Thursday, 26 February 2009

Virtual Tonsure

I thought it was interesting to see the Holy Father placing ashes on the spot where the young deacon would have been tonsured if he had actually been tonsured. This is the traditional custom for clerics: I and my parish deacon observe it, though neither of us have been tonsured (except by the years, alas).

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Ash Wednesday is not a day I usually associate with church giggles, but at our Mass at Steyning tonight, I was a little generous with the holy water (one likes to make a nice black mark, naturally). As I thumbed a generous dollop of wet ash onto the forehead of one of our servers, sonorously intoning 'remember man that you are dust and to dust you will return' a large portion detached itself from his forehead and landed on the end of his nose where it remained until the end of Mass. I had to consciously avert my eyes in case I snorted with laughter…… Such are the trials of parish ministry. The lad was quite happy with it when he looked in the mirror after Mass and left it there.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Fr Hunwicke has an interesting post on what he calls utraquism—nothing to do with eucharistic theology, but rather trying to hold together in one parish the usage of both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the liturgy. He's right: it isn't easy. I celebrate the Divine Office in the extraordinary form, and offer Mass in that form once a week, on a Saturday. The other rites I celebrate are according to the ordinary form. Because of calendar changes, this means that if I observe the calendar proper to each form, I will celebrate some saints twice and others not at all. And I would often find myself celebrating the office of one saint and saying the Mass of another. I have reached an uneasy compromise, which I hope is one the Church would not frown upon. Copying the practice I noted at Fontgombault Abbey, I simply observe the new calendar, even when celebrating the traditional Mass or Breviary, taking texts from the commons on the feasts of saints canonized since 1962, or from the 2002 missal, supplying offertory antiphons from the common. For the breviary, I have put together a sort of sanctoral that follows the new calendar but uses traditional forms. If I could not find a genuine liturgical text for any particular saint (and I've come up with an awful lot), then the commons come in useful again. The only real lack is third readings for Matins of third class feasts (=memoria) for the celebrations of newer saints. In this case I have supplied the second reading from the Office of Readings in the Liturgia Horarum, comforting myself that, since it is longer than an average third lesson, this might be held to suffice.
Seasons like Septuagesima I observe in the office but not at Mass. And I have to keep feasts like Corpus Christi and Ascension on their original day, or I would really be in trouble. Here and there one has to fudge: I really cannot work out what to do on the Second Sunday after Christmas, though the last Sunday of October can be patched back together again using older breviaries.
No doubt some of you would find my practice rather unconventional, but really it is not easy to harmonize one's liturgical life, and the blessings of using the more traditional breviary are considerable. Having been granted their use by Summorum Pontificum, I'm not really prepared to forgo them.


Reading the Martyrology this morning, I was intrigued to read that today is the feast of St Ethelbert. I knew who he was, of course; the (pagan) king of Kent that welcomed St Augustine of Canterbury, who had a wife called Bertha, the Christian daughter of Charibert, King of the Franks. He embraced Christianity, and this kicked off the conversion of the Saxons. I was surprised to discover that for this, he is venerated as a saint. It's reassuring, really, that it isn't only the Francis of Assisis of this world that go to heaven.
The rather romantic story of the time would seem to suggest that Britain was at the time a pagan wilderness to which St Augustine brought the light of the Gospel single-handedly. Well, of course, credit where credit is due. But credit is also due, perhaps even more so, to St Aidan and the Celtic monks of Lindisfarne and Iona, who had already been hard at work converting this island from the top down. And then moving on to the Low countries, Germany, and Switzerland. Their achievement was really spectacular. However, Rome was a little suspicious of the different way that the Celts went about things. Bishops were not very important in the Celtic general scheme of things; they were there to administer the sacraments and that was about that. A bishop may well have been a not particularly important monk in a monastery. The real power in the Church was wielded by abbots. And then there was all that fuss about the date of Easter, and whether a tonsure should be a bald patch on top with a ring of short hair left, or a shaved front of the head with the hair left to grow long down the back. Shades of mullets!
There is a lot of nonsense talked about the Celtic Church, though: I have heard Episcopalians in Scotland seriously assert that they were the natural heirs of the Celtic Church before the Roman usurpation; that the Celts were sorts of proto-Anglicans! As if St Columba every evening kissed his wife and children before going to the Cathedral for Evensong and Stanford in A. There is no question that the Celts were in communion with Rome—its just that the Irish have always liked doing things their own way, whereas Rome has always liked things tidy. 
And the third bunch of Christians in the country were the old Romano-British hierarchy, whom everyone always forgets about. There had been English bishops at the Council of Arles, and Pelagius was said to have been British (though in fact he may have been Irish or Scottish), and there were still plenty of Christians and the whole operation, though on the whole pushed into the West country and what we now call Wales. This old hierarchy was in a bad mood, though: indigenous Christians had refused point-blank to engage in any evangelization among the Anglo-Saxons, which is understandable since the old A-Ss had been engaging in quite a lot of pillage, murder and rape over the last couple of hundred years.
So, happy feast of St Ethelbert! But let's not forget all the others.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Nuts in a box

