Monday 29 August 2011

Seminarians thrown overboard from the barque of Peter

Seminarians brave enough to be photographed cheering the Holy Father!
(Image courtesy of in interesting US site

Fr Michael Brown writes about a trickle of sad news concerning those applying to test their vocation (Fr Gary Dickson has some very pertinent words in the comment thread). Fr Brown says that:
seminarians are quizzed about their interest in the Extraordinary Form in such a way as to make clear to them that any interest would be considered a problem and as they used to say in my time, `a formation issue`.
Sadly, similar news has also reached my ears. Prospective seminarians are not usually told outright that they will not be accepted if they are deemed "too traditional" but the way questions are phrased and the attitudes they encounter tell them that it will not be worth their while pursuing a vocation in diocese X. "Wouldn't you be happier somewhere like the Oratorians" was the crass suggestion to someone of my acquaintance applying to one diocese, as though that was where oddballs like him should go. Insulting to him and to the Oratorians who have thriving parishes and communities in this country. I understand that in the very excellent Oxford House there is simply no room to take on any more candidates.

Just recently I was speaking to a young man who seemed to me to be an ideal candidate for the Priesthood in every way that I could see but whose sortie into the diocesan selection process was not successful. He is now training with one of the traditional priestly societies.

Someone else I know - again a young man with faith, drive, ability and a desire to test his vocation - simply found the attitudes he encountered to be less than encouraging and saw the prospective training that was being held out to him to him as lacking in many areas.

Some years ago yet another friend with a known past interest in the Extraordinary Form the was turned away by an English diocese. He's now ordained in a diocese outside England.

It indicates the still prevalent attitude in most diocese that the Traditional Mass and allegedly "conservative" (read orthodox and loyal to the Holy Father and the Magisterium) are okay in little enclaves but not wanted in the mainstream, thank you very much. I'm not sure why this should be, except that there are none so blind as they that will not see because it is precisely in the "mainstream" - diocese and ordinary parishes - that the liberal experiment shows most glaringly that it has failed. In these schools and parishes we find the limp Catholicism that is hardly worthy of the name and where the numbers dwindle year on year until the parishes amalgamate and then close; where no vocations are produced and then the seminaries close; where Religious Life is unheard of.

The point that the Holy Father is, I believe, trying to bring home to the wider Church in Europe and the West, is that the influence of the traditional Mass and loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium is precisely what has been missing from the formula being experimented with over the last forty years. The men finding it tough applying to the diocese in this country are the very men we need to bring on board instead of turning them away but they challenge the status quo too much by asking for formation that will teach them discipline of life, faithfulness to the Magesterium, the Traditional Mass and the Latin language.

Seminarians (if you can get that far) certainly need the the encouragement the Holy Father offered yesterday:

Dear seminarians, do not be afraid to take up the challenge in today's Gospel to give your lives completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us be generous in our commitment to him, carrying our cross with faith and courage."


Saturday 27 August 2011

Ushaw College

Just a quick post on Ushaw College. The Ushaw Catholic Heritage Group has produced a newsletter to update the news - such as it is - on what is going to happen to St Cuthbert's Seminary at Ushaw in Durham. At least they are trying to put out some information - although I'm not sure that they are being given very much. However, information of any sort is hard to come by from any other source. The Ushaw College web-site seems blissfully unaware that the college has in fact closed down and is no longer a seminary! It would appear you can still book it for your conference and apply to become a seminarian there!

There have been rumours about Durham University taking over part of the seminary for a Catholic Study Centre. It seems a great pity that funds and initiative can be found to study Catholicism but not enough to actually practice it and carry it out. Almost as though we were some extinct species - a museum specimen or something studied in an ancient history class.

I say this not because Ushaw is my Alma Mater. Actually, I have rather mixed feelings about my time there. I say it because it is a place a of beauty built for the glory of God and a testament to our forebears in much worse economic and religious times than we currently endure. (Although perhaps the faith was much stronger in the past 200 years than it is now - even when we were still being persecuted in more overt ways than we are today.)

