Thursday, 25 May 2017

Golden Jubilee of Priesthood for Fr John Johnson

Many congratulations to Fr John Johnson, who celebrated 50 years of Priesthood this week at a Mass at the beautiful church of St Mary in Wigan (his home parish!). A well respected and much loved priest. 
Ad multos annos!

Archbishop Malcolm preached on Fr Johnson's natural ability to feed the sheep.

 Auxiliary Bishop Tom Williams was also in attendance.


A cake presented by Fr Paul Grady, one of the vocations ordained at St Mary's, and Benedict Ratchford, server at the Mass and part of the Youth Ministry Team in the Archdiocese.

More photographs at the Archdiocesan Flickr site all courtesy of Nick Fairhurst ( an old friend and parishioner at my former parish of st Cuthbert's in Wigan.)

Interestingly, I think I'm right in saying that Fr Johnson and Fr Canon Christopher Cunningham (also originally from St Mary's and celebrating Mass with Fr Johnson here, were the last priests in the Archdiocese to be ordained under the old form, before the changes after Vatican II. Interestingly, the first ordinations in the Traditional Form for 50 years in the Archdiocese will take place next month at another St Mary's - in Warrington - when Archbishop Malcolm will ordain deacons Alex Stewart and Krzysztof Sanetra to the Pristhood.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ascension Thursday Mass

Mass on Ascension Thursday 
in the 
Traditional Form
St Catherine Labouré Church 

Just Low Mass this time.

All welcome
Light refreshments served afterwards.

The Church and the liturgy face a ‘profound crisis’, says Cardinal Sarah

These words from Cardinal Sarah speak for themselves without much comment from me. Certainly, we have lost the "art" of celebrating liturgy in a way that raises the heart and mind or directs the eyes of the soul to contemplating the divine. Prosaic, earthbound, uninspiring celebrations of Mass, sloppily executed, always leave me feeling so sad and with the thought of another missed opportunity to touch hearts and minds.

From the Catholic Herald site:

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s liturgical chief, has spoken of a “serious, profound crisis” in the liturgy and the Church since the Second Vatican Council.

In a message to a liturgical conference in Herzogenrath, Germany, translated for Catholic World Report by Michael J Miller, Cardinal Sarah praised Vatican II’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. But he said the Council had been followed by a “serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops”.

The Cardinal, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said the “crisis” was particularly visible in the way the Mass has been understood and celebrated. He argued that many Catholics had neglected “sacred silence”, and gestures such as kneeling which express reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. They had also forgotten that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, “identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner”.

He added that the Church had experienced “devastation, destruction and wars” not only in the liturgy, but also in doctrine, morals and Church discipline. “More and more voices of high-ranking prelates stubbornly affirm obvious doctrinal, moral and liturgical errors that have been condemned a hundred times, and work to demolish the little faith remaining in the people of God,” he said.

The conference was on the tenth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio which called for “mutual enrichment” between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass, and gave greater freedom to celebrate the older form.

Cardinal Sarah had originally planned to attend the conference, but had “unexpected” obligations and sent a message instead.

He quoted several times from Benedict’s writings, including his remark – when Cardinal Ratzinger – that the Church’s crisis was “to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy”.

Cardinal Sarah suggested that the crisis had followed when God was displaced from the centre of the liturgy. Instead of directing worship towards the adoration of God, the Eucharist became dominated by merely human motives such as “the community’s celebration of itself”.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Navalis Festival, Prague

I had a wonderful time at the celebrations for the feast of St John Nepomuk, Patron Saint of Prague, last week. Staying with a priest friend in the diocese there enabled me to take a full part in the festivities. A splendid Mass in the packed Cathedral celebrated by Cardinal Dominik Duka, who was joined by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza (3rd from the left) with about forty priests in attendance and many seminarians as well. 

Before Mass began, the cardinal blessed a team of horses from Moravia from the balcony of his palace.

As Mass concluded, we processed from the Cathedral with the relic of St John. The elaborate canopy to the rear hangs over his magnificent shrine, where the relic is kept.

