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.