Thursday, 30 April 2009

Celebrations for St Catherine of Siena

In the Society of St Catherine of Siena, we celebrated the feast of our patron saint today. In a paper read to the St Nicholas Study group, Susan Parsons spoke about the moral lessons of the octaves. Various octaves were suppressed during the reforms of the 1950s and we are now left with only the Christmas and Easter Octaves. The octave of Pentecost was a surprising omission from the calendar of the post Vatican II reform, paradoxically coinciding with the proclamation of the "New Pentecost" and the birth of the Catholic charismatic movement.

Dr Laurence Hemming had to hand an Octavarium showing that in the older tradition, not only were there many minor octaves of universal observance, but there were also octaves for local Churches for their patronal feast and the dedication of the Church.

After the paper, there was some intense discussion on the question of the Liturgical Movement in its early stages and the role played by Guéranger's Liturgical Year in bringing people to an appreciation of the richness of the Liturgy of the Church; as well as the question of the different levels of participation in the liturgy available to the faithful and whether the rehabilitation of the "Sunday" was really as important as it is usually considered to be. I find such discussions with learned colleagues very useful, especially when there is a clash of particular points of view, helping us to clarify important historical and theological questions.

After this session, we walked over to St James's, Spanish Place for Missa Cantata, sung at Bentley's stunning Lady Chapel by Fr Andrew Wadsworth, the Chaplain of the Society who is soon moving to Washington DC to take up post as General Secretary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and Executive Director of the ICEL Secretariat. Some boys from the London Oratory School sang for the Mass with great expertise and discipline. I was very pleased to be able to assist in choir and sing the Epistle for the Mass. Many thanks too, to the Rector, Fr Terence Phipps, for kindly allowing us to use St James's for this celebration.

Family and Youth Concern Bulletin

I heartily recommend Family and Youth Concern which campaigns on many issues that are addressed on this blog. the latest Bulletin for Spring 2009 is now available at the website: see Bulletin No. 135.

There is an interesting review of a new book, "The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education" by Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes, (Routledge 2009. £18.99. ISBN 978-0415397018). The reviewer observes:
The emphasis on often ill-defined concepts such as ‘emotional literacy’, ‘emotional intelligence’, ‘emotional well-being’ and ‘self-esteem’ has encouraged a preoccupation with self which in turn has had a paralysing effect on human initiative and enterprise. Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes argue that ‘therapeutic education is turning children, young people and adults into anxious and self-preoccupied individuals rather than aspiring, optimistic and resilient learners’ with a desire to pursue truth, master a difficult subject or learn a new skill.
and there is an important warning:
‘Old forms of support’ such as family, friends, churches, and other community groups are no longer viewed as reliable sources of help, and families tend to be treated with particular suspicion and are frequently regarded as part of the problem rather than the solution. As an example of how parents are undermined by embedding ‘social and emotional aspects of learning’ into the curriculum, reference is made to the introduction of a ‘feelings tree’ in primary school. The purpose is ostensibly to encourage children to articulate their emotions, yet more ominously staff testify to its usefulness in enabling them to ‘dig into the home lives of the children’.
Denis Hayes will be addressing the AGM and conference of Family and Youth Concern on Saturday 13 June 2009. See the FYC website for further details so join up now if you would like to go.

Pro-Life vigil, Bedford Square 9 May

The Helpers of God's Precious Infants are holding a pro-life vigil near the BPAS abortion facility in Bedford Square WC1 on Saturday 9 May.

The vigil will start from St Patrick's Church, Soho Square with Mass. Programme as follows:
9am Mass
9.40am Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
9.50am Prayerful and peaceful procession to BPAS abortion facility, processing with image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holy Rosary and hymns
11.30am Return procession with prayers and hymns
12.00noon Benediction
12.15pm Break for tea and get-together. (Please bring packed lunch.)
If you can't attend for the whole event, you will be welcome for any part of it.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The questions young people ask

Yesterday after the morning Mass, I went over to Aylesford to give a Day of Recollection for boys in Year 10 (i.e. aged 14-15) from the John Fisher School.

The day was organised by Sir Dan of the Blogosphere along tried and trusted lines: a tour of the Friary given by Brother Lawrence O.Carm, a talk by me, confessions, lunch, "Question Box" and a votive Mass of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. St John Fisher is one of the saints to whom I pray every day and I always love to preach about his heroic life: he is a great inspiration to boys and an example of inner strength and courage in the face of adversity.

The "Question Box" session is always interesting. The boys are invited to write any questions they want on a scrap of paper and it is the priest's job to answer them as well as fielding any impromptu questions. I have often run sessions like this with young people and it is a very good exercise since it gives them the chance to set the agenda. There are rarely any questions about global warming, pollution or the environment but there are always plenty of questions about sexual morality (masturbation, homosexuality, sex before marriage, etc.) I usually take these as a "job lot" and speak for a while about the Church's teaching on chastity, self-control, and the sacredness of the procreation of new life. The insights of the Good Counsel Network and the Sisters of the Gospel of Life are always of interest since they come from people's experience at the coalface.

The other questions nearly always include one or two about what happens after death, heaven (sometimes) hell (always) and purgatory. Questions of the day tend to come up depending on news priorities - yesterday we had one about the Church and the Nazis, probably prompted by recent coverage of Pope Benedict. That was a good opportunity to talk about the response of the Church to Nazism, and to try to restore the reputation of Pope Pius XII. As ever, there were a few questions about the priesthood - on celibacy, "Are you paid?" and "Is it boring being a priest?"

To the latter question which is a frequent one from young people, I always answer with honesty that sometimes the priestly life is challenging, and sometimes it is very joyful, but in 25 years as a priest, I have not yet had a boring day.

