Wednesday 31 December 2008


We've had a few problems over the last few days. On Christmas Day, we had a theft of money and of a parishioner's coat. Yesterday, a hat was taken. Today we had vandalism in the church. I suspect that the same person was responsible for all these offences. So I phoned the police. These days there is only one line for the whole of Sussex (I didn't want to phone the emergency 999 [=911]). Although I phoned during working hours (4.30pm), the phone rang for twenty minutes without an answer, and even without a voice to tell me that my call was important, and the lines were busy. Just, no answer.
So I've locked the church. 

How sad.

Happy new year to you all.

Portsmouth's Holy Family Pastoral Letter

From Bishop Crispian Hollis:
(H/T Ponte Sisto)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord,

In the years when I was a parish priest, I was always delighted when the Bishop offered a Pastoral Letter for this particular celebration coming, as it does, so quickly on the heels of Christmas. It wasn’t just that we felt “talked out” after all the Christmas festivities, it was also that I, at least, felt that preaching about the Holy Family – that almost impossibly “holy” Family - was a very difficult task. I can’t pretend that today I can say anything new but I do want to offer you a few thoughts, as well as giving you my greetings for today and for the whole Christmas season.

First of all, our celebration today gives us “family” at its best and we particularly need that at this time when, politically and often socially, family life is being undermined and diminished.

In this celebration, we are offered a supreme example of trust, obedience and generous love. Speaking for myself, I can say that I have been very blessed in a very happy and fulfilled family life, but I am acutely aware that this is not everyone’s experience and I both acknowledge and sympathise with the pain that many, who are in broken families, suffer and endure.

The ideals of Christian family life set the highest standards. They challenge us in their fulfillment and they challenge us in the giving of example and encouragement to others. But these ideals are crucial for the well-being of the community as a whole. They are Christian ideals and we, who are Christians, have a great responsibility to demonstrate convincingly that they are not beyond our reach. Remember always that example is more powerful that exhortation. Reach out for these values yourselves and encourage others to do so, praying and remembering all the time that "nothing is impossible to God.”

But it’s not just family life that’s under threat in today’s world – we live today in many ways in what Pope John Paul described as a culture of death. Life itself has become cheap and, as a society, we have become careless and destructive of life, whether that life is found at its very beginnings, in the womb and in the unborn child, or in the old and frail as they approach natural death. To see such persons – for that is what they truly are – as somehow disposable or a nuisance or of no consequence, is to show a supreme disregard for the value and dignity of all who, like ourselves, are children of a loving God.

As Catholics, we pride ourselves on being “pro-life” and that is true for the diocese, for all of you who form our diocesan family and for myself. We are committed to defending life at all its stages. This commitment is the seamless garment for Christian living, and it means that all, but especially those who suffer from defencelessness and vulnerability of any kind, poverty, disease and conflict, have a right to a special place in our hearts and in the heart of the Church. This rich vision of life will not necessarily endear us to the culture in which we live but this is where we have to stand if we are to be faithful to the truth that all human beings, our brothers and sisters, are created in God’s own image and likeness.

This celebration of this feast of The Holy Family gives us the chance, not only to catch our breath after the Christmas festivities, but also to contemplate something of the reality of the circumstances and family that surrounded the Word made flesh, the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, Son of God, who has lived among us. In this contemplation and prayer today, we rejoice in the gift of life in all its richness and dignity. Our prayer is also that we treasure and sustain, as best we can. the precious gift of family in which that life is nurtured and in which it flourishes.

I send you all my greetings at this time and I pray that the Lord will continue to bless us all with his love and his grace as we enter into the New Year of 2009 which will be upon us in a few days.

May God bless you all,


From The Tablet

From the article Carols old and new, in The Tablet, 20/27 December 2008, by Nicholas Williams.

Paradoxically, our exposure to genuine tunes, whether folk songs, carols, hymn tunes or even lowly nursery rhymes, has surely diminished relative to the torrent of music that now overwhelms our senses. And though there's never been a better time for melody, it may also be time to reassert the tune — symmetrically patterned, shaped by rhythm, rhyme and tonal cadence — as the ground of our listening and the essential pattern of Western music since the Renaissance.
A similar awareness lies, perhaps, behind the movement for reforming liturgical music, with the structures of chant as the ideal vehicle for sacred observance. Unstated, too, is surely the perception that some styles and forms are better than others —"better for being listened to" in every sense of that phrase—that only the best is sufficient for the service of God, and that the man-centred ethos of the guitar Mass and worship song is simply not good enough.
In the meeting of art and faith, matters are rarely straightforward. While espousing the cause of Palestrina and a cappella singing, for example, elements of the nineteenth-century Cecilian Movement for the reform of Catholic music would have also prohibited the Masses of Haydn and Schubert. But for all those entrusted with the duty to revive the quality of music for worship, Vaughan Williams, Hely-Hutchinson and others point in the right direction. Confronted with both the riches and the false authenticities of our musical scene, bishops, composers and choral directors will need artistic clear thinking, particularly in furnishing music of lasting worth for the forthcoming English Mass translation. What these modest, carol-based works remind us is that, for a wise outcome, the example of history should count quite as much as easy accessibility, or fashionable sociological precepts about music, in determining their choices.

Monday 22 December 2008

For Mac and Karen

There: happy now? Christmas tree with decorations in my sitting room.

And, Mac, thank you for a wonderful post on the Sacrament of Confession

Mapp and Lucia

I'm having a Mapp and Lucia phase at the moment. I came to these wonderful books rather late; in fact in my mid-thirties. It was Fr Daniel Seward of the Oxford Oratory who introduced me to them at about the time I left that community, and it says something for my immediate desperation to read more that I took his copy of Queen Lucia away with me and had to post it back when I finished it. I find E.F.Benson's writing utterly entrancing and cripplingly funny; if the books have a fault it is that there are not enough of them. I am not the only one to think that, for others have tried to write more. Tom Holt made a pretty good stab at it, producing Lucia Triumphant and Lucia in Wartime, where he doesn't quite catch the limpid, acid, prose, but the storylines are pretty good. There has been a new Lucia book just published, called Major Benjy, by Guy Fraser-Sampson. As soon as I spotted it, I rushed to buy it, but have regretted the expense. Neither prose nor storyline hold a candle to even Tom Holt's books. The worst aspect, I think, is the way that he has utterly failed to catch the tone of Tilling (the town where most of the action takes place). Tom Holt himself is credited with saying 'Benson himself would have loved this book, and so will you'. I wonder if we are speaking of the same book. How could anyone think that, for instance, Benson would have loved coarse sexual innuendo? Gentility was the very essence of Benson's books. Major Benjy opens the door to Miss Mapp without his trousers; he gets seduced by his housekeeper; Irene Coles and Lucy plaster each other's naked bodies with paint…… need I go on? It is more redolent of Tom Sharpe (though without the genuine—though crude—acute humour of that talented writer) than Benson or even Tom Holt. The characters behave uncharacteristically, also. Mr Wyse regularly props up the bar of a local pub, for instance. In this, I think Fraser-Sampson followed something from the TV adaptation of Mapp and Lucia rather than the books themselves. Twistevant, the shopkeeper, is spelt in three different ways within the first fifty pages. And, frankly, the book is boring: I've given up half way through. How very disappointing. How tarsome, in fact.
I've been revisiting the Benson books by medium of my iPod. Some are available on iTunes, read wonderfully by Nadia May. Mapp and Lucia is read very well by Prunella Scales (who played Miss Mapp on TV). And now I have found the rest of the books on CD and am busy transferring them one by one to my iPod. Even the Tom Holt books are available in this form. I'm listening right now to Lucia in London, read by Geraldine McEwan (who played Lucia in the TV adaptation).

