Tuesday 30 November 2010

Michael Voris on Rebellion in the Church

I happened across this on Fr Tom Forde's Blog - Breathing with both lungs.
I'm sometimes a bit ambivalent about American presentation with its "gung-ho" attitude. It can seem a little over the top but then a bit of conviction and enthusiasm is perhaps something we're lacking when expressing our Faith. Anyway, I had not come across this fellow before but you can see much more of him and other good things at www.realcatholictv.com/free/

I especially like one of their mottos:

In line with the Church
On line with the world

Sunday 28 November 2010

Feast of St Catherine Labouré

Today is our parish feast day - supplanted by the First Sunday of Advent. We kept it formally yesterday but she will certainly get a little attention today as well!

O Mary, conceived without sin,

pray for us who have recourse to Thee.

Friday 26 November 2010

Traditional Rite Parish in France

When I was in France last week I was fortunate enough to discover the church of Notre Dame de Recouverance, a church in Orleans dedicated to the Traditional form of the Roman Rite. (It's just possible to see the statuary above the High Altar depicting the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple [the recovery] - with our Lord in the centre; the doctors on the left with Our Lady and St Joseph on the right.) A small schola of eight sang very beautifully; ten servers - from little ones to teenagers. It was wonderful to experience a very normal parish life and setting where the Mass is celebrated so beautifully and a good attendance of families - especially given the state of practice in the French church. You can view pictures of the church here: http://rto45.canalblog.com/archives/album_photo/index.html

Some of the younger servers on the church steps

Thursday 25 November 2010

What did the Pope really say?

With all the silliness being put around about what the Holy Father is supposed to have said I can do no better than to direct anyone interested to the unflinching James Preece and his blog "Catholic and loving it" for an EXCELLENT exposition. I couldn't do any better so it can be read it here:

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Visit to France for St Lazarus

Members after the Mass at Orléans Cathedral

I’ve spent the last few days in Orléans, France, attending the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, of which I’m the Chaplain General for the Grand Priory of Great Britain.

The installation took place in Orléans Cathedral - a splendid building but without the benefit of any heating system (thank goodness for the layers of vestments). The Grand Master we elected is Count Jan Dobrzenský z Dobrzenicz, former Commander of Bohemia, who now takes over from Prince Charles-Philippe de Orléans, Duc d’Anjou, who was present representing his Uncle, the Count of Paris, Head of the Royal House of France, under whose protection the Order exists. I had the privilege of proclaiming on his behalf in English the statement of his continuing protection of the order.

The new Grand Master
The new Grand Master and the Grand Master Emeritus

The present day Order grew out of medieval roots where it looked after and protected those travelling to the Holy Land who suffered from leprosy - hence the title of St Lazarus. In those dangerous times for travellers, soldiers (the Knights) were also needed to protect the hostels manned by the Order. Today the Order is engaged in all manner of good works but retains a strong interest in the relief of leprosy. But it is more than a philanthropic organisation, as the motivation from Christian imperatives and the commitment to prayer and living the Christian life in the world is also prominent. Members from France, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the USA, Spain, Italy and Great Britain were present for the very impressive procession into the Cathedral Holy Mass was presided over by Monseigneur Pierre Boz, Patriarchal Exarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church for Western Europe, and we were warmly welcomed by the ebullient Dean of the Cathedral, Fr Claude Girault.

A State dinner was held in the Chateau of Ferté Aubin.

Some other members after the Mass.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

It's me, it's me, it's me, O Lord!

I recognised myself in this quote from all the times my allegedly "conservative" views have been criticised as dissenting from "what everyone does now":

"Anyone who dares to dissent, however timidly, is branded with the infamous mark of "preconciliar," ..."

Where does it come from? Who said it? Some beyond-the-pale reactionary Traditionalist perhaps? One of the more orthodox seminarians we are getting in these days? No. Cardinal Biffi (now retired Archbishop of Bologna). He has just written a book of memoirs published in Italian. You can read a small section here: www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2010/11/cardinal-biffi-critiques-postconciliar.html

He goes on to say about the Second Vatican Council that:

"what is adopted and exalted in an almost obsessive manner is not the Council that in fact was celebrated, but (so to speak) a "virtual Council"; a Council that has a place not in the history of the Church, but in the history of ecclesiastical imagination."

Pope Benedict has also distinguished the true spirit of the Council from false interpretations, blaming the disappointed hopes for renewal on "those who have gone far beyond both the letter and the spirit of Vatican II", and calling for a "return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican II". The Holy Father insists that the Council should be understood in terms of "renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God." Pope Benedict set forth this view in a 2005 speech to the Roman Curia and described it as the view proposed at the start and at the close of the Council by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI.