I still think that it's a tragic and short-sighted decision to close Ushaw and that the Church itself wants to sell it off. I know it's only a place but it is often places that unite people. Our lives don't happen in a vacuum but in particular places and with particular people in them. The loss of a place of meaning cuts us off from one another and from our tradition and history, which for Christians is tragic as we think of ourselves as a community not just of the present but of all generations past, present and future. To say nothing of the fact that we are a people rooted in the history and tradition that is the Incarnation - we cannot get away from looking back to all that connects us to that great historical (and cosmic) event.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Protests against the Pope turn out to be rubbish

Rome Reports have a breakdown of the figures and costs for World Youth Day. The protesters who were so concerned about the cost to the Spanish taxpayer were mislead by those who love to manipulate the news to reflect badly on the Church (which can only be described as doing the work of the devil). Independent sources representing the businesses of Madrid say it boosted the city's economy by $230 million. In fact the money generated for the city of Madrid's businesses was about two thirds more than the amount brought in by the Champions League Football Final in 2010. I often wonder how much-vaunted sporting events actually cost the tax payer in policing etc but sport is one of the new religions that supposedly have the power to build world peace and harmony, restore an individual's sense of self-worth and provide role-models that will change the lives of the poor, that we are never allowed to criticise. The Church, by contrast, can only offer eternal life and the means of living well in this world that can provide the possibility of reaching it.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

BBC - Anything but Catholicism

For a different side of World Youth Day.
Bishop Dominique Rey celebrates the Extraordinary Form of Mass for Juventutem Pilgrims in Parrochia de San Francisco de Sales, Madrid, 18 August 2011.

Someone has commented on my last post "off topic" complaining about the BBC coverage of World Youth Day. In fact, I spent some time early this morning looking for some clips on the BBC that had made my blood boil on Sunday. As Fr Ray Blake has said, the BBC coverage of World Youth Day was niggardly. Considering that such a fuss is made that we are all now a part of Europe, you would think that major events in other European countries would be given more coverage - especially on BBC World - but not so with anything to do with Catholicism. I've noticed that TV Europe and TV France24 (which I sometimes watch) give far better coverage of things Catholic.

What particularly annoyed me on Sunday was the sycophantic coverage of the Hari Krishna Janmashtami Festival, being staged near Watford, in the extensive house and grounds donated by George Harrison in 1973 for 60,000 people. Robert Pigott interviewed 'His (self-styled) Holiness' Swami Radhanath, from Chicago who was brought up as a Jew but is now a guru and a member of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Mr Pigott was literally bowing and bobbing up and down in front of the guru with a beaming smile on his face, allowing him not to answer questions but to give a homily. All taken at face value and not questioned or interrupted at all in the way that no Catholic bishop or priest would get away with in a BBC interview. (It was this interview I was trying to search on-line for but couldn't find.) In stark contrast, this was immediately followed by an item on the final Mass in Madrid which was very short and underestimated the 1.5 million YOUNG people at the Mass. Both of these events were good news stories but it always seems that any Catholic good news is glossed over and always linked with pejorative wording or tinged with a negative aspect - in the case of Madrid those protesting over the alleged cost to the Spanish state of the papal visit. Mr Pigott constantly addressed the guru as "Your Holiness" but the newsreader covering the World Youth Day Mass could only refer to "The Pope" or "Pope Benedict" not His Holiness, Pope Benedict. The report, which was headlined "Pope meets thousands of Spanish pilgrims (?)" was all focused on the Church trying to "win back its power in Spain" and "recover its losses" as the drive behind World Youth Day. In other words, the usual tainted coverage.

It is another clear case of any culture but our own finding favour. with the liberal elite The BBC seems to conveniently forget (as does the rest of the liberal establishment) that the values they claim to hold dear are in fact rooted in the Catholic Church - although now much distorted with selfishness and relativism. Human rights, the rule of law, equality, education, art, care of the most vulnerable, and science. All these were not quashed by the grim forces of the Catholic Church in the so-called "dark ages" but in fact kept alive to forge the civilization that the Holy Father continues to call Europe back to. Its own foundations which it seems determined to cut out from under its own feet.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

First Extraordinary Form Mass of a newly-ordained priest

For those who know Fr Damian,
the above photograph catches one of his knowing glances!