The celebration goes back a long way, flourishing in the Baroque period, but was in abeyance for many years under the years of Communist rule. However, in recent years Cardinal Duka has re-established it as a huge public festival, with a procession through he streets and over the Charles Bridge, concluding with a spectacular fireworks display on the river, complete with full orchestra and a huge party on a river boat for the great and the good of Prague. Used very much as a way to put the Church back at the centre of the city's cultural life. (The Church suffered greatly in the former Czechoslovakia and the present day Czcech Republic has only about 10% of the population declaring themselves as Catholics.)

An open topped carriage is gifted to the Cardinal for the day, which means that he can ride for most of the procession, rather than walk (lucky him, it takes quite while).

The relic on the Charles Bridge, where we stopped for prayers and litanies at his statue and the site marked as the place of martyrdom, where he was thrown into the river in 1393.

It's not misty in this photograph - just that the thrurible was giving off a LOT of smoke!

A new feature was a salute by a parachutist, who descended from the skies and manoeuvred his parachute under the arches of the Charles Bridge, hence everyone looking heavenwards.

The fireworks were something to behold and great fun in concert with the music.

I visited the Chapel in the Archiepiscopal Palace earlier int the day, after a meeting with Cardinal Duka (he is the Chaplain General for the Order of St Lazarus). Our Lady of Fatima was still crowned after her recent feast day.

There are many more photographs 

A news report here - in Czech, if anyone is clever enough to speak it!
(You have to be quick to get a glimpse of yours truly once or twice!)

The splendid fireworks.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Traditional Confirmations in the Archdiocese


Archbishop Malcolm McMahon presided at Confirmations at St Mary's, Warrington, recently, administering the Sacrament in the Traditional Form. 

How times change! Not so long ago, this would have been thought impossible here in the Archdiocese. It's good to see all parts of the Church community being catered for and warmly welcomed. Such a welcome enables the FSSP Fathers to take part in the life of the Archdiocese; it's always good to see them at diocesan functions. Thus, those looking after the Extraordinary Form are now an ordinary part of the Diocese, which, to my mind, is how it should be.

Some more photographs can be viewed on the FSSP Flickr site.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Do you want to be Extraordinary? Come and learn!

Any priests, deacons and religious welcome!
Next Clergy Day: Wednesday 10th May 2017

1pm Lunch at nearby restaurant (meet at St Mary's, Warrington at 1pm and walk there together)
2pm Coffee, and 40mins Talk on 'Avoiding Priestly Apostasy'. It happened to some better than us. No apostate priest means to deny Christ from the start. It begins with agreeing on mere formalities. Just a little step... Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP will illustrate 12 practical steps endangering and eventually uprooting the fidelity of priests to Christ and His Church. 

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

Liturgical Training
There will also be the opportunity for priests and seminarians to have one-to-one training in offering Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Sessions are available at 11am, 12noon (memorial chapel) and 3pm. Please book in advance to be sure.

Venue for the above: St Mary's Warrington, car park accessed via Smith Street, WA1 2NS

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon interview

H/T to Fr Bede Rowe for spotting an interview in the Guardian with Archbishop Malcolm the other day. I've always found +Malcolm to be someone who takes all sorts of things in his stride, so the interviewer must have been pretty annoying, for His Grace seems to have had occasion to put him in his place; asking him,  "You do this for a living, do you?"

It's all about Catholic Education, of which His Grace rightly defends the principles (whatever some of us might think about the content).

Monday, 1 May 2017

Church on life support?

I read this by Phil Lawler on Catholic and thought that he hit the nail right on the head.

A pastoral crisis the Church cannot (yet does) ignore.

By Phil Lawler 
The Archdiocese of Boston has opened a new church. That news drew headline coverage, in a city that has become more accustomed to stories about church closings.

To be perfectly honest, the news stories are a bit misleading. There have been a few new churches opened in Boston in the past 60 years, but they have been new buildings rather than new parishes: new churches that were constructed to replace buildings that had been destroyed by fire or by the wrecking ball. As a matter of fact, that’s also the case with the latest building, the church of Our Lady of Good Voyage.

So unless I’m mistaken, the overall count remains unchanged: in the past 50 years, the Archdiocese of Boston has opened zero new parish churches. Over the same span, roughly 125 parishes have been shut down or merged into “cluster” units.

This might be understandable, if the Boston’s Catholic population had disappeared. But it hasn’t—at least not according to the official statistics. On paper, it has grown. There were about 1.8 million Catholics registered in the area covered by the Boston archdiocese 50 years ago; today the official figure is 1.9 million.

