Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Theme of the Kingdom

Thank you to Patricius and to JARay for their interesting comments on my previous post about the Luminous Mystery, “The Proclamation of the Kingdom”. It certainly seems to invite us to mine an extensive Scriptural seam.

JARay thinks of this Mystery in terms of the sending out of the 72 disciples: the ones who “came back rejoicing” at the wonders they had been able to perform through the power the Lord had given them. I like the idea: I am particularly fond of this episode.

For myself, the words that immediately come to mind are “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, spoken first by St John the Baptist, and then, following John’s imprisonment, by Jesus Himself, when He begins His own public ministry with the same words. But then I feel I have to look further: in particular, to those famous passages of gathered-together teaching in St Matthew’s Gospel:

The Sermon on the Mount, dealing with the morality and prayer life of the subjects of the Kingdom. This is the context in which Canon John Udris presents the Mystery, in his beautiful booklet “A New Illustrated Rosary” published – with a most charming and moving selection of mediaeval pictures - by the excellent Family Publications of Oxford.

The Parabolic Discourse, describing various characteristics of the Kingdom’s growth and its preciousness.

The parables attached to the Eschatological Discourse, warning us to live our lives in readiness to be called to account, because the Kingdom has an aspect of futurity as well as a presence among and within us.

And, of course, I think of the tremendous scene in which the Keys of the Kingdom are entrusted to St Peter.

Having written the above, I’m sure I have only touched on the subject – as evidenced by this article in New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia. All in all, there is so much to this Mystery – so different from all the others - that I feel I may benefit from meditating on just one or two aspects of it each time it is prayed.

Monday 21 December 2009

The Luminous Mysteries

Father Hunwicke's blog has raised in passing some interesting points about the Rosary, and in particular the Luminous Mysteries.

I have made two pilgrimages to Walsingham, the second of them about five years ago. During each visit we followed the custom of praying the Rosary as we walked in procession from Friday Market to the Slipper Chapel. The first time, we prayed the classical Rosary of fifteen Mysteries, finishing it when we were still at some distance from the Chapel. From that point we trudged along in silence; and then, as we approached the Chapel, its bell rang out to welcome us. It was a beautiful experience.

On the second visit, the Rosary included the Luminous Mysteries. The sound of the bell competed with our Glorious Mysteries; and we were well into the grounds before we had finished. I felt a slightly harassed atmosphere had overtaken the proceedings. I don’t know if they still attempt the twenty Mysteries these days.

This is only my personal view, but I don’t think the Luminous Mysteries should automatically be included in the recitation of the Rosary; and indeed I understand that they were offered by Pope John Paul II as an optional addition. Perhaps they could be prayed at times as a separate devotion. Each of the Luminous Mysteries is certainly of great importance as a subject for contemplation; although I confess that I have found “The proclamation of the Kingdom” to be rather diffuse, unlike the precise events referred to in the other nineteen Mysteries.

It took me some years to appreciate that the traditional three chaplets were not intended to say everything about the life of Christ, but were devised to represent the story of salvation as witnessed and experienced through the eyes of His beloved Mother. Once I had absorbed that, I started to appreciate – and, I hope, to benefit from - the riches of it. For the most part, I prefer to stick with this form of the Rosary.

Having said that, it happens just now that I am saying several chaplets each day, and I have started praying the Mysteries of Light to provide some variety. Still finding “The proclamation of the Kingdom” rather diffuse, though!

In case I’m not able to post anything more before Christmas, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Day.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Evesham: A Wonderful Solemn High Mass

Thank you so much to the priests, the servers and the splendid choir for a wonderful Solemn High Mass yesterday evening at the church of St Mary and St Egwin in Evesham.

If you are in that part of Worcestershire, do visit the attractive little town of Evesham, and the fine old Catholic church on the High Street. The interior appears to have been very little affected by the post-Vatican II changes. The altar rails remain. A freestanding altar has been installed in front of the high altar; it is built of stone, of a similar design to the high altar, and is at a lower level. There is enough space beween the two to allow for the offering of Solemn High Mass at the upper altar. There is a beautiful reredos behind the main altar and behind each of the side altars; these two being hinged altarpieces or tryptychs. All were inset with lovely paintings.

We arrived about half an hour before the start of Mass, which allowed me enough time to follow the Stations of the Cross. They were startlingly vivid and affecting, painted in a style which made me think of continental Europe in the late Middle Ages. As I progressed from one Station to another, it was genuinely upsetting to see the face of Christ showing increasing evidence of His pain and suffering. It was a remarkable experience.

The Mass itself was so absorbing that I quite forgot about the intervening altar. When I was not watching the proceedings I was praying the prayers in my book, as were many others in theirs, no doubt; and the choir was singing and responding (joined at times by the congregation), and there was a general profusion of participatio actuosa: a tremendous sense of all of us being united with the priest who was making present this greatest Work of all.

