Saturday 28 April 2012

Priests need to be Saints!

As always, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, has once again written to priests in uncompromising terms.  Look out brethren - we NEED to be Saints.  So says the Cardinal. (Incidentally, Cardinal Giuseppe Siri thought that the wearing of the cassock could help in this area. cf Roarate Caeli.)
Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God - The Trinity, and the Church has the task to proclaim Him. In order to fulfil this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell “in the heart of Jesus” and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!

Well, we are all called to be saints but it's good to be reminded of it in the midst of life's vagaries, when, as priests,  we can easily loose that focus for so many reasons: perhaps the failure of our pastoral initiatives to bear the fruit we had hoped for; perhaps depression at the seeming state of the Church around us where so many reject the Church's teachings; perhaps a sense of futility if we feel unsupported or even bullied by those in positions of power in the Church. The Cardinal reminds us that:
on the forthcoming solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 15, 2012), as usual, we shall celebrate World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy. The expression found in Scripture “This is the will of God: your holiness!” (1 Thess 4:3), though addressed to all Christians, refers to us priests in particular, for we have accepted the invitation to “sanctify ourselves” and to become “ministers of sanctification” for our brothers. In our case, this “will of God” is, so to speak, doubled and multiplied to infinity, and we must obey it in everything we do. This is our wonderful destiny: we cannot be sanctified without working on the holiness of our brothers, and we cannot work on the holiness of our brothers unless we have first worked on and continue to work on our own holiness.
Interestingly the prayer he has chosen to accompany the letter is taken from St Faustina.  It recognises that we priests are subject to the devil's traps and snares which attack the soul of the priest.  It prays for the triumph of the Church.


O my Jesus, 
I beg You on behalf of  the whole Church:
Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit,
and give power to the words of Priests
so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance 
and return to You, O Lord.
Lord, give us holy Priests;
You yourself maintain them in holiness.
O Divine and Great High Priest,
may the power of Your mercy
accompany them everywhere and protect them
from the devil's traps and snares
which are continually being set for the soul of Priests.
May the power of Your mercy,
O Lord, shatter and bring to naught
all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests,
for You can do all things.
My beloved Jesus,
I pray to you for the triumph of the Church,
that you may bless the Holy Father and all the clergy;
I beg you to grant the grace of conversion
to sinners whose hearts have been hardened by sin,
and a special blessing and light to priests,
to whom I shall confess for all of my life.

(Saint Faustina Kowalska)

Friday 27 April 2012

New Priest for the Ordinariate

You may have been following the Ordination to the Priesthood of two members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, James Bradley and Daniel Lloyd on various blogs.  I met Fr Daniel Lloyd last year on the Adoratio Conference (see here and here and here) and was impressed that he had "come over" whilst still a deacon - that is, without any guarantee that he would be ordained to the priesthood.  Congratulations to Fr Daniel and here are some further photographs of his First Mass (courtesy of NLM).

Fr John Seward gives preaches the Homily

Thursday 26 April 2012

For you and for many...

Fr Z has been posting on the situation in Germany where there has been some pressure NOT to use the new Missal wording when it comes to the words of consecration.  In English - to keep saying "for all" instead of the correct "for many".  (Correct because that's what the Latin original actually says and that's what the Church has approved.) The Holy Father has written a letter to the German bishops reminding them that they must use the correct wording, not least because the poor translation that came in during the 1970's was due to a misunderstanding in the translation of the biblical texts connected to words of the consecration.  It seems that even a more faithful and up-to-date understanding of the Scriptures is not to stand in the way of liberals holding on to their cherished (if faulty) formative past (ie the heady days of the1960/70s).  Fr Z has his own version here - less scholarly but more like the one I would write (hence neither of us is Pope!)

I was drawn to writing about this because I have heard priests here in England say they will not use the new translation - quite publicly before their fellow priests.  I think that in fact most of them have gone over to using it but sometimes publicly criticising it and continuing to use their own or the old translation where they feel particularly offended by the new (or just can't be bothered to instruct the people).  
This might be at the introduction to the penitential rite: in the same conversation I heard a priest bemoan the lack of people at Confession but also state that he doesn't like to mention sin at the start of Mass!  Could there be a mystical connection between these two facts..?

