Monday 31 December 2012

Living Tradition

The Dunstan Vestment at Stonyhurst College - 
still used at the Feasts of the Ascension and Immaculate Conception.

A Reluctant Sinner has a post about items of Catholic liturgical heritage being displayed in secular museums. He thinks it would be better if they were displayed in Catholic ones so that there would be some opportunity to explain them properly and even evangelize through them.  He acknowledges that these things would be best kept in a church rather than a museum.  I completely agree.  While I think it would be good to have such things displayed in a Catholic context. I would also hope that many of them could still be used - not all the time if they are fragile and of historical importance but certainly sometimes used for their original purpose.

I heard some talk of turning part of the former seminary at Ushaw into a centre for the study of Catholicism but (depending I suppose on how it could be done) this had the aura to me of relegating the Church to an historical item of interest to be studied but no longer a living thing.  Like the Yorvik Viking Centre in York or the Dewa Roman Centre in Chester, with street scenes set up, complete with sound effects.  I could picture the Ushaw chapel with manikins set out for High Mass, chant playing in the background and incense being wafted through like dry ice to show how the mighty empire used to look and feel!

Liverpool cathedral has a museum in the crypt with quite a number of beautiful things and I think some of them do get used sometimes.  I think this is the way to go.  If we have dozens of chalices, mitres, monstrances and crosiers already in our possession, why not use them, instead of paying out for new ones?  I think there is sometimes a desire to deliberately relegate anything that looks old - (i.e. traditional and therefore part of our Tradition) to the museum and therefore to the past.  This seems so odd when in our homes and every other sphere of life there is a strong desire to connect with the traditions of the past in everything from royal ceremony to retaining period features in our homes.

This should  include vestments as well.  I recall at seminary in Ushaw, an ancient chasuble worn by one of the English  martyrs being brought out once a year to be worn by the visiting bishop offering Mass.  It was no longer a thing of great beauty but it was very evocative and so much more important than just surface beauty that it was still being worn.  Visiting Stonyhurst College with a pilgrim group, I was able to wear an ancient but splendid cope.  Many of their conserved vestments are still used on major feast days.

I visited the shrine of Ladyewell at Fernyhalgh just recently and after the fire they had there some time ago the relic room has been remodeled in a very sympathetic way so that it has the feel of a chapel - even though the relics are displayed and described.  It manages to keep a prayerful and devotional feel rather than just a museum.  There is a recusant altar there as well which I do hope is used sometimes.

Let's not relegate our living tradition to dusty museums as something to be looked at but not lived.  Isn't that what the world wants us to do with the whole of our Glorious Faith?

Thursday 27 December 2012

What's in a name?

While I am glad that a number of bishops are now speaking out in support of the Church's teaching on marriage, I have been a little surprised that it is this issue that has fired them up.  There are any number of issues that, shall we say, have not necessarily been highlighted and defended with all the vigour that could be brought to bear.  Not all our bishops have been fired up for all areas of the Church's teaching - from morals to liturgy.

However, that aside, in the reporting over Christmas one (of my many) pet peeves has been rubbed up the wrong way.  Again and again the TV news and the print media refer to Archbishop Nichols as the "Head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales"( eg the Guardian) or "the Leader of the Country's Roman Catholics".  Of course, he is not and I'm sure would not lay claim to such a title. He is one of the Archbishops whose sees cover the capital and because the UK is covered by more than one hierarchy, he is not even the senior cleric, as at this point in time he has not been elevated to the cardinalate   It may be that the Archbishop of Westminster has a a higher profile by virtue of being in the capital and that he is usually a cardinal; he may chair the meetings of the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales.  For all these reasons, we might expect a certain leadership from whoever occupies the see of Westminster.  However, he has no direct control over any other diocese than his own; he not the CEO of the various provincial branches of a company, as if the diocese of Liverpool were a regional branch of Tesco. He cannot lead any diocese other than his own anywhere.  (as a Metropolitan he has certain oversight duties over his province in very limited ways - not the whole country and Westminster is not a Primatial See - and even if he were, Canon 438 makes it clear that the title of "Primate gives a prerogative of honour, but in the latin Church does not carry with it any power of governance").  If someone had a complaint against the bishop in their own diocese, they cannot take it to the Archbishop of Westminster.  If they cannot resolve it with their own bishop then the next level of authority is is in Rome with the appropriate Congregation representing the Holy Father.

Each bishop is a successor of the Apostles and apart from Peter, none was marked out with any governance over the others.  It is, I think, another ill-effect resulting from the rise to prominence of bishop's conference within each nation state - making national churches in some countries think of themselves as semi-autonomous bodies from the wider universal Church.  Although in the United Kingdom we have three hierarchies - which again militate against referring to the Archbishop of Westminster as "Head" or "Leader".   In fact, the only Primate, who would therefore have a prerogative of honour, resides in Northern Ireland, as the Primate of all Ireland. At this point in time Scotland has a Cardinal - again who could with more legitimacy have a leadership role ascribed to him.  While obviously some collective approach within a country can have uses at a practical level, the primacy of the Bishop's Conference mentality has robbed the individual bishop of the power to act alone; it appears to have made individual bishops beholden to the national conference instead of to the wider Church, to Rome, to the Holy Father or even to their own flock.  They must issue a statement through the bishop's conference and inevitably, in getting 20+ individual bishops to agree to something, the statement has to be a compromise and is watered down or policy making is farmed out to committees, who again would have to have an eye to keeping everyone on-board.  The "Leader" or "Head" in any diocese is only the bishop of that diocese.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

A Blessed and Holy Christmas

For while all things were in quiet silence, 
and the night was in the midst of her course, 
Thy almighty Word leapt down from heaven 
from thy royal throne, 
as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction.
Wisdom 18:14-15

Friday 21 December 2012

Forbidden Reading

I came across an article on the Zenit News agency today on Michael Davies, the author and apologist for traditional Catholicism.  I can recall reading some of his books whist still at seminary - hidden away secretly, for they would definitely not have been approved reading. I always particularly liked the illustration on the front of the above book, which is not that easy to see, showing the bishops processing into St Peter's Basilica in copes and mitres but emerging casting these off and donning jeans, T-shirts and guitar.  Fr Tim Finigan has been re-discovering him recently as well. You can read the whole article on Zenit but here are the highlights:s. 