Flu: dangers of risk compensation

The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson has been commenting very sensibly and calmly about the outbreak of pig flu and what we should be doing about it. I was struck by his comments about the use of face masks. He was not very optimistic about their effectiveness and worried that if they were used routinely, they might provide a false sense of security and make the problem worse.

Does that sound familiar?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Objecting to advertisements

John Smeaton recently wrote about Hormonal birth control advertised on television. A reader has written to remind me of details for complaining about advertisements. She has found that Channel 4 take complaints seriously: Channel 4 customer services number is 0845 076 0191.

They are keen that people also object to the
Advertising Standards Authority who require complaints to be in writing by post or email:

Complaints Reception
71 High Holborn
London WC1V 6QT

Here is a link to the "How to complain" section of the ASA website.

UPDATE: Address of ITV who have also run the ad:

ITV Network Centre
Grey's Inn Road,

Caption competition heaven

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles attended a conference on the environment yesterday at the Italian Parliament. they also had a meeting with the Holy Father in his private library.

There are photos from Getty, and photos from Reuters (these are searches on DayLife so they will get overlaid soon.)

One of these photos just has to end up on the front cover of Private Eye, surely?

Film clip: priestly ordination

From the 1963 film "The Cardinal". As the Bishop anoints the left hand of the priest:
Consecrare, et sanctificare digneris, Domine, manus istas per istam unctionem, et nostram bene + dictionem.
O Lord, deign to consecrate and sanctify these hands through this anointing and our blessing.
As the Bishop anoints the right hand:
Ut quaecumque benedixerint, benedicantur, et quaecumque consecraverint, consecrentur, et sanctificentur, in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi.
That whatsoever things they shall bless shall be blessed and whatsoever things they shall consecrate shall be consecrated and sanctified in the name of our Lord jesus Christ.
As the Bishop hands on the chalice and paten:
Accipe potestatem offerre sacrificium Deo, Missasque celebrare, tam pro vivis, quam pro defunctis. In nomine Domini.
Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Masses, both for the living and for the dead. In the name of the Lord.
Here is a link to the full text of the rite of ordination of a priest in the usus antiquior.

H/T Catholic Church Conservation

Monday, 27 April 2009

Belated St George's Day pictures

Mulier Fortis took some photos at our Mass for the feast of St George and I have only just had time to select some and edit them. She has posted some on her blog as well as some photos from the Rogation Procession and Mass.

For St George's Day, I was celebrant for the Mass, assisted by Rev John Harrison (Deacon) and Fr Charles Briggs (Subdeacon).

It is always good to be able to use our magnificent red set which is a 19th century French High Mass set made in velvet with gold braid. the chasuble has needlepoint embroidery with a large Agnus Dei in the centre.

After Mass, we had Benediction. Three very keen young lads who are making their first Holy Communion on Saturday are not allowed to serve Mass until then but I have allowed them to be torchbearers for Benediction. They are looking forward to joining the team of servers at Mass next Sunday.

The statue of St George was fetched from the Parish Social Club to be venerated in the Church. Sadly, St George has lost his sword on account of some boys playing football indoors with one of those soft balls that don't damage anything... By the time of his feast day next year, he should be armed once again.

Actually next year, we are thinking of leaving the statue in the Club and going over there after Mass with a team of servers and incense to venerate the statue and sing the hymn in the Club. Here is the text of the hymn to St George which we sang last Thursday:
1. Leader now on earth no longer,
soldier of th’eternal king,
victor in the fight for heaven,
we thy loving praises sing.

Great Saint George,
our patron, help us,
in the conflict be thou nigh;
help us in that daily battle,
where each one must win or die.

2. Praise him who in deadly battle
never shrank from foeman’s sword,
proof against all earthly weapon,
gave his life for Christ the Lord.

3. Who, when earthly war was over,
fought, but not for earth’s renown;
fought, and won a nobler glory,
won the martyr’s purple crown.

4. Help us when temptation presses,
we have still our crown to win,
help us when our soul is weary
fighting with the powers of sin.

5. Clothe us in thy shining armour,
place thy good sword in our hand;
teach us how to wield it, fighting
onward towards the heavenly land.

6. Onward, till, our striving over,
on life’s battlefield we fall,
resting then, but ever ready,
waiting for the angel’s call.

St Fidelis Church, Kansas

In response to my post about St Fidelis, Mary from Kansas left a comment referring to this magnificent Church known as "the Cathedral of the Plains" (though it is not actually a Cathedral).

It is known as one of the "Eight wonders of Kansas"; when it was built, it was the largest Church west of the Mississippi river. the exterior of the church is constructed with blocks of local limestone weighing 50-100 pounds each.

Above the High Altar there is a painting of the martyrdom of St Fidelis:

Parish website here
More photos here

Vocations and the home

Kate, mother of eight children, writes an excellent blog called "At home in my Father's house" (now added to the blogroll). She has followed up on my recent post about The importance of a "culture of vocation" with her own thoughts on the culture of vocation at home. One of her sons is in the "Quo Vadis" group organised by Fr Stephen Langridge, the vocations Director for Southwark (see: Southwark Vocations)so say a prayer for him and for the others in the group.

I was at Wonersh today for my last session of the academic year. The students have various pastoral and other courses before the summer break. First of all, though, they have to take their exams so a prayer for them to St Joseph Cupertino would not go amiss.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

"I came to extirpate heresy"

Friday was the feast of St Fidelis of Sigmaringen. There is a biography of him at the Catholic Encyclopaedia. St Fidelis was a lawyer who entered the Capuchin Franciscans at the age of 35. He spent his apostolic career in untiring efforts to convert those who had fallen into the errors of Calvin and Zwingli. On his mission to the country of the Grisons, he was met everywhere with the cry "Death to the Capuchins!" After one sermon, he was surrounded by Calvinists who offered him his life if he would apostatise. He said
"I came to extirpate heresy, not to embrace it"
and was struck down.

