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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Last Margate sunset of 2014

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After a late lunch today, I took the opportunity for a walk up to Fort Hill and then down along the beach at low tide. Because I can.

The better biretta

As it is still very much holiday time, it is only right that we should focus on the more important things in life. Fr Hunwicke has helped us in this respect with a thoughtful and erudite post on Birettas. I must say that although the various birettas that I possess all have pom-poms, I entirely agree with my learned colleague that they are a superfluous piece of frenchification and that the biretta is better without one.

Not only that, but Father makes a solid case for the unpompommed hat being the will of our Holy Father. And as he says
We owe it to him to get our headwear right, whatever the cost, come what may. 
I bought a pack of craft knives from the pound shop recently ...

High Mass in 1944

At one time, the portrayal of Catholic ceremonies in films was generally well researched and accurate. Nowadays, more or less anything goes: perhaps a reflection of the - let us say - creativity in the observance of ceremonial and indeed the latitude allowed in the rules themselves.

Seeing film clips which include parts of the older form of the Roman Rite is fascinating because the ceremonies are exactly the same celebrated today after painstaking study of Fortescue and O'Connell, except that they were usually carried out with greater smoothness and less fuss.

Thanks to Charles Cole at NLM for this beautiful clip of Christmas Midnight High Mass, and for the details supplied as follows:
It is an extract from the 1944 film Christmas Holiday starring Deanna Durbin and shows part of a Christmas Mass. It was filmed at St Vibiana’s, the former Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which was damaged in the Northridge earthquake of 1994 and sold to the city. St Vibiana’s has since been replaced by the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The music in the clip includes Puer natus in Bethlehem, the Kyrie from Licinio Refice’s Missa Choralis and Adeste fideles.
(See: Was Your Christmas Mass Anything Like This?)



The Melodrama Research Group of the University of Kent has an informative summary of their discussion of the film.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas at Margate



Praise the Lord, my holy predecessor left midnight Mass at midnight. A superb young organist put our electronic instrument through its paces and the sung Mass (mostly English but with Mass VIII de angelis for the ordinary) was suitably moving with a full Church and plenty of enthusiastic carol singing.

The above photo was taken on the Tuesday before Christmas, but is not an entirely honest portrait of our current weather. I am regretting a missed photo opportunity since today (a very busy day) I did not get a chance to snap Marine Drive covered in sand after high winds overnight. Perhaps another time before winter is out. One of my parishioners who comes over from the Westbrook side of the parish said that there seemed to be more sand on the road than on the beach.

On St Stephen's day the altar servers turned out in good numbers for the investiture of a new member, and the renewal of their own promises. The Mass was celebrated as an English sung Mass with full ceremonies and a hearty rendition of Good King Wenceslaus as an enthusiastic devotional piece after Mass. Then some eager volunteers peeled several sacks of potatoes in record time to be taken up to Cliftonville for the Open Christmas lunch today.

Fr Holden is my genial neighbour at the gothic (pointy architecture) parish of Ramsgate. I have decided to make the most of the fact that Margate is the oldest Church in Thanet, dating back to the beginning of the end of penal times. Therefore I think that in the respectable north side of Thanet we must hold onto the English baroque tradition, perhaps synthesised appropriately with the early movement towards the pointy stones.

Over the Christmas period, Fr Holden is host to two visiting Dominican priests from the United States Eastern Province, Fathers Aquinas and Austin. Father Austin's visit was a chance for him to visit sites associated with his holy patron.



Foolishly, over an informal supper, I let slip that I was "a bit of a Scotist", forgetting that with young Dominicans, I might as well have said I was a bit of a serial killer. I spent the rest of the evening protesting that Scotist tendencies did not necessarily lead to nominalism. Fr Holden rescued things by taking out a box of Balderdash cards so that we could pit Oxford English deception against Ivy League subtlety (which I pointed out was not exactly Thomist in ethos.) To be fair, honours were equal by the time we had to face the fact that pastoral work must begin again in the morning.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Discovering Sandwich



When your car battery has gone flat and the man comes over with his starter pack, you need to be ready to drive the thing for 20 minutes or so to get the battery properly charged up. I breezily set off for Broadstairs and after five minutes realised that Thanet is quite small and I was almost there. So having been told what a lovely place Sandwich was, I diverted for a pleasant drive with views of Pegwell Bay to the charming Cinq Port. There is parking just by the Quay (above) and it is a short walk to the Guildhall at the centre of town.



The name of the town and the proximity of Ham are obviously tempting for silly humour but those who make a living from visitors need to play it up a bit. So there is the Sandwich shop selling sandwiches:



and a No Name Street with a No Name shop.



So far, I have confined myself largely to Margate with occasional ventures around Thanet because I want to get to know my own parish first of all. The unexpectedly needed trip to travel a little further was most rewarding. And yes, I did have a sandwich.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Since you asked nicely...

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Another Margate sunset photo. Yesterday (24 Nov) at 4.30pm.

Christ, lawgiver in his own right

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The Holy Father made clear his desire to hear opinion on the subject discussed in the recent Synod, and five cardinals, along with several other scholars, responded to that invitation by writing articles for a collection: "Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church" edited by Robert Dodaro OSA.

