Sunday 24 August 2008


I'm away for a few days on retreat.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Dogs and eugenics.

I've just been watching a BBC1 exposé about canine breeding. They waxed all dramatic about the culling of Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies born without ridges—how appalling that otherwise healthy puppies should be culled simply because they are not convenient to the breeding programme. The ghost of eugenics was evoked; the horrifying breeding programme for humans of the early 20th century, and Adolf Hitler was again paraded as being a Eugenicist. But of course, not a word about another Eugenicist, that secular saint, Marie Stopes, nor about the culling of perfectly healthy humans because they are not convenient. 

Oh Lord! A prayer.

"If I look at this beautiful cathedral - it is a living proclamation! It speaks to us itself, and on the basis of the cathedral's beauty, we succeed in visibly proclaiming God, Christ and all his mysteries: here they have acquired a form and look at us. All the great works of art, cathedrals - the Gothic cathedrals and the splendid Baroque churches - they are all a luminous sign of God and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God. And in Christianity it is precisely a matter of this epiphany: that God became a veiled Epiphany - he appears and is resplendent. We have just heard the organ in its full splendour. I think the great music born in the Church makes the truth of our faith audible and perceivable: from Gregorian chant to the music of the cathedrals, to Palestrina and his epoch, to Bach and hence to Mozart and Bruckner and so forth. In listening to all these works - the Passions of Bach, his Mass in B flat, and the great spiritual compositions of 16th-century polyphony, of the Viennese School, of all music, even that of minor composers - we suddenly understand: it is true!" - Pope Benedict XVI
H/t Catholic News Update Asia

O Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches — I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

O Lord, won't you build me a big baroque church?
My friends all have gothics — I'm left in the lurch!
Worked hard in this wigwam, no help despite research,
So Lord, won't you build me a big baroque church?

That's it!

With apologies to Janis Joplin.

Monday 18 August 2008

Feast and Fast

A nice piece on fasting and feasting can be found down under, here, on the Australia Incognita blog, which deserves to be known better.

Don't mind me — talk among yourselves.

I hope you've had a chance to read the 'Cardinal's' fascinating comment on the last post. He makes a number of very interesting observations, particularly regarding the fact that the text of the Mass posted on the US Bishops' website is still, very probably, going to undergo further revision. In some cases, I think this is a good thing; it isn't perfect yet, though it is an improvement on the last, erm, leaked, version. I was, for instance, very glad to see disappear:

Let our hearts be lifted high
We hold them before the Lord.

His Eminence mentions that there is a strong possibility that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again will be restored to the post-Consecration acclamations. I do profoundly hope not. I have known quite traditional priests, who say nothing but the first Eucharistic Prayer, also use nothing but this acclamation. It was introduced, I suspect, for ecumenical purposes, because it is used by several other Christian communions at the same position (without, however the same alternatives that we have). And yet we are proposing to abandon the ecumenical principle in our texts now—why retain this one?

I personally think there is a very important reason to abandon this acclamation. It is the only one of the four acclamations currently in use which addresses Christ as if he were not present. The other three are based upon scripture and address our Lord in the second person, for he is now present on the altar. It is indeed the proclamation of the mystery of our faith, and the acknowledgement of the mystery of our faith present among us. The facts of Christ's death, resurrection and second coming are acknowledged in the creed; in the acclamation we directly address the Christ who has died, risen and will come again. Speaking of him as though not present seems to me well, simply, rude.

'Oh, don't mind me; talk among yourselves.'

