Wednesday 30 October 2013

Masses for All Saints and All Souls

For those who live locally and may be able to get here Masses are as follows:

All Saints - Friday 1st November 
OF Mass - 9.30am
  EF Missa Cantata - 7pm

All Souls - Saturday 
 EF Missa Cantata -12 noon

Saturday 26 October 2013

Our Lord Jesus Christ Universal King

In the older calendar tomorrow  is the Feast of Christ the King.

In His honour the usual Low Mass at 11.30am is being replaced by Missa Cantata here at St Catherine's.

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, secularism was rising, and many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ's authority and existence, as well as the Church's power to continue Christ's authority. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed. In fact, it is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but instead have worsened.

Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. They were:

1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32).  
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31).   

3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33).

Today, the same distrust of authority exists, although the problem has gotten worse. Individualism has been embraced to such an extreme, that for many, the only authority is the individual self. The idea of Christ as ruler is rejected in such a strongly individualistic system. Also, many balk at the idea of kings and queens, believing them to be oppressive. Some even reject the titles of "lord" and "king" for Christ because they believe that such titles are borrowed from oppressive systems of government. However true these statements might be (some kings have been oppressive), these individuals miss the point: Christ's kingship is one of humility and service. Jesus said:

You know that those who are recognised as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45, NAB).
Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?"... Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world,to testify to the truth (John 18:33b, 36-37).

Thanks to Church Year for the historical notes (with my own comments!)

Friday 25 October 2013

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

The Bishop of Lismore, Australia, the Right Rev Geoffrey Jarrett 
offers Mass at the Oratory Church in Oxford.

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy held its annual Colloquium in Oxford this week.  Bishop Jarrett was among the speakers.  Pictured below, he addressed us on "The Priest as Teacher: opportunities and challenges for the renewal of catechesis."  Those listening were particularly impressed to discover the strides made in improving the quality of Catholic education in his diocese of Lismore - and in Australia generally.  There seems to have been a thorough encouragement of good practice and a positive challenge taken up to do what all Catholic schools are called to: teaching and passing on the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, as he put it, particularly working on those areas where there has in the recent past been a lack of distinctively enthusiastic Catholic education. He champions the motto, "The parish altar is at the heart of every Catholic school."

Fr Francis Marsden, columnist and parish priest in the Archdiocese of Liverpool spoke on "The Priesthood under fire", reminding us that we could fire back in defence of the attacks on the priesthood from within and without the Church - using some of the principles of Just War Theory!

Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oratory addressed us on the Conversion of England and not becoming disheartened about the possibility of doing so.  After all, we have done it before!

Bishop Jarrett has attended the Colloquium each year and is particularly welcome as one of the leading lights of the Confraternity of Clergy in Australia, where it has great popularity among the priests.  It is something all priests in this country should consider joining.  We are a varied group but certainly characterised by looking to remain faithful to the Church's teaching.  It is not a lobbying group but a genuine attempt to create a supportive framework for priests (and deacons and bishops).  In these times when there are so many negative commentaries on the role of the priest and indeed attacks on the very nature of the Priesthood, it's good to have a positive experience and hear a positive message.

The beautiful Lady Chapel in the Oxford Oratory.

Monday 21 October 2013

The schism that dares to speak its name.

When I read of some of the things proposed and believed by those who claim to be Catholics I do sometimes wonder if we are on the same planet, let alone in the same Church.  It's not as though we don't have a Creed, a Catechism and Canon Law which have a long-standing width of interpretation that gives some wriggle room but has definite boundaries.  Traditionally those who step outside these make themselves heretics or schismatics.  While I have no doubt that many individual members of the Church have always had views that might step beyond these boundaries (we being fallen and fallible human beings) to believe that the Church itself should re-model itself to these novel, erring or sometimes just plain wrong views is perhaps new.  Especially when such individuals form themselves into pressure groups and proudly profess their ideas in antipathy to the Creed, Catechism and Law whilst wanting to remain within the very organisation they are in open rebellion against is perhaps novel. It might be described as the Schism that DOES dare speak its name - indeed shout it from the rooftops.

I've come across a couple of interesting lines of thought on this in the past few days.

Views from the Choir Loft Blog has a challenging post asking the question, "Which church do you belong to?"  It puts in fairly plain language what has happened to the understanding of the doctrines of the Church in our contemporary society - and indeed in our contemporary Church.  The Creed, which has defended the Truths of the Faith for so many hundreds of years and guarded the means of salvation, is whittled away to be present in its outward form but hollowed out of any real content.  Thus:  
"One after another these axe-blows fell, chopping the Creed of Christians into a incoherent ménage of gilded platitudes."
Described is the conflict within the Church that is the battle of the age.  Do read the short but plain-speaking post here.

Fr Ray Blake also has a reflection on the dangers of schism.  He points out that, "Heresy, the Church can cope with but schism is another altogether graver matter."

