Monday 28 February 2011

Requiescat in Pace - Bishop Augustine Hu Daguo

Requiescat in Pace
Bishop Augustine Hu Daguo

of the apostolic prefecture of Shiqian, Shihtsien,
in the Chinese province of Guizhou,
died on February 17 at the age of 90.

Take a look at a fuller report and his life over at thatthebonesyouhavecrushedmaythrill

Meanwhile our governments continue to trade and be polite to the Chinese government for the sake of burger concessions and car sales - to say nothing of the disgrace of holding the Olympics there - while they continue to enforce abortion in their one child only family policy and imprison Catholics for loyalty to the Pope.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Vatican II and the Extraordinary Mgr Loftus

Pope John XXIII opening the Second Vatican Council
in an obvious move to simplify the ceremonial of the Church

In this month's Leeds diocesan newspaper, Mgr Basil Loftus (that Litigious Parson of unhappy memory) reviews a book produced in a local parish which goes under the snappy title of "The impact on the Church of the Second Vatican Council 45 years 0n" It is a collection of essays on various of the Council's documents. I don't want to bore you by reproducing the review on this blog but you can read it here if you really want to. (Not the easiest site in the world to use but it's on page 17.)

The Monsignor draws on Wordsworth's excited and laudatory description of the French Revolution to make a comparison with the Second Vatican Council - although the quote from The Prelude (1805) is incorrect, I think it should read "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive". Bad form, I would say, to misquote someone in a book review! (Wordsworth was later to become completely disillusioned with events in France.)

Considering the bloody outcome for many and the difficult consequences for the Church, I would have thought it was not a very flattering comparison. However, on closer inspection, we might draw out some interesting parallels. It may well have been that there were just causes for the grievances against their rulers that led to the French Revolution. The ideals that inspired it may have been laudable but very quickly much that was done in its name was shameful and completely removed from those ideals. What the Second Vatican Council called for may have been quite necessary and the inspiration behind the documents very laudable but some of what has followed and been done in its name is shameful and completely removed from those ideals.

We might pause to remember that the ultimate inspiration behind the Council and its documents is the Holy Spirit. Our Lord guaranteed that in founding His Church. However, the actual documents are the only things guaranteed by that unsurpassable source - anything vague and done "in the spirit" of the Council must prove its provenance by direct quotes from the Council Documents for many now believe that we have departed from its mandates.

We might also pause to recall that since the Council and what has been done in its name, the Church has not exactly been flourishing. The closure in every town and city of this country of our convents, monasteries, churches and seminaries are clear evidence of that. The elephant in the corner that everyone is too polite to mention. Many who invested themselves in the idea of change and all that's new must be good did so out of praiseworthy motives but now that our churches are empty, they can't go back on a lifetime invested in those very changes. The greatest among them have been able to see that it wasn't working and our Holy Father is a prime example of this. Of course, those on the extreme liberal wing maintain the decline is because the Council's intentions have been diverted and we haven't gone far enough in dismantling the past. Perhaps all we are awaiting is a liberal Robespierre to bring its true intentions to fruition.

Those like the Monsignor of Leeds however write from a well-known and obvious liberal bias (if not to say freely-admitted communist influence bias, in this case ) and it shows through nowhere more clearly than in his assessment of some documents of the Council. The liberal agenda chooses those it can interpret to its own advantage and lauds them but rejects other documents - despite them all coming out of the same Spirit-filled Council. Thus from the review comes this little gem:
Not all the conciliar documents are covered. Those, for instance on Education and the Communications media are disappointing and inadequate, not to say, in some instances, harmful.
To describe the decrees of the Second Vatican Council as "harmful" would seem to place the holder of such views in a rather difficult position in regard to the Church. The furore last year was when the Monsignor threatened to sue when he was called a heretic. Are his views heretical?

........You might very well think that...

.............I couldn't possibly comment.