The trouble, of course, is that most of those 1.9 million Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Consequently it should be no surprise that their sons don’t aspire to the priesthood. There were just over 2,500 priests working in the archdiocese 50 years ago; now there are fewer than 300. That’s right; nearly 90% of the priests are gone. If you can’t replace the priests, you can’t keep open the parishes.

Let’s be frank. These figures are not a cause for concern; they are a cause for horror. Panic is never useful, but something close to panic is appropriate here. Things have gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Our Lord commissioned us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We’re not doing that. We aren’t even holding onto the people who were baptized into the faith. We should be bringing more people into the Church, not congratulating ourselves on minimizing the losses.

Although the situation in Boston is unusually bad, it is not unique. All around us, the same sad trends are in evidence. Parish closings and wholesale diocesan retrenchment programs have become familiar. How should we respond?

Here are two possible responses:

A) “This is a disaster! Stop everything. Drop what you’re doing. “Business as usual” makes no sense; this is a pastoral emergency. We don’t just need another “renewal” program, offered by the same people who have led us into this debacle. We need to figure out what has gone wrong. More than that. We know that the Gospel has the power to bring people to Christ; therefore it follows that we have failed to proclaim the Gospel. The fault lies with us. We should begin with repentance for our failures.”

B) “Don’t worry. Times change, and we have to change with them. Religion isn’t popular in today’s culture, but the faith will make a comeback sooner or later. We just need to keep plugging away, to have confidence, to remember God’s promise that the Church will endure forever.”

You see what’s wrong with argument B, don’t you? Yes, the Lord promised that the Church would last through the end of time. But he did not promise that the Archdiocese of Boston (or your own diocese) would last forever. The faith can disappear, indeed has disappeared, from large geographical areas—northern Africa, for instance.

Moreover, it’s both presumptuous and illogical to assume that the faith will make a comeback in another generation or two. The young adults who today don’t bother to marry in the Church are not likely to bring their children there for Baptism (if they have children). Those children, years later, aren’t likely to feel the urge to go back to their parish church (if it still stands), since they were never there in the first place. The Catholic faith is passed down from generation to generation. If parents stop teaching their children, those children have nothing to teach the grandchildren. In two generations, a thoroughly Catholic society can become mission territory. Look at Boston. Look at Quebec. Look at Ireland.

Finally, even if we could safely assume that the faith will recover in another 10 or 20 or 50 years, that would not absolve us, in this current generation, of our responsibility to evangelize. Right now, people are going without the benefit of the sacraments, because of our failure and our complacency. Lives are being lost; souls are being lost. We are accountable.

So between the two responses, A) and B), there is no comparison. One might sound extreme, but the other is just plain wrong.

There are, sad to say, two other responses:

C) “It doesn’t really matter whether or not people go to church on Sunday. As long as we’re all nice people, God in his mercy will bring us all to heaven.”

D) “Don’t bother me with your statistics. Actually the faith is stronger than ever. Our parish/diocese is vibrant! You’re only seeing the negative.

Response C) is not Catholic. Response D) is—how shall I put this gently?—not rational. Unfortunately, I hear B), C), and D) much more often than A). Don’t you?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

York Mass and Pilgrimage this Saturday

High Mass will be celebrated in 
Duncombe Place, York YO1 7EF 

Pilgrims then process through the city, 
stopping to pray at St Margaret’s Shrine in The Shambles. Continuing via Ouse Bridge 
– the site of her martyrdom – 
pilgrims will make their way back to St Wilfrid’s for 
Benediction at approx 3.45pm.

This pilgrimage is always a great witness to the Catholic Faith and a testament to the devotion of English Catholics to St Margaret and the York Martyrs. Walking through the tourist crowded streets of York in witness to our Holy Faith is an exhilarating feeling!
"And through the Truth 
that comes from God
England will then indeed be free!"

Clergy Day in Warrington today

Clergy Day: Priests, deacons and seminarians are invited to join us for lunch followed by a talk by Fr de Malleray on the reasons for a priest keeping his index fingers and thumbs joined after the consecration in Holy Mass. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Wednesday 26th April, 1-3pm. No need to book.

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.