It might be what the Holy Father calls the "obnoxious and banal" greetings that priests introduce the Mass with (cf "Feast of Faith, page 83).
It might be the words of consecration.

It might be a completely made-up preface (reported to me recently).
It might be at a funeral where the priest still uses the old prayers and preface in the people's funeral books.
It could be anywhere in the Mass.  The point is that such people are making up their own minds according to their own lights.  Their interpretation is, they believe, better than the Church's scholars, better than the Pope's instructions, better than what the rest of the Church is doing.  They are, in fact, Protestants in the the proper sense of the word.  They protest in word and deed against the legitimate authority of the Church.  Each one is his own little protestant pope - sadly, unlike the real Pope, these have no promise from Our Lord that the gates of Hell will not prevail against them. People have forgotten that "there is a 'Rite', that is, a prescribed liturgical form, and that liturgy is genuinely liturgy only if it is not subject to the will of those who celebrate it." (cf "Feast of Faith" Page 85 by Cardinal Ratzinger.)

Incidentally, the Holy Father concludes his letter to the German bishops by saying that he hopes they will present the correct catechesis - the one he outlines - as soon as possible.  

Hope springs eternal for nothing is impossible for God!

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

 Canon Olivier Meney outside Ss Peter and Paul and St Philomena's Shrine

I am pleased to say that St Catherine's will be hosting the next meeting of the Northern Chapter of the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy  on Thursday May 10th.  The speaker t will be Canon Olivier Meney, of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign High Priest, from the new shrine in New Brighton; recently opened by Bishop Mark Davies . 
It should be very interesting to hear his experience of getting this going and what challenges he faces.
The plan for the day will be:
11.00am arrive/coffee etc.
11.30am Canon Meney to speak, questions & discussion
1.00pm lunch
3.00pm Holy Hour
4.00pm end with Benediction.
The address of the church is: St. Catherine Laboure, Stanifield Lane, Farington, Leyland (nr. Preston) PR25 4QG. Tel 01772 421174. The church is very conveniently just off the M6 between junctions 28 and 29 (29 is the junction with the M65). Leyland station is just short of half a mile down the road, and Preston station 3.5 miles.
Lunch will be at Farington Lodge, a short walk across the road from the church:
Any clergy can come along.  Please contact (preferably within the next week) Fr. Stephen Brown
Catholic Chaplain
1 Ashgrove
Bradford BD7 1BN
01274 721636

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Pope Benedict on Holy Communion

 The Holy Father administers First Holy Communion

In his address at the Regina Caeli on Sunday the Holy Father spoke to hundreds of children preparing for first Holy Communion. He exhorted "parish priests, parents and catechists to prepare well for this feast of faith, with great fervour but also with sobriety." (Cf Zenit)

For many parishes around the country this is First Holy Communion "season" although here in Liverpool there are no First Communions this year as we skip a year in transition to the new schedule of confirming and administering first communion during the same Mass when children are aged nine.  However, the word "sobriety" did strike me as an unusual one to use in regard to children.  It obviously does not apply to to abstaining from alcohol but presumably the tenor of the preparation and celebration.  I wonder when you anyone was last at a typical parish celebration of first communion and came away saying, "that was a sober celebration!"  More likely, it was chaotic, noisy, full of families who were lapsed from the Faith and involved much performance by the children for their parents and families with tortuous lengths gone to in order to make sure every last child "participates".  This usually involves getting onto the sanctuary to perform songs, dance, mime and drama, to the response of wild applause from the audience, sorry, congregation.  Because it is easy, there will be much concentration on the meal aspect and very little (if any) on the sacrifice of the Mass.  In other words, definitely not a sober liturgy and not a liturgy centred on Christ but a jamboree centred on the children.  Surely, the very best way to "participate" would be to appreciate as fully as possible the awesome mystery they are privilege to receive in the feast of faith?  I wonder if the Holy Father's suggestion will be taken up in the average parish?

The Holy Father continues to lead and teach by example and exhortation.  I notice that the Catholic Herald carries two excellent articles covering his seventh anniversary as the successor of St Peter.  One by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith and another by William Oddie.

