Tuesday 31 August 2010

Ad Orientem

Church of Our Saviour - Park Avenue, New York

I have just read the article by Fr George Rutler on The New Liturgical Movement concerning the new translation of the Missal but he also has a little paragraph about the orientation of our prayer. While I was in New York three years ago Fr Rutler was kind enough to offer me Eucharistic hospitality - and also pretty much pushed me into one of his (busy) Confessionals. A slightly daunting experience as it soon became obvious that many penitents were used to confessing in Spanish - not a language I am at all fluent in! I am interested to read it as my own personal opinion is that recovering the ancient orientation is one of the most important means of restoring the dignity of the liturgy. Once facing the altar, facing the same direction as the gathered congregation, it is much easier to resist the temptation to be nodding, smiling and interacting with them while you are supposed to be concentrating on addressing the the Heavenly Father in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Anyway, below is the quote from his article:

While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people. When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.

I also read this excellent piece on Catholicculture.org by Father Carey, a Dominican priest, the director of the Sante Fe Institute in Berkeley, Calif. He is also the director of Clergy Education and a member of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

As the lightning comes from the East . . so shall the Son of Man appear" Mt 24:27). There it is, the scriptural basis for the Christian belief that when Jesus comes again in glory, He will come from the East. This belief is in turn the foundation for the ancient Christian practice of facing East while praying. In fact, already in the fourth century, St. Basil wrote that an eastern orientation in prayer was one of the most ancient traditions of the Church.

This eastern orientation carries several different meanings. Most basically, the East represents Christ. So strong is the identification of Christ with the East that sometimes He is simply called by that name. This is a continuation of an Old Testament theme that says of God, "The Orient is his name" (Zec 6:12). In our liturgy, we also name Jesus the "Orient, splendor of eternal light and sun of justice." So when we pray facing the East, we mean to face Christ himself.

The East also represents heaven in various ways. First, it is the place from which Christ will return. Facing the East therefore embodies a longing for Christ's Second Coming and an expression of eschatological hope.

At Mass, for example, after the Our Father, there is a prayer that begins, "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil." In the reformed liturgy of Vatican II, this prayer has been extended to include the phrase "as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." In this way, our waiting and longing for Christ's coming is given a new emphasis.

Heaven is also the place where Christ lives in glory. In the literary account of her martyrdom, St. Perpetua is said to have seen four angels who, at the moment of her death, would carry her to the East, where she would meet Christ and live with Him forever.

Finally, heaven is also the eternal home that we desire. Facing the East was therefore thought to be a way of peering into Paradise, which God had "planted in the East" (Gn 2:8). St. Basil tells us:

It is by reason of an unwritten tradition that we turn to the East to pray. But little do we know that we are thus seeking the ancient homeland, the Paradise that God planted in Eden toward the East.

In all these ways, heaven expresses a human desire to go beyond the bounds of this life — in other words, a desire for transcendence.

An eastern orientation in prayer has been a salient characteristic of Catholic liturgical spirituality from the earliest centuries. Where a literal eastern orientation was not architecturally possible, as in the adaptation of the ancient Roman basilicas, the faithful simply turned in that direction. And, of course, when it was possible to orient a church eastward, as with the great medieval cathedrals, this was done. Then the eschatological and transcendent meanings of this orientation were further emphasized by apsidal art that depicted images of Christ and the saints in heavenly glory.

Eastern orientation in liturgical prayer is so ancient, and it has been so persistent through the centuries, that we must question the relative neglect of it in our time. The current manner of celebrating Mass, for example, has heightened our awareness of the immanent dimensions of the Eucharist. While this is valuable in itself, we cannot let the equally important eschatological and transcendent dimensions be too drastically diminished. Especially in troubled times, shouldn't our liturgical prayer be oriented toward heaven and hope in an evident way?

Yet, since God has planted a desire for heaven in human hearts, its liturgical expression cannot long be ignored. Now, as we prepare to enter a new era of Christian history, perhaps the time is right for us to take another look at the ancient practice of facing the East in prayer.


Sunday 29 August 2010

actuosa participatio!