I thought that I might write a letter to The Tablet about Elena Curti's treatment of Fr Tim. However, James McMillan has done so so much better than I might have done. What does strike me in all of this is the unfairness.
All priests know very well that whenever a change of any kind is made to a Sunday Mass, at least a dozen people will take serious offence. When I came to this parish, my first duty was to combine it with a neighbouring parish up the valley, and so Mass times had to be rescheduled. There are several people who, four years later, have still not forgiven me for my inability to bilocate and who therefore attend Mass elsewhere. Some can still be quite vocal, too. This disaffection is a naturally-recurring phenomenon, if I can put it like that, and it is unfair to make it a particular sin in Fr Tim's case, since all of us who have had to make some change to Masses have experienced it.
In the end, people want the Mass they want at the time they want in the location they want, and if any of these things be changed, then there is trouble. A technique that I have found useful is to implement changes ad experimentum, promising a review several months later. When those several months have passed, usually people have adapted, got used to the new way, and are reluctant to undergo further changes. But there are always those few. Like nuts in a box, you only need a few to make a lot of noise.


Many thanks to those who offered prayers recently. I am delighted to say that things seem to have been resolved happily now. Sorry to be so mysterious, but it is necessary.

Friday, 20 February 2009


For those who know what I am writing about, certain criticisms (made recently by somebody in authority) about clerical blogs does not apply to this blog, according to the very person who made the criticisms. No further comment will be made on this topic, nor will I post comments, I'm afraid.

Fr Tim

I know I have not been posting for a few days: this is an extraordinarly difficult time right now, for reasons I cannot now disclose. But I must put my head above the parapet to state my complete support for Fr Tim. Please pray right now for clerical bloggers.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Say the black; do the red

I found this wonderful hymn today on Eugenia's blog. It goes to the tune 'Greensleeves'.

In hospita Siberia
te vocant, frater, studia.
In muris proseminarii
expectant Jesuitae.

"Dic nigrum, rubrum fac" -
memento, frater, verba haec.
Usque ad tuum obitum
dic nigrum et fac rubrum.

Persolves horas canonicas,
ad Missam quoque servies,
disce, ora et labora,
sec noli hoc oblivisci:

"Dic nigrum, rubrum fac" -
memento, frater, verba haec.
Usque ad tuum obitum
dic nigrum et fac rubrum.

Et quando eris presbyter
et celebrabis primitiam,
manus tuas deosculans
cum reverentia dicam:

"Dic nigrum, rubrum fac" -
memento, pater, verba haec.
Usque ad tuum obitum
dic nigrum et fac rubrum.

Psalm 151, Revised revised psalter

I found this on The Muniment Room—Ttony had got it from here, Sing lustily and with good courage, which I'm going to investigate more thoroughly when I have time.
Do click on the image and have a singalong—if you can stop laughing.

Book-burning, 21st Century Style

Damian Thompson's blog has a story that ought to be almost incredible. Unfortunately, it's only too believable. The publishers of a four-volume Encyclopaedia of Christian Civilization have been forced to pulp the whole first edition because, er, it's too Christian! Their site here.
Objections were raised to the book's use of BC/AD for dates, rather than the politically correct BCE/CE; they demanded that mentions that from time to time Islam has persecuted Christianity be removed, and instead, negative articles about Christianity be inserted…and lots, lots more.

I am reminded of a quotation that I found the other day on that declaration of support for Pope Benedict:

"Nothing emboldens more the audacity of the wicked than the weakness of kind people"

Leo XIII, encyclical Sapientæ Christianæ, January 10th, 1890

rather like Burke's more famous

For evil to triumph, it is only necessary that good men do nothing.

