Monday 30 December 2013

St Thomas Becket

For those who celebrate the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite, yesterday was the Feast of St Thomas Becket in England and Wales.  A First Class Feast, so kept even in the Octave of Christmas.  I watched the 1964 film of his life starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole, which starts with King Henry II going to Canterbury Cathedral to receive his penance on 12 July 1174. He publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral to give him three blows.

It struck me that in these days when public figures can seem reluctant to resign over scandals this excellent practice might be re-introduced.  I'm sure it would be terrifically popular and could be the next big reality TV event.  Ideally suited for politicians, bankers and the higher echelons of the BBC. 

The other scene that struck me as ripe for revival is when Archbishop Becket issues an excommunication.  How refreshing it would be to see a bishop today issue an excommunication like this - perhaps for those Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion.  A church service that even the BBC would need to give prominent coverage to!

Here it is below.

Sunday 29 December 2013

Christmas Cheer

Now that we are in to the Christmas season, it's good to reflect on the joys of the Good News celebrated in the festive liturgy.  Although I say it every year, it seems only this time around did a larger number of people than usual take up the message and come to Mass during Christmas night - including many of our children.  It's a great memory to give children and really makes Christmas a little different from the usual Sunday Mass and thereby adds to the excitement and making coming to Church exiting and unusual is surely a good memory to give to our children.  It helps to set their Christmas apart from their friends that don't go out into the darkness late at night to welcome the light of the Saviour. 

Yes - the Magi do arrive early at our crib (it's so small that you need all the figures to make an impact!)  We set it up at the back of church now, as one year I had it on the sanctuary in front of the statue of St Catherine LabourĂ© but someone thought it looked like a Hollywood movie perhaps entitled "Attack of the Forty Foot Nun" as she loomed over the crib!

Three wise men and a (diaconal) shepherd!

 Pope Benedict XVI speaking about the Holy Family:

"The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus."The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".

Sunday 22 December 2013

In Dulci Jubilo

The candlelit church awaits.

Thank you to the singers and organisers of our Candlelit Carol Concert on Saturday evening.  A full church of people had a splendid experience to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas.  Not only that, but we raised £4,315 for SUROL - working to rehabilitate those suffering from leprosy in Sri Lanka.  This is the adopted charity for the Order of St Lazarus in Great Britain, so thank you for all your generous donations.  

The event was organised by one of our members, Mr Anthony Dickinson, by whose good graces it is that we have such excellent music here in the parish, including the ability to offer Missa Cantata so often and that the Common of the Mass can be sung each Sunday at the Ordinary Form.  The entrance chant sets the tone of Mass, which clearly says that we are here to pray!  

Anthony also sang baritone in the Schola for the Concert.  The two sopranos were Rachael Cotton and Angela Hicks. The counter-tenor, Simon Woof and the bass, Alex Kokotaylo.   Special thanks also to David Scott-Thomas who played the organ and directed the singers.  David is, among a number of hats he wears, the organist at St John's Church, Broughton, near Preston, well known for its excellent musical tradition.

There was a great atmosphere in the church and afterwards as we indulged in the traditional fare of mince pies and mulled wine.

Only Traditional fare - of course!

A clergyman's work is never done!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Carol Concert

For the last two years we have had a splendid Carol Concert in the run up to Christmas and are fortunate to be able to hold one again this year.  I post this to invite anyone nearby to come along.

Saturday 21st December 7.30pm

Community Carols
Performed Christmas Music by the Schola
Festive Readings
Mince Pies and Mulled Wine

Entry is free but there will be a collection for the work of SUROL - a leprosy charity in Sri Lanka of which Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, is the Patron.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Another piece of Catholic heritage bites the dust

I have just heard the sad news that the Talbot Library - "The Library of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster" as it is styled - is to close.  This stark announcement appears on the "Notices" section of the website:
"After careful consideration, the Bishop and Trustees of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster have decided that the Talbot Library will close permanently on 31st December, 2013."
The library holds 50,000 books as well as periodicals, sheet music, parish histories and early printed books.  It holds important collections including collections on Irish history, Lancashire local history (especially the Reformation), the Shrewsbury Diocese Collection and important collections on G K Chesterton and Belloc. 

I don't know what the circumstances are - I presume financial pressures - and I have no information on what is to happen to the library's contents and collections. Perhaps it could go to Maryvale?  The number of Catholic academic institutions continues to dwindle - I don't suppose the library at Ushaw College is likely to be taking on any new collections, now that the seminary itself has closed.  I do hope the contents of the Talbot are not to disappear hither and thither without trace.  It has been used a great deal by many Catholic scholars for research - in other words, it's not just a collection of diocesan ephemera but an important resource for Catholic studies.  The library stands on the same site as the fantastic St Walburge's church, famous for having the tallest spire of any parish church in England - is there a plan for the overall site? Regeneration?  Further decline?  
Interior of St Walburge's, with its hammer-beam ceiling

It does seem that as a Church in this country we place so little value on our history, our historical places, buildings, literature and art.  As the old saying goes, if we don't know our history, we don't know who we are.  “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” (George Orwell)  This lack of interest and even irrational hatred of our past is a sure-fire way to allow ourselves to be blown about in the wind, with no roots (that we're aware of) we go along in the direction of any new fad or fancy that comes along.  Look how well that's been working for us in the last fifty years!

