Thursday, 31 January 2008

Life unworthy of life?

John Smeaton has an shocking example of the depths to which debate is sinking on pro-life matters in the UK. (See Do we live in a civilised country? Draw your own conclusions) Baroness Meacher spoke in Parliament the other day to suggest that for two children she knew with cerebral palsy "It would be in their best interests to have been aborted." Baroness Tonge, clearly aware that it is not politically acceptable to call for the killing of disabled people, attempted to redefine the terms in a way that is eerily familiar:
"... we were not talking here about disabled human beings, but about some grossly abnormal human beings; many of those whom I have seen bear little resemblance to human beings."
I think it is apposite to quote in this context a sermon of Cardinal Clemens von Galen given in August 1941. The Cardinal speaks of the mentally ill but we know that those with cerebral palsy were also included in the programme which he condemned:
If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill 'unproductive' fellow humans--and even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill - then as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.

Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other 'unproductive' people, that it should be applied to those suffering from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the 'unproductive,' who in their opinion have become worthless life. And no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.

Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?
In those days, the RAF dropped copies of Von Galen's sermon among German troops. Perhaps they might drop some over the Palace of Westminster now?

Buggy appeal update

The Sisters of the Gospel of Life blog reports on some welcome publicity:Buggy appeal in the news. The appeal, featured here (Send stuff to Sisters of the Gospel of Life) has made the front page of one of our Catholic newspapers. The story is a bit confused but hey! so long as the Sisters get sent lots of stuff for the mothers they are helping, that's fine by me. Once again, if you have some leeway on that plastic thing in your wallet, go over to Amazon and send the Sisters some baby things. Delivery address:

Sisters of the Gospel of Life
106 Dixon Ave
G42 8EL

Gentle but firm

From St John's Valdaosta, a quotation from Blessed Anna Katherina Emmerich:
"I saw a Pope who was at once gentle and very firm... I saw a great renewal, and the Church rose high in the sky."
Robert Kumpel asks whether Pope Benedict is the Pope that she is referring to. "Gentle but firm" does certainly describe him well.

Robert also has extracts from Bl. Anna Katherina's vision of people wearing white aprons with blue riband and attempting to demolish St Peter's, marking out the lines of attack with trowels. His comparison of the masonic altar with the people's table of many Churches might be a bit much for some people but I have to say that I found it amusing.

Pope Benedict's address to the CDF

This afternoon, Pope Benedict addressed the plenary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Rorate Caeli has a translation of part of the address (Peter speaks).

The Holy Father thanked the Congregation for its work for the unity of the faith and drew attention in particular to two important documents issued during the last year. First he spoke of the Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church issued in June, which "reproposes, in the formulations and in the language, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in full continuity with the doctrine of Catholic Tradition". The Holy Father also made this important point about the doctrine of the Church (my translation):
To cultivate a theological vision which would hold the unity and identity of the Church as characteristics "hidden in Christ" with the consequence that historically the Church would exist in fact in multiple ecclesial configurations, reconcilable only in an eschatological prospect, would not be able to do other than to generate a slowing-down and ultimately the paralysis of ecumenism itself.
Secondly he referred to the Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization issued in December. He commented (my translation):
The recognition of elements of truth and goodness in the religions of the world and of the seriousness of their religious efforts, the conversation and spirit of co-operation with them for the defence and the promotion of the dignity of the person of of universal moral values, cannot be understood as a limitation of the missionary task of the Church which is committed to announce unceasingly Christ as the way, the truth and the life.
The Vatican website has the Italian text.

The Telegraph tomorrow...

... is apparently going to pick up on my comments about Archbishop Sentamu, the bottle of beer and the Holy Father's preference for Fanta. Slightly nervous about this, I call to mind the wise words of Fr Reginald Foster in a recent interview:
No, I'm not going to write my memories. People write too much about too many things.
If you ever studied with Reggie, you can reconstruct his gravelly Milwaukee accent dripping with contempt.

Two new blogs

A good friend of mine from Oxford days, Joseph Sowerby, has started writing Catholic Commentary. Joseph is a Physics teacher and branch secretary for one of the teaching unions. He had an interesting post the other day concerning a visit to the synagogue and a Rabbi's unhesitating affirmation that "When we stand up to pray, we all face the same way, towards the East" (Facing East). Today, he comments on School tips on anti-gay bullying. Joseph's wide range of interests and experience will make his blog one to watch.

Fr David Barrett, a priest of Northampton Diocese and formerly Bishop's Chaplain there, is spending some time in Rome, staying at the Casa Santa Maria where he is researching for a doctoral thesis on St Hilary of Poitiers. I am delighted to hear that he is studying Latin with Fr Reginald Foster - and collecting some Reggie sayings. He is also writing a blog called Hilariter. Although this is not a daily updated blog, it will be worth keeping an eye on for pictures of Rome and Italy as well as for posts like Bah Bah See in which succinctly captures the bias of Auntie Beeb.

From Fr Barrett's blogroll I came across Peregrinus by Fr Avram, a priest of Sacramento who is another priest staying at the Casa which is worth a visit for the Header picture alone.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Just what I wanted - ?

Again, thanks to the Curt Jester for news of this. The Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu has visited the Holy Father and given him a bottle of beer. (Guardian report) The Guardian reports that the Pope was pleased with the gift. Here's a hint: he was being polite. The Pope does not drink much beer, he normally drinks Fanta (fizzy orange). I learned this from the same source which informed me that contrary to popular rumour, the Holy Father does not now, nor ever has smoked. He is not therefore numbered among the saintly puffers such as John Kemble, Pius X and Titus Brandsma.

The Archbishop's gift reminds me of the occasion on which the President of the United States of America presented the Holy Father with a stick. To be fair, it was inscribed with the ten commandments but it should also be pointed out that they were in the Protestant version. (See National Catholic Register: Gift or gaffe? for further discussion.)

Damien Thompson has announced that I am now second favourite (joint with Cardinal Pell) for Archbishop of Westminster. (Holy smoke: Your choice for next Cardinal) Puffed up with pride at this unexpected honour, I venture to give advice to heads of state, anglican dignitaries and others when visiting the Pope of Rome. It's like this: when you give him a gift, he doesn't put it on the mantlepiece in the papal apartments. Try to bring something that will be fitting for the Vatican museums. That way, your gift will be of benefit to the general public. Pope Benedict would like that.

This was the winner?!

Jeff Miller, the Curt Jester has an amusing post about the winning design for the pulpit, lectern and chair to be used for the Holy Father's visit to Washington. (Curt Jester: Pope Kirk!) Here is the work of art:

I can only agree with Jeff in wondering what the losing designs were like. Have a look at the post for his further musing on the Star Trek theme.