Having taken the Monsignor's name in vain I await the customary writs!
(In fact this article was brought to my attention by a friend, a former parishioner of the good Mgr, who must remain anonymous - Mgr Loftus threatened to sue him more than once! Ah! The live-and-let live attitude of the freewheeling modern priest.)

Thursday 24 February 2011

Introibo ad altare Dei

There was a good congregation at Sacred Heart Church, Thornley, Durham, on Tuesday at Solemn Mass for the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. Parish Priest, Fr Gary Dickson's first time as celebrant of Solemn Mass - and despite his warnings that singing was not his strong point, I think that the efforts of Mrs Fiona McCardle (our singing instructress at seminary) have bourne more fruit than he thinks!

Pictures from the Mass above and the homily is below, as so many people were kind enough to ask for a copy that I thought this was the easiest way to disseminate it.

In the early evening of 19 April 2005 myself, another priest and the Master of ceremonies awaited in the sitting room of my parish, with baited breath, the election of a new Successor of St Peter. When the name of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was announced we were, it has to be said, ecstatic. I didn’t know whether to run and open the champagne already chilling for such happy news or to rush to the church and give praise to God. In fact, we went to the church first to dismantle the catafalque and six unbleached candles surrounding it that had been standing in the sanctuary since Pope John Paul’s death and set up the altar for a Mass of Thanksgiving. The church had no bells but the people knew well enough to turn up at hearing the news and so we celebrated Mass with a goodly congregation of about 50 people. Thus began for me the reign of Pope Benedict XVI.

Not the reign of the Panzar Cardinal, of course - an image conjured up by the liberal media and fed by their counterparts within the Church but the reign of a man deeply aware of the needs of the Church and the terrible evil of the dictatorship of relativism that has been inflicting its relentless agenda on Europe since the so-called “Enlightenment” and which has infected even God’s holy Church:

"Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego."

In other words, we each create our own little world-view and it is inevitably limited, narrow and bound up only with our own concerns.

Engaging the battle with this modern evil (the direct successor of the Modernism condemned by Pope St Pius X) has been at the heart of Pope Benedict’s pontificate. I think that one of the means he sees of doing this is to draw into powerful unity within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church all who should be there - both dissenters within the Church and those outside the full unity of communion with the See of Peter. He says in his letter accompanying the Moto Proprio about the Traditional Mass:

"I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew."

Thus it is that we have recently seen the invitation into the Church to those Anglicans who are willing to be rescued in the Barque of Peter. And the Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum is yet another facet of that same concern, for it opens the way to a return to full unity to those who are attached to the Traditional Mass who had gone their own way. But it is not just a crumb thrown to them or the window dressing of an ecclesiastical spin-doctor, for it has changed the mood of the Church itself, the feel, the timbré, of who we are and where we are going, of what is and is not acceptable. The Church is now different and that is why its approach to others and their approach to us is different. I say “different” from what is was in the recent past but not new - for the difference is that we are once more in touch with our heritage, our Traditio

· and I include in that rootedness in the past, the Gospels themselves and the saving events they describe.

Here is the real reason we can never be a church that understands itself by a hermeneutic of disruption or discontinuity with the past. For the past, those saving events, are our reason for being here and they are not in the past at all - they are made present to us by the saving Sacrifice of the Mass, where we stand at the foot of the cross and at the open tomb together with every man and woman who has knelt before the altar since then.

Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII put is succinctly when he said to Count Geleazzi, in relation to the warnings of Fatima:

"I am concerned about the confidences of the Virgin to the little Lucia of Fatima. The persistence of the Good Lady in face of the danger that threatens the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that the modification of the Faith, liturgy, theology, and soul of the Church would represent.

I hear around me partisans of novelties who want to demolish the Holy Sanctuary, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her adornments, and make her remorseful for her historical past. Well, my dear friend, I am convinced that the Church of Peter must affirm her past, or else she will dig her own tomb.