Friday 20 April 2012

Retreat at Thornycroft Hall

I spent a quiet day yesterday at Thornycroft Hall near Macclesfield Cheshire for a Day of Recollection. The Hall is run by Opus Dei and used for retreats etc for their members but also retreats and these days of recollection for any clergy who want to come. They have about one a month, it's a very quiet setting - and the lunch is very good!

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Latest on Society of St Pius X

The charming interior of the Society of St Pius X church in Preston
(formerly a convent chapel)
Click on the picture for a better view.

It seems that although there is no absolutely definitive news, the latest developments on the talks for full reconciliation of the Society of St Pius X and the Vatican are at least positive - although it cannot be described as a conclusion, according to the General House of the German SSPX.

The Vatican News Agency reports:

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has published the following communication concerning the Society of St. Pius X:

"The text of the response of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, as had been requested at the meeting of 16 March 2012, was received by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on 17 April 2012. The text will be examined by the Dicastery and then submitted to the judgement of the Holy Father.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, said that, with the latest response, “steps forward have been taken, that is to say, that the response, the new response, is rather encouraging. But there are still developments that will be made, and examined, and decisions which should be taken in the next few weeks.”

Rorate Caeli has a further reference to Fr Lombardi, the vatican spokesman who says:

"Today's news means that yesterday Bp. Fellay's response, that had been requested by Cardinal Levada at the last meeting, was delivered to the Congregation, to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Now, this response, it is a response that, according to the words of those who could see it, is a very different response from the previous one, and this is encouraging, we proceed forward. But, naturally, we also find in the response the addition of some details or integrations to the text of the doctrinal preamble that had been proposed by the Congregation for a doctrinal agreement, and this response will be discussed, it will be examined first by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in one of its meetings of the next few weeks and, afterwards, it will also naturally be examined directly by the Pope. It can be said that steps forward have been taken, that is to say, that the response, the new response, is rather encouraging, but there are still developments that will be made, and examined, and decisions that should be taken in the next few weeks. I think the wait will not be long because there is the desire to reach a conclusion in these discussions, in these contacts."

We can only pray that the efforts of the Holy Father - the Pope of Christian Unity - will come to fruition soon. After all, the Society of St Pius X is surely closer to full union with the Holy See than any other Christian body in the world. We are not even cousins but rather brothers with a slightly estranged relationship.

There is a Society church near me just four miles up the road in Preston. On occasion I have met the Parish Priest, Fr Brendan King and the Curate, Fr Giacomo Ballini and found them very friendly and the parish there much as any other parish in its general feel and comings and goings (although no chit chat inside the church, of course!).

The exterior of the church of Our Lady of Victories in Preston.

Monday 16 April 2012

High Mass at Sacred Heart Church

The altar awaits the awesome mystery to be carried out upon it.

Calling to mind the words of Pope Saint Pius X, “You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens at the Altar. When acting in this way you have prayed Holy Mass”, I approached Sunday’s High Mass in Loughborough with a refreshed vision. It was a wonderful example of the noble simplicity of the rites offered to us by Holy Mother Church.

A good attendance by Sacred Heart Parishioners and LMS members, added further to the festive character of Low Sunday (being in octava Paschæ). A stirring sermon rallied the faithful to loyalty to Pope Benedict, calling for prayers for vocations and reconciliation within the Church, at a time when so many - even clergy - are promoting their own dissenting teachings. My thoughts were also with the Society of St Pius X and the hoped for reconciliation, that this rich form of the Roman Rite may be even more freely available than it is now.

The sanctuary party after Mass.

Thanks to Jeremy Boot for the photos - more of which are at the end of this post.

It's been a while since I assisted in choir at High Mass and, having tranquil time for prayer, I also got a good view of the intimate details of the Celebrant’s actions at the altar - which some who don’t understand the Traditional Form of the Mass seem to think are so superfluous. Just read Dom. Prosper Guéranger on the signs of the cross during the Per ipsum to see what a rich theology, inspired by the theologia of the early Church Fathers, they are missing: Here is what he says about it...

