Monday 25 August 2014

Fiftieth Birthday Celebrations

Many thanks to all those who came along to the barbecue on Sunday to help celebrate my fiftieth Birthday.  It was to be for family and friends but I was overjoyed that so many of my Parish Family wanted to come along as well.  Thank you to everyone for your cards, gifts and prayers.

 Thank goodness no one attempted to put fifty candles on the cake.

No one is properly dressed at a party without a glass of something in their hand.

 The smoke proving that the meat on the barbecue was well cooked. 

The traditional blowing out of the candles.  
Now.. what did I wish for, you ask...?

 Yes - two cakes - including one with depicting the garb of a Chaplain of the Order of St Lazarus.

 Feeding the five thousand - well, not quite.

  A selection of the revellers.
See if you can spot yourself.


Friday 22 August 2014

Altar Servers

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Matthew Pleva - just fourteen years old - and for the comfort of his family.  He was an altar server at Holy Rosary Church in Cedar, Michigan.  (You can just see the church tower on the right of the picture.)

The photograph shows an impressive turnout of his fellow altar boys from Holy Rosary Church - a parish which works at placing the fullness of the Catholic Faith before its people.  Of three Sunday Masses, one is in the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite.  They must certainly be doing something right.  It reminds me a little of the time in my previous parish when for a year or two we had enough boys to make up three teams of altar boys for the main Sunday Mass who served on a rota basis.

May God bless them all as they mourn their friend - yet in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

“Do you neglect the grave obligation to attend Sunday Mass: never, sometimes, often, or always?”

Pope St Pius X
With Our Blessed Lady watching over him
 as he brings communion to children
 and crushes heresy underfoot.
Now that's what I call multi-tasking!

On this 100th anniversary of the death of the saintly Pope Pius X, who promoted the early receiving of Holy Communion, Fr Tim Finigan writes an excellent piece for the Faith Magazine on the dangers that arise when the Blessed Sacrament is demanded as a right, rather than seen as a gift and privilege.

Well worth reading the whole article but here is a flavour:
When applying to Catholic schools in England, parents are asked to fill in a supplementary form regarding their Catholicity. The form often asks: “Do you attend Mass: weekly, most weeks, occasionally, or never?” It would be more instructive to ask: “Do you neglect the grave obligation to attend Sunday Mass: never, sometimes, often, or always?”
Rather than take the difficult pastoral road of reminding people that there are circumstances in which some change needs to be made before receiving Holy Communion, we seem to have accepted that everyone should routinely present themselves for the sacrament every time they attend Mass. 

Pope St John Paul

St Pio

Blessed Teresa

Pope Benedict XVI

St. Sylvester receiving Holy Communion at the hands of the Virgin Mary.
(From a dream wherein she asks him if he is ready to receive.)

Last Holy Communion of St. Joseph of Calasanz, (by Goya, 1819)

Our Blessed Lady receiving Holy Communion from St John

Monday 18 August 2014

New Traditional Church in Preston

The impressive church of St Walburge just up the road from me in Preston is to be opened as a shrine church administered by the Institute of Christ the King in the Diocese of Lancaster on Saturday 27th September.  It will be a church dedicated the celebration of the Sacraments in the Usus Antiuqior and will act as a centre for Eucharistic Devotion.

Solemn High Mass at 12 noon will be celebrated by Mgr Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute, with Pontifical assistance of the Right Rev. Michael Campbell, Bishop of Lancaster.
Gregorian chant by the Seminarians of the Institute of Christ the King

Mass will be followed by a Reception in the hall next to the church to which all are welcome.

This is great news for this exceptional church.

Saturday 16 August 2014

An uncelebrated WWI centenary?

On 4th August we offered Mass here in the parish for the centenary of Great Britain's entry into the First World War. I think the great turn out we had was in part due to the fact that the centenary had captured people's imagination and, through the media, was on people's radar, as it were.

Another centenary will arrive next Wednesday 20th August - that of the death of Pope St Pius X. His feastday is this coming Thursday 21st August in teh new calendar but is on September 3rd in the Usus Antquior. 

Famed for his condemnation of lamentable departures from the Christian Faith, he is certainly a saint for our times and a pope who shared our present Holy Father's discomfort with the pomp and ceremony of the office and a desire to live a simple life, even as the Successor of St Peter.  I wonder if the anniversary will be celebrated with any vigour at the Vatican or indeed here in our own country?