Which brings me on to the last topic, which is that of the TV adaptation. I didn't really think it was terribly good, I'm afraid, (though others disagree) and I think it's time for another try. The question is who one might get to play the chief roles. I've thought a lot about this, and I think that there are some very good candidates. I would love to see Penelope Keith play Lucia and Patricia Routledge play Miss Mapp: both of them are simply made for the role, I think. Georgie Pillson is a more difficult decision, but I wonder whether John Cleese wouldn't do it really well. All these three actors physically resemble their characters, and I'm sure could bend their considerable talents to the parts.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Pestilential Services

Those of a more traditional turn of mind sometimes instinctively dislike what are called 'penitential services', by which I mean those services which often take place in parishes during Advent and Lent during which many of those who do actually go to confession at all celebrate the sacrament together. Another innovation, some feel.
And yet actually it is more a revival than an innovation. Something very similar took place in pre-Reformation England. At that time, and in this country, annual communion, at Easter, was, pretty well, the universal custom. It was prepared for very carefully, and the parish priest would confidently deny communion to any he felt were unworthy of it. Part of the preparation was something not unlike a penitential service; in country areas, at least, where there might be only one priest, that parish priest would call in his priest friends and neighbours from the surrounding area to hear the confessions of everyone in his parish. And not just confessions; on that occasion, the penitent would also be asked to recite the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Apostles' Creed, to make sure he knew them.
One might also conclude, then, that annual confession was also the custom, though no doubt others might avail themselves of their parish priest's absolution on other occasions.
The picture is taken from a Sarum Primer of 1534.

Why go to confession?

In the combox on Fr Tim's blog, one Fr Seán Coyle wrote the following note about those who say that they will not go to confession because they always confess the same things.

Pope Benedict in October 2005 to 100,000 at the annual audience for children who have recently made their First Holy Communion: One girl asked the Pope why she must go to confession before receiving Communion, if our sins are always the same.

Smiling, the Holy Father answered: "It is true that our sins are always the same. Yet do we not clean our house, our room, at least once a week, though the dirt is always the same? If we do not, we run the risk of the dirt accumulating, though we may not see it.”

“The same”, he said, “is true of our souls. If we never confess, our souls are overlooked. I may be pleased with myself, yet I do not understand that I have to improve constantly in order to progress. Confession helps us to have a more open conscience and thus to mature in a spiritual and human way."

A priest-friend of mine once asked a mechanic in Ireland why he should bother washing his car, since it would get dirty again. The mechanic responded, "Dont you wash your face every morning?"

Bah, humbug!

Mac the MF has tagged me for a meme, but in this case, I'm afraid she will be disappointed. She wants to know the story of the really special ornament on my Christmas tree.
Look, Mac, I'm a bloke, basically. Yes, I do put up a Christmas tree in my window, but it's only because others expect it—left to myself, I wouldn't bother. And there really aren't any special ornaments—just what I could hoover up cheap in Homebase a few years ago. This has reminded me depressingly that today or tomorrow I must crawl up to the attic and bring the wretched thing down again, then assemble and dress it, only to do the whole thing in reverse in a couple of weeks' time. Some people actually enjoy this sort of thing.
Now I feel like a failure. Perhaps I should listen to my feminine side more. And no doubt if I had a family, it would be different. The Christmas tree was special when I was a child.

And yet—the sheer wonder of the fact of the Incarnation still staggers and fascinates me. I love the Christian feast of Christmas; I'd just rather not bother with some of the bits that seem to have to go with it.

Saturday 20 December 2008


Photo: Michael Stringer, with thanks.

Friday 19 December 2008

Point of Information

"How many times is hell mentioned in the New Testament? Do a word count."

'Hell'  13 mentions
Matt 5:22
Matt 5:29
Matt 5:30
Matt 10.28
Matt 18:9
Matt 23:15
Matt 23:33
Mark 9:43
Mark 9:45
Mark 9:47
Luke 12:5
James 3:6
2Peter 2:4

'Hades': 9 mentions
Matt 11:23
Luke 10:15
Luke 16:23
Acts 2:27
Acts 2:31
Apoc. 1:18
Apoc. 6:8
Apoc. 20:13
Apoc. 20:14

'Fire' (as an analogy for hell) 26 mentions
Matt 3:10
Matt. 3:12
Matt. 5:22
Matt. 7:19
Matt. 13:40
Matt. 13:42
Matt. 13:50
Matt. 18:8
Matt. 18:9
Matt. 25:41
Mark 9:43
Mark 9:48
Mark 9:49
Luke 3:9
Luke 3:17
John 15:6
Heb. 10:27
James 3:6
James 5:3 (probably)
2Pet. 3:7
Jude 7
Apoc 14:10
Apoc. 19:20
Apoc, 20:10
Apoc. 20:14
Apoc. 20:15
Apoc. 21:8

—not, I hasten to add, that I think that this should form the backbone of one's preaching, but it should be there somewhere, because it is not an irrelevant part of the New Testament.

Monday 15 December 2008

More about Merton

The following is a statement from Mr Paul Beardsmore, Secretary of the Latin Mass Society:

1. The LMS Committee has not cancelled the Oxford Training Conference, and Merton College has not indicated to the Society that permission to hold the Conference has been withdrawn.

2. Mr David Lloyd’s views concerning the Oxford Conference held in July 2008 were considered by the LMS Committee three months ago and did not receive the support of the majority of its members.

3. The LMS Committee – including Mr Lloyd – is unanimous in its commitment to the implementation of the Motu Proprio, ‘Summorum Pontificum’, and consequently to the training of clergy to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

4. The leaking to the press of Mr Lloyd’s confidential e mail, and the attempt to link this e mail with the LMS Committee’s recent decision concerning the administrative arrangements for the Conference are mischievous.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Merton and all that

Damian Thompson, in his Holy Smoke blog, has announced something that a few of us knew was in the air: the Latin Mass Society no longer wishes to support the training of ordinary diocesan priests to celebrate the Traditional Rites—or at least to do so in the format used for the last two summers. Damian quotes an email from David Lloyd, a former chairman of the LMS:

Our Society is constituted to provide the Mass to as many catholics as possible from all walks of life in churches and chapels the length and breadth of England and Wales, the majority of those who attend these Masses would not have understood anything of the splendour of Merton. It is wrong therefore for the favoured few to be able to indulge in the obvious luxury of the liturgy provided. Many people (laity) have worked for the LMS for many years for no more than their expenses and a good number of them have not claimed for anything at all. Look then at the tuition fees and the expenses paid from the figures provided for 29 first time and 15 second time delegates from England and Wales. The clergy were in awe at the generosity of the Society they must have been laughing all the way back to their presbyteries at the size of the party bags distributed as gifts. The whole concept of Merton (an Anglican institution) is privileged, the cost of Merton is obscene, continually asking our membership to subsidise elitist events is wrong. The direction the Society is taking is a cause for concern, high profile and elitism are the flavours of the day, committee must resist this, it must resist any thought of returning to Merton any proposal to do so must be overturned.