My attention was drawn to St Fidelis by the blog Canterbury Tales which is written by Taylor Marshall, a convert to the Catholic Church and a former Episcopal priest.

James MacMillan lambasts the Tablet, defends bloggers

James MacMillan has a cracking letter in this week's Tablet in defence of Catholic bloggers. A sample:
The bloggers that appal you so much are united in an obvious love and pride for the counter-cultural challenge of being Catholic in the modern age. No wonder they feel shame that the nominally Catholic Tablet shows no evidence of a similar love or pride. The Tablet seems out of touch, not just with the new enthusiasm for faithfulness and tradition blossoming in the Catholic world, but also out of step with the new participative media technologies.
You can read the whole letter over at Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke. You can read more about James MacMillan at Wikipedia and at the Boosey & Hawkes website which describes him as "the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation."

Petrol, molten wax and altar servers

Fr Z go this really good tip from a reader:
Fr Z. now that altars are becoming higher and higher, so to speak, some practical difficulties ensue.
I heard this practical tip on how to light really high candles from an old priest … . It makes me think that this is not something you should try at home, lest you burn your house down!

I might try it myself, though...
Take a little chunk of wax, melt it in a pot. An electric stove is safer for this… Then put a tiny amount of petrol (gasoline[this is where things get interesting] into the pot away from the stove. [Good tip.] Mix it well. Let it dry. Put tiny globs of this on the wicks of the impossibly high candles to be lit long before Mass. When it comes time to light them just before Mass, one merely has to touch the flame to the wick and it begins to burn nicely immediately.
I have three boys itching to serve the old Mass after their first Holy Communion next Saturday. I have granted them concessions over the past few months, allowing them to be torchbearers at Benediction, Stations of the Cross, and the Rogation Procession yesterday morning.

They would love to be let loose with molten wax and petrol in the sacristy. But I think I will invoke the spirit of "elfin safety". This reminds me that we should have some more fire safety training:

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Liturgy debate beginning

A recent book by John Baldovin SJ, "Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics", published by the Liturgical Press of Collegeville, Minnesota, is reviewed in this week's Catholic Herald by Alcuin Reid. (See: At last, the liturgical establishment is taking on its critics. Let the debate begin. Dr Reid pertinently quotes the saying of Mahatma Ghandi:
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
He notes that in Baldovin's critique of Klaus Gamber, he does not dispute Gamber's claim that there has been "a radical reform of the liturgy" which represents a "radical shift in Catholic theology and piety". For Baldovin, such a radical discontinuity is not an issue.

Baldovin also offered a critique of the work of Dr Reid, stating that he denies many of the principles of Sacrosanctum Concilium. He has apparently since accepted that this was inaccurate and that Dr Reid nowhere denies the principles of Sacrosanctum Concilium. This exchange is significant: as Dr Reid points out, it is important to be able to study the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy critically if there is to be any dialogue about the post-conciliar liturgical reform. I would add that Dr Reid's contribution to the study of the Sacred Liturgy goes a considerable way to furthering a correct and organic interpretation of the second Vatican Council in accordance with the hermeneutic of reform and continuity.

Dr Reid is right to point out the significance of Baldovin's new book: that the "mainstream agenda" should now include the "question of the liturgy" without ignoring the rehabilitation of the traditional form of the Roman rite is very much to be welcomed. To invoke another of the themes of Pope Benedict's pontificate, we are engaged in a common search for the truth.

Family: school of obedience and environmnent of true freedom

On St George's Day, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, with organizers of January's World Meeting of Families, which took place in Mexico City. (Some lucky children made their first Holy Communion at this Mass.)

In his short homily, the Holy Father spoke about the virtue of obedience, saying that it was not a mere subjection or following of commands but the fruit of an intimate communion with God. He said that Christian families that live in the light of faith are schools of obedience and the environment of true freedom.

Original text of homily (Italian)
Summary from Zenit

Friday, 24 April 2009

New Bible from Baronius Press

Baronius Press recently sent me a copy of their magnificent new Bible. I have kept it carefully on the table in my reception room downstairs and shown it to some admiring parishioners after weekday Mass.

The Bible has the Clementine Vulgate in parallel columns with the Douai-Rheims translation with the notes by Bishop Richard Challoner. The Clementine Vulgate is named after Pope Clement VIII: the Council of Trent taught that the Vulgate was authentic and ordered that a standard text should be produced. The first effort, by Pope Sixtus V suffered from a number of errors and the revision produced under Clement VIII became the standard.

The Douai-Rheims translation was a faithful and literal translation of the vulgate, making it an excellent tool for those who wish to follow the Latin text. The production of a bible with both versions side-by-side is a great gift to the Christian faithful.

The Bible is beautifully produced: it is bound in dark green leather with ornate gold blocking on the cover and the spine. The page edges are gilded, there are the traditional head and tail bands and two satin ribbons. The text is set in Century Old Style with a font size of 9pt. Here is a link to sample pages in PDF format.

I took a couple of photos of my own to show you the marbled endpapers and the text as it is in the book. I left my reading glasses in the below so that you can get an idea of the size of the book.

The bible can be be purchased from Baronius Press at £59.95. It would make a great gift for a seminarian, a newly-ordained priest, a wedding present, or for the birthday of a godchild. This is a beautiful edition of the Sacred Scriptures for anyone to keep and to treasure.

Walsingham Prayer Book

Family Publications have published "A Walsingham prayer Book" to mark the 75th anniversary of the declaration of the Slipper Chapel in Walsingham as the National Shrine to Our Lady in England.