Michael Davies Was a 'Man of the Church'

By Edward Pentin
ROME, DEC. 20, 2012. 

"The immensity of the man will only be fully appreciated in the years and decades to come," said Leo Darroch at a recent Rome conference. "He will be recognized as a true son of Holy Mother Church and a giant among men in a period when the Church was in turmoil."

Darroch, president of the International Una Voce Federation, a group supporting Mass in the Extraordinary Form, was referring to the relatively unknown Welsh author and primary school teacher, Dr. Michael Davies. 
As a good friend of Davies (1936-2004), Darroch at a conference in November paid tribute to this highly respected, but little known, defender of the Church's Tradition. 

The meeting, held by the Centro Culturale Lepanto, marked the fifth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio that further opened the way to celebration of the Extraordinary Form.
Davies, Darroch recalled, was a prolific author and a convert to Catholicism who, after only 10 years as a Catholic, "could see immediately the damaging effect" the liturgical abuses that ensued after the Council would have on the faith of young people.

"He was to be their champion and he threw himself entirely into the battle," Darroch noted, adding that "his life's work" was spent questioning and scrutinizing the new liturgical innovations that were not prescribed in the Council documents. 

"He had discovered in his late teens and early 20s that the Truth existed in the Catholic Church and he was not prepared to allow anyone to take it away from him or his children," he said. "For Michael, the truth was everything and he was appalled at the way the modernist pseudo-intellectuals and their fellow travelers had infiltrated the Catholic media, the seminaries, and the publishing houses, and were introducing a new religion to our churches and schools to the detriment of the faith."

Furthermore, Darroch added, Davies was "equally appalled" not only that many bishops had allowed these abuses, but that many "actively supported them, while condemning as divisive those Catholics who were not prepared to abandon the faith of their parents and grandparents."

Being a school teacher also made him acutely aware of the damage being caused. He "deeply resented" that the faith he taught his own pupils would later be usurped by a version of the Catholic faith that "had been adapted to the secular spirit of the age and was watered down to be acceptable to everyone, but in fact was rejected by most," Darroch said.

"This theme of checking information in the search for truth became the cornerstone, the constant thread, of everything he produced subsequently," said Darroch. "It became a continual source of irritation, and more, to those 'experts' who wished to steamroller liturgical change upon a disbelieving laity, that their spurious claims were put under the microscope and found, in the most part, to be without foundation."

Moreover, according to Darroch, Davies's writings encapsulated the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. "He was possessed of a wonderful faith that even in the darkest moments never wavered," he said. "He never lost hope that tradition would be restored to our altars, and, though he criticized endlessly the disastrous reforms inflicted upon the Church, he never resorted to personal abuse of those who were responsible for them... He was kindness and patience personified to everyone who wished to speak to him but was deeply uncomfortable when compliments were being paid to him."

Darroch said that Davies, who was elected president of the International Una Voce Federation in 1995, became a welcome visitor to the Vatican in later years. "For many in the hierarchy, he was deeply unpopular but in this time of great change, his constant theme was loyalty to the Holy See and to the traditions of the Church," he said. And on his death in 2004, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger paid tribute to him, saying he had been "profoundly touched" by the news of his passing. 

"I found him as a man of deep faith and ready to embrace suffering," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. "Ever since the Council, he put all his energy into the service of the Faith and left us important publications especially about the Sacred Liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his time, he always truly remained a man of the Church. He knew that the Lord founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter and that the Faith can find its fullness and maturity only in union with the Successor of St. Peter. Therefore we can be confident that the Lord opened wide for him the gates of heaven. We commend his soul to the Lord's mercy.'"

It could be argued with some conviction, Darroch said, that Davies has been directly responsible for "perhaps hundreds of thousands of concerned Catholics around the world remaining faithful to Rome and the Holy See despite their disaffection with the direction the Catholic Church has taken since 1965."  

Yet Davies remained, and to a great extent still remains, unknown to the majority of Catholic faithful, despite many attributing his great body of work to a resurgence in support for the Old Mass and Tradition, and for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. For this reason, many would like to see his works becoming more widely known. 

"This may well be his lasting legacy to the Church; the provision of books and papers that rallied the faithful and educated them in a period of time that will truly be called one of the dark ages of the Church."

Thursday 20 December 2012

Carol Concert

A belated report on the Order of St Lazarus Carol Concert held here last Saturday. The standard of singing was excellent.  As well as traditional Carols we had some medieval pieces and some modern "schmooze".  (Strictly speaking I don't really approve of carols before Christmas itself but getting people out to an Advent Concert is pretty difficult and we were trying to raise money for SUROL - a charity in Sri Lanka assisting those with Hanson's disease, under the patronage of Cardinal Ranjith. It was also a concert, rather than a service, so the blessed sacrament was elsewhere for the evening.)  As well as a decent amount raised through the collection etc, we had a fantastic donation of £10,000!

Thank you to all who came and to the singers and musicians for giving of their time so generously:

David Scott-Thomas - Accompanist
Ailsa Mainwaring - Soprano Soloist
Simon Woof - Alto
Nick Davis - Tenor
Anthony Dickinson - Bass

The Parish benefited as well for our local Councillor, Mike Otter, presented us with a cheque for £200 from Farington Parish Council, in recognition of the work done in the local community.  We will use to upgrade the outside lighting in the grounds.