I found this very sad reading. David Lloyd is a man I like and respect; I have had dealings with him in the past and found him affable and kind. But I have to disagree profoundly with him on this matter which for me raises a ghost which I thought laid—I might add, laid with David's help (he being then in the chair). This ghost was the tendency which the LMS had a few years ago (and no doubt is not dead) to support only those clergy who were prepared to celebrate exclusively the traditional rites: their website then even proudly boasted it. It made me think of those priests, diocesan and religious, who for years had endured contempt and marginalization from their brothers and superiors for their willingness to keep celebrating the traditional rites for members of the LMS. That what we now call the Extraordinary Form was maintained in this country was due in no small measure to men like Mgr Macdonald, Fr Michael Ware and Fr Mark Taylor. They, like I, for so many years, also received only expenses, and very often not even that.
The Merton Conference was a most valuable resource in making it possible for ordinary diocesan and religious clergy to learn to be able to celebrate what is now entirely legitimate. It is firmly established that the traditional rites are not for an exclusive elite, but ordinary Catholics in the pew have a right to them. Of the seventy priests who attended last summer, most went home able to begin celebrating in the Extraordinary Form with some measure of confidence, which will grow as they get used to it. Yes, these men are unlikely exclusively to do so, but then they are men who do not believe that the vineyard of the Lord is confined to traditional Mass centres. They believe, as do I, that the people in ordinary parishes are Catholics too, with souls that need saving and sanctifying, and though the Ordinary Form is not such an efficient tool, nonetheless it is the only tool that many of our folk will accept at present and thus we must make the best of it. But now they have also recourse to the Extraordinary form, a better tool, which they can use as appropriate, both for their own sanctification and also for that of those who will come to appreciate it through their work.
Although Mr Lloyd thinks that the Merton conference was elitist, in reality it was quite the opposite, since the intent is to bring the Mass precisely back where it belongs—in the parishes.
Second, I feel personally very hurt at the suggestion that priests went laughing back to their presbyteries after the sybaritic extravaganza of the Merton conference, at the expense of the pennies of the LMS poor. The conference was not luxurious: all participants lived in student accommodation and ate (albeit very nice) student food. The liturgy was splendid, but the traditional rites are splendid, when done properly. Are the LMS suggesting that a large gathering of priests should have celebrated Low Mass every day and said the office in private? That would be ridiculous! Perhaps it was the presence of prelates they objected to, especially when they were treated properly. Then there was the goody-bag. Each participant was given a study edition (which is actually useable) of the 1962 Missale Romanum, costing about 50 Euros, a cheap set of unframed paper altar cards (with at least one mistake on them) and sets of bound photocopied notes for the courses. The one possible extravagance was a beautifully produced and bound liturgical book with the offices and masses for the week, which may have cost (judging by Lulu prices) about £10.
Though the participants were heavily subsidized, they did have to find expenses that other types of employees might not have to, such as paying for supply priests in their own parishes while they were away, and transport—three priests came from South Africa.
But the money was not the issue; I strongly suspect that many, if not most, of the participants would have paid for themselves entirely if that were required. I, as a member of the teaching team, was given an honorarium: I was grateful, but would have helped for nothing, quite happily.

Should the Merton Conference not operate this year, it will prove to have been a pyrrhic victory for those who oppose it. Yes, the LMS may well have more money in its bank account, but there will be fewer priests able to celebrate the rites which they love. And, please, what is the money for?

It is possible, I suppose, that another sponsor might be found, or perhaps priests might well be willing to pay for themselves. That would be great. But if the conference does not go ahead, then I would certainly be willing to take one or two priests (in good standing) at a time here for a few days to do the same thing, mutatis mutandis. No doubt others would be likewise willing.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Fight Foca

President Obama has promised to remove all restrictions over abortion in the USA in something called FOCA; the Freedom of Choice Act. There is a petition here which you can sign, opposing this, though I guess you have to be American to do so.

Sunday 7 December 2008

New Breviaries

Well, my new breviaries have arrived, and I'm delighted. Since my ordination twenty years ago I have been using a set of breviaries produced then by the Society of St Pius X, and which went out of production shortly afterwards. It is a photographic reproduction of the 1961 Mame edition, superior in almost every way to the Fraternity of St Peter's Dessain reproduction which has been available since. The problem was that these breviaries were like house bricks, comparable in size to the modern English breviaries—most impracticable when travelling. For this, I have a most beautiful small set produced by Pustet, (original, not photographic) though, alas, with the Pius XII psalmody. I received it in mint condition, too, never used.
But now I have a set that does everything. The new edition, from Nova et Vetera, a new German publishing house, is quite lovely. The cream-coloured paper is thin, but opaque, and thus the book is (Deo gratias!) lightweight, lying easily in the hand. The typesetting is clear and easily readable, despite the fact that it is printed in relentless double columns throughout. The rubrics are not really ruber, but rather a shade of brown; this may have been a mistake; a typesetter forgetting that what looks one colour on white paper looks different on cream, or in fact it may be deliberate, for it looks very attractive—just different. It is bound in black leather (real!) and the edges are gilded all round—what a pleasure to have to blow the pages apart for the first time of use.
I can detect no mistakes in the Latin so far—well, all right, only one, a small one. At Matins this morning (Advent Sunday II) we had a 'hedo' rather than a 'haedo', and the mediaevals wouldn't have thought it a mistake anyway. And there was no antiphon for Prime or Terce, though the antiphons suddenly reappear for Sext and None. This is not a disaster as long as one knows that the antiphons are simply those of Lauds in turn. A reminder to say the Pater Noster before the readings of the Nocturn would be a good idea, though anyone familiar with the traditional breviary would know this anyway. Prime is a little confusing; the changeable bits and the unchangeable bits are all in the same size, spacing and typeface, which means that, again, you need to know where you are going. So what I'm trying to say is that I, as a habitual reciter of the traditional breviary, find this new set a real delight. I'm not sure that a newcomer would find it so easy to use at first.
But, beyond any doubt, Nova et Vetera are to be congratulated on producing not just another traditional breviary, but editing it from scratch, and coming up with a version that knocks all other available versions into a cocked hat, new rite or old.
The breviaries cost me E198, and I was able to order alongside them a set of US propers (there are, alas, none for the UK yet) and, mirabile dictu, a booklet with the original versions of the hymns, something I blogged about a few months ago.

Update: having been away for a couple of days, and having taken my little Pustet with me, I have realized that Nova et Vetera have simply copied the Pustet arrangement—a sensible thing to do, on the whole, since, as I said, the Pustet is very elegant. It's a pity they didn't improve on the Pustet's shortcomings regarding clarity and ease of use.

Schism on Stronsay

I am saddened and surprised, though I suppose I shouldn't be. The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer domiciled on Papa Stronsay have themselves divided over the issue of their reconciliation with Rome. One priest and two brothers have left the community, reverting to the former title of Transalpine Redemptorists, and have started an independent mission on Stronsay Island, celebrating Mass in a garage.
I discovered this information yesterday, but have thought about whether comment should be made. But today there is an article about it in The Scotsman, which is quite temperate (even if it does describe the remaining members of the community in the monastery on Papa Stronsay—the vast majority—as 'the rump': shades again of Lambeth Palace blowing away from one of its tiles) and so I feel that as the cat is out of the bag, then I might have my say, too.
Human beings are independent thinkers, and one must not expect people whose conscience has kept them out of apparent union with the Holy See for thirty years or more to find it easy to allay that conscience simply because others feel that the time is right. At the time of the reconciliation of Le Barroux, their daughter house in Latin America refused to follow the lead and remains part of the Lefebvrist family to this day.
Fortunately, the fathers and brothers in the Orkneys are keeping charitable tongues in their heads, refusing to malign each others' consciences—which must be so tempting in these circumstances. I suppose all we can do is pray for them, and also that all who are at some distance, shall we say, from the Holy See may find their way home soon.

