Monday, 24 April 2017

Ramsgate Colloquium

Descent of Christ Into Limbo

Dialogos Institute
Colloquium on Limbo

The doctrine of Limbo has been a subject of controversy for nearly seventy years. What is the state of those who depart this life with original sin only? Is it possible to maintain that no souls do depart this life in such a way? Intimately tied to the question of the 'natural desire for God' and to the dispute over the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, Limbo occupies a strategically vital position in the theological landscape.

The Colloquium will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre, in Ramsgate (run by the Vincentian Fathers, and next door to the recently-established shrine of St Augustine of Canterbury, which by then will be restored to the form in which Pugin built it.) It will be the Institute's second colloquium, the first having been in Norcia on Dignitatis Humanae.

One of the speakers is Lawrence Feingold, author of The Natural Desire to see God according to St Thomas and his interpreters,  an important riposte to the De Lubacian tendency in modern theology. He will be speaking about Maritain's ideas on Limbo. Another speaker is Alyssa Pitstick, who wrote an acclaimed critique of von Balthasar's theology of Holy Saturday.

The cost of the conference is £150, but £75 for seminarians. That includes accommodation from Thursday night to Sunday morning, and all meals from Friday morning to Sunday morning (meals on Friday and Saturday evening will be taken with the speakers, in a local restaurant, not at the retreat centre.)

Further details HERE.

The Dialogos Institute is a Romano-Byzantine theological institute in Norcia, Italy devoted to the study of the patristic heritage in the spirit of Latin and Byzantine Thomism.

Returning to the sources of the faith through the Socratic method of disputation, the members of the Dialogos Institute seek to contribute to the renewal of Catholic Theology and Philosophy and an authentically Christian social order through fidelity to the united witness of the holy Fathers.

The Institute pursues these aims through conferences, publications and programmes of study illustrating the unity of the Church's traditions eastern and western, patristic and scholastic, clerical and lay.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Holy Week at St Catherine's, Farington


I'm greatly looking forward to Holy Week this year.
Some excellent music to enhance our celebrations.
These posters give some indications of our musical offerings,
(click on them to enlarge).
NB. For our regulars, please note the different Masses on Easter Sunday morning.

For the rest of the week:
Monday: Mass at 9.30am OF
Mass on Tuesday at 12 noon EF
Mass on Wednesday at 9.30am OF

Confessions on Holy Thursday after Mass
and on Good Friday after the Passion

Wednesday, 5 April 2017


I have just come across this site for priests hoping to keep physically - as well as spiritually - fit. 
Priestfit - they are on Facebook too - a closed group if you want to become a member. I thought it was interesting, as anything that supports priests in their life and ministry is surely a good thing. It's easy to forget that the body is the temple of the soul: Catechism 364. The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.

Since I turned 50 a couple of years ago, I've made more regularised efforts to keep fit. Probably just as well, as our oldest priest in the Archdiocese has only just retired - aged 101. If I'm to keep going that long, I'll need all the help I can get!

Priestfit describe themselves:
Priestfit started from two priests needing encouragement, prayer and support. Today we are building a network of support and casting a vision to Eat Clean, Be Fit, Pray Well. We want to show the power of God’s grace to bring strength amidst weakness. As we’ve noted, priests are sadly dying on the job. Our message is to save lives and strengthen callings.

Summer Conference: further details

A splendid view of the college chapel amidst the town.

There is now a detailed page of the Summer Conference Here.

Mary and Martyrdom
A joyful Conference with a serious theme dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Monday 31st July 2017

Transport from airport in Nantes arranged free of charge.
18.30 Apéritif
19.00 Dinner

Tuesday 2nd August

Early morning private Masses
8.00- 8.45: Continental buffet breakfast.
From 9.00: Registration, administration, socialising.
10.00: Welcome session, with opening remarks from Ferdi McDermott, Father Mark Lawler and other members of the speakers’ panel.
10.45: Coffee
11.15: “Mary as the air that we breathe”:   The Marian spirituality of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ferdi McDermott.
12.15: Solemn High Mass, in the Extraordinary Form.
St Peter ad Vincula, and celebration of Lammas Day, with the blessing of Lammas loaves.
13.30 : Lunch

14.30: “The Marian Devotion of Father Frederick William Faber”, Father Sebastian Jones, Cong Orat.
15.30: “A liturgy for laymen: A study of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, Anthony Dickinson.
16:30 Tea
17:00 Speaker, to be announced.
18.15: Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary
18.30: Vespers from the Little Office.
19.00 Apéritif, with musical entertainment.
19.30 Dinner
21.15: Compline

Wednesday 2nd August

Early morning private Masses

8.00- 8.30: Buffet English/continental breakfast.
8.45: Speaker to be announced.
9.30: Pontifical Mass of Our Lady in the Extraordinary Form. Celebrant to be confirmed.
11.00 – 16:00 Excursion either to St Laurent sur Sèvre or Le Château de la Chabotterie, (castle and museum dedicated to the Vendée counter-revolution.)  Details not yet finalised. Special meal.
16.00: Return coach to Chavagnes
16.30 Tea
17.00: “Our Lady’s suffering in the plan of salvation and Christian life”, speaker to be announced.
18.00: Vespers and Benediction.
19.00: Apéritif
19.30: Dinner
21.15 Compline