Saturday 16 August 2008

ICEL and music

There has been a lot of discussion on the New Liturgical Movement site (passim) recently about permissions to write and publish musical settings of the new ICEL texts. ICEL (or perhaps the bishops' conferences that really pull the strings in the background) seem to be very chary about granting permissions. Why might this be? They allege the importance of keeping the texts pure. Well, yes, sure, but certainly people are going to write more paraphrased texts and publish those for use. We've seen plenty of these over the past years, and I can't believe seriously that we are not going to see more, permitted or not.
But perhaps there is something else going on. At a musical day in this diocese conducted by Stephen Dean a year or so ago, a setting of the Gloria in the new translation was produced for the assembled musicians to try through. The copies were all collected and counted back afterwards. This implies, does it not, that the approved liturgists and musicians (presumably Stephen Dean, Paul Inwood, Bernadette Farrell et al) have already had the new texts for some time. One may speculate that this is so that they may present the Church with its new repertoire some time soon, and hit the ground running, while other, non-approved, musicians must wait for approval, pay their royalties, and, basically miss the boat.
Am I being too cynical?

Update: Do read the comments to this; there is a particularly interesting one by 'The Cardinal'.

Friday 15 August 2008


I'm having a lot of trouble with my email right now, so if you are trying to get through to me, I'm sorry. I'm also finding it difficult to email out.

Thursday 14 August 2008

A day with a difference

I have always said that there are worse places to live than Shoreham; today I tried something new, and with the parish Deacon flew from Shoreham Airport to Le Touquet for lunch. The flight cost only a little more than a taxi to Gatwick Airport, took 40 minutes, and on returning, we were in the car (which we were able to park at the airport right outside the terminal for £2 per day) about three minutes after landing. Less than an hour before writing this, I was in France. Not bad, eh? The landing was rather spectacular, too, coming right down the Adur Valley.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Out Loud (2)

I got distracted in the course of the last post onto what actually proved quite a useful topic. But I'd like to return to what I wanted to write about, and what seems to be under discussion right now. It concerns silence in the Mass.

What is clear is that the Catholic world is divided into three parts on this issue: (a) those who like a lot of silence at Mass (b) those who don't and (c) those who don't care much one way or the other. So much is obvious, and it also crosses the OF/EF divide. For instance, in the OF context there is actually quite a lot said about silence. Thus, from the (current) General Instruction on the Roman Missal:

32. The nature of the “presidential” texts demands that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen with attention.[44] Thus, while the priest is speaking these texts, there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent.

45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times.[54] Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.

51. Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession.

54. Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally.

56. The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily.[60]

[66] After the homily a brief period of silence is appropriately observed.

[71 Bidding Prayers] The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful.[68]

The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence.

[78 Canon] The Eucharistic Prayer demands that all listen to it with reverence and in silence.

84. The priest prepares himself by a prayer, said quietly, that he may fruitfully receive Christ’s Body and Blood. The faithful do the same, praying silently.

[147 Canon again] The people, for their part, should associate themselves with the priest in faith and in silence.

164. [Postcommunion] Afterwards, the priest may return to the chair. A sacred silence may now be observed for some period of time, or a Psalm or another canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung (cf. no. 88).

271. After the purification of the chalice, the priest should observe some moments of silence, after which he says the prayer after Communion.

Now what is clear is that silence in the OF is being used in a completely different way than it is in the EF. In the OF, with the exception of the offertory, the action of the Mass is interrupted to permit people to be silent together. Everything stops to let people pray in their own way, if I can put it like that.
This has one or two problems: 
• What does one do during these periods of silence? Make up prayers? Try and be contemplative for a moment? Think about things?
• And for how long? Any time I've started praying during these periods, I've only just got going when the priest calls us back to the sacred action again. A long and sufficient period for one person is not enough, or too much for another. Those of you who have stayed in a monastery where the Pater Noster is said silently except for the last couplet will know how hard it is to time two people's silent prayers together.
• Some people actively do not want to keep silence before and after Mass. This has been an issue in several parishes where I have served. Choirs, sacristans, servers, welcomers, all bustle before Mass, and this naturally raises the volume and encourages children to run around, deaf people to chat loudly &c &c. Appeals do not work, in my experience, except for a week or two.