Friday 21 November 2008

Holy Souls

We have two cemeteries in this parish; one of them is attached to the little church of St Botolph in the village (more a hamlet, really) called Botolphs right on the bank of the River Adur. On the Saturday after All Souls day this year we sought permission from the churchwardens there (there being no incumbent right now) to celebrate Mass before our November blessing of the graves. They were very welcoming indeed, and we are very grateful. I think that this was almost certainly the first (R.) Catholic Mass since the vigil of Pentecost 1559 (or whatever date you want to ascribe to it). It would have been a fine occasion to have celebrated something Sarum, or even Latin, or ad orientem, but that would have been too awkward to organize, and besides, it was really for the benefit of those whose loved ones were buried in the adjacent cemetery, and it was necessary to take their wishes into consideration.
St Botolph's dates from around 950, so is very old indeed, though it has been altered over the ages, having had a gothic aisle built on, only to have it fall down again. If my memory serves me right, St Botolph is not the original dedication, which was St Peter de vetera ponte (i.e. over the River Adur)—there is no bridge right there now. I dare say somebody simply associated St Botolph with the name of the village. It has some traces of wall paintings, as you can see in the pictures, but they are only fragmentary, and not nearly so splendid as those in the next village of Coombes, half a mile down the river. Its only other claim to fame, I think, is that Archbishop Laud once preached there.
Sorry—the pics seem to have arranged themselves in a strange order: I'm sure you can make sense of them, however.

Holy Fathers

Am I alone in thinking that too many popes have their causes for canonization/beatification introduced? I read yesterday that Pope John Paul I's cause is progressing nicely. Surely one saint and one beatus is enough for the occupants of one job during the course of one century? It gets a little bit redolent of the early Roman Empire when all emperors were pretty well automatically deified at their death by decree of the Senate (and some of them even before they died). So, Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul I, and John Paul II are all being considered for canonization/beatification. That is to say, all but one of the Popes since 1939. It begins to say more about those they don't beatify than about those they do. It begins to present beatification as a perk of the job. All those Popes were admirable men. Can't we just leave it there?


I'm sorry to be slow posting these days; there are a lot of reasons, but no doubt things will improve and we'll be back to normal soon. 

Monday 10 November 2008

Muscular Christianity

The spirit of the fifth century is alive and well in Jerusalem, it seems. Greek and Armenian monks resorted to fisticuffs in a dispute over one of the holy places in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Read more about it here.
I feel a post about the Sepulchre coming on……

Thursday 6 November 2008

Newman's Bones

Conspiracy theorists all over the world can rub their hands after an article in the Birmingham Post:
The remains of a 19th century Birmingham Cardinal tipped for sainthood are unlikely to have been destroyed by soil acidity in a Worcestershire grave, an expert has said.

Professor John Hunter, from the University of Birmingham, cast doubt on the theory after testing soil from an area near to the Rednal cemetery from which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman was exhumed.
The ancient history and archaeology professor said it would be "unusual" to find a body buried in 1890 so decayed that no human remains were left.
He said the soil tested was "not particularly acidic" and that he found it "difficult to believe" soil conditions near the grave were so extreme.
Professor Hunter said: "It is very interesting from a forensic point of view to find a body that has completely decayed within this amount of time. It is very unusual and very unlikely. If we have extreme soil conditions that take away human bones, they would also take away coffin handles, which are still there.
"I am not making any claims or accusations. I am merely looking at it from a (forensic) point of view."
Prof Hunter said he chose to investigate out of curiosity and was only able to obtain a sample from ground near to the cemetery, not from the grave itself. He said there were three options: either the soil environment of the grave was different to the sample tested, bones were missed when the grave was exhumed or the body was never there in the first place.
Relics that remain of the Cardinal - including locks of hair, a wooden crucifix and one of the coffin handles - were on display over the weekend at the Birmingham Oratory. They will rest in the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo as the process towards his beatification continues in Rome.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

New Altar

It looks like they found some nicer candlesticks, then. I hope they leave them after the Holy Father finishes celebrating. H/T MassInformation

Thoughts from Ben Stein

This has been circulating round the internet:

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.
My confession:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.
It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too... But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking. Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing yet?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.
My Best Regards,
Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

H/T O cuniculi! Ubi lexicon Lainum posui?


Today, 4th November 2008, the feast of St Charles Borromeo, is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Blessed Pope John XXIII. You may remember that way back somewhere BC, I posted a series of videos with commentary which, for complications not worth going into, I had to later delete along with the rest of my blog. 
Well, today seems a good day to start reposting this, with, I hope, a rather longer commentary—which I hope people will contribute to. No doubt I will make mistakes, but if others are willing to correct them, then all will be well.
This time I've decided to dedicate an entire blog to the videos, which will be tidier than people having to search on this one. It will probably take a while to complete the series, so please be patient.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Much better!

I saw yesterday on Rorate Caeli that the strange new altar of the Chair in St Peter's Basilica had been replaced with something more fitting. I'm grateful to Fr A.W. for sending me a link to some much better pictures of the new altar, which you can find on Rinascimento Sacro, here. It is certainly another step in the right direction. Mind you, a small voice inside me wonders where they got it from: is this a case of robbing Paul to pay Peter? And perhaps Paul could be persuaded to dig out some nice candlesticks, too.

Monday 27 October 2008


Lovely to see those pictures of the consecration of Old St Patrick's Oratory in the Extraordinary Form on the New Liturgical Movement site, here. It all looks very splendid.
Shawn Tribe writes good notes on the ceremony, addressing, of course, the strange custom of the bishop writing out with the point of the crozier the Greek and Latin alphabets in sand or ashes laid out in an X shape in the nave.
It reminded me of the famous legend of the consecration of the original Westminster Abbey in the sixth or seventh century. Everything had been prepared for the ceremony the night before it was due to take place, and that night someone had a dream that St Peter himself was busy consecrating the church. In the morning, the monks got up and found the letters of the alphabets already marked out, and concluded that indeed St Peter had consecrated the church in the night.
I remember when seeing the pictures of the consecration of the new church in Wausau the same rather tiny cross being made as you can see in St Patrick's. The older custom, as I have seen in many photographs, was to remove all the seating, and make the X a vast one, from corner to corner of the nave. This meant, of course, that the laity usually did not get to see the ceremony, and perhaps this was why in these two instances a mini-X was made.
The (very rare) photograph shows the consecration of St George's Cathedral in Southwark in 1895 by Bishop John Butt. The Cathedral was, I think, by Pugin, but was firebombed in the second world war and now looks quite different. I scanned this picture from an old lantern slide.

Sunday 19 October 2008

School Forms and Statistics

Parish priests in England and Wales will be well aware that this is the time of year for school forms to be signed. Those outside this country may not be aware that we have a very large system of Catholic schools in this country, somewhat unusual in the world for the fact that they are not (most of them, any way) private, fee-paying, schools, but, largely, funded from public money. You don't have to pay fees, in other words.

The problem is (problem…??) that they are generally perceived as being better schools than the ordinary non-religious schools. Results are better, discipline is better and children are on average less likely to be sold drugs at a faith school than at a state school. Consequently, parents fall over themselves to demonstrate that they are faithful Catholics at this time of year, when the priest's signature has to be obtained to gain that all-important entry. Mass attendance tends to be better at this time of year than at any other. Last year, Channel 4 made a TV film about parents who pretended to be Catholics to get their daughter into a smart convent school—to find, to their horror, that their daughter actually started to believe the Catholic faith.

From the parents' perspective, I can quite understand why they should want to get their child into the best possible school that they can actually afford. I would, too, in their position. And it isn't all about results and discipline. Many of them are consciously aware of belonging, in however remote a way, to the Catholic 'tribe'.  They may not even be baptized, but they will remember that the only religious member of their family was Grandma, who was a Catholic, and who never missed a Christmas, therefore they too are Catholics, and want to assert that. But not, perhaps, by going to Mass—they wouldn't know what to do, and don't even have the sort of mental and spiritual structures developed to think that religion might actually make them happier.

That's one type. Much more common is the Catholic who would unquestionably think of themselves, and present themselves, as being 'practising', but who comes, perhaps, one Sunday in four. What is a parish priest to think about that?