Thursday 4th August

Early morning private Masses
8.00- 8.45: Buffet English/continental breakfast.
9.00: “Mary in the teachings of St John Paul II”; Father Jason Jones.
10.00: “A tribute to The martyrs of the Vendée”, Ferdi McDermott.
11.00 Coffee
11.30: “Title to be confirmed”, Father Mark Lawler
12.20: Sung Mass in the Ordinary Form.
13.40: Lunch
14.40 : “The Sufferings of Mary in the Liturgy”, Gerhard Eger
16.00 : Concluding reflections, discussion, questions:
17.00: Tea
17.45: Joyful mysteries of the Rosary.
18.00: Pontifical Vespers
19.00 Aperitif
19.30 Dinner
21.15 Compline

Friday 5th August

Early morning private Masses
From 7.30-9.30; Buffet continental breakfast

Transport to airport, or stations, etc.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Chavagnes Summer Conference: Our Lady & Martydom

Anyone looking for an interesting and enjoyable visit to France this summer could find what they are seeking in the Chavagnes Summer Conference on Our Lady & Martydom.
We had a unique experience last year, as you can see from these photos...









or use the e-mail below to request further details.

Rite that was the riches of the poor

(Picture - assisting Bishop Schneider at Mass in the chapel at Chavagnes International College last year during their Summer Conference.NB See here for this year's Conference.) 

A very interesting essay by Martin Mosebach, entitiled "Return to the Form"  on First Things.

A couple of my favourite bits:

The great damage caused by the liturgical revolution after Vatican II consists above all in the way in which the Church lost the conviction with which all Catholics—illiterate goatherds, maids and laborers, Descartes and Pascal—naturally took part in the Church’s sacred worship. Up until then, the rite was among the riches of the poor, who, through it, entered into a world that was otherwise closed to them. They experienced in the old Mass the life to come as well as life in the present, an experience of which only artists and mystics are otherwise capable. This loss of shared transcendence available to the most humble cannot be repaired for generations, and this great loss is what makes the ill-considered reform of the Mass so reprehensible. It is a moral outrage that those who gutted the Roman Rite because of their presumption and delusion were permitted to rob a future generation of their full Catholic inheritance.

The vast majority of the faithful have in the meantime never known anything else but the revised Mass in its countless manifestations. They have lost any sense of the spiritual wealth of the Church and in many cases simply are not capable of following the old rite. They should not be criticized on account of this. The Tridentine Mass demands a lifetime of education, and the post-conciliar age is characterized, among other things, by the widespread abandonment of religious instruction. The Catholic religion with its high number of believers has actually become the most unknown religion in the world, especially to its own adherents. While there are many Catholics who feel repelled and offended by the superficiality of the new rite as it is frequently celebrated today, by the odious music, the puritanical kitsch, the trivialization of dogma, and the profane character of new church buildings, the gap that has opened up in the forty years between the traditional rite and the new Mass is very deep, often unbridgeable. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Cardinal Sarah's Address on the 10th Anniversary of "Summorum Pontificum"

"Catholic World Report" carries the text of a message from Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, speaking about the Traditional Form of the Mass and its continuing relevance and importance in the Church today. You can read the full text HERE but below are some highlights below.

In his Letter to the Bishops that accompanied the Motu proprio, Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained that the purpose for his decision to have the two missals coexist was not only to satisfy the wishes of certain groups of the faithful who are attached to the liturgical forms prior to the Second Vatican Council, but also to allow for the mutual enrichment of the two forms of the same Roman rite, in other words, not only their peaceful coexistence but also the possibility of perfecting them by emphasizing the best features that characterize them. He wrote in particular that “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal....  The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.” These then are the terms in which the Pope emeritus expressed his desire to re-launch the “liturgical movement”. In parishes where it has been possible to implement the Motu proprio, pastors testify to the greater fervor both in the faithful and in the priests, as Father Rodheudt himself can bear witness. They have also noted a repercussion and a positive spiritual development in the way of experiencing Eucharistic liturgies according to the Ordinary Form, particularly the rediscovery of postures expressing adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: kneeling, genuflection, etc., and also greater recollection characterized by the sacred silence that should mark the important moments of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, so as to allow the priests and the faithful to interiorize the mystery of faith that is being celebrated. It is true also that liturgical and spiritual formation must be encouraged and promoted. 

Many priests testify that this is a stimulating task, because they are conscious of working for the liturgical renewal, of contributing their own efforts to the “liturgical movement” that we were just talking about, in other words, in reality, to this mystical and spiritual renewal that is therefore missionary in character, which was intended by the Second Vatican Council, to which Pope Francis is vigorously calling us. The liturgy must therefore always be reformed so as to be more faithful to its mystical essence. But most of the time, this “reform” that replaced the genuine “restoration” intended by the Second Vatican Council was carried out in a superficial spirit and on the basis of only one criterion: to suppress at all costs a heritage that must be perceived as totally negative and outmoded so as to excavate a gulf between the time before and the time after the Council. Now it is enough to pick up the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy again and to read it honestly, without betraying its meaning, to see that the true purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to start a reform that could become the occasion for a break with Tradition, but quite the contrary, to rediscover and to confirm Tradition in its deepest meaning.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tirelessly repeated that the crisis that has shaken the Church for fifty years, chiefly since Vatican Council II, is connected with the crisis of the liturgy, and therefore to the lack of respect, the desacralization and the leveling of the essential elements of divine worship. “I am convinced,” he writes, “that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.”