Then, there is the issue of the offertory prayers:
• When I was first ordained and serving my first curacy in Crawley, one day, within a fortnight of my arrival, I had just celebrated Mass according to my intended custom, saying the offertory prayers quietly, when a woman stormed into the sacristy and shook her finger at me accusing me of being personally responsible for the lapsation of all the young people. 'You're driving them out!' she stormed. This was quite a shock for a young and uncertain priest, and though I never believed her, I never have had the confidence since to start saying them quietly again, except when there is music. The same lady subsequently became quite a supporter of mine, once she saw that basically we were on the same side.
• Fr Hunwicke deals sensibly with the actual OF rubrics argument here.
• Some people genuinely want to hear the offertory prayers. I have often experienced offertory hymns cut short so that the priest can say the prayers out loud. And if there is incense, then there is an uncomfortable silence when precisely music is desirable.

Now to the Extraordinary Form.
The silence is something different at an EF Mass. There isn't a sense of all being quiet together for a set measure of time, priest and people, but rather the priest getting on with something and the people doing something related, but different. This has led to accusations that the EF actively excludes the people. Is this fair?
Maybe one might take the imperfect analogy of a football match. Are the crowd actually involved in what is going on? Absolutely they are! In a real sense they are what the match is all about. The players don't just do it to amuse themselves, though they might enjoy a kick-about from time to time. The crowd are absolutely of the essence, though their participation is of a different kind to that of the players. The crowd never touch the ball, but are absolutely engrossed in the skilful play of the two teams. And, from a practical point of view, the two teams appear to entirely ignore the crowd and, again, from the perspective of the game and the league tables, it would not make a great deal of difference if the crowd were there or not. And still the game is all about the crowd.

At the extraordinary form, does the use of substantial slabs of silence actually exclude the congregation from participation?
I think that the answer has to be both yes and no. As at the football match, the crowd have to be kept on the terraces behind the barriers precisely to let the game proceed properly, there have to be barriers of one sort or another because of the nature of what happens at Mass. Some of the barriers are to do with dress, others to do with the layout of the church. These apply to football games, too [vestments/football strip (shirts, shorts, boots &c) & sanctuary/nave (pitch/terraces)]. In the context of the EF, you might add to this the use of a liturgical language, orientation and, yes, silence. When the priest is busy on something important, like when a footballer is taking a penalty, he needs silence to underline the importance of the action and also to aid concentration.

Sometimes the accusation is made that silence actually robs an activity of its meaning. 'I couldn't hear what was going on, so, as far as I was concerned, it was meaningless'. I remember a woman attending an EF Mass many years ago; the first she had been to in 25 years. She wanted to be polite, so she said afterwards, when asked how she found it 'Well, I'm sure it was very nice for the priest'. This rather underlines the cerebrelization (sorry!) of the Mass that has taken place. Is there really no way that communication can occur other than through speech? I should be very disappointed if that were true.

I think that, maybe, there is something here that deals with the differences between the sexes. It is a frequent complaint of women about their menfolk that 'he never speaks to me'. It's true. Men often don't speak much, especially about important things, and about feelings, and they often find that when something difficult is concerned, silence is preferable. This can drive some women mad, and, according to that extraordinarily insightful programme on marriage done a couple of years ago by Bob Geldof, the most frequently cited reason for a woman to seek a divorce. Women talk about their feeling much more readily than men do. Men do not frequently discuss the nature of their friendships with each other; at the pub, they will talk about cars, football, girls, whatever, but rarely about something really important. It doesn't imply even for a moment that men don't think that things are important, simply that some things pass beyond words, and it doesn't feel right to let it all hang out, as it were. Mens' friendships are often very enduring and can be very close, but the important stuff all passes unspoken of; there is even a feeling that it can spoil the relationship if it is ever mentioned. Cars are a safer topic. And men can also be intimidated by women's driving need to know everything, to have it all out in the open. It simply isn't the way men work. This is often expressed as men's inarticulacy, as opposed to women's ability to express clearly.

Almost all the objections to silence at Mass while there is action going on (whether at the EF or the OF) come from women. Somehow, men seem to 'get it' more readily. It is well within the male comfort space, but not for all women.