What has brought this to a head for me is that the forms the priest has to sign have changed. Formerly, we had to write a sentence or two saying what we thought of the religious commitment of a family. I'm not sure that it made much difference as to whether a child was admitted to the school or not, but it was quite hard in some cases to say anything meaningful. Now, this year, for the first time, we have to do something different. The family themselves state how often they attend Mass, and we have to countersign, saying that we have witnessed their signature. We have another box to sign if we have reservations about what they have asserted as their level of practice.

What took me by surprise is the number of people who have ticked the 'one in four Sundays' box. In most of these cases I would have said that I thought I knew these people well, and, had you asked me, I would have said that they came most Sundays, and if they didn't, well, then they were away with relatives or whatever. They certainly present themselves for Communion. In some instances, I added a note to say that I thought they were much more practising than they said. There are inverse cases; on one form, I stated that though I recognized the people concerned, I thought that they didn't come as often as they said. For the last few weeks, to my shame, they have been present every single Sunday. Now, is it because I didn't notice them before, or because they are making a special effort now? In the latter case, it is especially appreciated, for the forms have gone in anyway, and they have nothing to gain. It would seem to be a genuine effort, and I wish I had written something else. I don't think it will affect the child's place, however.

Which is by way of saying; I think that on the ground, fewer people think of practice as being 'every Sunday and holyday of obligation' that did so in the past. The Church has not changed her precept, but the understanding on the ground, has changed, at least here (despite whatever I might have to say about it in homilies and newsletters). 

This morning, at our principal Mass at Shoreham, the church was absolutely packed. Thank God: I'm not complaining! I am told that there were in excess of fifty children at the 'Children's Liturgy of the Word'. If many of these are only one-week-in-four Catholics, then we would frankly not be able to manage if they all came every week. Our church is not big enough; I can't lay on another Mass, for reasons of Canon Law (I already celebrate the maximum permitted). We have a retired priest who is a supportive and wonderful help to me, but I cannot rely on his generosity in making plans for the future.

Which is by way of saying: I wish every Catholic practised his or her faith every Sunday and holyday. But, without more churches and priests, I'm not sure how we'd cope if they did!

Thursday 16 October 2008

More on Newman

I have received a clarification on the status of the Newman miracle from the Birmingham Oratory. It seems better to make a separate entry on this topic rather than trying to amend the former post.
Peter Jennings, the secretary to the Cause, says that in fact it was no surprise that the commission that met in Rome on 30th September did not reach a verdict; having only had the documentation for 8 weeks, and that period including the famously Roman closed season of Ferragosto, they needed more time, and also sought some clarifications which are being addressed. The five doctors who examined the cure have unanimously declared that they can see no medical explanation, and therefore it is down to the theologians to examine the case. These theologians will meet in due course, and will let their verdict be known when they are ready. Which is by way of saying that the miracle is still very much 'alive'.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Newman News

There has been quite a lot of debate following the course of the projected beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. As everyone now knows, his grave, when opened, revealed no body, but only some tassels and a coffin plate. Most of the debate on the internet seems to presume that these, together with a lock of his hair, will be placed into the great sarcophagus that has been prepared in the Birmingham Oratory church.

It has, however, been decided that this will not now take place, though many—including some senior clergy—wanted it, feeling that even a mere cenotaph would be a fitting place to honour Newman. The Oratory has, in my opinion, made the right decision. An empty sarcophagus would always be a focus for bathos, for some cheap giggles, and it will be the fact principally remembered about Newman's burial for years to come. Tours seeing the splendid marble sarcophagus would be told 'well, of course, it isn't actually his body; just some tassels and a bit of hair'. Much better that he rests at Rednal as he wished. The Oratory Church can stand as his memorial; it was, after all, built for that purpose.

One suggestion is that there will be a new, small, reliquary placed in St Philip's Chapel, which adjoins the Oratory church. Here the plate, the tassels and the hair, and maybe some other bits and pieces would be able to be seen, and perhaps honoured, for simply what they are. One father has commented that this would be 'more in keeping with the Cardinal's own humility and Oratorian sense of amare nesciri' [love to be unknown]. The sarcophagus would then be otherwise disposed of suitably (anyone need a sarcophagus?): perhaps it will be placed in the Visitors' Centre.

The other news is that the commission in Rome have, it seems, decided not to approve the hoped-for miraculous cure of that deacon in the US—or, at least, have decided that it is not sufficiently beyond question that this cure was due to the intercession of Newman. I don't know the details. This is a sad setback for Newman lovers, and no doubt for Fr Chavasse and the fathers at Birmingham. St Philip Neri, however, would have approved. He said that he wanted all his sons to be saints, but none of them raised to the altars, presumably lest they be tempted to pride. And maybe we should simply do some concentrating on seeing Newman as a hugely influential scholar and stop trying to squeeze him into a plaster statue, which, in some aspects might be a tight fit. Forgive the metaphor. But it takes me to another point.

I have long wished that the Fathers at Birmingham would build a really good Newman study centre, perhaps on the site of the former St Philip's College. There they could locate all the Newman items that at present clog rooms and corridors all over the Oratory house. They might even consider installing Newman's own library there, and move his entire room, rebuilding it exactly as it is (this has been done in other cases) inside another building, so that people could see through the windows and doorway into the room without actually entering (because this is deleterious to the contents) or, more to the point, without having to go through the Oratory House. There could be a couple of rooms with self-catering facilities for visiting scholars, and perhaps even a little flat for a librarian. I had once thought that perhaps they might construct a purpose-built Little Oratory there too, and even bury Newman inside it. This last is, of course, now impractical. 

(I do not, of course, presume to tell the fathers what to do with their own place: it's only an idea.)

Liturgical matters

More news from Rome, again from Zenit:

Holy See Approves 3 Alternative Closing Messages

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2008 ( The Holy See has approved three alternatives to "Ite, missa est," the final words said by the priest at Mass.Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, today notified the participants in the synod of bishops on the word of God about the new alternatives. The final message is currently rendered in English: "The Mass is ended, go in peace."
Benedict XVI has approved the alternatives, which were requested at the 2005 synod on the Eucharist to express the missionary spirit that should follow from the celebration of Mass.

According to Cardinal Arinze, the Pope had asked for suggestions to be presented. The congregation received 72, from which they prepared nine proposals. The Holy Father has chosen three.

The alternatives are in the revised third "editio typica" of the Roman Missal, which was printed last week, the cardinal said.

The alternatives are:

--"Ite ad Evangelium Domini nuntiandum"
--"Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum"
--"Ite in pace" with "alleluia, alleluia" added during Easter season.

In English, these could be rendered along the lines of "go to announce the Gospel of the Lord"; "go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your lives"; and simply, "go in peace (alleluia, alleluia)."

The original Latin final message, "Ite, missa est," has not been modified.

Eucharistic compendium

Cardinal Arinze also announced that a Eucharistic compendium, also suggested by the '05 synod on the Eucharist, is nearly finished.

The book will define Eucharistic doctrine, benediction, Eucharistic holy hours, adoration, and prayers before and after Mass, he explained.

The cardinal further said that the Holy See, at the request of the Pope and the 2005 synod, is studying the most adequate moment during the Mass for the sign of peace.

The Holy Father indicated that episcopal conferences should consider two options: either before the "Agnus Dei" or after the Prayers of the Faithful. Each bishops' conference is to respond by the end of October, though there is a three-week grace period for late responses. The proposals will then be presented to the Holy Father, who will make a decision on the matter.

Finally, Cardinal Arinze announced that his congregation is preparing a volume with thematic materials for homily, with the aim of assisting and supporting priests throughout the world with their preaching.