Councillor Otter presenting the cheque.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Who is this?

Pictured in the shop in Prague.

Can anyone tell me who this saint is?  I found this oil painting in a bric-a-brac shop in Prague and bought it!  The text he is pointing to is the prayer to Our Lady,  Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.  The Sub tuum praesidium is probably the oldest Christian prayer dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This prayer was long used in both Eastern and Western rites, even if numerous variants existed. In 1917, the John Rylands Library just nearby me in Manchester, managed to acquire a large panel of Egyptian papyrus — the exact area where they were discovered is unknown — including an 18 cm by 9.4 cm fragment containing the text of this prayer in Greek probably dating from circa 250 - 300AD.  It is the basis of the Memorare:

Under thy protection
we seek refuge,
Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our needs,
but from all dangers
deliver us always,
Virgin Glorious and Blessed.

My limited research so far suggests that:

It is one of the Fathers of the Church, possibly Eastern - the triple banded cross and the pallium point to a Patriarch or Pope.

Associated with devotion to Our Lady, as he is pointing to the text, or doctrines associated with Her that assist in protecting a correct understanding of Our Lord's nature and being.

That is has most likely been painted in the last 100 - 150 years (or possibly soon after 1917 when the fragment was discovered), so the most likely source for commissioning such a painting would be an Order with a devotion to Our Lady - the Marists (among others) have a particular devotion to this prayer.  Does the blue banner attached to the cross signify anything in particular?

Perhaps the connection to the Czech Lands has some significance?

There is a suggestion that Alexandria was the place of discovery of the fragment so could it be St Cyril of Alexandria?  The difficulty is that there are many paintings of various Fathers of the Church that all look more or less the same with few particular distinguishing features. 

So - any hints from out thee as to who it might be would be welcome.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Bishop Philip Egan to David Cameron

 A change too far in this case

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has written to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in terms that I cannot recall any bishop of modern times in this country having the guts to do.  The Church - certainly in this country - has for so long lost confidence in wholeheartedly proclaiming the Christian Mission to the world.  A message that does not need to apologise for itself because it is God's message for the salvation of the world but a message that has not been proclaimed from the rooftops with confidence and an understanding of the philosophy behind it for some years.  Like so much of what passes for politics Bishop Egan points out to Mr Cameron "that behind what you say lurks a basic philosophical misconception."

Here is a confident and certain proclamation of the Christian Faith, rooted in our Tradition and philosophy. I believe it is called leadership and I believe it is the role of a Bishop to be such a leader.  It may have no public effect on Mr Cameron but it should none the less have been said and said by a Catholic.  A senior cleric for whom I have great respect said to me of Bishop Egan's appointment that he was greatly encouraged that someone with a good brain had been appointed to a diocese in this country who would be able to speak out in just this way.

I read it here at Quo Vadis.

Friday 14 December 2012

Carol Concert Saturday 15th December

For anyone who might be able to make it: tomorrow Saturday 15th December at 7.30pm, we are having a Carol Concert in church followed by mulled wine and mince pies in the Pope John Paul II Room.  The concert is free but through a collection and donations we hope to raise some money for SUROL - a charity in Sri Lanka whose patrons are Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and the First Lady of Sri Lanka, Shiranthi Rajapaksa.  The Order of St Lazarus in Great Britain has been forging close links with the Cardinal and his charity - we have given £9,000 over the past year.

Thursday 13 December 2012

How long does it take for a heretic to get his way?

The courtyard of the Italian Institute with the spires of St Vitus Cathedral up the hill.

I have been staying in Prague for a few days.  It's a little chillier than when I was last here for the Investiture of Cardinal Duka into the Order of St Lazarus in September. I'm staying at the Italian Cultural Institute which is fascinating. Founded in 1573 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, its purpose, in conjunction with the Italian Embassy, is to promote all things Italian.  

I'm always fascinated by the fact that the most prominent heresy in the Czech lands is that of the Hussites - sometimes called  Kališníci; "Chalice People" as the chalice became their symbol because one of their several outrageous demands of the Church was communion under both kinds. It obviously takes about 600 years for a heretic to have his demands become common practice!!!  Their leader, Jan Hus was executed in 1415 after he refused to recant.  His statue stands in Old Town Square with the splendid Hussite church behind it.c

Jan Huss on a chilly town Square

On the other hand there is St John Nepomuk, whose splendid memorial is in St Vitus Cathedral, and who is commemorated on the Charles Bridge, crossing the Vltava river, from where he was thrown at the orders of the Bohemian Emperor in 1396, partly for siding with his archbishop against the Avignon Papacy, whom the Emperor was supporting (although there is a whole lot more to it than that).  Because of the manner of his death he is a patron of flood victims - for all those who have suffered back in Britain this year.

His silver-plated altar in the cathedral is something to behold!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

I offered Low Mass with hymns for Our Lady's Feast today.
She was arrayed with flowers left for her from the wedding celebrated here yesterday.
(Congratulations to Michael and Louise!)

A nearby parish - St Joseph's, Bolton Road, Anderton in Chorley - 
also offered its first EF Mass this morning for the Feast day 
with a good turnout of 25
 (22 of whom were parishioners rather than visitors). 
 It is the first of a regular new EF Mass 
each Saturday there at 9.10am 
for anyone who can get to it more easily 
than the 12 noon on Saturdays here.

We are fortunate here in the Liverpool Archdiocese in that there are now several places to choose from for weekday EF Masses as well as Sunday Masses in four different parishes.

lol (short for Lots of Latin - at least in my text speak!)

Friday 7 December 2012

What do you get if you ask a communist atheist to build a cathedral?

Q. What do you get if you ask a communist atheist to build a cathedral?

A. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady Aparecida in Brasilia.

