Tuesday 23 December 2014

A Christmas address

I've no idea of the atmosphere or dedication or otherwise of the Vatican Curia but Pope Francis' words to those who work for him - as it were his closest "parish workers" - reminded me of a similar list of illnesses that afflict many parishes. Indeed, in just the past week I know of two priests complaining of how those who "assist" them in running the parish try to do so in ways that leave much to be desired.  These seem to be parishes where amongst the laity a worldly model predominates, "Tablet" reading types who see the parish as an organisation where they hold power and the priest is merely an employee over whom they hold that power.  Where the "ordinary" Catholic in the pew who just wants to get on with coming to Mass and saying her prayers is held in little esteem. Not, thank the Lord, something I experience much in my own parish.  

So, to take the Holy Father's words to heart and apply them to the rest of the flock how would this go down in your parish as the Christmas sermon to those who worked in the parish?

The Parish Priest began, “The Parish is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Parish. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Parish Priest, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Parish workers' ailments:

The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Parish body that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.

“Spiritual Alzheimer's disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the 'first love': this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the ability of the Liturgy Committee to decide the colour of one's robes, the Extraordinary Minister's insignia and the honours of the Parish Council or the Finance Board become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false 'mysticism' and a false 'quietism'”.

Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by attendance at Diocesan courses and the production of catechetical DVD's. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues, brethren and priests. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a 'cancer' that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

The Parish priest finished by wishing all his collaborators a very happy Christmas.

Monday 22 December 2014

The Spirit of Christmas 2014

A packed church on Saturday night here at St Catherine Labouré in Leyland witnessed a wonderful Carol Concert, organised by Chev. Anthony Dickinson KLJ, raising funds for the Grand Priory of Great Britain's charity, SUROL - Cardinal Ranjith's organisation working for the relief of those suffering from leprosy in Sri Lanka.

Members of the Octavius Chamber Choir gave of their time and talents to uplift and entertain members of the Order, parishioners and others form the local community.  The choir's organist and Musical Director is David Scott Thomas (who is also the Musical Director and Organist at Preston Minster.)

They chose a great selection of music, from traditional favourites such as the Sussex Carol to Santa Claus is coming to Town! As well as traditional carols for everyone to join in with.  All interspersed with readings both sacred and secular.

From the collection and donations for the evening the event raised close to £5,000 for the Order, which is absolutely fantastic. Our thanks to the wonderful singers of Octavius Chamber Choir, to David Scott Thomas, to Chev. Anthony Dickinson, to the parishioners assisting with serving the mulled wine and mince pies afterwards and to everyone who came along and donated such a generous amount of money to such a good cause.  The oft talked about spirit of Christmas is well and truly alive in the Order and here in St Catherine's.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Carol Concert this Saturday

Carol Concert
With Mince pies & mulled wine
Free Entry

St Catherine’s Church
Stanifield Lane      Farington    (Next to the park)

Saturday 20th December
A collection will take place for those
suffering from leprosy.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Mass in Brussels

 St Michaels's College and the church of St John Berchmans in Brussels

I spent last weekend in Brussels for a gathering of the Order of St Lazarus  as the Commandery in Belgium was raised to the status of a Grand Priory. (More on that at that here.) Members gathered in the church of St John Berchamans for the celebration of Mass celebrated by Chaplain General of the Order in France, Rev Fr Claude Girault, Rector of the Cathedral of Orléans. Mass was greatly enhanced by the singers of the Petits Chanteurs de Belgique, who sang the Missa Brevis de Léo Delibes (you can here the Kyrie from it here.) Together with the Investiture the Mass was quite long but the boys of the choir were as professional in their behaviour as in their singing. 

 The church is part of the Jesuit College of St Michael.

 The interior of the church.

On the Sunday, I managed to find a Missa Cantata offered by the FFSP in the Church of St John and St Stephen at 62, Rue Minimes.  I couldn't follow much of the 20 minute long sermon (!) in French but at least I could join in with the chant and responses of the Mass.  Once again, it struck me as such a strange thing that in an era when people travel more than ever, that the universality of Latin would be so appropriate and helpful to bind us all together. What a pity that so little use is made of the Church's ancient language.   Even in my own very small parish in Britain, there are several nationalities represented, with not everyone's English being excellent.  We have families from Egypt, Ghana and the Philippines - particularly when they first arrive, being able to take part in Mass in a way that is familiar to them would be a great help.  If only we used the language we were directed to by the Second Vatican Council and other papal pronouncements since.  Not by chance did Saint John Paul II recall that:
“The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself” (Dominicae cenae, n. 10).
In continuity with the Magisterium of his Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, besides wishing that there would be a greater use of the traditional Latin language in liturgical celebrations, especially during international gatherings, wrote:
“Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 62).