One of the many stories of his life of simplicity relates to his three sisters who looked after him, travelling in from a nearby small flat on the third floor of a house on the Piazza Rusticucci.  When a car was presented to the sisters by a rich American he told his niece, Ermengilda, "What a distressing sight it will be to see the sisters of the Pope driving through the streets of Rome in an automobile! Nothing could grieve me more." A few days later, the car was sold on his order.

Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices.”  Though uncomfortable with such things, he submitted to them with true humility.

He spoke of his inability to call the world away from war as "the last affliction that the Lord will visit on me" and it's said he died of a broken heart because of it.

I leave the final word here to G. K. Chesterton.
Among the many true and touching expressions of respect for the tragedy of the Vatican, most have commented on the fact that the late Pope was by birth a peasant. Yet few or none, I think, traced that truth to its most interesting and even tremendous conclusion. For the truth is that the Papacy is practically the only authority in modern Europe in which it could have happened. It is the oldest, immeasurably the oldest, throne in Europe; and it is the only one that a peasant could climb. In semi-Asiatic States there are doubtless raids and usurpations. But these are of brigands rather than peasants; I speak of the pure peasant advanced for pure merit. This is the only real elective monarchy left in the world; and any peasant can still be elected to it. … Even in high and heroic republics like those of France and of Switzerland, can one say that the ruler is really the plain man in power? 
Now all the evidence, from foes as much as friends, attests that this really was true of the great priest who lately gave back to God the most tremendous power in the world. Those who admired him most, admired the simplicity and sanity of a peasant. Those who murmured against him most, complained of the obstinacy and reluctance of a peasant. But for that very reason it was clear that the oldest representative institution in Europe was working; when all the new ones have broken down. It is still possible to get the strong, patient, humorous type that keeps cheerfulness and charity alive among millions, alive and supreme in an official institution.
 As has been pointed out, with subtle power and all proper delicacy, in numberless liberal and large-minded journals, the great and good priest now dead had all the prejudices of a peasant. He had a prejudice to the effect that the mystical word ‘Yes’ should be distinguished from the equally unfathomable expression ‘No’ … The Pope never pretended to have an extraordinary intellect; but he professed to be right — and he was. All honest atheists, all honest Calvinists, all honest men who mean anything or believe anything or deny anything, will have reason to thank their stars (a heathen habit) for the peasant in that high place. He left people to agree with his creed or disagree with it; but not free to misrepresent it. It was exactly what any peasant taken from any of our hills and plains would have said. But there was something more in him that would not have been in the ordinary peasant. For all this time he had wept for our tears; and he broke his heart for our bloodshed.
The Illustrated London News, August 29th, 1914.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

The Sign of Peace

The Sign of Peace? I'm as frustrated with it as Basil Faulty with poor Manwell's well-meaning incompetence.

One of the liturgical practices that has most often landed me in hot water over the years and earned approbation, condemnation and censure has been the Sign of Peace.  Over the years I have come to offer the instruction to the congregation to exchange the Sign of Peace less and less, so that now it is a great rarity in for me to do so in the OF of Mass.  This has, of course, been accompanied by catechesis but because of the prevalent mode of exchanging the Sign of Peace, no matter what catechesis was given, it always became the occasion for something that it is not meant to be.  I have deemed that as it was not taking place properly, the legitimate option to omit it should be taken.  Although, of course, it is verbally exchanged between priest and people, whether the action is included or not.

Now, finally, the Congregation for the Sacraments has issued a letter which makes it clear that all those things which I have often been criticised for not doing or not allowing are, in fact, ABUSES which it will be "definitively necessary to avoid." (to quote Cardinal Canizares.)
"If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted and sometimes ought to be omitted.  It is worth recalling that the rubric from the Missal states: "Then, if appropriate, the deacon or the priest adds, 'Let us offer each other the sign of peace.'"

On the basis of these observations it may be advisable that conferences of bishops should consider whether it might not be advisable to change the manner of giving peace... For example, in those places where familiar or profane gestures were previously chosen, they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.
In any case, it will be definitively necessary to avoid abuses such as:
The introduction of a "song of peace", which is non-existent in the Roman Rite.
The movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.
The departure of the priest from the altar to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.
That in certain circumstances, such as Easter, Christmas, first Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Ordinations and funerals, the exchange of peace being the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences."
Sadly, although this letter has been issued under the auspices of Pope Francis, I don't suppose all those who supposedly laud him to the skies will take any more notice of this than if it had been issued under Pope Benedict or Pope John Paul.  I shouldn't hold my breath waiting for Liturgy Offices up and down the country to start workshops or produce publicity about this particular Franciscan directive to take effect.