The late Oscar Niemeyer designed it and the foundation stone was laid in 1958, although I think it only opened in 1970.  It is thought to be quite influential and I'm sure you may be able to think of other churches and cathedrals where this baleful influence is to be seen.  It is unusual - perhaps even interesting - but is summons up some great secular and somehow temporary event space.  What seems tragic to me is the abandonment of centuries of Christian models, hallowed as they are by being used for prayer and liturgy and therefore molded to become suitable to it, for a model "invented" by someone with no Christian instincts, in fact, someone whose life views have been inimical to Christianity.

What such churches have is certainly celebrity value - they stick in the mind.  Not because they are beautiful but because they are strange, odd, peculiar   They speak about themselves instead of their purpose.

I hope that it is just this sort of thing that Abbot Michael Zielinski, who leads a new office on liturgical arts at the Congregation for Divine Worship, has been chosen to do something about.

Before someone points it out, I note that the plans come from before the time of the Second Vatican Council. But, as others have noted, the revolutionary views that exploded through the Church after the Council - claiming to act in its name and spirit - did not spring from nowhere, they were already making themselves felt in the Church.  I believe Pope Pius X had noticed them.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The REAL Call to Action

I have been reading about the "Call to Action" (CTA) group organising meetings here in the UK to foment dissent against the Church's teaching. 

A witty retort over at "The Bones you have crushed may thrill" reminding us of the ageing population of the anti-orthodox movement (I see one particular leading Jesuit light, aged 92, has had his faculties suspended by the local bishop after "celebrating" Mass with a lady!) 

Deacon Nick has some information on who they are and where these anti-orthodox CTA types are meeting.  

Mark Lambert has a account of how Bishop Bruskewittz of Lincoln, Nebraska - and his successor - put people involved in this group under interdict, which was upheld by the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.  It would be good if bishops in this country did the same.  I don't see why those attempting to undermine the Church's official teaching should have the luxury of meeting on Church premises, and letting the organisation they seem to disapprove of so much foot the bill for their activities.  Perhaps the laity in the parishes where these priests function might assist in supporting the Church in some way.

Mark Lambert has a detailed and excellent critique of some of the usual nonsense such anti-orthodox groups come up with - and handy references to the Church's teaching.  I've added his site to my side-bar.

One of the most prevalent complaints from these anti-orthodox and CTA types is about the role of women in the Church. I always think that they misunderstand what is most important in the Church by viewing it through secular eyes.  The Priesthood is not the highest calling in the Church, the Priesthood is not where the real power lies.  Holiness is the highest calling in the Church. Holiness is where the real power lies.  Holiness is a calling open to everyone - men and women in equal measure. Being ordained of itself doesn't make you holy (I should know!)  THE Call to Action  is the call to holiness, that's the action we are all called to and part of it is surely humility to conform ourselves to the teaching of the Church.  If you long for the priesthood because you want or be where the power is, where the decision making and leading goes on then it seems to me that you are longing for the wrong thing and for the wrong reasons.  Holiness is what gets things done.  I think of the example of Blessed Mother Teresa - because she was holy she had great influence and indeed "power".  I can't imagine her telephoning any bishop to ask for something and not getting it!

Monday 3 December 2012

Zeal for the Faith and loyalty to the Apostolic See

Pope Benedict XVI received the members of the community of the Venerable English College today, Monday. The meeting was the culmination of a year-long celebration marking the 650th anniversary of the of the founding of an English and Welsh Hospice on the site occupied by the College.  Some extracts of the Holy Father's words are here below - with my comments - but you can read or listen to the rest at Vatican Radio.

Through God’s grace, the Catholic community of England and Wales is blessed with a long tradition of zeal for the faith and loyalty to the Apostolic See. [Let's hope it is still a living tradition!] At much the same time as your Saxon forebears were building the Schola Saxonum, establishing a presence in Rome close to the tomb of Peter, Saint Boniface was at work evangelizing the peoples of Germany. So as a former priest and Archbishop of the See of Munich and Freising, which owes its foundation to that great English missionary, I am conscious that my spiritual ancestry is linked with yours. Earlier still, of course, my predecessor Pope Gregory the Great was moved to send Augustine of Canterbury to your shores, to plant the seeds of Christian faith on Anglo-Saxon soil. The fruits of that missionary endeavor are only too evident in the six-hundred-and-fifty-year history of faith and martyrdom that distinguishes the English Hospice of Saint Thomas à Becket and the Venerable English College [More martyrs soon perhaps!] that grew out of it.
Potius hodie quam cras, as Saint Ralph Sherwin said when asked to take the missionary oath, “rather today than tomorrow”. These words aptly convey his burning desire to keep the flame of faith alive in England, [Been guttering a little of late.] at whatever personal cost. Those who have truly encountered Christ are unable to keep silent about him. [Bloggers, take note.]  As Saint Peter himself said to the elders and scribes of Jerusalem, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Saint Boniface, Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Francis Xavier, whose feast we keep today, and so many other missionary saints show us how a deep love for the Lord calls forth a deep desire to bring others to know him. [The faith is by necessity prosyletysing.] You too, as you follow in the footsteps of the College Martyrs, are the men God has chosen to spread the message of the Gospel today, in England and Wales, in Canada, in Scandinavia. Your forebears faced a real possibility of martyrdom, and it is right and just that you venerate the glorious memory of those forty-four alumni of your College who shed their blood for Christ. [We don't usually hear too much about them back home, that's for sure.] You are called to imitate their love for the Lord and their zeal to make him known, potius hodie quam cras. The consequences, the fruits, you may confidently entrust into God’s hands.
You have heard much talk about the new evangelisation, the proclamation of Christ in those parts of the world where the Gospel has already been preached, but where to a greater or lesser degree the embers of faith have grown cold [Virtually gone out alltogether?] and now need to be fanned once more into a flame. Your College motto speaks of Christ’s desire to bring fire to the earth, and your mission is to serve as his instruments in the work of rekindling the faith in your respective homelands. Fire in sacred Scripture frequently serves to indicate the divine presence, whether it be the burning bush from which God revealed his name to Moses, the pillar of fire that guided the people of Israel on their journey from slavery to freedom, or the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost, enabling them to go forth in the power of the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Just as a small fire can set a whole forest ablaze (cf. Jas 3:5), so the faithful testimony of a few can release the purifying and transforming power of God’s love so that it spreads like wildfire throughout a community or a nation. Like the martyrs of England and Wales, then, let your hearts burn with love for Christ, for the Church and for the Mass. [Amen to that!]