Since the Mass was offered in celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the choir sang the Ave Maria during the Offertory. I find some musical settings of the prayer too syrupy; but they chose the setting by Jacobus (or Jacques) Arcadelt, a version which seems to combine stirring power with calm dignity and serenity. It was beautifully done, and I found myself moved to tears.

The church was well on the way to being full. It must have been a real joy to the priests and to all those involved who had put in such sterlng work, to have so many present for this happy occasion. Very well done!

Monday 30 November 2009

Extraordinary Form High Mass in Evesham, 8th December

At the EF Mass last Thursday, Father announced that there is to be a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at 7pm on Tuesday 8th December, in Evesham. He will be the sub-deacon.

Church: St Mary & St Egwin, High Street, Evesham, Worcestershire, WR11 4EJ (useful if you have sat-nav)

The parish website tells a delightful story, dating from the early 8th century, about St Egwin and his devout swineherd, Eoves. Eoves saw a vision of Our Lady. He told Bishop Egwin, and took him to the place, where Egwin himself saw the vision. It was Bishop Egwin who, under this inspiration, built a church and an abbey there.

While Egwin became a canonised saint, Eoves is not forgotten, because the town's former name was changed to Evesham to commemorate him.

The Church of St Mary and St Egwin was built in 1911 and designed in the Gothic style by Pugin & Pugin. I have not been inside the church, but externally it looks very handsome. Low Mass is regularly offered there in the Extraordinary Form, at 7pm every Tuesday.

Friday 27 November 2009

Clifton Diocese: Is Communion available again on the tongue?

There have been a couple of developments regarding the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue. Fr Blake has published this letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which he found on the Rorate Caeli blog. The letter was written in reply to an enquiry by a British lay Catholic. In short, Rome has confirmed that, even during the present situation regarding swine flu, the faithful continue to have the right to receive on the tongue.

Yesterday evening I attended a regular Mass in the Extraordinary Form – technically a “private” Mass – and was very happy to find that the priest distributed Holy Communion on the tongue. I wondered if he had decided “Rome has spoken, so here goes!” But I have since learnt from Ttony, in a comment to my post of 11th October, How to restore Communion on the tongue in Clifton? that an Ad Clerum has just been issued by Bishop Lang of Clifton, lifting the restrictions.

Now, here is an interesting thing. I have read the text of the Bishop's message to all parishes, dated 25th November, available on the diocesan website. I am wondering if this is the Ad Clerum itself, or an exact reproduction of the text; and I ask this for a particular reason.

The Bishop's earlier message on 24th July (accessible via a link from the above), in which he originally called for the restrictions, said:

“It is now sensible for all churches in our diocese to offer communion under one form, and in the hand.”

“The Sign of Peace at this time should be given by a smile, a slight bow or some other appropriate gesture, but not by the shaking of hands.”
The Bishop's latest message, on 25th November, is introduced with these words:

“In the past months due to the swine flu pandemic, it has been recommended that Holy Communion be received under one form and the Sign of Peace should be given by a smile, a slight bow or some other appropriate gesture, but not by the shaking of hands."

The earlier reference to Communion “in the hand” is not repeated here.

Bishop Lang then continues:

“ … I think we can amend the guidelines and return to the practice of receiving Holy Communion under both kinds and exchanging the Sign of Peace with a handshake or other suitable ways."
No reference is made to the method of receiving the Host.

I have read the latest message with care, and cannot see anything about the restoration of the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. This is my reason for wondering whether this text is the same as that of the Ad Clerum.

It may be that the Bishop has spoken or written to his priests separately on this matter. I do not know. But it may not make any difference. Even if they are aware that Rome has ruled we can receive on the tongue, even if they know that this is a matter for Rome and not for the Bishops, Bishop Lang's message gives the local clergy the authority to decide whether to relax his own restrictions or to keep them in place. Here is the relevant passage:

“I believe that parish priests are best placed to know when it would be prudent to follow the previous guidelines and reintroduce them if necessary.”

Will the clergy distinguish between the Bishop's guidance and that of Rome? When we go to Mass this weekend, will we find there has been no change at all; or any combination of these things; or that everything is restored apart from Communion on the tongue? We shall see.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

The Shock of the Gospel

During my years of reading the Bible, day by day, in small segments, there have been occasions when something has struck me so forcefully that the implications of it have changed me.

There is one passage in particular, the import of which first sank in many years ago. I have never forgotten it: the words are constantly just below the surface of my mind, rising into my consciousness quite frequently, and inspiring each time the same sense of wonder.

The context is St John's Gospel, Chapter 3. I am sure you will recall that Nicodemus, the Pharisee and leading Jew whose devoted but secret discipleship led him eventually to bring myrrh and aloes for the Lord's burial, first visited Jesus by night, in the early days of His public ministry. They engaged in a marvellously scholarly discussion; in the Jerusalem Bible translation one can almost hear their voices.