In other words: Spirit of the Council - phooey!

Monday 15 November 2010

Forbidden Image

"The following particular image may not be exposed for public veneration:

the Blessed Trinity depicted under the form of a man with three heads."

I found this delightful exclusion on page 98 of J. O'Connell's "Church Building and Furnishing - The Church's Way" (1955). It seems a rather recherche image but then many of the Church's negative directives only come about because someone somewhere has tried it. Lo and behold I then found this image from Monte Sant'Angelo, on the Gargano peninsula in southern Italy (not too far from St Giovanni Rotundo). The village grew up around a shrine said to have been founded in the 6th century AD, when St. Michael the Archangel appeared several times to a local bishop. It was a major pilgrimage destination in medieval times (St. Francis of Assisi was one of many who came here) and still is today. It is in a cave church and someone has taken the ban at its word and chopped off two of the three heads!

Sunday 14 November 2010

Missa Cantata at St Anthony of Padua

St Anthony of Padua Church, Oxford:www.stanthonyofpadua.org.uk/
Photo courtesy of Joseph Shaw: www.lmschairman.org/

Those at Mass today for this Remembrance Sunday will have heard me speaking of Fr Aldo Tapparo, Parish Priest of St Anthony of Padua, Oxford, and hard working Chaplain at the John Radcliffe Infirmary - a great friend to me and to many other priests. I was speaking about his efforts recognising the spontaneous growth of prayers and respect for the deceased soldiers whose bodies come past his church at the gates of the hospital on their journey home from Afghanistan, via RAF Brize Norton to the JR Infirmary before going on to their families. He has had a flag pole installed so that the Union Flag can be flown at half mast on these occasions and the church used as a gathering place (it is always open anyway each and every day for prayer).

It happens that he offered Missa Cantata in his parish yesterday. You can see some footage of the Mass (with some lovely singing) at the site of the Oxford University Gregorian Chant Society:

Friday 12 November 2010

10,000 Hits!

Yesterday this blog reached 10,000 hits! I only began this year on 29th July and while that may be rather small fry in the Catholic blogosphere I have found that, as well as helping me to express myself and think things through, it is a great source of strength and support. A priest in a parish can feel a bit on his own for all sorts of reasons in these days and a priest who tries to bring orthodox practice and teaching back to parish life can feel that he is struggling against insurmountable odds without much support from places it might be expected to come from. The knowledge that many are reading this blog and giving me positive feedback, even just in the sense that the numbers have increased week by week, does lend some support and comfort to this particular priest - so thank you.

My hope is that it might also be a support to others and that my own parishioners are among the readers so that it is also a catechetical tool and a way of speaking about the every day matters of faith and practice that builds on the preaching and practice in church. It really began by accident as we wanted to disseminate some video footage of a lovely Mass we had here, helped by the fantastic music provided by our sometime choir master and music director and the servers and sacred ministers who came to help. Again, it was a modest affair in many ways because our church is not a great cathedral but it just goes to show what can be done to enhance our experience of the liturgy and raise our hearts and minds to the Lord. My thanks as well to a parishioner from a previous parish who set up the original blog template for me.

Roads to Rome II. Joseph Pearce Introduces

Joseph Pearce has kindly given permission for me to reproduce his introduction to John Beaumont's new book "Roads to Rome". Joseph has written books on many literary topics and authors including Tolkien, Shakespeare, Belloc, Chesterton, Oscar Wilde and C. S. Lewis. Here it is with a link to the excellent St Austin Review - StAR - which Joseph edits. www.staustinreview.com/star/contributors



by Joseph Pearce

One of the biggest problems afflicting modern England is her lack of knowledge of herself. Due to what Hilaire Belloc called the “ignorant wickedness” of the “tom-fool Protestant history”[1] with which she has blinded herself, England gropes and flails in the darkness of her self-constructed materialist dungeon. She finds herself in this sorry position because she has lost sight of who she truly is. And she has lost sight of who she truly is because she has forgotten who she truly was. Her problem is one of amnesia.

For more than a thousand years, from her Roman infancy as Albion, and her first martyr, St. Alban, through to the treachery of Henry VIII and his cohorts, England was inseparably united with Christ and His Catholic Church. In her anglo-saxon youth she gave us sublime poetry, such as Beowulf and “The Dream of the Rood”, and a holy host of saints too numerous to mention, whose names emblazon the countless churches dedicated to them which are strewn like manna across her landscape.