Resources for ecclesiastical Latin

Thanks to the New Liturgical Movement for the link to the Ecclesiastical Latin site. I am delighted to see that there is a "Dictionary of the Psalter". I often speak to students and priests who want to start saying the hours in Latin and I have thought that some time I ought to compile a vocabulary list. It is a great relief to find that this has already been done. Another suggestion that I make is to have a copy of the Douai Rheims bible to hand, open at the book of Psalms. The Dr gives a very literal translation of the Vulgate so it will be helpful for those learning to say the psalms in Latin.

There are many other useful books at Ecclesiastical Latin and some interesting studies such as Christine Mohrmann on the Latin of St Patrick. As a graduate of Reggie Foster, I would add one cautionary note. Do not get carried away by the idea that there is a separate language called "Church Latin" which will suffice instead of something called "Classical Latin". Certainly some of the vocabulary of the christian era would not be immediately intelligible to Cicero and sometimes later Latin messes up the pluperfect passive, for example. Nevertheless, it is better to learn the one Latin Language and enjoy the letters of Cicero alongside the confessions of St Augustine, and the odes of Horace together with the hymns of Venantius Fortunatus.

Christian Latin should not be dismissed (as it sometimes is) as "dog Latin". Compare the Latin of the written tracts of St Augustine with the Latin of his spoken sermons and you will see that he was able to write with great elegance. The same could be said of St Thomas Aquinas. In the Vatican II documents, there is excellent prose in Gravissimum Educationis which helps to make up for the doggerel in Gaudium et Spes.

Speaking of Reggie Foster reminds me of his advice that the most important book to have when learning Latin is a good dictionary. So I am happy to pass on the link (again via NLM) to the searchable online version of that invaluable volume, Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary.

Visit to Chis 'n Sid

No this is not a duo rivalling Chas 'n Dave but the nickname of the Grammar School in Blackfen: Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar. In England, a Grammar school is one which selects pupils on the basis of ability, measured by a selection test taken in the top year of Junior School (age 10/11). Most of these schools became comprehensive (mixed ability) schools some decades ago, including most of the Catholic Grammar schools such as the John Fisher School which I attended.

In my parish, parents are faced with a dilemma. If their child is academically gifted, they have the chance of attending a school where the curriculum is slanted in this direction (for example Latin is part of the curriculum at Chis 'n Sid). The Catholic secondary schools strongly maintain that their provision for academically able children is just as good and that the exam results reflect this. In the end, parents have to make the decision that they feel is best.

Quite a number of my young parishioners therefore attend local non-Catholic Grammar schools. Anna-Marie, a Catholic student in the sixth form invited me to come to the school today to address the Christian Union. Catholic University students may think this odd because the "Christian Union" at most English universities is strongly evangelical and would be unlikely to invite a Catholic priest to speak. However, I think I am right in saying that the Christian Union at Chis 'n Sid is composed of students of various Christian denominations who have an interest in discussing religious matters - and indeed is open to students who profess to be agnostic or atheist.

My talk was billed as "Is religion scientifically reasonable" and I gave a shortened version of the Meriol Trevor Lecture that I gave at Bath University some time ago. The classroom was equipped with an electronic whiteboard so I could show a powerpoint summary with pretty pictures finishing with a nice one of the Lagoon Nebula (left) fading into the apse mosaic of Christ Pantokrator (above) in the Cathedral at Monreale (Sicily) which I visited many years ago with Fr Guy Nichols.

The turnout was impressive since the talk and discussion took up the whole of the lunch break. (There was free cake on offer to help things along!) The group is organised by sixth formers who formed the main nucleus to begin with. They have just finished exams: Anna-Marie had sat a Maths A-level paper earlier and explained to me the stinker of a question that was the last on the paper. There was also a good number of students from lower down the school in their distinctive purple blazers. We had about 50 minutes so I zipped through the material fairly briskly to allow plenty of time for discussion.

There were very thoughtful and challenging questions from the students and also from the two staff members who came. As well as the topic of the talk itself, questions addressed predestination, free will and determinism, and the claim to truth in religion. It struck me quite forcibly that Pope Benedict really has his finger on the pulse; his insistence on the invitation to seek the truth with respect and charity is exactly right. We seemed to run over the time for the start of lessons and I found myself eventually having to encourage the younger ones to go to class. I must say that this was a very enjoyable occasion and I would be more than happy to visit again.

Et exspecto...

... posted a comment about writing up the music for the John Fisher School hymn. Unfortunately I seem to have lost the comment. Therefore a note here to say please let me know when you post this and I will link to it. I'll be at the school for Founder's Day in March and, if the Headmaster is happy, I'd quite like to get a video of the hymn being sung.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Lorraine Allard

Lorraine Allard (33) was diagnosed with liver cancer.Since she was pregnant, the medical staff offered her a "termination". This is a choice faced by many women nowadays. Lorraine refused the abortion and said "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live." Lorraine died on 18 January but her son, Liam, was born alive on 18 November. Lorraine's husband Martyn said "Lorraine was so brave. I can't begin to describe how brave she was." Lorraine died on 18 January.
Picture Daily Telegraph

Below is a picture of Lorraine and Martyn with baby Liam. God bless them and reward them for their heroic sacrifice. May Our Lady of Sorrows come to them and console them in this time of desolation and bring them peace,

Of all the saints whom we might call upon for assistance at this time, surely one stands out above all the rest, Saint Giovanna Beretta Molla who similarly gave her life for her unborn child and for the future the Lord has in mind for us:

Fr Z coming to the UK

The great Fr Zuhlsdorf of What Does the Prayer Really Say will be stopping over at Blackfen later this week on his tour of England. Fr Z will be speaking to the Newman Society at Oxford among other events and we will maybe take in a film and a pizza in between times (as well as a solemn Mass or two). Fr Z reminded me of Dr Johnson's admonition: "Why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons." Well! I wouldn't ever suspect Fr Z of such nefariousness.

But heck! He can have a spoon or two if they are short of them over there in the midwest!

Your choice...

Looking at the website for the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, I was amused to see the two options offered on the start page:

Monday, 28 January 2008

Congratulations to Revv Dubois and Varkey

It was a red letter day at Wonersh today as Rev Shaju Varkey (left) and Rev Tom Dubois (right) were ordained deacons by the Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev Declan Lang. Both have been in my sacramental theology class and I was delighted to see them take ascend this final gradus before their ordination to the sacred priesthood.

The Mass was expertly arranged as are all such functions at Wonersh. The Mass setting used was the Missa Orbis Factor. Immediately after Mass, the procession moved into the Ambulacrum, the central corridor of the building, along which there is a frieze with the text in Latin of the opening verses of the prologue of St John's Gospel: the seminary is dedicated to St John. In the centre of the ambulacrum there is an altar in honour of Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy, set up in by students and colleagues in memory of Canon Hallett, a former rector. The procession stopped there to sing the Salve Regina.