Last month a newly ordained priest, Fr Damian McCaughan, celebrated his first EF Mass here just two weeks after his ordination for the Diocese of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland. I have been sent some lovely photos courtesy of Mr Brian Munro, and thought it worth posting them for those who were present and for everyone else as well. It was one of those Masses when music, servers, sacred ministers and an excellent MC put the newly-ordained at his ease and proper preparation helped to uplift us all in a prayerful atmosphere. I am acting as sub-deacon while Fr Mark Lawler is the deacon. The photos are quite good quality and so can be "clicked on" to enlarge.

Monday 15 August 2011

Communion in the Hand is a Calvinist Novelty

I was fortunate enough to meet Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently and he is one of those people who make an impression. Not through his physical presence - he is not a tall man. Not through force - he is quietly spoken and gentle. But when explaining the Faith, he doesn't give away much ground - none at all, in fact. He is kindly and interested when you speak to him but I wouldn't like to skim over anything in the Confessional - the kindly eyes might look intensely at you and you'd feel the need to tell the full story! In other words, whether he has special gifts in the Confessional or not, he is a holy man. Something in his presence tells you so and demands attention. Hence, I am very interested in what he says. The following was picked up from the Eponymous Flower.
I've posted about Bishop Schneider before here.

Cardinal Canizares has also become an eloquent speaker for the more widespread return of this practice. He recommends that Catholics “receive Communion on the tongue and while kneeling.” See here and here and here.

Auxiliary Bishop Says Communion In the Hand is a Calvinist Novelty

Not Even Martin Luther Would Have Done It

Bishop Athanasius Schneider
In the last century the Old Liberal Bishops promoted hand Communion. They used a historical lie toward this end.
Present day Communion in the Hand has no roots in the early Church.

This was stressed by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana in Kazakhstan on the 19th July on the radio station 'Radio Maria Südtirol'. Mgr Schneider is a Patristic expert.

Hand Communion was contrived "all new" from the Second Vatican Council -- the Auxiliary Bishop firmly said. The ancient Church had practiced a completely different form for the reception of Communion. In that period the hand in which Communion was received was purified before and after.

Additionally, the faithful would take the Body of the Lord from their hand in a disposition of prayer with his tongue. "If anything it was more of an oral reception of Communion than in the hand". After Communion, the communicant had to lick their hands with their tongues, so that even the smallest particle should not be lost. A Deacon supervised the purification.

The Auxiliary Bishop cotinued: "This concern and care stands in direct opposition to indifference and carelessness with which so called Communion in the hand is dispensed." Women never held Communion simply on the flat of the hand. They spread a white cloth, a manner of corporal over their hand. Then, they would receive Communion directly to their mouth from the linen cloth.

"That is a tremendous contrast to the present form of Communion in the hand" -- insisted Mgr Schneider. The ancient faithful never took Communion with their fingers: "the gesture of hand Communion was completely unknown in the Church."

The Antique Form of Giving Communion Was Impractical in the Final Analysis

In the course of the centuries the Church developed a form of giving Communion which "surely came from the Holy Ghost". Msgr Schneider explained that the Eastern Church had already completed this step by the 5th Century, the West somewhat later. The transition took place worldwide, organically, instinctively and peacefully. The Bishop reports that Pope Gregory the Great († 604), gave Communion on the tongue. French and Spanish Synods of the 8th and 9th Centuries sanctioned against touching the Host with excommunication: "If a Synod can make such a strict threat, this form will be forbidden in a short time."

Communion in the Hand Comes from the Calvinists

According to the Bishop, communion in the hand comes from the Dutch Calvinists of the 17th Century. Calvinism denies the real presence of Christ in the Host. Communion in the hand wasn't even practiced by the Lutherans: "The Lutherans have until quite recently, and till today in Scandinavian lands, preserved communion kneeling and on the tongue."

Saturday 13 August 2011

Blessed Pope John Paul's RAIN!