I will fight this battle with the greatest energy both inside and outside the Church, even if the forces of evil may one day take advantage of my person, actions, or writings, as they try today to deform the History of the Church".

It is surely an awareness of this continuity, this communion, with all the previous generations of Christians - and future generations - that gives us our strength and that shows up most starkly that we cannot each make up our own selfish little world view. And it is in the Mass of Ages that this is most beautifully expressed. As the Holy Father says:

"In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."

The Mass that is recognisable to all ages is the very antithesis of relativism. Even the ordained minister of the Sacrament - be he priest, bishop or Pope is submerged and subsumed into it and at its service. The vestments and the whole ritual of the Mass hide the man and show forth the Saviour.

It is an awareness of these eternal and universal (Catholic) values that coalesce in the Mass and call us back to our foundation, our rock, Christ himself - rooted in history and yet of cosmic significance. The Holy Father must, I think, see in the Mass which we celebrate tonight - on this feast of the teaching and ruling office of the Popes - something that will strengthen and assist the re-foundation of the fullness of the Faith that is missing from so many Christian hearts in our day. As we pray, so we shall believe and live.

Today is the feast of the teaching and ruling authority of the Vicar of Christ and so it should be no surprise that the call to action, to unity to the fullness of faith issues forth from the successor of St Peter. There is the place to which we must look to keep our hearts and minds at one with all those down the ages who have come to the altar of God. And just when the gates of hell might seem to prevail is precisely when the words of Christ to Peter should thunder in our ears. If you too would prevail against the gates of hell, then you must stand at Peter’s side:

Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.


Tuesday 22 February 2011

"the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way"

I'm setting out for County Durham today where I preach at Solemn Mass for the Feast of the Chair of St Peter at Sacred Heart Church, Thornley. As I do so, I have been reading that the Holy Father has been asking seminarians who are training in Rome to return to their own countries:

"with an unshakeable affection for the Successor of Peter and with the desire to strengthen and maintain the communion which binds the Church in charity around him."

He also asks them to be:

"stout-hearted for whatever awaits in the future."
Read the full text here on Zenit.

My mind wandered to the song "Stout-hearted men" (Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein) and especially the lines:

"Hearts can inspire other hearts with their fire,
For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way.

Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight, for the right they adore,
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I'll soon give you ten thousand more."

In other words, good goes from strength to strength, like the 12 Apostles - it only took 13 to spread the Good news.

Here are "ten who are stout-hearted men" (Most of them are speaking at the Adoratio Conference in Rome, June 20 - 24th )

Sunday 20 February 2011

Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?

"In our time, in which the Faith in many places seems like a light in danger of being snuffed out forever, the highest priority is to make God visible in the world and to open to humanity a way to God. And not to any god, but to the God who had spoken on Sinai; the God whose face we recognize in the love borne to the very end (cf. Jn 13:1) in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

Dear brothers and sisters, worship Christ the Lord in your hearts (cf. 1 Pet 3:15)! Do not be afraid to talk of God and to manifest without fear the signs of Faith, letting the light of Christ shine in the presence of the people of today, just as the Church which gives birth to humanity as the family of God sings on the night of the Easter Vigil."
Benedict XVI, FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010
Further to the controversy over the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, the parents have distributed a leaflet in the various parishes where they attend. I say "various" because, unlike most Catholic Schools, the Vaughan takes families from many parishes and uses not geography but practice of the Faith as entrance criteria. (You can read the contents of the leaflet here at James Preece's blog.) What a novel idea - you are able to go top a catholic school not beacuse you happen to live nearby (regardless of faith issues) but because you are a catholic who practices their Faith and is involved in their parish. How revolutionary!

What particularly drew my attention are the following two points:
The Diocese of Westminster has forced schools such as The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School (CVMS) to drop from their admission criteria the requirement for parents to present their children for the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confession.