O BLESSED Prince of Apostles, Vicar of Christ, Shepherd of the whole flock, Rock on whom the Church is built, we thank the Prince of Pastors, who in the ages of Faith, did bind this country so sweetly and strongly to thee and to that holy See of Rome from which her conversion came. We praise and bless our Lord for those steadfast Confessors who laid down their lives for thy honor and prerogative in the hour when schism and heresy broke upon the land. We desire to revive the zeal, the devotion and the love of ancient days. We consecrate our country, as far as in us lies, fervently and lovingly to thee. We offer thee our homage. We renew our loyalty to the Pontiff, thy successor, who now fills the Apostolic See. Do thou confirm and strengthen, by thy powerful intercession, the faith of the Pastors and people who invoke thee, save us from apostasy, from disunion, from religious indifference, and from the losses to which ignorance and temptation expose our little flock. O most sincere and most humble penitent, obtain for us tears of true repentance for our sins, and a strong personal love for our divine Master; O Key bearer of the Heavenly Kingdom, open to us the gate of Heaven, that we may enter into the joy of the King of Glory. Remember this realm of England, which grew in grace and unity under thy blessed apostolic influence for nigh a thousand years. Pray to Jesus that all may see the and be brought back to thy Fold, which is the One Fold of Christ. Amen.

V. Thou art Peter.
R. And upon this rock I will build My Church.

Let us pray.
Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic might of Thy blessed Apostle, Peter; that the weaker we are in ourselves, the more powerful may be the assistance whereby we are strengthened through his intercession; that thus, ever fortified by the protection of Thine Apostle, we may never yield to sin nor be overwhelmed by adversity. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

To Christ the Prince of Peace

There is an online survey being run by the Tablet on "Has the new Mass won you over?" As Fr Tim Finigan points out, the new translation is not a new Mass but why not follow his advice and fill in the survey.  Like Laurence England, I am one of the 100% satisfied (according to the survey questions).  The Tablet railed against the new translation  so obviously thinks it will now be unpopular a year after its introduction.  Although why such a phrase as "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed" should be disliked is beyond me.  Not only is it a more accurate translation of what the Latin text actually says but it is a direct Scriptural reference.  But I digress.

What I don't like is the idea that we can have a survey or a focus group and then change what the Church does / teaches / prays.  Lacking an understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and with a tendency in recent years to move away from an understanding of the Church as a spiritual entity, engaged in a spiritual battle, earth centered and not heaven focussed, we have mimicked the world and because in liturgy we experience the Church as this world instead of other world, we have come to treat it like any other worldly institution.  Very often like some sort of political party or unpopular government, forever in a mid-term crisis.  The Tablet survey reeks of democracy.  I'm not totally against democracy but it is not as simple as its championed to be.  Just recently in England we voted for Police Commissioners - except we didn't because hardly anyone actually voted, (in one polling station, not a single soul!) so what sort of a mandate is that.  Not forgetting that Hitler was elected and our own democratic system has legalised the murder of the unborn and is moving little by little to infringe upon the ability of Christians to live and speak according to their Faith.  Parliament has never allowed a referendum on capital punishment in this country because surveys have always shown it would be voted back in.

By chance I listened to "Heart and Soul" on the BBC World Service last night - a program about the rise of the Evangelical Church in Brazil, especially the Gospel Prosperity brand.  One priest who has been successfully bringing Catholics back to Mass says, "The liberation Theology was the main thing responsible for the demise of the catholic church in Brazil... Theology of Liberation was too worried about social issues.  They forgot the importance of prayer."  (20.9 minutes in.)  An indictment of the Church forgetting its spiritual mission.

I'm not sure what The Tablet hopes to accomplish by such a survey, the deed is done, Rome has spoken.  Personally, I think translations should only appear down one side of  a peoples' missal and not at all in the one on the altar - a permanent reminder that the Church is not like any other institution on earth.  

I was glad to read on Forest Murmurs that the Congregation for Clergy has ruled that the priest in Belleville Diocese USA who thought he could alter the texts of the Mass supposedly "to make it easier for his parishioners to understand" has rightly been removed from priestly duties by his bishop. Surely, it's great hubris to think you can come up with better versions of the Mass off the top of your head than those charged by the successor of Peter to do so.

While we might want to take some examples of good practice from the worldly sphere, I don't believe the Church can be forced into secular models of governance.  The image of the Church on earth must reflect it's heavenly counterpart.  I do not want to celebrate a feast of Christ the Prime Minister, nor Christ the President, nor Christ the Oligarch, nor Christ the Dictator, nor Christ the Chairperson. We keep the feast of Christ the Universal King, Christ the Prince of Peace.  Politicians want votes because they can be voted out.  Kings can't be voted out, so Our King asks only for our love and loyalty.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Discover something radically new and fresh

"You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus."
Words from the First letter of st Paul to the Thessalonians from the Mass from the First Sunday of Advent (year C) about passing on the Faith.

I came across some words of Abbot Michael Zielinski, who leads a new office on liturgical arts at the Congregation for Divine Worship. They are from a talk he gave to CIEL in 2009 but can serve to inform about what calibre of man he is, who will have this responsibility for the arts.  Speaking of his previous role as Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, he says that his work "is not that of supervising or training museum curators. For we are profoundly concerned about the cultural heritage of the Church. The question of culture, specifically Christian culture, is at the heart of our activity."