Among the various diocesan concelebration vestments and the seminary's Sorgente collection, two priests of Clifton Diocese, Frs Bede Rowe and Alex Redman added a touch of Romanità:

Communion kneeling, on the tongue

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, has written a book called Dominus Est, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Bishop Schneider looks particularly at the question of how we should receive Holy Communion, favouring the practice of kneeling and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. Not only has the book been published by the Vatican press, it also has a Foreword by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

The Associazione Luci sull'Est has the publisher's description and the text of the Foreword by Archbishop Ranjith. Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement has an (unofficial) translation of the Foreword. Here is my (unofficial) translation of the publisher's description:
Holy Communion is not simply a convivial moment of spiritual nourishment but also the closest possible personal encounter for the faithful in this life with their Lord and God. The most authentic interior attitude in this encounter is that of receptivity, of humility, of spiritual infancy. Such an attitude demands on our part gestures of adoration and reverence. We have eloquent witnesses in the two thousand year tradition of the Church characterised by the sayings "with love and fear" (first millennium) and "as much as you can do, so much dare to do" [quantum potes, tantum aude] (second millennium). The author also recounts the example of the three "eucharistic women" of his acquaintance from the clandestine time of the soviet era. Such witnesses can encourage and instruct Catholics of the third millennium on how they should treat our Lord in the august moment of Holy Communion.
The book is in Italian but I hope that it will be translated into English. I am ordering a copy straight away (Paxbook handles online ordering for the Libreria Editrice Vaticana). Say a prayer for the Church in Kazakhstan.

Solemn Masses at Blackfen

There will also be a Solemn Mass in the Classical Roman Rite on Saturday 2 February at 10.30am at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, with blessing of candles and procession. We also hope to have High Mass but it will be Missa Cantata if not.

The following Saturday, 9th February, we have our Day with Mary in the parish. This year, the Mass will be a Solemn Mass (Missa Cantata) in the Classical Roman Rite (starting circa 11am). The Day with Mary begins at 10am, finishes about 5.30pm and includes consecration of the parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outdoor procession of Our Lady, outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the afternoon, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, and enrolment in the brown scapular and the miraculous medal. Bring something to eat: tea and coffee are provided. There is a bookstall available at lunchtime with a selection of good Catholic books, especially those published by TAN.

(For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "High Mass" is solemn sung Mass with celebrant, deacon and subdeacon. Missa Cantata is solemn sung Mass but with celebrant only.)

This page on the parish website give Directions to the Church or you can use this link to print off a copy. (pdf 114Kb)

Candlemas at St John of Jerusalem

This today by email:
There will be a Solemn Mass, (hopefully a High Mass), with Blessing of Candles and Procession, in the extraordinary form, at the Order of Malta's Church of St John of Jerusalem, which is in the Hospital of SS John and Elizabeth, Grove End Road, St John's Wood, NW8, (Tube St John's Wood, Jubilee Line) at 11am on Saturday 2nd February. The celebrant will be Very Reverend Canon John Macdonald, Magistral Chaplain of the Order, and Chaplain to the Hospital, and the Knights will be in choir. The music will be plainsong. Second Vespers and Benediction will also take place at 3.30pm. Everyone is most welcome to attend.

Growing in the womb

This amazing video shows the growth of the unborn child in the womb from conception.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Consecration of John Fisher School Chapel

Last Thursday, Archbishop Kevin McDonald consecrated the chapel of my Alma Mater, the John Fisher School in Purley, on the occasion of the chapel's 50th anniversary.

The chapel means a lot to me because it was there, at the early Mass before school, that my vocation to the priesthood took root. Following the example and encouragement of another boy, I began to get up half an hour earlier in order to get to school in time for Fr Nesbitt's Mass. That was what Our Lord wanted.

Here you can see the Archbishop putting incense into the burner as part of the rite of consecration of the altar itself.

To the left of His Grace is Paul Moynihan with whom I served Mass when a small boy in the parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation, Addiscombe. Further left is Deacon Jim Sheahan who was once a student of mine when I was teaching theology to those training for the Permanent Diaconate. To the far right is Fr Stephen Dingley, an old boy of the school who has a doctorate from Cambridge in Astrophysics and who now teaches dogmatic theology at the seminary at Wonersh. The altar server in red completes the picture well with his demonstration of "The spirit of wonder and awe in God's presence."

The next photo shows the procession before Mass and demonstrates that MCs in Southwark have perfected the art of walking backwards whilst keeping order.

These photos were kindly sent to me by Mr Mark Scully, the Headmaster of the School. He also sent me this photograph of a painting of St John Fisher:

The picture was blessed by Bishop Howard at the end of the service. Recently restored to its full glory, it now hangs in the School Chapel. The origin of the painting is uncertain but it is believed to be Italian from about 1850. It had previously been hung in the temporary School Chapel that was always described as an "Army Hut". Having disappeared for many years, it was discovered in a battered state in a painter’s store at the preparatory school "Laleham Lea."

To commemorate this event, the school made a prayer card for all the boys with the portrait of John Fisher on one side and the School Hymn on the reverse. I published the words of the hymn on the blog a while back (Hymn to St John Fisher.)

Sir Dan of the Nesbitry was there for the occasion, of course, and was proud to show Archbishop McDonald the board in the school hall which lists all of the old boys of the school who have been ordained to the priesthood. The Faith Movement was founded at the school in 1972 and many of the priestly vocations since that time, like my own, have grown and been nurtured within Faith.

Helping our children make good moral choices

Fr Guy Nicholls as Parish Priest and School Chaplain, and Fr Philip Cleevely as a Governor, wrote recently to parents of children at the Oratory Primary School in Birmingham saying:
In many Primary schools children are now being taught explicit sex education in the classroom. The Church, however, teaches that you, the parents, are the right persons to deal with this very important and sensitive area of your children's lives. Nevertheless, the Oratory Fathers and the Governors of the Oratory Primary School recognise that you may welcome some help and guidance in dealing with such an important and sensitive issue. That is why we are offering these six talks designed to cover various aspects of your children's sexual and moral development and behaviour. We hope you will find them helpful. Please tell us what you think of them.
Jackie Parkes (Catholic Mom of 10) has posted my sister Jane's notes on the first talk, given by Greg Clovis on "Moral Formation, the Internet, TV, and all that".

Lenten talks at Ealing Abbey

A Series of Lenten Talks and Retreat
at Ealing Abbey

Thursday 7th February
7.30pm Abbey Hall
Fr .Stephen Wang PhL, STL, PhD
How to be Happy: The true meaning of Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

Thursday 14th February
7.30pm Abbey Hall
Fr Marcus Holden STB
The Seven Deadly Sins and their Antidotes

Saturday 23rd February
Full Day Retreat 10.00am -4.00pm (£10.00 including lunch, book through Parish Office 0208 862 2160)
Fr Paul Watson MA, STL
Recovering the Trinity - Faith in an Age of Disbelief

Saturday 1st March
8.00 pm Abbey Hall
Jennifer Smith RCM & Alina Lubinska
Exploring the St.Matthew Passion by J.S.Bach
finding the spiritual treasures in his music", a talk with musical illustrations

Tuesday 11th March
8.00pm Abbey Hall
Fr Tim Finigan MA (Oxon), STL
Christ the Unique and Universal Saviour - as outlined in Dominus Iesus.