Monday 13 October 2008

She who presides in charity

I was interested to read this report from Zenit:

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2008 ( A representative of the Orthodox Church who addressed the world Synod of Bishops spoke of the Bishop of Rome as a sign of unity among Christians.
Archimandrite Ignatios Sotiriadis, fraternal delegate from the Orthodox Church of Greece, spoke Saturday to the synod, which is focusing on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

His address brought more applause than any other intervention in the first week of the synod.

"Your Holiness," he said, "our society is tired and sick. It seeks but does not find! It drinks but its thirst is not quenched. Our society demands of us Christians -- Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans -- a common witness, a unified voice. Here lies our responsibility as pastors of the Churches in the 21st Century."

"Here," the Orthodox pastor continued, "is the primary mission of the First Bishop of Christianity, of him who presides in charity, and, above all, of a Pope who is Magister Theologiae: to be the visible and paternal sign of unity and to lead under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and according to Sacred Tradition, with wisdom, humility and dynamism, together with all the bishops of the world, fellow successors of the apostles, all humanity to Christ the redeemer."

"This is the profound desire of those who have the painful longing in their heart for the undivided Church, 'Una, Sancta, Catholica et Apostolica,'" he concluded. "But it is also the desire of those who, again today, in a world without Christ, fervently, but also with filial trust and faith, repeat the words of the apostles: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!'"

If the Archimandrite's words are also felt back home in Greece, then perhaps we really do have some cause for hope for better relations with the East.

Sunday 12 October 2008


I had an email from a friend this morning alerting me to the fact that YouTube (that immensely useful resource) is far from being friendly towards us. Apparently it has removed a video it considers offensive to Islam, called Welcome to Saudi Britain, which urges viewers to petition the government not to permit sharia law in Britain. However, it has refused to remove 43 videos (yes, 43!) which show desecration of the Blessed Sacrament in various ways—including flushing a Host down a toilet.

The email suggests that we pray before the Blessed Sacrament in reparation. Good idea.
Also, we should mark the videos as 'offensive' and state why. The person who has posted [at least most of] them has the user name 'fsmdude'.

In my case I will certainly pray in reparation, but you must forgive me not going to see those videos. I don't think it would be good for me.

Saturday 11 October 2008

O quam zouave!

There's a very interesting post on Fr Nicholas's blog at the moment about the Papal Zouaves. The Papal States certainly had the most interesting uniforms for its military personnel, borrowing from all sorts of different countries. The Zouaves must surely be the most extraordinary, with wide turkish trousers and floppy hats. And, following up a link on Fr Nicholas' blog, I discovered that there are still troops of Zouaves to be found in France, as these photographs reveal.

Friday 10 October 2008

Funeral of Pope Pius XII

Here's a Youtube video showing scenes from the funeral of Pope Pius XII. What an extraordinary sight that procession is!

Sri Lanka's new archbishop (probably)

They used to call it kicking upstairs; Montini was sent to Milan as its archbishop, and this was read in Rome as a sort of disgrace. Bugnini's appointment to Teheran likewise. It's all very mediæval, really, this perception of the royal court as the real place to be. Better to empty the dustbins in the king's court than be a duke in the provinces. So now Archbishop Ranjith is to leave Rome for Sri Lanka, if the rumours are to be believed.
Some no doubt will see this as a curial coup. Ranjith was not universally popular, it has to be said, and it is rumoured that even in the Congregation for Divine Worship there was a deep split between those who welcome the Benedictine reforms, and those who resent them. Is this another manifestation of this divide? On the other hand, Ranjith is rumoured to have been a not unmixed blessing to Pope Benedict's admirers, having a sharp temper and a not-always-tactful tongue.
But surely we do not think in mediæval terms these days. Not all of us, anyway! The Indian sub-continent (of which, I suppose, Sri Lanka can be said to be a part) is a very mixed bag indeed. One the one hand, we have the stupendous example of the Missionaries of Charity. And then on the other hand we have considerable heterodoxy and heteropraxis. A visit by an Indian bishop to a priest friend of mine left my friend deeply shocked at the way his visitor, to whom, naturally, the facilities of the church were freely extended, improvised the liturgy of the Mass—even the Canon—and combined this with a personal arrogance towards his host and another priest from his own diocese. This is reportedly quite a widespread phenomenon. So, if Ranjith has been sent to the subcontinent, albeit on an island off the coast, perhaps he is just the person to bring things a little more into line with the rest of the Church before it goes very wonky indeed. We must also remember that Sri Lanka is where that chap Tissa Balasuriya came from; if the bishops there had done their job, it would perhaps never have been necessary for the then Cardinal Ratzinger to pull him into line, thus giving undue prominence to Balasuriya's opinions and giving him the status (in some peoples' eyes) of a martyr, persecuted by the Roman Inquisition.
So, if the rumour is true, Archbishop Ranjith, far from being exiled, may in fact be sent to exert some very necessary influence back home.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Interesting statistics from France

According to a French e-newsletter I subscribe to, Paix Liturgique, there has been a poll taken of French Catholics about their attachment to the Extraordinary Form. It is, to say the least, interesting, though one wonders how wide a field they used. 

(My translation)
Question: If there were a Mass celebrated in Latin with Gregorian chant in its old form in a church near your home, or in your parish, how often would you attend it?

Every Saturday or Sunday:
3% of Catholics
19% of those who regularly practise.

At least once a month:
4% of Catholics
15% of those who regularly practise.

On Special occasions and great feasts:
37% of Catholic
9% of those who regularly practise.

37% of Catholics
28% of those who regularly practise.

No opinion:
2% of Catholics
2% of those who regularly practise.

Comments from Paix Liturgique.
1) These figures sweep away the soapbox rhetoric that says 'there is no liturgical problem in France': 'The Traditional Mass does not interest the Church of today'; These figures confirm the evidence of our own observation every Sunday over the last two years in churches of the diocese of Nanterre.
(a) In every parish there are very many faithful who, though generally content with the ordinary form of the liturgy, would prefer to sanctify themselves with the extraordinary form were it to be celebrated in their parishes.
(b) The immense majority of faithful attached to the traditional liturgy are not those whom one sees in the chapels served by the Ecclesia Dei communities or by the Fraternity of St Pius X: these faithful who love the traditional liturgy are principally still in their own parishes, and ask only one thing; that they can live again their faith according to the rhythms of the traditional liturgy in their OWN parishes. No, the Catholics attached to the extraordinary form are not merely 3%, but 20-25% of French Catholics.

2. As the Holy Father reminded us on the plane bringing him to France, the Motu Proprio was not for the benefit of a tiny minority of the faithful: this tiny group is 19% of the regularly practising Catholics—one in five. Now look at the 34% (those who are 'practising' in the current understanding of the term, which is to say who attend at least once a month). Here the figure is one in three. A small group, yes, but hardly beneath consideration!

3. This survey confirms what others have called the 'Rambouillet effect' or the 'Saint-Cloud effect', or, more recently, the 'Notre Dame du Travail effect' (from the church in the 14th Arrondisement) where, to everyone's surprise, it was noticed that among those attending the traditional rites in these new locations, were a large proportion of those who had until now been quietly attending the ordinary form, and who now have the opportunity of living their faith according the rhythms of the extraordinary, even if these have not been known to their parish priests (and especially what their liturgical preference was). So, when a Mass is moved from one place to another (to Saint-Cloud from Nanterre, to Notre-Dame du Travail from St Paul's Chapel, to the parish of St-Pierre-de-Montrouge and tomorrow perhaps St Francis Xavier (7th Arr.) from Notre Dame du Lys (15th), it is principally ordinary parishioners from that place who will turn up for the Mass, and not people who have simply moved location, as it had, mistakenly, been formerly believed.