Before the conclusion of the Great Prayer, a very solemn rite is performed; it is Holy Church’s last confession of the identity existing between the Sacrifice of the Cross and that of the Mass. The Priest uncovers the Chalice containing the Blood of Our Lord, and after making a genuflection, he takes in his right hand the Sacred Host, and in his left hand the Chalice, then he three times makes the sign of the cross with the host, over the Chalice, going from one lip of the Chalice to the other, saying: per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso - then, making the sign of the cross between the Chalice and his own breast, with the sacred host, as before, he adds: est tibi Deo Patri omnpotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti: he replaces the Host above the Chalice and slightly elevates both saying: omnis honor et gloria, he then puts down the Host again, and re-covers the Chalice; and having done so, says: Per omnia saecula saeculorum, and the people answer: Amen.

What does this action of the Priest signify? Holy Church possesses her Spouse in the state of immolation and of sacrifice; nevertheless, He is living. Thence she would here bring out, in a marked manner, this His character of the living God, and she expresses it by thus reuniting the Body and Blood of the Lord, placing the Host immediately over the Precious Blood, in order to give Glory to God. She then bids the Priest say: per ipsum, by Him is the Father Glorified; et cum ipso, with Him is He glorified, because God the Father has not a glory superior to that of the Son, nor isolated from that of the Son (see what majesty in this cum ipso); and, in ipso, in Him is the Father glorified: the glory, which is brought by the Son to the Father, is in the Son, and not outside of Him, in ipso. Thus, by Him, with him (that is to say, conjointly with Him), and in Him, are all honour and glory to God the Father. The Priest, twice again, makes the sign of the cross, but this time he makes it between the Chalice and his own breast. And why this difference? He is pronouncing these words: est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spritus Sancti; as neither the Father, nor the Holy Ghost have been immolated, it would be unbecoming, whilst naming them, to place the Host over the Blood which belongs to the Son alone, Who alone was clad in our human nature, and alone was immolated for us. But whilst pronouncing these last words: omnis honor et gloria, the Priest again holds the Sacred Host over the chalice, expressing thereby, that in the veins of the Divine Victim that he is offering, the Precious Blood flows together with immortality for evermore. So the Priest can now say to God: omnis honor et gloria; this offering is the most glorious Act that can possibly be made to thine honour, for we possess the risen Christ, and it is His very Self that is immolated to thine honour, on this Altar. No, He who is offered is not a mere creature; but by Him, and with Him, per ipsum et cum ipso, are all honour and glory to God. Thus, this glory goes straight to God; He cannot refuse the homage which is paid to Him, which is rendered by Him who is immolated, but yet is living still. The Sacrifice thus truly offered indeed, is the greatest Act which can be done for God. On Calvary, the immolation of our Lord was a hideous and abominable crime; but here, this immolation is all that is most glorious for God, and it is so, because He who is offered is living. It is the Living God we offer; it is the Living Son offered to the Living God. What more grand, what more just, than to express this thought by placing the Body of our Lord directly over His Blood? See here how it is that the Sacrifice of the Mass is the most glorious Act that can he done for God, since all honour and all glory are rendered to Him at this sublime moment; per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso.

This solemn rite, of which we are treating, shows us how much God has loved the world. When we consider that He whom the Priest is thus holding in his hands, is not only He by whom all glory is given to God, but even He who shares this same glory together with Him: per ipsum, et in ipso! It is the Word of the Father who allows himself to be lifted in one’s hands, to be touched, because He wishes that all glory should be given to God, omnis honor et gloria, He wishes that there should ascend to God a homage from which He cannot turn away. What now are all the homages of men compared with the worship paid by our Lord Himself to His Father!

Yes, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is verily the most glorious Act we can possibly do for God; one can offer a prayer, or perform an act of virtue, but that does not force the attention of God; whereas at the Mass He is forced, by all This own Infinite Perfections, to be attentive to the worship there paid Him.