In my talk, I will examine how Dominus Iesus affirms that the salvific will of the Triune God is accomplished once and for all in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I will explore what it means to call Christ our Saviour and Redeemer and why the Church has affirmed the uniqueness and universality of salvation in Christ. I will also consider what the Church's teaching implies for our dialogue with people of other faiths and none.

I look forward to meeting some readers there.

Pregnancy as marital fulfilment - update!

In October 2006, I reported on Valeria Manca's excellent letter in Faith Magazine on Pregnancy as marital fulfilment. There was also this lovely picture of Valeria with her tenth child.

Well here are numbers 11 and 12: twins Laura and Clara born earlier this month.

Congratulations to all the family - including ten happy brothers and sisters:

Friday, 25 January 2008

Pope Benedict on World Communications Day

The message of the Holy Father for the 42nd World Communications Day is entitled "The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others." The message was issued on 24 January, the feast of St Francis of Sales (patron saint of journalists). World Communications Day itself is on 4 May. For those of us who write blogs, this offers an opportunity for an examination of conscience. I found it helpful to read this address as it applies to the Catholic blogosphere. We are part of the world of social communications and the Holy Father is speaking to us as well as to the mainstream media. We should take careful note of what he says and try to put into practice his wise advice.

I am sure many of us would agree that we have a "special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty". The family is at the very heart of the spiritual battle and we can always do more to support our good Catholic families.

Pope Benedict says that the media should not be used for "self promotion" but should always be "at the service of the person and the common good." Nobody is going to admit that their blog is used for "self promotion" but pride is always a temptation and we need to be consciously aware of it. There is no harm in promoting a good blog but it should be in the service of the truth, not of "me, me, me."

Speaking of how the media not only represent reality but claim to determine it, the Holy Father says,
It is clear, for example, that in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to "create" events. This dangerous change in function has been noted with concern by many Church leaders. Precisely because we are dealing with realities that have a profound effect on all those dimensions of human life (moral, intellectual, religious, relational, affective, cultural) in which the good of the person is at stake, we must stress that not everything that is technically possible is also ethically permissible.
I have occasionally spoken in jest of releasing "the power of the blog". Clearly this can be ethically permissible in the service of the common good but we also need to consider that this power must only be used for the common good and not for power for its own sake.

Against moral relativism, the Holy Father says that "seeking and presenting the truth about humanity constitutes the highest vocation of social communication." Although most Catholic bloggers are not moral relativists, it is good to be reminded about the highest vocation of one who is involved in social communications. The Holy Father underlines the importance of the new media and the internet in this regard.

The Holy Father concludes his address:
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to raise up courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth, faithful to Christ’s mandate and enthusiastic for the message of the faith, communicators who will "interpret modern cultural needs, committing themselves to approaching the communications age not as a time of alienation and confusion, but as a valuable time for the quest for the truth and for developing communion between persons and peoples" (John Paul II, Address to the Conference for those working in Communications and Culture, 9 November 2002).
Perhaps readers might say the prayer to the Holy Spirit for this intention, praying for all Catholic bloggers especially, that they might be courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth.

BTW. On World Communications Day, you will probably be invited to contribute to a collection for the Catholic Communications Network. For more information on the CCN, in the context of the Supreme Pontiff's message for World Communications Day, see Damien Thompson.

Padre Pio Bookshop

Up in London this afternoon, I took the opportunity to visit the Padre Pio bookshop in Vauxhall Bridge Road. These are good people who love the Catholic faith. Downstairs, there is an amazing chapel with a wide variety of devotional statues and pictures. Mass is regularly celebrated and there are public prayers every day.

The shop has all sorts of books, especially relating to Catholic devotions that you can't always find elsewhere. I picked up half a dozen things there including the TAN collection of prayers to St Joseph. Another book that caught my eye (and my credit card) was Fr Jack Spaulding's "Holy Boldness" which is a book written specifically about the spiritual life of the secular priest. A video about the message of Fatima and a leaflet with St Pio's advice on how to behave in Church have also found their way to the presbytery.

A thing I really love doing is to go to these places where people give their lives for the faith and try to convey the message that I love what they are doing, I support it, and give them my blessing as a priest.

Changing from BT

Earlier today I was thinking that I must ring British Telecom to find out what broadband package they could offer along with the phone line. There are usually discounts for bundled services and I though I might as well stay with them.

Then I opened my post. Included was a letter from them which was not a bill and very nearly went into the bin (with about 75% of my post). Fortunately, I read the letter first. "We're automatically upgrading your line, at no extra cost, so you never miss a call wherever you are." Not terribly interested. If I'm out of the house, I usually can't answer the phone on account of teaching, seeing someone who needs to talk to me uninterrupted or saying a traditional Mass, that kind of thing. Even when I am on the train, diverting calls to my mobile will not usually help because I would need to be in the house to tell them whether they can hire the hall or were baptised in the parish or whatever.

Then I find that not only are BT "automatically" upgrading my line but they are also automatically sticking me on a 12 month "rolling contract". Taking out a magnifying glass to read the small print in light grey at the bottom of the reverse page, I find that this means that if I do nothing, they will sting me in month 13 for £100 for a service I don't want or need. To avoid this happening I have to ring them up. Not . Pleased . At . All. Well done, whichever fancy-pants loon thought up this scam: from loyal customer of BT, I instantly become implacable enemy. 13 months down the line, I expect that many other loyal customers will be snarling when they realise that they have been conned.

So I ring them up. When I eventually get through, I explain politely that I do not wish to receive this service. Since "calls may be recorded for monitoring and training purposes" I also explain (still politely) that this letter has motivated me to decide that I will change my telephone provider.

So back to square one. Anyone got good experience of a phone provider? I need one normal business line. I need to keep the same phone number. I want to get faster broadband. Currently I'm on half a megabyte which is nowadays pretty measly. A bundled deal with phone and broadband would be good.

And to lawyers out there - is this really a "contract"? Had I thrown this in the bin, would I be bound by its terms? Is it worth a quick email to the Office of Fair Trading?

"The Realm" and "A Lourdes Prayer Book"

Family Publications have sent me two new publications:

A Lourdes Prayer Book at £4.50 is an illustrated 64 page booklet with popular prayers to Our Lady illustrated by a fine collection of photographs of Lourdes including scenes from the altars in the Rosary Basilica.

"The Realm. An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England" by Aidan Nichols OP, does not seem to be on the website as yet. A 160 page paperback, this is a provocative look at specifically English culture. Fr Nichols says:
If it can be shown that Catholic Christianity was not only essential to the making of England but provides the best foundation - intellectual, moral and social - for the culture of an England re-made, then the outlines of what Catholicism is will by that very fact be clarified and its importance gauged at its true worth.
The book examines the needs of England as a nation in the light of England's Catholic Christian roots and explains the concept of "integral evangelisation" which seeks to baptise the culture of a nation as well as the individuals within it.