My friend Bill Wendt sent me a wonderful article written by Michael P. Foley, Associate Professor of Patristics in the Honors College at Baylor University. It hits the nail firmly on the head!

Getting active participation right
One of the obstacles to a wider acceptance of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, as well as a more reverent celebration of the ordinary form, is an enduring misunderstanding of the concept of active participation. Earlier this summer, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, criticized Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI for their "restorationist" vision after watching a grandly successful Pontifical Solemn High Mass in the old rite celebrated at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., on April 24. After describing the horror of 3,000 people who "sat passively" as they listened to the music of Palestrina and Tallis (O the humanity!), the bishop came to a profound conclusion: "By that point I had come to realise that this Tridentine liturgy was an elaborate ritual manifestation of ecclesiastical rank, not a Mass in conformity with the fundamental Vatican II mandate for full, active participation by the faithful."

But Bishop Dowling's dismissiveness of the extraordinary form pales in comparison to Roger Cardinal Mahony's 1997 pastoral letter, "Gather Faithfully Together," the arguable high watermark of dubious doctrine concerning active participation by a Church prelate. In that letter, active participation is portrayed not as a means of partaking in the very life and mystery of God, but as a call "to attend to others." Cardinal Mahony goes on to praise his new, disorienting cathedral because it enables "most members of the assembly . . . to participate more fully with the other members of the assembly." Cardinal Mahony's idea of the "assembly" participating with itself rather than the Godhead is rather like (per Chesterton's observation) thinking a baby gets his best food by sucking his thumb -- and that a group of babies gets their best food by sucking each other's thumbs.

It is deceptively easy to slip into a misconception of active participation. Even the stalwartly orthodox Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, Colorado, recently explained his preference for the Novus Ordo, or new Mass, over the older Tridentine rite on the grounds that the former encourages "active, creative participation by all the faithful -- not only in the liturgy but in every aspect of the Church's mission." Archbishop Chaput's phraseology, which occurs in an otherwise brilliant and recommended lecture titled "Glorify God by Your Life: Evangelization and the Renewal of the Liturgy," goes beyond Vatican II's call for "fully conscious and active" participation by its inclusion of the word "creative." How is a person in the pews supposed to be "creative" during the liturgy without destroying the very notion of liturgy itself? I'd wager that most of the problems encountered by the Congregation for Divine Worship in the last generation come from folks getting creative with the received rites.

The Real Meaning of Active Participation

So let's review the basics. Pope St. Pius X first coined the expression partecipazione attiva in his 1903 motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini as part of his goal to restore Gregorian chant to the mainstream of the Church (according to the musically sensitive pontiff, chant is marvelously ordered "to the understanding of the faithful" by the way it "clothes" the text with suitable melodies). Pope Pius XI extended this principle in his 1928 apostolic constitution Divini Cultus to the verbal responses of the congregation as well. The faithful should not be, he tells us, "merely detached and silent spectators, but filled with a deep sense of the beauty of the Liturgy."

Note the wording carefully: Pius XI contrasts being "detached and silent" not with loudness or some other externally quantifiable sign, but with being filled with the liturgy's splendor. The opposite of liturgical inactivity is not, as some might expect, the external activity of voice or movement, but the internal wonder born of experiencing beauty; and if the externals are to be encouraged, it is for the sake of vivifying the internal. Pace Bishop Dowling, you can be filled with a deep sense of the beauty of the liturgy and thus be fully and active participating without uttering a word.

Pope Pius XII's encyclical Mediator Dei (1947) articulates a similar understanding. Pius XII commends "active and individual participation" through which "the members of the Mystical Body . . . become daily more like to their divine Head" (78). He too warns the faithful not to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice "in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with . . . earnestness and concentration" (80). Note again the emphasis on mental presence.

But Pius XII was also aware of unsavory trends in the Liturgical Movement at the time (8), and so he warns against a forced external uniformity in participation and even recommends other prayers and "exercises of piety" (such as the rosary) for those who do not benefit from audibly responding or singing (108). Implicit in Pius' flexibility is again the ultimate goal of ruminating on, and thus entering into, the deeper mysteries of the Divine, which he holds superior to what Francis Cardinal Arinze would later refer to in "Active Participation in the Sacred Liturgy" as an "over-regimentation" of external actions bereft of contemplative activity.