Friday 18 October 2013

An English Priest in the Bible Belt

Prince of Peace Church on Maundy Thursday

Fr James Bradley of the Ordinariate here in England has recently visited a well-known church in the heartland of America's "Bible Belt" .  You can hear a podcast of his sermon from Mass there here or read more about his visit Thine Own Service.

The parish inspires the New Evangelisation through the spiritual support of both forms of the Roman Rite. It has received attention before has been written about again just recently in this article following:

Bible Belt parish builds God's kingdom
An 'extraordinary' South Carolina parish models the New Evangelization -- by offering both forms of the Roman rite daily

By Brian Mershon

This story originally appeared in the July 31, 2013 issue of The National Catholic Register.

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Deep in the heart of the Bible Belt lies Greenville, S.C., home to Bob Jones University and many devout evangelical and fundamentalist Christians with an ingrained animus against Catholicism. So that makes it even more interesting that a Catholic parish, led by a former Baptist from Greenville who converted to Catholicism as a teenager, may serve as one model example of the New Evangelization down South.

Home to two full-time priests with advanced degrees in dogmatic theology who both ably offer both forms of the Roman rite and sacraments, Prince of Peace Catholic Church has nearly 2,000 households on its parish roster. The church is attracting families from diverse ethnic and language (Spanish, Vietnamese, French, German) backgrounds, as well as some of those evangelical and fundamentalist Christians yearning for the true Faith.

The parish – with a profound and deep love for the liturgy, solid catechesis, an active apostolate to the poor through its St. Vincent de Paul Society, as well as a burgeoning Catholic school – is a beacon in this mid-size Southern city, neatly tucked between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.

Parishioners are engaged to the fullness of Catholic Tradition through celebration of both the ordinary and the extraordinary forms of the Mass. Both forms have been offered daily at Prince of Peace since Father Christopher Smith took the helm in late 2011.

Christie Mauritz, a wife and mother, is a recent convert who was first struck by the majesty of the liturgy.

"In January 2008, I attended a Catholic Mass for the first time at Prince of Peace," she said. "After witnessing the beautiful reverence of the priest and parishioners in this special place, I began to thirst for the real truth of Christ and the Church he said he would build through St. Peter," Mauritz said.

"During my first Mass, I immediately felt the presence of Jesus in my heart."

Liturgy-Evangelism Link

As a Baptist member of the same church for 43 years, Mauritz said that not only was she attracted by the liturgy and the absolute truth she found in the Catholic faith, but that the helpful and kind parishioners showed true charity to her, her husband and family as they became actively involved in the life of the parish.

"As Baptists, we were taught to really go out and evangelize others about Jesus," Mauritz added, so she was pleased to see this zeal at Prince of Peace.

The connection between a profound awe and participation in the sacred liturgy and then going forth to live lives as evangelical Christians is a familiar one to Father Smith. He notes that Pope Francis has said that the Church cannot simply be shut up in the sacristy.

"Some people take that as some type of implicit criticism of traditional liturgy, but it really is not at all, when it is properly understood," said Father Smith.

"The beauty of the liturgy is not just something that 'people in the know' do as a hobby, but it is something that is to be a school of Christian service, so that we can go out and evangelize and perform acts of service and charity in the world," he said.

"If that doesn't happen in the life of the faithful, it is not the fault of the liturgy, but it is the fault of the Christian world not making that link between liturgy and life that is the essence of Christianity," he said.

Home-Schooling Families

In addition to the daily celebration of both forms of the Roman rite, Prince of Peace has a growing Catholic school, a perpetual adoration chapel, a girls' guild headed up by Mauritz, and numerous home-school families with an active co-op following noon Mass in the extraordinary form on Fridays during the school year.

Originally from Long Island, Tom and Donna Kelly and their six children moved to Greenville via North Carolina eight years ago principally because of the attraction of the weekly celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form and Prince of Peace's reputation of openness to home-schooling families. They had originally moved to North Carolina from New York 14 years ago due to the prospects, which never materialized at the time, of finding the same type of parish.

"This is the first parish that we have belonged to that recognizes and appreciates the value of home schooling and those families' contributions to parish life," Donna Kelly said. "We are grateful that not only are we provided with a place to meet, but also our children are taught Latin, the language of the Church."

Father Richard Tomlinson, parochial vicar, provides Latin instruction for families during the school year. Kelly said her family also appreciates the generous opportunities offered for confession, numerous guilds and traditional devotions and processions that help parish families live an integrated Catholic life.

Prince of Peace has been home to a stable and growing group of Catholics attached to the ancient Mass rite for more than 10 years, but the last 18 months have been a special blessing to parishioners. In fact, the daily extraordinary form Mass averages more than 40 attendees on weekdays and has regularly had more than 200 for holy days and Sundays.

Unity, in Two Forms

Both pastors attempt to provide a consistent liturgical praxis according to the mind of the Church, for every celebration of the liturgy in both forms. All four Sunday Masses, as well as the daily Masses, are offered ad orientem. The norm for all Masses is to receive holy Communion kneeling at the altar rail, and numerous altar boys dominate the sacred space.