Now let us see if this important rite can be traced up to the first centuries. It is certainly very ancient; it must have existed in all ages, as it is to be found everywhere. It can at once be understood that Holy Church, offering up her Spouse unto God, could never say that He is dead; she has immolated Him, it is true, but He whom she has thus immolated is living and this she must needs confess. Lo! now are accomplished the three great Mysteries, the Passion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. That our Christ is indeed our very own, is what these three Mysteries truly express, and Holy Church right well remembers it. Before these were accomplished, there was not so much richness, if we may be allowed the expression. He was born at Bethlehem, but the Incarnation alone was not to save us, according to the designs of God; although it would have sufficed thereunto and super-abundantly, if such had been the Divine Decree. Then, Christ suffered His bitter Passion, but that was not enough; there must be his Victory over Death, His Resurrection. There must yet be something more. Christ must open Heaven, He must have His Ascension; it needs must be, I say, that our human nature, which He deigned to take to Himself, in which He suffered, by means of which He subjected Himself to death, - that this very human nature should be throned in heaven, - His Ascension, therefore, is a very necessity. So truly and indeed, He whom we hold in our hands, is the Lord himself, He who suffered, He who died, He who hath risen again, He who hath ascended into Heaven.

Behold here the reason why we owe great thanks to our Lord, for having allowed us to be born since the accomplishment of all these stupendous Mysteries. For in the case of those who died between the taking place of the Resurrection and the Ascension, although happier far than those who preceded them in point of time, still are we much more fortunate than they, for in their day, Christ was not as yet completed in his Mysteries. Those who died between the Death of Our Lord and His Resurrection, were less happy than the first named; and as to those who died before our Saviour, they had but the hope, and they were obliged to quit this life, before seeing this hope realised. Oh! how far more highly favoured are we, than those who have gone before us! and so we say: unde et memores Domine, nos, servi tui, sed et plebs tua sancta eiusdem Christi Filii tui Domini nostri tambeatae Passionis, nec non et ab inferis Resurrectionis, sed et in coelos gloriosae Ascensionis. What energy in these words! but moreover what profound reverence, and what love ought we not to have for one single Mass, since it is the one grandest thing which Our Lord Himself has done! It is even all that He can do; it is that which He will ever do, for the ministry of Our Lord is never to cease; Priest He is and ever will be: tu es sacerdos inaeternum.

It is His Father Himself who declares the perpetuity of His Priesthood: Iuravit Dominus et non paenitebit eum: tues Sacerdos in aeternum secundum Ordinem Melchisedech. The Lord hath sworn it, iuravit: thou art Priest for ever, saith He, according to the order of Melchisedech. The Lord adds this, because Jesus Christ is to exercise His ministry by means of bread and wine which were likewise the matter of the Sacrifice of Melchisedech. Priest, then, is He for ever, offering Himself ever for us, living for ever; and all this, as Saint Paul says in order to make intercession for us: Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis; yet retaining ever the wounds of His Passion, so as to bespeak the sacrifice and to offer these His wounds to His Father for us. Confidently then, does Holy Church say to God: Iube haec perferri per manus Sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu divinae Maiestatis tuae, that is to say, these things which we are here offering, in order that they may be wholly one with that Altar yonder in Heaven, since of this they are truly worthy. For on the Altar of earth, just as on the Altar of Heaven, it is always and ever Jesus Christ who is the Offerer, being Priest for ever, and who is likewise, at the same time, the Victim also. Yea even when the world ceases to exist, Our Lord will continue to render unto God, the very same worship, in his quality of Priest: Sacerdos in aeternum, because it is meet that God should be honoured for ever. Nevertheless, the two ends of Sacrifice which regard propitiation and impetration shall exist no more; Jesus Christ, Sacerdos in aeternum, will continue only to adore and give thanks.

It is well to remark here, that the Sacrifice of praise surrounds the Sacrifice of the Mass, whereby true life is given to the former. Holy Church has fixed the hour of Tierce for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This was the hour at which the Holy Ghost came down upon the Church; hence at the beginning of this hour we are bid, in the Office, to say: Nunc Sancte nobis Spiritus ... The Church invokes this Divine Spirit who by His very presence gives warmth to her love and prepares her to offer the Great Sacrifice. Ever since Matins, the entire Office has been lighted up by the beaming rays of this Sublime Sacrifice; and this its influence will last on, even unto the Compline hour, which concludes the Sacrifice of Praise.