Moreover, Pius XII's encyclical is the first to give us the full Latin term for active participation: actuosa participatio. Again, note the wording: When translating the Italian partecipazione attiva into Latin, the normative language of the universal Church, the pope could have chosen activa as the adjective -- but he did not. He speaks instead of actuosa participatio, which is better translated into English as "actual participation" (and here I must express my profound gratitude to Dr. Daniel Van Slyke for this insight). This phrase more clearly mirrors the profile of ideal liturgical participation as outlined by the supreme pontiffs than "active participation," which can give the impression that the focus is on mere outer activity. In his essay "Active Participation and Pastoral Adaptation," Alcuin Reid is quite right to describe true "active participation," even that which involves complete bodily or vocal activity, as "essentially contemplative."

Therefore, when the Second Vatican Council speaks of "fully conscious and active [actuosa] participation" in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (14; cf. 19, 21, 27, 30), it is not inventing a new idea but simply reaffirming the teaching of the popes. Indeed, adding the word "conscious" more directly highlights the centrality of deliberate, alert, and engaged attention, or what the ancients called contemplation. True, Vatican II wanted to see the congregation involved in the responses and singing (see no. 30), but it did so for the sake of this internal, actual participation, not as an end unto itself. Vatican II did not abolish papal teachings on actual participation; it presupposed them.

Old vs. New Forms of the Mass

Back, then, to the common accusation that one form of the Roman rite has more "active participation" than the other. Based on the Church's operative definition of actuosa participatio, the only way we could substantiate such a claim would be to measure the degree to which the hearts -- rather than the limbs or vocal chords -- of the congregation are fully involved in the sacred action of the altar (a difficult task, to be sure). If, on the other hand, we were to measure mere externals, we would make a startling discovery: The Tridentine Mass actually has more responses and actions for the congregation to make than the Novus Ordo.

Some might object at this point that people at a Tridentine Mass do not usually take advantage of the opportunity for greater exterior participation. Assuming this is true (in some places it is, while in others it is not), we must still reply: So what? An allergic reaction to giving the responses is no more a reflection of the mind of the preconciliar Church than are the affected hand gestures and exaggerated shouts of "And also with you!" a reflection of the mind of the postconciliar Church.

The simple fact of the matter is that, when it comes to the nature of active participation, the mind of the Church -- which is found in the most authoritative teachings of the Magisterium -- has not changed significantly in the last 100 years, even though you could never tell from the wild divergences in actual celebration. Thoughtful devotees of both the 1962 and the 1970 missals can agree that the two extremes of the pendulum have missed the mark.

The bottom line, then, is that we should stop counting articulated syllables and ritual gesticulations and instead acknowledge that a true and actual participation in the august mysteries of the Eucharistic cult, regardless of the form of the rite, has more to do with a soul in devotion than a body in motion. It would be nice if some of our bishops knew that, too.


Thursday 26 August 2010

Traditional Form in Liverpool Archdiocese

The High Altar at St Vincent de Paul's Church in Liverpool

I heard news this week that yet another parish is placing the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite onto its regular schedule of Masses. This means that in Liverpool Archdiocese there are now four churches where there is a regular Sunday Mass in this form and another three more where it is offered on a weekday and/or particular Holy Days - as well as other priests in the Archdiocese who help out, as they are able to celebrate in the Traditional Form.

Two years ago, the Priests Council of the Archdiocese "vetoed" the Archbishop's efforts (already quite far ahead at the time) to set aside a particular church (St Vincent's in the City centre) to care for those who were attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Perhaps they did the Traditional Form of the Mass a favour. By setting aside one place it might have allowed others to leave it to be done there. As it is, more and more parishes are taking it upon themselves to introduce this form of the Mass - as was envisaged by the Moto Proprio. So although the glories and central location of St Vincent's (run down & in desperate need of TLC as it is) have been lost, it has been replaced by an increasing number of ordinary churches where the Extraordinary Form takes its place. Deo Gratias - and thank you brethren.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Hopes for the Papal Visit

An old friend, Edmund Adamus, has just given an interview to the Zenit News Agency on his hopes for the Holy Father's visit (http://www.zenit.org/article-30134?l=english). Edmund is the Director for Pastoral Affairs for the Archdiocese of Westminster. He speaks very eloquently on the culture of death and the anti-Catholic (and therefore anti-life) attitudes that exist in our society.