However we cannot close our eyes to the disaster, the devastation and the schism that the modern promoters of a living liturgy caused by remodeling the Church’s liturgy according to their ideas. They forgot that the liturgical act is not just a PRAYER, but also and above all a MYSTERY in which something is accomplished for us that we cannot fully understand but that we must accept and receive in faith, love, obedience and adoring silence. And this is the real meaning of active participation of the faithful. It is not about exclusively external activity, the distribution of roles or of functions in the liturgy, but rather about an intensely active receptivity: this reception is, in Christ and with Christ, the humble offering of oneself in silent prayer and a thoroughly contemplative attitude. The serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops, has made us incapable of understanding the Eucharistic liturgy as a sacrifice, as identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner, throughout the Church, through different ages, places, peoples and nations. There is often a sacrilegious tendency to reduce the Holy Mass to a simple convivial meal, the celebration of a profane feast, the community’s celebration of itself, or even worse, a terrible diversion from the anguish of a life that no longer has meaning or from the fear of meeting God face to face, because His glance unveils and obliges us to look truly and unflinchingly at the ugliness of our interior life. But the Holy Mass is not a diversion. It is the living sacrifice of Christ who died on the cross to free us from sin and death, for the purpose of revealing the love and the glory of God the Father. Many Catholics do not know that the final purpose of every liturgical celebration is the glory and adoration of God, the salvation and sanctification of human beings.

When young people are absent from the holy Liturgy, we must ask ourselves: Why? We must make sure that the celebrations according to the usus recentior (the newer form of the Mass) facilitate this encounter too, that they lead people on the path of the via pulchritudinis (the way of beauty) that leads through her sacred rites to the living Christ and to the work within His Church today. Indeed, the Eucharist is not a sort of “dinner among friends”, a convivial meal of the community, but rather a sacred Mystery, the great Mystery of our faith, the celebration of the Redemption accomplished by Our Lord Jesus Christ, the commemoration of the death of Jesus on the cross to free us from our sins. It is therefore appropriate to celebrate Holy Mass with the beauty and fervor of the saintly Curé of Ars, of Padre Pio or Saint Josemaría, and this is the sine qua non condition for arriving at a liturgical reconciliation “by the high road”, if I may put it that way.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Traditional Latin Mass

Some of you may have seen this on Facebook but I thought I'd post it here as well.
Thanks to  Incarnation Catholic Church in Tampa, FL. and to Two Sense Films.
(And yes, I know that strictly speaking, it should not be called the "Tridentine" Mass but we all know what that shorthand refers to.)

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Catholic Man

This is not new but I have only just come across it and thought it worth sharing.  I know that some priests have been starting up groups specifically for men to explore their faith and develop some sort of spirituality in the modern world - and in the modern Church. 

I was reminded of my time in VI Form and school Chaplaincy, where my best access to pupils and ways in to discuss matters of faith, was often through the welcome given in departments well away from the Religious Education Department. For example, the Head of Sports happened to be a committed and practising Catholic (and "no" that is rarely a given in our "Catholic" schools today). He rarely talked about his faith directly but he had strict rules about things like bad language and fairness on the games field and being seen giving a welcome to the Chaplain encouraged the students to welcome me too. 

The quiet assurance and manifestation of the Faith in the ordinary course of the workplace or school is all too rare today - particularly among men, I think. This is precisely where the Second Vatican Council speaks of the vocation and mission of the laity out there in the world. A strange paradox that since then, all those organisations of lay men engaging with the world seem to be floundering - the SVP... YCW... men's solidarities and walking days etc.

I'm reminded also, that it is possible to run a Catholic school with Catholic staff where the Faith is given pride of place in a way which makes it an ordinary and expected part of everyday life - in  a place like Chavagnes International College.

This from Roman Catholic Man.

In a powerfully worded apostolic exhortation, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, has urged men to “not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you.”

In a 23-page exhortation, entitled “Into the Breach,” Bishop Olmsted challenges men to join in a “primarily spiritual” battle against forces that are “progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our homes.”

“Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.

The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident. Since AD 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, infant baptism has dropped by 28%, adult baptism has dropped by 31%, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. This is a serious breach, a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines …

One of the key reasons that the Church is faltering under the attacks of Satan is that many Catholic men have not been willing to “step into the breach” – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack. A large number have left the faith, and many who remain “Catholic” practice the faith timidly and are only minimally committed to passing the faith on to their children. Recent research shows that large numbers of young Catholic men are leaving the faith to become “nones” – men who have no religious affiliation. The growing losses of young Catholic men will have a devastating impact on the Church in America in the coming decades, as older men pass away and young men fail to remain and marry in the Church, accelerating the losses that have already occurred.

These facts are devastating. As our fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, and friends fall away from the Church, they fall deeper and deeper into sin, breaking their bonds with God and leaving them vulnerable to the fires of Hell. While we know that Christ welcomes back every repentant sinner, the truth is that large numbers of Catholic men are failing to keep the promises they made at their children’s baptisms – promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the Church.

This crisis is evident in the discouragement and disengagement of Catholic men like you and me. In fact, this is precisely why I believe this Exhortation is needed, and it is also the reason for my hope, for God constantly overcomes evil with good. The joy of the Gospel is stronger than the sadness wrought by sin! A throw-away culture cannot withstand the new life and light that constantly radiates from Christ. So I call upon you to open your minds and hearts to Him, the Savior who strengthens you to step into the breach!


A rather large and important study conducted by the Swiss government in 1994 and published in 2000 revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values. In short, the study reveals: “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”

The study reports:

1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.