Practising Catholic families question why this requirement of Canon Law has not been insisted upon by the Diocese.
Coming to the Sacraments is who we are, it is what sustains our faith, builds it up, nourishes it and it is the Sacraments that, when approached faithfully, are guaranteed by Our Lord as the easiest means to get to Heaven (which is why He left them to His Church). It is because they are so important to our spiritual health and because coming to them is the greatest pastoral assistance any priest can minister to another that the Church in its laws insists we come to Mass EVERY SUNDAY. Why are so many in the Church so afraid to say this to people in these days? This is who we are. Why are we afraid to tell people who we are?

A weapon of mass salvation!

Mass for the Chair of St Peter

I'm preparing a homily for the Feast of the Chair of St Peter as I have been asked to preach at Solemn Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart and the English Martyrs in Thornley, near Durham, this Tuesday at 7.30pm. The Parish Priest there is another old Ushavian (if that's the correct term for those whose Alma Mater is St Cuthbert's Seminary at Ushaw) Fr Gary Dickson. We are now an endangered species, as the last ordinations from that seminary - after 217 years - will take place this year, now that it is due to close. Perhaps, like other endangered species, we will get some special protection and it will be forbidden to attack us or destroy our natural habitats - it could save any number of churches from closure!
(In fact, the history of the College goes back to it's predecessor at Douay founded in 1568 by Cardinal Allen - so 443 years.)

Anyway, the picture above (from 1894) shows the Entrance Hall (now compromised with PC fire safety doors). In th' olden days, where the red lino on the stairs began no seminarian's foot could tread - Profs only! (That's me on the left!)

Saturday 19 February 2011

Catholic (?) Schools - What would Our Lady say?

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

Continuing from my post about the Radio 4 "Today" programme on the Cardinal Vaughan School last week, one of the other things said by the "professional expert" Professor Grace is that "It is not their school [the parents] - the school belongs to the Diocese".

Ches at thesensiblebond comments very effectively that this is not really the case.

it is worth pointing out that they all share in the same fundamentally wrong assumption if the Catholic Church runs an education service, parents should come to it, cap in hand and very grateful for what it manages to dole out to them. Er, no, actually. The parents themselves have the duty of educating their children as Catholics by virtue of their covenantal promises made to God on the day of their marriage. So, even Catholic schools stand in loco parentis. The parents are NOT, therefore, clients of the school; the Catholic school is, in a sense, the subcontractor of Catholic parents. But could not the diocese defend its position on the grounds that it is arguing for the rights of children whose parents cannot or will not act in their defence? No! Because that is a different function from standing in the place of parents who actually, really, actively want a Catholic education for their children.
Even though the physical property of most schools belongs to the diocese, it is still the laity who gave the money that bought the property in the first place. It's interesting that as soon as the liberal agenda is threatened, certain people are suddenly no longer interested in "empowering those at a local level" or letting "the voice of the laity be heard" if it's not speaking from the approved "Catholic-lite" text. When those of us who are considered too "Traditional" or "conservative" quote the rules, the Catechism or the Code of Canon Law, sighs are let out, eyebrows are raised and we are treated as pariahs, hopelessly embroiled in a legalistic attitude to the Church, pastorally out of touch. Quotes from the Gospels about scribes and Pharisees come coughing up from the aghast lips of the modern, pastorally sensitive and (empty) church brigade. But suddenly, the "rules" and what property belongs to whom, becomes very important and those who usually look disapprovingly on such things become only to keen to quote them when it suits.

In the Archdiocese here in Liverpool, as the change in the timeline of the Sacraments of Initiation comes into force, a re-emphasis is being placed on the parents as the primary educators of their children in the Faith - recognising that relying on Catholic schools over the past forty years has been an utter failure. How we are to re-educate parents in order to pass on a Faith they barely posses themselves has yet to be explained. We are promised "resources" to help us accomplish this. My own attempts in the past when dealing with parents in their role of passing on the faith to their children have met with a frosty reception. I can only think it will have to begin at some very basic level as my experience is that many of these non-practising parents have a lamentable understanding of the Faith and what little they have is incoherent, contradictory and idiosyncratic.