In the eleventh century, England was ruled by St Edward the Confessor, a veritable paragon of Christian kingship, and it was during his reign, in 1061, that the Blessed Virgin appeared to a noblewoman at Walsingham in Norfolk, an apparition that is the crowning moment in all of England’s history and the greatest blessing that she has ever received. The heavenly apparition and the reign of the saintly king served as the pyrotechnic climax to anglo-saxondom, a super nova that burned at its brightest as it passed away. Five years after the apparition and in the same year as Edward’s death, England was conquered by the Normans, heralding the setting of the sun on England’s anglo-saxon ascendency.

For some, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, the Norman Conquest was an unmitigated disaster that destroyed something beautiful and irreplaceable; for others, such as Hilaire Belloc, the Conquest was a glorious rebirth that enabled England to grow into the fullness of her mediaeval splendour. Either way, England was as Catholic and as devoted to her faith after the Conquest as she had been before it. England became known as Our Lady’s Dowry, and Walsingham became one of the principal pilgrimage sites of the whole of Christendom.

Nothing, it seemed, could rip England away from her faith, a faith that had refined and defined her.

Then came the so-called English Reformation, a Machiavellian revolution that robbed England and her people of their Christian birthright. Unlike the Protestant Reformation in Europe, the so-called “Reformation” in England had nothing to do with the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism and everything to do with the cynical determination of Henry VIII to have his own wicked way. And unlike the Reformation in Europe, there was little popular support for anti-Catholic “reform”. The people did not want the new “church” that Henry had forced upon them and resented its oppression and its suppression of the Old Faith. In defiance of the king and his henchmen, England remained Catholic in spirit, even if not in its forbidden practice. It took 150 years of brutal and merciless persecution, including the martyrdom of hundreds of faithful Catholics, to browbeat the English into final submission.

And yet it is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and this is as true of England as it was of the Church of the Roman catacombs. In the resistance of the saints is the resurrection of the sinner. And this is where the present volume comes in.

Documenting those who have taken the “roads to Rome” in the years since the Reformation, the present volume encompasses converts from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as those from England. This is as it must be, and should be, because England’s destiny became entangled with those of her British neighbours in the wake of the Reformation (for better or worse). The Crown of Ireland Act of 1542 made the Kings of England (Henry VIII and his successors), Kings of Ireland also. In 1603, the accession of James I of England (James VI of Scotland) united the thrones of England and Scotland, thereby forming the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Ireland, symbolized in the adoption of the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick as the composite parts of the Union Flag (or Union Jack as it is now more commonly known). Wales is not represented on the nation’s flag, indicative of the contemptuous way in which England annexed her diminutive western neighbour, an injustice that the Welsh nationalist convert, Saunders Lewis, lamented with acerbic eloquence.

For almost five hundred years countless Englishmen and their fellow Britons have rediscovered the Faith of their Fathers, converting to Catholicism and thereby entering into communion with their nation’s past and its true being. Here we should stress that “true being” is about being true to England’s God-given inheritance. The present volume is a priceless testament to those many converts who have kept the flame of faith burning through the centuries. There are the most famous of the Victorians, such as Newman, Patmore, Hopkins, Johnson, Dowson and Wilde, and the most celebrated of the last century’s converts, such as Chesterton, Baring, Knox, Noyes, Waugh, Greene, Guinness, Sitwell and Sassoon. And yet the most famous are only the tip of an illustrious iceberg that has been hidden beneath the surface of the ocean of literature on Britain’s recent Catholic history. This diving and delving beneath and beyond the surface is the chief strength and value of this particular volume. Here we see, meticulously assembled, a far more comprehensive list of British converts to Rome than has ever been published before. For this reason alone, Roads to Rome deserves a place on the shelves of every British Catholic, and indeed on the shelves of every Catholic in the English-speaking world. It serves as an inspiration and an aide mémoire, reminding us of who we truly are, as Catholics and as Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen or Welshmen. And lest we forget, these roads to Rome do not leave the British Isles to follow a foreign path to a foreign religion. On the contrary, these roads to Rome go straight through the heart of every man to the Home that every man’s heart desires.

Let’s end as we began with the words of Hilaire Belloc, a cradle Catholic whose mother, née Parkes, is one of the converts featured herein:

The Faith, the Catholic Church, is discovered, is recognized, triumphantly enters reality like a landfall at sea which at first was thought a cloud. The nearer it is seen, the more is it real, the less imaginary: the more direct and external its voice, the more indubitable its representative character, its ‘persona’, its voice. The metaphor is not that men fall in love with it: the metaphor is that they discover home. ‘This was what I sought. This was my need.’ It is the very mould of the mind, the matrix to which corresponds in every outline the outcast and unprotected contours of the soul. It is Verlaine’s ‘Oh! Rome – oh! Mere!” And that not only to those who had it in childhood and have returned, but much more – and what a proof! – to those who come upon it from over the hills of life and say to themselves ‘Here is the town.’[2]

Joseph Pearce

Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Literature, Ave Maria University, Florida

Author of Literary Converts and biographies of Chesterton, Tolkien, Wilde and C. S. Lewis.