2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

3. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!

What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Amazingly, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and up to 44 percent with the non-practicing. This suggests that loyalty to the father’s commitment grows in response to the mother’s laxity or indifference to religion.

In short, if a father does not go to church – no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions – only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the message to their children is that God should be taken seriously.

This confirms the essential role of father as spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, modeling the love of the Father in their most important earthly relationship. Fathers are to care for their children as our Father in heaven cares for us and finally, fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about reality. It is the father who should instruct his children in their understanding of the world from a consciously and informed Christian worldview. It is the father who is essential for sending his children forth with a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in solid understanding.

It is time for fathers to return to honorable manhood and reconsider their priorities and realign them with God’s commands, decrees, and laws, teaching these things to your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Journal of the Chavagnes Studium

The latest issue of the Journal of the Chavagnes Studium is now available on-line, with some interesting articles on 
"Why we need the Truth".

It is also advertising their next Summer Conference on 

Mary and Martyrdom.

Click on poster to enlarge.

You can read some reports of last year's great conference 


and plenty of photos HERE.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Clergy Day at Warrington

Food and fellowship at St Mary's. Always a friendly welcome from the Fathers and a chance to meet.

Next Clergy Day: Wednesday 15 March
At St Mary's Warrington, car park accessed via Smith Street WA1 2NS

1pm Lunch at nearby restaurant (meet at St Mary's at 1pm and walk there together)
2pm Coffee and 30mins Talk on 'St Joseph: a model for priests' - by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP

For Satnav, access our car park by Smith Street WA1 2NS

Should you wish to arrive earlier to pray:
Church open from 11am, with Rosary at 11.30am and Confessions from 11.40am until 12.05pm, followed by Mass at 12.10pm.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Can Liturgy Heal a Secular Age?

Via the New Liturgical Movement I came across an article by Timothy O'Malley in Church Life Journal: Can Liturgy Heal a Secular Age? It's an interesting read, starting from the premise of Fr. Lambert Beauduin, often regarded as the founder of the liturgical movement, that:
renewed attention to liturgical formation would re-awaken Christian vigour in society. That Liturgical prayer would be the key to avoiding secularization, to forming men and women, in a public religiosity that could transfigure cultural and social life with the Eucharistic love of Christ.
In the intervening years, it’s fair to say that the hopes of the liturgical movement have been unmet. Participation in the sacramental life of the Church has not flourished since the Second Vatican Council.
He goes on to put into academic terms one of my constantly recurring themes in my own preaching: that we have lost the connection with our Tradition and replaced it with secular markers and means of assessing efficacy:
Religion provides a privileged culture whereby we can connect our narrative to those in the past. We see ourselves in a broader story, one that is ultimately connected to God. With the loss of religious memory, the human person is no longer able to see one’s identity as linked to the communion of saints, to the Scriptures, to the Tradition: all those markers we employ in assessing Catholic identity. Thus, all that is left is the naked individual who can assess the “efficacy” of a religious tradition by the way that said tradition moves him. If it doesn’t move the person, then it has no value, because it is an isolated fact rather than part of a coherent narrative.
He continues by reminding us that the Liturgical Movement's account presumed that understanding alone would be able to bring about this renewal. But then notes that in recent times this classical understanding has been critiqued. That what really makes ritual "work" is not merely understanding it from an academic or intellectual viewpoint  (the world "as is", as he puts it) but rather by it giving us something to experience that connects us with a larger whole on a more emotional, aesthetic and intuitive level, (creating a world as it might be "as if", as he puts it):
In this sense, one could argue that liturgical catechesis and reform about the Second Vatican Council was inadequate relative to how ritual action actually works. It sought to explain. It assumed that if more was taught, then more would be caught. Yet, explanation is not the function of liturgy. Ritual does something before it communicates something.
This restoration of a broken world through ritual action is essential to understanding how liturgical might “heal” in a secular age. Liturgical prayer isn’t about communication of information. It is about creating a world “as if,” one that Catholics understand as a sacramental world not yet visible to the naked eye. Authentic participation in the rite can thus take place even when someone does not entirely understand what is unfolding in the Eucharistic assembly. One can understand, through ritual bracketing, that this action is about the restoration of communion between heaven and earth, between God and humanity, between neighbor and neighbor.
The more that our liturgical practice seems drawn from the present world, from that which emphasizes comprehension and sincerity of belief, the less the contemporary human person will see ritual as necessary.
It struck me that the same understanding is very much on show in the political sphere of recent times. Disillusioned people who voted for Mr Trump or for Brexit have not necessarily done so having understood all the intricacies and consequences but because the overall narrative (the "liturgy" of the campaigns) moved their hearts to what they would like the world to be: not the "as is" they have been experiencing but the "as if" they connect to and hope for as something better, greater and more cohesive.