The other day I decided that it was high time I read this book. On downloading it to my Kindle, I realised that the article on the biblical data was written by Fr Paul Mankowski SJ, and having enjoyed several pieces by Mankowski before, I turned to his article first. I was not disappointed: he draws on his extensive knowledge of biblical languages and culture to offer a masterly guide to the teaching of Our Lord on divorce.

In addition, I highlighted one passage for its concise and forceful statement of the significance of the "but I say to you" passages in the sermon on the mount:
The sermon (Mt 5-7) presents Jesus as a new Moses or, better, a Moses to end Moses, for he is not merely a transmitter of the law but a lawgiver in his own right—not standing in obedient alertness on Sinai but seated on the mountain and declaiming his commandments in the first person, saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. . . . I say to you” (5:17-18; RSV-2CE), announcing paradoxically that the Mosaic laws still have force, but that their force henceforth resides in his person, that their original function—namely, of connecting God’s chosen people to the God who did the choosing—has been accomplished and replaced by his own activity.
Here is a link for "Remaining in the Truth of Christ" at the UK Amazon:



If you want to see another article by Mankowski on an important topic of current debate, see his "Old Testament Iconology and the Nature of God" which was included in Helen Hull Hitchcock's "The Politics of Prayer" published by Ignatius in 1992 (page 151ff.) When I tried just now, the following link got me the article in Google Books. It is erudite, witty and devastating.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Big skies

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My Lady Chapel is photogenic. Following the example of a tweeting visitor, I took the above photo which also features one of the fine votive candle stands.

I was actually asked for some more seaside photos by a kind reader, so I am happy to oblige. At this time of year, the "big skies" can be full of interest, not only on account of the varied colours, but also because of their rapid changes. A completely overcast sky can change to bright blue and back again in an hour, something that seems to be happening most days at the moment. Here is the harbour at low tide under an uncertain sky in mid-change:

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And viewed here on a calm late afternoon while I was walking back from the station:

Harbour sky

I suppose there could be some Church-related metaphor there, but that really wasn't the point.

In the past week, I have been formally inducted as parish priest by the Episcopal Vicar, and informally inducted by enjoying my first Christmas Fair. I hope I manage to get to grips with what needs to be done for Advent and Christmas - I am looking forward to that in my new parish.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Catholic Dilemma 286: Difficulties in saying the Rosary

My friend is urging me to say the Rosary but I find it very difficult to concentrate. Aren’t these devotions optional? Should persevere with it?

It is true that outside the sacred Liturgy, we are left free to pray in different ways. However the Rosary does have the recommendation of Our Lady herself at Lourdes, Fatima and on many other occasions, and has been encouraged by the saints and most of the Popes of the past 500 years. Therefore I would encourage you to persevere.

The Rosary combines both vocal and mental prayer. At times, we might focus on the words of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be, repeated lovingly as to a dear friend. We are also invited to ponder the great events of Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection, raising our minds and hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving, and drawing new resolve for our Christian lives. Both the vocal prayers and the mysteries on which we meditate, draw us directly to Christ. Our Lady does not ask for attention for her own sake but for the sake of her Son. In any kind of prayer we are prone to distractions. The Rosary can make these more obvious, leading us to try (though always in tranquillity of soul) to resist them, to bring our cares to Jesus, and to turn our attention gently away from ourselves and back to Him.

In 1959, Blessed John XXIII wrote an encyclical letter (Grata Recordatio) to the Bishops of the world. He began by speaking of the Rosary, and in the context of this call to prayer, spoke of his hope for the future, his prayer for rulers, and the danger of secularism and materialism. He closed by asking the Bishops of the world to recite the Rosary during October with particular devotion and to ask Our Lady to pray that the “forthcoming Ecumenical Council” would add “wondrous growth to the universal Church.” On the 50th anniversary of the Council, we could recall this intention of Blessed John XXIII, and ask that the Church might experience such a wondrous growth through the Year of Faith.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Bishop Athanasius, Cardinal Burke and St Basil

Bishop Athanasius Schneider is well-known for his excellent books Dominus Est: It is the Lord, and Corpus Christi: Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church in which he argues for greater reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and particularly for a return to the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the traditional manner, kneeling and receiving on the tongue. I heard him speak and had the privilege of meeting him in 2009 in Estonia and again earlier this year at a meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Bishop Schneider is a holy man and has a great love for the Church, the priesthood and the Blessed Sacrament, so it was interesting to read his reaction to the recent Synod in an interview that he gave to Polonia Christiana (H/T Rorate Caeli)

Bishop Schneider is a scholar of the Fathers and one can sense his lively shock at the similarity of our present situation with those that have gone before, notably the Arian crisis, in which the defenders of orthodox doctrine were labelled intransigent and traditionalist. He has an apposite quotation from Saint Basil the Great:
“Only one sin is nowadays severely punished: the attentive observance of the traditions of our Fathers. For that reason the good ones are thrown out of their places and brought to the desert” (Ep. 243).
The whole interview is worth reading because he does not stop with deploring the situation but offers sound advice on how we should respond.