[1] Hilaire Belloc to Hoffman Nickerson, 13 September 1923, Belloc Collection, Boston College; quoted in Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002, p.230

[2] Hilaire Belloc to E. S. P. Haynes, November 8, 1923; quoted in Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc, Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1970, p. 377. This particular letter was also quoted by Siegfried Sassoon in a letter to a friend on 29 March 1960, in which he ascribed it erroneously as being written by Belloc to Katherine Asquith. Sassoon, one of the converts documented in the present volume, selected this self-same letter by Belloc as the epigraph to The Path to Peace: Selected Poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Worcester: Stanbrook Abbey Press, 1960 and it was also subsequently reproduced in D. Felicitas Corrigan (ed.), Siegfried Sassoon: Poet’s Pilgrimage, London: Victor Gollancz, 1973, pp. 181-2.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Roads to Rome

John Beaumont was kind enough to give me a copy of his new book "Roads to Rome". It is an excellent volume giving all sorts of fascinating facts and stories of those who have converted to the Faith in this country since the time when everyone was already a Catholic! It has a foreword by Marcus Grodi (of EWTN) and a wonderful introduction by Joseph Pearce (Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University, who is spellbinding when you hear him recount his own conversion story and hilarious when telling the story of Squire Fuller from Belloc's "Four Men").

The book is published by St Augustine's Press and can be ordered in the UK from Cenacle Catholic Books at www.cenacle.co.uk/index.htm

Here is a marvellous review by Thomas Howard from "The Star" www.staustinreview.com/

It is difficult to speak of this volume without sounding rhapsodic. The format is that of an encyclopedia, which itself would not seem to invite rhapsodies. The subtitle tells us just what we may expect: for each entry, starting with the sixteenth-century martyr Blessed Henry Abbot and ending with the twentieth-century Oxford don Robert Charles Zaehner (the entries are alphabetical, not chronological), we find the subject’s dates of birth, conversion, and death, plus whatever material, brief or extended, will give us the portrait of the man or woman in question. This material is often augmented with quotations from the subject’s writings or conversation.

The train of converts includes nobles such as St. Philip Howard, mart yr, the thirteenth Earl of Arundel; the Marquis of Bute; Lord Leonard Cheshire, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his RAF heroism in World War II; Lady Anne Isabella Noel, fifteenth Baroness Wentworth; and many others from this exalted region. A great many academics appear, notable among them the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe (who, by the by, is the one said to have bested C. S. Lewis in a debate at Oxford in the l940s, thus inf luencing his turning away from strictly apologetic works and towards fiction. Whatever the exact nature of the incident was, Roads to Rome appropriately does not include it). But readers will be glad to discover that, Oxford and Cambridge don though she was, she argued forcefully and unremittingly in favor of traditional Catholic moral and dogmatic teaching, including the question of contraception, and was twice arrested for protesting outside an abortion clinic.

The array of literary figures who converted to Catholicism is spectacular: Maurice Baring; Coventry Patmore; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Lionel Johnson; Ernest Dowson; Oscar Wilde; Evelyn Waugh; Ronald Knox; Muriel Spark; Robert Speaight; Compton Mackenzie; Graham Greene; and, of course Newman, although the literary category scarcely encompasses the achievements of this last convert.

A vast number of the entries concerns men and women who entered the priestly or religious life after their conversion, among them Dom Bede Griffiths, Bishop William Brownlow, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, and, of course, the whole cadre of young Elizabethan mart yrs including St. Edmund Campion.

One of the most engaging aspects of this volume is its generous inclusion of quotations from the converts. This, for example, from the debauched fin de fin de siècle illustrator Aubrey Beardsley as he neared death: “Jesus is our Lord and Judge. Dear Friend, I implore you to destroy all . . . bad drawings. . . . By all that is holy, all obscene drawings.”

Here is Sir Alec Guinness, who, having converted to a church with a Latin Mass, “suddenly [found the Mass] said in an English of great triteness and banalit y. The officiating priest . . . now faced his parishioners from the other side of a table like a jovial scoutmaster serving orangeade and cupcakes in a village hall.” Or Newman upon his conversion: “. . . it was not a thing one could propound ‘between the soup and the fish’ at a dinner party.” Robert Speaight “could not see why a dogma which was thought credible yesterday should suddenly be dismissed as incredible today. . . . The idea that you could have a religion without dogma was as silly as the idea that you could have a car without a carburettor [sic].” Here is Fr. Martin D’Arcy on Evelyn Waugh: “Evelyn . . . never spoke of experience or feelings. He had come to learn and understand what he believed to be God’s revelation. . . . I have never myself met a convert who so strongly based his assents on truth. . . .”