The bust and dedication of our Pope John Paul II Room

Some of the water ingress above the Holy Father where it rained down on him!

More of the mess made by the rain

I discovered last week that thieves had been up on the Church roof and stolen the lead . The damage can't be seen from below so the first notice I had was when water started pouring in through the ceiling of the Pope John Paul II Room - our meeting room at the back of the church - only recently re-decorated and re-dedicated at the beatification of the late Holy Father. Temporary repairs have been effected but the damage done to the suspended ceiling (and the resultant unpleasant damp smell) awaits the insurance claim. I could almost have wished the thieves had had the decency to leave a note to say what they had done - at least the water damage could have been forestalled!

I had another incident three months ago when a teenager had climbed over the fence from the park next door and deliberately pushed over a stone statue of St Veronica in my back garden. Eventually the culprit was apprehended and some weeks later marched round to make an apology to me but the police were against pressing any charges. Then, a couple of weeks ago a neighbour's house was vandalised and when the police found the culprit, it turned out to be a teenage girl. My neighbour wanted to press charges but the police were against it on the grounds that it would give her a criminal record - so she got off with an apology.

It stuck me that this sort of supposedly "low-level" crime is perhaps linked to the terrible scenes of rioting we have seen in our streets over the last week here in England. Really, in those local cases I've just cited, the offenders "got away with it". The serious consequences that could have ensued did not come to pass. Does this teach them that when they think no-one can catch or punish them, then anything goes? The riots are just the same attitude writ large. In a mob, who will know which individuals to punish? That's why the measures to pursue and prosecute the rioters are, to my way of thinking, very important. But perhaps a policy leaning more towards zero tolerance of low level crime could be part of the solution to teaching people that you can't simply do whatever you want and get away with it. It is the same selfishness on a large scale. The difficulty is that people are now calling for a moral framework but we have dismatled our Christian society and I'm not sure it's possible to build a moral framework on non-existent foundations. Surely, you don't have to be a fully paid-up Christian to recognise that the moral framework provided by the Faith and built on its firm foundations could be a good thing for the wider society to subscribe to. This is what calling our country (and the Western world itself) a "Christian" culture once meant, even after most had abandoned the regular practice of going to Church, when even the un-churched subscribed to some boundaries - like not pinching from the Church or mugging helpless individuals!

Anyway, to get back to practicalities, as I explained to parishioners at the weekend, although the insurance will cover it, the diocesan insurance has a £300 excess, which for our little parish is virtually a whole week's collection money. Given that we had another insurance claim last month to repair drains where tree roots had damaged the sewer pipes, that's two weeks collection "down the drain".

So the joys of organising our annual Parish Fete (this coming Saturday 20th August at 1pm for anyone in the area!) have taken on added significance this year, although a large chunk of the income will now already have been spent.

Thursday 11 August 2011

An Unusual Priest and Hero - Fr Emil Kapuan

Fr. Emil Kapuan, a decorated
war hero, was declared a
Servant of God.

On Easter morning, March 25, 1951, the Catholic priest mounted the steps of a partially destroyed church, and turned to face his congregation, some 60 men – gaunt, foul-smelling, in tattered clothing.

Fr. Emil Kapaun raised a small, homemade, wooden cross to begin a prayer service, led the men in the Rosary, heard the confessions of the Catholics, and performed a Baptism. Then, he wept because there was no bread or wine to consecrate so that the men could receive the Eucharist.

The U.S. Army chaplain, with a patch covering his injured eye and supported by a crudely-made cane, may have been broken in body, but was strong in spirit.

The following Sunday, Fr. Kapaun collapsed. His condition was serious – a blood clot, severe vein inflammation, malnutrition – but the Chinese guards in the North Korean prison camp would allow no medical treatment, not even painkillers. After languishing for several weeks, he died on May 23 and was buried in a mass grave.

Emil Kapaun was born on April 16, 1916 to a poor, but faith-filled farm family on the prairies of eastern Kansas. Life was hard and even children had to learn to be resourceful as mechanics and carpenters and to care for the animals during bitter winters and brutally hot summers. With a strong desire to become a priest, he attended Benedictine Conception Abbey to complete high school and college, continued his studies at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, and was ordained in 1940.

