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.