Tuesday 23 April 2019

High Mass on Low Sunday

Well, not quite High Mass but Missa Cantata at 11.30am.

Our usual Sunday offering 
but Sung Mass with Schola for the EF this week
followed by celebratory refreshments.

Thursday 18 April 2019

Easter Sunday Masses

Easter Sunday

Mass (said in English) at 8.30am

Sung Mass (Latin EF) at 10am

For our regulars, please note the change in Mass arrangements just for Easter Sunday.

I am risen, and I am always with you, alleluia; you have placed your hand upon me, alleluia; your wisdom has been shown to be most wonderful, alleluia, alleluia. O Lord, you have searched me and known me; you know when I sit down and when I rise up.

The beauty of the Church's authentic music.

Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil and First Mass of Easter
begins at 8.30pm on Saturday
with the Easter fire.

Celebratory refreshments to follow 
in the Pope John Paul Room

The Mass setting is Mozart's "Sparrow Mass"
Missa Brevis (short Mass!)

Good Friday. Liturgy of the Lord's Passion

Liturgy of the Lord's Passion
at 3pm on Good Friday

Another little taste of some of the music

Monday 15 April 2019

Holy Thursday. Mass of the Lord's Supper

Mass of the Lord's Supper is at 7.30pm 
on Thursday.

A little sampler of the music!

Saturday 13 April 2019

Palm Sunday

Holy Week begins in our little parish.

Thursday 11 April 2019

Synod 2020. Number 14. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil.

A word or two from Pope Benedict XVI on the Synod!

Well, not quite. The Holy Father Emeritus has written a piece which tackles some aspects of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. As ever, he is insightful and nuanced. What struck me is that there is quite a bit of what he says that applies in a wider context and might be useful meditation for our Synod here in Liverpool. I recently heard a fear expressed from a young person, by the way, that much of what is heard about the Synod is all about looking for new ideas, when the only thing that can save us is a rather old idea - the events that took place 2,000 years ago and which are embedded in the Tradition of the Church. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil.

I think Pope Benedict's words, even in this particular context, speak for themselves. The highlights are mine with one or two comments in red.


I. (2) Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from the common way of life. I think that even today something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way.

II. (1) Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world.

II. (2) Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.

III.(1) What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us.
First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.
Let us now try to unpack this essential content of God's revelation a little more. We might then say that the first fundamental gift that Faith offers us is the certainty that God exists.
A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning.
That there is God as creator and as the measure of all things is first and foremost a primordial need. But a God who would not express Himself at all, who would not make Himself known, would remain a presumption and could thus not determine the form [Gestalt] of our life.
A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God's death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil. Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere [THIS IS THE GREAT ROLE ENVISIONED BY VATICAN II FOR THE LAITY.] and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.

We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical. After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.
A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards. "Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!”
Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.
(2) God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith. [A PITFALL FOR A SYNOD TOO?]
Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern. The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part, this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord for it.

III. (2) And yet a rather different attitude is prevalent. What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ's death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.
The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament. [ALL THIS SECTION - OH FOR IT TO BE AT THE HEART OF WHAT THE SYNOD MIGHT TACKLE!]