As ever, Fr Nichols gives us a thoughtful and original look at the question of culture. His choice of England as a focus (rather than Britain or the "United Kingdom" is well explained but remains itself one of the provocative aspects of this rewarding book.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Collaborative ministry

As a supplement to the doctrinal and spiritual talk at the beginning of the Confirmation programme, I mention our dress code. For boys, this is easy: jacket and tie, no jeans, no trainers. For girls it is a bit nuanced: dress or skirt, or tailored suit, no mini skirts, discreet makeup (check with mum) careful with the heels. I always thought it was a problem with kneeling down.

Mulier Fortis has helpfully explained the real problem with high-heeled shoes at Confirmation. It's not the kneeling down, you see, but the getting up again, apparently. I'll remember that in the future.

One thing that is really important is to have separate classes for boys and girls. At Confirmation you need to say something about chastity and remote preparation for marriage. It is essential to have different groups for boys and girls for this since they have different "needs" in this respect.

Code of Canon Law silver jubilee

I remember the publication of the Code of Canon Law in Rome in 1983. Ed Koroway (now "Father") rushed me a copy hot off the press which I gratefully received in the tea room at the English College. (I had a small part later in helping him with the Latin for his defence of a doctoral thesis on latae sententiae excommunications in the new code - information I have always retained.)

In class that week, Fr Reginald Foster was snarling about a mistake in the sequence of tenses in the introduction. Our course with Fr Ghirlanda on the Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis was a dead letter because the LEF was not, in the event, promulgated.

Archbishop Coccopalmerio has said on the occasion of the canonical jubilee that the Code is like a "large and complex painting". Well that is one way of putting it. In any case, congratulations to canonists everywhere. Thank you for releasing the rest of us from this drudgery. I spent a short time as defender of the bond in the second instance tribunal but managed to get out of it in favour of teaching theology to the permanent deacons-to-be. This was a relief not only to me but also to the canonists of the diocese.

Vernacular readings at TLM?

There is a thoughtful post today from Shawn Tribe at NLM, The Vernacular Option for the Lessons; A Call for Discussion. At Masses offered according to the Classical Roman Rite, the readings may be proclaimed in the vernacular as Summorum Pontificum allows.

In England, I think this needs to be looked at from two perspectives. First, where there has been a practice for some time of offering Mass in the Classical form of the rite, with the readings read or sung in Latin, I think it would be unwise to change this practice and introduce vernacular readings. Better to stick with the practice of reading the English texts before the sermon or simply accepting that people have the English texts and do not need them to be read out.

However, in a parish setting, where the Classical form is being introduced, it may be a good compromise to have the readings given in English by a cleric at the same time as the celebrant is reading them in Latin quietly. It is a prejudice of modern liturgical practice to insist that only one thing can happen at any given time. I believe that the traditional liturgy offers a freedom that the modern rite does not: that of allowing the faithful to participate in various different ways, depending on their level of education, personal spiritual life, or familiarity with the liturgy. We can be united at the altar without all having to do the same thing at the same time.

Pope Benedict and "conversi ad Dominum"

In his General Audience address today, the Holy Father referred explicitly to a theme addressed by Fr Michael Lang in his seminal work "Turning Towards the Lord":
Behold, the meaning of prayer: to open our hearts, to create in us a willingness which opens the path to Christ. In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the sermon, the bishop or president of the celebration, the principal celebrant, would say: "Conversi ad Dominum…Turn (around) toward the Lord". Then he himself and all there rose up and turned themselves toward the East. The all wanted to gaze toward Christ. Only if we have been converted, only in this turning toward Christ, in this common gaze at Christ, can we find the gift of unity.
H/T Fr Z

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Amy Curran's funeral

About 500 people gathered at Our Lady of the Rosary Church this morning for the funeral of Amy Curran, a young lady of 15 who was tragically killed in a car accident on New Year's Day. The Mass was celebrated in the modern Roman rite, in English (though I sang the In paradisum in Latin as is our custom here at Blackfen). In conversation with her friends some time ago, Amy said that at her funeral, she wanted people to dress traditionally, in black. Therefore I used our beautiful black vestments and Brother Michael OFM Cap, the chaplain of St Thomas More school, brought some black vestments for the three concelebrants.

Amy's family wrote a beautiful summary of Amy's life which I read on their behalf before preaching the sermon in which I spoke of the sadness of such an untimely death and the glory to which God has called us. I mentioned the prayers and Masses that have already been offered and requested for the repose of Amy's soul, that God might forgive "any sins she committed through human frailty" as the prayer has it.

Offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we were aware that this is the greatest of all our prayers. In union with the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross, made present on the altar, we offered our supplication for the repose of Amy's soul, and our prayers for her family

After Mass, we solemnly laid Amy's body to rest in Sidcup Cemetery - near to the grave of Alison Gresley in fact. Back at the parish, the Union of Catholic Mothers provided food and our parish family, together with Amy's friends from school and elsewhere, were able to meet more informally, look at photographs of Amy, and pledge their continuing prayers and care for Amy's family.

Today was also a day on which to value the Catholic Christian family of the parish. the goodwill and love of so many people is important at such a time and is of value to the family in their grief. The help of other families who have themselves lost children is especially important. During the time I have been here at Blackfen, I have celebrated the funeral of Kim Dempsey (13) who was knocked down by a bus on her way to school, of Sam Regan (21) who was killed in a car accident, of Alison Gresley (9) who died of cancer, of Adam Donnelly (17) who died of a sudden heart attack while on holiday. The families of these young people have been of great help and support to one another, understanding, as they do, the grief that only such parents know.

Many people commented on the importance of the funeral Mass and the Catholic tradition of prayer. I know that readers of this blog will offer their own prayers as well. Thank God for the Church, for the parish, and for our Catholic faith at a time such as this.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Amy's funeral tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, I will be celebrating the funeral of Amy Curran, a young girl who was tragically killed in a car accident on New Year's Day along with two friends (see Amy Curran RIP).

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Amy, for the comfort and consolation of her mother, Linda, her father, Tom, and her brother Nick, and all her young friends. (Please also spare a prayer for me too as this will be a difficult day.)