What is good about the article is that in the final part he gives some direction answering the questions instead of just posing them, which we don't often hear!
Liturgical prayer should be understood as part of the chain of memory. We should admit to ourselves that some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, not intentionally, cut us off from dimensions of this memory that linked us to our forebears. The suppression of certain liturgical feasts, the disappearance of much liturgical art, the decline of devotional dimensions from Catholic life—all of these have created a gap in the chain of memory that linked the Church to the past. We cannot go back and restore this chain of memory as some traditionalists seem to argue. Liturgical prayer will always take place in a post-conciliar Church even if it is the Extraordinary Form. But we can acknowledge that the story of salvation commemorated in liturgical prayer was present in every age, connecting us to those who have gone before... What is needed in Catholicism is a form of liturgical study and research that draws upon all the practices of the Church through the ages. The next liturgical reform should not privilege one era because it was viewed as an authentic way for communicating Christian identity (versus another era in which all was wrong). Instead, the whole scope of Christian identity as a story through the ages should enter into the picture of liturgical renewal and reform. And where it is appropriate in the present rite, it would be acceptable to introduce aspects of the past in today’s liturgy. The possibility, for example, of ad orientem worship, should not be dismissed as some bygone, retrograde, conservative conspiracy. It is simply a restoring of a posture of prayer that has been performed in the past and could be again, connecting us to Christians who have come before. It has theological validity. And it could be attractive precisely because it provides a missing link in a chain of memory.
Restoring a Culture: Lastly, Romano Guardini himself noted that the renewal of the liturgy required a restoration of civilization... Perhaps, the most important dimension of counteracting secularity through liturgy today is not related to the liturgy. It’s related to alternative forms of education that teach children to contemplate, to appreciate, to love, and thus to find themselves worshiping. It is about restoring the capacity to perceive the world “as if,” in art and literature, music and science. It is about wonder. If this capacity for wonder is not restored in homes and in schools, it will never appear in Church. And secularity will continue to be a highly effective catechetical program, more than anything that we can offer...
In other words,what is most important is not the understanding of the liturgy but the "falling in love with it" and connecting to the memory of salvation in beauty, art, wonder experienced through ritual.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Church Music

We are very fortunate here at St Catherine's to have the talents of gifted and dedicated musician to lift the standard of the liturgy up towards something approaching what we believe the Church asks us to aspire to. That is to say, not just the "hymn sandwich" and with some awareness that church music has a little longer and richer history than the last 50 years. Not to mention the Church's ACTUAL directives on music in church, pointing us to chant, latin, the use of the organ and the summoning up of an atmosphere of silence and reverence during the liturgy.

Thus at the main (OF) Sunday Mass with music...

We enter to the Introit chanted in Latin. 
The Psalm is often chanted responsorially with the congregation.
Kyrie / Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus are always a setting of one of the traditional chants set by the Church.
Offertory and Communion chants in Latin from the Missal.
Very often the Pater noster and following is sung.
And yes, we have two or three suitable, seasonal hymns.

And no, Mass isn't very long to fit all that in, because there are no accretions to the liturgy which are not mentioned in the Missal - such as the sending out of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion or the receiving of extraordinary gifts by reams of children at the Offertory, or the gathering of "little church" processions, nor the insertion of "extra" homilies by Father at eh start or end of Mass (or anywhere else).

This week saw the 50th anniversary of the Instruction Musicam Sacram (promulgated March 5, 1967). To mark this occasion, a Declaration “CANTATE DOMINO CANTICUM NOVUM”, was signed by over 200 musicians, pastors, and scholars from around the world, has been published in six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German). This declaration argues for the continued relevance and importance of traditional sacred music and critiques the numerous serious deviations from it that have plagued the Catholic Church for the past half-century.

I've placed the whole text below and it makes some excellent points.

Vatican Radio also reports this week that Pope Francis received the participants in a major international conference on sacred music, a half-century after the promulgation of the Conciliar document, Musicam sacram.

Over 400 people taking part in the gathering organised by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture around the theme: "Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram", met in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace to hear the Holy Father.

Notable are Pope Francis’ remarks of perhaps, unintended consequences of poor implementation of Vatican II: 

“Certainly,” said Pope Francis, “the encounter with modernity and the introduction of [vernacular] tongues into the Liturgy stirred up many problems: of musical languages, forms and genres.”

The Holy father went on to say, “Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.”

Myriad reasons contribute to our culture of mediocrity in the liturgy: an acceptance of superficial comfort food as status quo. As such, Pope Francis goes on to urge renewal of our traditions with an emphasis on “quality”.

The Pope encouraged the various actors in the field of liturgical music – from composers, conductors, musicians and choristers, to liturgical animators – to do their best to contribute to the renewal of sacred music and liturgical chant, especially as far as the quality of sacred music is concerned.

He goes on further to emphasize the urgent need for musical education especially in seminaries:
“To facilitate this process,” Pope Francis said, “we need to promote proper musical education, especially for those who are preparing to become priests – in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of the different cultural areas, and with an ecumenical attitude.”

God deserves our best. God’s people deserve our best! Pope Francis is calling for music education and for a greater attention to quality.

St Cecilia, pray for us.

A Statement on the Current Situation of Sacred Music

We, the undersigned—musicians, pastors, teachers, scholars, and lovers of sacred music—humbly offer to the Catholic community around the world this statement, expressing our great love for the Church’s treasury of sacred music and our deep concerns about its current plight. Introduction Cantate Domino canticum novum, cantate Domino omnis terra (Psalm 96): this singing to God’s glory has resonated for the whole history of Christianity, from the very beginning to the present day. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition alike bear witness to a great love for the beauty and power of music in the worship of Almighty God. The treasury of sacred music has always been cherished in the Catholic Church by her saints, theologians, popes, and laypeople. 