Clearly, this volume contains a huge treasury of information. Hence it is an invaluable research aid. But, far beyond this aspect of the work, it seems to me, is what one might call the sheer radiance that streams from the entries. They are seldom “personal testimonies” such as one might find in the annals of converts to this or that sect. In virtually every case, the person in question has found himself confronted with the great and serene edifice of The Church. And it is not this or that church, each with its specialty or attraction. It is the Ancient Church, serene and sure in its teaching, venerable in its antiquit y, and as settled (more so, actually, since it is eternal) as Everest. As praiseworthy as is the witness of those who have individually “accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour” (for they are our allies, not our antagonists, when it comes to our mutual encounter with history, cultures, and societies), the burden of what these converts to the Roman Catholic Church say is of their having been hailed by That Which Is. It all seems to have been a matter of their having set altogether aside any busy preoccupation of their own, and of having got in step with The Dance whose choreography issues from, and bespeaks, Truth. Securus judicat orbis terrarum, quoted Newman. The Church judges the world, not vice versa. Surely this is that to which all of these entries testify?

It should be clear to readers of this review that I am enthusiastic about this remarkable volume. It is not far from the truth to say that I cannot stop reading it. Even during the writing of these paragraphs, I have had to force myself to stick to my job here rather than convert. “Highly recommended” would be an understatement.

The reviewer is Thomas Howard, a popular author of numerous books. The Night is Far Spent: The Best of Thomas Howard has recently been published by Ignatius Press.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Can you guess what it is yet?

Is it an old 1950's fridge? A transistor radio?

In the words of Basil Fawlty "Do you get a bun if you guess what it is?"

Well, my friends, the answer is worse than you could ever imagine!

John Sonnen has this 'thing' on his excellent site.


Poor old Church!

Monday 8 November 2010

Claire Rayner now deified!

I was listening to the "Today" programme on Radio 4 this morning when I choked on my toothpaste. Mr Mike Smith of the Patients Association was speaking about standards in some of our hospitals - a subject which his old friend Claire Rayner had also pursued for many years. He got very excited and said that now Claire Rayner had died, that "we are her representatives on earth"!
The Vicar of Claire Rayner on earth - what a title!
I'm sure Claire Rayner believed she was fighting for good in many of her causes but much of her advice and her opinions were quite contrary to the teaching of the Church and indeed the Church's understanding of natural law. Interesting how those with no faith get caught up in supernatural terms that are rightly the Church's ambit of influence.
Also, the move to canonise the deceased (or in this case deify them!) that has not just seeped into most of our Catholic funerals but is indeed awash in them.

Despite the vitriol she spewed forth upon Christ's Vicar on earth she, like all the deceased would benefit from our prayers for her soul until the time that the Church decides to raise her to the altar.
"I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger, AKA the Pope. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature. His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him."
Oh dear!

You can listen to the interview here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9165000/9165732.stm

Sunday 7 November 2010

Bishop Morino on supporting his priests and on Eucharistic reverence

I was most interested in this post on Fr Z's Blog about a bishop in the USA supporting his priests when they were criticised by parishioners for the "outrage" of introducing orthodox Catholic practices. The Bishop is Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison. Read about it here: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2010/11/d-of-madision-liberals-attacking-faithful-priests-are-harming-the-future-of-school-children/

In the above clip the Bishop has been offering Solemn Mass - going by the date given, on the anniversary of the Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum - presumably in thanksgiving. A sharp contrast to the alleged cancellation, by Archbishop Nichols, of the LMS-arranged Mass in Westminster Cathedral in thanksgiving for the Holy Father's visit to Great Britain. Read about it here: http://www.lovingit.co.uk/

I also found this homily given by the Bishop, speaking about Eucharistic reverence.

Thursday 4 November 2010

All Souls Mass

A little after the event but even I get busy sometimes.

The Arrival

The Gospel

I was able to offer Sung Mass for All Souls Day with the help of servers, sacred ministers and just one (excellent) singer to chant the music. Very simple but very suitable for such an occasion. My thanks to those who assisted.

The Elevation.

One of our young servers tries on a saturno for size!

Models of the Church. No. 1 - Outdated bureaucracy.

After all the discussions we have been encouraged to engage in about the order of the Sacraments in the Archdiocese it turns out that discussion, like resistance to the Borg, is futile. The decision had already been made. The 'discussion' we as the body of all the priests of the Archdiocese gathered together were asked to engage in was simply:
- when would you like this to happen (not if),
-what age should the children be (within a year or two) and
- how wonderful do you think the new plan is (with no corresponding box to tick to say how bad you might think it).