From our Rome correspondents

Fr Martin Edwards kindly sent me the above from yesterday's Angelus. The Holy Father is second window from the right at the top of the Palazzo. Father sent a brief note to accompany the photos,
It was a wonderful and moving event. At the end, the Holy Father put his notes away and spoke off the cuff. The Holy Father lectured academe on the importance of liberty in the pursuit of truth. (The priests with me are fellow students from the NAC.)
Here are the priests (Fr Edwards on the left):

Regular commenter, George put this comment in earlier today:
My wife and I were there yesterday. Fantastic atmosphere, people started coming in from early morning. We went to St Anne's for 10 am Mass then just about managed to squeeze into a spot in St Peter's Square from where we could see the window from which Papa Bendict would appear. Nearly an hour later and the cheers went up as our Holy Father appeared at the window with arms raised up and a big smile on his face. Wonderful! The cheers, hoots and whistles amid 'Viva Papa Benedetto' were almost deafening. Estimates in the region of 100,000 to 200,000 people plus in the square. Well, from where we were standing, right in the thick of it I knew how a sardine would feel!

Then silence for the Angelus and wild applause later as the Pope spoke of freedom of speech in the quest for Truth - especially on University Campus where freedom of speech must be free from political shennanigans and free from 'pin-head' professors with their own agendas and axes to grind. Students are not stupid however, and these charlatans are soon uncovered.

Greetings followed in several languages - not too many English speaking people there, but Italians and especially Romans turned out in their thousands. Hundreds of Priests and Religious Sisters both young and old were everywhere to be seen - just so uplifting for us simple folk in the pews to see such a richness of youth among so many of our religious. Hurrah for our Pope and for our Glorious Catholic Faith! It is alive and well - of that there is no doubt!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Angelus today

Actually, the BBC missed an opportunity here. They could have used the AP or Reuters reports which both spoke of "tens of thousands" of people going to the Angelus today. Here is one picture:

The empty section to the left of the photo is where you cannot see the Pope because you are too close to the colonnade under the window he appears from. The space in the centre is railed off. You can just about see the beginning of the crowds stretching up the Via Della Conciliazione. So the reports speaking conservatively of "more than 100,000" are certainly right and the "nearly 200,000" figure quoted in other reports would be perfectly reasonable.

This is about ten times the number that normally gather for the Angelus on Sunday. Forza Roma!

At the Vatican website, you can read the Angelus address in Italian. Before the Angelus, the Holy Father gave his customary catechesis (today on the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity). After the Angelus, he thanked the students and professors who had come, for expressing their solidarity with him, and Cardinal Ruini for promoting the occasion. No time to translate it now but I'm sure it will be round the web in English within a short time. Here is a quote courtesy of AP:
"As a professor — shall we say, emeritus — who has met with so many students in my life, I encourage all of you, dear university students and professors, to always be respectful of other people's opinions and to search for truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit."
Back of the net!

One more photo - thanks to Fr Z:

The banner reads "Christ is the true Wisdom (Sapienza)".

Well fancy that!

No surprise there, then. H/T to Mulier Fortis for the idea.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Quote of the day

Prescinding from the discussion about Bishop Williamson, I hugely enjoyed this anecdote:
The SSPX has been part of a debate that has informed my religious life ever since the day I served my first Novus Ordo Mass aged about 10 and asked the priest in the sacristy how many times I should ring the bell at the Consecration: "How the bloody hell does anyone know any more?" was the irreverent but accurate reply.
From Ttony at the Muniment Room: Bishop Williamson, the SSPX, and a New (to me) Blog

Text or email support for the Holy Father

It seems that there will be a big turnout on Sunday for the Angelus since Cardinal Ruini suggested that the faithful, and all Romans go to the square to pray with the Holy Father. It seems that even in Hebei, China, people will be gathering to pray together at the time of the Angelus.

H/T to Fr Z for posting details of Vatican Radio's service for people to show support for the Holy Father in the wake of the disgraceful episode of his being made unwelcome at Rome's La Sapienza university.

Send a text message to: +393351243317 (in the UK, you would dial 00393351243317)


Fr Z says to tell them that WDTPRS sent you. Well if you get the number/email from here, tell them that "The Hermeneutic of Continuity" sent you ;-)

Alcuin Reid on facing Eastward

There is an excellent short article by Alcuin Reid in this week's Catholic Herald. You can read the article (with comments) at Fr Z's blog - Catholic Herald: Alcuin Reid on what the Pope is doing with ad orientem worship.

The article appears on page 4 of the paper as an "Analysis" piece below the report on the Holy Father's Mass in the Sistine Chapel last Sunday. The page is illustrated by a striking PA photo showing the whole of the "last Judgement" and part of the ceiling. At the bottom, there are the small figures of the Holy Father and ministers at the moment of the elevation of the sacred host.

Dr Reid's article is a good short summary of the case for eastward facing. It concludes with a quotation from Cardinal Ratzinger's "The Spirit of the Liturgy", ending "Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord."

Roman rite trans-patriarchal?

Andrew Taylor recently wrote to me via Facebook about a most interesting discovery of the Divine Liturgy of St Peter. I'll leave him to tell the story rather than spoil it or get things wrong...
In addition to my interests and work as an academic theologian/philosopher I am a slavophile and take great interest in the history and liturgics of the Eastern Church.

Of particular interest to me are a group in Russia and the diaspora known as the 'Old Believers' (though Old Ritualists is a better translation of Starovertsy). This sizeable group split from the Patriarchal Russian Church in the 1650's on account of their refusal to reform the liturgy.

The then Patriarch Nikon was concerned to rectify what he saw as errors in the Russian Liturgical books and to conform to Greek practise. Many of the reforms seem to the modern reader somewhat minor including variations on making the sign of the cross, a small change in the spelling of Jesus (from Isus to Iesus), the addition of an extra Alleluia in the antiphons from 2 to 3, and so on.

However resistance to these changes in a mostly illiterate age were enormous, and similarly the persecutions suffered by the Old Believers was extraordinarily brutal. A postscript to this schism was the realisation some 100 or so years later that the Greek texts that Nikon wished to conform to, were in fact reforms, and the pre-reform liturgy of Russia was perhaps more 'ancient' than at first thought.

The Old Believers spread to the far corners of Russia and maintained their traditional ways. 2 groups emerged. The Popovtsy (Priestly) and Bezpopovtsy (Priestless), depending on the availability of clergy. It is interesting to note that the Priestless Old Believers (who still exist) did not deny the sacraments, and rather than following a protestant direction they merely suspended the sacraments (with the exception of Baptism and Marriage of course). The priestly sects were maintained at first by 'rebel' priests but by the 1820's they had obtained a seemingly legitimate episcopate and thus secured the priesthood.

Anyway you may be wondering what this all about.

Well I have come across on a ROCOR website a translation of a liturgy called the Divine Liturgy of St Peter the Apostle which was practised up until the 1960's by an exiled Cossack community of Old Believers in Turkey. The liturgy which was in Old Church Slavonic was almost certainly Western Rite, and the Eucharistic Canon is obviously Roman. Theories abound that the liturgy was practised by the Italo-Greeks and then found its way to Mount Athos (where some copies of the old Missals exist) and it is claimed there are those who still remember the liturgy being practised. Obviously it is Byzantised enormously. But I thought it provided interesting speculative evidence of our Roman Rite being trans-patriarchal.