And in the middle of their conversation, Our Blessed Lord says these words:

"No one has gone up to heaven
except the One Who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man Who is in heaven"

"Who is in heaven". He is with us upon the earth, and He says He is in heaven.

I find these words wonderful, just wonderful.

Monday 23 November 2009

Fr Sean Finnegan on Liberalism and the Ecumenical Movement

Here is a tremendous post, Whither Ecumenism?, by Fr Sean Finnegan, on his Valle Adurni blog. He considers the history of the ecumenical movement, the development of Anglo-Catholicism, and the rise of liberalism in religion, including its current manifestations both in Anglicanism and in the Catholic Church. Fascinating.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Constable Bill Barker, a good and faithful servant

In Matthew, Chapter 24, and in Luke, Chapter 12, we read of the servants who are carrying out the work their Master has given them, in readiness for His return. They are waiting expectantly for Him, so that they can open the door to Him as soon as He knocks. Happy the servants who are awake and busy about their work when He arrives. “I tell you solemnly, He will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them”; He will place his conscientious servant “over everything He owns.”

Truly, we do not know the moment; none of us knows. Police Constable Bill Barker was married, and had four children. He died the day before his 45th birthday. He was doing his duty. He was standing on a bridge, in the town of Workington, in the north-west of England. The bridge was crumbling before the onslaught of the torrent of a river in flood. He was warning drivers and pedestrians to keep away from it. And suddenly it collapsed, and he was swept to his death. His Master had arrived, and had found him busy about his work. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Please pray for the repose of his soul, and for his widow and his children, in the shock and grief of their loss.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

The Vatican-SSPX talks are being filmed

How’s your Italian? There’s a very good blog called messainlatino.it, which I like to visit to supplement my Italian studies. It has many fascinating articles. Today they have some interesting information about the talks between the Vatican and the SSPX. Here are some extracts:

The composition of the Lefebvrian delegation could change in future, to allow for participation by those with different areas of expertise.

The discussions are not in Latin. They appear to be in French and Italian; all those participating understand these languages, but since none is completely at home in one or other of the languages, they are provided with simultaneous translation.

The SSPX delegation is staying at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the cardinals have lodged for papal conclaves.

Since all the altars at the Domus are already booked for Masses, the SSPX’s Masses are celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica.

Lastly, and I think most interestingly, the proceedings are being filmed, so that the Holy Father can watch them.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

The talented Mr England, on Purgatory

I urge you to read this wonderful post on Purgatory, written by Laurence England on his excellent blog That the bones You have crushed may thrill. It is splendid!

Thursday 29 October 2009

"Never Peter without the Twelve*" - Did I really hear that? (*See update 08/11/09)

I remember hearing an interview a few years ago with a prominent Catholic cleric, who has since retired. One sentence has stuck in my mind ever since. He said: "Never the Twelve without Peter; never Peter without the Twelve".

“Never the Twelve without Peter” – of course. But “Never Peter without the Twelve?” Did I dream it? Where did he get that from? Surely it can't be right. What is the point of crafting an apparently well-balanced sentence, if the second half of it is false?

Perhaps it was a simple error. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. Or perhaps he had stated the actual attitude of the English and Welsh hierarchy to the Successor of Peter. If he did, has that attitude changed?

From Lumen Gentium, Section 22 (the emphases are mine):

“But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.”

In short: the Pope is free; the Bishops are not; at least, they are not free in absolute terms. Their freedom is contingent upon their unity with him. Have I understood this correctly?

*Update on 8th November:

The exact quotation seems to have been “Never Peter without the eleven; never the eleven without Peter”, assuming it was quoted correctly in this Tablet editorial. No wonder I couldn’t track it down on the internet at my first attempt.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Cold feet

You have dreamt of her for years; you have loved her, and she knows it.  In your mind and affections, you are united to her.  And yet, circumstances seem to have conspired against your marrying her.

Now, all that has changed.  Suddenly the things which seemed to be insurmountable obstacles, the things which made you sigh and say, “If only!”, have melted away.  She has turned to you; she has told you:  “Nothing is insuperable any more.  If, as you say, your mind and heart are truly united to me, I will marry you.”

And suddenly, you are not so sure any more.  After all, it’s a big step.  You stand to lose a number of things you have become attached to.  There may be serious financial consequences.  You will almost certainly have to move house, and you are very much attached to this place.  In short, you are beginning to have cold feet.

She is waiting for your answer.  And she loves you.  What will you do?

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Among the worshippers at Anglo-Catholic churches ...

... there is an unknown number of Roman Catholics (to describe them clearly for the purpose of this post) who for some years have been slipping away from the post-Conciliar Catholic churches, because they could no longer put up with the banalities, the Catholicism-free homilies and the sheer irreverence.

I must make it clear that I do not agree with their decision. However, I have great sympathy for them.

