Friday 27 November 2015

Catholic Education. Is it stupid?

I read with interest an article in today's "Telegraph" newspaper, written from an atheist's point of view about religious education. It caught my eye as Jemima Lewis' views on the subject seemed to reflect my own thoughts on the matter:
The very fact of treating religion as an academic subject, no more or less sacred than English Literature, encouraged scepticism. The Old Testament was just another text to be analysed and considered within its historical context – no more likely to contain any definitive truth than, say, Wuthering Heights.
I have long thought that while Catholic schools should teach about other religions as a matter of practical knowledge to help understand the world around us, education about our own Faith should be completely separate from this - that is, we should teach other religions under the title of "religious eduction" but our own Faith under the title of "religious instruction".  

We could teach about the Bible in English Literature but it might encourage us to think of it not as the Word of God but as interesting and possibly helpful - but only in the way that reading Dostoevsky teaches us to reflect on the world around us. That is the point that this atheist lady makes - the difference being that she thinks that's a good way to teach Christianity and I don't - for the same reasons she gives, that it actually undermines faith. This methodology seems to be exactly what our Catholic schools have been doing for quite some time now with the effects that can be lauded by atheists but lamented by those who still believe. Most people would call that stupid - and yes, leading to damnation: something about teaching others and being the least in the kingdom of heaven.

Time for a change when atheists think we're doing a good job of undermining belief?
I wouldn't recommend holding your breath!

Sunday 22 November 2015

High Mass in Warrington

Yesterday Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool entrusted the fine E. W. Pugin church of St Mary in Warrington town centre to the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) for the celebration of the Sacraments according tot he Traditional Form. This now becomes the third church in the Northwest of England to be entrusted by the local bishop to the new and thriving societies of priests celebrating the Traditional Mass in three adjoining diocese - Lancaster, Liverpool and Shrewsbury. Who could have predicted not so very long ago that the new societies set up in St John Paul II's reign and bolstered by the reinvigoration of the Church's traditions under Pope Benedict, would have brought about such fruit. God be praised!

Archbishop Malcolm is greeted at the door and sprinkles holy water. 
He entered to Parry's "I was glad".
Archbishop Malcolm 
prays in front of the Blessed Sacrament before Mass starts.

Some of the clergy in choir.

Abbot of Ampleforth Cuthbert Madden, OSB.
From its foundation in 1877 until 2012 
St Mary's Priory was served by the monks of Ampleforth. 

Prayers at the foot of the altar
for Mass of the 
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mass was celebrated by the new Rector, 
Fr Armand de Malleray, 
assisted by Deacon James Mawdsley 
and Fr Ian Verrier as sub deacon.

Deacon James Mawdsley sings the Gospel.

 The new Rector makes his Profession of Faith 
and takes the oath of Fidelity before the Archbishop.

 At the altar.

 "My Lord and my God."

The Archbishop 
and deacons at throne Throne,
Fr John Emerson for the FSSP
and Fr Sean Kirwin or the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

 Clergy from near and far.

All photographs courtesy of Mr Martin Gardner.

There was some fine music from up in the rather splendid choir loft. 
The parish is blest to have intact a strong musical tradition under the care of Michael Wynne.

Lord enthroned in heavenly spendour!

Friday 20 November 2015

Requiem Mass with the Archbishop Malcolm

It was a great delight to welcome Archbishop Malcolm 
back to the parish after his Visitation in July.
Parishioners and members and friends 
of the Order of St Lazarus gathered 
to celebrate Requiem Mass for deceased members and friends.
There is a little more on the Mass at the

The church prepared for Mass
- including the extra candle on the altar for the Archbishop's presence.

Servers from the parish  were marshalled on this occasion by 
MC Mr Charles Bradshaw.

 Cardinal Duka, the Archbishop of Prague and Chaplain General 
for the whole Order 
had kindly sent a letter to be read out 
welcoming his fellow Dominican, the Archbishop of Liverpool.

