buried (on land or at sea) rather than scattered or kept on the mantelpiece.  

While cremated remains may be buried in a grave, entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium or even buried at sea, 
"the practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (OCF 416) 
The cremated remains of the body may be properly buried at sea in the urn, coffin or other container in which they have been carried to the place of committal.

There is a useful brief summing up from the USA bishops' conference here.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Mass for the Holy Face of Jesus

Once again this year I am celebrating Mass for the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus, which falls on Shrove Tuesday.  There will be Low Mass at 7pm. Not such a well-known devotion in this day and age but obviously an ancient one, as Veronica's veil was kept intact from the time of Our Lord's Passion. St Therese of Lisieux was a great devotee.  Click here for devotional items and books about this Feast.

Of course this week also sees the start of Lent and there will be Mass (OF) with the Distribution of Ashes at 9.30am and at 7pm.

May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable,
 most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God be always praised,
 blessed, loved, adored and glorified, 
in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Why do Catholic Schools exist?

It is a sad reflection on the state of Catholic education that it makes the news and draws attention on social media when an Archbishop says that Catholic schools “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as held and taught by his Catholic Church.”  

It feels that in this country we have really given up on trying to hold Catholic schools to account when it comes to teaching and living the fullness of the Catholic Faith.  Hedged in by political correctness and financial accountability to the secular state, any re-imagining of Catholic education as a tool for actually passing on the Faith or as an evangelising process for the huge percentage of those in our schools who do not practice has long been given up on.  (There are no figures but I would make an educated guess that it must be around 90-95% of most Catholic school pupils do not practice their faith by regular Sunday Mass attendance.)

God bless Archbishop Cordilione for making some attempts to claw back Catholic from the sad reality schools to what it actually says on the sign at the gate Catholic School.  I had the privilege of meeting him a couple of years ago.  He spoke very clearly on what is and isn't the Catholic Faith.