I hope and pray that they will share in the fruits of this wonderful decision by the Holy Father, who has provided in such a wide-ranging and flexible way for the gathering-in to the one fold of all the good Catholic-minded Anglicans, together with all those riches of their tradition which are in harmony with the Catholic Faith. What a happy day!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Forgiveness for the Unrepentant

A most moving post from Fr Blake on the experience of a Rwandan sister’s encounter with the killer of her family, and the power of goodness released by his repentance and her forgiveness.

There is a related question, which seems really intractable:  how to obey the Lord’s commandment to forgive, when faced, not with a plea for forgiveness, but with an apparent lack of repentance.

Many of us will remember Gordon Wilson, the wonderful man who, after holding hands with his dying daughter Marie as they lay beneath the rubble after the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen in 1987, said that he bore no grudge against the Irish republicans who had killed his daughter together with ten others, on that appalling day.

It was an extraordinary thing that he should have forgiven them, at a time when the perpetrators – apart from some evidence that they realised they had made a tactical mistake – gave no indication at all that they repented of the evil they had committed, or even that they regarded it as a moral evil, or were conscious in any way of having committed a grave sin. 

Some have said that Mr Wilson’s words planted the seeds of what became, many years later, the cease-fire and the subsequent power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland.  I don’t know about that; it seems to be stretching things rather too far.  But the fact is that he made this gratuitous gesture of goodness, and, as it were, into the void.

This is the nub of it, and the conundrum: we must forgive; but unless the wrongdoer repents, he cannot be forgiven.  We must forgive; but what if the sinner is perfectly content with what he has done?   Surely the forgiveness will not “take”?  It is as though he has coated his soul in wax; the forgiveness will slide off him; nothing will sink in.  What to do?

The victim - and the victim’s loved ones are victims too - will surely suffer, both spiritually and psychologically, if they cannot find an outlet, a way through.  Justice must be done, whether in this world or the next.  At the same time, forgiveness must be there, at the ready, to heal the sinner as soon as he repents.  And yet it may never be known in this life who was responsible for the evil, let alone what has become of him.  How to offer forgiveness, how to send it out into the darkness, while being tormented by the suspicion that the evildoer simply does not care?

May I suggest the following:  that we give our forgiveness into the hands of God, asking Him to bestow it for us, if and when the evildoer repents.  It will not be wasted; and it may help to soothe and heal the hearts of the victims.  Surely no harm can come from this; I think it is worth a try.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Traditional Latin Masses in Gloucestershire

Not everyone is fully up to speed with Summorum Pontificum; not everyone knows that the current term is the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. So I thought I would entitle this post as above, in the hope of picking up any enquiries under the older name.

Here are the details of Masses in the Extraordinary Form in Gloucestershire, according to the website of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales:

CHELTENHAM: St Gregory's, St James Square, GL50 3PR:
Thursdays at 18:00
Telephone 01242 523737 (office hours 0900-1300 Mon-Fri)

STOW-on-the-WOLD: Our Lady & St Kenelm, Back Walls, GL54 1DR:
Saturdays at 10:00
Telephone 01451 830431

PRINKNASH ABBEY (St Peter's Grange), Cranham, Gloucester, GL4 8EX:
Saturdays at 11:00
First Sunday of each month at 15:00

Telephone 01452 812455

Very occasionally it is not possible for a Mass to take place as shown. I have included the telephone numbers for those who would like to check before making the journey.

The Masses at Stow and Prinknash are shown on their respective websites. The Mass in Cheltenham is not publicised at all. If you live near Cheltenham, or have any family or friends in the area, I'd be very grateful if you could let them know about this Mass, and ask them to pass the information on to others.

How to restore Communion on the tongue in Clifton?

In his interesting comment following my previous post, Ttony of The Muniment Room has included a link to the Diocese of Clifton's swine flu guidance. I'm delighted he did, because at the end of the guidance there is a box for messages. I have sent the following suggestion, and will let you know if I receive a reply:

"Grateful if special arrangements could be made for those few of us who wish to do so, to receive Holy Communion on the tongue. Perhaps there could be a separate queue?"

I will have to miss Mass today; I started with a cold yesterday, and am certain to be infectious. It's the responsible thing to do ... While there are always one or two who go out and about when they are infectious (or else how could I have got this? I suspect the local bus into town, which is something of a germ-box), when you consider the incidence of swine flu in the general population, reduced by the proportion of Mass-going Catholics, reduced further by those who prefer to receive on the tongue, reduced again by the number who quarantine themselves ...

Setting it out like this makes me realise that it would be far more useful for the Diocese to announce that anyone who has developed a cough or the sniffles should stay away from church altogether until they are better. They should be assured that they are relieved of the solemn obligation to attend Mass until they are sure they are no longer infectious. Judging by the amount of coughing that goes on at most Masses, I think this should produce benefits all round.