Last year for the First Communion Preparation I gave no prepared input but asked parents to fill in a quiz/questionnaire about the Faith and their understanding of it. To call most of the responses "Modernist" would lend them a connection with the Faith that Pope Pius X would certainly not uphold. There were parents who boldly stated that they do not believe in de fide Dogmas of the Church, or the necessity of attending Holy Mass on Sundays. Apart from the few parents who actually attend Holy Mass regularly (whose answers showed a good grasp of the Faith), the rest expressed views which were riddled with relativism and individualism - one parent who admitted knowing that missing Mass on Sunday was a sin yet wrote “I don’t think you need to go to church to be a good Catholic”, another claimed that because he/she didn’t “like” certain things they shouldn’t happen! The comments revealed a very flawed understanding of Priesthood and ecclesiology; an attempt to remake the Faith in our own image - rather than to conform ourselves to the Faith.

So, it will have to start with the basics presented in a clear and non-fuzzy manner. But it is just the lack of such an approach that has landed us where we are. In the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help in the Diocese of Green Bay, USA, (apparitions now recognised by the Church) the Blessed Virgin called for children to be educated in the Faith:

'Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation’
How should this be accomplished? According the Our Blessed Mother:

'Teach the children the Catechism and show them how to make the Sign of the Cross. Teach them how to approach the Sacraments.'

I can sympathise with the parents who want a properly Catholic education for their children at the Vaughan. I have personally experienced great resistance and a concerted effort at official and unofficial levels to prevent me when I ask for basic Church rules to apply in our Catholic school. No-one is interested in promoting the teachings of the Church because most of those involved - teachers, governors and parents - are either so far from the Faith that they are not interested in such things or they are positively resistant to any affirmation of what are considered traditional Church teaching. If only I had the hundreds of parents who were of like mind to those at the Vaughan!

To go back to the comments Ches has made:

Should the Catholic school be a safety-net for children whose parents have lapsed? No! The school is only indirectly a tool for evangelisation; its primary function is building up the faith of those who are already faithful. That is not elitist, anymore than the fact parents feed their own children before feeding anyone else means that they are inegalitarian! If the diocese wishes to evangelise the lapsed, then let the diocese create its own opportunities for doing so, and let it not piggy-back on the efforts of faithful parents to educate their children in an atmosphere of fidelity and love.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Happy motoring!

The picture above is a close-up. You can see where this driver broke through the guardrail, on the right side of the culvert, where the people are standing on the road, pointing.

The pick-up was traveling about 75 mph from right to left when it crashed through the guardrail.

It flipped end-over-end bounced off and across the culvert outlet, and landed right side up on the left side of the culvert, facing the opposite direction from which the driver was traveling.

The 22-year-old driver and his 18-year-old passenger were unhurt except for minor cuts and bruises. This happened just outside Flagstaff , AZ , on U.S. Hwy 100.

Now click on the full picture below...

As the friend who sent me the picture said:
If God isn’t done with you, God isn’t done with you….

Tuesday 15 February 2011

The Mass - ever ancient, ever new

My profound thanks to Fr Tim Finigan for his article in "Usus Antiquior" - "Mutual Enrichment in theory and in practice" which you can read here.
(I found the link on Rorate Caeli.)

For many priests who celebrate the traditional form of the Roman Rite as well as the new and find its gestures and genius a genuine help to praying the Mass, there is sometimes a perceived difficulty in the desire to transmit some of the gestures and accouterments of the older form into the new. We are reminded by others that we are not supposed to "mix and match". I have found that the more familiar I become with the older form the stronger is the desire to bring some of its strengths into the new to enrich it but being by nature obedient to the rules, I have held back from this in many instances or carried them out with a slight sense that I might be breaking the rules.