4. The survey finds that the vast majority of the faithful who would love to assist at the traditional Mass, presently attend the liturgy in the ordinary form regularly and assiduously, and have done so in their own parishes for many years. These faithful are Mr & Mrs Joe Bloggs [Monsieur et Madame tout le monde]; they have enjoyed good relationships with their fellow parishioners for years, are well known to their parish priests and have engaged themselves in parochial activities just like anyone else.

So even if some journalists are scare-mongering and acting like scarecrows, for example the TV news broadcast on TF1, 6th October 2008, at 1pm, where it was explained to us that we should 'beware of those faithful attached to the extraordinary form', on the pretext that they 'stir up trouble, and are enemies of the Church and of Vatican II'. It must be said again that this argument does not stand up to reality.
The results of this scientific research are overwhelming for those who either want no traditional Mass at all, or who want it kept in a kind of 'Indian reservation', so we should not be surprised to find them taking refuge in misinformation and misrepresentation: 'he who wants to kill his dog says that it has rabies', as the proverb goes, or, as Voltaire said: 'Lie, lie; something will always stick!' Nothing very Christian about all this!

5. We have never contested the fact that the faithful attached to the traditional liturgy are in the minority right now, but is that sufficient reason to ignore them? Because they represent only 19-34% of  currently practising Catholics, is it right not to satisfy their legitimate liturgical aspirations and not implement Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio in the parish? After hearing these figures, more than ever applicable in the Diocese of Versailles, can we really regard the recent decision of Mgr Aumônier to refuse the pressing request of hundreds of faithful in the parish of Notre-Dame as being serious and credible?

6. When TF1 journalists stipulated in the broadcast already mentioned that traditionalists number between 2 and 3% of the faithful, they only took count of those who presently attend the churches and chapels that exclusively use the traditional rites (the churches and chapels of the Pius X Fraternity, and their friends, and those allied with Ecclesia Dei). In any analysis, this does not reflect the real aspirations and demand.

7. Only 28% 'never' want to attend a traditional Mass in their parish. Only a small group feel uninterested in the freedom granted by the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI. This is not necessarily hostility towards the the old form, but simply a lack of personal interest. And of course what will remain of this minority when they know more about the Motu Proprio?

8 Therefore it is not clear how, in the supposedly 18,000 French parishes, there have been only 60 new instances of the application of the Motu Proprio since its publication. According to Mgr Antoine Herouard of the French Episcopal Conference, this number corresponds roughly to the number of requests that were made. Doubtless he was overlooking the hundreds of requests that were either ignored or manipulated!
The reality is that these 60 new places of celebration are not commensurate with the real requests in the parishes which many bishops and parish priests continue to deny, or to dismiss on the grounds that 'there is no demand'. We repeat; in any place that a courageous priest decides to implement Summorum Pontificum, 20% of his parishioners will respond. The example of Laval is typical: the bishop had decided on his own authority to implement the Motu Proprio in a pretty church in the centre of town. From that time, 200 people have assisted at the Extraordinary form Mass every Sunday, and this in a parish where nobody had even requested it! Q.E.D.

9. We should specify finally that the results of this poll, coming after forty years of disdain and liturgical apartheid, during which it has been possible to say whatever one liked against the traditional liturgy, are truly exceptional. Despite 40 years of misinformation, the faithful remain attached to the traditional liturgy of the Church. Let us project ourselves forwards in time and ask ourselves: What will be the figures when the celebrations in the EF in parishes are multiplied, and when an even greater number of people will again know this liturgical form?

10. These results only encourage us in our work of communication and information; we must once more thank our Pope Benedict XVI again and again for his courageous act in favour of peace and unity. God grant that all Catholics listen and hear with kindness and intelligence.

P.S. This survey cost exactly €4000. Thanks to all who have helped with contributions. Cheques, payable to Paix Liturgique, can be sent Paix Liturgique, 3 Avenue Boileau, 78170 La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France.

Monday 6 October 2008

Cooking in Latin

I was watching a TV programme about a royal chef who supposedly had written the first ever cookery book, The Forme of Cury. He worked for the famous epicure, King Richard II, and the recipes are of the sort of 'Take one Leoparde, and smite him; pluck and draw three Brace of Peacocke and stuffe hem upp the Lepparde and seethe for six monthes." I thought at the time that this was really unlikely to be really the first cookery book; my mind went straight to Apicius' De Re Coquinaria, written in the fourth century or so, which encourages one to eat things like dormice cooked in mulsum and fish sauce. Interesting, certainly, but I was most pleased today to come across a gentleman called Bartolomeo Platina. He was, of all things, the Vatican librarian under Pope Sixtus IV, which is to say, in the last half of the fifteenth century. He seems to have been a man of considerable bad temper, which got him into trouble more than once. He wrote a treatise against unwise love affairs, a serious history of the popes (the first to be written, and positively slanderous against his enemy, Pope Pius II) a history of the Gonzaga family and, most important, a cookery book called De honesta voluptate et valetudine, or Honest Pleasures and Health. Here's one recipe:

Integrum haedum aut quartam partem, tessellis laridi et spicis mundi alii circumquaque impacti, veru ad ignem volvito, humectatoque cum ramusculis lauri aut rosmarini, ex hoc quod nunc scribam condimento. Cum acresta cumque iusculo pingui duo vitella ovi bene agitata, duas spicas alii bene tunsas, modicum croci, parum piperis misceto in pastellamque indito. Inde, ut dixi, quod coquitur aspergito. Coctum in patina ponito, partemque conditurae infundito, ac petroselinum minutatim concisum inspargito. Hoc obsonium bene coctum cito comedi debet, ne refrigescat; hoc non edat caeculus, quia oculos hebetat, veneremque et demortuam excitate.

My rough and ready translation:
Take a kid, or a quarter of a kid: lard it with bacon and garlic cloves and turn it on a spit before the fire. Using a branch of bay or rosemary, sprinkle it with the sauce which I shall now describe. Take some vinegar and fat broth mixed with two beaten yolks of egg, two cloves of well-crushed garlic, a little saffron, and a little pepper, and mix them all in a pan. Then, as I said, sprinkle the cooking meat. When it is cooked, put it on a dish, and pour over the remaining sauce and sprinkle with sprigs of chopped parsley. Eat the dish quickly while it is hot, and don’t let it get cold: my little blind friend won't do so [a joking reference to Filippo Buonaccorsi, a friend of Platina], because it dulls the sight and stirs up lust and weakness.

The picture shows both Platina (kneeling) and Pope Sixtus.

Flying high

I heard today via a sort of grapevine that a certain very highly placed cleric was invited to a ceremony in the West country a week or so ago, and, at considerable expense, bought himself a club class ticket on a small airline for the journey. He was disconcerted, however, to find that the club class seats were in the same section of the cabin as the economy class seats—in fact, they were the same seats—the only advantage being called first for the journey and getting a cuppa in flight. This was all witnessed (let us never say enjoyed) by other (not quite so highly placed) clergy who happened to be travelling economy-class on the same flight. I am told there was a great deal of irritated ring-twirling going on.

Thursday 2 October 2008

EF Confirmations

Sorry about the thin posting; I'm very busy just now.

The Latin Mass Society have asked me to post this:

Last Chance to Register for Confirmations:

Now is your last chance to register for Confirmations in the Traditional Latin Rite at St James’ Church, Spanish Place, London W1 on Saturday 15th November at 11.30 am with Bishop George Stack.

Confirmations will be followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

If you are thinking of Confirmation for your child/ren this year, you need to register their details urgently with the Latin Mass Society. Please telephone or email to request a registration form and return it no later than 31 Oct 2008 to the LMS office.

Tel: 020 7404 7284.

Saturday 27 September 2008

The Tudors

When the new BBC drama, The Tudors, began its first season, I watched the first episode, and half of the second, whereafter I gave up in disgust. The phrase 'gratuitous sex' doesn't even begin to describe what I thought was the ill-concealed soft porn nature of the programmes.