The Walsingham Prayer Book includes traditional prayers and hymns to Our Lady with a particular but not exclusive focus on Walsingham, making it an excellent companion for pilgrim groups.

The 64 page glossy booklet is illustrated with colour photographs throughout. It is available from Family Publications at £4.50

Questioning the value of a peerage

Francis Davis (a fellow of Blackfriars, Oxford) had an article in the Guardian yesterday: The cardinal must not become a peer. Davis argues that
Britons should put pen to paper to protect O'Connor from the (well-evidenced) ruthlessness of the Labour machine.
He suggests that the acceptance of a peerage would be a "political coup" for Labour, providing an opportunity for doorstep campaigners in marginal seats.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

St George's Day

Normally on Thursday evening at Blackfen, we have Rosary and Benediction, followed by the Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Today being St George's Day, we are going to change the evening programme, having High Mass followed by short Benediction.

The Parish Social Club is open to non-Catholics provided that they do not form more than 50% of the membership. Hence we have a number of people from the surrounding streets who like to come out in the evening to a safe environment where they can relax with their families after a day on the building site, play pool and have a couple of pints.

We always have a big celebration for St Patrick's feast day but there are sometimes murmurings along the lines of "Why don't we do more to mark St George's Day?" We do in fact have a social evening with music on Saturday but when I mentioned to the Club Chairman that we were having a "Latin Mass" for St George and we might like to cook up some hamburgers and hot dogs afterwards, he told me that "some of the lads" were very pleased to hear this. I did say that they would be welcome at Mass (or part of it) - no need to "join in" - they were welcome to kneel at the back and watch (which is, of course "joining in" in a different way.) I'm not sure many will take up the invitation but it is at least "bread cast upon the waters."

(We should have some photos of the Mass and Benediction to post in due course.)

Incidentally, Roman Christendom has a good article today on St George.

The Pope and Condoms in Africa

One thing about blogging is that after you have been in the bear pit of a heavily biased television show, you can later write at length on any of the questions raised and dealt with in a few seconds of live TV.

James Preece has done this in an excellent article:The Pope and Condoms in Africa

2009 Cannonball Awards

Carolina Cannonball at The Crescat blog has invited nominations for the 2009 Cannonball Awards:
... consider this the blog awards for us "minor" bloggers... a blog award not dominated by the usual suspects. The results from last year's awards brought those quieter less visited blogs some much needed attention... even the little guy deserves some recognition. Having lost my fair share of Blog Awards... Ok, all of them, I did what any other sore loser would do; create my own!
Some examples of categories:
although you are invited to suggest others. You can put nominations in the combox of the post and the nominees are...

Incidentally, Carolina's blog is a good mix of the entertaining and spiritually nourishing with some down to earth humour. I particularly liked the way that she blogged about her return to academia and "all the joy that a liberal college provides". Her instructor was an evident fan of Baback Obama. The post title and illustration are among my all-time favourites:

Training conference at Ushaw

The Latin Mass Society of Middlesbrough has posted some great photos of the sacred liturgy celebrated at the society's training conference for priests at Ushaw over the past few days and I expect there will be more for today and tomorrow.

Fr Michael Brown of Forest Murmurs has been involved with the conference and he celebrated the Solemn High Mass on Monday. Above you can see a photo from the Mass which was celebrated in St Cuthbert's Chapel.

Petition against abortion advertising on TV

Melanie Jane has started a petition to 10 Downing Street regarding. It reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop abortion advertising on the television.
Further information:
Abortion is the easy way out and the young and general public need to be educated on the consequences of having sex. The government need to take action to help unite families and lower the pregnancy rate by raising the moral standards in this country. Abortion is murder.
Sign the petition.

(Deadline 14 October 2009. You have to be a British citizen or resident to sign.)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The importance of a "culture of vocation"

An article in USA Today can serve as a reminder of the importance of encouraging a culture of vocation. (See: Study: Nearly half of new priests were discouraged against seminary)

A survey produced for the US bishops by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University found that almost 45% of Catholic priests planning to be ordained this year said that they had been discouraged from considering the priesthood.
Of those, nearly 6 in 10 said a parent or family member was the source of the discouragement. Fifty-one percent said a friend or classmate had counseled them against the priesthood, and 15% said a priest or other clergy had. The percentages add up to more than 100 because respondents could select more than one category.
This does not surprise me and I expect the percentages would be larger in England.

In my diocese, Fr Stephen Langridge, Southwark Vocations Director has been working hard to encourage a "culture of vocation" in which a vocation to the sacred priesthood is seen as something possible and desirable within families and parishes. (Above is his excellent vocations poster from a few years ago.)

This is important because it is easy to become discouraged if our own local vocations work does not result immediately in young men signing up for the seminary. We should not underestimate the importance of speaking about vocations regularly, inviting seminarians to events, letting people know about things that happen at the Seminary (as St John's Seminary at Wonersh has done recently by sending parishes a free colour magazine with articles about the students and their formation.) All of these initiatives help to "normalise" the idea of a priestly vocation - or perhaps it might be better to say that they help to rescue the idea of a priestly vocation from the atmosphere of secular ridicule.

Sacred art and chant for primary schools

The Association of Catholic Women have sent me notice of this event for Catholic primary school teachers. There was a similar event in February, at Coloma School in Croydon, which was a great success.
A Study Day for Teachers in Catholic Primary Schools
Wednesday 24 June 2009

At Westminster Cathedral Choir School
(by kind permission of the Headmaster)

12.30pm Sandwich Lunch
1.45pm Teaching Christ Through Art – illustrated presentation by Lionel Gracey

Lionel Gracey studied medicine at Cambridge and Harvard. He was Consultant Surgeon to the Royal Free Hospital, London, from 1966-91. Following his retirement, he studied theology at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, where he now lectures in Religious Art.