Consider two lovers. Generally it is the woman who needs to be told often that she is loved. She finds it reassuring and edifying of the relationship. If, however, she is attentive, she will learn to 'read' the man and even if he never realizes just how important this communication is for her, she will come to understand and appreciate him from a thousand other little things. A man is often baffled by why a woman wants to be told that she is loved. 'Why on earth would I have married her, then, if I didn't?' But when she gets it, she really gets it. This, too, has been my experience with women and the EF. Once they get the point of the silence, the articulate inarticulacy, they generally take to it more than men do. It's just a bit harder getting there.

Is this, perhaps, what Cardinal Heenan meant when he commented that the New Mass would not appeal to men as much as it would to women?

Out Loud at the EF?

There are several possible approaches to this. I remember a priest at the Oratory who thought that the whole Mass should be as quiet as possible. When the Mass was moved from the Little Oratory to the High Altar, and the direction issued that the microphone was to be turned on for the prayers at the foot of the altar, he felt so strongly about this that he would no longer celebrate a public Mass in the EF. In a church as large as the London Oratory, the wsss wsss wsss dialogue between priest and server was inaudible even at the altar rails, let alone down the church.

And then I remember a priest at a London church, now dead, who said everything either right aloud or in a stage whisper that was almost louder.

Is there a mid-point? Virtus, after all, stat in media. That's a pun. You'll get it in a minute.

In my own church, I keep the neck microphone (media, geddit?) turned on throughout Mass, and then proceed with the Mass either aloud or in the lower voice as directed by the rubrics. This means that the quiet bits are on the edge of audibility, so can be heard by those who really want to follow carefully, or can be tuned out by those who don't. Some don't approve of this, but I cite as my authority none less than Blessed John XXIII who, at his coronation did just this; the microphone was on the altar, but it was kept switched on throughout the canon, and you can clearly hear it if you try. This, presumably, must have been also the practice of Pope Pius XII.

I am far from thinking that this is all to be said on this issue. I may have more, and I may want to retract some of what I have written. I'd be interested in your views.

Monday 11 August 2008

Out loud

There has been quite a lot of debate on the blogosphere (here for instance), and elsewhere, since the publication of Summorum Pontificum, concerning what ought to be spoken in the vernacular, and what out loud. No doubt there are many who must feel this whole topic is very strange; didn't we deal with this forty years ago? Why are we asking exactly the same questions all over again? Well, perhaps because 40 years ago people like you and me didn't have forums (other than our parish churches or the letter pages of the Catholic press) where we could discuss these matters. In the 1960s, all matters concerning the liturgy were simply dealt with at a higher level, and we were presented with the results and told to get on with it. In effect, we were told, on not taking to the revised forms of the Mass 'eat it up; it's good for you!' like a child with its greens.

Well, now the debate has opened up again, and things have changed. Now, we do have a voice, and despite the fact that my even writing on this topic will annoy many who are reading this, this is really the debate that should have been had in the 1960s.

On the topic of liturgical revision there is, of course, a whole spectrum of opinion that occupies what one might call the middle ground—I am excluding on the one hand liturgical anarchists and on the other immobilists who think that the Lord began the Last Supper with the sign of the cross and Introibo ad altare Dei and therefore that nothing can ever, ever, ever be different. Then, within the defined spectrum, broad coalitions of people can be identified who share some idea or other.

1. The Society of Paul VI brigade. Those who genuinely love the 1975 missal (while regarding it as a flexible resource rather than something unchangeable), a protracted sign of peace, communion under every possible kind, lots and lots of physical involvement (ministers, readers, cantors, meeters, greeters, beaters and heaters), probably guitars and New-Seekers style music. Some zealous priests have achieved genuine good results with this unpromising material, and it would be foolish, not to say ungracious, not to acknowledge this. Here I estimate are about 10% of our Catholic population in Britain, mostly clergy, religious, and 'involved' lay people.