Meanwhile, Gloria TV has a report on the presentation by Cardinal Burke in Vienna, of the German edition of the book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”, a gathering organised by Una Voce Austria. Cardinal Burke said that the Relatio post disceptationem issued half way through the Synod was “one of the saddest documents that I could imagine ever coming from the Church.” He continued, “Many of us were horrified with this idea that was presented in the report, that there could somehow be good elements in mortally sinful acts. This is impossible.”

It is extraordinary that highly-respected, transparently holy and pastoral Bishops and Cardinals are speaking in this way. Damian Thompson in the Spectator has a readable summary of the fault lines that are developing and warns, Watch out Pope Francis: the Catholic civil war has begun.

As a priest, it is a great consolation to see the leadership offered by Cardinals Burke and Pell, and by Bishop Schneider. We do not need to be disloyal to the Church, the Pope, or the College of Bishops to raise our voices in defence of dogmatic and moral truth concerning the human person, marriage and the family. Since the election of Pope Francis, I have included the collects Pro Ecclesia and Pro Papa in my daily morning prayers and will continue to do so.

Confraternity meeting and an amusing Church notice

Neil Addison, the barrister who is Director of the St Thomas More Legal Centre, came to speak to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy at St Patrick's, Soho Square on Tuesday. These meetings now involve a longer journey for me, but the Javelin train gets to St Pancras in just under an hour and a half so it is not too bad.

Neil gave us good advice on various legal issues that are likely to arise now for clergy. One of the most important things he recommended was that any organisation or terms of hire should include a statement that we will not do anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine. That is not a bad life lesson in general, of course.

After lunch and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we had an open discussion on the Synod at which it was good to learn from the wisdom of brother priests. As well as the formal business of these meetings, it is valuable to be able to spend time in the company of other priests. At lunch I was next to Fr Jeffrey Steel whose conversion story I followed back in 2009, Fr Hunwicke was there to offer wit and wisdom, Frs Pinsent and Holden of Evangelium, and many others whom readers will know of.

Priests who agree on doctrine find it easier to be blunt to each other, so one good friend said to me that he had seen enough holiday snaps from Margate and would I please blog some more serious stuff. Point taken! Actually it has been a bit chaotic trying to settle into a new place and learn how everything works, but I think (please God) that the flywheel is beginning to slow from its peak. Nevertheless, in addition to more weighty matters, the holiday snaps will probably keep on coming - Margate is a great place and very photogenic. Today, for example, there is a glorious blue sky and I am now going to nip down to the harbour for a sandwich.

At the door of St Patrick's Church, I was amused to see this sign. It begins with a warning that is sadly commonplace in city Churches, advising people to take care of their belongings - but Fr Sherbrooke has a great twist at the end.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Holiday time and visitors to Margate

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What a glorious day it was today in Margate! This week being half term, I have several visitors coming "Down to Margate (you can keep the Costa Brava...)" Fortunately it is starting off as a week of beautiful sunshine in which the old town and the harbour are at their best. Visitors quite understandably like to experience the excellent Ambrette with its well-deserved Michelin star so I am being spoilt.

The above photo was taken from the Harbour Arm just after ten to four, so about half an hour before sunset now that we are back to proper organic, natural, eco-friendly, astronomically correct, Greenwich Mean Time. (What exactly is the point of British Summer Time?) No messing with this photo: the rich afternoon colour is just as the mobile phone camera picked it up.

Excellent papal address at Synod conclusion

The Synod of 1980, that is. At the end of the Synod on the  family. St John Paul had this to say:
“So the Synod—when speaking of the pastoral care of those who after divorce have entered on a new union—rightly praised those couples who in spite of great difficulties witness in their life to the indissolubility of marriage. In their life the Synod recognizes that good news of faithfulness to love which has its power and its foundation in Christ. Furthermore, the fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and—against her rule—again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to Eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage—namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfill the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples—and when there is no scandal.”
That puts things well, both doctrinally and pastorally. Catholics can take this clear papal teaching as a good point of reference in the current discussion.

Thanks to a priest reader who directed me to the excellent Catholic Household for the above quotation. Do see their post John Paul II’s Ignored Synod Speech: 3 Highlights You Need to Read for further commentary and for the full text of the address of St John Paul at the end of the 1980 Synod.

It is also well worth reading Ross Douthat's op-ed piece for the New York Times: The Pope and the Precipice which is an intelligent and well-informed commentary. In his article, he says,
In the week since [the Synod] many Catholics have downplayed the starkness of what happened or minimized the papal role. Conservatives have implied that the synod organizers somehow went rogue, that Pope Francis’s own views were not really on the table, that orthodox believers should not be worried. More liberal Catholics have argued that there was no real chaos — this was just the kind of freewheeling, Jesuit-style debate Francis was hoping for — and that the pope certainly suffered no meaningful defeat.
In addition to the links provided, it will be of interest to readers from England that Cardinal Nicholls essentially offered the second of the above reactions in his Pastoral Letter on the Synod on the Family.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Attempts at arty photo manipulation, and a strange version of Margate rock

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With the Turner Contemporary at the harbour, and Tracey Emin as a home-grown celebrity, Margate is establishing a reputation as a mecca for enthusiasts of modern art. This is combined in a quirky mixture with a focus on retro-chic that makes the old town fun. I wondered how I might get into the arty culture, with the trauma of my third form art teacher's report etched on my psyche "Tries hard - but results not good."