(3) And finally, there is the Mystery of the Church. The sentence with which Romano Guardini, almost 100 years ago, expressed the joyful hope that was instilled in him and many others, remains unforgotten: "An event of incalculable importance has begun; the Church is awakening in souls."
He meant to say that no longer was the Church experienced and perceived as merely an external system entering our lives, as a kind of authority, but rather it began to be perceived as being present within people's hearts — as something not merely external, but internally moving us. About half a century later, in reconsidering this process and looking at what had been happening, I felt tempted to reverse the sentence: "The Church is dying in souls."
Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political terms. The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope. [SOMETHING ALMOST ENCOURAGED BY SOME IN SPEAKING OF THE SYNOD.]
Jesus Himself compared the Church to a fishing net in which good and bad fish are ultimately separated by God Himself. There is also the parable of the Church as a field on which the good grain that God Himself has sown grows, but also the weeds that "an enemy" secretly sown onto it. Indeed, the weeds in God's field, the Church, are excessively visible, and the evil fish in the net also show their strength. Nevertheless, the field is still God's field and the net is God's fishing net. And at all times, there are not only the weeds and the evil fish, but also the crops of God and the good fish. To proclaim both with emphasis is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary service to the Truth.
In this context it is necessary to refer to an important text in the Revelation of St. John. The devil is identified as the accuser who accuses our brothers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). St. John’s Apocalypse thus takes up a thought from the center of the framing narrative in the Book of Job (Job 1 and 2, 10; 42:7-16). In that book, the devil sought to talk down the righteousness of Job before God as being merely external. And exactly this is what the Apocalypse has to say: The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people; that all righteousness of people is only displayed on the outside. If one could hew closer to a person, then the appearance of his justice would quickly fall away.
The narrative in Job begins with a dispute between God and the devil, in which God had referred to Job as a truly righteous man. He is now to be used as an example to test who is right. Take away his possessions and you will see that nothing remains of his piety, the devil argues. God allows him this attempt, from which Job emerges positively. Now the devil pushes on and he says: "Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face." (Job 2:4f)
God grants the devil a second turn. He may also touch the skin of Job. Only killing Job is denied to him. For Christians it is clear that this Job, who stands before God as an example for all mankind, is Jesus Christ. In St. John’s Apocalypse the drama of humanity is presented to us in all its breadth.
The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all mankind and all creation. He says, not only to God but above all to people: Look at what this God has done. Supposedly a good creation, but in reality full of misery and disgust. That disparagement of creation is really a disparagement of God. It wants to prove that God Himself is not good, and thus to turn us away from Him. 
The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious. Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. [IT HAS SADDENED ME TO HEAR THIS VIEW OF THE CHURCH AS A HIERARCHICAL INSTITUTION EXPRESSED IN RELATION TO THE SYNOD.] The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.
It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.
The word martyr is taken from procedural law. In the trial against the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.
Today's Church is more than ever a "Church of the Martyrs" and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them.
I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.

Monday 8 April 2019

Holy Week - and altar servers


Below are the times of service at St Catherine's for Holy Week.
Masses are accompanied by a Schola to provide fitting chant and music for each celebration.

For the Sacred Triduum, I find, through an unfortunate assemblage of circumstances, that we will be rather short of altar servers. Rather unlikely I know, but if anyone is at a loose end and can help out, you would be very welcome.


Mass at 8.30am 
Sung Mass at 10am
Low Mass(EF) at 11.30am


Mass of the Lord's Supper at 7.30pm

Watching at the Altar of Repose, 
concluding with Compline at 9.50pm


3pm Liturgy of the Lord's Passion



Mass at 8.30am

Missa Cantata (EF) at 10am

Sunday 7 April 2019

Synod 2020 Liverpool. Number 13. A word from Cardinal Sarah.

In 2017 I had the privilege of meeting Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect for the Congregation for the Liturgy. Later this year he will publish an interview style book "It is Toward Evening, and the Day is Now Far Spent."

In an interview about the book published in "Catholic World Report" (click to read this in full) he says one or two things that are interesting to reflect on in the light of Synod 2020 here in Liverpool Archdiocese.

He says of his book:
This book is first of all a call to clarity and clear-sightedness. The Church is going through a major crisis. The winds are extraordinarily violent. Days without scandals, real or fake, are rare. The faithful can therefore legitimately wonder about it. I intended this book for them. I hope that they can come out of reading it with the joy that Christ gives: “Stay with us, Lord, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent” (Lk 24:29). The resurrection of the Son of God is what gives Hope in the darkness.

Is there a crisis in the Church? Humanly speaking, Yes. Is there a crisis in our Archdiocese? Yes. That the fact has been recognised and a Synod called is a sign of hope; that we are not burying our heads in the sand and pretending that  what we have implemented of over the last fifty years has been a stunning success. It hasn't. We can't let the Synod give us more of the same, another set of Christs, another set of Churches - all in our own image.

Here's what the Cardinal says:
… we should stay calm: the Church is not in crisis; we are the ones who are in crisis. Her teaching remains the same; her clarity remains the same.
I firmly believe that the situation that we are experiencing within the Church resembles in every respect the situation of Good Friday, when the apostles abandoned Christ and Judas betrayed him, because the traitor wanted his own style of Christ, a Christ preoccupied with political issues. Today many priests and bishops are literally spellbound by political or social questions. In reality, these questions will never find answers apart from Christ’s teaching.

