Monday 31 December 2012

Meditating on the Joyful Mysteries

I continue to be plagued by a tendency for my thoughts to drift off while saying my prayers.  One of the oddest things about it is the realisation that my brain is carrying out two functions at once.  When my attention returns to what I should be doing, I find I have come to the end of a particular prayer, or all my morning prayers, or a decade of the Rosary.  So part of my brain has been saying the words all through my wanderings.

When saying the Rosary, I find it helps enormously if I have a little phrase, mostly from Scripture or sometimes from some other devotional source, to pin down the flighty half of my mind while I say the prayers for each Mystery.

We are all different, and certain things resonate with one person while others are more inspiring for another person, or at another time.  And that's absolutely fine.   I thought you might be interested in what I have selected for my own meditation on the Joyful Mysteries.  I keep tinkering with them, but this is the current version.  For each Mystery, I meditate on the title and four phrases, and I do this twice, so that there is a line to occupy my mind for each Hail Mary.  I rather like the repetition; it seems to reinforce the meditation.

The Annunciation to Mary
“Hail, full of grace!” (Luke 1:28)
“Be it done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
He shall be called “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.” (John 1:14)

The Visitation to Elizabeth
“How is this, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
“The child in my womb leapt for joy.” (Luke 1:44)
“My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)
“He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy.” (Luke 1:54)

The Nativity of Our Lord
Joseph and Mary “went up to the City of David.” (Luke 2:4)
“There was no room for them at the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
She wrapped her Son, and laid Him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
The shepherds “went with haste” to see the Child. (Luke 2:16)

The Presentation of Jesus
“They brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” (Luke 2:22)
“My eyes have seen Your salvation.” (Luke 2:30)
The light of the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel. (Luke 2:32)
They “marvelled at what was said about Him.” (Luke 2:33)

The Finding in the Temple
“The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:43)
The teachers “were amazed at His understanding.” (Luke 2:47)
“Your father and I have sought You, sorrowing.” (Luke 2:48)
“I must be about My Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49)

Friday 28 December 2012

Alessandro Manzoni: "The Betrothed"

I am nearing the end of reading, in translation, Alessandro Manzoni's great novel, The Betrothed ("I Promessi Sposi").  
It has something for every reader:  a sweet love story, and a rattling adventure, wrapped around a long and harrowing historical account of the Great Plague of Milan which ravaged northern Italy (and many other parts of Europe) during the Thirty Years' War.  There are dreadful scenes of suffering, and of wickedness;  and scenes in which God's power and love shine through it all.

It has been hard going at times, but I now have that feeling one has at the end of certain books, that I have been enriched by the experience. 

Thursday 27 December 2012

Eat for Victory; Make Do and Mend

Here is another chatty post for the Christmas holiday season, inspired by that World War Two heroine, Mrs Sew-and-Sew.  A saying of the time was:  "Eat it up or wear it out.  Make it do or do without."  That seems rather sensible to me, as a fall-back position for when belts have to be pulled tighter and tighter.

These are straitened times for many people.  Fortunately, help is at hand, in the form of inspirational books and internet resources.  Those of you who are keen to economise while continuing to enjoy the simple pleasures of home, may like to read the following.

A few years ago, two very interesting books were published.  They were compilations of official instruction leaflets for housewives, issued during and just after the Second World War.  One is called "Eating for Victory: Healthy Home Front Cooking on War Rations."  This is fascinating.   Many of the recipes would be considered very acceptable today.  I like the fuel-saving idea of cooking a casserole on the hob, with a pudding steaming in a cocoa tin in the centre of the pan.   I can't think when I last saw a cocoa tin, but if we were a family who were keen on puddings I think I could contrive something.

The other book is "Make Do and Mend: Keeping Family and Home Afloat on War Rations".  This is very good on darning, patching and repairing , turning collars and cuffs on shirts (but I think I'll give that one a miss), and making new clothes out of old garments.  The one drawback is that all the garments are of the complicated type of that period, with (to our eyes) unnecessary gathers and pleats, and plackets, which are very fiddly to insert; thank goodness for zips! But the basic techniques could easily be adapted for our simpler modern clothes.

There are two other books which I have had since the early years of my married life.  They are both by Jo Hatcher:

"Cooking on the Breadline: Tips and recipes for cutting food bills yet still enjoying a varied menu"; and

"Home-Making on a Budget: Cost-cutting and time-saving ideas for beating inflation on the home front"

My attention turned to these resources again recently, and to the cheery picture of Mrs Sew-and-Sew, after the work I had been doing for Mother-in-law on her admission to the care home.  She is almost completely blind, and so she is naturally unable to see any little mending requirements that develop in her clothes.  Taking charge of her things gave me the opportunity to do quite a bit of mending and darning.  I was able to save some garments of which she was particularly fond. 

During my childhood I had no interest or skill in sewing.  It was in my late teens that I started to have a go at making some of my clothes.  After initial guidance from my mother, I became largely self-taught.  The craft of sewing has stood me in good stead all my life since then, both for clothes and for household things such as curtains.  It is very satisfying, both in terms of practical economy and in the pleasure of creativity.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Pleasure of Keeping a Diary

I thought I might publish one or two random, rambling posts, for those of my readers who feel like checking their computers as a change from Christmassy things. 

This one is about the pleasure of keeping a diary.  The desire to keep a diary can strike at any time; I was in my late 50s when I took it up. It wasn't even New Year's Day when I started, but early December.  I don't know what possessed me, but it has been several years since then, and I haven't missed a day.

Like all late starters, I suppose, I think back with frustration at the adventures I might have recorded as they happened, instead of having to rely on memories whose details gradually fade.

By the way, New Year's Day is a terrible day on which to start keeping a diary:  too many expectations and high resolutions, and by the third day all one can think to write about is what one had to eat.  But why not, say I.  Parson Woodforde's wonderful diary is full of detailed accounts of his meals, enabling us to savour the delights of Pigg's Face and various other Georgian delicacies.

No half-measures for me: my diary is A4, with a full page for each day.  I promised myself I wouldn't worry if I wrote just a few lines on any day. Momentous news or trivial witterings: it didn't matter.  Nor would I worry about style; I wasn't writing a work of literature.  Thinking along these lines helped me to overcome any initial self-consciousness, and gradually it became very natural and a part of me.

Sometimes I have had to record the events of a few days in one batch, such as the time when I was whisked off to hospital for an operation.  Holidays are dealt with variously.  I take the diary with me if we are going by car.  If we fly abroad, I sometimes take a thin notebook, write each day's entry in it, and transcribe the lot on my return.  The first time I thought it would be tedious to write everything again, but in fact it was a pleasure to re-live the holiday in this way.  You see what an addict I have become.

A surprising pleasure has been the diary's contribution to family reminiscences.  More than once my son has said, "Do you remember when such-and-such happened? "Yes," I say, "and I wrote about it in my diary."  I turn to the time in question in one of my old diaries, and it is as though the memories have come alive again, much to his delight.

I hope you have found this little post entertaining; and I hope it will encourage you not to throw away that Christmas-present diary just yet, but to tuck it away somewhere.  As the year progresses, the number of blank pages will increase, but it doesn't matter at all.  You never know: after an unknown number of weeks or months, and however late in the year, the words may suddenly start to flow.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

The Kindness of the Innkeeper's Wife

God bless us, every one!

The only character I ever played in a school Nativity play was the innkeeper's wife.  I haven't read the Holy Father's new book on the Infancy of Christ, so I don't know if he mentions the innkeeper and his wife among those persons and animals who are absent from the Birth narratives in the Gospels. 