So I thought that in the absence of artistic ability, I might use some of the effects filters in Paint Shop Pro. (I use that in preference to paying lots of money for Photoshop, but intend to get to know Gimp better.) Above you can see the harbour on an overcast day, and below is a part of Lombard Street in the old town with the Olde Sweet Shoppe, Beaux Interieurs, and the Lifeboat, one of the many micro-pubs in the area.

Old Town charcoal

A couple of weeks ago, the owner of Kiss me Quick, the seaside gift emporium on the parade, dropped in a sample of some special Margate rock - Chicken Balti flavour. I had a piece. It tasted of Chicken Balti.

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Heroes in the midst of knavish imbecility

Well that wasn't a very edifying spectacle was it, the Synod? An outrageously dishonest attempt at procedural manipulation at the highest level, publicly shoved into the turf nose-first by decent men who just couldn't stomach any more of it. Thanks be to God for Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Burke: at least we have heroes to sing of after the debacle. Which reminds me to revive the "Backbone Award" that used to feature on blogs.

I suppose in advance of the follow-up Synod, we now have to face another year of false hopes and unnecessary confusion over Christ's teaching on marriage and the family while the wrong targets are routinely chosen for praise and blame, promotion and demotion.

Sorry - I have been very busy with pastoral work, haven't much time to post, wanted to say something, and find it hard to be patient with what has gone on. I was glad to be able to quote Belloc recently to a concerned young man who had not heard his famous words:
“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine, but for unbelievers, here is proof of its divinity, that no merely human institution run with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight,”
For more reasoned comment than mine, you might like to read some other post-Synod articles. Sandro Magister has an excellent, though hardly reassuring summary report: The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants; Fr Ray Blake has a thought-provoking piece Was that why he was elected?; and Fr Z offers some helpful observations, concluding with an amazing twist after looking up the Lectionary for the date of the next Synod. See: Extraordinary Synod on Family is, thanks be to God, over.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Family Day at Ramsgate


A day for families, celebrating Pope Saint John Paul’s teaching on family life: Saturday 25 October, St Ethelbert’s Church, 72 Hereson Road, Ramsgate. CT11 7DS.

There will be talks for adults, teenagers and children, and games and activities. An opportunity to pray, meet and grow in fellowship with other Catholic families. Confession will be available. Please bring some food for the shared lunch. Starts at 10.15am with the Rosary; ends at 5pm with closing prayers, followed by the parish 5.30pm Mass.

I have two Masses, six baptisms and a convalidation that day, but I hope to get over for a brief visit in the afternoon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Richard Collins RIP


The family of Richard Collins have posted an obituary notice on his blog Linen on the HedgerowAnima eius et animae omnium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.

Last Thursday, Holy Mass was said in Richard's room. He died fortified by all the rites of Holy Mother Church, and his final moments were accompanied by his family praying the holy Rosary.

Richard was a fine Catholic man and I particularly appreciated his solid, sober and sensible contributions to various meetings of bloggers which he attended at some considerable cost and inconvenience.

His funeral will be celebrated according to the usus antiquior. As soon as I have details, I will post them here. In the meantime, please pray for the repose of his soul, pray for his family in their loss, and give thanks to God for the great good that he did for others in his life, especially through the apostolate of his blog.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yoakley, QEQM, Vespers and the King's Steps

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The past few weeks have gone by in a whirl with so much to familiarise myself with, various bits of paperwork to keep on top of, and more importantly, key people to get to know. Every now and again, the parish priest of Margate takes a turn at leading a Christian service at Yoakley Care Home, founded over 300 years ago in the Quaker tradition. I took a photo of the grounds:

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The parish has a one-and-a-half form entry primary school so I made my third visit last week, to celebrate the Harvest Mass, and am beginning to find my way around. Likewise, the geography of the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital (known locally as QEQM) is now becoming clearer after I have done a few rounds to see the Catholic patients and have responded to some sick calls to anoint people.

The Benedictine Sisters at Minster Abbey have Vespers each evening (sung in Latin) and last Sunday, after October devotions at St Austin's, I went along and was pleased to meet up with others from the Deanery.

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After arranging seven baptisms for an extended family of Czech people who live near the Church, and after catching up with the great people who run the food parcel scheme, I seized the opportunity of the midday sunshine to go down to the harbour, have a sandwich for lunch, and get a couple of photos - the one that is at the top of this post, and this attempt at perspective from the King's Steps.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Stained glass, Aldi, works of mercy and migrants

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My latest "stock photo" for the Church: the stained glass window on the (liturgical) North of the sanctuary, showing our two principal patrons at Margate, St Austin and St Gregory. Since Robert Dalby Reeve is recorded as dedicating the window in memory of his wife Iesse who died in 1905, I should ask you to say a prayer for her.