Heroic Chaplain

Fr. Kapaun celebrates a field
Mass on the hood of a jeep.

When the United States entered World War II, he asked to become a military chaplain. His bishop initially refused, but later relented. Fr. Kapaun enlisted in 1944 in the Army, served for two years in Burma and India, then returned to civilian life. Two years later, he reenlisted and was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Japan.

In June 1950, a North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel, and advanced quickly toward Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. intervened militarily, with the 1st Cavalry Division executing an amphibious landing to block the advancing army. The enemy onslaught was severe and the U.S. units soon were in retreat. Fighting was intense. Fr. Kapaun, with his soldier-parishioners in danger, was tireless. He moved among the GIs, ignoring enemy fire, comforting the wounded, administering the last rites, burying the dead, and offering Mass whenever and wherever he could. On one occasion, he went in front of the U.S. lines, in spite of intense fire, to rescue a wounded soldier.

By August, the U.S. troops had been pushed to the southern end of Korea, near the port of Pusan. Then, on September 15, 1950, the war took a radical turn when U.S. troops landed at Inchon behind the invading army. The North Korean forces fled northward, with the Americans in pursuit. Within a few weeks, the 1st Cavalry Division had crossed the 38th parallel. Unknown to them, China, which had secretly moved a huge army into North Korea, was about to enter the war.

Fr. Kapaun holding a pipe shot out of his mouth by an enemy sniper.

Fearless in Danger

The night of November 1 was quiet. Fr. Kapaun’s battalion, having suffered some 400 casualties among its roster of 700 soldiers, was placed in a reserve position. Chinese troops, however, had infiltrated to within a short distance of them. Suddenly, just before midnight, there was a cacophony of bugles, horns and whistles, as the enemy attacked from all sides.

Fr. Kapaun scrambled among foxholes, sharing a prayer with one soldier, saying a comforting word to another. He assembled many wounded in an abandoned log dugout. All the next day, he scanned the battlefield and, some 15 times, when he spotted a wounded soldier would crawl out and drag the man back to the battalion’s position. By day’s end, the defensive perimeter was drawn so tightly that the log hut and the wounded it contained were outside of it. As evening came and another attack was imminent, the chaplain left the main force for the shelter so that he could be with the wounded. It was soon overrun, and Fr. Kapaun pleaded for the safety of the injured. Approximately three-quarters of the men in the battalion had been killed or captured.

Admirable Self-Sacrifice

Hundreds of U.S. prisoners were marched northward over snow-covered crests. Whenever the column paused, Fr. Kapaun hurried up and down the line, encouraging the men to pray, exhorting them not to give up. When a man had to be carried or be left to die, Fr. Kapaun, although suffering from frostbite himself, set the example by helping to carry a makeshift stretcher. Finally, they reached their destination, a frigid, mountainous area near the Chinese border. The poorly dressed prisoners were given so little to eat that they were starving to death.

For the men to survive they would have to steal food from their captors. So, praying to St. Dismas, the “Good Thief,” Fr. Kapaun would sneak out of his hut in the middle of the night, often coming back with a sack of grain, potatoes or corn. He volunteered for details to gather wood because the route passed the compound where the enlisted men were kept, and he could encourage them with a prayer, and sometimes slip out of line to visit the sick and wounded. He also undertook tasks that repulsed others, such as cleaning latrines and washing the soiled clothing of men with dysentery.

Unwavering Faith

Fr. Kapaun (right) helping a wounded soldier.

Fr. Kapaun’s faith never wavered. While he was willing to forgive the failings of prisoners toward their captors, he allowed no leeway in regard to the doctrines of the Church. He continually reminded prisoners to pray, assuring them that in spite of their difficulties, Our Lord would take care of them. As a result of his example, some 15 of his fellow prisoners converted to the Catholic Faith.