It's well worth reading the whole talk here but a few tasters will indicate his attitude towards the liturgical arts and their importance in the cultural life of the Church -and by culture he means something "essential to our Christian life in order to join us sacramentally with him whom we worship and to nourish the life of grace in the soul... Our concern for the cultural heritage of the Church is, therefore, concern for the life of the Christian in this world who lives in hope of everlasting life in the next. Cultural “goods,” be they ritual or material, are signs of the redemption of this world by Christ; they are sacramentals, which occupy a privileged place in the economy of salvation."

On recent decades since the Second Vatican Council:

"Yet today, we are acutely conscious of the fact that all has not been well in recent decades in respect of the cultural life of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. Western society has been suffering from a profound cultural crisis for some time and this has impacted on the Church. Indeed, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI himself, as Cardinal Ratzinger, expressed on a number of occasions his profound concern for the crisis in the cultus of the Church that we have experienced in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, from the “fabrication” of new rites, to the banalization of ecclesiastical music and the unprecedented re-ordering of the spatial arrangements of churches.  Most crucially, any impoverishment of the sacramentals themselves carries with it the danger of weakening the very encounter with the incarnate Lord which these rites and ritual things facilitate. We creatures of flesh and blood ordinarily require these cultural goods in order to enter into the life of grace and to persevere in it until the end. They serve to raise our minds and hearts to Almighty God, and to lead us into that encounter from which we receive grace. Devaluing or dismissing them may have – indeed has had – an adverse effect on the life of faith of many in recent times."

On rediscovering the tradition of the Church:

I too have found that my vocation as a monk and as a priest have been renewed through a greater appreciation of the riches of liturgical tradition... the rich culture and heritage of the Church that one experiences in her sacred liturgy as developed in Tradition. I too – someone who had been a busy and relatively successful priest for some twenty years – found that pearl of great price that so many young people have found in recent decades. Talking with many priests, I have been astonished at how many have had similar experiences: to come to know and to celebrate the classical rites informs one’s faith and identity as a priest, as one called to be alter Christus. After such an encounter, one can never be the same again.But I want to make an important point here. Such an awakening is not about “me,” nor is it about my finding “my” particular spirituality or favourite style of worship. No; is not so individualistic or subjective an experience. Coming into contact with and beginning to appreciate and savour the riches of the culture and heritage of the 
classical Roman Rite is a profoundly ecclesial experience. I am no longer doing my own thing in accordance with the many styles and possibilities on offer. Rather, I take my place in the continuity of the bi-millennial tradition of the Church’s worship, at one with the Fathers and the saints, and in turn faithfully seek to hand on what I have received. The modern liturgy should stand in that same tradition and should be celebrated accordingly. But we know only too well, that in recent decades the modern liturgy has often not been offered as something in continuity with tradition, but as something radically new, different from “what we did before Vatican II,” as the saying goes. And this explains why today young people who have never known the older rites, and priests who have never celebrated them, discover something radically new and fresh in the older form of the Roman Rite. Where they have persevered in tilling the arid ground of rupture, they come to rejoice in the fertile soil of continuity."

There is quite an interesting interview with him below from Spirituality TV.

Monday 26 November 2012

Feast of St Catherine Labouré

We are keeping our parish feast day this Wednesday 28th November.  There will be Missa Cantata at 6pm (please note - anyone intending to come along, as it was originally advertised for 7pm) folllowed by a parish social evening.

St Catherine is a great saint to have as a parish patron because of her connection with the Miraculous Medal - there's a real focus for people to relate to by wearing the medal and giving it to others.  In fact, we offer a Mass of the Miraculous Medal for the feast day.

Saturday 24 November 2012

The cassock is to be worn

A post at Chiesa publishes a letter reminding those who work at the Vatican and those visiting - bishops, priests and Religious - that they are to wear the cassock or habit of their Order.  The letter, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, reads, "at venerable behest," meaning at the personal direction of Pope Benedict.  Another example of the Holy Father leading and teaching by example.  Let us hope that all those who declare public loyalty to him will take the hint in this area as in others - such as kneeling and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, celebrating ad orientem Mass occasionally, using Latin in the liturgy and going out of our way to welcome back into full communion those Christian groups closest to us, such as our brothers and sisters in the SSPX.

From the Vatican, October 15, 2012

Most Reverend Eminence/Excellency,

By these presents I wish to recall to Your attention the importance of the discipline concerning the daily use of ecclesiastical (cassock or clerical) and religious dress, as determined by the norms on this matter and according to the reasons illustrated and explicated in his day by Blessed John Paul II in the Letter to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, dated September 8, 1982.

 At a time in which everyone is specially called to renew his awareness of and consistency with his own identity, at venerable behest I come to ask Your Eminence/Excellency kindly to guarantee the observance of the above on the part of all ecclesiastics and religious in service with this Dicastery/Tribunal/Office/Vicariate, recalling the duty of wearing regularly and with dignity the proper habit, in every season, partly in obedience to the duty of exemplarity (editor's note: this phrase is in italics in the original) that is incumbent above all upon those who render service to the successor of Peter.

The very example of those who, sealed with the episcopal dignity, are faithful to the daily use of the cassock proper to them, during office hours, becomes an explicit encouragement for all, including for the Episcopates and for those who visit the Roman Curia and Vatican City.

On this occasion, moreover, partly in order to avoid uncertainty and to guarantee due uniformity, it should be recalled that the use of the abito piano is required for participation at any event at which the Holy Father is present, as also for the Plenary and Ordinary Assemblies, the Interdicasterial Meetings, the reception of "ad limina" Visits and the various official engagements of the Holy See.