Saturday 14 December 2013



Gaudete Sunday tells us to rejoice - rejoice in the Lord, for He is near.

For some in the Church on what might be called the traditional side of things (for me, read  simply "orthodoxy") there has, I think, been some tendency to fail a little in our rejoicing in matters papal since the election of Pope Francis.  Now while some may not be rejoicing all the way to the east-facing apse, we should always rejoice in the Lord.  It is the Divine Holy Spirit who protects the Successor of St Peter from leading the Church into error and He does so for this Pope as for any other.

We might rejoice that Pope Francis says this of the Council: 
“the Council Fathers applied all diligence, that the Catholic faith might appear distinctly and be better perceived.  Indeed, with the Holy Spirit inspiring and prompting, it concerned them chiefly that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine not only be guarded but also shine forth more clearly, that the salvific work of the Lord be spread through the whole world and that the Gospel be extended to all the earth."
It is the Council of Trent that he is referring to:
"Heeding indeed the same Spirit, Holy Church of this age even now revives and reflects upon the most glorious Tridentine doctrine."
Quoting Pope Benedict’s 2005 address preferring a hermeneutic of reform rather than disruption, Pope Francis added, “In fact, this manner of interpreting places under a brighter light one evident property of the Church that the Lord Himself bestows on her: ‘she is clearly one ‘subject’ which, with the hastening ages, grows and is increased; nevertheless, she always remains the same. And so she is the one subject of the sojourning People of God.’”                       (See here for further details.)

The FSSP Seminary in Austria - distinct lack of space!

We might rejoice that Pope Francis encourages the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter with this message:
By way of the celebration of the sacred Mysteries according to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite and the orientations of the Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as by passing on the apostolic faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, may they contribute, in fidelity to the living Tradition of the Church, to a better comprehension and implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

The Holy Father exhorts them, according to their own charism, to take an active part in the mission of the Church in the world of today, through the testimony of a holy life, a firm faith and an inventive and generous charity.

Blessed Pope John XXIII - another person who might just know a little about how to interpret the Council.

We might rejoice that Pope Francis says that  “The best hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council” has been done by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto - a writer who criticises the Bologna School with its interpretation of rupture in regard to the Council.

We might just rejoice that Pope Francis is open to celebrating ad orientem.  Yes, I know it doesn't look like he sees it as something that we desperately need to recover but I've certainly known of bishops who seem to be terrified of being photographed standing in front of the altar, lest the liberal circle criticise them.

Perhaps the Church needs a Pope who will allow the world to get away from focusing only on the negative when it comes to the Church.  It's certainly a relief to be dealing with positive attitudes in the secular press, even if they haven't understood that in this case, orthodox faith can lie beneath the polyester chasuble just as much as it can beneath one made of silk damask.

The Pope is the Pope whoever he may be.

Friday 13 December 2013

Fr Gary Walsh - Requiescat in Pace

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Gary Walsh of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in Liverpool.  Aged just 53, he died after suffering a stroke some time ago.  His Requiem Mass takes place at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral today.  My friends over at Torch of the Faith have a heart-felt tribute to him.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Do you really want to participate so actively?

Does even Pope Francis hanker after sitting quietly at the back instead of running to the front to "participate"?  

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.  As Dom Alcuin Reid asserts:
"these past 50 years have not been the universal liturgical or ecclesial springtime for which many hoped. The ongoing decline in numbers attending Mass may have many causes, but the modern liturgy is not to the forefront in arresting it." Dom Alcuin adds: "(I)n marking the 50th anniversary of the Constitution an examination of conscience is in order."
Just one or two little thoughts struck me from what seems common anecdotal experience among priests of all liturgical hues that would seem to belie the alleged longing for "participation".  Despite decades of "education" telling ordinary Catholics they must outwardly actively participate, the popular vote would seem to indicate that they are not really comfortable with this outward participation.

*         In most Masses people still fill up from the back of the church. They don't want to sit at the front (let alone the horror of being invited up onto the sanctuary during some quiet weekday Mass.

*         In many years of supplying in quite a few parishes (particularly some years ago when I was a full-time schools chaplain and visiting parishes to say Mass most Sundays) I couldn't help but notice that while many music groups were letting rip, more than a few in the congregation did not pick up a hymn book and did not join in the singing.  For all the "active" participation, it might as well have been Palestrina (O happy thought). 

Perhaps many would prefer to be actually praying to God instead of actively participating in community activities.

Monday 2 December 2013

High Mass for the Feast of St Andrew

The Chapel of the Holy Arms of St Nicholas

For the Feast of St Andrew I was invited to a celebratory High Mass in the Basilica of St Nicholas of Tolentino - in the Marche Region of Italy.  Mass took place the the Chapel of the Holy Arms celebrated by the parish priest Don Andrea Leoneans, with help from the Community of Augustinians who look after the shrine.  