Formerly, as we have already said, the Elevation used to take place at the end of the Canon. The Greeks have retained this Custom which is observed as follows. The Priest having placed the host above the Chalice and said the words: Omnis honor et gloria, turns towards the assembled faithful, holding the Body and Blood of our Lord, which he shows to the people, whilst the Deacon utters aloud these words: Sancta Sanctis, holy things for the holy!

The Great Prayer of the Canon being terminated, the Priest interrupts the silence which reigns in the holy assembly, by exclaiming: Per omnia saecula saeculorum. And the people answer: Amen, as a sign of approbation of what has just been done, and of union with the offering just presented to God.

Fr Mark Lawler preaches a rousing homily.

Vidi aquam.

The Epistle.

Friday 13 April 2012

High Mass on Low Sunday

The High Altar at Sacred Heart Church

A little publicity for High Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Park Road, Loughborough which I will be attending this Sunday at 3pm. Organised by the LMS, Fr John Cahill (Parish Priest of St Peter's Leicester) is the celebrant, assisted by Fr Ian O'Shea of Liverpool Cathedral and Fr Peter Vellacott VF (Parish Priest Our Lady of the Angels at East Leake). Fr Mark Lawler is the preacher.

Music is to be arranged by Mr Jeremy Boot with choir and organist.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Today is the 65th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Divine Revelation, near Tre Fonatane just outside Rome. My prayers for Sr Emanuela and all the "Green" Sisters there.
I've posted before about the Sisters and the Apparition here and here and here.

To celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin of Revelation at Tre Fontane on the 12th April 1947, the Missionaries of Divine Revelation have the joy of presenting this musical composition called “A hymn to Mary, Virgin of Revelation” that was composed especially for the feast by Ferdinando Nazzaro and is complemented by a series of historic photographs that relate to the apparition.

Virgin of Revelation, pray for us and give us God’s love.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

No Popery here please, we're British.

Well, I'm in ranting mode!

Over Holy Week I've heard of a parish where a habitless nun "presided" at the Good Friday Liturgy - changing the Intercessions to something not in the Missal.

I was told of a parish where "to save time" people received Holy Communion at the same time as they came forward to venerate the Cross.

One parish where a service with General Absolution took place at the same time the Chrism Mass was happening in the Cathedral - even though this was a Wednesday evening, rather than Holy Thursday (and no, this was not in some vast diocese where transport is a difficulty). The poor people were no doubt ignorant of the fact that their "absolution" was invalid because the necessary conditions for it to take place were absent.

In many places I heard once again of women having their feet washed on Holy Thursday - in complete contravention of the rubrics of the Missal. A further aberration (this one new to me) where the priest washed not feet but hands! Shades of Pontius Pilate - not very appropriate, speaking symbolically.

I know of another parish where it is no longer possible to receive Holy Communion from the priest, as he always sits down while extraordinary ministers give out Holy Communion.

I wonder if ordinary Catholics realise that when a loved one dies they may now be faced with the funeral service being led not by a priest, not even by a permanent deacon but by an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion? I'm not aware that training for extraordinary ministers now extends to preparing them for this role but it is certainly happening. As I understand it, extraordinary ministers are meant to be commissioned for their own parish only and to be used only where there is true necessity and their commission is only to last for a set period of time. In many parishes the same people have been acting as "extraordinary" ministers for 25 years and some now think of this ministry as theirs by right, rather than being a form of service only triggered in cases of true (extraordinary) necessity. I myself experienced just such an attitude in trying to limit the number of times extraordinary ministers were used, being told in one instance that this is what they were "ordained" to do. This is before mentioning the many "Eucharistic Services" that take place in so many parishes on weekdays, which are forbidden. Eucharistic services in the absence of a priest are envisaged for Sundays only and then only with the direct permission of the bishop, which must be sought for each one. They cannot become a regular and normal feature of a parish's liturgical life.

In many parishes the service offered by extraordinary ministers is now seen as a way of running the parish. A Parish Council is there only as an advisory body to the parish priest and yet I hear of places where they now believe that they can determine who the parish priest should be and whether he suits them (the minority on the parish council and those who act as extraordinary ministers, of course, not the vast majority of ordinary practising Catholics). Not that individual extraordinary ministers do not in many cases do very good work in taking communion to the housebound but they are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, not lay-leaders of the community.