Grateful for the cooperation, I gladly take this opportunity to confirm my distinct and heartfelt respects

for Your Most Reverend Eminence/Excellency

most devoted in the Lord

+ Tarcisio Card. Bertone

Secretary of State

Friday 23 November 2012

Illiberal Liberals

I don't feel terribly qualified to comment too much on the Church of England - after all, its nothing directly to do with me, although I do like what Fr Tim Finigan has pointed out in his post on Sir Tony Baldry in the House of Commons bemoaning the fact that women can't become bishops in the C of E, whilst at the same time sporting a Garrick Club tie - a club which does not allow women to become members!

But what a very strange world we live in.  I've been amazed at the tone of the coverage of the vote on women bishops in the Church of England.  Not just from those who have been championing the cause but from the general reporting as well, which seems to take it for granted that not ordaining women as bishops amounts to a bad thing.  A vote was taken, the measure did not pass.  Now those who lost the vote are complaining that as it didn't go their way, it was a bad vote, a wrong vote and something must be done to achieve the outcome by other means. (Again, Fr Tim sums it up nicely). Could it be that liberals are liberal only when things go their way?  Once challenged, they become most illiberal.  But you don't have to be in the C of E to experience that.

Just one more little gripe!  Rowan Williams says, "Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society. We have some explaining to do, we have as a result of yesterday undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society."  All the talk is of the Church of England following "society".  It does not seem to have occurred to many of them that they should perhaps be attempting to lead or challenge societies trends and priorities.

The Lord told His Church:

If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. (John 15:18-21)  

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.(Luke 6:26)

St. Paul admonished Timothy to preach the Gospel, whether in season or out of season (2 Tim 4:2). Nowadays,  it is very much 'out of season' and the world hates the Church for what She says. 

The Servant of God, Pope Paul VI said it so well in the very in the 'out of season' encyclical Huamane Vitae:
It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man. (H.V. # 18)

Thursday 22 November 2012

Latin and ad orientem

The Mass of Pope Paul VI being offered
Fr Gary Dickson has an excellent post on Latin and ad orientem celebration of the the Mass - Pope Paul's newer Form, that is.  He suggests that senior clergy - bishops, VGs, Deans and cathedral administrators should at least "occasionally" (perhaps a few times a year) make use of the what are the norms in the celebration of the Mass - latin and ad orientem celebration.  This would then "normalise" these things and change the atmosphere in the Church about them.

An excellent idea but  may I suggest that the very reason so many such figures do not do this is precisely that they do not want to normalise these practises even though they are, in a technical sense, the norms which govern the celebration of the liturgy.

It's my belief that there are many clergy - and therefore people they have misinformed - who believe that the practices they characterise as "traditional" and therefore obsolete and undesirable - but which are in fact current in the norms and teaching of the Church - must be done away with and they work to move away from these practices and teachings.  A sort of separate and alternative authority (the "spirit" of Vatican II); a type of gallicanism that says we here in this country are different from the rest of the Church (although they willingly draw to themselves all sorts of legislation intended for other lands, so that an allowance for rhythmic movement in the liturgy for cultures where that is part of their heritage is applied to the Western world to mean ladies of a certain age cavorting across the sanctuary, or the allowance for celebrations of the Word with Holy Communion intended for mission territories on a Sunday where it is impossible to have access to a priest is  reworked to mean that lay people can preside at such services on weekdays on Father's day off.  But I digress.)

Instances of this come to mind such as the bishop who said at the time of Redempionis Sacramentum that it didn't apply in his diocese because there are no such abuses there (oh sure!).  Or the priest who was told that it is more important to be 'in communion with the local deanery area' than with the Pope (I thought we were in communion with one another because of our communion with the Pope).

However, we are not in the position of being a province in the Anglican Communion where we can adjust our norms on a majority vote, we are a part of the Church in communion with the Pope and it is that strength that will see us through and which is increasingly the binding tie that draws the only new people and new vocations.  We are the Church IN England not the Church OF England.

Monday 19 November 2012

Bishop Mark Davies at the Shrine

 Mgr Wach leads Vespers with Bishop Mark Davies presiding, assisted by canons of the Diocese.

Mgr Wach of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest paid a pastoral visit to the Shrine of Ss Peter and Paul and St Philomena in New Brighton yesterday.  I couldn't be there for Mass in the morning but went to Vespers in the evening, where the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Davies gave Benediction afterwards.  The new pastor of the Shrine, Canon Mounjean, made everyone welcome and we managed to sing full Vespers.  I wonder if, when the Church encourages us to have the Office in parishes, the sung version is more what She has in mind?  Obviously, this isn't easy to achieve but my experiences of reciting the Office with parishioners before a morning Mass has never left me feeling terribly fulfilled.

 The Blessed Sacrament being placed on the throne.

 The Bishop assisted by deacons.

 Bishop Mark Davies gives the Benediction.

Thursday 15 November 2012

New office dedicated to sacred music and liturgical art – including architecture

An example of how to build a brand new church that doesn't look like a dentist's waiting room or an underground car park.  Ask a decent architect who knows something about churches!
(Thomas Aquinas College Chapel)

I found the following of interest on the Catholic News Agency site.  Let's hope it means a more faithful - and therefore more uplifting - application of the Church's directives on music, liturgical art and architecture.  I mean a proper Christian hope - not just a desperate longing for things to improve!

This just as I read of Duncan Stroik's new book collecting together 23 essays on church architecture: "The Church Building as a Sacred Place."  You can read of it or order it here. My own preference in style rather leans towards the  Gothic.  Duncan mostly designs in the neo-classical style but he tells me it's only because Gothic is, for the most part, just too expensive to do in this day and age. 


With the Vatican's approval on Nov. 14 of its restructuring, the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will shift its focus more intensely on art and liturgical music.

The restructuring is in accord with a Sept. 2011 apostolic letter issued by Pope Benedict XVI, where he noted that the changes will help the congregation in “giving a fresh impetus to promoting the sacred liturgy in the Church.”