On account of the crowds that had arrived in Bethlehem for the census, there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn; and so they had to make the best of things in a stable.  It is interesting to let one's imagination roam over this scene.  Let us, in particular, consider the innkeeper's wife.  There must surely have been such a person, a capable woman, knowledgeable in the ways of the world as well as in the business of childbirth.  As soon as she saw Mary, she would have assessed her condition in an instant.  Clearly this poor young woman was not fit to go a step further.  But "there was no room."  Perhaps literally so; or perhaps in the very practical sense of there being no possibility of privacy for the dramatic business of childbirth.

The idea of a stable is pretty grim.  How big was the stable?  Was it divided into stalls?  Some of the guests might have arrived on horseback, in which case many of the stalls would have been occupied by their horses, with their associated sounds and smells.  Did other animals share the stable, in particular the ox and the ass, those beloved creatures of our Crib scenes?  This imagined stable is getting to be quite a lot bigger than the one we are used to from the traditional illustrations.

Let us, for the sake of this exercise, imagine one of the stalls, swept and made ready in haste by the good innkeeper's wife: a little private space, its floor covered with new straw, its manger lined with fresh hay.  I can see her escaping from her domestic duties at intervals, to see how things were progressing, and to check that the couple were warm and had enough to eat and drink.

And then, the moment she had been looking forward to.  Was she present at the birth?  The instincts of an experienced mother would naturally be on the alert and ready to help with the arrival of a young woman's firstborn, especially when the young mother was so far from the comforts of home and family.

In the midst of that busy time, with so many guests to attend to, I'd like to think that this good woman experienced the delight and joy of the occasion, and a sense of modest satisfaction that she had done her best in difficult circumstances.

I wonder what she thought when a group of shepherds turned up at the door in the early hours, with a very strange story, asking to see the baby?

Monday 24 December 2012

Jesus our Emmanuel

I remember reading, long ago, that in certain instances where the Scriptures spoke of a person being called by a name, it was not merely an identifying label.  It was a statement of the inmost reality of that person: the purity of his or her identity, known only to God.

In the life of Our Lord Jesus, we know that only one of His given names was His name in the normal earthly sense.  In St Luke's account of the Annunciation, Mary is given three names by the Angel:  "You shall call His name Jesus;" "He will be called the Son of the Most High;" "The child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God."

In St Matthew's account of the revelation to St Joseph, we are told the significance of the names "Jesus" and Emmanuel":  "You shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins." ( I understand that the name means "The Lord is salvation".)  Matthew then says, "All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, God with us).' "

In Chapter 6, verse 45 of St John's Gospel, in that extraordinary encounter in which Christ speaks of His flesh as the bread of life, He says
"It is written by the Prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learnt from the Father comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father except Him Who is from God; He has seen the Father."
I wish all my readers a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The Original Countercultural Father

I have borrowed "Countercultural Father" from Ben Trovato, the paterfamilias whose excellent blog has that name. 

Lately, I have been doing some work on the Mysteries of the Rosary: specifically, writing down short snatches of text to help me to meditate as I pray the Mysteries.

A few minites ago, while continuing this task I had set myself, I was re-reading the account of the angels' appearance to the shepherds, to announce the birth of Christ.  To these ordinary chaps, probably with minimal education, the Heavenly message is given in all its richness and theological depth:
Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour Who is Christ the Lord."
This is not the only occasion on which God speaks to mankind in such a countercultural fashion.  At the other end of Christ's earthly life - indeed, a step beyond the end - the Resurrection is first announced to a few of the Lord's female disciples, who have come with such loving devotion to tend to His corpse.  They are the people whom the Apostles are least likely to believe.

God chooses His hearers and His messengers, as He knows best.

Picture from, via Google Images

Monday 10 December 2012

"No, you are not married."

Good words from Bishop Egan of Portsmouth and Bishop Devine of Motherwell on the Prime Minister’s push for same-sex couples to be allowed to marry. Incidentally, hasn’t it been fascinating, in recent times, to compare the styles of Catholic Churchmen - and indeed the general tenor of political and social debate - north and south of the border? They don’t mince words up there, do they?

I published a post on this topic a few months ago, which I link here for readers’ convenience. It is astonishing, even after the subject has been simmering ad nauseam, that PM David Cameron still talks as though he thinks that it is actually possible for persons of the same sex to be married. Whatever the law of the land eventually states, and whatever word the law applies to the ceremony or to their status,  they will not in fact be married.

What is driving the PM? Or more exactly, what things are driving him? It feels as if there is more to his decision-making than a detached intellectual study of the matter, leading to a calm, considered decision, however erroneous. Calm, intellectual consideration is not exactly what springs to mind in reflecting on Mr Cameron’s style or on his political record.

Is it something to do with his friends? Dare I say: is it something to do with Eton, his old public school? Its reputation in these matters has long been (whether exaggeratedly or not) rather notorious.

Is it something to do with his work experience before entering Parliament? I understand that he was a public relations man, selling his employers’ image, putting the desired impression across: that sort of thing. The attractive picture, to gain as many profitable customers as possible. Public relations can, I am sure, be an honourable and integritous career. But in the nature of things it must be vulnerable to the danger of becoming a thing in itself, an exciting skill, distinct from the value (including the moral worth) of what it represents.

But having said all that, I am left with this practical and sobering thought, regarding what lies ahead. If this law comes to pass, will one of us become involved at some point in the following exchange with a person who has celebrated a same-sex ceremony? However courteous the discussion, and however clearly and charitably we have set out the truth about marriage, in the end it may come to this: “Am I married or am I not?” “No, you are not.”

It is often said these days that in large measure it is the judges who make the law in our country, case by case, precedent by precedent. Which of the law’s opponents will be the first person to be charged with having given offence, and put on trial, not so much for a precisely-worded crime, but, as the police have sometimes said in other cases in recent years, “to test the law”?

Thursday 22 November 2012

Mother's progress

Thank you so much to all who said a prayer for my mother-in-law following my last post.  The hospital managed to control her pain and restore her to a tolerably comfortable state.  Today Mother was transferred to a residential nursing home, which seems very warm and friendly, and to our great relief she seems to be happy with the opening of this new chapter in her life.  Dear husband and I are beyond exhausted with all the preparations; but even though we now have the task of disposing of her furniture and the tenancy of her flat, we feel, for the first time in many days if not months - if not years! - that we can start to unwind a little from the worry.

Friday 16 November 2012

A bit busy just now

Life is a little bit hectic just at present.  My mother-in-law is in hospital; she is nearly 98, and her vertebrae are in a poor state.  She is in a good deal of pain.  A prayer for her would be much appreciated.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Curtseying and Genuflecting

This photograph, in case you are wondering (except if you are visiting from Australia), shows Her Excellency Mrs Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of Australia, curtseying in a beautiful, elegant, dignified manner to Her Majesty the Queen. I like that very much!

It struck a chord, too, because these days, being rather creaky, I could just about manage that kind of curtsey if ever I were to be introduced to the Queen. In fact, I make my genuflections in church just like that.

What am I on about? Well … …

There is a certain church where until recently I was very reluctant to attempt to receive Holy Communion on the tongue. I tried twice, and on each occasion the priest accidentally knocked against my chin, once with his knuckles and once with the ciborium. The priest was not very tall, and the altar step on which he was standing was quite low; and I might in addition have presented a difficult “target”, as it were. Whatever the cause, it was something I had never encountered before, and these experiences put me off trying again for a good long while.

But things are better now. This has happened because of my visits to St Mary-on-the-Quay in Bristol, which as some readers may remember is my preferred church for Confession. I happily wear my mantilla for the Ordinary Form Mass there, and I have no difficulty at all in receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. But there came a day, as I recall, when I saw a communicant in front of me bend his knee to receive. Not kneel down, just bend his knee. And I thought that was really effective: devout; not very conspicuous; and with no risk of tripping anyone up. So I thought I would try it too, and it was very good.