Moving to more mundane matters, I have discovered Aldi. I did visit a Lidl at Foots Cray once, but it was a bit rubbish. The massive Aldi on Northdown Road, however, it another thing all together. On getting home, I looked up the website and saw the funny adverts that they have been running. I was particularly pleased because I had been looking for a cheap laminator and had got fed up with one of the large stationery stores who ran the old con of having a cheap one on display but then not having it in stock. Aldi supplied me with an A3 machine for £18.99. I also managed to find a good office stationery store which, like another one I saw a few days ago, does a line in cheap printing. These things all help to save money: an important concern in a small parish where not everyone is flush with cash by any means.

In fact, we have a long-running scheme whereby parish volunteers collect funds, go shopping, and then staff the door for several hours to give out about fifty food parcels each week to the needy, containing a variety of basic essentials. Parishioners also support this work by fundraising and direct donations of food and it has been going for decades - long before the recent "Food Bank" thing. It is great to inherit such a going concern putting into practice the corporal works of mercy.

Another feature of the parish is illustrated by this photo I took while I was exploring Northdown Road:

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I have already met many Eastern Europeans, some of whom have little English, and tried an excellent Lithuanian restaurant, Rickus, which overlooks the Main Sands. So as well as a few more words of Polish I'm going to need to try and learn some simple expressions in several other languages. With all these different languages being spoken in the parish, it would be nice if the Church had some universal language that was the same for everyone. Oh wait ...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A visit to Minster, the Abbey, and my new satnav

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Minster is highly significant for English Catholicism since St Augustine landed in the parish, and monastic life began there in the late seventh century. The first Abbess of the associated nunnery was St Mildred, and the remains of the Saxon Abbey are still part of what is now the Benedictine Abbey of Minster, making it the oldest inhabited house in England.

I was taken to Minster for Sunday lunch today ("The Corner House" if you are interested - excellent family-run restaurant) and had a chance to see the Norman Church (above), and the Abbey, and to walk around the village. The Abbey is a place that I shall be visiting often: as well as their lovely chapel, the nuns have a conference centre called "Parkminster" which is a venue for many things organised in the Deanery. I understand that Vespers is at 6pm each day and that my brother clergy are often to be found there, so I am glad to have learnt the route.

Speaking of routes, I decided that it would save me a bit of time in a new place if I finally bought myself a satnav. So I got the cheapest TomTom the other day. Once I have discovered all the built-in options and used it for a few months, I'll probably hack it just for fun :-) This evening I used it to get over to Ramsgate without having to study a map for the best route.

I'm getting to know more parishioners, the children from the school did the readings beautifully at the early Mass, the servers were great, it was another glorious day in Thanet, and I am still tempted to pinch myself to check that I am not dreaming.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Stained glass in the Lady Chapel at Margate

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The beautiful Lady Chapel at St Austin and St Gregory Margate is certainly one of the highlights of our Church. I posted the above picture after my first visit to see the parish back in June. You can see something of the altar, but not much detail of the stained glass windows above it. One of the parishioners took some photos a while back and let me have copies of them. I put together the two windows so that you can see them side by side (click to enlarge):


I think these are absolutely gorgeous examples of Victorian glass.

There is a rich devotional life in the parish as part of the normal weekly schedule, with Lauds before Mass on Tuesday, Rosary on Wednesday, and adoration on Thursday. On Saturday after Mass, there is the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. It is great to come to a parish and find all these things already in place. The Novena is said at the Lady Chapel, and I have started saying the Monday evening Mass there. Notice also the fine votive candle stands which are in regular use - and are kept spotless.

The devotional life of the parish is matched by real practical work for the poor. More about that soon.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Visiting the hospital, the hospice and another bay

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Each parish has its own local acronyms. Here in Margate, everyone knows "QEQM": Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital ("part of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust") One of my standing-start tasks is to get to grips with all the procedures for visiting, being on call, managing other visitors and managing incoming information about who needs to be visited. I think I'm getting there and managed a full pastoral visit today (I hope) seeing everyone on the list that  we have. There is also a hospice next to the hospital and I visited there today as well.

First impressions are of a very friendly place. Before I came to Margate, several people said to me in a slightly mystical way that Kent people are different from South London people. One thing does seem to be that everyone is a bit more peaceful. When I was looking at the hospital maps to try to learn by heart where the various wards are, several staff members of different ranks asked me if they could help.

By way of getting to know the area, I thought it would be a good idea to find my way to Broadstairs once I had finished at QEQM. The photo above is of Viking Bay this afternoon where I got something to eat. After evening Mass, I took a walk down to the sea front back in Margate, hoping to get a photo of the sunset, but I left it just a little too late. Nevertheless, my new camera got its first outing and caught the "fast departing light" over the Main Sands.

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The walk back through the old town and up Hawley Street involves a moderate hill and I am already feeling a little fitter and more physically energetic with the sea air and a bit more exercise. Maybe I will get that bicycle people were talking about! Not yet, though.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thanking God for Margate

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Last night I was as physically tired as I have been for some time. Although I had some generous help moving my stuff down to Margate, I had just finished several days of increasingly urgent packing, taking boxes of books downstairs, and taking other boxes of things to the skip behind the Club in Blackfen. My first day in Margate was wonderful in respect of the lovely people here, the beautiful Church and getting to know the presbytery, the warren of rooms next to the Church, and taking a long walk all around the town centre, the Harbour Arm, the Turner Contemporary and round the old town a couple of times.