This will be achieved mainly through a new office dedicated to sacred music and liturgical art – including architecture – which will become operational next year.

Its charges will include issuing guidelines on liturgical music and the structure of new churches so that they reflect the mysterious encounter with the divine, as well as follow the dictates and instructions of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

In his letter, the Pope wrote that these all must be in accord with the Second Vatican Council's “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” Overlooking that 1963 document has allowed for the post-conciliar trend of building unedifying churches and filling them pop-influenced music.

Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares, prefect of the congregation, is entrusted with overseeing that these future guidelines and existing ones on liturgical celebration are followed throughout the world.

He is a long-time ally of the Pope, back to the pontiff's days as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Canizares is sometimes referred as “Little Ratzinger” for his similar beliefs and opinions.

Overseeing the many facets of worship in the worldwide Church is a significant task, especially in light of last December's implementation of the new Roman Missal in English, which is truer to the original Latin and more elevated in its language.

To help the congregation focus on issues related to worship, the new restructuring removes two responsibilities that proved time consuming: processes of dispensation from ratified and non-consummated marriage and cases concerning the nullity of sacred ordination.

Those duties have been shifted to the Roman Rota, the Church’s highest appellate tribunal.

“The Holy See has always sought to adapt its structures of governance to the pastoral needs that arise in the life of the Church in every period of history, thereby modifying the structure and competence of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia,” wrote the Pope in his Sept. 2011 letter.

That letter was issued motu proprio, meaning that he wrote it for reasons which he himself deemed sufficient.

Friday 9 November 2012

Tradtional Mass in St Peter's Basilica

Earlier this week on 3rd November pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome,  to celebrate the Year of Faith with a Mass in the Usus Antiquior celebrated by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.  This video comes from the USA Bishops Conference site and was picked up by Rorate Caeli.

That such an eminent Cardinal at the head of one of the best known congregations in the Roman Curia is celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in such a high profile location is an excellent sign.

Friday 2 November 2012

Black is black, I want my vestments back!

Black is back!

A couple of weeks ago in one of the comments (anonymous) the readers of this blog were referred to as "mostly right-wingers".  I've been meaning to take the person to task, as being described as "right-wing" or even "traditional" is one of my bug-bears.  One of the speakers at the Confraternity Conference in Reading (I think it was Archbishop De Noia) also mentioned that he took great exception to secular tags being applied to faith matters.  I consider myself neither left nor right wing when  it comes to the Church, neither conservative nor liberal, neither traditional nor liberal but simply ORTHODOX.  There is nothing right-wing nor conservative about being faithful to Our Lord and the Church he founded.  It is not traditional to hold fast to the constant teaching of the Church on female 'ordiantion', or same sex 'marriage' - either you hold the teaching of the Church or you don't.  There are not two different versions of the Faith - a traditional one and a progressive one - there is just THE Faith.  Within that Faith there are certainly different interpretations on things that the Church allows us to hold differing views on.  The trouble is that very many people today appear to hold different views on some quite essential matters that have been defined and taught by the Church where She does not envisage any differing viewpoints; where what is to be held fast is written down for all to see in black and white (or black and red, rubrically speaking).

The wonderful feast of All Souls brings a liturgical point to mind in this matter.  There is an excellent post in relation to this on the New Theological Movement Site.  It is considered - by some - very old-fashioned, right-wing, traditional, call it what you will, to wear black vestments for Requiem Masses - be it All Souls Day or funerals and yet the rubrics indicate that black, along with violet or white on occasion (presumably in certain Asian and African countries where white is the traditional colour of mourning) are all permissible.  I recall on more than one occasion visiting priests to parish funerals refusing to wear black vestments. I wonder what opprobrium would come my way if I turned up at a diocesan funeral and refused to wear white or violet - the point is, I have never done that because these other colours are allowed (although in the case of white this might be another one of those instances where local custom for some foreign clime has been taken as carte blanche to do it everywhere see Fr Ray Blake's post).

So for All Souls - for both forms of the Roman Rite - I will be wearing black.

I don't know who wrote the English version of the General Introduction for the Order of Christian Funerals but it certainly has a bias.  Number 39 says, " Black is used as a token of mourning but in our society, increasingly, without the associations of Christian hope."  Mourning and, therefore, praying for the dead is not to my mind, "without Christian hope".  In fact the all-purveying attitude of "celebrating" the life of the deceased instead of praying for the forgiveness of their sins is what is really without the association of Christian hope.  For a prime example of why this should not happen under any circumstances, witness the near beatification of Jimmy Saville, complete with golden casket, and the assurance that we "can be confident that Jimmy is now with God".  We should not blame the poor priest who said those words, he was simply doing what happens at nearly every funeral that I attend, read or hear about.

In fact, the Order of Christian Funerals from the 1980's - prepared by the Liturgy Office of the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales and ICEL is lacking in many areas.  There are particular prayers for all sorts of classes of person - from a deceased non-Christian married to a Catholic to those who died as catechumens - but no specific texts for the majority of funerals that most priests have to carry out - funerals for those who are lapsed from the practice of the Faith, often who have abandoned any outward sign of the Faith for many, many years.  I don't have many funerals in my present little parish but when I was in Wigan for nine years as parish priest it was not unusual to have two or three a week.  What I noticed was that the prayers all presume a fervent. practising Catholic - albeit, recognising the pervasive presence of sin even in the lives of those described in many of the prayers as God's "servants", our brother / sister who ate the Body of Christ, the Bread of Life - except they hadn't since being at school. So, are we to "celebrate" these lives that have, to all intents and purposes seemingly abandoned the Faith that would save sinners or mourn for them properly and pray for their souls?

Black signifies mourning, but not simply mourning in general. 
Rather, black directs us in a particular way to mourn and pray for the dead.