Interestingly, this is not a feminine thing, even though I have used the illustration of the curtsey. As with the example I have just given, men can do this too.

A few weeks ago, with some trepidation, I decided once again to receive Holy Communion on the tongue from the priest from whom I had received so awkwardly before. To make my wish clear, I held my Mass book in my clasped hands. I made this slight dip of the knees, and raised my face a little, in the hope of making things easier for him. And it worked beautifully. I returned to my pew, very happy, and not only for having been able to receive on the tongue. That slight genuflection at the moment of receiving had filled me with joy. And that is they way things have continued, at whatever church in which I have attended the Ordinary Form. I can recommend it.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Kindness from Ecclesia Dei on the SSPX Discussions

My translation of a good article from Roberto of Messa in Latino on 30/10/2012 about the recent optimistic Declaration from the Ecclesia Dei Commission regarding the SSPX discussions. It’s quite long, but please bear with it, because it's well worth reading.

“We thank a reader for having drawn our attention to this Declaration of last Saturday, 27th October 2012, which had escaped our notice, through no fault of our own, on account of bad weather.

Having read the Declaration, we side with those who are optimistic, and with those who trust in God and in Benedict XVI. (We do not side with the naïve ones; we well know that we are dealing with priests, and with Rome). But certainly one cannot fail to notice that in general the tones of the Declaration are peaceable and conciliatory, and that the focus of the message is the Pope’s desire, and that of the Fraternity, for the “reconciliation” which is so greatly wished and hoped for.

In order to achieve this, on the one side we read that the Fraternity needs to prepare, with study and reflection, its own response to the proposals of the Holy See (it is not said that the FSSPX must decide whether to accept or not: but that the Fraternity has to prepare the response, as though to say: “we hope that the response will be positive”); and on the other side the Holy See declares itself well disposed to wait, and to understand the need for reflection on the part of the Lefebvrian superiors, in order to arrive at the meeting-point.

Certainly, there is silence on a serious fact which was the real motive for the brusque halting of the Fraternity’s reconciliation with Rome. Mgr Fellay’s revisions had been brought to the doctrinal declaration before June, having already been personally approved by the Pope, which would thus have permitted an immediate acceptance on the part of the FSSPX of the canonical recognition that had been proposed to it. Nothing is said about the fact that these revisions were unexpectedly removed by the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which thus, on 13th June 2012, had re-proposed the original text to Fellay, causing by this means the reversal of the agreements that had been in progress.

The action was serious, and easily explainable. Let us hazard a guess as to one reason for it: perhaps in the year which was to see the 50th anniversary of the Council, the wolves of the Curia would never have allowed the Lefebvrians to be granted the right to challenge and criticise the Council, or even merely certain expressions in certain conciliar documents.

But all is not lost. We note that Ecclesia Dei wants to make it known officially to the Fraternity that things are on standby, and that the Commission remains ready. And it does this, speaking in peaceable terms, to express the best intentions, and to announce a pause (and not a rupture!) and to hold out its hand. Hence the door is not closed (as certain birds of ill omen strive to croak to the four winds).

Certainly substance is more important than form. But in the communications – especially from the Holy See – even the form can enclose important contents.

One could say, a little mischievously, that last Saturday’s Declaration was not written by Müller - who some informed sources say is categorically opposed to the possibility of a reconciliation between the Holy See and the Fraternity. He has been dealt a bad hand!* Because having missed out on the cardinal’s biretta at the forthcoming consistory, he is likely to have even more of a toothache.

On the other hand, the Declaration seems to be imprinted with the diplomatic and benevolent style of the Vice-President of Ecclesia Dei. Under the guidance of Mgr Di Noia, there are grounds for hope, if he succeeds once more in sharpening up the doctrinal document, and in finding thereby a form and a substance that are welcome to both sides, and the resulting canonical recognition of the Fraternity which guarantees her freedom both of action and of speaking. (And the fact that the Fraternity has freed itself from Mgr Williamson may be a good point.)

Let us perhaps wait until next year, when the euphoria and excitement of the 50th anniversary of the Council have waned, and it will once again be possible to do business. There is indeed so much need for “patience, serenity, perseverance and trust” in God, and let us add, for prayer.”

*Only guessing at this phrase – DB

Tuesday 30 October 2012

To my American readers ...

To my American readers:  I hope you have not been affected by the awful storm; but if you have, I send my prayers and good wishes, that you and your loved ones and neighbours may be able to recover quickly from this difficult experience.

Sunday 28 October 2012

The Two Shall Become One

In some of my earlier posts I have referred to the occasional experience of a jolt of insight or appreciation when reading this or that passage of Scripture. It is a rather wonderful thing, and I know I’m not alone in having experienced it.

This reflection follows on from my previous post about the Natural Law. In particular, I’d like to concentrate on the words of Christ in Matthew, Chapter 19 ("The two shall become one"), which echo the words of Genesis 2:24 ("And they become one flesh").

In the early 1980s I studied natural family planning in some depth, and taught it for a short time before other commitments meant that I could not continue to do so. One of the many interesting facts I learned was how recently the existence of the ovum had come to be known for certain.

The ovarian follicle was first discovered by Reinier de Graaf in 1672, but it was not until 1826 that the scientist Karl Ernst von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum. The first human ovum was described by Allen in 1928.

A bit more background, just for the record, but I’m sure you are all aware of this. All our individual cells contain 46 chromosomes, with the exception of the gametes, which each contain only 23. When the sperm and ovum fuse, they cease what would in any case have been their very fleeting existence. It is a little as though they have died; and yet in their "dying" the two have become one.

That "one", that single cell, is composed of a new, unique 46-chromosome combination, which means that it could not possibly be a cell of either of its parents' bodies. And it is certainly not dead. It is intensely alive, and it is a new individual being of the human species, its body consisting of one plenipotent cell.

Jesus was teaching and reinforcing the meaning of marriage nearly two thousand years ago. The Genesis account dates from several centuries before that, and in its unwritten origins it probably reaches back into the mists of tradition. In those times it appeared to be self-evident that while it was the mother’s body that nurtured the new life, it was the father who generated it. And yet there was this theme, from the beginning and from Christ the Word of God: the two shall become one. At the heart of marriage, and at the heart of its generative power.

This is an insight that Christ’s audience could not have known; but He knew it even as He spoke, and we know it now. It is an additional layer of richness in His words, revealed to our more recent centuries.


Saturday 27 October 2012

Fresh Air and the Natural Law

Pastor Emeritus has given me a gentle reminder, for which I am grateful, that it has been a few weeks since my last post.  During the interval my husband and I have been away on a lovely week's holiday in the clear fresh air of the delightful little coastal town of St Ives, in Cornwall.  While every day's weather forecast predicted lashing wind and storms, in fact we had an entire week of mild, dry weather, with only one windy day.  A charming little Catholic church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart and St Ia, with beautiful Stations of the Cross.  Row upon row of houses clustering in higgledy-piggledy terraces, clinging to every available shelf of the steep slopes up from the bay.  Great exercise to walk up and down, but I fear my knee-joints will take some time to recover.

However, back to business. 

I have occasionally seen rather dismissive references to the Church's appeals to Natural Law arguments in promoting or defending Her moral teachings.  I think the core of the criticism was usually that the concept of Natural Law, being derived - I think - from Greek philosophy, was a type of accretion.  The objectors maintained that its adoption was therefore both post-Scriptural (Thomist, I believe, though it may have featured in earlier centuries) and indeed unscriptural.  If I have misunderstood anything in the foregoing, I shall be very happy to be corrected.