The truth is that we have a whole group of what now amounts de facto to a clerical sub-set. This is not the laity acting as leaven in the world but a clericalised sub-group of parishioners who believe they control the parish as though we were Congregationalists and not Catholics (with no offense to my Congregationalist friends - and yes, I do have them!) Did the Second Vatican Council call for a new sub-set of clergy to be created or did it call for laity to work in the parish and particularly out in the world where the "official" Church does not penetrate in home, factory, office and school? Members of Opus Dei will recognise in their founders call to sanctify their ordinary work the true message of Vatican II. Those carrying out the work of such, supposedly "old-fashioned" groups as the SVP, the Legion of Mary, Young Christian Workers might also recognise the same message in the work they do. You know, all those once thriving groups from the bad old days when the laity had no involvement in the work of the Church.

The rules about who does what do exist but no-one in this country seems very interested in following the guidelines of the Church - in liturgy, canon law or doctrine. We seem to suffer from the disease of believing that Rome's writ does not apply here. Perhaps they agree with Mr Ian Paisley and demand "No Popery here!" For those who really believe that, King Henry VIII has provided a natural home that such people should feel very happy in - the Church of England. I'm sure they would welcome new members.

Monday 9 April 2012

Easter Vigil

Some images from the Easter Vigil. As I suspected, although the Vigil and Mass were much appreciated by those present, the numbers were not all that might have been hoped for after such good turnouts at Holy Thursday and Good Friday. However, on Easter morning there was a full church for the OF Mass and about fifty at the Missa Cantata. It was good to see quite a number of young families there as well all over Holy Week. (I don't know what happened last year but we've had quite a number of new babies in the parish - from families that actually come to Mass, that is, rather than the usual stream of lapsed Catholics who turn up wanting a baby "Christened" and even if they come for a while, are never seen again after the Baptism.)

We were late starting the Missa Cantata, as a lady in the congregation suffered a heart attack just before Mass. Providentially, two nurses were also there who revived her and administered CPR until the ambulance arrived, thereby saving here life, as her heart had stopped. She is expected to make a full recovery, so thanks to the medics - both on and off duty. Certainly no shortage of what to say in the homily about coming back to life!

I know it still looks like daylight but it's not! I had looked ahead at the times of sundown and started 15 minutes afterwards - there is a good flash facility on the camera.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will be asking if this is EF or OF.
We follow Pope Benedict's lead at St Catherine's and try to make sure that there's continuity between the two. That's to say, the new should not be unrecognisable as being connected to the old.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Sacred Triduum

So far we have been having a very prayerful and lovely Triduum. I am heartened by the much better number of people at Mass of the Last Supper and Good Friday. It's good for us all to be in a virtually full church! I hope that it will continue this evening for the Easter Vigil.

Fr Ray Blake has a piece on Vigils and how the anticipated Mass on a Saturday evening on a normal weekend is NOT a Vigil Mass, as it is often called. A VIGIL Mass has a specific meaning and usually has different readings and prayers - a preparation for the Feast the next day. The Saturday evening Mass (what a terrible idea!) is the Mass of Sunday anticipated - the same texts as on the Sunday. I think the Great Easter Vigil is still somehow associated with just being the Vigil Mass (anticipated Mass) that happens on any weekend. I have in the past been asked, "Why is the Vigil Mass so late at Easter?" Groan...

Friday 6 April 2012

In his homily at the Chrism Mass, speaking to priests the Holy Father called for obedience to the Church's teaching - mentioning particularly those who push the issue of women's "ordination", speaking of this as disobedience in a matter that has been irrevocably forbidden.

He reminded priests to teach what the Church teaches and not "do their own thing". The "zeal for souls" that they are to foster is to be in obedient service to the Church's actual teaching - not their own version of it. I have myself heard and continue to hear about so many instances of priests and even higher clergy doing just the opposite of this. Let us pray that the Holy Father's call - at the Chrism Mass of all places - will not fall on deaf ears. I've never understood why priests want to belong to a Church with which they so vehemently disagree. There are plenty of Christian groups and ecclesial communities out there that reflect such opinions, if they feel that strongly, they could join them instead of trying to re-fashion the Church.

Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is "zeal for souls": animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days... A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.