There is a more thorough treatments of this topic here. on Claves non defixi.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

David Foster's Summer School

I am happy to carry the following advertisement:

July 25th – August 1st 2009 at the Oratory Preparatory School, near Reading.

After the sad death of David Foster in late December, Dominic Sullivan, Sr. Valerie Walker O.P. and Susanna Ward intend to continue the International Summer School which he started in 1982. David had a high ideal of what a Catholic school should be, insisting that it must not simply impart religious doctrine as an isolated subject, but that supernatural revelation should inform the whole of its syllabus and life. Although only a week long, his summer school tried to cover a wide range of knowledge within a Catholic framework, and to demonstrate that modern culture both derives from Catholic roots and yet denies them.

The course is not a retreat, although there is Holy Mass and Rosary every day, and lessons on religious doctrine and spiritual subjects form part of the curriculum. There are also opportunities for swimming, sport and other activities in the beautiful setting of the Oratory Preparatory School. On most evenings there is a visiting speaker.

The course is open to young people between the ages of 13 - 19. The cost will be £220. For further information about application, please contact the Course Director by March 31st 2009.

Dominic Sullivan
Tel: 0208 788 8659

The Association of Catholic Families


Three seminarians from Ecône were killed on a mountaineering expedition this afternoon. May they rest in peace.

Support Pope Benedict

I haven't mentioned this before, but having read that, apparently, all Catholics are outraged by Pope Benedict's actions in lifting those excommunications, I thought that some of you might welcome an opportunity to take from your mouth the words that others have put in it.
Here is an opportunity to sign a statement of support for the Holy Father. 38,000 signatures so far, and rising. H/T The New Liturgical Movement.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Thank you, Coral.

Coral sent me this:

An atheist was walking through the woods.

"What majestic trees"!
"What powerful rivers"!
"What beautiful animals"!
He said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him.

He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer. He tripped & fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his right paw to strike him. At that instant the Atheist cried out, "Oh my God!"

Time Stopped.
The bear froze. 
The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. "You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident." "Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer"?

The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps You could make the BEAR a Christian"?

"Very Well," said the voice.

The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:

"Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."

Arius redivivus

Well, I guess it had to happen. I have often thought that many modern-day Christians have more than a little taint of Arianism about them. Arius (3rd-4th century Alexandria) was an enthusiast for the prevailing sentiment in the East that to assert absolute equality in the Trinity was, as it were, to disrespect the Father. He took it to extremes, however, and sparked a revolution. I think many nowadays think that Jesus was goddish, but not God Himself.
Anyway, Arius has found new disciples—not quasi-Arians, but the real thing (they think). Have a look here, and start rubbing your eyes. H/T Love of your love.

I don't know where the Arian site got the picture from, but Arius was never more than a presbyter.

Well, duh!

"Can you possibly think any individual can believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary?"
Thus saith one Fr Peter Kennedy, the parish priest of St Mary, South Brisbane, Australia, who is outraged that his Archbishop wants him out of his parish where he has been carrying on a rather different sort of Catholic priesthood for some years, baptizing 'in the name of the creator, redeemer and sanctifier', presumably because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are sexist, ceremonially uniting gay couples and encouraging a buddhist prayer group.
Right now he has been invited to leave his parish, but is resisting with the backing of a large number of parishioners. There comes a point, as John Bathersby his Archbishop suggested, when you wonder what the limit is, when somebody has actually left the Church without having to be chucked out. Archbishop Lefevbre never uttered a heretical word (I should think), and yet was treated with far less consideration than Fr Kennedy has to date. And who will be shown to have been, sub specie aeternitatis, the greater threat to souls?
In the end, is the Church what we receive, or what we choose to make of it? This is the ultimate difference between a Catholic and, well, not a Catholic. Is our Communion from the Apostles, or from us?