Friday 9 October 2009

Communion on the Tongue: Oxford Yes, Clifton No

I was so happy to be able to receive Holy Communion on the tongue at the Oxford Oratory yesterday. Oxford is in the Birmingham archdiocese (or can the Oratorians make their own rules? I don't know), while I live in the Clifton diocese. Here it is forbidden to have any contact at the sign of peace, forbidden to receive Holy Communion from the Chalice, and forbidden to receive the Host on the tongue.

I can live very happily with the more peaceful sign of peace, in which, at most, people nod and smile to one another; and I don't receive from the Chalice anyway, because I want to give witness to the Church's teaching that Christ is received whole and entire, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, under either species alone. I fear that a good many people have been confused into thinking their Holy Communion is not complete without receiving from the Chalice.

A good many things changed for me when Summorum Pontificum was issued. Among the changes, I returned to the habit of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. And now it has been forbidden, as a precaution against swine flu. I find it rather distressing, and one of the most troubling things is not knowing how long the ban is going to continue.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Wonderful morning with St Therese in Oxford

Out while it was still dark, to catch the first bus to Oxford.  Spent an unforgettable morning at the Oxford Oratory, in the presence of the relics of St Therese.  The long tail-back of commuter traffic delayed the journey somewhat, but I managed to arrive for the Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form just as the priest was giving his homily.

The church was full for the Mass, with many standing at the back and in the side aisles.  All generations were present.  I imagine that for some of the congregation it must have been the first experience of the older form of the Mass for many decades, perhaps in their lives.

After the Mass the pews emptied a little, providing space for the comings and goings of parties of schoolchildren and other groups.  Stayed for most of the morning; read some chapters of Matthew; said my usual prayers; prayed also, and left a prayer request, for all in the Catholic blogosphere, for themselves and all who read them to grow ever closer to God. 

In the background, at all times, a quiet hum and bustle of people.  In the midst of the sublime occasion I felt there was a sweet-natured, almost domestic atmosphere.  A communal Rosary; a young man behind me saying his prayers, just audibly,in Polish; visiting priests hearing confessions by the side altars; the procession of those wishing to go to the reliquary very well organised and smooth, with no one getting in anyone else’s way; plenty of space to see it, and to stop before it for a few moments of prayer or contemplation; no one was rushed away from it.  There were rose petals on the floor everywhere, mostly along the central aisle.  And, as the principal guest in the House of God, the sense of the presence of St Therese; the beautiful reliquary seeming more than itself.  In outward appearance the experience was a stylised version of being at the grave of a great heroine; but “to God, all men are in fact alive”, and it really did feel as if she was there among us.

I went to the reliquary three times, and was surprised each time to find myself in tears; but happy tears.  I will always remember it.

Towards the end of the morning I left the church, to get a cup of tea and a lunch-time sandwich, and to catch the bus home.  There was a substantial queue along the busy Woodstock Road, moving along at a steady pace and allowed into the church in batches.  A cheerful Oratory father, armed with a megaphone, was doing sterling work keeping everyone informed.  This controlled access helped to preserve the sense of the occasion: the interior of the church remained uncrowded, and the gentle spirituality of the great and solemn day was maintained.

The Anglican church of St Giles, across the street, was sharing in the festivities by serving refreshments, and very nice they were too.  Saw Fr Damian there; he is a Benedictine of Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, who regularly offers Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  Fr Hunwicke, of the Anglo-Catholic church of St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford, whose blog I like to visit, has described being present at the event.  This sharing of the joy has been an extra element in the happiness of the day.

I hope those of you who have not been able to attend any of the stages of St Therese’s wonderful progress through our dear but troubled country, have received from this account some flavour of the tremendous experience it has been for just one person.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Rosaries for the Consecration of Russia

I am sure you remember that one of Our Lady’s requests at Fatima was for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. There has been a good deal of debate in recent years as to whether this request has been complied with. I’m not sure what to think about it.

A few months ago, I read somewhere that the SSPX had initiated a crusade of 12 million rosaries (that is, 5-decade chaplets), for the consecration of Russia in accordance with Our Lady’s express request. This follows their amazing achievement at the beginning of this year, when they presented the Holy Father with a spiritual bouquet of over a million chaplets, for the intention that the excommunication of their four bishops might be lifted. The results of that were, shall we say, rather more dramatic than expected …

Twelve million rosaries is a hugely ambitious target. The period runs through to the Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March 2010, which sounds like plenty of time, but you know how the weeks and months slip by.

I feel very sad about the SSPX's situation. I hope the forthcoming discussions are fruitful in every way, for their benefit and for that of all the Church. I have decided to contribute some rosaries. If you are interested, their District of Great Britain has an e-form you can use. Those of you who live in other parts of the world will probably be able to find something on the internet that is more local to you, but I’m sure you could use the above if you wish.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

A surprise meeting in the Cotswolds

A morning not to be wasted, in this wonderful Indian summer so many of us are experiencing. We decided to go for one our favourite drives in the Cotswolds, which are particularly lovely just now.

