Wednesday 31 August 2016

Carmelite Monastery of the Infant of Prague

The Carmelite Sisters of Traverse City, Michigan, have undertaken a renewal of their chapel and monastery. You can see above how their chapel looks now and what it was like before!  They maintain Full Habit, Papal Enclosure, Gregorian Chant in Latin, and Ordinary and Extraordinary Form Masses. I had the opportunity to visit them earlier this year.

Their renewed cloister is now nearing completion. You can see video footage of the large crucifix centrepiece being lowered into place on their website HERE.

The Sisters have a joyous attitude to their vocation and seem to be attracting newcomers - prayers for a continued renewal in both spirit and in bricks and mortar!

Friday 19 August 2016

Ad Orientem

I lift up my eyes to the mountains.

The flurry of articles on ad orientem since Cardinal Sarah's suggestion that it should be seen much more often (in the Ordinary Form) and suggesting that this Advent would be a good time to introduce it has at least put the idea at the forefront of liturgical discussion. This is no bad thing - whatever the actual take-up of the suggestion might be.

Some of us have been following the latest advice from the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship for quite some time now.

I came across an article (from an Episcopalian pastor) who has introduced the practice and his reflections stemming from a more aesthetic approach. This doesn't mean it is only a secondary consideration, for the architecture of the built environment forms and teaches us in very many subtle ways. The terrible tower blocks of the 1960's remind us of this no less than the fact that supermarkets take great care in the layout of their premises to influence how and what we buy there.

The pastor's experience mirrored some of my own:
I received my theological education and training in liturgy under the assurance that versus populum celebration was the most ancient and liturgically correct option. All else was accursed medievalism.
Something happened to me over these years. I became more and more sensitive to the architectural violence done to so many sanctuaries in refitting them for a freestanding altar. Usually the high altar is still there against the wall, abandoned but looming in the background, while the Eucharist is celebrated at a table that often looks too small and shoehorned into the space. I wonder now about the iconoclasm perpetrated in the name of the liturgical movement.
He goes on to explain that seen through fresh eyes of someone not brainwashed by the ecclesial  hippy mantras of the 1960's, the abandonment of the high altar in favour of the picnic table sized mockeries installed before them is an obvious nonsense.
A former parishioner of mine is a Harvard-trained landscape architect. She is a wonderful person with a limited interest in Christian doctrine who enthusiastically defines herself as an Episco-Buddhist. She is sensitive to design, but with little background in theology and no axe to grind in this debate. She asked me once why the altar has been abandoned in so many of our churches. There was more theology in her observation than she knew.
He asks the question I have often asked myself when entering a church where every sight-line and every stone  directs the eye to the high altar. all this focus and direction has been abandoned and disturbed  by some obviously inferior postage stamp sized block plonked down somewhere on the sanctuary, destroying all possibility of graceful or ordered movement around the once  elegant sanctuary.  
In most refitted liturgical spaces that one encounters, the message of iconoclasm and abandonment is unavoidable. I have come to find this visual message a poignant embarrassment. What drove my elders’ compulsion to disturb and distort liturgical spaces that were based upon a completely coherent and orthodox theological rationale? Why the drive to fight the original design and turn one thing done well into a poor copy of the other?
Of the history of what is more ancient he says:
C.S. Lewis said somewhere that most laity are more interested in whether something is meat or poison than in its original position on the menu. In Letters to Malcolm, he noted that the clergy had changed Feed my sheep into Experiment on my rats. “It lays one’s devotion waste.”

One of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn't belong here.
(Here for those who are not of a certain age!)

Some friends of mine are on their way to Compostella at the moment. I recall a visit there some years ago being amazed that the great High Altar, directly under which St James' remains lie in a silver casket (where I was fortunate enough to celebrate Mass) had been abandoned for the celebration of Mass there. The link between the present celebration of Faith and the very reason for the church being there had been broken. (To say nothing of the fact that many such altars are privileged - do we no longer think that speeding souls from Purgatory is a worthwhile pursuit?)  It is a real oddity that the whole focus of the church - the Saint's relics below and the statue the pilgrims embrace above in the reredos - has been divorced from the contemporary celebration of Mass there. 