3.00pm Tea
3.15pm Enriching School Masses through Gregorian Chant - Workshop with Jeremy de Satgé.

Jeremy de Satgé is a singer, composer, choral director and music publisher. He is a fellow of Trinity College of Music, London. Through his music publishing company, The Music Makers, he publishes new works of liturgical music suitable for parishes and resources to encourage the use of plainsong.

4.30pm Mass – at which we will sing some of the chant learned during the afternoon.


The Church has always used pictures in teaching the faith. Children can be helped to enter the world of the Gospels and the Saints through paintings and sculptures. Lionel Gracey will suggest paths leading to this.

Gregorian chant is popular and it has long been recognised as spiritually enriching. Young children are often open to chant. Jeremy de Satgé will suggest ways in which it can be used in worship in primary schools.
If you would like to attend, please email Joanna Bogle before 12 June 2009, giving the following details:
  • Full Name
  • The name of the school at which you teach
  • Your email address or telephone number
  • Any Dietary Requirements

Good Counsel worker on Chartres Pilgrimage

I have often mentioned the Good Counsel Network which is a 100% Catholic, pro-life groups in the UK. They work directly with women who have already decided to have an abortion. Instead of abortion they offer counselling, advice and support (including housing, childcare, regular ongoing financial support, baby goods such as clothes, food, baby milk, prams, toys etc, and in getting their life back on track) in order to help to save the life of their unborn baby.

The value of their work is incalculable: 70% of the women and girls that The Good Counsel Network see choose life for their babies.

I regularly go over to the Good Counsel Network to celebrate Mass or Benediction which they try to have in their centre every day. Yesterday afternoon I was there and heart that Conor Carroll who is 21 and works with The Good Counsel Network is going on the Chartres Pilgrimage this June. Many of you know of this traditional 75 mile pilgrimage which features Mass in the usus antiquior and concludes with solemn Mass at Chartres Cathedral. Conor is trying to gain as much sponsorship as possible in support of the Good Counsel Network. He will also pray for all benefactors each day of the Pilgrimage.

Here is a link where you can sponsor him. Please be as generous as you can:

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Cardinal Cañizares Pontifical Mass at St John Lateran

Earlier today, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, celebrated Pontifical High Mass in the usus antiquior at the basilica of St John Lateran, assisted by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

It is quite significant that there have been two high-profile solemn Masses according to the usus antiquior at the Lateran Basilica within less than a week. It is particularly inspiring to see the Franciscans of the Immaculate, both assisting their own superior last Thursday, and assisting the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship today.

Here is a slide show of photos from the Mass. (I have had a closer look at "Slide" and found that if you click the "view all images" button, you can then pick any of the pictures and view them in higher resolution.)

H/T Rinascimento Sacro

Keep abortion ads off the telly

John Smeaton has a post today: Alert public to TV abortion ads consultation by ordering SPUC's new flyer. You can email John to get copies of the flyer to distribute to friends, post through letterboxes or put in your Church (ask the parish priest first, of course.)

I think that this will be an effective campaign. Even people who have been hoodwinked by "hard case" arguments are likely to be uneasy about abortion being advertised on the television.

Latin and English Altar Cards

Altar Card Artistry, the website of Myriad Creative Concepts, offers a selection of altar cards for the usus antiquior. The above image is the "Vintage Diamond" set - click the picture to enlarge. They also sell cards for the vesting prayers, the prayers after Low Mass and the prayers at the foot of the altar (only to be used temporarily while you learn them by heart, Fathers!)

Interestingly, they also have the same texts in English translation under the heading "Protestant English Mass Materials". Some Anglicans still use the "English Missal", an English version of the older form of the Roman Rite but with the cycle of readings taken from the Sarum use. The Anglican Use parishes that have come into communion with Rome under the 1980 pastoral provision use the "Book of Divine Worship" which has elements of the newer form (such as the "Blessed are you..." prayers in the current ICEl translation although the Canon is given in an older translation, beginning,
Most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, and we ask, that thou accept and + bless these gifts, these presents, these holy and unspoiled sacrifices.
I wonder if such parishes would be given permission to use the "English Missal". I can't see any reason why not: it would help in the process of mutual enrichment and the "reform of the reform."

Well, that was a distraction: go over to Altar Card Artistry and have a look at their fine, and very reasonably priced altar cards.

Beautiful devotional cards

One blog that escaped my blogroll until now is Holy Cards For Your Inspiration by Micki from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She posts beautiful pictures of (mainly vintage) holy cards. I would only warn you that it is possible to spend far too much time browsing this site...

Translation of the text on the above card:
[At the top:] The pause on the journey -- or the daily visit.
[At the bottom:] It is only there that my heart is at rest. Everything is taken away from my sight before that tabernacle. If someone were to ask me, "Where is your happiness?" -- I would answer, "Look! Jesus, through a miracle, has placed His home in the midst of my exile."

Monday, 20 April 2009

James Preece on the telly

James Preece, who writes Catholic and Loving It volunteered to go on the BBC programme "The Big Questions". (iPlayer link here for a few days.) To give you an idea of the moderation and balance so characteristic of the BBC, here is my transcript of the intro from Nicky Campbell:
Well! It's been a week of celebrations for Pope Benedict: he was 82 on Thursday and today is his fourth anniversary as Pontiff. Not everyone's celebrating. Our first Big Question is: "Is this Pope a liability?"
The show kicked off unambiguously; very first comment was from Sir Stephen Wall, former diplomat, Private Secretary to John Major, and EU Advisor to Tony Blair. From June 2004 to June 2005 he was Principal Advisor to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor.
Campbell: Sir Stephen Wall, is this Pope a liability?
Sir Stephen: Yes, I think he is.
Sir Stephen also referred to the Holy Father's comments to the Roman Curia last December in which he said that the rain forests deserved our protection but that man does not deserve it less, that it is not an outdated metaphysics to speak of the nature of the human being as man and woman and that we should respect the natural order.