We like to go on a circular route, which - for those of you who know and love these places - is by way of Winchcombe, Broadway, and Stow-on-the-Wold, then home past Bourton-on-the-Water and the Dowdeswell reservoir. It is a great pleasure to have within easy access this perfect mixture of glorious countryside and beautiful buildings for which the area is renowned.

Most of the buildings are of the classic golden limestone of the area, but there are also many cottages of thatched and timber-framed construction. Many a time we have seen little groups of Japanese tourists staring at the scene before them, looking as though they have died and gone to Heaven.

The colours of the trees today ranged from their full summer green, through the shades of yellow and orange, to bright russet. Some of the fields still have their crops in place; others have been harvested, with only the stubble remaining, and are scattered with great cylindrical hay-bales awaiting transfer into the barns. Add to the mix the warm brown soil of the fields which have already been ploughed, and the vivid green grass of the fields that are set aside or used for grazing, and we had a perfect rural patchwork to enjoy.

We had just got out of the car in Broadway, when I bumped into a person I had never met before, but whose face was so familiar that I overcame my shyness and approached her. It was the famous Catholic blogger, Mrs Jackie Parkes! We had a very pleasant little conversation before going our separate ways. I am delighted to report how well she looked. I'm looking forward to reading her account of her adventures.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Prayers for the Holy Father

On 13th February this year, Father Finigan, whose home page is linked here, posted a link to a novena of prayer for Pope Benedict XVI, translated into English by Fr Jean-Claude Selvini. Here is the link:


It contains a colour picture of the Holy Father's coat of arms, which is a lovely thing to print, apart from the importance of the prayer itself.

The original novena ran from 14th to 22nd February, but I can't imagine there would be any problem about continuing to say it. Prayer is never wasted, and certainly not for our dear Pope Benedict, who is about to be subjected to further attacks over the Williamson matter.

If you prefer, you could paste the prayer from this:

Novena of Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI

One Our Father; three Hail Marys; one Glory Be to the Father.

V. Let us pray for our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and not hand him over to the power of his enemies.

V. You are Peter.
R. And upon this Rock I will build My Church.

Let us pray:
God our Father, Shepherd and Guide, look with love on your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, the pastor of Your Church. Grant that his word and example may inspire and guide the Church, and that he, and all those entrusted to his care, may come to the joy of everlasting life. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Saint Peter, pray for us.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Virtue, Manliness and Femininity

Father Blake published an interesting post recently on the subject of Christ as the role model for manly virtue:


It can be illuminating to stand back from a word and think about its etymological origins. Most of us can see that, while the word virtue is generally understood to mean strength, and specifically moral strength, its root is vir, meaning a male man rather than a generic human being. The first meaning of the Latin word virtus is manliness. I like that!

Did the ancient world associate the concept of virtue only with masculinity? Others will know more about the subject than I do.

This train of thought led me on to the idea of masculinity and femininity in relation to God. We are accustomed to the linguistic convention whereby the masculine expression encompasses both male and female. But it is interesting to reflect on certain words, and the concepts behind them, which apply to both sexes but are expressed in the feminine. Most relevantly here, I am thinking of the soul.

I love the following, spoken by Ransom in C S Lewis’s That Hideous Strength:

“What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”

Saturday 19 September 2009

Tackling Newman's "Apologia" at last

In the past I have often found Newman's prose quite difficult; but I may just have been unlucky in the extracts I have read. Certainly there were passages quoted in Fr Ker's biography which I felt were rather beyond me.

However, I decided to give, not Newman, but myself, another chance, and have plunged into his Apologia pro Vita Sua. I struggled with Parts I and II, concerning his controversy with Charles Kingsley. But I ploughed on. By Part III I felt I had at last reached the sunlit uplands, and was glad I had made the effort.

I am now up to Part V; its title, History of my religious opinions from 1839 to 1841, could hardly be more plodding; but it is an exact description, and the content is fascinating.

Since I do not have time to wade through the book at one sitting, I think it will provide me with much pleasure, and solid food for thought, for quite some time.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Regarding the Sedia Gestatoria ...

The first photograph above was taken at Pentecost 2008, on my behalf, by a young man who was able to see only because, like very many others, he was standing on his chair. I could see nothing at all.

In St Peter's Square, too, the same thing happens. Even though the Holy Father stands on the Popemobile, the only chance of seeing him properly is to be behind people of my own age-range, who are as unwilling as I am to risk breaking a bone.

If they were to re-introduce it, they would certainly have to modify things; what was considered appropriate to the Pope's dignity in times gone by ( particularly the fans) would surely be regarded as flamboyant now. There would be a danger of derision.

Dignified visibility should be the guiding principle. I am sure this could be achieved, to the benefit of all those attending.