Fr. Kapaun’s practice of sharing his meager rations with others who were weaker, lowered his resistance to disease, and eventually to his death. For his heroic behavior, he received many posthumous honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross and Legion of Merit, had buildings, chapels, a high school, and several Knights of Columbus councils named in his honor, and is currently being considered for the Medal of Honor. In 1993, the Pope declared Fr. Kapaun a “Servant of God,” and his cause for canonization is pending.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Subordinates in the Vatican work against Holy Father

Firstly, an apology. It's been a week since I've posted anything. My server went down and after numerous conversations with call centres on other continents it's only taken BT SIX days to get around to sending out an engineer. Such service and efficiency!

Anyway... sort of following on from my last post...

At an ordination at Winona last month the Superior General of the Society of St Pius X, Bishop Fellay, spoke the Society’s situation with Rome. It reveals an interesting perspective on how the Vatican departments work (or don't work, if you've ever had any dealings with them!) The whole can be read here. It seems that the Society is sometimes left in a confused state depending on which department of the Vatican they are dealing with. Sometimes they receive positive feedback, at other times negative or no reply at all (in one case because the drafted letter had been tucked away in a drawer by a lower official than the Prefect of the department concerned).

We tend to think of "The Vatican" as being the same as "The Pope" and that if something "comes from Rome" (one of the departments) then it is the decision of the Holy Father. While in theory that is true - he is ultimately responsible - it would seem that there are factions and individuals working in the Curia and departments who are not on-board with his way of thinking. I'm sure that the conversations with the SSPX are difficult and delicate and that they have their own ways of looking at things that I would not whole-heatedly agree with but it does seem true that there are those in Curial departments in Rome who are either not following the Holy Father's agenda of indeed positively working against it.

Reportedly these are the words of the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “But you know, it’s the priests, it’s the bishops, it’s the Catholic universities: they are full of heresies!” Fr Ray Blake has posted about how we should call a spade a spade when it comes to dissent. Dissent is not disagreement over policy (as though the Church is a political party) rather dissent is an attack on the Truths of the Faith - Truths given to us by God to help us get to Heaven. But I suppose that's a very old-fashioned, romantically inclined and immature way of looking at things these in these enlightened days.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

It is pretty obvious that the Vatican II experiment has failed.

Danny Kaye tells the story of the Emperor's new clothes.

Fr Ray Blake has put up a brave post about the failure of the route the Church has taken since the Second Vatican Council. He starts by saying what some have long thought and others are only now beginning to allow themselves to express:
"It is pretty obvious that the Vatican II experiment has failed"
It's intentions may have been full of hope but perhaps caught up in the spirit of the age - the 1960's when everything seemed up for grabs and change was in the air. The brightest and best of those who were at the forefront of all that very quickly realised that it was not the answer. Among them was Fr Joseph Ratzinger who, as a peritus to Cardinal Frings of Cologne, was viewed as a reformer but as early as 1968 he realised that all that went with the "liberating" 1960's was not the answer. It's taken others a little longer to realise the same thing.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the evidence all around us can no longer be ignored. Our churches are empty and closing, our convents and monasteries (in any proper sense) are almost non-existent, the seminaries close one by one, Catholic education in our schools is a joke (a very poor one) but we keep hearing about the wonderful fruits of the Council. What are they? The intentions may have been good but the results have surely not been a success of any kind. I don't believe a wholesale return to the past is the answer but nor is carrying on with the same failed rhetoric. Only now, fifty years after the Council, are people willing to start telling the Emperor that he has no clothes on. Interestingly, in Hans Christian Anderson's fairytale, the Emperor is told by the tailors that only those unfit for position are unable to see the invisible couture, so everybody lies, saying how wonderful they look. The Spirit of the Council that has been Emperor for fifty years is finally hearing the truth but many who are still "possessed" of that spirit still act like the Emperor in the fairytale and hold on to the imaginary mantle:

"The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle."
The experiment has failed. Fr Ratzinger noticed realised the truth quite some time ago! Fr Blake suggests we need to draw on new leaders with views that don't match what has gone before for the last fifty years. In speaking to other priests, all agree that leadership is crucial. There are small signs that the type of men being appointed bishop is beginning to change - but they are indeed small. Let us pray for better - after all, fairytales are meant to have happy endings!