Such love and practice of music is witnessed to throughout Christian literature and in the many documents that the Popes have devoted to sacred music, from John XXII’s Docta Sanctorum Patrum (1324) and Benedict XIV’s Annus Qui (1749) down to Saint Pius X’s Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), Pius XII’s Musicae Sacrae Disciplina (1955), Saint John Paul II’s Chirograph on Sacred Music (2003), and so on. This vast amount of documentation impels us to take with utter seriousness the importance and the role of music in the liturgy. This importance is related to the deep connection between the liturgy and its music, a connection that goes two ways: a good liturgy allows for splendid music, but a low standard of liturgical music also tremendously affects the liturgy. Nor can the ecumenical importance of music be forgotten, when we know that other Christian traditions—such as Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Eastern Orthodox—have high esteem for the importance and dignity of sacred music, as witnessed by their own jealously-guarded “treasuries.” 

We are observing an important milestone, the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, Musicam Sacram, on March 5, 1967, under the pontificate of Blessed Paul VI. Re-reading the document today, we cannot avoid thinking of the via dolorosa of sacred music in the decades following Sacrosanctum Concilium. Indeed, what was happening in some factions of the Church at that time (1967) was not at all in line with Sacrosantum Concilium or with Musicam Sacram. Certain ideas that were never present in the Council’s documents were forced into practice, sometimes with a lack of vigilance from clergy and ecclesiastical hierarchy. In some countries the treasury of sacred music that the Council asked to be preserved was not only not preserved, but even opposed. And this quite against the Council, which clearly stated: 
The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord. Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon 2 the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship. (SC 112) 
The Current Situation.

 In light of the mind of the Church so frequently expressed, we cannot avoid being concerned about the current situation of sacred music, which is nothing short of desperate, with abuses in the area of sacred music now almost the norm rather than the exception. We shall summarize here some of the elements that contribute to the present deplorable situation of sacred music and of the liturgy. 

1. There has been a loss of understanding of the “musical shape of the liturgy,” that is, that music is an inherent part of the very essence of liturgy as public, formal, solemn worship of God. We are not merely to sing at Mass, but to sing the Mass. Hence, as Musicam Sacram itself reminded us, the priest’s parts should be chanted to the tones given in the Missal, with the people making the responses; the singing of the Ordinary of the Mass in Gregorian chant or music inspired by it should be encouraged; and the Propers of the Mass, too, should be given the pride of place that befits their historical prominence, their liturgical function, and their theological depth. Similar points apply to the singing of the Divine Office. It is an exhibition of the vice of “liturgical sloth” to refuse to sing the liturgy, to use “utility music” rather than sacred music, to refuse to educate oneself or others about the Church’s tradition and wishes, and to put little or no effort and resources into the building up of a sacred music program. 

2. This loss of liturgical and theological understanding goes hand-in-hand with an embrace of secularism. The secularism of popular musical styles has contributed to a desacralization of the liturgy, while the secularism of profit-based commercialism has reinforced the imposition of mediocre collections of music upon parishes. It has encouraged an anthropocentrism in the liturgy that undermines its very nature. In vast sectors of the Church nowadays there is an incorrect relationship with culture, which can be seen as a “web of connections.” With the actual situation of our liturgical music (and of the liturgy itself, because the two are intertwined), we have broken this web of connection with our past and tried to connect with a future that has no meaning without its past. Today, the Church is not actively using her cultural riches to evangelize, but is mostly used by a prevalent secular culture, born in opposition to Christianity, which destabilizes the sense of adoration that is at the heart of the Christian faith. Pope Francis, in his homily for the feast of Corpus Christi on June 4, 2015, has spoken of “the Church’s amazement at this reality [of the Most Holy Eucharist]. . . An astonishment which always feeds contemplation, adoration, and memory.” In many of our Churches around the world, where is this sense of contemplation, this adoration, this astonishment for the mystery of the Eucharist? It is lost because we are living a sort of spiritual Alzheimer’s, a disease that is taking our spiritual, theological, artistic, musical and cultural memories away from us. It has been said that we need to bring the culture of every people into the liturgy. This may be right if correctly understood, but not in the sense that the liturgy (and the music) becomes the place where we have to exalt a secular culture. It is the place where the culture, every culture, is brought to another level and purified. 

3. There are groups in the Church that push for a “renewal” that does not reflect Church teaching but rather serves their own agenda, worldview, and interests. These groups have members in key leadership positions from which they put into practice their plans, their idea of culture, and the way we have to deal with contemporary issues. In some countries powerful lobbies have contributed to the de facto replacement of liturgical repertoires faithful to the directives of Vatican II with low-quality repertoires. Thus, we end up with repertoires of new liturgical music of very low standards as regards both the text 3 and the music. This is understandable when we reflect that nothing of lasting worth can come from a lack of training and expertise, especially when people neglect the wise precepts of Church tradition: 
On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple. (St. Pius X, Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini) 
Today this “supreme model” is often discarded, if not despised. The entire Magisterium of the Church has reminded us of the importance of adhering to this important model, not as way of limiting creativity but as a foundation on which inspiration can flourish. If we desire that people look for Jesus, we need to prepare the house with the best that the Church can offer. We will not invite people to our house, the Church, to give them a by-product of music and art, when they can find a much better pop music style outside the Church. Liturgy is a limen, a threshold that allows us to step from our daily existence to the worship of the angels: Et ídeo cum Angelis et Archángelis, cum Thronis et Dominatiónibus, cumque omni milítia cæléstis exércitus, hymnum glóriæ tuæ cánimus, sine fine dicéntes... 