"The Church is not made for listening, 
She is made for teaching."

I've often heard the Church's teaching and doctrine stereotyped as outdated or harsh and yet the truth is we must believe that at heart it is the advice of a Mother's care for Her children. A child needs to listen to it's mother. The emphasis on listening that we have heard at the Synod meetings is good in so far as it goes. But we ae not starting out from scratch. We have our Mother's loving teaching to be always and everywhere our starting point. Having listened, our Mother does not take on all a child says; She explains why some things just have to be the way they are - in this case, the way to get to Heaven.

Interviewers question: Nowadays isn’t there for some people the temptation to align the Church with the world’s values so as to stop being a sign of contradiction to it? 

The Cardinal answers with these undeniable words of wisdom:

Obviously, there is a large majority of priests who remain faithful to their mission of teaching, sanctifying and governing. But there is also a small number who give in to the morbid, wicked temptation to align the Church with the current values of the Western societies. Above all they want people to say that the Church is open, welcoming, attentive, modern. But the Church is not made for listening, she is made for teaching: she is Mater et magistra, mother and teacher. Of course a mom listens to her child, but she is there in the first place to teach, to guide and to supervise, because she knows better than her children what path to take. Some have adopted the ideologies of today’s world under the fallacious pretext of being open to the world; but instead we should bring the world to be open to God, who is the source of our existence.

The Liturgy, the way we pray, really must be a focus for the Synod and not some minor consideration. For most Catholics a huge part of their experience of Church is simply the liturgy, coming to Mass. The tone of how we have gone about this over recent times and the seriousness with which we treat the Awesome Mysteries has left a lot to be desired. What can we do about the things that may have gone wrong in our understanding and presentation of Holy Mother Church?
As we pray, so we believe. To draw attention to this point, as I have mentioned before, I have been shocked at the number of times prayer in our Synod meetings has been carried out 1. by laity when there are priests present and 2. going whole days without the use at any point of the sign of the cross. That would tell anyone watching rather strange things about what we believe. On the Synod website, a talk given by Fr Peter|Fleetwood reproduced in full, says this: 
"The starting-point is always the invocation of the Trinity. This is a reminder that the Church is not a human organisation, but the new קהל אדני [qahal Adonai] or Assembly of God. We are gathered by the Father, and through the grace of the Spirit we become the sacrament of Christ."
A definite encouragement to use the age-old sign of the cross, I'd say, yet absent in our Synod meetings. Another case of the folly of ignoring the rubrics.
The Cardinal says:

I am convinced that the primary responsibility for this collapse of the faith must be taken by the priests. In the seminaries or in the Catholic universities we have not always taught doctrine. We have taught whatever we liked! Catechizing children was abandoned. Confession was disdained. Besides, there were no longer any priests in the confessionals! We are therefore partially responsible for this collapse. In the 1970’s and 1980’s in particular, each priest did whatever he liked during Mass. No two Masses looked alike: that was what discouraged so many Catholics from going to church. Pope Benedict XVI says that the crisis of the liturgy caused the crisis of the Church.

Lex orandi, lex credendi: as we pray, so we believe. If there is no longer any faith, the liturgy is reduced to a show, a folklore display, and the faithful turn away. We have probably been guilty of negligence. The desacralization of the liturgy always has serious consequences. We wanted to humanize the Mass, to make it comprehensible, but it remains a mystery that is beyond understanding. When I say Mass, when I give absolution, I grasp the words that I say, but the intellect cannot comprehend the mystery that these words bring about. If we do not do justice to this great mystery, we cannot lead the people to a true relationship with God. Even today we still have an excessively horizontal pastoral practice: how do you expect people to think of God if the Church is occupied exclusively with social issues?