Some of his comments on the "feminization of masculinity and the laddish culture that haunts the development of young girls and women [which are] not providing the answers to life's deepest questions" got me thinking along a different track - on the feminization of our worship. There is a famous and oft repeated story that Cardinal Heenan, on seeing a "dry run" of the new Mass presented to the Cardinals after Vatican II said:

"At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel we would soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children."

His insight seems to have been perceptive for we now do have a majority of worshippers that are children and women (and middle-class men who might be more "gender aware.) Like the Labour Party which is concerned that it is losing the support of the ordinary working man, the Catholic Church in our country seems to have already lost that constituency. Could it be that (like New Labour) the touchy-feely holding hands style bears at least some part of the responsibility?

I still occasionally come across this sort of Catholic man - ordinary, working, good-living, yet not overly religious/pious, he doesn't talk about his Faith overtly but he actually says his prayers with his family and quietly bears witness to the Faith at work and among his friends and family by his speech and in his actions.

These are the men whom I have seen bring most influence to bear on those around them - in a school, for example, where such a man in the Sports Department does much more good for the Faith than the nun at C & A running around organising Red Nose Day.

These are the men whose empty places in the pews do the most harm to passing on the Faith.

Pray God they are able to hear the Holy Father speaking to them.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Hermeneutic of Continuity in Religious Life

Further to my post yesterday, the great battle-cry of continuity with the past is taken up in respect to Religious Life by Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who spoke about this in an excellent piece in 2008 that goes to the heart of the matter (particularly in chapter III). You can read the whole piece on Zenit: http://www.zenit.org/article-23916?l=english

I reproduce Chapter III here:

The Council, in fact, offered clear and abundant guidelines for the needed reform of Consecrated Life. The crucial question is: How were those guidelines interpreted and applied? Overall, the Council in general was interpreted and applied in two very different, opposing ways that we must look at more closely if we are to understand what has happened and map out a course to follow toward the future.

Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church and concretely in religious life, been so difficult and the source of so much turmoil?” asked Pope Benedict in an important speech three years ago.

The answer he offers is deep and crystal-clear. “It all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application.” He continues, “The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and clashed. One caused confusion; the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and continues to bear fruit.

“On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform’, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.”

1. The ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’ described.

In the Holy Father’s analysis, “The hermeneutic of discontinuity is based upon a false concept of the Church and hence of the Council, as if the former were from man alone and the latter a sort of Constituent Assembly. The call to change would be the true “spirit of the Council”, to such a degree that whatever in its documents reconfirms the past can be safely said to be the fruit of compromise and therefore to be legitimately forsaken in favor of the Council’s ‘spirit.’
This spirit that all is new and has to be made new gives rise to the fervid excitement of the explorer, the prospect of stepping courageously beyond the letter of the Council. But the call is so vague that one is immediately left anchorless, a victim of his every whim and rejecting all correction. It is idealistic in so far as it underestimates the frailty of human nature, and it is simplistic in thinking that a Yes to the modern era will solve all tensions and create harmony .
Given these premises, and given also the best of intentions, what calming influence could there be on experimentation, and what principle was there to moderate the tendency to incorporate into religious life the fads and patterns of modern culture?

2. This hermeneutics of rupture has dominated the attempts at renewal of religious life.

There is a fine balance in the Council’s documents, but at the time, given that the mandate was for up-dating, it was easier to justify change than to defend continuity.

Paragraph 2 of Perfectae Caritatis reads, “The adaptation and renewal of religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time.” Read with the hermeneutics of rupture and discontinuity, the “return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes” tended to be interpreted in light of “adaptation to the changed conditions of our time” rather than the other way around.