I say an "oddity" but sadly, it's one repeated again and again in churches the world over.

Again, some years ago, I concelebrated Mass in St Mark's Basilica, Venice. It's quite a large building (!) with an main altar of spiritual, artistic and cultural importance but we celebrated on a tiny, shoddy construction, with the lectern (I hesitate to call it an ambo) placed so close to the altar that you had to be careful not to knock over the (compulsory in Italy) arrangement of flowers of the end of it when proclaiming the Gospel.

Visually and subliminally, it is a message of iconaclasm, taking what is good and perverting the meaning to weaken and empty it. Who would do such a thing? Usually, such tactics are usually those of   Luther Lucifer.

Sunday 14 August 2016

Celebration Luncheon for our new St Lazarus members

The beautiful Investiture Mass celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Malcolm, with music organised by Chev Anthony Dickinson, including Mozart's Spatzen Messe as the Mass setting, was followed by a drinks reception in the grounds and a celebratory Luncheon.

A fuller report of the event  - with plenty of photographs for all who were there -
can be read at the Order's site here.

Special thanks to this young man, who serves Mass at St Catherine's.
He served the Investiture Mass with the Archbishop 
and then played classical guitar at lunch,
to much appreciation.

Saturday 13 August 2016

Mass with Archbishop Malcolm

 Archbishop Malcolm blessing with holy water as he's greeted at the door.

The Order of St Lazarus welcomed new members into its ranks recently at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool in Our Lady's Church at Lydiate, near Southport.
Each year as the Order grows, it hopefully means that we will have more members willing and able to support our fundraising efforts to help those in need here at home and some of the poorest elsewhere in the world, particularly those affected by leprosy in Sri Lanka. The Priory of Great Britain has just recently sent another £10,000 to Cardinal Ranjith in Colombo for the leprosy charity SUROL, working to rehabilitate and teach skills to those afflicted with leprosy so that they and their families can live productive and healthy lives in their own communities.

May Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose feast it was, 
bring further success to our work
for the sake of those in need.

There is a fuller account of the Mass on the Order's site.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Fundraising for the British Limbless Veteran's Association

The Vigil Service for our Investiture in Lydiate, Lancashire, was followed by a Dinner where our Grand Prior, Martin Thacker, the Baron of Fetternear, presented a cheque for £2,000 to the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire Col. Alan Jolley for the work of BLESMA (The British Limbless Veteran's Association), one of the charities Col. Jolley has been intimately involved in supporting over the years.

This is the second year we have been supporting BLESMA. It seems particularly appropriate for the Order, as, like us, it is both military and hospitaller in its concerns. A reminder amidst the rather good dinner we had, that the charitable work of supporting those in need is the distinctly spiritual and Christian bedrock of the Order. 

Though the dinner reminds us, to quote G K Chesterton, that, "“All true friendliness begins with fire and food and drink." The photographs prove give ample evidence of the friendliness of the Grand Priory!

Lots more photos at the Grand Priory of Great Britain.

St Lazarus Vigil Service

Members and friends of the Grand Priory gathered recently in the charming setting of the church of Our Lady in Lydiate, near Southport for the Vigil Service and dinner and the following day for the annual Investiture Mass and celebratory Luncheon. We had a very jolly time of it and it was great to be welcoming new members into the Order.

A full report and plenty of pictures at the Order's Great Britain site.

Monday 8 August 2016

Chavagnes Studium Marian Conference

I attended and helped out (behind the scenes - not as one of the speakers!) at the Marian Conference held at the Chavagnes Studium last week. We were blest with the company of Bishop Athanasius Schneider throughout the Conference, who also celebrated Mass on one of the days. (Though the above picture shows us after High Mass celebrated by the College Chaplain, Fr Mark Lawler.) There was Mass every day, twice in the Traditional Form and one in the Ordinary Form - throughout the week, that is, not on the same day!

Pupils of the College, past and present, assisted - both at Mass in in helping to run all the other practicalities.

Bishop Schneider gave an excellent homily on Our Blessed Lady. 





The Bishop and other clergy present celebrated early morning Masses, either in the main chapel or in the Baudouin Chapel (built over the site of the home of Venerable Fr Louis-Marie Baudouin, who founded the school as a junior seminary in 1803). Bishop Athanasius pictured here at the beautiful Lady Altar.