Sir Stephen said that the Holy Father's comments appeared to suggest that homosexuality was a bigger threat to the world than climate change and that they looked "plain loopy." Campbell said sardonically "I get the impression you've lapsed" to which Sir Stephen replied that he had, recently. In December 2007 Sir Stephen wrote an article called "Render Unto Caesar" in which he defended a Catholic politician who "chose to exercise his own conscience and political judgement on the issue of abortion", attacked the Church's teaching on IVF (in this case for homosexual couples), and questioned the Church's opposition to adoption by gay couples. He said:
The Church portrays itself as the victim of an aggressive secularism. It looks to me, rather, as if the Church is itself in danger of adopting an aggressive fundamentalism and that the secular societies it excoriates demonstrate a tolerance that is often closer to the ideal of Christian charity.
and concluded with stuff about the window of fresh air from Vatican II being prised open again. The article was published in..., let me think..., uhm..., where was it now..., errm..., Oh yes! - The Tablet.

On the main panel, there was also Christina Rees, member of the General Synod of the Church of England and Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church) which campaigns for women bishops. She said that the Pope was an intelligent man and that he had knowingly offended huge groups of people, adding that Jesus Christ stood for love, compassion and forgiveness and,
I do not see this Pope walking in the steps of a humble, forgiving, compassionate leader.
She must liven things up at her local "Churches Together" meetings!

In the audience, one featured guest was a lesbian christian gay rights campaigner who said of the Holy Father
"He causes immense amounts of pain and in some instances unfortunately death."
In the course of her comments about the oppression of women, she seemed not to understand that the transition from women being property to the institution of christian marriage a) came out of traditional christian moral teaching and b) rather fatally undermined both her principles and her professed lifestyle.

As usual with such programmes, the prejudices of the black legend as well as recent examples of media-hyped outrage were thrown around promiscuously at various intervals (conquistadors, Galileo, Bishop Williamson, Good Friday prayer, etc. although I was sorry that nobody found an opportunity to mention the Spanish Inquisition.)

In this arena, James Preece put up a good show. Patrick Dixon, "Management Guru" had raised the question about a Catholic married couple, one of whom was infected with HIV: "How are they supposed to conduct themselves unless they are able to use a condom."

James (introduced as "Catholic blogger") asked whether promoting the safety of a gun with only one bullet in the chamber was a better approach than not using the gun at all - the campaigner told him he was "talking absolute nonsense" and James managed to get his voice heard over the hubbub to say "So you're saying from a medical point of view it's impossible not to have sex?" Later, during a particularly infuriating series of allegations about Pope Benedict and what he had "said about the Jews" James managed to ask pertinently "What has the Pope said about the Jews?" to which the feeble response was that it is "how he comes across". Towards the end, he also got in to speak about sacrifice as the language of love, and how the Pope is willing to be as unpopular as Christ.

Peter Jennings also got some good points across, and Conservative MP David Davis made a few more moderate noises but by and large the programme was an onslaught on Pope Benedict, given the flimsiest possible appearance of "balance" by a heavily outnumbered Catholic presence in the audience.

Sir Stephen was given the last word. After he said that in his view the secular society shows more christian charity than the Pope (a line that earned him enthusiastic studio applause) he was dolled up an easy final question:
Campbell: When he's having breakfast on his gold-rimmed plates with the personal seal on in his rooms, and in the afternoon apparently he spends a long time reading academic tomes, what do you think he should be thinking hard about right now?

Sir Stephen: I think he should be thinking hard, particularly in the Western world, why is it that the Catholic Church is losing supporters, why is it losing men and women, and why shouldn't it in those circumstances examine some of the things it talks about and actually see whether after all, they are right? It's no good simply saying this is the man who is the successor of St Peter; he's a man who is elected by a bunch of Cardinals.
It is rather ironic that much hot air was given in the programme to the notion that the Pope has "bad advisors" when some of the most vehement anti-papal rhetoric came from a former Principal Advisor to the Archbishop of Westminster. I'm sure we all piously hope that the choice of an advisor like this can be avoided in the future.

There was also a new tactic employed, that of contrasting Pope Benedict with Pope John Paul II. Several times Pope John Paul was referred to positively - as a respected figure, a holy man - unlike Pope Benedict, presumably. Therefore let me offer a brief reminder of some of the coverage of Pope John Paul's death:

Not in my name (by Polly Toynbee)
"How dare Tony Blair genuflect on our behalf before the corpse of a man whose edicts killed millions?"

The Pope has blood on his hands (by Terry Eagleton)
"The Pope did great damage to the church, and to countless Catholics."

Well done to James, "Catholic Blogger" for going into this bear pit. Go over to his blog entry and put in some comments on his post The Big Questions.

See also: My heart was Restless: A Catholic blogger defends the Faith

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Ceremonies of the Freemasonic Rites Described

Baronius Press have re-published Walton Hannah's classic book: "Darkness Visible. A Christian appraisal of Freemasonry." At the time of writing the book, Hannah was an Anglican clergyman. He was later received into the Catholic Church.

In 1951, Hannah wrote an article in the journal Theology, entitled "Should a Christian be a Freemason?" which caused considerable controversy in England, particularly since King George VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, were both freemasons. As a result, the Church Assembly of the Church of England later that year discussed the issue. The Rev R Creed Meredith, a freemason himself, proposed that a commission be appointed to report on Hannah's article. This was overwhelmingly rejected and the Assembly did not reach any particular decision on the matter.