Monday, 9 February 2009


The question of concelebration has been raised again on Fr Hunwicke's excellent blog. My instinct is to think that his reasoning on the subject is largely right: one cannot deny the validity of a concelebrated Mass, but one may debate its desirability.
Towards the end of his distinguished career —his moonlighting career, that is, his day job, was doorkeeper at Archbishop's House, Westminster, according to the late Brian Brindley—Archdale King (who really needs his own page on Wikipedia) wrote a book on concelebration. I read it several years ago, and it seemed to me that he had been asked to write an authoritative book justifying the practice. The result didn't seem to me to be very convincing, and I suspect that, whatever his official conclusions, he wasn't convinced either. His arguments worked by, effectively, blurring the distinction between true sacramental concelebration, ritual concelebration, and parallel Masses.
Ritual concelebration has a well established pedigree in the Church. This is when priests or bishops assist at Mass dressed in the eucharistic vestments of their order, but do not say the words of consecration with the celebrant. Most, if not all, of the Eastern rites use this form from time to time—there was a famous celebration at Vatican II which no doubt inspired the 'restoration' of the custom to the West. The Carthusians would 'concelebrate' in this fashion also, and I think that one might argue that the ceremonial at a papal coronation was another manifestation, where the cardinal bishops wear cope, the cardinal priests wear chasubles and the cardinal deacons wear dalmatics throughout the Mass.
Parallel Masses are rarer in the Church, but were popular in some places from the second world war until the Council. Chevetogne, the multi-ritual Benedictine/Basilian monastery in Belgium founded by that liturgical enthusiast, Dom Lambert Beaudouin, used this enthusiastically. A friend who visited in the late fifties or early sixties, was bemused to see, at low Mass time, a number of altars being wheeled out into the nave of the Latin church at which priests would celebrate Mass in synchrony, each keeping an eye on the celebrant at the high altar. Odd, I think.
Fr Hunwicke is quite right to insist that the Church has found that the concelebration at ordination in the Latin rite is a true, sacramental, celebration for each priest and for the bishop. It was always said that each ordinatus was entitled to take a stipend for his Mass, and that, for me, clinches it. But I honestly think that this is the only justification for the present day custom. One of the ordines romani has the cardinals celebrating Mass with the Holy Father, each with a kneeling acolyte holding a glass paten with a host for him to consecrate. My instinct is that this is not a true concelebration, rather a Chevetogne-style parallel Mass. I do not think that Archdale King managed to come up with any other precedent.

So, I think we cannot deny the liceity of concelebration, but it rests on very thin ground. I prefer really to think of it in terms of appropriateness. Modern liturgists are very keen that signs and symbols should be as patent or obvious as possible. The sign that fifty priests, all in persona Christi, give to the assembled faithful is surely not a good one if what we are trying to communicate is Christ breaking the Eucharistic bread for his people—or, as I would prefer to say, immolating himself for our salvation and sanctification in an unbloody fashion, using the forms he established at the Last Supper. One Christ, in other words, not many. And is it really valid (as I have asked before) if the celebrant cannot even see the altar, let alone the host?
There is the argument that the assemblage of celebrants shows forth the unity of the priesthood. Yes, I can see that, but it is a minor point, and could surely be established in other ways. But I would concede that if we must have concelebration, there are occasions when it is more appropriate than others. Perhaps at the Chrism Mass, for instance, or for all priests present at an ordination, and not solely the ordinati. And, I think, when a bishop visits a parish, it may well be appropriate and teaching for the parish clergy to concelebrate with him (provided the bishop is the 'chief celebrant') so that the people may see the proper relationship of bishop and priest, whose ministry depends on the successor to the apostles.

Sunday, 8 February 2009


I'm delighted to read of Fr Ray's discovery of a possible saint for his parish. We are delighted here in the Adur Valley today to celebrate the feast of our saint. It is an extraordinary privilege to have our very own, and today, when it has occurred on a Sunday, to celebrate his Mass and Office. I have blogged on St Cuthman of Steyning before, so I won't bore you again.

Friday, 6 February 2009

And now this……

Now the New Liturgical Movement seems to be unavailable. I do hope this is only a temporary glitch……

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Those priests who were not able to attend the traditional rites training conference at Merton college last year have another opportunity in April. This time the course will take place in a seminary, Ushaw College, near Durham, in the wild and wooly north of England. You can find further details here.


And here a splendid and rare view behind the iconostasis: I suppose it to be the fraction. All these pictures came from the Patriarchate site, and a biretta tip to Fr Tim the Continuous Hermeneut for alerting me.

Vestura sola

The splendid enthronement of the new Patriarch of Moscow brought to my mind an unfair and dismissive, but funny, comment made by a Presbyterian about Anglo-Catholicism. 'Hm; salvation by haberdashery!'
The new Patriarch has no fewer than four different costumes to put on in the course of the ceremony. It all looks very splendid.