After checking through various papers kindly left by my predecessor and getting to know where everything is, I finally set up my own computer temporarily in the parish office, hence the opportunity to post something this evening with just a few photos from my mobile. I now have a new Big Camera, so there should be more Margate sunsets and photos of the Church from different angles before too long. Above you can see the seafront from the Harbour Arm, and here is the Clock Tower:

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I went shopping at Morrisons early this evening and decided to take a short drive afterwards to Palm Bay - because I can now! This is my first attempt at capturing the Margate sunset:

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Here is the view over the sea from the Turner with a minimalist work by Edmund de Waal with vessels displayed to capture the changing light. There are mats to borrow so that you can lie on the floor to view them from underneath (I didn't):

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I find myself thanking God heartily for so many things here, not least the welcome that I have been given, and the wonderful state in which Canon Smith has left the parish. This morning started with the regular holy hour from 8-9am before Mass, part of a rich devotional life that has built up over the years.

I'm not quite so tired this evening, but expect to sleep soundly and well thanks to the healthy sea air.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Holy confessors and martyrs of Iraq, pray for us


Simon Caldwell recently published an inspiring account of elderly Iraqi Christians in the village of Karamless. (See: Elderly Iraqi Christians defy terrorists, flee to camp H/T Transalpine Redemptorists) When the IS terrorists overran Karamless, on the night of 6-7 August, everyone fled except the elderly who were too weak to run.

The masked terrorists demanded that they convert or be killed by the sword. All of the elderly people said "we prefer to be killed rather than convert." In the event they were ordered to leave the village with only the clothes they were wearing.

This moving and inspiring story of courageous witness to Christ is redolent of the days of ancient Rome. Those who refused to deny their faith yet were not actually martyred yet were called "confessors" because of their stout confession of the faith. Penitents could go to them and ask for a note to say that the confessors had prayed for them; this note or "libellus pacis" could then be taken to the Bishop who could choose to remit all or part of a canonical penance, in view of the power of the prayers of the holy confessors.

There are also many in recent times who have actually been martyred in Iraq because they chose death rather than agree to renounce Christ. They are martyrs because without doubt they were killed propter odium fidei, "on account of hatred of the faith." I hope that a list is kept of their names, along with at least some evidence from witnesses, so that the sacrifice they have made is given due recognition in the life of the Church by their eventual canonisation, and so that people down the ages can remember their heroism and invoke their prayers.

Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Iraq, pray for us.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

When the validity of baptism is doubtful

Ramsgate 033Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment is not a blog that can be usefully skim-read. His articles are not long, but they repay more close attention than those of the "5 reasons why Pope Francis didn't really say what everyone thinks he said" genre.

When I find time, as I have just now, I read a number of his posts in sequence. It is always a rewarding experience for me, especially since quite often he tackles something that I have wanted to say but not found the time, and writes on it with erudition and wit. During the past week, we have had, among other things, a discussion on whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God, a gently provocative piece on the lack of Latin among the clergy, and an important post arguing for baptism sub conditione for Anglican converts whose only evidence of Baptism is a certificate.

A baptism certificate was formerly regarded as sufficient, since baptism "according to the rites of the Church of England" is certainly valid. What is now uncertain is how often baptisms are conducted according to a rite that is not approved by the Church of England, specifically, baptism with the form "I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier." Baptism using such a form is certainly invalid: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 answered a dubium on the matter, saying that persons baptised with such a formula have to be baptized in forma absoluta (that is, not conditionally.)

We must pick a careful path through doubts. Since the practice of using an invalid formula is certainly used in some places and is becoming more common, it is, as Fr Hunwicke says, no longer safe to assume that a baptism is valid simply because it has been carried out in the Church of England.

Sometimes we have other reasons to assume that the baptism is valid: one might know the local vicar, and know that he would always use the proper form (that would be true of my own Anglican neighbour) but we are not usually looking at certificates issued by the local vicar. The convert himself might be able to give assurance that the Rev Blenkinsop of St Mildred's in Thrampton was a sound man and would not have used an invalid form. In such cases, there is no need for conditional baptism.

But without such further evidence I agree with Fr Hunwicke that the doubt that now exists makes it necessary to baptise many converts conditionally since there is a reasonable doubt about the validity of their baptism. If on the other hand, there is evidence that the convert was indeed baptised by a feminist who used the invalid formula, then the baptism was certainly invalid and the convert must be baptised without condition, as the CDF laid down. In modern practice, such a convert would be a catechumen and not a candidate.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Some Catholic (and other) highlights in Paris

Paris 107

The Basilique du Sacré Coeur should be on the must-see list for any Catholic tourist in Paris: it is certainly on mine. Sacré Coeur was built after the National Vow of reparation for the atrocities committed on both sides during the Communard uprising, and for the spiritual welfare of France. The most moving thing for me is the basilica's record of uninterrupted eucharistic adoration day and night since 1 August 1885. (See this link to a previous post with more photos.)