The Archbishop processed in to Sacerdos et Pontifex
by Peter Smedley
(a previous Director of Music at St Barnabas Cathedral Nottingham
 - the Archbishop's former Diocese)

His Grace, the Archbishop
is assisted by two Chaplains of the Order of St Lazarus,
Fr Aldo Tapparo and Fr William Charlton.

The parish is greatly blest to to have someone 
with both talent and knowledge to arrange all the parish music. 
Thanks to Anthony Dickinson
who arranged a superb Schola to lift our hearts in prayer,
 including Missa pro defunctis 
by Giovanni Francesco Anerio (c. 1567 –1630)
as the Mass setting.

Fr Tapparo reads the Epistle.

Archbishop Malcolm preaching. 
Mass was celebrated beautifully in Latin in the Novus Ordo. Incidentally, before those eagle-eyed in liturgical  matters note it (and they will) the Archbishop was well aware that he should have brought a plain white mitre - he was in the midst of moving house that week and could not lay his hands on it! 
We managed!

Absolutions over the catafalque.

Libera me Domine by Colin Mawby b. 1936
(written for the occasion of the Requiem Mass 
of H.E. William Cardinal Godfrey in 1963)

from the Requiem in D Minor by Gabriel Faure (1845 – 1924)
May the angels lead you into paradise; 
may the martyrs receive you at your arrival

We gathered afterwards in the St John Paul Room for a convivial meal.

His Grace, Archbishop McMahon
with the Grand Prior of Great Britain,
the Much Honoured Baron of Fetternear, Martin Thacker,
and the Baron of Craigmillar, Conf. Brian Williamson.
With Mrs Jean Spencer.

Photographs courtesy of John Robinson.

Thursday 19 November 2015

St Mary's Warrington. New FSSP Church

This coming Saturday, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady,
sees the official installment of 
the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter at St Mary’s in Warrington.

Mass is at 12 noon.

This will be a Polyphonic Solemn High Mass in the presence of local Ordinary, the Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, and of the Right Rev Cuthbert Madden OSB, Abbot of Ampleforth, whose Abbey founded and ran St Mary's Priory Church until 2012.

The music for the Mass is:

Missa for four voices : Claudio Monteverdi
Christe, Adoramus Te :  Claudio Monteverdi
Ave Maria : Tomas Luis de Victoria

Mass will be followed by refreshments.

Saint Mary's Catholic Church,
Buttermarket Street,
If you are coming by car,
 park somewhere in the town centre and walk to the church.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Real Church Architecture

Architect Duncan Stroik speaking on the St Benedict Forum. On October 15, 2015, Duncan Stroik gave a fascinating lecture, entitled, “Architecture for the Poor.”  He asked: What sort of architecture is appropriate for the poor? Should the buildings we construct for the disenfranchised express their poverty through economical materials, humble proportions, and functionalist interiors? Do beautiful, ornate churches disregard those who struggle for basic comforts? A rousing, thirty-minute Q & A session followed his talk.

I would be willing to bet that most architects that deal with our Catholic churches today - certainly in the UK - do not have much of an understanding of church architecture, never mind being practising Catholics. So it is that "re-orderings" are carried out by architects more used to designing dentist's waiting rooms and sports arena, with the obvious result that the church then looks like a dentist's waiting room or a sports arena.  Duncan is a practising Catholic and has a great depth of understanding about the history, function and meaning of buildings meant for worship.  Such are the people we should look to for building and "re-ordering" our churches.

Is the seeming terror of making our churches look like churches - part of the hermeneutic of rupture - a comment on our fear of proclaiming the Faith as different from the world around us? Part of a lack of confidence in the Faith, in fact, a lack of faith altogether. The alleged "modern" church building reflects back the comfortable backdrop of the secular world around us. No challenge, no proclamation, no beauty, no faith.

How's that working for you?