The idea of Natural Law, pure and simple, has always seemed very logical to me.  But it was when reading a certain passage in the new Testament that I became aware of its presence in the words of Our Lord.  Following His rejection of the Jewish traditions regarding divorce and remarriage, He was asked some searching questions.  It was in one of these exchanges, in Matthew, Chapter 19,  that I suddenly made the connection with Natural Law:

"Have you not read that He Who who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'?  So they are no longer two but one." ...... "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."

What was so from the beginning, and what was not so.  I had the impression not only of the beginning of history according to the Biblical account of creation, but also of  the beginning in the sense of the mind of the Creator at our creation; in His fundamental blueprint of the nature of man, woman and their partnership. 

Words from the Word Himself, who was with God, and was God, from the beginning.  Since gaining what I felt and still feel was a most helpful insight, I have never felt any disjointedness between the Gospel and Natural Law.

Picture from Wikipedia

Monday 1 October 2012

The Rochdale Case

Ben Trovato has pubished this excellent reflection on the appalling Rochdale case, on his blog Countercultural Father.

I wanted to pay some attention to an element that has not been mentioned in any detail in the media reports I have seen so far. That is, the question of attitudes to slavery.

We all know that during the course of history people have acquired slaves by various means. They still do so in some cultures. These methods have historically included by capture, whether in battle or otherwise; by the birth of children to those already enslaved; as a gift; or by purchase from dealers. To which I think we should add, by enticement and trickery.

The history of slavery from a Christian perspective is set out in great detail in this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is really worth reading.

This year I managed to finish reading the foundational book of a certain religion. I read it five pages at a time, having to force myself to do so at times, not because it was difficult to understand, but because of a mixture of its style and content. I will just say that there are some things in it which leap out at the reader, whichever way you may wish to take that comment.

In the context of this post on slavery, the book sets the limits beyond which adherents are not to go in their use of female slaves. Here is a text relating to prostitution:
You shall not force your slave girls into prostitution in order that you may enrich yourselves, if they wish to preserve their chastity. If anyone compels them, God will be forgiving and merciful to them. (Reference 24:33)
I think it’s a pretty fair bet that those unfortunate young girls in Rochdale, who had reached an age when they were enthralled by the idea of romance (and thought they had found it in the takeaway shop, heaven help us), had never been taught about the value of the virtue of chastity – indeed, of its vital importance in the dangerous atmosphere of some parts of modern society. They may never even have heard the word, let alone the idea.

Shall we, by the way, avoid referring to the girls as white? It is not clear that all of them were, if we include other parts of the country in which similar cases have been revealed. I don't think the chief attraction lay in this. They were not members of their predators’ religion; they were young and emotionally vulnerable; they were willing to engage in unchaste behaviour. This combination provided the ideal opportunity for their abusers to act upon the entitlement implied in the text quoted above.

I will say no more on this matter, and I should warn my readers not to be disappointed if their comments do not appear.  I may also be somewhat inconsistent in my censorship.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Cheltenham TLM in Honour of St Therese

I don't know if this blog has any regular visitors from Gloucestershire, but just in case, I have pasted the following announcement which has been published on the blog of the Latin Mass Society in Clifton Diocese.
If you live in Gloucestershire, and are free on the evening of Wednesday 3rd October, then come along to the church of St Gregory the Great in CHELTENHAM at 6pm. Low Mass in honour of St Therese of Lisieux will be offered.
All welcome. Please come and support this Mass, which is celebrated at the same time and place on the first Wednesday of every month.
The celebrant will be Fr Redman of Dursley, who is the chaplain of the Clifton branch of the Latin Mass Society.  He offered a beautiful and well-attended Mass at the beginning of September.

Friday 21 September 2012


I have been thinking a fair bit about businesses and public-sector bodies, their internal manoeuvres, their personnel moves and so on. 

In any big organisation, when attractive promotions or transfers are in the offing, the more ambitious ones think ahead and make their moves early.  Bringing your name to the attention of the corporate talent-spotter or some other influential senior person; giving a good impression; announcing or even just suggesting some initiative which is greeted with enthusiasm by the "punters" and the media: all of these things are likely to be noticed in the right quarters.

Are the ambitious people the best candidates? Perhaps, but only if their recent high-profile ideas are of a pattern with their long-term overall performance. It is as well to be clear-headed and not to be swept along by the latest news.

There will be other members of the organisation, whose quality is of a steady, consistent kind, without sudden flashes of publicity. They have a demonstrable track record of good management; of getting on with what they are supposed to be doing; and they do it well. They inspire; they train and develop and care for their people.  Most of all, they are focused on the core objectives of the organisation.  For a commercial business, these fundamental objectives would be to win customers, and to retain them. 

If, just for the sake of example, I were writing about the Church in this context, those steady, consistent ones would have demonstrated a constant purpose that is also the core purpose of the Church:  the aim of saving and sanctifying individual souls, and as many of them as possible; of leading them to heaven.

In making his judgments, the wise talent-spotter will assess each of them by their fruits, which do not grow in a day.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

I just wonder ...

Apropos of something or other, I recall seeing a television programme a year or so ago, in which Cherie Blair had a conversation with a priest-friend from her youth.  In those days she had spoken to him of her frustration with this or that aspect of the Church's teaching.  In reply, he had urged her to "stay in and try to change things". 

I just wonder if this has also been the motive, partly or entirely, of one or two converts to the Church in recent decades: to come in and try to change things.

Monday 17 September 2012

“Therefore We May Kill”

A very good post by Deacon Nick Donnelly of Lancaster, about Bishop Lang's withdrawal of the invitation to Professor Tina Beattie to give a talk at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol.

Deacon Nick reprinted a paragraph from an article by Professor Beattie which was published in The Tablet.  Here it is:
‘Given that in Christian theology the understanding of personhood is fundamentally relational because it bears the image of the Triune God, it is hard to see how an embryo can be deemed a person before even the mother enters into a rudimentary relationship with it. As many as one in four pregnancies may spontaneously abort during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, often without the woman knowing that she was pregnant. As some Catholic ethicists point out, the logical corollary of this position is that a woman should baptise every menstrual period – just in case.’
After calling into question the personhood of the embryonic child, the paragraph closes with what appears to be a serious flaw in moral reasoning, a flaw which has implications far beyond the subject of early abortion.

Leaving aside the relationship argument which Professor Beattie puts forward, and the statistics which are more a matter of supposition than of factual data, I draw from these words a simple inference:

“Some die naturally, therefore we may kill others.”

Sunday 2 September 2012

Traditional Latin Mass: When to stand, sit, kneel ...

This is a repeat of some of the guidance other bloggers have published from time to time.

If you haven't attended a Traditional Latin Mass before, or it's a long time since you have, you will notice how different the rubrics are regarding standing, sitting and kneeling.  Not long after the Novus Ordo Mass was introduced, I remember an exhausted parishioner exclaiming that the congregation were "up and down like yo-yos".  There's much less of this in the old Mass. 

In days gone by - and probably still in some areas - it was often noticed in Catholic churches that people would cling to the back of the church and only sit further forward if they had to.  As a newcomer to the TLM, or comparatively so, you may feel a little more comfortable if there are people sitting in front of you.  By and large, if you follow what they do, everything will be fine.  Except of course if they do different things; then it's a case of a surreptitious glance behind and a quick assessment of what the majority is doing.  Such fun!  But not important in the end, because we're all doing our best, and everyone understands.  We're all a bit unsure at times, or have been so.