The discreet monitions by lay wardens regarding silence and proper deportment ensure that even though it is crowded visitors, Sacré Coeur is an ideal place to catch up on the Office - something that is easy to leave to late in the day when one is on holiday.

Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, opposite the Louvre, is of interest to British visitors because of the mission St Germanus of Auxerre (not to be confused with St Germanus of Paris) undertook to counter the heresy of Pelagianism.

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And here is a photo of the Deacon and Martyr St Vincent with what looks like his maniple:

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Since it is white rather than red and matches the quill that he holds, I wonder whether it is in fact not a maniple but something else. No doubt I will find out thanks to the crowd-sourced information times we live in.

UPDATE:
Indeed the social media help us. Concerning St Vincent's maniple, Louis Tofari has kindly sent me a link to his article The Vesture of the Ministers: Part IV and suggested that the statue of St Vincent shows a linen maniple, and thus the actual purificator.

Not far from where we were staying, I found a gem: the Church of St Julien le Pauvre.

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I took a detour to look at it because of the claim on posters for concerts being held there, that it was the oldest Church in Paris. Inside I was met with this view:

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The Church was given to the Melkite community of Paris in 1889.

Continuing with the must-see venues, I took the Metro round to renew my acquaintance with the Rue du Bac and Saint Sulpice as well as the SSPX Church of Saint Nicholas du Chardonnet. Despite the London-style disruption of engineering works, I managed by dint of changing lines several times, to get to see the Ecole Militaire, the Champ de Mars, and therefore the Eiffel Tower, of which I took a nice photo along with the Japanese fellow-tourists:

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Then it was up to the Place de La Concorde where I found another surprise which will be of special interest to US readers: a plaque put up by the American Club of Parish in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan,

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Finally, a photo of somewhere that we didn't go for dinner:

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Evenings of Faith Autumn 2014 series


The Faith Movement organises Evenings of Faith in London, a series of talks by orthodox Catholic speakers, addressing questions of faith and morals. As you can see from the above poster, this season promises some fine lectures.

These evenings are not age-restricted and are open to all. They are held in the basement of the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Soho by kind permission of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Don't forget to have a look at the current issue of Faith Magazine which you can read online or download free. Annual subscription to the hard copy magazine is £25.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

What I Want is Mercy, Not Sacrilege: The Dangers of “Routine Communions”

Giusto di Gand (Joos van Wassenhove), istituzione dell'eucarestia

Holy Communion is often treated as a prize, nowadays, or even a "right." The July-August issue of Faith Magazine carries an article of mine, looking at the dispositions required for Holy Communion: living in accord with the teaching of the Church, being in a state of grace and free of unconfessed mortal sin, and making a proper spiritual preparation for Holy Communion. In this connection I also discuss the danger of routine communions. Bishop Mark Davies kindly recommended the article when he visited the Faith Summer Session earlier this month.

Here is a link to the article itself: What I Want is Mercy, Not Sacrilege: The Dangers of “Routine Communions” , and here is a link to the whole current issue of Faith Magazine with several excellent articles which you can read online or download as a pdf. If you like the magazine and prefer reading things on real paper, a subscription is £25 for the year (six issues.)

Image credit: Justus van Gent (fl. 1460-1480) "The Communion of the Apostles" via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Catholic Dilemma 285: Is Confirmation the point when we become Catholic?

Is it correct that when we are Baptised into the Catholic Church we become members of the Christian Faith, and even though we may make our First Holy Communion we don’t actually become full members of the Catholic Church until we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation?

By Baptism we are incorporated into the Church and become members of the body of Christ. There is only one Church, founded by Our Lord on the rock which is Peter. In a case of genuine necessity, anyone, even a pagan, can baptise validly, as long as they use water, say “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, and intend to do what the Church does. Any person who is thus baptised becomes a member of the Catholic Church.

Someone who is baptised validly by a non-Catholic minister becomes a member of the Catholic Church and does not become separated from full communion with the Church until they have begun consciously to adhere to a separated ecclesial community. Hence there is no rite for receiving a young child, below the age of reason, into full communion with the Church. The rite of reception only applies to children who have reached “catechetical age.” In the older form of reception into the Church, the candidate formally repudiated heresy and schism. Although this is not done in the modern rite, the profession of faith that is made implies that the person no longer adheres to a separated ecclesial community.

Confirmation is sometimes referred to as the “perfection” of the grace of baptism. In an effort to explain the word “perfection” in its theological sense, it is sometimes explained as the “completion” of Baptism. Hence the false impression can be given that the incorporation into the Church at Baptism is imperfect or incomplete in some way. In fact, by Confirmation “we are bound more perfectly to the Church” (Lumen Gentium 11) and given the grace of the Holy Spirit to strengthening us to bear witness to the faith. We are, by Baptism, made fully members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Cardinal Brandmüller on the Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy


The idea that clerical celibacy was established in the Church as a medieval development was strongly contested by a number of scholars in the late 20th century. Some characteristic works in English are:
Cholij, R. Clerical Celibacy in East and West. Gracewing. Herefordshire. 1989;
Cochini, C. The apostolic origins of priestly celibacy. Ignatius. San Francisco. 1990;
Heid, S. Celibacy in the Early Church. Ignatius. San Francisco. 2000;
Stickler, A. The case for clerical celibacy. Ignatius. San Francisco. 1995.
Cardinal Stickler’s brief account is a most useful summary of the case for clerical celibacy. He noted that there had been a number of important recent studies devoted to the history of celibacy in both the East and the West, and that,
"These studies have either not yet penetrated the general consciousness or they have been hushed up if they were capable of influencing that consciousness in undesirable ways."
This unfortunately remains the case as articles continue to appear, and assertions continue to be made without finding it necessary even to address the research of these scholars. The debate is still legitimate, but in some quarters it seems that a substantial case on one side is completely ignored.