4. This disdain for Gregorian chant and traditional repertoires is one sign of a much bigger problem, that of disdain for Tradition. Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches that the musical and artistic heritage of the Church should be respected and cherished, because it is the embodiment of centuries of worship and prayer, and an expression of the highest peak of human creativity and spirituality. There was a time when the Church did not run after the latest fashion, but was the maker and arbiter of culture. The lack of commitment to tradition has put the Church and her liturgy on an uncertain and meandering path. The attempted separation of the teaching of Vatican II from previous Church teachings is a dead end, and the only way forward is the hermeneutic of continuity endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI. Recovering the unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching is the condition for restoring both the liturgy and its music to a noble condition. As Pope Francis taught us in his first encyclical: “Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory” (Lumen Fidei 38).

5. Another cause of the decadence of sacred music is clericalism, the abuse of clerical position and status. Clergy who are often poorly educated in the great tradition of sacred music continue to make decisions about personnel and policies that contravene the authentic spirit of the liturgy and the renewal of sacred music repeatedly called for in our times. Often they contradict Vatican II teachings in the name of a supposed “spirit of the Council.” Moreover, especially in countries of ancient Christian heritage, members of the clergy have access to positions that are not available to laity, when there are lay musicians fully capable of offering an equal or superior professional service to the Church. 

6. We also see the problem of inadequate (at times, unjust) remuneration of lay musicians. The importance of sacred music in the Catholic liturgy requires that at least some members of the Church in every place be well-educated, well-equipped, and dedicated to serve the People of God in this capacity. Is it not true that we should give to God our best? No one would be surprised or disturbed knowing that doctors need a salary to survive, no one would accept medical treatment from untrained volunteers; priests have their salaries, because they cannot live if they do not eat, and if they do not eat, they will not be able to prepare themselves in theological sciences or to say the Mass with dignity. If we pay florists and cooks who help at parishes, why does it seem so strange that those performing musical activities for the Church would have a right to fair compensation?

Positive Proposals.

It may seem that what we have said is pessimistic, but we maintain the hope that there is a way out of this winter. The following proposals are offered in spiritu humilitatis, with the intention of restoring the dignity of the liturgy and of its music in the Church. 

1. As musicians, pastors, scholars, and Catholics who love Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, so frequently praised and recommended by the Magisterium, we ask for a re-affirmation of this heritage alongside modern sacred compositions in Latin or vernacular languages that take their inspiration from this great tradition; and we ask for concrete steps to promote it everywhere, in every church across the globe, so that all Catholics can sing the praises of God with one voice, one mind and heart, one common culture that transcends all their differences. We also ask for a re-affirmation of the unique importance of the pipe organ for the sacred liturgy, because of its singular capacity to elevate hearts to the Lord and its perfect suitability for supporting the singing of choirs and congregations. 

2. It is necessary that the education to good taste in music and liturgy start with children. Often educators without musical training believe that children cannot appreciate the beauty of true art. This is far from the truth. Using a pedagogy that will help them approach the beauty of the liturgy, children will be formed in a way that will fortify their strength, because they will be offered nourishing spiritual bread and not the apparently tasty but unhealthy food of industrial origin (as when “Masses for children” feature popinspired music). We notice through personal experience that when children are exposed to these repertoires they come to appreciate them and develop a deeper connection with the Church. 

3. If children are to appreciate the beauty of music and art, if they are to understand the importance of the liturgy as fons et culmen of the life of the Church, we must have a strong laity who will follow the Magisterium. We need to give space to well-trained laity in areas that have to do with art and with music. To be able to serve as a competent liturgical musician or educator requires years of study. This “professional” status must be recognized, respected, and promoted in practical ways. In connection with this point, we sincerely hope that the Church will continue to work against obvious and subtle forms of clericalism, so that laity can make their full contribution in areas where ordination is not a requirement. 

4. Higher standards for musical repertoire and skill should be insisted on for cathedrals and basilicas. Bishops in every diocese should hire at least a professional music director and/or an organist who would follow clear directions on how to foster excellent liturgical music in that cathedral or basilica and who would offer a shining example of combining works of the great tradition with appropriate new compositions. We think that a sound principle for this is contained in Sacrosanctum Concilium 23: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (SC 23). 

5. We suggest that in every basilica and cathedral there be the encouragement of a weekly Mass celebrated in Latin (in either Form of the Roman Rite) so as to maintain the link we have with our liturgical, cultural, artistic, and theological heritage. The fact that many young people today are rediscovering the beauty of Latin in the liturgy is surely a sign of the times, and prompts us to bury the battles of the past and seek a more “catholic” approach that draws upon all the centuries of Catholic worship. With the easy availability of books, booklets, and online resources, it will not be difficult to facilitate the active participation of those who wish to attend liturgies in Latin. Moreover, each parish should be encouraged to have one fully-sung Mass each Sunday. 

6. Liturgical and musical training of clergy should be a priority for the Bishops. Clergy have a responsibility to learn and practice their liturgical melodies, since, according to Musicam Sacram and other documents, they should be able to chant the prayers of the liturgy, not merely say the words. In seminaries and at the university, they should come to be familiar with and appreciate the great tradition of sacred music in the Church, in harmony with the Magisterium, and following the sound principle of Matthew 13:52: “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” 

7. In the past, Catholic publishers played a great role in spreading good examples of sacred music, old and new. Today, the same publishers, even if they belong to dioceses or religious institutions, often spread music that is not right for the liturgy, following only commercial considerations. Many faithful Catholics think that what mainstream publishers offer is in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding liturgy and music, when it is frequently not so. Catholic publishers should have as their first aim that of educating the faithful in the sane Catholic doctrine and good liturgical practices, not that of making money. 

