Sunday 28 August 2011

Just a few well-chosen words …

This morning I went to Mass a little farther afield, in the chapel of a Nazareth House care home. A 1960s building, by the look of things; I wasn’t expecting great architectural or aesthetic merit, but that didn’t matter so much, because it’s the Mass that matters. To my surprise, however, the interior of the chapel was lovely. In that very mid-20th century space the sisters had installed a dignified marble altar; the Tabernacle had pride of place at the centre of the rear wall; there was a fine large crucifix, and a very nice set of Stations of the Cross, quite modern but simple and moving.

The hymns were not quite to my taste: they made me think of the sort of tunes that seemed popular in Anglican services during the radio broadcasts I used to hear occasionally in the 1950s. But perfectly liveable-with, and I dare say many people like them very much.

But what really struck me was the homily, delivered by an elderly resident priest; I think he said he was a Carmelite. Isn’t it inspiring when you hear something thoroughly edifying in a homily? When just a few words stick in your mind and warm your heart? In that environment he incorporated in his homily, understandably, references to frailty, and to the suffering - sometimes very great - which we all have to endure at some time in our lives. He spoke of the suffering of Christ on the Cross, and His Resurrection; and then he said: “With all suffering, there is always the Third Day”.

I think I will add these words to my collection of pithy sayings which it can be so very strengthening to call upon in difficult times. Thank you, Father.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Rome and the SSPX: Two recent news items

Readers may recall a post I published in October last year, The SSPX: Vatican recognition de facto and ad hoc. In recent days a couple of new items have appeared about Rome’s relations with the Society. They are both rather interesting and indeed intriguing, and in view of this it seems quite a good time to gather the three pieces together in one place.

The first new item is that Bishop Bernard Fellay and other leading figures of the Priestly Society of St Pius X have been summoned to a meeting at the Vatican. The date of the meeting will be 14th September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the fourth anniversary of the coming into effect of Summorum Pontificum. The sources of this information are Rorate Caeli, Andrea Tornielli and La Stampa’s Vatican Insider (English version here).

Beyond these facts, there is an understandable element of speculation. Briefly, it is thought that a memorandum may be put to Bishop Fellay and his companions, clarifying certain doctrinal points. Subject to the doctrinal difficulties being overcome, the next step is thought to be “a proposal for a canonical adjustment”, which may be along the lines of the Ordinariate established for Anglicans.

The second item, courtesy once again of Rorate Caeli, concerns a Sister of the "mainstream" Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of New Zealand, who has transferred to the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui, a congregation established by Bishop Fellay. And this is the interesting bit: her transfer was given special permission from the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes in Rome.

It’s fascinating to note these manifestations of a practical relationship in anticipation of what I hope will eventually (and soon, God willing) become a full restoration of unity in all respects.

Thursday 4 August 2011

"O Godhead Hid": A few thoughts on visiting the Blessed Sacrament

Every Thursday and Saturday, at the church of St Gregory the Great in Cheltenham, there is a period of Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The setting for the Exposition could hardly be better: it is a fine Victorian Gothic church, with an interior that glows with mellow stone.

On a visit some years ago, the sight of the Monstrance conjured up in my mind a play on words: it seemed to me as though the Sacred Host was also the most genial of Hosts, the great King receiving His loved ones into His presence with such vulnerable generosity. That feeling has stayed with me.

One of the things I always notice, and it was so today, is the variety of ages among those who are present. This morning there were two or three youngish men, and I always love to see that; it gives me confidence for the Church. And a number of elderly people, by which I mean even more elderly than I am. One old man, full of dignity, rose carefully from his pew at the end of his visit, and struggled slowly away with the aid of a walking stick. I was very much impressed by the heroic effort he had put in to be there.

Sometimes, after I have become aware of an old person - let us say an old woman - sitting quietly some pews away from me, I catch sight of her again a little while later, and her head has nodded forward, and her shoulders have drooped a little as the need for a nap has crept over her. At last she becomes conscious of a change of balance, and comes back to herself, and resumes her quiet adoration. And I think, without any sense of condescension, how sweet that is, and I have a sense of how tenderly the Lord looks upon her from the Altar.

Truly, there are blessings and gentle pleasures of many kinds, when one visits the Blessed Sacrament enthroned.

Picture from Google Images, with acknowledgments to