It is being linked with a supposedly new idea of "Family Catechesis" where:

1. The same catechists will be with a family through Baptism, Communion and Confirmation (Confession loiters in the shadows, we know not where or when).

2. Whole families rather than just the particular children being prepared for a particular sacrament will be catechised together.

My own experience and that of many other priests is that it is notoriously difficult to get one parent let alone whole families to come to anything at all. Many priests are downcast at the lack of practice in their parishes and we just don't know what to do about it. Carry on pushing all those in our (supposedly) Catholic schools through programmes that don't work or go for the option of just making the invitation at church (you get about 2 candidates from a class of thirty). They are grasping hold of this "new" catechesis as the answer to their problems.

The other interesting thing is that we apparently need an indult from Rome to do this - although one has not yet been sought. Perhaps it will not be given. My own thought is that if this new order in the Sacraments is so desired by Rome, why does each new place that wants to do it need a special indult? We are told that Rome is keen on this but, as one priest pointed out very clearly at our meeting, the full reference in Sacramentum Caritatis is not quite so directive and admits of several possibilities so long as all is, ultimately, directed to the Holy Eucharist:

No. 18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation

Seems to me that we are suffering from following the pattern of the world again - this time, the world of bureaucracy:

We MUST do something,
this is something,
therefore we MUST do this.

Sir Humphrey Appleby would once again be proud!

What is it they say about deckchairs and the Titanic?

We are indeed failing but we are not tackling the underlying issues. We are giving the Sacraments to those who have neither faith nor The Faith. They have no interest or knowledge of the Deposit of the Faith and they have no personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Saviour. For whatever cultural and social reasons great swathes of folk want the Sacraments but they have no interest in The Faith or faith. But the Sacraments are for believers. We do the Sacraments and the people a disservice to administer them before there is a founded hope that the children will be brought up in the practice of the Faith (indeed Canon Law tells the Priest specifically NOT to do this).

When anything like this is mentioned there is a great outcry that we must not make it difficult for people, that any sign of faith (including asking for the sacraments even without any intention of practising the Faith) is enough. BUT IT IS NOT. The model in the Church of the fourth century that is being hailed as the answer to all our problems made people catechumens, but years could go by before they went through the final Lenten catechesis and were at last received into the Church. Far from being inclusive, those who were not fully initiated were told to get out when the sacred mysteries were being enacted. I sometimes hear that coming to Mass isn't the be-all and end-all of everything. RUBBISH. If we are not centred on the Holy Eucharist then we might as well pack our bags and go home. And practising the Faith doesn't just mean coming to Mass - what about living the Christian life - prayer, chastity, the married state (or lack of it), people's view on abortion, in vitro fertilization, charity to the poor, understanding of sin, salvation and the supernatural life, etc etc etc.

In other words we are using the Sacraments of Initiation for a purpose for which they are not intended - evangelisation. I heard it said by a fellow priest that Confirmation in the teenage years helped the young people to "touch base" with the Church they were estranged from. But these are the Sacraments of Initiation, not a one night stand.

The Holy Father drew attention to this problem last month when establishing the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.
"there has been a troubling loss of the sense of the sacred, which has even called into question foundations once deemed unshakeable such as faith in a provident creator God, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the one Saviour, and a common understanding of basic human experiences: i.e., birth, death, life in a family, and reference to a natural moral law". MOTU PROPRIO - UBICUMQUE ET SEMPER
Clearly our first task must be to evangelise. As Pope Paul VI put it (some years ago!);
“as a result of the frequent situations of dechristianisation in our day, [evangelisation] also proves equally necessary for innumerable people who have been baptized but who live quite outside Christian life, for simple people who have a certain faith but an imperfect knowledge of the foundations of that faith, for intellectuals who feel the need to know Jesus Christ in a light different from the instruction they received as children, and for many others” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 52)

For those in peril in the Ark

"It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.”

— Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the Bishops of England and Wales
Visit “ad limina apostolorum,” January, 2010
I've had a huge leap in hits on this blog - nearly 1000 in the last 24 hours! Not a flurry of interest in the Archdiocesan plans to change the order of the Sacraments (of which more in my next post) but the result of a mention on Fr Ray Blake's blog (thank you Fr Ray).

I wanted to make some answer to the comments on the last post of those experiencing flagrant abuses in the liturgy in their parishes and not knowing what to do about it.