A few weeks ago I happened to see an episode of the second series. As there wasn't any porn on display, I continued to watch. It would be an exaggeration to say that I was hooked, but I have continued to watch the subsequent episodes, even catching up on iplayer. I am forced to acknowledge that it 'has something'.

I say that reluctantly, because there is a lot that annoys me. The producer/ director/ writer/ whoever goes to enormous trouble to get some things very very correct—more accurate than any other version I have seen. But then there are such liberties taken with the history, the dress, the manners and even events.

What I think it gets absolutely right is the spirit and atmosphere of the time. And some of the characters are very well written and played. Fat and ugly Henry, played (oddly) by slim and beautiful Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is very well done. The slow decline from his virtuous, if extravagant, beginnings to increasing selfish wilfulness and self-deception, from the Renaissance Prince to cruel tyrant are beautifully portrayed. Maria Doyle Kennedy, playing Queen Catherine of Aragon is wonderful. Throughout she is a model of dignity and injured love, steadfast in her faith and loyalty to God and the King. The deathbed scene would make a stone weep, though the random bits of Latin torn out of liturgical context and prayed by stumbling ladies in waiting are a bit of a distraction. Anne Boleyn (played by Natalie Dormer) is a strange character. Beautiful, wilful, spiteful, ambitious, proud—yes, all these things came through clearly. But then her sudden accesses of piety were not worked into the character; in exhorting her servants to read the Bible provided for them, to attend daily Mass and to ask for the sacrament in her prison chamber; these seemed not to belong to the character, but were rather mechanical. Maybe they were trying to portray her as hypocritical in this regard, but I'm not sure that's true to Anne. Her faith was genuine, though inclined to the reform, in which, I believe, she was to influence Henry towards his usurpation of the supremacy, via her gift of Tyndale's book, the Duty of a Christian Man.
St Thomas More, played by Jeremy Northam, is also very well and sympathetically done, much of the dialogue of his trial and execution lifted directly from the various contemporary histories of More. (And then, all of a sudden, they had him pulled on a hurdle to the scaffold!)

Churchmen, it has to be said, are not well done. The Pope, Wolsey, Campeggio, even Cranmer are all, frankly, miscast, wrongly dressed, and unbelievable. Cranmer, played by Hans Matheson, is too young, too hairy, and far too un-ecclesiastical for the role. He looks like a twenty-something boybander wearing a strange anachronistic purple costume uncomfortably.

In fact, the odd thing is that all the characters are improbably beautiful. Maybe the justification might be that in his age, Henry VIII was flattered for his good looks, so he should be played by somebody thought beautiful in our age. Well maybe. If a woman can play King Lear, then I suppose Rhys Meyers can play bluff King Hal, and Charles Brandon be played by handsome Henry Cavill. That's the two of them in the picture. (And why does his wife, Henry's sister, not know French when she meets the ambassador? She had been Queen of France, for heavens sake, married to Louis XII!)

And there is still some violent sex. Shut your eyes, is my advice.


Christopher Hitchens has written an interesting review of the new film of Brideshead Revisited in the Guardian. He thinks it's pretty poor, but has a lot to say about the book, too, which he seems, a little reluctantly, to admire. You can read the review here.

Monday 22 September 2008

Scouting for Boys

I suppose all of us can identify in our lives the four or five people who have really made a difference to us. Among those in my life was the late John Clifford. His job was an insurance clerk, but his vocation was a scoutmaster, and his passion was life.
In the troop to which I belonged, his influence was incalculable. He could rave, jump up and down with frustration at modern youth, but he was one of the steadiest and best people I have ever known. He did things which these days would be frowned upon; on his own he took thirty or more scouts out every week on foot or on bicycles into the wilds (or as wild as the Surrey hills and heaths got, anyway) using public transport; with only one or two other adults (and sometimes without), he took up to forty boys away camping for a fortnight, the responsibility being shared with 16-18 year-olds who were expected to exhibit a level of maturity unimaginable these days. And we all responded. Given respect and responsibility, we lived up to it, (well, most of the time). John 'Skip' Clifford would speak to us as nobody else did; as being small adults who simply lacked experience. He would (you couldn't imagine this now!) look the other way if we went to the pub (as those of us in the Senior Scouts frequently did from 16 or so years old) while at camp or on the weekly hikes or cycle rides. He taught us to discern good from bad, and not simply to run with the herd. He knew just why a Fuller's cake was so much better than a Mr Kipling cake, and Terry's chocolate so much better than Cadbury's. He would, walking along a high street, teach us to look above the boring shop windows and look at the fascinating building above. He taught us about Routemaster buses, trams, took us on train cruises, taught us knots. We learnt how to cook on open fires—something we always did on the camps, disdaining stoves of any kind. He taught us to respect quality rather than novelty, and to look beyond the obvious. And he loved the Latin Mass. 
I didn't always enjoy being a scout—it was very constraining at times for a teenager, and he would insist on us wearing the old khaki scout uniform when shorts were absolutely the nadir of fashion because, he very reasonably pointed out; the new uniform was very smart, surely, but hopeless to hike in, or cycle in, or do anything really interesting in.
By now you will have gathered that I think that this was such a good influence on my life that I am sorry that boys now do not get this experience much. Scouting still exists in the UK, but even when I was a scout, John Clifford came under very strong pressure to change it to conform to the less robust pattern that was then (and I think still) official policy. He strongly refused, because, according to his own principles, the modern version was not as good as the old, and if a thing ain't broke, don't attempt to fix it. I think that time has shown him to be right. The old principles of self-reliance and activity have disappeared now from our youth, on the whole. There is sport, for the sporty, but very little else to occupy a boy's mind (or a girl's, for that matter) that does not involve a computer or naughty substances. Since scout troops must now admit girls, there is no space really for a boy to be a boy except in football teams, which do little towards the moral and psychological development necessary if a boy is going to turn into a happy man. I don't think that constant mixing with girls is helpful: some is of course a good idea, but I think that separate groups too can be very useful in providing a space for growth without the complication of trying to impress the other sex. If women need their space, then so do men.

I have long been impressed with much French scouting. Going on retreats at monasteries in France, I have found that it is a rare weekend that does not have a troop or two camping in the grounds and attending Mass on Sunday, and even many of the other offices. These scouts are scouts as I remember them; there is strong and active esprit de corps, and the religious element is much stronger than in the English scouting movement. In fact French scouting was founded by two priests, and the faith is written into the law and promises of the movement.

Particularly impressive in my experience is the Scouts of Europe movement, which exist in most European countries outside the UK. I wish there were more hours in the day, and/or that I was twenty years younger, or that I could find other people willing to give it a try, but I would love to try a troop of the Scouts of Europe here in Shoreham. Consider these Scout Laws (rather different from the UK Scout Laws) as principles for a young man's life:

The European Scout Law:
The Scout is on his honour to be trustworthy.
The Scout is loyal to his country, his parents, his leaders and his subordinates.
The Scout must serve and save his neighbour.
The Scout is a friend of everybody and all other Scouts.
The Scout is polite and chivalrous.
The Scout sees God's work in nature. He loves plants and animals.
The Scout obeys without arguing and does nothing by halves.
The Scout is his own master, smiling and singing during hardships.
The Scout is sparing and takes care of what is others.
The Scout must be pure in his thoughts, words and actions.

The European Scout Promise:
On my honour, with the grace of God,
I promise to do my best to serve God, the Church, my Country and Europe,
To help my neighbour in all circumstances,
And to obey the Scout Law.

John Clifford died about five years ago, and at his funeral there were so many of his surrogate sons, many in tears. May he rest in peace.