A second postscript note to all this. I read with some pleasure Pope Benedicts book 'Jesus' and his references to the Russian theologian Vladimir Soloviev. This remarkable man helped to reinvigorate the Byzantine Catholic Church in Russia. His central thesis was that Russia never assented to schism, and that following the Council of Florence (1400's) where unification East and West was briefly achieved he noted that no official renunciation of the union took place in Russia.

Further to all this there was evidence, documented by Soloviev, that in European Russia there existed from the 1400's groups (sometimes isolated from Rome) of Satrokatolicii (Old Catholics) who faithfully preserved as best they could union with Rome. It is quite probable that some of these groups (who would have found common cause with the Old Believers) practised the Liturgy of St Peter.

A third and final postscript! In 1905 3 priests from the Russian Orthodox Church, 2 from the reformed rite and one Old Rite were formally received into communion with Rome, and in St Petersburg they founded the modern day Byzantine Russian Catholic Church. They practised both the reformed and the old Liturgy.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Send stuff to Sisters of the Gospel of Life

The Sisters of the Gospel of Life have the following appeal on their blog:
Due to unprecedented demand we have a severe shortage of prams and buggies, which we desperately need over the next few days.

If you’re in the Glasgow area and have a pram or buggy, in good condition, that you no longer need, please do consider donating it to us. We have a number of women whose due dates are imminent and are in particular need of prams or buggies suitable from birth onwards.

We’re also in serious need of baby baths.
Now many of us don't live in the Glasgow area. But all of us using the internet can go to a baby-stuff site and type in the numbers from that little plastic thing we have in our wallets, and put the delivery address as:

Sisters of the Gospel of Life
106 Dixon Ave
G42 8EL

This is called almsgiving. You get grace and at least a partial indulgence if you have even a habitual intention. The Sisters get a bit of help and encouragement in their work, and a mother who has resisted pressure to "terminate" gets something nice and new for her baby. So who loses? Come on! Let's give these people some help! My parishioners were more than generous with the Christmas offering so I just sent over the pink & grey "Zooper". That sounds fun :-)

Copyright, the internet, and the Church

There is an excellent post on NLM today by Michael Lawrence entitled The Complete Works of Bach--for free.As it is quite short, I will post it in full:

Not far from my computer desk is a boring little book on copyright law as it applies to musicians. I've never read it, and I don't intend to read this heap of positivism. My hope is that within my lifetime most of it will become irrelevant, as intellectual property laws often hurt creators rather than help them.

We are making progress. One need look no further than the Choral Public Domain Library. But there is more. Many artists themselves are catching on to the reality that if they offer something for free, the sales of that item and the general benefit to them increases sharply, most famously the band Radio Head, which released its most recent album online in a pay-what-you-wish format.

Following in Radio Head's footsteps is Dr. James Kibbie of the University of Michigan, who is in the midst of recording the complete organ works of J.S. Bach and posting them online for free.

Bravo to the professor for taking this step. I hope many more follow after him.
Now, as you can see, Michael Lawrence is not going to pay solicitors to send me a silly letter demanding that I remove this on the grounds of copyright infringement. In fact, because of my posting it here, a number of people will see the text who might not have read NLM. Some of those will click on the links I have given and so NLM will get a little more traffic.

Contrast this with those publishers who ask you to register at their site and perhaps pay a fee in order to view their words of wisdom. The savage copyright notice at the bottom of the page will inhibit many people from giving the material free publicity.

Another spurious concern is that material may be altered. The Church has for many years had the device of issuing a concordat cum originali ("it agrees with the original") for liturgical texts. Presumably someone has to read slavishly through the text and compare it with a reliable source to certify this. With electronic texts, this process can be automated. In addition, anyone attempting to post a faulty text on the internet will be picked up very quickly by interested parties from anywhere on the globe.

My copy of this week's Catholic Herald is waiting to be read. But already this evening, I have seen two enthusiastic notices about James MacMillan's article, one of which quotes the piece in full. Technically this is a copyright violation, I suppose. But in fact, it is likely to drive sales of the paper. If I were not already a reader, I might be inclined to buy a copy next time a see it. If the paper were available free online (only some of it is at the moment), I would be inclined to bookmark the website or collect the RSS feed, thereby perhaps also contributing to revenue from advertising.

In the Faith Movement, I tend to have a reputation for pushing the use of ICT - I devised the first Faith website and can proudly boast writing a notice announcing the launch of the Vatican website. I have always pushed hard for the policy of making all our material available free online and I am happy to say that people generally agree with this.

There is the question of an author being identified as the author of his own work. Again, I think that the internet will generally take care of this. As far as legal niceties go, I like the idea of the Creative Commons idea. One day I will get around to reading up on it and posting an appropriate licence on this blog.

Catholic Woman of the Year 2008 nominations open

This event is held each year and it would be good if the Catholic blogosphere were involved in submitting nominations.

You are warmly invited to nominate some one as a Catholic Woman of the Year for 2008. The organisers of the 40th Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon are looking for “unsung heroines” - women who are good neighbours and active in the community, care for the sick and housebound, work to pass on the Catholic Faith to the next generation, raise funds for charity, speak up for moral truths and family values, or in some other way serve God and the Church. Anyone can be nominated – all that is necessary is to write a letter to the Chairman, 22 Milton Rd WARE Herts SG12 0PZ or email with a few paragraphs about the person you are nominating. Make sure you give her full name and also your own full name and address. Nominations close on April 30th.

The Luncheon – a special one for this 40th anniversary - will be held on Friday October 10th in London and funds raised will go to YOUTH 2000.

Gregorian Chant Workshop for priests

I received this notice the other day from a correspondent. It sounds like an excellent idea and I hope that a good number of priests from the North East are able to benefit from it.

Gregorian Chant Workshop
Tuesday 12 February 2008
10.30am – 5.30pm

The Latin Mass Society is organising a day’s workshop to introduce priests to the singing of the Mass in the usus antiquior or extraordinary form.

Tuition will be provided by experts in the singing of Mass and will include:
The simple psalm toning of the introit, gradual, alleluia, offertory and Communion.
The chant of the collect and post Comunion.
The epistle tone
The Gospel tone
The Asperges

The venue is:
St. Mary of the Angels Church
Cross Bank Road,
West Yorkshire
WF17 8PQ

The day will conclude with Missa Cantata

It is hoped to hold a similar day later in the year based on the requests of participants at this workshop. A questionnaire will be issued on the day.

With the kind permission of Fr. Tim Wiley, Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Batley.

Lunch and tea provided.

No cost, but donations gratefully received to help defray costs of the event.

To register please contact:
Mr N Walker
32 Wightman Street
or email

This will enable us to know how many to cater for. Please supply your name, address and a contact number.