Fr Finigan mentions some practices that are in fact a part of the Ordinary Form and specified in the Missal but have been often neglected - for example the bow of the head at the name of the Blessed Trinity, Our Lord, Our Lady and the saint of the day (275a in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal) or the first option mentioned of saying the Offertory prayers inaudibly. The always allowed possibility of offering Mass ad orientem. The EF can remind us of these neglected parts of the OF. Personally, I have either always done these things or have done for some time but others that are directly lifted from the Extraordinary Form I have only done such are not much seen by the people (silent prayers of the priest) - feeling, as I say, some hesitation.

Fr Finigan has laid my fears to rest! My thanks to him. I urge all priests to read this excellent article which seems to me to be so much in tune with the Holy Father's obvious intentions.

Fr Tim Finigan offers Mass in his Parish Church

Monday 14 February 2011

St Valentine



Thank you to Br Lawrence Lew OP for the photo and a little info on St Valentine.

Actually, in the Ordinary Form Calendar we are not celebrating St Valentine but Ss Cyril and Methodius. It struck me as a missed opportunity that the secular world is still celebrating the remnants of a culture that was once based on the Church and the Christian Faith but that because we have changed our ancient practice we no longer have that link with which to engage the world - in what could be a very positive way in regards to St Valentine.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi spoke of the need for more profound dialogue with non-believers in an interview last week with Vatican Radio (read it here). The Cardinal is speaking of quite elevated academic dialogue but it also has to be engaging in the real world of popular culture that the majority of men and women experience in our society. Many non-believers are celebrating St Valentine's day with a loved one - an ideal point from which to begin dialogue but one that we have lost because we don't actually keep that feast any more.

We tinker with our Tradition at our peril, as the Venerable Pope Pius XII, of happy memory, once wrote:

"I hear around me partisans of novelties who want to demolish the Holy Sanctuary, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her adornments, and make her remorseful for her historical past. Well, my dear friend, I am convinced that the Church of Peter must affirm her past, or else she will dig her own tomb."

(Georges Roche & Philippe Saint Germain, Pie XII devant l'Histoire, Paris: Robert Lafont, 1972, p. 52-53).

Sunday 13 February 2011

Catholic (?) Schools

...despite being a practising a Catholic?

On Radio 4 this morning the completely un-biased and Catholic-friendly "Sunday" programme aired a piece about the Cardinal Vaughan Schooll in London. (Linen on the Hedgerow has a post about it as well.) I can't understand the strangeness of what was said. The school is recognised by the government's inspection body (OFSTED) as a "highly motivated and highly achieving Catholic School". The Archdiocese of Westminster seems to think that its entrance criteria are too demanding but as one of the parents pointed out, what the school asks for is nothing more than what any and every Catholic is supposed to be doing anyway. It seems that practising the Faith is now, in the eyes of the Archdiocese, a bar to attending a Catholic school, or at the very least something not to be encouraged. Surely, this is the inversion of what should be desirable?

Bishop Stack, defending the Archdiocesan position, says that the criteria imposed by the school might prevent ethnic minorities and immigrants from attending. However, the school has forty - yes forty - different ethnic groups represented among its pupils.

Bishop Stack also says that adding such conditions (the normal ones the Church imposes on every Catholic at Baptism) "makes things less clear". To my mind it couldn't make things any clearer. The school says "we ask of you what the Church asks of you". Seems clear to me.

Professor Gerald Grace, Director of the Centre for Research in Catholic Education and of the Institute of Education at the University of London says that a modern Catholic school is about being "open and hospitable to the lapsed". But my dear Professor, what about being open and hospitable to the practising Catholics - the forgotten minority? Those who are lapsed are in sin, in an irregular relationship with the Church and its teaching. Those who are practising are also sinners but they are, by the Church's own legal, pastoral and moral standards also in a regular relationship with the Church (ie sinners who go to Confession).