Saturday 14 November 2015

Prayer of Pope Leo XIII for Peace

O Lord, you see how everywhere the winds have burst forth,
and the sea is convulsed with the great violence of the rising waves.
Command, we beseech you who alone are able,
both the winds and the sea.
Restore to mankind the true peace of your name,
that peace which the world cannot give,
and the calm of social harmony.
Under your favour and inspiration may men return to due order,
and having overthrown the rule of greed,
bring back again as ought to be,
the love of God, justice,
charity toward neighbour,
temperance in all desires.
May your kingdom come.
May all recognize that they are subject to you,
and must serve you who are truth and salvation;
that without you they labour in vain.
In your law is reason and fatherly kindness.
You are ever at hand with your strength
and your copious power to help man to keep it.
Life upon earth is a warfare,
but you watch the contest and aim man to conquer.
The weak you sustain;
the victor you crown.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Elements of the Catholic Mass

The Liturgical Institute at Mundelein is presenting a series of short videos (2-4 minutes) and study guides on the liturgy entitled "Elements of the Catholic Mass". They are short and to the point and seem very sensible and orthodox, explaining some commonly held modern  misconceptions. 

Two up already: "The Meaning of the Liturgy" and "Intelligent Worship".  I'm going to use them in the parish.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Is the Reform of the Reform Dead?

Pope Benedict smiling encouragement.

Last week in my parish we celebrated a Requiem Mass in the modern form of the Roman Rite in Latin - at least mostly in Latin, the Readings and the Collects were in English. It was celebrated with great grace by the Archbishop, assisted by two deacons and with excellent music - mostly Latin but with some English Hymns and two English motets. It was very prayerful, not overly fussy and enhanced by an excellent homily by Archbishop Malcolm on, amongst other things, the comfort of purgatory.

A parishioner told me yesterday that he had spoken to a visitor from a nearby parish who had attended who was convinced that what he had attended was the Traditional Form of the Roma Rite, the Usus Antiquior or Extraordinary Form, as it is sometimes called.  No harm to the man - he wasn't speaking against it - and it is through no fault of his that he has never experienced the New Form of the Roman Rite in a way that expresses continuity with the Mass of Ages that nourished the faithful in more or less the same form for hundreds of years. No fault of his, but a tragedy and a fundamental flaw in the celebration of the Mass since the changes following the Second Vatican Council.

I speak, of course, not of the changes mandated or suggested by the Council, but of the non-mandated changes experienced in so many places, of innovations, additions and subtractions brought in from foreign traditions, from Protestant worship, from Buddhist practice, from the children's birthday party and from the television game show.  The practices introduced in so many western parishes that are only envisaged in the documents that mandate them only for emergency situations (General Absolution) or in places where there is no priest to celebrate on a Sunday (Eucharistic Services).

Thus we end up in a place where a Mass with many of these elements in it can be regarded as perfectly usual but where a Mass imbued with our Catholic heritage, tradition and riches is seen as unusual. 

Under Pope Benedict, there was a great resurgence of enthusiasm and hope for the celebration of the Liturgy - and I don't mean just some new trinket dug out of from the back of the sacristy cupboard (as it might be styled by some). I mean a resurgence of the Liturgical Movement in its proper sense. For all the tradition of the authentic Liturgical Movement in what it desired was centred on two things: 
A return to authentic tradition (and this doesn't have to be set in stone at the arbitrary date of somewhere in the fourth century).
A call for fuller and more conscious participation on the part of the laity (and the clergy, I suppose!) And I don't mean the shibboleth of "active participation" meaning everyone up on the sanctuary with a line or action to carry out like some primary school class where no-one wants to leave out the shy children. (I think being ushered up onto the sanctuary to act as the equivalent of "third sheep in the crib scene" is rather patronising.)

The Reform of the Reform is associated with Pope Benedict and there has been discussion as to where it should lead but whatever the differing aims of those who proposed it and tried to move towards it, it can only have been to the good. Recapturing the heart of our Tradition and nurturing a better understanding of what we do - whether in the liturgy or in Religious Orders being called back to their original charism - is the way the Church has always renewed herself. Not in slavish archeologicalism but in true renewal; never rejecting its past but rather building on it. A hermeneutic of continuity going all the way back to the Apostles. Surely, the Church can have no other hermeneutic.