"A Way of Life for young Catholics" pamphlet

The Catholic Truth Society have published an excellent new title: "A Way of Life for young Catholics". Written by Fr Stephen Wang, it offers advice on living the Catholic faith, prayer, holiness, confession, chastity, and vocation. Many of the sections are in the form "Five essentials of Catholic life", "Five ways to sanctify your home or room" etc. I have just ordered a set for the Confirmation candidates in my parish and am revising the Confirmation programme to use the excellent material in this pamphlet.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The speech Pope Benedict would have given

Asia news has the text of the address that the Holy Father would have given today at Rome's La Sapienza university if a minority of its professors had not demonstrated an inability to follow up and understand a text quoting someone in order to illustrate a point.

In his address, the Holy Father cites John Rawls who denies that religious doctrine has the character of "public" reasoning, (but nevertheless has a "private reasoning" that must be respected on the grounds of tradition.) Pope Benedict also refers once again to the atheist Habermas. I also heard tell that in his so-called "Divine Office" he regularly recites a verse from the Hebrew scriptures that says "there is no God" (Ps 13.1) Hey, folks! I think it's time for us all to go and lie down in St Peter's Square and protest that the Pope is an atheist!

Joking aside, the Holy Father concludes his fascinating and deeply erudite address:
And so let me go back to the initial point. What does the Pope have to do or say in a university? He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others, which can only be freely offered. Beyond his ministry as Pastor of the Church and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is his task to keep alive man’s responsiveness to the truth. Similarly he must again and always invite reason to seek out truth, goodness and God, and on this path urge it to see the useful lights that emerged during the history of the Christian faith and perceive Jesus Christ as the light that illuminates history and helps find the way towards the future.
Read the whole address and muse on what kind of blockhead you would have to be to prevent him from delivering it at the university.

BBC Director General to speak at Westminster

Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, will be speaking at Westminster on 10 April to discuss "Faith in the Media". This will be the second of "The Cardinal's Lectures" and will take place on Thursday 10 April . Tickets can be ordered at the Cardinal's Lectures page at the Westminster Diocesan website.

As it happens, with this amount of notice, that day is free. Provided nothing urgent comes up, I'll be there so we might be able to have a "Bloggers' meet" afterwards.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Newman book launch at Birmingham Oratory

I was meant to be at the Birmingham Oratory today for the launch of a new book on John Henry Newman by James Arthur and Fr Guy Nicholls in the Continuum Library of Educational Thought. Archbishop Nichols spoke at the launch as well as Fr Paul Watson of the Maryvale institute. Unfortunately, a very long-standing parishioner died a short while ago and it was important for me to be here to celebrate her funeral. (Please say a prayer for Lala Whitman, and for her husband Bob and their family.)

According to the description on Amazon, the book offers an account of Newman's educational thought, giving an intellectual biography, a critical exposition of Newman's work and a discussion of the reception, influence and relevance of Newman's work today. At £71 it is probably a bit pricey for some but it would be an important addition for many libraries.

I was sorry to have missed this event and the opportunity to catch up with many friends. I will have to arrange another visit to Birmingham before too long. Jackie Parkes has a collection of photos of the launch at Catholic mom of 10. Here is one showing the two distinguished authors.

Promo video for St Gregory's Academy

St Gregory's Academy is a school run by the FSSP in North Eastern Pennsylvania. Here is a clip which gives the first four and a half minutes of their promotional video:

This is how the Academy summarises the education it offers:
In order to engage the imagination as the foundation for higher intellectual activity, St. Gregory’s students read some of the world’s best literature and history, memorize poetry and songs, and participate in a wide variety of cultural activities. The Academy boys have themselves given vocal and theatrical performances throughout the area and at the school. Reasoning skills are cultivated by means of such courses as Euclidean geometry, physics, and classical logic. Academic and cultural activities are balanced by soccer, rugby, hiking, camping and other physical activities, all of which build the body while at the same time providing pleasurable recreation. However, the center of life at St. Gregory’s Academy is our religion. Our students study, work, and live in an environment steeped in the spiritual and intellectual tradition of the Catholic Faith. At St. Gregory’s Academy, our students find more than simply an education, but also a way of life.
And here is a post I wrote on the Civitas book The Corruption of the Curriculum which analyses a ... different approach to education.

Pope more welcome in Turkey than in Italy

There is in interesting discussion at Paolo Rodari's excellent blog Palazzo reporting on the Pope's decision not to visit Rome's La Sapienza university (see BBC uncritical of manufactured outrage), Rodari put up a one line post:
Io, se fossi stato nei panni del Papa, sarei andato.
If I had been in the Pope's shoes, I would have gone.
In the ensuing combox discussion, one commenter pointed out the propaganda value to the secularists of a young student being bashed by the riot police for protesting against the Pope.

It seems that the Pope's decision to cancel the visit was the right one. Rodari himself has a thoughtful post with some inside information on how and why the visit was cancelled - Cardinal Bertone and Cardinal Ruini both advised the Holy Father on this, and one important reason was that a confrontation with the Pope within the confines of Rome's largest public university "would not be a pretty sight."

In addition, the cancellation of the visit has in fact brought a fair amount of support for the Pope as Zadok the Roman reports:
Mainstream political opinion in Italy is almost entirely in support of the Pope with reference to the whole Sapienza debacle. Even those who do not agree with him see this as a defeat for the principle of free speech. Amongst ordinary Italians there tends to be an attitude of great embarrassment that the Pope seems to be more welcome in Turkey than he is in the country's largest university. Some of the signatories of the notorious letter which opposed the Pope's attendance are also trying to nuance their position. They claim that the letter should have been private and that it was 'used' by the protesters in a way that was not intended. The rector of the university is speaking of a 'defeat for reason and secularism.'
The Reuters photo (above) shows students at this morning's General Audience with a banner that reads "If Benedict doesn't go to the Sapienza, the Sapienza goes to Benedict". Cardinal Ruini has encouraged the people of Rome to give a big show of support for the Holy Father by turning out in large numbers for this Sunday's Angelus. I look forward to the photos of that!

Janet Smith to speak at Westminster

I just received this notice by email. It is annoying to be so busy before Easter - I cannot go to the meeting. But I do heartily recommend going to hear Janet Smith - I have listened to a couple of her lectures on car journeys and I think she is the best speaker I have heard on Humanae Vitae. Here are the details:

Contraception: Why not?
Professor Janet E Smith

Thursday 6 March 2008
Westminster Cathedral Hall

Professor Smith offers a stimulating opportunity to seriously reconsider the modern enthusiasm for contraception. her message has captivated audiences all around the world, particularly married couples, those considering marriage, catechists, counsellors, doctors, priests and seminarians.

Janet Smith teaches Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Seminary Detroit USA.

Places are limited. Entrance fee: £5.
Please register at
020 7931 6064

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

John Smeaton blog

John Smeaton, the Director of SPUC, has started a new SPUC Director blog. This will prove an excellent source of news and information on pro-life matters. Interesting post yesterday on the dangers of changing the law on organ donation.
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