Following this, Hannah wrote "Darkness Visible". In the first part of the book, he explains how he obtained his information about the masonic rites (primarily from rituals and commentaries published by freemasons), and why he was writing it: to give accurate information to enable Christians to make an informed judgement on whether or not freemasonry was compatible with their Christian faith.

He argues that it is not compatible, for two principal reasons. First, because the oaths that are taken on the Bible in an atmosphere of religious solemnity constitute either vain or rash swearing (depending on whether the person takes them seriously or not) and secondly that freemasonry is in fact a "common denominator" religion in which worship is offered to God in forms which exclude Christ.

Part II, the detailed description of the rituals of freemasonry covers about two-thirds of the book. It is a kind of "Fortescue for Freemasons" though, to be honest, Fortescue is like a racy blockbuster by comparison. Apparently it is valued by some freemasons as a clear and accurate guide to the various rites!

Hannah offers a sober, well-balanced appraisal, free from wild conspiracy theories and focussing on the principal reasons why Christians should not join "the craft". He refers sympathetically to the various Catholic condemnations of freemasonry along with those of several non-Catholic Christian bodies.

In case anyone needs to know the Catholic Church's current discipline in the matter, here is the full text of Quaesitum Est, the 1983 Declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:


It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church’s decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.

This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance in due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.

Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.

It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73 1981 pp. 240-241; English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano, 9 March 1981).

In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.

Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.

Joseph Card. RATZINGER

+ Fr. Jerome Hamer, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium

Bishop O'Donoghue with the Holy Father

At the close of the General Audience last Wednesday, Bishop O'Donoghue presented "Fit for Mission? Schools" and "Fit for Mission? Church" to the Holy Father. The Lancaster press office observed:
The Holy Father departed from the usual protocol and spent quite some time going through both documents with Bishop Patrick expressing his obvious delight at the wide-ranging scope of the work. The Holy Father and Bishop Patrick were joined by Mgr Georg Ganswein - Private Secretary to the Pope – and Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household.
The Holy Father thanked Bishop O'Donoghue for his work of renewal in the diocese. As the bishop will be retiring next month, this is a fitting tribute to his groundbreaking work which has inspired so many people.

Just yesterday I received a review copy of "Fit for Mission? Marriage" which is an marriage preparation course. It is published by the CTS - here is a link to the notice for the Course Presenter's book.

Well Known Saints DVD - volume 1

Mary's Dowry Productions have sent me a DVD with five-minute biographies of several saints, illustrated with classical works of art. The DVD has lives of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Saint Paul, Saint Joseph, Saint Faustina, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Anthony of Padua. This is volume 1 of Well Known Saints: volume 2 is in production.

One use of the DVD would be to show at Confirmation classes to help young people choose a patron saint. I would suggest that it would also be useful as an introduction or conclusion to Family Prayers, perhaps on the feast of each of the saints. Each short biography ends with some scripture or a prayer that parents or an older child could read to the others.

The DVD is £9.99 from Mary's Dowry Productions Online Shop.

The same team have now released "St Edumund Campion: a hero returns" and have sent me a copy. I'll do a post about that when I have had a chance to watch it.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Blogging news for Low Week

Last year, as is fairly well-known, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, at their Low Week meeting, discussed the phenomenon of Catholic blogging. Since then, the Tablet newspaper launched an attack on my parish because one of our four weekend precept Masses and one of our six weekday Masses is said in the extraordinary form. From the vast correspondence sent to me, much of it including copies of perfectly well-balanced and reasonable letters sent to the editor of the Tablet (and not published), I hazard a guess that the subsequent correspondence published on the letters page was far from a fair reflection of the correspondence received.

Be that as it may, the Catholic blogosphere responded with great generosity, enabling me to pay for our new rose vestments in full with some money left over to save up for some silver candlesticks for our Lady altar.

A further consequence of this debacle was that bloggers around the world were left in little doubt about the character of the Tablet. Whereas many people before had rather ignored it as a possibly slightly highbrow English weekly, they now took a closer look and realised, from various articles and snippets that were published and fisked around the web, that it is the English voice of dissent from Rome; dissent that began with a conscious editorial decision at the time of the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968 and has continued ever since.

Almost overnight, the Tablet's position as a leading opinion former was compromised by the democratic and rather scary freedom of ordinary Catholics to write on the internet without editorial censorship. It is no surprise, then, that the Tablet has chosen to launch a blanket attack on Catholic blogging during the two weeks leading up to the Low Week meeting. After all, it would be very much in their interests if the Bishops were to go along with the idea that blogs are rather bad and dangerous.

Last week, the "Letter from Rome" questioned how "ordained ministers" have time to "feed a blog" rather than visit the housebound or those in hospital or prison. It is amusing that the use of the liberal Catholic cipher "ordained ministers" (as opposed to "priests" or "clergy") raises the question about "lay ministers". In the spirit of collaborative ministry, should blogging lay ministers not also be using the wee small hours to visit the housebound? Come to that, what was St Thomas Aquinas doing, spending his time writing about essence and existence? The thirteenth century was a period of global warming - surely the Angelic Doctor should have been devoting his energies to saving the planet?

This week, the editorial "Voices from the Lower Depths" is a broadside against blogging generally. Ostensibly tut-tutting about the role of blogs in the McBride scandal, the Tablet could not resist lashing out against Catholic bloggers: "often right-wing, polemical and vituperative". Worst of all, as the leader bemoans, their targets "often seem to include the Tablet."