We visited the tomb of Venerable Fr Louis-Marie Baudouin, just a minute's walk from the Studium.


Now, it was a conference, 
so the talks and presentations were the main event.

Mr Ferdi McDermott introduces the Conference.
The presentations, talks and homilies will all be available in print in due course.

Bishop Athanasius speaking on
"The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Defence of the Faith".
His theme was that she is the destroyer of all heresies.  
Because she was the first to believe in the Incarnation 
she is also the first to destroy unbelief. 
He also spoke of the need not just for the joy of love 
(amoris laetitia) 
but also of importance of realising the joy of clarity 
(claritatis laetitia) 
in the present day Church.

Mr Ferdi McDermott introduces Fr Mark Lawler, the College Chaplain, who spoke on
"Mary as the Model of the Church in the writings of G. K. Chesterton".
Fr Lawler is presently engaged in researching for a Doctoral thesis on G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton ascribed his very faith and conversion to the Blessed Virgin.
The cult of Mary does not, Chesterton insists, lead us away from the Invisible God, as some Protestants suggest, but rather brings us back to her Son. The attempt to separate Mother and Child strikes him as futile: “those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.”
 Throughout his life Chesterton was accused of Mariolatry, of giving too high a place to Mary. He felt that since God had already given her the highest place, who was he to disagree with the Almighty. “Nothing amuses Catholics more” he wrote, “than the suggestion, in so much of the old Protestant propaganda, that they are to be freed from the superstition called Mariolatry, like people freed from the burden of daylight.”  
Although brought up in a Protestant household he knew nothing of what he described as:
That strange mania against Mariolatry; that mad vigilance that watches for the first faint signs of the cult of Mary as for the spots of a plague; that apparently presumes her to be perpetually and secretly encroaching upon the prerogatives of Christ; that logically infers from a mere glimpse of the blue robe the presence of the Scarlet Woman.
Chesterton believed any attack on the Mother of God to be literally diabolical because there was an eternal battle between the Woman and the Serpent. “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”  He sums up more than four centuries of attacks on our Blessed Mother as a "little hiss that only comes from hell."

Fr Bede Rowe, speaking on 
"Our Lady as the Ark of the Covenant".
A title, when understood with its symbolic and biblical roots, acts as a corrective to distorted Old Testament exegesis and reminds us that Mariology is not some minor branch of ecclesiology tagged on to the our understanding of the Church but as central, powerful and cosmic.

Mr Gerhard Eger speaking on
"Approaching Mary through the Sacred Liturgy".
An historical survey of Mary's place in liturgical celebrations bringing the realisation that we have lost much that is Marian in the liturgy over the years.

Despite the rigours of academe and liturgical celebration, there was also great opportunity for the human celebration and forging new friendships. Indeed, Bishop Athanasius spoke of the warmth of the atmosphere as being that of a family gathered together at the conference.

The garden was a great place to relax and enjoy a local Vendéan apéitif.

lunch and supper were served in the College Refectory.

Coffee on the terrace.

We travelled to Montagne sur Sévre to visit the tomb of St Marie Louis de Montfort by train, taking lunch on the restaurant car from the Orient Express. And very enjoyable it was!


The full title of the conference was
The Virgin Mary in Liturgy, Literature and Life,
inspired by the 300th anniversary
of his death being celebrated this year.
He is known especially for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin
and for his preaching.

We followed in the footsteps of Pope St John Paul in visiting the shrine.

Bishop Athanasius leads our devotions.

St Gregory is not particularly relevant here but I loved the pulpit decorated with the Fathers of the Church on the double set of steps leading up to it.

Some further shots around the College and visiting two of the local Chateaux nearby with connections to the college and to the very Catholic and Royalist history of the Vendée.

The college Chapel - you can just see the Baudouin Chapel to the right of the courtyard.

We were invited to a local chateau, Chardière Castle,  for cocktails one evening. It is still lived in by one of the descendants of the Count of Suzannet,  who led the Army of Lower Poitou during the  Vendée Wars in 1799. Pictured here in a painting by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse.

And to bolster my image as a sacristy priest - here are some sacristy shots!