You may find a pile of Traditional Mass books (such as the red ones published by the Latin Mass Society) when you enter the church.  These are a great help; but still, a bit of follow-my-leader is also a good idea.

I should just mention that Holy Communion is always given on the tongue, with the congregation kneeling at the altar rail or step.  But I'm sure you know that.

Update:  Canon Law does not require women to cover their heads, and this is the case with the Traditional Mass too.  In my experience some cover their heads, while some - just as devout - do not do so.  But speaking purely personally, I find there is something very special about it.  It really helps me.

Friday 31 August 2012

A big thank-you to Canon MacDonald of Cheltenham

From next Wednesday, 5th September, the people of the Gloucestershire town of Cheltenham and its surrounding area will once again be able to attend the Traditional Latin Mass in the town. It will be offered at 6 pm on the first Wednesday of each month, at the church of St Gregory the Great. The parish website is here, and contains a link to its latest newsletter. I was delighted to see that the following announcement appears:
Monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form

Beginning this week, on the first Wednesday of each month, an extra Mass will be offered at St Gregory’s according to the older Latin form of the liturgy. Fr Alex Redman of the Latin Mass Society and parish priest at Dursley has kindly agreed to take on this responsibility and the Masses will be celebrated at 6.00pm in St Gregory’s. All welcome. The parish Mass on Wednesdays will continue to be celebrated at 9.30am as usual.
There are three parishes in the town. All the Masses and other services, in all three churches, are published in the newsletters of each of the parishes. I am delighted to see that the forthcoming Extraordinary Form Mass is included in the list for all to see.

I think the announcement in the St Gregory’s newsletter is very well worded, and I particularly like the warmth of “All welcome”. Thank you so much, Canon MacDonald!

Picture from Google Images, courtesy of the website of St Gregory's sister-parish of St Thomas More.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Shoulderings, Part 3 of 3: The Garment

And then there is the garment, or robe. A strange thing to consider in regard to shouldering a burden, but please bear with me.

I should mention at the start that I haven't included St Paul's references to the wearing of armour, except incidentally in one quotation.  I'm considering the garment as the sign of conversion and faith, of the joy of repentance and forgiveness, of responsibility, and of glory.

Conversion and faith
Here is a stern warning in Matthew 22: 11-14: “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

There is a helpful footnote to this text in my Bible: “The wedding garment represents the dispositions necessary for admission to the kingdom”.

The joy of repentance and forgiveness
Here is the beautiful conclusion to the parable of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15:21-24: “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ ”

This is a mixture of Scripture and personal anecdote.  Here is St Paul to the Romans (13:11-14):
"... You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.  Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

The idea of putting on Christ, like a garment, is a vivid and indeed a physical image.  "Image" it may be, but St Paul seems to be urging it as a reality: that virtue - in its original meaning of strength and manliness - is a spiritual garment; that Christ Himself is our garment and our virtue.  That when we try to do good and avoid wrongdoing, it is a manifestation of that garment resting on our shoulders.

And now the personal anecdote.  I'm rather prone to daydreaming.  A bad habit in many ways, but occasionally it is more considered and it leads to some useful reflections.  This particular one, which was rather gloomy, ended with a heartfelt little prayer of that odd sort we make up ourselves, barely articulate:  "I'm just a bit of rubbish."  I'm making no claims for what came next, because it sounded suspiciously like my very own voice in my head:  "Yes, but you're My bit of rubbish; so put this robe on."  Well, the first idea made me laugh; but the second gave me quite a start.  Interestingly, it was this experience that prompted the reflections that led  to this series of posts on the various kinds of shoulderings.

But back to the robe or garment.  I can't back this up with any quotation, but it feels as though each person's garment is perfectly suited to that individual.  Also, that it is a working garment, laid on our shoulders for a purpose. Each of us is to be , in an important or obscure way, an envoy, an ambassador. 

By temperament I am nearer to the unconfident end of the scale. With that in mind, if it were only me doing this work of giving witness, it would be utterly daunting. But I now try to think of myself as wearing this robe, at moments when I would otherwise quail and retreat; and there is a dignity about the knowledge of it, and a kindliness, and these qualities are not mine, but the Lord’s, to Whom the garment really belongs. It is one of those surprising little joys of life to have become aware of this.

It was while I was mulling over this little series that I was reminded of another robe, in a much darker scene. Here it is, in John 19:2-6: “The soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and clothed Him in a purple robe; they came up to Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck Him with their hands. Pilate went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in Him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw Him they cried out, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ ” 

The soldiers used the robe to mock what they had been told about Jesus, and the crown of thorns both to mock and to torture Him. In the minds of the Jewish leaders it probably went too close for comfort, contributing to the frenzy of their rejection.  As for us, we see the Suffering King, His suffering inseparable from His kingship.  This is a dark glory.

In happy contrast, another Scriptural passage has been brought to my mind.  This one concerns a garment of unalloyed glory. It is from Revelation 19:7-8: “ ‘The marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”  If I'm to get my fine linen, it's definitely a work in progress ...

Finally ...
...  to tie everything in this series together, there is a phrase from the New Testament which occurred to me while I was writing these posts: “The weight of glory”. These words appear in St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (4:16-18), and they seem to link together the different kinds of shoulderings: the unseeing quality of our lives, like the lives of the oxen; the affliction of our personal crosses; and the glory the Lord intends for us.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Picture from, via Google Images

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Shoulderings, Part 2 of 3: The Cross

The cross, and indeed the Cross. Luke 9:23: “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Matt 10:38: “He who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” Very sobering, that second one.

And then there is the Cross, on that dreadful journey to Calvary. Matthew 27:32: “As they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry His cross.”   The second and third accounts of the scene each add a detail.  Mark 15:21: “And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry His cross”; Luke 23:26: “And as they led Him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.” 

Several years ago I heard some words in a young priest’s homily which have remained with me ever since. He said, “For each of us, the cross is that thing which we would least wish to bear.”*

Simon most certainly did not want to bear it. He was forced.

St Alphonsus Liguori, in his reflection on the fifth Station of the Cross, attributes the conscription of Simon to the fear of the Jewish leaders that Jesus would die on the way to Calvary, when they wished him to die an ignominious death on the cross. This passage gave rise to a strange experience some weeks ago, when I was standing at the fifth Station in the church of St Mary-on-the-Quay in Bristol.

In this representation, Simon is bent forward with the full weight of the cross on his back. He has turned his face in our direction, to look up at Jesus, Who is walking beside him. I had a horrible intuition from the look on Simon’s face: he knew all too well that this was no act of compassion he had been forced to undertake. He was carrying the cross so that in a little while Jesus would undergo a far, far more terrible agony. He was in fact making it worse for Jesus. And he knew it. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for his unwillingness: a sense of desperate pity that would have preferred the poor suffering Man to die quickly under the weight of the cross, and get it over with. But Simon had no choice. The sheer awfulness of it suddenly became very real to me. You never know what will come to you when you follow the Stations of the Cross.

*As a matter of interest, the priest was Dom Paul Gunter, who is now the Secretary of the Liturgy Commission of the Bishops of England and Wales.

Picture from, via Google Images

Monday 13 August 2012

Shoulderings, Part 1 of 3: The Yoke

I thought I would gather together some of the passages in the New Testament which refer to the shouldering of a load. It is not a complete collection, but I thought you might like to see the results. It’s quite long, so I’ve divided it into three instalments.

The Yoke

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Shoulder My yoke, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.”

When we think about it, that is a most astonishing thing for a wandering preacher to say. It pierces to our hearts; what must it have been like for those who heard these words actually spoken by Jesus?