When you have picked yourself up from the floor and dried your eyes, you might take the opportunity to post one or other of the following in the combox here or on your own blog:
  • a polite explanation of why the Tablet should not be sold in our Cathedrals or parish Churches (with examples and quotations)
  • an account of the work done by Catholic blogs in supporting Pope Benedict (with links)
  • a list of the ways that Catholic blogs have helped ordinary Catholics to grow in their faith (with links or personal testimonies)
This is actually meant seriously. Not all Bishops are familiar with blogs and it would be a pity if they were left unaware of the great good that many Catholics do, in their spare time, for the love of God, by writing on various subjects at various levels, to help others know more about Our Lord and about the Catholic faith. To dismiss all these good people as polemical and vituperative is lazy journalism and unhelpful in the discussion which Pope Benedict has engaged in regarding the new media.

Holy Smoke: The Tablet hits out at Right-wing bloggers 'from the lower depths'
"The most revealing detail of all, however, is that the Tablet has to explain to its readers what the word blog means"

The Sensible Bond: The Tablet's world of evil Catholic blogdom
"Wait a minute, Tablet, what on earth are you saying about the community of British Catholic blogs on the net?"

That the bones you have crushed may thrill: In Defence of Priestly Bloggers
"The Tablet would rather that the 'liberal' voice was the only voice heard, and that the 'voices crying out in the wilderness' were banished into exile forever."

Mulier Fortis: The Latest Stupid Comment From The Suppository... and The Suppository's Attempts At Comedy...
"The only "conspiracy with the bishops" is the one which allows The Suppository to call itself a Catholic publication despite consistently attacking the Holy Father and continuing to dissent from Catholic teaching in matters regarding marriage, sexuality and contraception (among other things) without being called to account by those Bishops"

Catholic Mom of 10 Journey: "Losing the Plot!" In Defence of Priestly Bloggers
"Do all bloggers need a psychiatrist? Well I'm ahead of the game already having one! Do all editors need one too? Do editors of the Tablet need one? What do you think?"

Anglican Samizdat: The right-wing blog conspiracy
"It’s rather quaint observing an establishment antediluvian attempt to explain the dangers of a burgeoning technological trend"

A commenter problem

I received this message today from a reader.
I have registered a Google account, but having posted once the next time I try to do so the wretched system refuses to recognise my password. I then reset it, make one post, then the whole sorry business starts again (invalid password, reset, post; attempted post, invalid password, reset...)
Can anyone help here?

My "workaround" suggestion was to get an Open ID which might in any case be useful for other things. I see that some people do in fact use Open ID to comment.

Friday, 17 April 2009

FI Mass at the Lateran Basilica

Yesterday marked the eighth centenary of the approval of the rule of St Francis by Pope Innocent III in 1209. To Mark the occasion, Fr Stefano Manelli, founder and superior of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, celebrated a solemn High Mass in the usus antiquior at the papal altar of the Basilica of St John Lateran.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate routinely celebrate Mass according to the newer form although I understand that many of the Sisters prefer to have the usus antiquior celebrated and the superiors are quite open to this. The FIs are therefore in the vanguard of the response to Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum, offering both forms of the Roman Rite with exemplary reverence.

Many thanks to NLM (Solemn Mass in the Usus Antiquior at the Lateran) for the heads-up.

Thanks also to Rinascimento Sacro: FFI: Padre Manelli per gli 800 anni della Regola celebra nella forma straordinaria in Laterano for their report and this slide show:

Pro-Life walk near York

A parishioner who is studying at York passed this on to me and I'm happy to publicise what looks to be an excellent afternoon's activity:

Walk for Life- A prolife walk of witness and prayer
Sunday 10th May

Organised by Catholic parishes in York, with blessing of Bishop Arthur of Leeds and Bishop Terence, Middlesborough

1.15 - 1.30pm- Assembly at the west front precinct of York Minster. The walk passes through the city to the Margaret Clitheroe Monument, Ousebridge, and to grounds of the Bar Convent, where the relic of St Margaret Clitheroe will be venerated.

The walk ends with 5pm Mass at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Dalton Terrace, followed by refreshments.

Total distance of the walk is about 2 miles. St Wilfred's Church, Petergate, and English Martyrs Church, Dalton Terrace, are open for prayer all day.

Further details - email Pat

Saints and Blesseds blog

The new blog Saints and Blesseds
"celebrates the saints and beati of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (some of them, I hope, all the more interesting for being fairly obscure), with a bias towards those of the British Isles."
Recent entries include St Godric of Finchale, barefoot pilgrim and devotee of St Cuthbert; and St Milburga of Wenlock, a saintly foundress and abbess.

Wenlock Priory

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Visit to St Andrews

St Andrews was beautiful, as ever, though rather cold and windy. The Canmore Catholic Society is in very good shape with an enthusiastic committee who are organising a Barbecue for the Pope's birthday today.

Last night, I was treated to dinner at "The Dolls House" and then joined the students for Mass at the chaplaincy (above) before giving my talk on "True and False Ecumenism" which was followed by some intelligent and challenging questions. Afterwards, Fr Halloran, the parish priest and university chaplain (who celebrates his Golden Jubilee this year) led Compline before we repaired to the Lord Russell Hotel for more discussion over a drink. In a striking example of "fusion" cooking, the hotel was offering Haggis Nachos as the "Chef's Dish of the Day" but nobody was too enthusiastic about that.

The Catholic Chaplaincy at St Andrews has been a prolific source of vocations over the years and I was glad to see that this tradition is continuing. Fr Langridge, the Vocations Director of Southwark was at the university last month to give a talk and I know that he will have been giving much encouragement.

National Express trains managed to get us down from Leuchars to Kings Cross in the predicted 5 hours 40 minutes so that I am home in good time for Rosary and Benediction. (In response to those who have kindly asked: I will be posting the text of the talk on the internet.)
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