2. The Leave-it-alone-and-don't-pick-at-it brigade. They wouldn't put it this way, but they see value in simple sameness. The liturgy has a rhythm, and being broken out of this rhythm they find distressing, whatever their usual liturgical diet is. The content, in the final analysis, matters little, providing it is simply left alone. Some of these people might be extraordinary ministers or readers: the vast majority simply attend Mass most Sundays. These people are capable of getting all misty-eyed at Soul of my Saviour or Lord you have come to the water, and would miss them if they didn't happen from time to time. These are the group most hurt in the 1960s and 70s; these are the ones who suffered the greatest lapsations, and these are the ones who will be most hurt right now (and who might well vote with their feet)  if we don't get it right. This group are particularly despised by group 1, who tend to see novelty as creativity and passivity as morbidity. Group 2 account for some 60-75% of our congregations, and being nearly all lay.

3. The Offerte-vobis-pacem brigade. Those who like the Novus Ordo in Latin, with English readings, bidding prayers, sign of peace, facing the people, communion in the hand &c. These are not a large group (maybe 5% tops) but they are influential, and have a sort of lawyer or ex-army mentality of 'well, it's right, which is to say, legal, and we should do what's right'. These people in the past have got very exasperated with Old Riters, even more than with, say Group 1, saying in a weary voice 'I just can't understand why you can't see that the New Mass can be celebrated beautifully in Latin, and why you have to go after this old stuff that nobody wants', blithely ignoring the fact that far more people want it than want what they want. If I'm making sense. This group tends to have a sense of permanent grievance that their cause is so self-evidently right and that so few people agree with them. Now the Traditional Mass is pukka once more, many of this group are withdrawing their opposition to it, but would far rather it would be celebrated with vernacular readings, bidding prayers, sign of peace, facing the people, communion in the hand &c.

4. The Trad-lite brigade. These people are glad that Summorum Pontificum has been signed, because they felt that an injustice had been done 40 years ago and that the motu proprio will restore some balance to things. They are rather hoping that their own parish priest will introduce a regular EF celebration soon, though they don't hold out much hope, and won't always go to it if he does. In the meantime, they will continue to attend their own parish church and join in things as they have always done; they wouldn't dream of going to another church for an EF Mass. When they do attend an EF Mass, they try to follow every word attentively in their missals or on sheets (because they think that's what you're supposed to do), and get distressed or annoyed if they lose their place, spending several minutes trying to find it again and missing out on what is going on. Some can find this off-putting and find that they actually liked the New Mass better than they thought they did. These people tend to be the more devout members of a parish, and return to the TLM like moths to a candle until they get accustomed to it. I estimate about 10-15% of the Catholic population.

5. The Rad Trads. Before Summorum Pontificum, these attended the most traditional form of the New Mass that they could find, wherever they could find it, being members of the Latin Mass Society and scanning the quarterly bulletin for traditional Masses in their locality. But as soon as a regular EF Mass appears within a reasonable distance, they pack mantillas and missals and hare off. They rarely cause trouble in parishes, simply refusing to engage with local clergy. If their own parish priest is a b.....d, he might make trouble for these people, refusing them communion if they kneel, objecting to mantillas. This merely reinforces the Rad Trads' sense of grievance and leads to the accusation of 'horrible traditionalists'. This group account for about 2-3% of the Catholic population.

Now, applying the Thatcher principle that, whatever you do you won't change the extremes on either side, it is clear that the battle is on for the middle ground, which is to say groups 2, 3 & 4. Group 1 is aggrieved because it has been in the driving seat now for thirty years or so, and hates the fact of the new challenge, characterizing all who approve, even slightly, of Summorum Pontificum as belonging to group 5. The reverse has not been true of group 5ers. The characterization of all who attend the New Mass as Group 1 types is really the province of extremists who don't fit in here because they have done their own thing for years, having felt excluded from the 'mainstream' Church. 
Group 1 feel that they really ought to be in charge, though they are now tired and have little new or energetic to contribute. They are not nearly as numerous as their impact (reinforced by official approval from the Bishops' Conference) is strong; like nuts in a box, you only need a small handful to make a loud noise. Likewise, those on the traditional end of things are comparatively few, but Summ Pont, has encouraged them to also make a loud noise, and Rome would appear to be on their side. And the crucial difference is that those on the traditional end of things have passion and the fuel of frustration at the forty years of exclusion from the debate; they are not afraid any more of giving voice (via the blogosphere and other means) to what they think.