Perhaps the real reason for the uncomfortable shifting and tenuous argument is that if ALL Catholic schools began asking families to do what the Church asks of every baptised Catholic the vast majority of our schools would not be full, like the Vaughan, but empty. At least in the short term but in the end perhaps we would have many fewer Catholic schools but much better Catholic schools.

In other words, they would be what is says they are on the sign at the gate - CATHOLIC.

Friday 11 February 2011

"Let me entertain you" - or "Let us pray"?

Across on Countercultural father on a post about the Methodist "ordinations" at Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral (see also James Preece) a comment was made by Richard Collins (who's blog is always worth reading) ...

The thing that buzzes around in my head is WHY? Do they not have a Hall of their own to hold the service in?

As the above photos show, the Methodists did have a splendid hall. Grand Central Hall, a Grade II listed building, was opened in 1905 as the Central Hall of the Liverpool Wesleyan Mission, and had a capacity of 3,576 people. It seems to have been a little large for it's original use and was also used from its opening until at least 1944 as the New Century Picture Hall cinema.

In the Liverpool Echo, dated 28 October 1922, the mixing of religious services with cinema shows was explained thus by the Reverend T.A. Turney:
"Cinematograph entertainments are given every Saturday night from the first Saturday in October to the last in March. They were designed to introduce "down-and-outers" to the (Methodist) Mission. Our prices of admission are 3d and 5d. We have an organ recital, a hymn, and short prayer, and then a concert, followed by one long picture.
"Though we select our pictures very carefully, we have no difficulty in finding those of the right type. The films include such as "Torn Sails", "All Sorts and Conditions of Men", by Walter Besant, and "Andy Hardy"."We have very large crowds at the concerts, and also at the Sunday night services. We can seat 2300, but often we are packed so early that I have to begin the service a quarter of an hour before time.
"As I have said, the concerts and services are designed for those whom others might term "undesirables", and a great deal of good is being done."

From 1933 to 1939 the hall was the home of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra while the Philharmonic Hall was rebuilt following a fire.

In 1990 the Methodists sold Central Hall and the building became the Barcelona bar and nightclub. A seemingly strange transaction considering the Methodists traditional disdain for alcohol! (Although we as Catholics are not guiltless in this - St Peter's in Seel Street, Liverpool (the oldest church in the city built in 1788) is now "Alma de Cuba" Bar
Here are some photos (from their "Vampire Carn-Evil" in October 2010) to give you some of the reasons why a sacred place should not be sold to the highest bidder.

But ... back to the Methodists. What it also shows is that the desire to attract people to religion by tossing in some entertainment doesn't really work - the Methodists have obviously been trying it since the 1920's and they no longer have their building or even the ambition and enthusiasm that led them to build such an impressive edifice. Putting on Mass with a Disco afterwards to lure in the young still doesn't work in our own day. The challenge of radical Catholicism - the fullness of the Faith - perhaps speaks more to idealistic young people looking for something different from what they see in the world around them; something that gives a strong group identity.

The Church should never say, "Let me entertain you" - it never works.
It should always say, "Let us pray" - that always works.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Rome Diocese Launches John Paul II Web Page

The Diocese of Rome has launched a Web site dedicated to the beatification of Pope John Paul II, which takes place on May 1st.

Zenit reports that:
"Named Ioannes Paulus P.P. II, the site will gather information on the beatification of the Pope, and make it available in six languages: English, Spanish, French, Polish, Italian and Romanian.

The endeavor will also post information on the life of Karol Wojtyla, his thought and his devotion of Mary, the Mother of God, as well as the process of his canonization cause, and other events linked to the May 1 beatification. It will also offer documentation on the initiatives around the world that will surround the Pontiff's beatification, and promote prayers of intercession and thanksgiving.

Additionally, the site links to "Totus Tuus," which is a monthly magazine dedicated to the the Pope's cause of canonization."

This is one to add to the blogroll, methinks.