The celebration was to honour the well known Italian organist Andrea Carradori, hence the Mass on the Feast of his namesake.

Andrea Carradori - not playing the organ this time but in choir.

The organ was played by Lorenzo Antinori.


We processed down to the Crypt after Mass to venerate the remains of St Nicholas beneath the High Altar of the Basilica.

The arms of St Nicholas are kept separately in the chapel where we offered the Mass
(apparently they were stolen some centuries ago but eventually returned to the Basilica!)

 The Great Chapel of the Basilica is decorated with some very fine and still beautifully preserved frescoes, along with a statue of St Nicholas - Protector of the Souls in Purgatory and Protector of the Unity of the Church.

The opening in the altar through which in times past pilgrims crawled to come close to the relics of the Saint!

 The Mayor of Tolentino, Mr Joseph Tolentino Pezzanesi, with other distinguished guests and the clergy.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Christ the King

In the new calendar tomorrow is the feast of Christ the King.  I was pondering that the image of Christ as King and Ruler is very much related to some of the earliest images of Our Lord that Christians would have seen in their churches - that of the Pantocrator (Ruler of all, the One who sustains and accomplishes all things - creation and salvation).  There's no crown but the message is the same. The mosaic or painted image of Christ in glory dominates the apse of the sanctuary. An awe-some image.  It's one of those images and devotions that is not so keenly taken up in our own times.  Somehow many Catholics seem a little squeamish about the power, strength and might of Our Lord.  Another of those inconveniences of the Gospel that are perceived as being out of step with "modern" life and so we'd best reject them.  We can see the same attitude applied to so many of the teachings of the Church (Gospel).  Those getting hot under the collar about the Synod of Bishops questionnaire appear to be hoping all those inconvenient Gospel injunctions will be jettisoned after what they caricature as some sort of focus group has been taken into account. (Incidentally, if you want some guidance on how to answer the questionnaire, which by the tenor of the questions is obviously meant only for bishops, then have a look at Fr Finigan's response.)

No matter, the image of Christ King and Pantocrator and the teachings of the Gospel (Church) are both powerful - and when presented and lived with joy and conviction - also beautiful.  Thus it is that the architecture and imagery of the space in which we worship should convey that power and beauty.  This should be what we mean when we speak of "muscular Christianity". The architect Duncan Stroik writes in an editorial for "Sacred Architecture" which makes the point about beauty in our Faith reflected and proposed by the architecture of our churches.

To those who see the promotion of traditional art, architecture, and music as merely an act of nostalgia it must be pointed out that Pope Benedict saw the great masterpieces of Western art as living witnesses to the eternal faith.  The Sistine chapel, Gothic cathedrals, and baroque altarpieces continue to speak to those who have eyes to see. The relation between tradition and innovation in Benedict’s thought grows out of Vatican II in which “any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” So what about the place of creativity in new works? “An art that lost the root of transcendence would not be oriented to God; it would be a halved art, it would lose its living root; and a faith that had art only in the past would no longer be faith in the present; and today it must be expressed anew as truth that is always present.”
A variation on the same theme. The beautiful mosaics in the church of Ss Cosmos and Damian in Rome.

So. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
We are having Christus Vincit! as well as  Hail Redeemer, King Divine.
The beautiful Introit, Offertory and Communion verses (here in translation):
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive the power and divinity and
wisdom and strength and honour: to Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Give to the King, O God, Thy judgment, and to the King's Son Thy justice.
 Behold, I have given You for a light of the nations; that You may be My salvationunto the ends of the earth.
The Lord shall sit a king for ever: the Lord shall bless His people in peace.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Gibbering idiocy

Following on from my last post, this quote from G.K.Chesterton about false logic was brought to my attention. The merciless logic of the enlightenment, can be seen intruding into the presentation of the teaching of the Church in so many areas in our own day.

"Consider that simple sentence [i.e., that artificial birth control is essential because houses are scarce], and you will see what is the matter with the modern mind.  I do not mean the growth of immorality; I mean the genesis of gibbering idiocy.  There are ten little boys whom you wish to provide with top hats; and you find that there are only eight top hats.  To a simple mind it would seem not impossible to make two more hats; to find out whose business it is to make hats, and induce him to make hats; to agitate against the absurd delay in delivering hats; to punish anybody who has promised hats and failed to provide hats.  The modern mind is that which says that if we only cut off the heads of two of the little boys, they will not want hats; and then the hats will exactly go round.  The suggestion that heads are rather more important than hats is dismissed as a piece of mystical metaphysics.  The assertion that hats were made for heads, and not heads for hats savours of antiquated dogma.  The musty text that says the body is more than raiment; the popular prejudice which would prefer the lives of boys to the mathematical arrangement of hats - all these things are alike to be ignored.  The logic of enlightenment is merciless; and we duly summon the headsman to disguise the deficiencies of the hatter.  For it makes very little difference to the logic of the thing, that we are talking of houses and not hats...  The fundamental fallacy remains the same; that we are beginning at the wrong end, because we have never troubled to consider  at what end to begin."

 - Quoted from America, October 29, 1921, p. 31.)