The following paragraphs of the same document contain phrases quite familiar to us, and only with difficulty do we remember the rest of what the council said:

“…Let constitutions, directories, custom books, books of prayers and ceremonies and such like be suitably reedited and, obsolete laws being suppressed, be adapted to the decrees of this sacred synod” (3). “… to make allowance for adequate and prudent experimentation. … But superiors should take counsel in an appropriate way and hear the members of the order in those things which concern the future well-being of the whole institute” (4).

As we continue reading Perfectae Caritatis, the numbers that follow spell out beautifully the true nature of religious life and are worthy of meditation, but despite their length and density and their appeal to spirituality, prayer, obedience, love, and so on, their fate is sealed once they are read with the hermeneutics of change.

The words appear constantly: “adaptation and renewal” (8), “adapt their ancient traditions” (9), “adapt to the demands of the apostolate” (9), “adjust their way of life to modern needs” (10), “express poverty in new forms” (13). In obedience, “superiors … should gladly listen to their subjects” (14). “The religious habit … should be simple and modest, poor and at the same time becoming. In addition it must meet the requirements of health and be suited to the circumstances of time and place and to the needs of the ministry involved” (17). “…religious must be given suitable instruction … in the currents and attitudes of sentiments and thought prevalent in social life today” (18).

It is true that these are just a few phrases picked arbitrarily from dense paragraphs rich in spiritual doctrine and which emphasize above all the perennial truths of religious life. But many were led to believe that by picking them out, and focusing exclusively on them their efforts for renewal, they were being faithful to the true “spirit” of the Council. Thus rupture and discontinuity as a point of departure become a self-fulfilling prophecy, producing, precisely, rupture and discontinuity.

3. Religious life was not an isolated battle-ground.

“Aggiornamento” was the term in vogue, and meaning “up-dating,” it presupposed something to be brought up to date: It presupposed continuity. What took place was a “pseudo-aggiornamento” that was unrecognizable in Catholic terms.

Operating at the root of this “pseudo-aggiornamento” was what can best be described as “naturalism”. It supposed the radical centering of man on himself, the rejection of the supernatural, and operated in a climate of radical subjectivism.

It showed itself in multiple ways: In talk about holiness that is totally divorced from fulfillment of Christ’s law and the concept of grace. In minimizing sin. In the acceptance of the world as it is, with no need of conversion. In taking the world as the criterion according to which the Church ought to be reformed. In a notion of apostolate or ministry that consists in being at ease in the world rather than changing it. In rejection of authority, and especially divinely constituted authority, hence the rejection of the magisterium and all canonical and disciplinary ordering in the Church.

4. The results of the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture in religious life.

We must begin here by acknowledging that there certainly was much to correct in religious life, much to be improved in the formation of religious. We must also admit that society proposed challenges for which many religious were not prepared. In some cases, routine and crusts of outdated customs needed to be shaken off. In this sense we must affirm categorically that not only was the Council not mistaken in its thrust to renew religious life, it was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit in doing so.

Pope Benedict, speaking to superiors general, said: “In these last years, consecrated life has been re-examined with a more evangelical, ecclesial and apostolic spirit; but we cannot ignore that some concrete choices have not offered to the world the authentic and vivifying face of Christ. In fact, the secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of not a few consecrated persons, who understand it as a way to enter modernity and a modality of approach to the contemporary world. As a result, in addition to an undoubted thrust of generosity capable of witness and of total giving, consecrated life today knows the temptation to mediocrity, bourgeois ways and a consumerist mentality.”

Towards the end of the Second Vatican Council, I was in Paris finishing my doctoral thesis on “miracles of the modernist controversy.” At that time in France there was a pervasive atmosphere of enthusiasm for the Council as the press and other media presented it, which was a partial image of the Council as a “victory of the liberals over the conservatives.”

When I returned to Slovenia I found that the communist regime was isolating the Catholic faithful, suffocating public expression of the faith and reducing it to a merely private affair. I found a faithful people within a society shaped by the ideology of materialism. I soon realized that what I brought with me from my studies in Paris was of very little use for my pastoral work. I needed to be close to the people and to respect the traditional ways of expressing of their faith. I learned so much from the Christian faithful! They taught me to love the Church, to respect the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.