Cardinal Sarah saying Mass.
Finally, I have also heard much criticism of the "Hierarchical Church" - as though this image of the Church was not of God, not of the Faith. That we are having a Synod at all reflects the dignity of the local Church - but the Synod itself is the implement of our hierarchical Church, often much misunderstood. That we can strike out on our own as a diocese to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in calling us to faithfulness, is a fruit of the very system so often criticised. But must understand how that hierarchy functions. We are not a part of some national corporate body, like so many branches of Tesco. We are the Church here, which makes up part of the Church everywhere (including all the time since Christ and including the Church suffering and triumphant), which is united through being in communion with the centre (embodied in the successors of St Peter but rooted in Our Lord).
The Cardinal says:
Christ founded one Church; its mode of government is hierarchical. The first person responsible for the Church is the Pope. The first person responsible for the local Church is the Bishop in his diocese, and not the Episcopal Conference, which is helpful for exchanging ideas, but not for setting a course of action. I think that it is necessary to rediscover this primary responsibility of the Pope and of each bishop. The great bishops of history, for instance Ambrose or Augustine, did not spend their time planning meetings on the one hand, forming committees on the other, and traveling continuously. The bishop has to be with his people, teach his people, love his people.

An Episcopal Conference has no canonical authority, and no competence of its own in the area of doctrine. Moreover, I am sad to note that there are already contradictions among the episcopal conferences, which does not promote the peace of mind of Christians. “That they may be one,” the Lord said, so that this unity might inspire faith. If we continue along these lines, undermining doctrinal and moral unity, we will contribute to the growth of unbelief.
 It is necessary for us to be in every respect part of a resistance, to take the direction opposite that of the secularized world, in other words, the path of Christ, the one Savior of the world. 

Wednesday 3 April 2019

Synod 2020. Liverpool. Number 12. The Priest, the Mass and the Liturgy. "No social project, no act of solidarity can reach the level of communion we have in the Blessed Sacrament."

It's been my experience that most priests, when asked, very quickly point to the celebration of Mass as a source of joy and a sustenance to their Priesthood and a way of giving meaning to their lives. 

To set the scene here, I would like to quote from Dominique Rey, Bishop of Frejus-Toulon in a recent talk given to the Association of Catholic Clergy in London.

"If we want to avoid doing nonsense, we need to get back to our identity, to the One who we are, Jesus Christ. Once we know something about our identity, we will be able to breach the spiritual combat of the priest in today's world.

Many people understand the word "communion" in a horizontal way; it would be the search for a workable consensus between persons with different opinions, traditions and sensibility and many people present such "communion" as a patient and reasonable claim for unity in order to guarantee a certain plurality of expressions and convictions. This is a sociological, political or affective understanding of communion clearly insufficient to give definition of ecclesial communion. Indeed our communion takes root in the Eucharist. The source of our communion is the Eucharist. 'The blessing cup that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ..' 

All the works, apostolates and services of charity spread out from the Real Presence of Christ in this sacrament. 

Therefore at each Mass the vocation of the priest is to "incorporate"; in eating the same bread, the same Christ, the Eucharist wrestles us out of our closed individuality, out of our lonely existences. We become identified with Christ and thus identified one to another through the communion with Christ. Every person who receives Christ in Holy Communion is for all, for me "the bone of my bones, the flesh of my flesh" according to the biblical expression.

No social project, no act of solidarity can reach the level of communion we have in the Blessed Sacrament.

Every Mass shapes the priest who celebrates. Little by little the celebrant becomes what he celebrates. Given body, poured out blood, true offered love; that is, a love identified with Christ"

The Mass is obviously important to all of us. The Mass is important in and of itself. It is the foundation on which we build all our social and charitable activities - to tackle them without the Mass takes away our reason for doing them - we may as well be atheists doing charity work (but what counts as good work then has no basis on which to be judged, so providing euthanasia can become "good work").

We should rightly then give care to the manner in which we celebrate Mass, if it is true that the priest becomes what he celebrates. Thus the "circumstances", the practical liturgy is not some minor concern but an important aspect. Hence we have guidelines about how we should go about that.

Secular innovations, experimentation, imports from other religions, lack of care, lack of knowledge of the rubrics, nice things for the kids to do, clericalizing th laity and laicising the clergy... are sometimes held forth almost as badges of honour in some circles. A knowledge of the liturgy and a care about being in communion with the Church on this level is not the sign of the anti-Christ, some nerdy or outdated facet of the Church, it is rather something all who love Jesus should have a care of. Surely our people deserve the best in everything in connection with this central act of the Faith?

Question: Little by little the celebrant becomes what he celebrates. If I celebrate a clown Mass, do I become a clown? 

Answer: Know what you are doing, imitate the mystery you celebrate, model your life on the mystery of the Lord's cross.