To people in Britain, the idea of the yoke tends to conjure up the solitary yoke of the milkmaid. The older ones among us may remember the large roadside advertisements, showing the Ovaltine milkmaid. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I must have been in my forties when I first began to associate the yoke of Christ with the shared yoke of the oxen.

I have heard it said that the farmer takes an ox that is new to the work and teams it with a more experienced animal. As they go along, the older ox guides and supports his partner. Thus the weaker partner is never left to cope alone; and neither are we.

Another important feature is that the oxen cannot see behind them. Their work is just to go on, ploughing the land. It is the farmer who decides what to plant, sows it, waters it and harvests it. I suppose it never occurs to the oxen that the crops are the fruit of their labours. But perhaps the Lord may grant us a glimpse, one day, of the harvest - whether small or great - that has been gathered from our unseeing efforts.

Picture from, via Google Images

Friday 10 August 2012

"To work for the eternal benefit of every area of life"

Here is a quick translation of an interesting article I read today in Messa in Latino .  It is in fact an editorial published by Radicati nella Fede (Rooted in the Faith). The translation may contain a few mistakes, but it was done in some haste.  I ought to be getting on with other things, such as the ironing.

Summorum Pontificum: A double-edged sword

Don’t worry, we do not want to criticise the Holy Father’s document, we only want to say that it can be used in different ways, depending on people’s intentions.

Indeed, we have witnessed a strange phenomenon, these past five years: everyone, or nearly everyone, has appealed to Summorum Pontificum, whether those who wanted the return of the tradition of Catholicity to the churches, or those who wanted to obstruct it, to prevent it from disturbing the new process of violent modernisation which had been introduced nearly half a century ago.

We had already stated this in July 2007. Enthusiasts began to celebrate in the Vetus Ordo (the traditional Mass), rejoicing in the liberalisation miraculously wrought by Benedict XVI, and the curias intervened to say that what they were doing was not the real intention of the Holy Father. Let us all spare ourselves the shilly-shallying of that time, with the bitter disputes as to what was a “private Mass” and what wasn’t: it reached the point of claiming that priests were free to celebrate the “old” Mass alone, behind closed doors, with, at the most, one well-trained server … the more private, the more likely to die out, it has to be said! … it reached the point of requiring the details of everyone who requested and attended the traditional Mass, contrary to “privacy”; they tried to forbid catechesis and preaching. All this was done by referring to various juridical quibbles in the papal document: to juridical quibbles, not to the substance.

Then they decided to discredit the traditional faithful behind the scenes, with the magic words … “They are disobedient”, without providing any further details.

In a Church where chaos reigns over everything, where very few now accept all the truths of the Creed without exclusion, where the Commandments are accepted or rejected as one pleases, where parish priests can hardly ask anything of the faithful any more, for fear of being subjected to public judgment, where the Pope is criticised according to personal taste (sympathetic/antipathetic), where even in the confessionals the moral law is often made up by the priest on duty at the time, who is more or less “open” to the new and urgent needs of human life, it is very strange that the only ones who are “disobedient” are the priests and faithful who love Tradition!

Is it not that the question of obedience is brought up only to stop the return to Tradition? How many faithful have been scared off like this, by hissing in their ears, “Watch out! They are disobedient”? But have those who have hissed in this way subsequently taken care of their listeners’ souls? We fear not; their only desire was that of detaching them from Tradition.

It is a thing that remains the central point of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the substance of it: “The traditional Mass was never abolished”. This is the clear point. It is necessary to start from this in order to understand one another. The traditional Mass is not a concession, it is a reality, it forms part of the life of the Church. Hence it is a matter of justice not to stop it, this Mass of all time, not to impede its fruits, either by the explicit means of prohibitions, or by those crafty methods of instilling doubts.

It was never abolished. So leave it free to work for the eternal benefit of every area of life. It was never abolished, it has been the Mass of centuries and centuries of Christianity, it has made the saints of the Church … and so, what are you afraid of? Yes, what are you afraid of? If the faith of the Church is the faith of all time, why be afraid of the Mass of all time? Unless someone thinks that the faith changes in accordance with the particular era; but this is another story; it is called “modernism”; it is a beautiful, good heresy – or, on the contrary, it is the same as all the heresies.

And so, the person who thinks it is necessary to modernise the faith is the disobedient one: and this is disobedience, the unique and most serious disobedience: the disobedience not only against human laws, but against the faith.”

Picture from (The Archdiocese of Washington) via Google Images

Sunday 22 July 2012

Let us Worship the Lord Together

Father Simon Henry’s blog Offerimus Tibi Domine is always a really good read; do visit it when you can. He writes from a part of Lancashire – my home county – that is in the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

Fr Henry published an interesting post a few days ago about his experience of offering Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. In particular, he could not help overhearing an American priest at the next altar, who was ad-libbing the new translation. Among other things, the priest replaced the word “chalice” with “cup” at the Consecration.

That bit made me recall a priest whose Mass I have attended occasionally. In many ways he is admirable, especially in the high quality of his homilies, which are doctrinally rich and inspirational. Absolutely top marks to him for that. But there is a “however”. He appears to have decided not to say “chalice” at the Consecration, in accordance with the new translation. He continues to say “cup”. From what I know of him, I’d say it was a studied decision, not an accidental slip. It’s very wrong of me to feel exasperated at this most solemn moment of the Mass, the great moment of salvation. But I dearly wish he wouldn’t say it.

There is another thing, and I don’t know how widespread this is; I don’t think I’ve encountered it anywhere else. According to him, when Mass was always offered ad orientem, the elevation of the Host and the Chalice above the priest’s head at the Consecration was necessary because otherwise the congregation could not see them. Since his Mass is now offered facing the people, they can see everything, and thus the elevation has become superfluous. I think he claimed that the rubrics do not specifically mention elevation – or elevation above the head. I don’t know what the altar-missal actually says, so I’m not in a position to argue for or against on the basis of the text. Instead, he lifts the Host from the altar with one hand, just enough to hold It in front of him, hardly at chest height. Likewise with the Chalice.

I have been struggling to find the words to express what seems wrong with this view. I dare say that others can point out its deficiency better than I can. But it has occurred to me that perhaps a positive rather than a negative approach might get to the heart of it.

One of the arguments for offering Mass facing the people is that it unites the priest and the people as a community. (I don’t agree with the implication of disunity between priest and people at the ad orientem Mass; nevertheless, it’s an argument that is used.) When the priest, in a Mass facing the people, elevates the Host, and then the Chalice, however slightly, he is presenting the Lord to the congregation for us to look up and adore Him. But even if there were no other arguments in favour, the high elevation has this to recommend it: that the priest himself is also impelled to look up and adore. In this action he is demonstrably united with us as we worship the Lord together.

Picture from, via Google Images

Thursday 19 July 2012

Restoration of the Traditional Mass in Cheltenham; and a prayer request for our Bishop

1. The Traditional Latin Mass

It has just been confirmed that Fr Alexander Redman of Dursley has kindly undertaken to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at St Gregory’s church in Cheltenham. This will be the first opportunity to attend the Traditional Latin Mass in the town since the transfer of Fr Tom Smith to Warminster last autumn.

Mass will be offered on the first Wednesday of every month, at 6pm, starting on Wednesday 5th September.

Many thanks are due to Canon Bosco MacDonald, the parish priest of St Gregory’s, who has kindly permitted this regular celebration, and has also allowed the Mass to be publicised in the church bulletin, which is distributed in all the parishes of Cheltenham.

2. Bishop Lang

It has been mentioned in one or two Catholic blogs recently that our Bishop, Bishop Lang of Clifton, is not very well; and that he is to take a four-month sabbatical in a few months’ time (I don’t know if the two items are connected or coincidental). I don’t have any more information than that, but could I ask of my readers the favour of saying a prayer for his health and wellbeing?