So, is the Reform of the Reform still alive? I think it is. Without the excitement of leadership by example from the top, certainly. It is not controversial to say that Pope Francis does not appear to have any great interest in the liturgy, which I personally think is a great loss, for it is at Mass that most ordinary Catholics - the poor, the sinful, the struggling, the faithful - actually experience the Faith, gain grace and strength to live the Faith and come together as the Body of Christ. Surely then, a powerful tool for nurturing and evangelising and building up the faithful to go out and bear witness by their lives.  But I digress.

Many priests with zeal and drive, many of the priests that haven't given up, many of the younger priests are, I think, as I meet them from up and down the country, quietly putting into practice the Reform of the Reform. They are exploring anew the riches of our tradition which lift the heart and mind to God, for how difficult that is in our modern society and we will not do it by detaching ourselves from our history nor by imitating the televisual jollity of the game show. I may sometimes make a poor priest but I make an even worse comedian!

So yes, it is still unusual (witness the visitor to Mass last week) but it is also no longer abhorred as it was, no longer dismissed (as it was in my seminary days), no longer (wrong-headedly) forbidden, no longer unheard of. Those of us engaged in it no longer feel pushed to the peripheries.

Deo Gratias.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Bad Catholic Music

cartoon by Christian Adams

Having just experienced the sound of wonderful liturgical music here in our little parish this week when Archbishop Malcolm McMahon came to celebrate a Requiem Mass for the Holy Souls (post and pictures to follow), Damien Thompson's post on the state of sacred music had a particular resonance  for me. The post is well worth a read; knocking down some of the myths sometimes applied to sacred music of the past. It doesn't have to be that way, as experience in this little parish teaches me, though you do need the help of a willing and able musician. My experience visiting Chevagnes College recently also shows that young people can enthusiastically embrace good Catholic music.
"I can’t speak for other denominations, but I’m convinced that the distinctive awfulness of the music in many Catholic parishes helps explain why Mass attendance has fallen off a cliff since the 1970s...
 ...Bad Catholic Music (BCM for short) is uniquely inauthentic. It doesn’t sound like any other sort of music. Whether “inspired” by folk, jazz or chant, BCM has the knack of always sounding more or less the same.
There’s no precedent in the history of church music for such a clumsy cobbling together of musical ideas and styles."

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Requiem Mass this Friday

If anyone is able to get here on Friday evening, we are fortunate to be welcoming Archbishop Malcolm McMahon to celebrate a Requiem Mass in this month of November. It should be worth coming along. Some excellent music and a hot supper afterwards! The music includes:

Sacerdos et Pontifex by Peter Smedley (Director of Music at St Barnabas Cathedral Nottingham from 1964 – 2003 d. 2012)

Missa pro defunctis by Giovanni Francesco Anerio (c. 1567 –1630)

IN PARADISUM from the Requiem in D Minor by Gabriel Faure (1845 – 1924)

May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your arrival

Libera me Domine by Colin Mawby b. 1936 (this piece of music was written for the occasion of the Requiem Mass of H.E. William Cardinal Godfrey in 1963)

Mass is at 7.30pm
Friday 6th November
St Catherine Labouré
Stanifield Lane
PR25 4QG

Monday 2 November 2015

First High Mass

On Saturday 31st October recently ordained Canon Scott Tanner celebrated a "First Mass" at the Shrine of Ss Peter and Paul and St Philomena in New Brighton on the Wirral Peninsula, in the presence of Mgr Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King. Along with a sizeable congregation and several other priests, I sat in choir in this church where I made my first Holy Communion (some few years ago now!) My thanks to Mike Barnsdall for kind permission to use his photographs. You can see a whole load more of them on his site here.

 It was a little windy down by the sea-side that day!

 Canon Tanner looks very happy to be celebrating Mass.

 Mgr Wach, Prior General.

 Some further photographs of the Mass.

 Mgr Wach presents a papal blessing to the new priest.

 An Indulgence gained on receiving the new priet'sblessing.

 A spendid Reception was held afterwards
in the nearby Hollins Hey Hotel.