It's a difficult one, as I know even as a priest. I get criticised for doing what's asked of me in black and white (or red) while all around flagrant abuses are praised to the skies. It depends on your priest or pastor. Is he open enough for you to feel able to ask him gently to help you understand why he's doing some of the the things he's doing? In the case of Mass on the coffee table and the Blessed Sacrament being passed around in clay bowls, I think you can only get up and leave and write a polite letter to the bishop. The pattern that lay people are encouraged to follow is: if the priest can't answer your (politely put) inquiries then you should write and ask the bishop and if he can't or won't respond stisfactorily, then you should write to the most suitable Congregation in Rome. But all that is indeed daunting. Finding what ways you can of recalling the teaching of the Church to the forefront with priests and laity, all charity, is perhaps the best you can do but also, offering up your sufferings in prayer for the priest in question and for the Church would mean that some spiritual benefit is squeezed out of these unfortunate circumstances and might bring God's grace to fruition where words and letters have failed.

But it is sad that in so many areas - moral, liturgical and sacramental - that there is so much unchallenged public dissent from the Church's teaching at every level. A house divided against itself and all that...

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Implementing all that comes from Rome

Today will see all the priests of the Archdiocese called together to discuss the possibility of re-arranging the order of the sacraments of initiation. I say "discuss" but when the question is asked, "Is this a consultation or has the decision already been made to change the order of the sacraments?" the answer "Yes, it is consultation" is said with hesitation and some qualification. The Council of Priests, we are told, has already decided in the positive. Now we all know that those eager to sit on committees and go to meetings are generally those who like to attend such things and make decisions in the name of everyone. To some extent, the fault lies with the vast majority of those of us who don't attend but who wants to sit through another talking shop?

Anyway, another reason pointed to is that apparently "Rome" has been encouraging this change in the order that the sacraments are given. Of course, "Rome" asks for many things but it seems to me that only a select few get taken up. One directive that has unambiguously come from "Rome" is the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum. This document says of itself that:

" the Supreme Pontiff has mandated that this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should prepare this Instruction."
Couldn't be any clearer as coming from "Rome". It is:

"set forth for Bishops, as well as for Priests, Deacons and all the lay Christian faithful".

Couldn't be any clearer that it applies to everyone.

It says that the Instruction has been prepared because:

"In some places the perpetration of liturgical abuses has become almost habitual, a fact which obviously cannot be allowed and must cease. The observance of the norms published by the authority of the Church requires conformity of thought and of word, of external action and of the application of the heart."

So everyone is to get on with doing what it says. Here is some of what it does say but strangely enough I can't recall any great emphasis being put on it in any place in this country that I've heard of. Here are some examples:

It is not to be tolerated that some Priests take upon themselves the right to change the same texts approved by the Church.

The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease.

It is also illicit to omit or to substitute the prescribed biblical readings on one’s own initiative, and especially “to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God”

it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass

The homily, “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants”; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.

The offerings that Christ’s faithful are accustomed to present for the Liturgy of the Eucharist in Holy Mass are not necessarily limited to bread and wine for the eucharistic celebration, but may also include gifts given by the faithful in the form of money or other things for the sake of charity toward the poor. Money, therefore, just as other contributions for the poor, should be placed in an appropriate place which should be away from the Eucharistic table. Except for money and occasionally a minimal symbolic portion of other gifts, it is preferable that such offerings be made outside the celebration of Mass

The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration.

Mass is not to be celebrated without grave necessity on a dinner table nor in a dining room or banquet hall, nor in a room where food is present, nor in a place where the participants during the celebration itself are seated at tables.

anyone who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession.

it sometimes happens that Christ’s faithful approach the altar as a group indiscriminately. It pertains to the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse.

The First Communion of children must always be preceded by sacramental confession and absolution. Moreover First Communion should always be administered by a Priest

It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.

“The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”.

each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue

The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful is to be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling

It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . and, still less, to hand . . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice.

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.

The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice

The celebration of the Eucharist is to be carried out in a sacred place

Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin.

Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.

Before the alb is put on, if it does not completely cover the ordinary clothing at the neck, an amice should be put on”

The proper vestment of the Deacon is the dalmatic, to be worn over an alb and stole. In order that the beautiful tradition of the Church may be preserved, it is praiseworthy to refrain from exercising the option of omitting the dalmatic.

Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional. Furthermore, when recourse is had out of necessity to the functions of extraordinary ministers, special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a Priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred Orders.

This function [of lay people assisting at communion] is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.

Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.
I went through the Instruction and only included abuses that I know regularly go on. It was published in 2004 but I'm still awaiting to hear of any initiatives to make its contents known in our English dioceses.

I actually have no personal animus against changing the order of the sacraments but, as the comment by Gregory on my previous post points out, the ways suggested of doing this appear to be laden with agendas that I definitely do not share.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

What about asking the Parents?