Archbishop Andrew Leonard of Archdiocese Brussels-Malines celebrated Mass in the church in 2011.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Novena for the Immaculate Conception

For anyone who might be able to get there, St Walburge's in Preston is holding a Novena this coming week with guest preachers.  If you haven't been along to this fantastic church, then here is an opportunity to go and see it. You can find their website at The Spire.

Mass being offered at the Shrine.

O Mary conceived without sin, 
pray for us who have recourse to Thee.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Empty chairs in empty churches

Mark Lambert has picked up on Fr Dwight Lonenecker's piece about why church attendance is, for the most part, in decline in the Western world.  

Conclusion: many people just don't really understand what church is for.

This is certainly true whenever we now interact with those who don't usually darken the doors of the Church - at times of marriages, funerals, baptisms and first Communions.  What they are looking for is not what the Church actually offers but all too often we cave in and give them the watered down, insipid, secularised version that they come seeking and so those that come to such events experience very little of the true content of the Faith.

What they experience is just not powerful enough or different enough from what they might get in other arenas to make people make the effort on a Sunday morning. 

I think he's hit on something there.  

Once we present church as entertainment, we can't compete with the professional entertainers in film, stage and TV.  

Once we present it as a commodity (everyone "getting Communion") we can't compete with teh professional emporiums of commerce.

Once we present church as a party we can't compete with a good restaurant or a noisy bar.

Once we present church as a crèche we can't compete with the professional child carers and educators in our schools and nurseries.

The only Unique Selling Point we have is salvation, redemption from sin, warfare with the forces of darkness, the reality of the spiritual world -  but these are things we have so often lost confidence in talking about, so we try to compete on other people's turf and come off looking second rate, boring and irrelevant.

A loss in confidence in its core message is bound to reflect rather poorly in any organisation - human or divine.  We do indeed have a unique "product" but it's hidden away in the back room (or the back sacristy).  It takes confidence to bring it out.

The wonder is that so often we hear of great "celebrations" taking place in regard to the way the Church has moved in recent decades.  The "celebration" to close the church / convent / seminary / monastery or "celebration" some other aspect of Church life that is, in anyone's reality, so obviously in decline.  A real bit or Orwellian doublespeak.

I'm reminded of the lyrics sung by Marius in Les Miserables - the empty chairs and empty tables being the empty pews and empty altars:
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.
Here they talked of revolution.
Here it was they lit the flame.
Here they sang about `tomorrow'
And tomorrow never came.
From the table in the corner
They could see a world reborn
And they rose with voices ringing
I can hear them now!
The very words that they had sung
Became their last communion

Sunday 23 November 2014

How to elect a Pope

The "Telegraph" newspaper reports today on Austen Ivereigh's forthcoming book "The Great Reformer" - a biography of Pope Francis.   Ivereigh is the former Press Secretary to Murphy-O'Connor when he was Archbishop of Westminster.

According to the report, the book will reveal that:
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, helped to orchestrate a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign which led to the election of Pope Francis.
Disclosing that:
... there had been a discreet, but highly organised, campaign by a small group of European cardinals in support of Cardinal Bergoglio...  Writer Austen Ivereigh, nicknames the group “Team Bergoglio” and says members toured private dinners and other gatherings of cardinals in the days before the conclave, quietly putting their case.
You can't believe everything you read but this open an interesting window on how the politics of an election are sometimes managed. Even if the politics may make you a bit sad on this day when we remember that Christ the King calls us to move beyond worldly king-making.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this:
I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.  
(Ezekiel 34:17 - from the Feast of Christ the King)

You can read the full article here.

Monday 17 November 2014

Art in the Service of the Poor and the Glory of God

I attended a lovely concert of organ music and some pieces sung by the choir at the church of St Joseph in Stokesley, North Yorkshire yesterday afternoon.  Parish Priest, Fr William Charlton, somewhat surprised his congregation with his prowess on the organ (obviously during Mass he's usually rather busy elsewhere).  

Fr Charlton became a Chaplain to the Order of St Lazarus earlier this year in Derbyshire and organised the recital in support of our charity in Sri Lanka, SUROL, looking after those suffering from leprosy.  We were delighted to see a full church and rejoiced at the generosity of the parishioners in giving £1,000 to the work of the Order.  A big thank you to Fr Charlton, the singers and parishioners - as well as those who organised the refreshments afterwards.