Friday 29 June 2012

English Version of the SSPX Novena of Prayer, 30 June – 8 July

Father Finigan has published this post about the request by the Society of St Pius X for a Novena of prayer, in anticipation of the Society’s General Chapter, which will take place from 9-14 July. The Novena period is from 30 June to 8 July.

As Father Finigan says, let’s all join in. Whatever may betide, prayer is never wasted. God will turn it all to good, in His time and in His way.

For convenience, I have typed the entire English version below.


Come, Holy Ghost, Creator
Take possession of our souls
Infuse with heavenly grace
The hearts Thou hast created

Thou Who art called the Paraclete
Best gift of the Most High God
Living fountain, fire, charity
And spiritual unction

Thou sevenfold gift
Finger of God’s right hand
Thou promise of the Father
Teaching speech and understanding

Enkindle the light of our minds
Pour love into our hearts
The infirmity of our body
Confirm with perpetual strength

Repulse the enemy even further
And give peace in his stead
May Thou so lead us
That we evade all harm

Through Thee grant us to know
Father as well as Son
And with Both Thee, Spirit, Trinity
Forever may we believe in

Let glory be to God the Father
And to the Son, Who from the dead
Has arisen, and the Paraclete
Unto ages of ages, Amen.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, Who did instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant that by the same Spirit we may relish what is right, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.


We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin!


O God, Who for the defence of the Catholic Faith and the restoration of all things in Christ, didst fill the holy Pope Pius with heavenly wisdom and apostolic courage, mercifully grant that we, following his instruction and example, may attain his eternal reward. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

St Pius X, pray for us.

Another journey to London

A happy but tiring day in London yesterday, to attend Fr Hunwicke’s First Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Slept very badly, which meant I was already up and about before my alarm clock was due to go off. Taxi to the station, then by train to London Paddington. Crowded: long queues for tickets in the Underground.

The day was already very warm as I made my way from South Kensington Tube station to the nearby Brompton Oratory. Dark and somewhat cooler in the big Baroque church.

Fr Hunwicke’s Mass was not at the High Altar, but at the Lady Altar. This made the occasion more intimate because we were closer to the celebrant, even though we had to face sideways in our chairs.

A modest, dignified Low Mass. I love the straightforwardness of this form of the Holy Sacrifice.

After the Mass we were able to kneel at the sanctuary rail of the High Altar and receive Father Hunwicke’s First Blessing. A great joy. I can’t remember ever having received this before.

There were one or two faces I recognised, but none I could put a name to, except for Fr Blake of Brighton. He has blogged about the event here.

I left the building and walked the short distance to the Victoria & Albert Museum. At that moment, five Royal Air Force jets in close formation – Tornadoes, I guessed –roared fast and low along the length of the street. I remembered that the Bomber Command memorial was being opened, and supposed they were connected with that. Today’s paper has confirmed that they were indeed Tornadoes.

Lunch in a very busy V&A, then a look round the 20th century costume exhibits. I love fabrics and was very interested in the cut of the clothes.

There was still a good deal of time before I needed to go back to Paddington for my homeward train. I thought of walking up to Hyde Park to see the Albert memorial and the Royal Albert Hall; but with every step in the humid heat I felt more and more tired, and more conscious that each step would have to be duplicated for the return. And so I turned back, and trudged to the tube station.

The first train was very full. Two buskers with fiddle and guitar were plying their trade amidst the scrum. I decided to try another train, and got off at the next station. So did the buskers. They struck up again, but I think they were only rehearsing. There were few people on the platforms, and the station was cool, which I appreciated.

I arrived at Paddington with an hour and a half to spare. The time went surprisingly quickly. Saw an elderly man, very smart and upright, with a row of medals on his jacket. He must have been to the opening of the memorial. I think I recognised him in the newspaper picture this morning.

My reserved seat on the return journey was in the only carriage on the train in which the air conditioning had broken down. What sort of luck is that? I endured it until the train had disgorged the greater part of its passengers, and then moved to find somewhere cooler.

Taxi home from the station, and it was a long time since I had felt so exhausted, what with the bad night and the heat. Slept for nine and a half hours last night, and I needed every minute of it.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

"Strictly Kosher": Highly Recommended

This Monday and Tuesday evenings just gone (25 and 26 June 2012) I watched a two-part documentary about the Jewish community of Manchester. I found it charming and endearing, and in parts very moving. I recommend it with pleasure. It will continue to be available on ITV Player for 28 days.

Friday 15 June 2012

Shrewsbury Diocese and the Heart of St John Vianney

Readers may be interested to read the full schedule of the forthcoming visit of the relic of St John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, to the Diocese of Shrewsbury.  Here is the link on the diocesan website.

The visit begins on Thursday 5th July, and the relic returns to Ars on Monday 9th July.

It is interesting to note that during this period the relic is to make two visits beyond the territory of the diocese.  On Friday 6th July it will be at Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral, for what is described as "a national day: praying for the renewal of parish life and vocations"; and on the afternoon of Sunday 8th July the general public will be able to venerate the relic at Oscott College, near Birmingham.

I doubt if I'll be able to attend at any of these locations, but I look forward to reading the accounts of those who do.  I think it will be a moving experience, such as I had (to my delighted surprise) when I visited the Oxford Oratory on the occasion of the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux in 2009.

Picture from, via Google Images

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Feeling rather conspicuous in this hat …

Since the subject of mantillas is being given an airing at present, by Dr Shaw, Mary O’Regan, and Annie, I thought I might tell you about my own experience.

As I recall from the parish in which I grew up, hats or headscarves were the usual headgear until some time in the 1960s, when mantillas began to appear and gradually took over.

In my present parish, exclusively OF, I can think of just four women who ever cover their heads.  The other women hardly ever appear together at Mass. In fact I am often the only woman in the congregation with a headcovering. Ah, the qualms when I am getting ready to go to Mass; the diffidence; the embarrassment! I am probably being unnecessarily self-conscious about it; if I am noticed at all, the response is probably one of live and let live. But in my more paranoid moments I feel as if I have entered a Most Eccentric Parishioner competition, in which I am the only competitor. And I lose.

It doesn’t really help that I look a bit of a so-and-so in a hat. My appearance is something halfway between the above, and this:

I think a mantilla would be a step too outrageous at present. I keep the mantilla for when I am away from home, where no one knows me. I see mantillas, scarves etc aplenty at such times. Of course, it may be that all those women have, like me, travelled some distance to throw off the shackles of post-Vatican II convention in an anonymous environment.

As I have persevered in wearing my hat to Mass, an interesting little niggle has established itself in my head. I am now very reluctant to go into a Catholic church with my head uncovered. This is not in any way a judgment on the majority of women who do not cover their heads. Perish the thought! But I have started to experience, when I am getting ready to go to Mass, an argument going on inside me. First, I quail at the thought of being Mrs Hat; and then I examine my motives, whether for going without, or for covering my head.

The going-without case seems to rest entirely on embarrassment, of the fear (never yet realised) of adverse comments; in short, of the old temptation to Human Respect – not, of course, in the natural and kindly sense, but in the technical, moral sense. The case for covering my head is really a very private and personal one, however visible the effect: for me, it’s not really about the words of St Paul, although I am aware of them; it’s more about an act of fellowship with women throughout the history of the Church; and most of all and most immediately, it springs from a feeling that I ought to do it, and accept the embarrassment, as a little work of humility and of love for the Lord.  In other words, it's about Him, not about me.