8. The formation of liturgists is also fundamental. Just as musicians need to understand the essentials of liturgical history and theology, so too must liturgists be educated in Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the entire musical tradition of the Church, so that they may discern between what is good and what is bad. 


Pope Francis, in his encyclical Lumen Fidei, has reminded us of the way faith binds together past and future: 
As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope. (LF 9) 
This remembrance, this memory, this treasure that is our Catholic tradition is not something of the past alone. It is still a vital force in the present, and will always be a gift of beauty to future generations. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Is 12:5–6). 

Burns' Night Supper raises £1,250

Our Burns' Night Supper organised for the Order of St Lazarus raised a great amount this year for those suffering from leprosy in Sri Lanka.
We had a great evening!
Thanks to everyone taking part.

There are a great selection of photos if you click here for Order's blog.

Saturday, 25 February 2017


Recording of Mass at my old seminary, Ushaw College, from 1960.

I came across a post this morning by Liturgy Guy recounting the story of a priest who wanted to learn the Traditional Form of the Mass and indeed started to do so but gave up, saying that he simply did not have the background and formation in the theology and spirituality of the Holy Mass to deal with the ancient rite. He makes the following interesting comments on the incident:
Sadly we are finding that the Church has often failed priests in teaching them the Faith, and in so doing they have failed the laity who are supposed to be sanctified by these very same priests. 
We often think of the classic expression lex orandi lex credendi (as we pray, so we believe) as being applicable to the laity. In reality, it is just as applicable to our priests. Possibly even more so.
Remember too, many of the priests formed by the new Mass over the last fifty years have now gone on to become bishops; and here we are left dealing with the fall out of this liturgical formation and its ramifications for the Church.
The current challenge to orthodoxy cannot be separated from the ongoing assault against orthopraxy.
Pray that more of the laity, more of our priests, and more of our bishops recognise this for themselves. Of course, this first requires a familiarity with the traditional liturgy.
My concern is that many do recognise this connection, and that is why they are so hostile toward the traditional Mass.
In reading round I saw an instant connection with another story, shared by the Eponymous Flower concerning the ongoing and tragic story of the Church in Belgium, where the initiatives that had begun to be put in place during Pope Benedict's reign to stem the catastrophic decline of the Church there are being sadly undone. The Society of the Holy Apostles which had undertaken the care of two parishes in the Brussels region and founded a seminary is being ejected by the new Archbishop of Brussels, Jozef De Kesel (appointed in 2015 by Pope Francis). The previous Archbishop (Archbishop Léonard) insisted on this parallel priestly training, hoping to train a new clergy at their new seminary. Three years after the foundation, 21 young men were already preparing for the priesthood. This new foundation was "too successful," as it was described behind the scenes.

An aerial view of Ushaw College - Junior and Senior House.

The formation of priests is a key to how the Church will look on the ground. What I learnt in seminary stays with me - even today after I've tried to revise much of it and even though at the time I was not always keen to be shaped into the model student that was perceived as ideal! Nevertheless, shaped I was by the teaching and the praxis I experienced there. 

Could it be that many more priests than we think would like to be more open to such things as Latin and the Traditional Mass but know that, as well as the uphill battle they would face at a diocesan level and from parishioners who have been told for fifty years that such things are forbidden, they have also not been equipped with the theology, spirituality and language to do so very easily? 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Splendour of Worship

Pope St John XXIII celebrating Mass..
if it was good enough for him...

Good article articulating some excellent points on the splendour of the liturgy by Peter Kwasniewski on the New Liturgical Movement, emphasising something so often lost in our modern worship - that it is God's doing, not ours. Hence when the liturgy is impoverished and de-ritualised, ("simplified" - as some would have it) all that happens is that many extraneous innovations are added in by individuals. Hence we end up with a liturgy with many accretions - just not ones mandated by the Church. Imported from other denominations, other religions and the secular world. It may be in time these things could become "sacralised" but this is the work of centuries - and the criticism levelled by those who reject so vociferously the "ornament" of past centuries, which has already gained a ritual and sacral meaning and been hallowed by use and honed by legislation.
"While it is sometimes possible that a saintly priest or bishop would choose to rid himself of anything valuable in order to give the money to the poor, in our own times it is much more common to encounter what might be called “ostentatious bad taste” or “hypocritical poverty,” when a priest or bishop who claims to be renouncing pomp and circumstance for the sake of the Gospel is really drawing attention to himself as a paragon of social justice, whose ugly garments or clumsy chalices in fact still cost a great deal of money — money that could have been spent on something truly beautiful, which spiritually enriches all who behold it, including the poor. We could put it this way: a priest or bishop who does not see himself as essentially a symbol of another and therefore as able to accept and promote liturgical beauty for the sake of that other will, perforce, see himself as —himself, in front of the people, on display. At this point, two roads are open to him: to be ostentatiously wealthy for the sake of worldly glory, or to be ostentatiously poor and virtuous. In either case, it’s all about him, and the result is thoroughly dis-edifying. In contrast, when a man of God really acts and speaks as a man of God, one who totally belongs to Christ the Eternal High Priest, it is extremely edifying to see him robed in splendour, uplifted in honour. When Our Lord said: “Whatsoever you do to the least, you do unto Me” (cf. Mt 25:40), He was certainly not excluding the truth that whatsoever you do to the greatest, you do to Him as well."