As the new shoots of Pope Benedict's renewal are so slow in taking root hereabouts, I thought I'd turn to the ones in the garden. Our banks of snowdrops are in full bloom in the sunshine today, so I snapped these photos while I was out raking up the last of the autumn leaves.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Reprieve for Ushaw College?

Seminarians in the Ukraine
Seminarians gathering in a corridor because of lack of space.


Greek Catholic seminarians process through the streets of Lviv, Ukraine

Seminarians at Mass in Grodno Seminary in Belarus

Seminarians processing at Rudno Seminary in Ukraine

Seminarians hard at work studying in Brazil

Seminarians in a classroom in Ethiopia

Seminarians in class in Lithuania

Seminarians singing in Romania

Cardross Seminary - Built in 1968, closed in 1980!!
Junior Seminary at Ushaw - derelict since the 1970's

Zenit reports that in the Ukraine there are more men asking to join the seminary than they can possibly cope with - they have neither the places nor the funds to allow these men to test their vocations. In fact, they are turning away up to half the young men who apply.

A stark contrast to our own country where there is now no seminary at all in Scotland and Ushaw College (training men for the Priesthood for 200 years) is about to close. It seems peculiar, to say the least, that there will be no seminary north of Birmingham - one after another they have closed, Drygrange, Cardross, Blairs, Scotus, Upholland, and now Ushaw.

Perhaps in a europe-wide spirit of co-operation and fraternity Ushaw College could be offered to train priests from other countries like the Ukraine where they do not have enough seminary places? After all, that's even better than what we've done in the past by sending missionaries out to foreign lands - we would actually be training indigenous men to return to their own country and build up the Faith - and who knows perhaps a few would stay here and help to re-evangelise our moribund church.

But, I hear you say, "Why can't some of these priests be sent here. We would welcome them with open arms". Not quite! As the former President of Ushaw, Monsignor Terence Patrick Drainey, now gloriously reigning as Bishop of Middlesborough wrote in 2007 about a "new course specifically for foreign priests wishing to serve the Catholic Church in England and Wales":
"Some foreign priests working in Britain tend to be too dogmatic about the church’s moral rightness on just about everything, ... That’s not how we do things here. "
Well, we know how we do things here -

The library at St Joseph's College, Upholland (photo from March 2009)

- I wonder how they do things over there that they can attract so many men to the Priesthood?

Monday 7 February 2011

"Is it ecumenism, or is it sacrilege?"

James Preece has highlighted the scandalous situation of a Methodist minister being given a Sacred Chalice, which had been used at the Papal Mass in Glasgow.
This is described as a "Papal gift to Methodist minister" on the Middlesborough Diocesan website where a "Jane Cook, Adult Formation Adviser for the Middlesbrough Diocese" opines that "It seems to me to be an extraordinarily beautiful and sacred object, and the giving of it to be a generous and heartfelt ecumenical gesture."
James, on the other hand, asks a simple, highly pertinent question "Is this ecumenism, or is it sacrilege?"

Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sacrilege thus:
2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.
A Chalice is a Sacred Vessel because it contained the Precious Blood of Christ. Chalices should be blessed (and until recently, they were not just blessed but consecrated), although this doesn't always happen. Once a chalice has become a "Sacred Vessel" it is forbidden to use it for any other purpose--even if it wasn't blessed. For reference, see the new Book of Blessings, number 1360. Sacred Vessels are permanently designated for sacred use--which means they can't be later put to some other use. Using such a Sacred Vessel in a Protestant service could NEVER be designated as 'Sacred use'. The Code of Canon Law is clear:
Can. 1171 Sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently and are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use even if they are owned by private persons.
However, the fault does NOT lie with the Methodist minister, Mr. Humble, who is acting in good faith and clearly does not intend any sacrilege. He would appear to be wholly blameless in this affair.
But what of those responsible for handing over this Sacred Vessel to such 'inappropriate use'? Perhaps we should consult the Code of Canon Law......
Can. 1376 A person who profanes a movable or immovable sacred object is to be punished with a just penalty.