Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst and the newly blessed Theodore House

The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst aims to make the Stonyhurst Collections more accessible and to offer Christian leadership formation, education, and retreats in the tradition of Stonyhurst College. The Stonyhurst Collection is the oldest surviving museum collection in the English speaking world. It includes cultural treasures from the Catholic culture that were rescued from the reformation as well as object gathered by Jesuits on missionary and teaching work throughout the world.

A Stonyhurst Museum was established in 1884, but it was dismantled in the 1970s and the collection put in storage. The Stonyhurst Christian Heritage Centre Trust now wishes to house this incomparable collection in a suitable manner. It "is seeking to rectify the anomaly by which a collection of global weight and calibre has for too long remained virtually unknown."

Just by way of example, the collection includes a First Folio of Shakespeare, the Book of Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a reliquary containing the rope that bound St Edmund Campion to the hurdle at the time of his execution. (right)

In addition to being a museum in its own right, the Christian Heritage Centre aims to provide a study, retreat and leadership centre with accommodation for guests. To this end, it will be renovating the Old Mill Building for which it will pay an annual rent of one loaf of bread and six altar candles. The building will henceforth be known as Theodore House. This is a fitting dedication. As one of the students noted in his introduction to St Theodore at the blessing of the building on Monday:
"He was 67 by the time he arrived in England. From this time until his death on the 19th of September 690 aged 88 and wonderfully described by St Bede as ‘being old and full of days’ he served as one of the most exceptional leaders in the history of the Christian Church in England."
In the middle of the photograph of the procession below, you can see Lord Alton the Chairman of the CHC Trustees. The students leading the procession with banners are members of the thriving Sodality of the college.

Here is a photo from the beautiful chapel of the Sodality, taken when I was celebrating Mass there a few years ago.

Independent Catholic News reported yesterday on the blessing of the foundations of the new Theodore House and there is an article at the Catholic Herald today.

Readers in the USA will be interested to read of the links between Stonyhurst and America.

Monday, 1 May 2017

New Oratory at Bournemouth to begin

Guido Reni - St Filippo Neri in Ecstasy - WGA19295

News was announced yesterday of the start of the new Oratory at the Sacred Heart Church in Bournemouth which will begin on 31 May. Fr Peter Edwards, Fr Dominic Jacob, and a student brother will form the initial community. The Sacred Heart is an ideal location for an Oratory, being in the centre of town, just off Richmond Hill.

Bournemouth is in the Diocese of Portsmouth and Bishop Egan has given his warm encouragement to the formation of the new Oratory.

Fr David Hutton was to have been one of the members of the oratory in formation but sadly he became seriously ill. He was clothed in the Oratorian habit in January and died on the feast of his patron St David, on 1 March this year. (See: obituary notice.) Please remember him in your prayers and please pray for the success of the new Oratory.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A timely reflection on St Catherine of Siena

Dolci, Carlo - St. Catherine of Siena - Google Art Project

The full version of Butler's The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints is available at the Internet Archive and in a conveniently arranged online edition at Bartleby's Great Books Online. The 1894 Benzinger Brothers edition is very much abridged but is useful for short daily reflections on the lives of the saints. It can be found at the Sacred Texts website and put onto your mobile device as part of the excellent iPieta app.

I often use iPieta for various things and yesterday evening, in preparation for the various relevant spiritual and liturgical occurrences of today, I read the abridged entry for St Catherine of Siena. The abridged version adds short reflections for each day, probably written by the editor John Gilmary Shea. For St Catherine of Siena, it reads:
The seraphic St. Catherine willingly sacrificed the delights of contemplation to labor for the Church and the Apostolic See. How deeply do the troubles of the Church and the consequent loss of souls afflict us? How often do we pray for the Church and the Pope?
As things are at the moment, I think every single day would be about right.

Incidentally, when you consider all that St Catherine accomplished during her life, it is humbling to recall that she died at the age of thirty-three.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Accipe signaculum: Receive the seal

Fr Zuhlsdorf has written today in response to a query about a Bishop slightly changing the form of Confirmation (See: ASK FATHER: Non-standard form for Confirmation – valid?)

In the newest English version of the Rite of Confirmation, the form is: "N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." In our new England and Wales and Scotland 2015 version, beautifully printed by the CTS on quality off-white paper with fine binding, the form is set in large type in bold and in small caps, making it clear that this is the really important bit. So I entirely agree with Fr Z that priests and bishops should just use the proper form for the sacraments and not leave the faithful in any doubt about the validity of the sacraments. He makes the point forcefully and has done so often in the past, particularly with regard to the sacrament of penance.

Without wishing in any way to detract from this important point, I have another quibble with the form of Confirmation in our current English version. Simply put, it is not a correct translation of the Latin text.

In 1971, in the Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation, Pope Paul VI noted that the form of Confirmation used until then had first been used in the 12th century. He thought that the more ancient form of the Byzantine rite was preferable and so he ruled that from then on, the following should be observed in the Latin Church:
Sacramentum Confirmationis confertur per unctionem chrismatis in fronte, quae fit manus impositione atque per verba: "Accipe signaculum Doni Sancti Spiritus Sancti"

(The Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the anointing of chrism on the forehead, which is done by the imposition of the hand and by the words: "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit")
Except that in English translation (the new version does not change it from the previous pre-2015 version) does not say that. It says "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." I do not think that it is pedantic to point out that "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit" is not the same as "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit."

The seal is something that is given and received. In the Roman army, recruits were marked on the hand or the forearm with an abbreviation of the name of the general. This tattoo was called the signaculum. (In the film Gladiator, Maximus has the mark on his upper arm and cuts it away with a flint while he is being transported to be sold into slavery.) In Greek the word would be sphragis and there is a rich vein of material in the Fathers of the Church that brings out the significance of this in the rite of Baptism and Confirmation. Danielou in his "The Bible and the Liturgy" devotes a chapter to it.

The signaculum or sphragis was an indelible seal, a mark of belonging to Christ, of being incorporated into the Church, a mark of protection, and a mark of enlistment into the army of Christ. The notion of being a soldier of Christ did not originate with Faustus of Riez, it was there in St John Chrysostom. The military metaphor was made more explicit by the Roman use of signaculum, of course.

So using the phrase "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" in our current translation is not the same as "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" which is what the Latin original means. The seal, as something given and received, is a rich source for catechesis and reflection. It is a great pity that after all the wrangling that we have had in recent years over improving the translation of the modern rites, this small but significant inaccuracy should have been allowed to remain.

Please don't misunderstand me here. I do not doubt for a moment the validity of the sacrament of Confirmation conferred with the English form as it is currently translated. For one thing, the form of Confirmation has varied over the centuries and the Church has approved the current English form, so that is enough. Furthermore, the difference in meaning is not enough to destroy the idea of receiving a seal or of receiving the Holy Spirit or of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

It is just such a pity that we have to continue for the foreseeable future with an impoverished form that could so easily have been corrected for the benefit of the faithful.

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