The great lesson I learned from that experience was this: The religious who secularized consecrated life were not doing so for the sake of the faith of the people of God. It was not the good of God’s people that they were seeking. Rather than God’s will, what they were seeking was their own.

Religious life, being a gift from the Holy Spirit to the individual religious and the Church, depends especially on fidelity to its origins, fidelity to the founder, fidelity to the particular charism. Fidelity to that charism is essential, for God blesses fidelity while he “opposes the proud.” The complete rupture of some with the past, then, goes against the nature of a religious congregation, and essentially it provokes God’s rejection.

As soon as naturalism was accepted as the new way, obedience was an early casualty, for obedience without faith and trust cannot survive. Prayer, especially community prayer, and the sacramental liturgy were minimized or abandoned. Penance, asceticism and what was referred to as “negative spirituality” became a thing of the past. Many religious were uncomfortable with wearing the habit. Social and political agitation became for them the acme of apostolic action. The New Theology shaped the understanding and the dilution of the faith. Everything became a problem for discussion. Rejecting traditional prayer, the genuine spiritual aspirations of religious sought out other more esoteric forms.

The results came swiftly in the form of an exodus of members. As a consequence, apostolates and ministries that were essential for the life of the Catholic community and its charitable outreach quickly disappeared – schools especially. Vocations quickly dried up. Even as the results began to speak for themselves, there were still those who said that things were bad because there hadn’t been enough change, the project was not complete. And so the damage was further compounded.

It must further be noted that many of those responsible for the disastrous decisions and actions of those post-conciliar years, later left religious life themselves. Many of you now here are the ones who have remained faithful. With immense courage, you are shouldering the burden of reversing the damage and rebuilding your religious families. My heart and my prayers go out to you.

You can see him in action here at Mass celebrated by Cardinal Rode in Santissima Trinita di Pelligrini on the feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December 2009 in Rome.

Monday 23 August 2010

Clear Creek Monastery

Watching EWTN yesterday morning I caught a programme about the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Clear Creek, Oklahoma. What a wonderful place, where the Benedictine life is lived out in all its rich fullness. They are a contemplative community with over thirty members and growing all the time. They chant the traditional Office and Mass is in the Extraordinary Form. In the interviews their way of life is clearly expressed and spoken of very beautifully. Its rigours and its tradition don't seem to put people off - far from it, the community is thriving. Are they odd-balls and old men - not at all, as the photo above indicates.

It certainly seems that in Religious Life the only communities that are thriving and growing are the traditional ones, those that have re-dedicated themselves to their original charism instead of trying to change it or run away from it. Didn't the Second Vatican Council call for Religious to get back to their roots, their original charism? Religious Communities that have accommodated themselves to the ways of the world, in their dress and manner of life don't seem to be getting any vocations. As ever, making ourselves "acceptable" doesn't work - standing out for radically alternative values and ways of living does work. Sadly, I know from my own experience, we don't really have enough faith to go the whole way. Faith is frightening but it works.

According to the EWTN schedule, the programme will be repeated and afterwards will be available on You-Tube: http://www.ewtn.com/wings/2010/08202010Feature.htm

Perhaps also of interest is a blogsite that lists some of these thriving communities, for both men and women:

Cleer Creek Monastery can be viewed here:

Blessing for new internet bookshop premises

I accompanied Fr Mark Lawler into deepest Skelmersdale last week to bless the new premises of Cenacle Catholic Books: http://www.cenacle.co.uk/index.htm Pictured is Fr Mark (in full fig) with owners Moray & Catherine Ness, staff members and visitors. The closest blessing we could find was an old one for the blessing of printing presses - suitably adapted to the modern means of communication, as most of the Cenacle's business is done on-line. An excellent port of call for sound Catholic books, by the way. In proper rounded Catholic fashion, we celebrated afterwards with lunch accompanied by a glass or two of something light and fruity. Not quite beer and bacon but I'm sure Belloc would have approved.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Fantastic Muslim Convert