So I was glad to read on Sandro Magister's blog last month the article by Cardinal Brandmüller which gives a brief primer on some of the important points. See: Francis Speaks, Scalfari Transcribes, Brandmüller Shreds

Photo credit: Ivo Giannoni di Osimo (via New Liturgical Movement)

Friday, 1 August 2014

Portiuncula indulgence tomorrow (and indulgences generally)

PorziuncolaTomorrow, 2 August, you can gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions (see below) by visiting a parish Church and there reciting the Our Father and the Creed. This is called the Portiuncula indulgence and goes back to St Francis of Assisi. Fr Z has the details.

Don't forget that you can also gain a plenary indulgence by visiting a Church on the day of the titular feast, and there reciting the Our Father and the Creed. I made a list of other indulgences: please see the post Plenary indulgences for particular days which has a link to the list. The post has some background information which you may find helpful since indulgences are not well understood today - which is not surprising since indulgences are not included in most Catholic education curricula, and most priests never preach about them. Therefore many Catholics are left with whatever silly, half-baked, ill-informed nonsense about indulgences happens to be current.

If you want to understand the theology of indulgences, I recommend reading the first four chapters of Paul VI's Indulgentiarum Doctrina. By reading and digesting not much more than 3000 words, you will gain a balanced and theologically mature understanding of indulgences. In fact, since few people (including priests and bishops) seem to think it worth the bother, you will instantly become relatively expert on the subject!

To forestall the common objection that almost nobody ever gains a plenary indulgence because of the condition about being detached from venial sin, please see my post: Plenary indulgences not impossible. This post also gives general information about the conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Kindle screensavers

Kindle screen

The screensavers on Kindle, which appear when the device is switched off, are clever in their own way, but in these days of personalising everything, it does seem natural to want to replace them with other pictures. I usually do this with mobile phones, changing the background to a devotional picture.

Unfortunately, Kindle does not offer an easy way to personalise the screensavers, but ages ago I saw a note somewhere saying that it is possible. Today I decided to do it. Essentially you have to "jailbreak" the device and then use a screensaver hack. It's not all that difficult, though there are one or two pitfalls.

Please don't ask me for advice on how to do this - if you are confident enough to hack your Kindle, then you will be able to find the right instructions for your model and version on google. If you are doing it, however, I have uploaded some picture files that are the right size (600x800 - black borders where necessary) and format (png). They are in an album on my flickr account called "Kindle screensavers". Feel free to help yourself. Here's a nice one for this coming Saturday:

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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Clear thinking from Dominicans on divorce and remarriage

Nova et Vetera has published an outstanding article by a team of American Dominicans: "Recent Proposals for the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried: A Theological Assessment" looks at General Principles, proposals for Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried (drawing particularly from Cardinal Kasper's Consistory address), and proposals for changing the nullity process.

The article is clear, concise, and theologically robust. Although it refers frequently to recent Popes, Vatican II and the Catechism to reinforce the points made, I recognise the common corpus of the perennial Catholic theological approach, with a solid understanding of the teaching of Trent - and its all-important context.

With commendable clarity, the authors analyse the pastoral problem of the current despair over chastity, as well as the historical-doctrinal question of the teaching of the Council of Nicea on the subject of second marriages. On the subject of the canonical process for nullity, the crucial point is made that a canonical approach is pastoral in essence, while the abandonment of law has serious negative pastoral consequences.

Those who are highly competent in any area requiring in-depth technical knowledge show their expertise best by writing in a way that the non-expert can understand. This superb article is a good example. I pray that all of the Bishops taking part in the forthcoming Synod pay careful attention to it.

Monday, 21 July 2014

An Invitation to Blackfen for the Feast of St Alphonsus

Saturday 2 August is the feast of St Alphonsus Liguori in the old calendar, and in God's loving providence, this year it is the first Saturday of August, so we will have Missa Cantata at Blackfen at 10.30am. I'll be preaching on St Alphonsus (one of my favourite saints); I haven't composed the sermon yet, but following the great Doctor's example, I expect it will include some reflection on the four last things.

As this will be my last Saturday Missa Cantata at Blackfen (I am moving to Margate on 2 September) I would like to take this opportunity to invite any Hermeneutic of Continuity readers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends to join us. After Mass, we will order pizza according to need, and the bar will be open. At 2.30pm there will be sung Vespers and Benediction.

No need to reply, just turn up if you can.
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