The letter also makes it clear that the Sign of Peace is to remain in the place during Mass which is assigned to it in the Missal.  I have experienced occasions here in the diocese where it has been moved around to other parts of the Mass.  One of the problems with this is that the same lack of understanding of what it is meant to be were not tackled and so the usual free-for-all took place.  As with so many other parts of the liturgy and of the Faith itself, the Christian gesture, teaching or symbol is emptied of its Faith content and we are left with a hollow secular meaning dressed up in Christian clothing.  I believe Our Lord referred to such instances as "whitened Sepulchres".

There was a time when the Church could take on pagan symbols, gestures and places and make them Her own but now the process seems most often to be working in reverse: we take on the secular and embrace all that goes with it instead of changing it.  Meanwhile, the secular world makes full outward use of our Christian heritage - candles, angels, demons, baptism, first Communion - but imbues them with its own degraded meanings.  The Devil must not only be dancing but taking classes in the Fandango to celebrate!

My thanks to Fr Ray Blake for drawing my attention to the letter and, of course, he has some eminently sensible observations of his own on the subject.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Signum magnum apparuit in caelo.

I've spent half the afternoon putting up a canopy over the statue of our Blessed Lady in readiness for the Feast of the Assumption on Friday. It's an extension of the cloth of honour that already frames the statue. Let's hope it stays up!  We've Mass on Friday morning at 9.30am and a Missa Cantata in the evening at 7pm.

Signum magnum apparuit in caelo.
Mulier amicta sole
et luna sub pedibus eius
et in capite eius corona duodecim stellarum.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Deacon for a Day

I was invited to assist as deacon at High Mass at the Shrine of Ss Peter and Paul in New Brighton last weekend.  It's always a treat for me to return there as it's the church where I made my first Holy Communion.  The Latin Mass Society had brought up the participants in their Summer School in North Wales, so there was a good turn out - although the church is half-covered in scaffolding at the moment as the Fathers of the Institute get to grips with sorting out the structure and decoration of the church.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

O God of earth and altar bow down and hear our cry

Thanks to everyone who came to High Mass last night for the centenary of the First World War - servers, assisting and visiting priests, music department, congregation and helpers in the kitchen afterwards!  

It seems we were all too busy praying for anyone to have taken any photographs so the remains in the sacristy are all that's left this morning.  It was wonderful to see so many people come along (we were turning altar servers away!), especially parishioners who don't usually attend the traditional Mass. Obviously, the centenary has engaged many people.  One or two even brought along photographs of their relatives who had fought in the First World War - very appropriate as it was for them that we were offering the Requiem Mass. The unadorned chant of the Requiem Mass provided a suitable atmosphere of reflection (although we did sing Chesterton's "O God of earth and altar" at the conclusion of the Mass.  Not that all that solemnity stopped us from enjoying one another's company afterwards (not a single sandwich, pork pie or quail's egg was left for me to enjoy as supper in the house later!)

I've often found that a Requiem Mass of some sort - All Souls or Remembrance Day - is an excellent way to introduce people to the Traditional Form of the Mass, or even to Latin or ad oreintem in the new form. Somehow, the more sober / serious or solemn atmosphere that  these forms of Mass engender seem to be more easily accepted and appreciated on such occasions.  I suppose that should tell us something - that while Mass is a celebration its not a frivolous one.  The rubrics, the Church's wider teaching on the celebration of the liturgy and all our noble tradition of chant and vesture point us to ensuring every celebration is fitting for what is, at its heart: the offering of Our Lord's sacrifice to His Heavenly Father for the redemption of our fallen humanity.  

As often as the Sacrifice of the cross by which Christ our Pasch is sacrificed (I Cor 5:7), is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out." (Lumen Gentium, 3)

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honour, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation, 
a single sword to thee.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Mass for the centenary of the First World War

For anyone who might be able to come along on Monday evening, there will be High Mass - Requiem -
to commemorate 
100 years since the start of the 
First World WAR
Britain entered the war on 4th August 1914

St Catherine’s Church
Stanifield Lane
PR25 4QG

Monday 4th August
At 7pm.
Traditional Sung Latin Mass 
in the form that the soldiers of the First World War 
would have known it.
All welcome.
Light refreshments served afterwards
in the Pope John Paul Room.