I switched on the television on Monday night and by chance saw Aghi Clovis being interviewed on EWTN by Joanna Bogle. I met Aghi some weeks ago when I was in Walsingham (on a very wet weekend) to assist at the annual pilgrimage for the National Association of Catholic Families (www.cfnews.org.uk/). They set up their tents next door to the Reconciliation Chapel with a marquee for the main events. Priests helping are assigned to particular families to feed them and look after them and I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the care of the Clovis Family (although not all of their ten children were there!) Greg Clovis works with Family Life International (www.flionline.org/) and Aghi is a former Muslim from post revolutionary Iran, a convert to the Catholic Faith. The interview was worth watching but Aghi has been translating Columba Marmion’s “Christ the Life of the Soul” into Persian! She feels that it speaks to many of the objections Muslims level at the Catholic Faith. It’s a great book but translating it into Persian is some task. Aghi tells me that she hopes to put it onto the internet as a resource.

In a time when we hear of Westerners converting to Islam, hers is a fascinating story for her faith shines through in the fantastic journey she has made.



Monday 16 August 2010

The Papal Visit

Discovered this link (at Auntie Joanna's blog) to a promotional video for the papal Visit.
Have a look!
Let's get excited about our GREAT HOLY FATHER coming to these shores!


Looking at the photos from the Latin Mass Society Conference at Downside, someone asked me if the sub-deacon had been here at St Catherine’s. Indeed he had. He is the Revd Matthew McCarthy and was ordained deacon for the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter during the first ordinations conferred in the new chapel at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary on 6 March 2010. (The Chapel was consecrated only three days earlier). Six seminarians were ordained to the diaconate, four seminarians of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and two of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wyoming. The ordaining Bishop was Most Revd Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey. Matthew was the Deacon for the Solemn Mass celebrated here on 6th July. (I've added a video of the Introit below).

Rev. Matthew McCarthy (reverencing Bishop Sarratelli) in

Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel, Nebraska.

The sub-deacon that day was the Revd Damian McCaughan, who was ordained deacon for the Diocese of Down and Connor in the Holy Father’s Cathedral, the Basilica of St John Lateran, on Easter Monday, April 5th 2010. The ordaining Bishop was Most Revd William Walsh, Bishop of Killaloe, conducting ordinations for the Pontifical Irish College students.

Rev. Damian McCaughan (to the left of Bp Walsh) in St John Lateran, Rome.

Both of these fine men are, God-willing, coming back next year to celebrate a “first” Mass here at St Catherine’s. Please keep them in your prayers.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Eucharist, the whole Eucharist and nothing but the Eucharist.

Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum!

I’m prompted to write this following a comment on the last post (please have a look at it, rather than me restating it here). Thanks to Gregory for his succinct presentation of the story. The concern is that, in an effort to encourage people to receive the Holy Eucharist under both species a priest appears to have given the impression that those who do not receive from the Chalice are not receiving the fullness of the Sacrament. If so, this is, of course, a condemned heresy. I might also say that the context in which it arose is also a little disturbing, in that it’s suggested that the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion administering the Chalice were feeling “slighted” at being “ignored”. It may be that the priest in question found it difficult, as many of us do, to face full-on pressure from parishioners who are heavily involved in the parish and stand their ground but some things must be tackled, no matter what the fall-out. But not knowing the details, no-one else can make too much comment on the circumstances. The teaching of the Church is a different matter! Christ, whole and entire, is received under one species and all the grace necessary for salvation is received in that one species. The General Instruction to the Roman Missal (2003) will suffice to make this perfectly clear:

Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it are as fully aware as possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as set forth by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. Above all, they should instruct the Christian faithful that the Catholic faith teaches that Christ, whole and entire, and the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and consequently that as far as the effects are concerned, those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any of the grace that is necessary for salvation. (No. 282)
If, especially after encouragement, the option to receive from the Chalice is not taken up and might seem to be causing a division, there is a clear instruction on what to do. Stop it.