These thoughts are prompted by the interesting post on Fr Finigan's blog:
http://the-hermeneutic-of -continuity.blogspot.com/2009/09/sedia-gestatoria-comeback.html
(If any reader would be kind enough to give me a brief "idiot's guide" to creating a link, I'd be very grateful. One minute I can manage to create it, and the next minute the knowledge has flown out of my head.)

Wednesday 9 September 2009

The benefits and dangers of reading the Bible

In addition to steadily reading through the Old Testament, as mentioned in my previous post, I have the daily habit of reading a chapter from the New Testament. It began in my early twenties, when I made the resolution to do so after attending a Lenten retreat at the Poor Clares' convent in Newcastle. For some years the chapter shrank to a short passage within a chapter; but nonetheless, I made it a rule to do this every night, before saying my prayers. Now that I am retired, it is once again a chapter.

As a result, I have read the Gospels many times over; the Epistles quite a few times; Acts occasionally; and Revelation two or three times.

Judging by the extraordinary things I have read, particularly in the Old Testament, I'm not at all surprised that there are now more than 30,000 Protestant denominations. The combination of Sola Scriptura and private interpretation/private judgment has certainly wrought havoc, both in belief and in behaviour.

Romano Amerio's devastating book "Iota Unum"* has this, and more, to say:

"The Church's traditional reserve in the matter of indiscriminate Bible reading is based upon one undeniable fact about the Bible. It is a difficult book ... ... "

It most certainly is. Thank God for our Catholic faith, which roots the Canon of Scripture, and its true interpretation, in the Authority of the Church! Under that shelter, my memory has built up a great treasury of words and thoughts and images, which have enriched my faith more than I can say.

* "Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century" by Romano Amerio (Published by Sarto House)

Friday 4 September 2009

Indulgences and the reading of Scripture

“Late have I loved Thee,” wrote St Augustine. How late in the day I have learnt some of my lessons in life; and how late I have left it before starting to put into practice a most beautiful treasure of the Church: the gift of indulgences.

For some reason, there came a point when I decided to try to understand the requirements for plenary indulgences. They had always seemed so complicated, not to say daunting. Fortunately, in recent times the Church has made it somewhat easier.

Confession about 20 days either side of the indulgenced work: even I could manage to organize a visit to Confession once a month; and one Confession is sufficient for all the works carried out in that period.

The 20-day rule also applies to two other requirements: the reception of Holy Communion, and prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions; but, unlike Confession, there must be one Holy Communion and one offering of prayer in respect of each work. It is appropriate, but not essential, that these should be fulfilled on the same day as the work.

EWTN has a useful clarification of the 20-day condition:


Whether for a partial or a plenary indulgence, one must be in a state of grace. But for a plenary indulgence, one must have an attitude of complete detachment from sin – including from venial sin. This has brought about a real change in my daily life. I have become much more conscious of my behaviour. For example, I know I have resisted the temptation to be grumpy at times when I would formerly have had a really good grump. Sadly, I still do or say the wrong thing sometimes; but this indulgences idea has fixed itself so strongly in my head that I seem to be aware of the sin instantly. I certainly have plenty of material for those monthly Confessions. Fortunately, the gift of indulgences is meant for ordinary old sinners like me.

There are various works one can offer up for either a plenary or a partial indulgence, but I can’t find a suitable link at present. I would have added a link here to the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum of 1999, but I can only find the Latin version.

I stick to two works for the plenary indulgence: I usually spend half an hour reading the Bible for each occasion when I receive Holy Communion; and sometimes I vary this by doing the Stations of the Cross.

As a result, I have managed something I never thought I would do: I have succeeded in reading the entire Old Testament; and I am now well on my way through it for a second time. I must admit that I have skipped the lists of sons of the various tribes. But I have managed to read all the measurements – you would scarcely believe how many measurements there are, and all in cubits. I had to look up the length of a cubit: my Concise Oxford says it’s between 18 and 22 inches, which is imprecise enough to be of little help to visualisation. I have been on the brink of nodding off many a time; 30 minutes can pass very slowly. But I’m so very glad to have achieved it; and now, on my second journey through it, I am finding it a good deal easier, and more rewarding, not only for the sake of the indulgence, but for its own sake.

All in all, then, I can highly recommend it, certainly for oneself, but most of all for the Souls in Purgatory.

Friday 28 August 2009

The alternative magisterium

In his blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say?, Father Zuhlsdorf recently published the following:


It appears that, even as early as 1964, the dissent in the Church took the form of an alternative magisterium, to which certain politicians appealed as though it exercised a higher authority than the Pope.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Borgo Pio, Rome

My favourite street in Rome. Who could imagine that behind some of these tall buildings, completely hidden from view, there are beautiful gardens?

Friday 17 July 2009

Summorum Pontificum + 3: Things I hope Rome will want to know

In founding His Church to teach His truth and to lead mankind to Heaven, Christ gave Her the authority to govern - to manage - in such a way as to foster the fulfilment of His purpose in every age.