Last Sunday I had another of my quailing moments. I thought, oh, I don’t want to look like the odd one out; and I didn’t put my hat on. When I went into the living-room to say I was about to set off, my husband said: “Oh, where’s your little hat?” Out of the mouths of husbands … they were the salutary words I needed: I went to the bedroom and put my hat on, and I hope to abide by that rather touching little reminder on every future occasion.

Photos via Google Images: Hetty from; Hyacinth from

Monday 11 June 2012

A Grand Day Out

It has taken me a couple of days to recover from a tiring but tremendously worthwhile day out in London. The occasion was the Latin Mass Society’s first one-day conference, and oh boy, it certainly stretched the mind and gladdened the heart.

We had five excellent speakers: Dr John Rao of The Roman Forum; Mr Stuart McCullough of The Good Counsel Network; Fr John Zuhlsdorf of What does the Prayer Really Say?; Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest and author of the blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity; and soon-to-be-Father Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, author of the blog Fr Hunwickes’s Liturgical Notes, which he began during his years in the Church of England. The day closed with a panel discussion; sadly, I missed it, because I had to go for my train.

Dr Joseph Shaw, the LMS Chairman, has posted an MP3 link to Dr Rao’s talk on his LMS Chairman's Blog.  He plans to do the same with the other speakers’ talks as soon as he can.

Among those manning the information stalls were members of three traditional congregations: the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, who have recently begun their apostolate at the church of SS Peter and Paul and St Philomena, in New Brighton, at the tip of the Wirral peninsula; the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, who are based in various places, but the nearest to where I live is, I think, Reading; and, from faraway Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Islands, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer.

There was a delightfully friendly atmosphere throughout the day, and a great deal of animated conversation. I’m very glad to have been able to attend. I understand that quite a few of the Big Beasts of the Catholic blogosphere were there; no doubt they will be posting their own accounts of the day, which I look forward to reading.

I don't think I've ever created so many links before.

Saturday 2 June 2012

The Government's consultation on changing the scope of marriage: searching for the right words

May I begin by recommending to you a fine post by The Reluctant Sinner, entitled "We shouldn't blame homosexual activists for wanting to get 'married' - The real purpose of marriage was probably destroyed before the decriminalisation of homosexuality".

Those of us who have signed the Coalition for Marriage’s petition to keep the classical definition and scope of marriage, are being encouraged to go a step further by adding their contribution to the consultation document.

It’s much easier to sign a petition than to express one’s views in so many words. I was reluctant at first, because it always takes me such a long time to gather my thoughts into shape. But at last I have managed to compose something and send it.

C4M provides a selection of suitable texts, which you can use or adapt, or you can write it in your own words. I incorporated one or two phrases in my own statement.

It’s very hard to argue these things without relying solely on assertions. But then, our Prime Minister is very fond of uttering that great unproveable assertion: “It’s the right thing to do.” I hope the assertions I have made are at least reasonable. This is my effort - tweaked a bit here and there, because I am never satisfied:
There is no distinction in our country's law between civil and religious marriage. It is simply marriage. Any reference to these two things as distinct legal realities is false and misleading.

Marriage, which predates the state and any organised religion, has an intrinsic nature. No one, including the state, has the competence to redefine it in order to extend it beyond its natural meaning.

The unalterable core of its nature is the exchange, by a man and woman, of the right to share with one another the procreative act. (This does not depend on the couple's fertility, but on their being capable of the act.) Since only a man and a woman are physically capable of this, any attempt by the law to extend marriage to persons of the same sex would be void.

At the conclusion of any such attempted marriage ceremony, even if permitted by the law of the land, the parties concerned would remain as they were; whatever that law decreed, they would not in reality be married.
"The unalterable core of its nature is the exchange, by a man and woman, of the right to share with one another the procreative act." It was when I was composing this sentence, that the enormity of the Government's latest proposal - to remove the requirement for the consummation of marriage, in order to accommodate same-sex partners - was brought home to me most forcefully. They think they can remove the very core of marriage; but it can't be done. Details can be found in the Reverend Nick Donnelly's blog, Protect the Pope.

Please feel free to lift anything from this for your own contribution if you would find it useful. I wish I could have said it more concisely, but I have said pretty much what I wanted to say. They probably won’t read it anyway; still, it’s the effort that counts. I think the important thing is to contribute to the total number of those responding.

As the same Prime Minister and his Chancellor like to say, “We’re all in this together.”

Tuesday 22 May 2012

A priest rejoices at the view beyond Vatican II

I was struck by this poignant and rather exhilarating comment from an anonymous priest, in response to a Rorate Caeli post:

For many years now priests and others have attempted always to prove their Church "street cred" by referring back to the documents of the Council, as if someone is looking over their shoulder at all times and requiring that they do so to prove their loyalty to the "company program". I have never felt so free as a priest now that I no longer use the Council as a wall in the past [,] the immense and beckoning vista beyond which I cannot see.
"I have never felt so free."  The writer is probably describing the experience of quite a number of priests, whose eyes are now being opened to the Church's great wealth of spiritual treasure.

Thursday 17 May 2012

An attractive proposition?

The Holy See Press Office's communique* on the subject of the Society of St Pius X concludes as follows:

“Regarding the positions taken by the other three bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, their situations will have to be dealt with separately and singularly.”

How can it be otherwise? Perhaps the broadcast of the exchange of letters in the public domain was intended as a spoiler by a person or persons in the SSPX, as some have suggested. Whether it was or not, the fact that we all know about it is probably irrelevant. If the exchange had not been leaked, I cannot imagine that Bishop Fellay would have withheld from the CDF his fellow-bishops’ disagreement with important aspects of the reconciliation process.

I have only read Bishop Fellay’s reply to their letter, but its contents are enough to indicate that if the views he laments remain the same, it will surely not be exclusively up to those three whether they, as individuals, return to indisputable and visible unity in the Church. It will be for Rome to decide whether she regards them as an attractive proposition. They seem to be very different characters. All the more reason, then, for the CDF and indeed the Holy Father to weigh them very carefully, “separately and singularly”.


Tuesday 15 May 2012

Gathering us in, soul by soul

This SSPX business is constantly in my mind at present, whether at the surface or just beneath it. The Holy Father has shown himself capable of taking astonishing initiatives, going beyond what was imagined: for example, in enabling the establishment of Anglican-use Ordinariates. I hope it may be so in this case.

If a split occurs in the wake of any proposal, it will not be neat, but messy. It will be rather like a bloodless version of the partition of a country, with people fleeing in one direction colliding with others who are fleeing in the opposite direction. We cannot know at this stage how many of each type there will be. I think there will be a good deal of pain.

Our dear Pope Benedict has a great ambition, it seems: to gather us in, as many of us as possible, of all spiritual shapes and sizes and colours, as long as we have a Catholic heart and Catholic faith; to ensure that we of the wild olive shoot are all securely grafted into the true olive where the Good Lord intended us to be. This, I think, is meant to include, quietly but most ambitiously of all, the branches which really belong to the olive but were once, long ago, broken off*. Institutions and groups are one thing, and important; but I believe that in the last resort we are meant to be gathered in as individuals, soul by soul.

* Romans 11: 17-24

Thursday 10 May 2012

Looking for H

Brilliant news: the author of that most erudite blog, Fr Hunwicke’s Liturgical Notes, is to be ordained deacon on 26th May. Like many of those who commented on Fr Ray Blake’s post, as soon as I saw the item from the Ordinariate, I looked most particularly for his name on the list.

May he, and all his brethren who are the latest candidates for ordination to the Catholic priesthood in the Ordinariate, be blessed with many joys. May they bear – indeed, continue to bear – wonderful fruit.