I think this really needs a caption.


Today is the feast day of St Gilbert of Sempringham (c.1083-c.1190). Originally a secular priest of the diocese of Lincoln, he founded his own religious order (often erroneously described as the only religious order founded in England). It had two interesting characteristics: the first was that it was a double community of both women and men. What is less well known is that the two halves followed very different rules. The women were nuns, following the rule of St Benedict. The men were canons regular, following the rule of St Augustine. How that worked must have been, er, interesting. He was canonized a mere twelve years after his death at well over a hundred years old.
It is also the feast of Saint Rabanus Maurus (780-856), a prolific writer, perhaps best known today for his great hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Ghost, Creator).

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good

Bishop Fellay's recent comments

We evidently condemn every act of murder of the innocent. It is a crime that cries to heaven! Even more so when it is related to a people. We reject every accusation of Antisemitism. Completely and absolutely. We reject every form of approval of what happened under Hitler. This is something abominable. Christianity places Charity at a supreme level. Saint Paul, speaking of the Jews, proclaims, 'I wished myself to be an anathema [from Christ], for my brethren!" (Rom. 9, 3). The Jews are "our elder brothers" in the sense that we have something in common, that is, the old Covenant. It is true that the acknowledgment of the coming of the Messiah separates us.
"It is very interesting to notice that the Church did not await for the Council to prescribe courses of action regarding the Jews. Since the 30s, even during the war, several texts of Rome provide a very just position: the abominations of the Hitlerist regime must be condemned! 'Spiritually, we all Semites', Pope Pius XI had said. It is a truth which comes from Sacred Scripture itself, 'we are sons of Abraham,' Saint Paul also affirms." - La Croix (h/t Rorate Caeli)

make me wonder whether in fact Bishop Williamson's offensive remarks have actually produced a good effect: they have made the SSPX come out firmly and unambiguously against antisemitism. In some ways the French traditionalists have been among the inheritors of the anti-Dreyfuss tradition, as a friend remarked to me the other day. The extremity of Williamson's views has shocked them into defining just what these things actually mean, and just what might very well be lost if they do not distance themselves from any suggestion of antisemitism.

Monday, 2 February 2009

That business

Having been away in York for a few days (and no, I wasn't there in the Minster on Thursday: I and my friend deemed it an excellent day to visit Rievaulx Abbey [absolutely freezing; they should get the boiler repaired], Byland Abbey [closed, alas], Ampleforth Abbey, the North York Moors [too foggy to see anything] and the wonderful wall paintings in Pickering parish church), I rather missed out on the furore surrounding the reconciliation of the SSPX bishops and the strange behaviour of Bishop Williamson.
When Archbishop Lefebvre performed his illicit consecrations in 1988, I puzzled about the choice of the four men. I continued to puzzle even more about Williamson. I think I have come up with a sort of an answer. None of these men was the superior of the SSPX. At that time, I think it was Fr Schmidburger. I suspect that Lefebvre very deliberately did not want to consecrate as bishop a man who would be likely to be elected superior general. That might have signalled schism. His bishops were simply there to confer the sacraments of Holy Orders and Confirmation. They were not to rule, but were an expedient that he considered necessary under the circumstances.
However, he did not factor in the very natural Catholic instinct to be led by a bishop, and so, after the death of the Archbishop, the least inept of the four remaining bishops was elected Superior General. And there we have it.
And I must say that I was touched by Bishop Williamson's humble apology.[h/t Rorate Caeli] There is no way he could apologize for his horrid views—that would be intellectually dishonest—but I thought that his allusion to Jonah was particularly apt and humble.

Missing Information

The excellent Anglican blog Mass Information seems to have gone missing. I do hope this is only  temporary. Theological students and seminarians are very vulnerable to unfair pressure from superiors (college, diocesan, whatever) of a liberal persuasion. Free speech is only permitted to those whose views suit a certain party.
Those who sneer at law as a bastion of the establishment, preferring what they like to call freedom, never stop to consider that law is there as a protection of the weak against the strong. The trouble with antinomianism is that it leaves the vulnerable with no recourse. The strong need feel no brake upon their deeds or words, but may bully as they please.

Of course, it may all just be due to the snow or something, and Mass Information may well be back by the time you read this. I do hope so.