The chalice should not be ministered to lay members of Christ’s faithful ...where a notable part of the people continues to prefer not to approach the chalice for various reasons, so that the sign of unity would in some sense be negated. [Redemptionis Sacramentum 102]

Redemptionis Sacramentum, directing us to the Second Vatican Council and the Council of Trent, gives a clear understanding of the principles involved:

[100.] So that the fullness of the sign may be made more clearly evident to the faithful in the course of the Eucharistic banquet, lay members of Christ’s faithful, too, are admitted to Communion under both kinds, in the cases set forth in the liturgical books, preceded and continually accompanied by proper catechesis regarding the dogmatic principles on this matter laid down by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. [Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXI, 16 July 1562, Decree on Eucharistic Communion, Chapters 1-3: DS 1725-1729; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 55; Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, nn. 282-283.

Whilst there may be reasons for encouraging communion under both species, there may also be good, practical and theological reasons for not doing so. After all, the Council of Trent “induced by weighty and just reasons,- has approved of this custom of communicating under one species”. [Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXI, 16 July 1562, Decree on Eucharistic Communion, Chapter 2.]

Wednesday 11 August 2010

No blessings at Communion time!

I have always found it odd to be giving blessings at the altar rail as communion is distributed. It seems to me that everyone receives a blessing very shortly afterwards and that the whole point for those who can't receive is to make them want to! In the case of non-catholics, to become catholics. In the case of those barred for some reason, to encourage them to be reconciled. I've never ignored someone asking for a blessing at the rail but I don't make a fuss of it or encourage it because people have often been told by other priests to come forward in that manner. Of course, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (in those places that have them) should never attempt to give a blessing in a liturgical setting, for that belongs to the priest.

Recently, I had a letter which spoke of my perceived reluctance to bestow blessings at communion time, so I set about the task of looking up the relevant documents. Having been told in the past, by those in authority, that "Rome knows all about such things" and encouraged to go with the flow and do what most others do, I was delighted to find a clear statement from the Congregation of Divine Worship from as recently as 2008.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship (Protocol No. 930/08/L), dated November 22, 2008, and signed by Fr Anthony Ward, SM, Under-secretary of the Congregation stated the following:
“this dicastery wishes to limit itself to the following observations”:
1. The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.

2. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. ‘97), art. 6, §2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).

3. Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands — which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here — by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.

4. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio n. 84, “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry”. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.

5. In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church’s discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin)”.

So it would seem clear that the giving of blessings at Communion time to anyone, for any reason is not permissible. This is not a matter of personal preference, but of obedience to Holy Church. What seems strange is that no-one seems to know of this - and many other rulings - that come from the various Roman Congregations. So much comes from the diocesan offices for this and that at a local level but documents from Rome (on topics great and small) seem to get very little publicity.

A great many little habits seem to be accruing to the liturgy in these days: "something nice I saw at a Methodist service", "a lovely thing we did at children's camp". I even know somewhere that is still doing that 1970's thing of bringing up stones to the altar during Lent to represent our sins - all so very nice if you like that sort of thing but, please, not inserted into the Mass! (We have a perfectly good, Church-mandated and biblically based symbol for sin in Lent - the imposition of ashes).

The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, aimed to 'reform' the sacred Mysteries by removing 'unnecessary repetition' and 'accretions' - lamenting "the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy" (SC 21).

Fr. Joseph Jungmann (The Mass of the Roman Rite, 3 vols., Christian Classics, 1950, 1986), shows that from the time of the earliest known Roman sacramentaries (5th and 6th century) the Roman Rite had absorbed customs from other local Churches (e.g. Gaul), as well as developed it's own, an evolution that ended with Pius V and Trent. What had once been "novelties" when first adopted at Rome became fixed parts of the "immemorial Mass". The only constant being the authority of the Apostolic See to permit, order and even to impose them or abolish them.

Priests (well, at least me) are often faced with the claim that “these things happen at other Churches”. Our reply must be that such things should be addressed to the competent authorities, since no-one "even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority". (SC 22.3). Would that such things were more widely publicised by our diocesan liturgy offices. (Month by month I scour their literature for a chant workshop or how to offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form - hope springs eternal). Doesn't it say somewhere that every priest is responsible for the Sacred Liturgy in his Parish which he is“bound to watch over so that no abuses creep in” - yes it does, Canon 528 §2.