Fr Charleton conducting the schola.

In a fitting link to the Order of St Lazarus, there is a fine window depicting the raising of Lazarus in the church (pictured above).  It's one of a series designed in the 1940's by the then Parish Priest, Fr John J. MacDonnell. Some of the others are pictured below.  They are very atmospheric and although traditional in style at first glance, have a definite modern twist to them.  Perhaps part of that tradition that is sometimes called the "other modern", when referring to ecclesiastical works of art that are innovative but remain in the tradition of sacred art instead of aping the nihilistic forms of secular modern art that we have so often subjected to in churches over recent decades.

 The Resurrection.

My Favourite. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden.

 A detail from the Expulsion.

 The rose window over the East end depicting the Crucifixion.

Saturday 15 November 2014

In strict agreement with all the rules of the Church

The altar in readiness.

I was intrigued by the post on Catholic Extension about the Fr Peter learning material.  For a bit of fun I have downloaded the links and am giving them to the altar boys to do a bit of homework.  In fact, they are a remarkably useful and entertaining bit of learning.

 Dominus vobiscum.
(And, Yes, I know he shouldn't be wearing his biretta at this point.)

 Devotions in readiness.

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Actually, the accompanying notes and instructions are excellent : "Fr Peter's altar is in strict agreement with all the rules of the church."  Oh, if only it were always so - for altars, synods and  everything else.

Jubilate Deo!

Welcome and prayers for Christina, 
who was received into the Church at Mass today.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Organ Recital at Stokesley

I'm off to Middlesborough Diocese this Sunday afternoon where Fr William Charleton is giving an Organ Recital and Choral Afternoon at his parish of St Joseph's this Sunday afternoon.  Anyone who might be able to come along would be most welcome. There will be a retiring collection for the work of the Order of St Lazarus in supporting SUROL - the Sri Lankan leprosy Charity, of which our friend, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, is the Patron (the Order Order made him Prelate Grand Cross of the Order of Merit just last year.)  

 St Joseph’s Church

Sunday 16th November 

1 Tanton Road, 
North Yorks 

Tel: 01642 710239

 followed by  tea in  St Joseph’s Hall.

Stokesley is a small market town located in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, which lies on the River Leven.

Stokesley is located between Middlesbrough, Guisborough and Northallerton in farming area and is surrounded by other small towns and villages, including Great Ayton, Great Broughton and Hutton Rudby.

Stokesley has been a market town since it was granted its charter in 1223 by Henry III. The River Leven flows through the town until it joins the River Tees at Yarm. The Pack Horse Bridge crosses the river and dates back to the 17th Century.

Stokesley highstreet is lined with many independent shops and eateries.

A weekly market day takes place every Friday and a monthly Farmers Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month.

Monday 10 November 2014

November Requiem

Another photo-post but this time from the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea at Seaforth in Liverpool.  We celebrated a Mass for deceased members, benefactors and friends of both the LMS and the Order of St Lazarus.  Excellent music from members of the Octavius Choir which lifted our spirits, especially in the beautifully restored and cared for church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Thanks to the servers and to all who came along - to lunch afterwards as well.  Thank you also for £321 in the collection for the work of the Order of St Lazarus.

Thursday 6 November 2014

All Souls Mass


Following the last post, some more photographs of Mass - this time for All Souls Day.  

I've recently managed to get a catafalque cover from the USA which is a good match for the silver embroidered sets of Requiem vestments. This chasuble used at this Mass has a Scottish flavour to it, being embroidered with thistles.  

Mass was very poignant, with the beautiful chant lifting the Holy Souls to God in our prayers. Thanks also to our servers and the good turnout form the parish.






 Holy Water


Wednesday 5 November 2014

All Saints Mass


Unusually we had plenty of photos taken at the All Saints Mass, so here are a few of them going through the Mass.  All Souls Mass to follow!  Both Masses were lovely celebrations (with the assistance of the music department) and thank you to parishioners for a good turnout for on All Souls Day.

Enter and see the face of God.

 Ab illo benedicaris...

 The Epistle

 Sucipe, sancte Pater...

 Getting in the swing!

 And again...

As often as you do these things, 
you shall do them in remembrance of me.

Domine, non sum dignus...

The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto everlasting life.

 In the beginning was the Word...

Exuent omnes.

The inevitable tidying up afterwards.

(Photos of minors with parental permission.)