Propers (the parts of the Mass that are usually spoken or sung by a choir or the people) were gradually introduced for the ordinary-form liturgy, and both Latin and English chant are the norm for the sung ordinaries.

"I believe you have to create a consistent way of worshipping in the parish, rather than catering to everyone's individual taste," said Father Smith. "But I also think it is important that the people don't feel that it is being forced upon them in any way."

Father Smith said that, in his two years at Prince of Peace, he was pleasantly surprised by the harmony that now exists in the parish, centered around and emanating from the sacred liturgy.

"What I didn't expect – but which has been very, very wonderful in our parish – is that a lot of people who swore two years ago they would never darken the doors of the Latin Mass now go every day because it is a Latin Mass at noon, and they have grown to respect it, appreciate it and love it."

"Also, we have members of the Latin Mass community who would never go to an English Mass, and they now periodically attend because it is celebrated according to the mind of the Church and consistent with the extraordinary form, while respecting the differences," Father Smith added.

Youth Participation

Prince of Peace also has a lot of young boys who ably serve both Masses, as well as children who sing in choirs for both forms of the Mass.

"So we have children growing up in our school, our home-schooling community and religious-education program who are essentially bi-formal," Father Smith said. "They go back and forth between the both forms as if it is the most natural thing in the world."

Monday 14 October 2013


My ordination chalice.

I celebrated 22 years as a priest this weekend - which quite amazed me and put me in reflective mood as I pondered all the ups and downs of those years, with many beautiful and privileged moments but many trials as well (and rather too many failings).  I was quite touched to receive a card on the day of the anniversary from our Apostolic Administrator (while the See of Liverpool remains still vacant) Bishop Tom Williams.

 The chalice is French and dates from 1913 
with three roundels on the base depicting Our Lord, Our Lady and St Joseph.

When I first went to seminary, Ushaw College was at the reduced numbers of 150 students and there was talk of the "Vocations Crisis".  What we might call the "crisis" now that the college is shut altogether is another matter.  (Incidentally, it was posing as a private school in a recent episode of the detective series "Vera" - so it's earning a bit of income.)  There are those who believe that the Vocations Crisis is at least partly the fault of some administrators in the Church, as many young people came forward but if they showed any "traditional" inclinations they were weeded out.  We all have our own stories about this.  I was told at seminary that I'd never last - only interested in "dressing up", in which case, drama school might have been a better option!  The Rector seemed to have no comprehension that a desire for decent vestments and a desire to be a decent priest are not mutually exclusive ambitions.  I'm reminded of a lunch at which Norman St John-Stevas (like me, a member of the Order of St Lazarus) said, "The great thing about our Order is the dressing up!" The "dressing up" proved not to be incompatible with also raising funds for those in great need. (Strange how no one ever says such things about Red Nose Day, when people get themselves up in all sorts of strange costumes to raise money for charity but put on a decent suit or a white tie and your fund raising is somehow suspect.)

Anyway, I digress.

Well at least we have some good news this week.  The Catholic Herald reports on a three-fold increase in Vocations to the Religious Life. It's only up to 64 from 19, but a marked increase nontheless.  I was very pleased to see that first place in the reasons behind this is attributed to the visit of Pope Benedict.  You will recall the (according to the media) highly unpopular Pontiff with the taint of the third Reich about him and a reputation for a rottweiler-like temper.  Apparently, just the qualities to attract men and women to the Religious Life.  Or perhaps he was a rather excellent Pope after all.  

Among those inspired by Pope Benedict is a friend of mine.  Congratulations and prayers for a great future to James Hinchcliffe who has just begun his Novitiate of a year and a day with the Carmelites in Salamanca.   James is someone else who hasn't let his desire to see beautiful vestments in the service of the worship of God cause any conflict with pastoral care - in his case, for example, working with the homeless in Glasgow.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Deacon today

The new Deacon assists at the altar.

Congratulations to Br Richard Bailey who was ordained to the Diaconate yesterday at the Oratorian Community of St Chad's in Manchester by the Bishop Terrence Brain of Salford.  Mass (for the Feast of the Guardian Angels) was very prayerful, assisted by the well-organised altar servers and the excellent music, particularly the lovely chant.  

I understand that both the community and the parish at St Chad's are growing - a credit to long perseverance and hard work over the years in practical pastoral work and a dedication to the beauty of the liturgy, the "source and summit of the life and mission of the Church."  St Chad's lies in the mixed area of Cheetham Hill, perhaps not containing the most exclusive addresses in Manchester, but a reminder that, as the Bishop said in his homily, that our vocation is to "call people back to the heavenly realities in the midst of the world."  

The beauty of the divine liturgy is not an add on to this but the essential and pre-requisite part. Indeed the pastor should "smell of the sheep" but the sheep should also be given a whiff of Heaven (and we always see those angels swinging a thurible!)

There's always a lovely atmosphere both in the church and in the community house in Manchester and we were treated to a reception after Mass in the grandly proportioned dining room.  Here joined by another important member of the community, Peppo (who is just as friendly as St Philip, despite looking a little fierce here!)