The skill of good governance is a study in its own right. Not everyone is a natural-born manager. It is said* that Newman's defeat in the Achilli libel action was caused principally by the inability of Cardinal Wiseman to lay his hand on certain vital papers on which Newman was relying, which had been mislaid owing, it seems, to Wiseman's disorganized manner of working.

The provision of useful information depends on good information-gathering practice. At the present time in the Church's history this is of particular significance in regard to Summorum Pontificum and the extent to which it has been implemented.

At the Holy Father's request, when three years have elapsed since the promulgation of the Motu Proprio (that is, in 2010), the Bishops are to send him an account of their experiences. I hope that their reports will be required to have a rather more definite structure than these words suggest. For example:

- There should be separate accounts in relation to scheduled Parish Masses and Masses sine populo. This will draw in those parishes where a scheduled Mass in the Extraordinary Form has not been allowed but where priests have begun to offer regular so-called "private" EF Masses outside the schedule.

- The Bishops should say what publicity they or their clergy have given to each type of Mass, and to the existence and provisions of Summorum Pontificum.

- Where there has been a lack of publicity, they should say why.

In case any reader is wondering whether I have done more than raise the issue here, I have indeed done so, in a letter to the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei". My letter was expressed with - I trust - courtesy and tact, and without making any personal criticisms. Nevertheless, recent experience has led me to believe that some serious pinning-down is required. Otherwise our chief executive - His Holiness - runs the risk of being fobbed off. Or am I being cynical?

* Source: John Henry Newman by Fr Ian Ker.

Tuesday 30 June 2009

"Private" EF Masses: Must they be kept secret?

A moving item from Ttony of The Muniment Room -
- about his experience of serving a private Mass in the Extraordinary Form. His posting deals mainly with the intense experience of these encounters with God; but his first paragraph has the following details: the priest "is not allowed to celebrate it publically"... "the Mass is not public or announced" ... "invitations are not a way of making these private Masses public or regular celebrations" ...

Oh, how that resonated! There are fewer priests, and fewer scheduled (that is, "public") Masses; therefore if a priest decides to offer in addition a "private" Mass in the EF, it is surely a bonus for the parish. There seems no reason at all why knowledge of these Masses should be kept from the faithful of the area.

I am aware of one such Mass. There is a steady congregation; but an item in the newsletter to inform the rest of the parish about the Mass's existence cannot be considered, it is said, without careful thought and consultation.

I am concerned that if "private" is being over-interpreted as "secret", there will be an under-reporting of the level of interest in the EF when the Bishops' reports are submitted to the Pope at the end of the first three years after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. It is essential, I think, that the Bishops include these "private" Masses in their reports; but will they do so?

Monday 29 June 2009

Vatican II and the SSPX: Discussions set to begin

Two linked problems of the greatest importance are, at long last, about to be tackled: the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, and the position of the Society of St Pius X in regard to it. The following recent articles have caught my attention: from Fr Finigan's blog -


- all of which is of great interest; and from the Rorate Caeli blog - http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/ - , the text of an interview with Fr Schmidberger of the SSPX, posted on June 25 and entitled "Important Interview". (There is probably a way to link directly to this, but I'm afraid don't know how to do that yet.)

In response to some quite no-holds-barred questions from the journalist, Fr Schmidberger provides straightforward information, among which is this:

KNA: What should the theological dialogue between the society and Rome regarding the council look like?

Schmidberger: As far as the external form goes, it could be both oral or written, but primarily it should be written. We have selected representatives from our side and Rome also has chosen its people. The discussions will consider: what is ambiguous in the council? What contradicts the traditional doctrine of the Church?

It looks as if things have come to the crunch. Facts must be faced about the state of the Church and the weakening of Her message since the Council. Let us hope that good things are achieved from this dialogue.

Thursday 25 June 2009

An Honour and a Responsibility

It is an honour and a responsibility to have been given the Catholic Faith of the Church that was founded by Christ on Peter the Rock.

The word “pride” in connection with the Church has always jarred with me. There are, of course, different kinds of pride. There is honest pride in one’s work, or the gentle sort of pride which is really a healthy self-respect, for example making the best of one’s appearance, or taking care of one’s home. But it is not uncommon for people to say they are “proud” of their religion, even when, to all outward appearances, they seem to share none of its beliefs and to obey none of its teachings.

Pride in one’s religion may be genuinely spiritual, or it may be more akin to pride in one’s town, or to the local football team. At its extreme, it can be ugly. I can remember, some decades ago, seeing a film of mutually hostile crowds at the height of the Northern Irish Troubles. The crowd on one side were hurling hymns at their adversaries, as though they were hurling bricks.

Pride has nothing to do with it. Faith is a gift from God. I do not deserve it. It is a share in the royal priesthood of the Kingdom of Heaven: how could I possibly deserve it? It has been freely given to me, on trust; and the Lord will expect much of those to whom much has been given. What an honour, and what a responsibility!