St Anne teaching the Scriptures to Mary

It took a lay perspective to ask one of the most fundamental questions about the plan in our Archdiocese to re-arrange the order of the Sacraments of Initiation. Alan Houghton (http://www.torchofthefaith.com/news.php) in the comments of my last blog says:

Some parents are very concerned because they would prefer their children to be Confirmed as young adults and think that - as primary educators - they should at least have some say in the matter.
Indeed, the "plan" makes a great deal of stressing parents as the primary educators but HAS ANYONE ASKED THEM HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT THESE PROPOSED CHANGES? I've seen no evidence of it. As usual, the "periti" tell us what everyone else really wants if only they were clever enough to realise it. This is, after all, the age of canvasing everyone's opinion. When I first arrived at St Catherine's it was very strongly suggested that I needed to consult with the laity about such dramatic innovations as placing a crucifix on the altar, as some of them didn't like it!

I have heard it said by many that it would be a good idea to make a survey of the success or otherwise of this innovation where it has already been tried - in the neighbouring diocese of Salford, for example. There is no such survey but a Priest of the Archdiocese asked as many Salford Priests as he could find and sent me the following from what they said to him:

Reflections on comments gathered from the diocese of Salford

Unfortunately there been no clear study published of the benefits/disadvantages of the Restored Order of Sacraments in the Manchester area after 24 years. This is the area geographically and socially most similar to the Liverpool Archdiocese. Comparisons with dioceses in the very different socio-political world of the USA are not always applicable.

In the absence of a published and publicly available scientific study, we have no choice but to rely upon personal contacts with priests, teachers and catechists who work or have worked in Salford.

The priests are still divided, roughly 50:50, in favour of or against the scheme.

Salford originally had an eighteen month scheme of First Confession, Confirmation, Holy Communion. Therefore a parish needed not just one, but two catechetical teams; or even three, to give the catechists a rest year every third year. It requires a massive input of time, energy and commitment from priests and catechists, if they can be recruited and properly trained.

It came in with a great deal of energy c.1985, and it did have positive benefits in the first couple of years, in bringing parents back to the faith. After five years the impact had diminished and things had become routine, back to normal. Such is life.

The Reconciliation Service, with in-depth preparation of both parents and children, was for some the highlight and the greatest benefit of the scheme. Reconciliation is hardly mentioned in the Liverpool variant.

Often parents had underlying issues of hurt, family break up, second unions etc. – a pastoral can of worms was uncovered. But becoming aware of and bringing healing to such situations, as far as possible, was a major benefit of the scheme.

The eighteen-month arrangement was found to be too onerous and it has now been shortened to the reception of all three Sacraments in 12 months. However, three Sacraments in one school year is too much for the lower ability children to take in. They get Confirmation and First Communion all mixed up. “Is this the one with the bread, Sir?”

Some schools tended to opt out of teaching about the Sacraments, feeling that they had been excluded from the Sacramental preparation process. Teachers felt that however well-intentioned catechists are, they are seldom professionals to the same degree at communicating with a range of children, and they were worried about the quality of input the children would receive.

Often by year 4, certainly by Year 6, the majority of children remember nothing of their Confirmation. The same workbooks were still being used ten years after introduction. They did not seem to have been properly evaluated, improved or updated. It is unlikely that they were perfect first time round.

Bishop Brain has begun administering Confirmations again, reportedly in about one-third of the parishes in each deanery each year. Several reports suggest that Rome has brought pressure upon him to do this, because Rome does not like the eclipse of the bishop as the ordinary minister of Confirmation. Canon Law (884) allows delegation to “one or more (several) priests” only “in case of necessity.”

The scheme leads to the disappearance of the idea of the bishop in many children’s minds. Literally, he never actually touches their lives, he becomes remote and irrelevant. In this way the understanding of the role of the bishop and the unity of the diocese is weakened.

One parent complained recently when it was announced that Bishop Brain was coming to do Confirmations: “Why do we have to have the bishop to confirm our children? Why can’t our parish priest do it as normal?”

It can be very difficult to catechise different ethnic groups of parents together, for example, devout Indians, who intend to save the First Communion celebration for a trip back home to India – and some of English or Irish extraction who are only interested in the party afterwards.

Some priests give Confirmation and First Holy Communion in the same Mass. The emphasis on Pentecost as the day for Confirmations has been gradually diluted.

The Salford scheme was ad experimentum and it required permission from Rome, especially in regard to the mass delegation of Confirmations to priests as extraordinary ministers of the Sacrament.

The picture is obviously very mixed. When some of the highest ranking and longest serving priests of Salford diocese can say simply: “It doesn’t work,” are we in Liverpool being rushed into a decision when many of the facts are not being made available to us? A full study of Salford should first be published, so that the advantages and disadvantages can be honestly compared, and pitfalls avoided.