The jury is still out on where all this will go. No doubt many of you reading will have strong opinions on what I have written, but I shall post it as it is without revision just now, as I have to go and celebrate Mass. Novus Ordo in English, that is.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Religious Kitsch

With all the pilgrims going to Lourdes, I'm sure I am about to be presented with some really horrible stuff which I shall have to display as long as I am in this parish for fear of hurting the donor. Why is it that a lot of very pious people have the most awful taste? After all, three-quarters of Lourdes residents would go out of business if suddenly people saw their stuff  for what it is. And while we're on the subject……

Stuck for that ideal birthday present? What about:


or even:

Which you can buy here.

Or, for the man who has everything, how about a Mary Memory stick for his computer. A steal at £30 for 1 whole GB.

Found courtesy of Libby Purves on Times Online.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

A little more enrichment?

Another way, perhaps, the EF could benefit from the OF concerns the Office. Now, actually, I think that the modern breviary is one of the reforms I like least. But its hymns are, on the whole, very much an improvement on the EF breviary. The hymn for Vespers today, the Feast of the Transfiguration, is a good example.

Extraordinary Form:

Quicumque Christum quaeritis,
Oculos in altum tollite:
Illic licebit visere
Signum perennis gloriae.

Illustre quiddam cernimus,
Quod nesciat finem pati,
Sublime, celsum, interminum,
Antiquius coelo et chao.

Hic ille Rex est Gentium,
Populique Rex judaici,
Promissus Abrahae patri,
Ejusque in aevum semini.

Hunc et prophetis testibus,
Iisdemque signatoribus
Testator et Pater jubet
Audire nos et credere.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui te revelas parvulis,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Pretty good, but now read the Ordinary Form:

O nata lux de lúmine,
Iesu, redémptor sæculi,
dignáre clemens súpplicum
laudes precésque súmere.

Præ sole vultu flámmeus,
ut nix amíctu cándidus,
in monte dignis téstibus
apparuísti cónditor.

Vates alúmnis ábditos
novis vetústos cónferens,
utrísque te divínitus
Deum dedísti crédere.

Te vox patérna cælitus
suum vocávit Fílium,
quem nos fidéli péctore
regem fatémur cælitum.

Qui carne quondam cóntegi
dignátus es pro pérditis,
nos membra confer éffici
tui beáti córporis.

Laudes tibi nos pángimus,
diléctus es qui Fílius,
quem Patris atque Spíritus
splendor revélat ínclitus. Amen.

O nata lux, I will acknowledge, has particular resonances for me. Tallis set part of the text particularly gloriously, and this was sung at my ordination. 

Here are two forms of the same hymn (for Lauds in Eastertide). If I'm not wrong, the OF has restored the original mediæval words, whereas the EF retains the text 'improved' (=classicized) under Pope Clement (?) the something. [Urban VIII, commentators tell me; thanks.]

Aurora cælum purpurat,
Æther resultat laudibus,
Mundus triumphans iubilat,
Horrens avernus infremit.

Rex ille dum fortissimus
De mortis inferno specu
Patrum senatum liberum
Educit ad vitæ iubar. &c

Aurora lucis rutilat,
Cælum resultat laudibus,
Mundus exsultans iubilat,
Gemens infernus ululat

Cum rex ille fortissimus
mortis confractis viribus
pede conculcans tartata
solvit catena miseros. &c.

I find the OF version much edgier, more thrilling. But then again, perhaps I'm recalling the fabulous setting of it by Lassus, and the Magnificat to match. On the other hand, I have to confess that I can't quite get accustomed to the OF's Easter Vespers hymn:

Ad cenam Agni providi,
stolis salutis candidi,
post transitum maris Rubri
Christo canamus principi.

(though actually I think it's better) when I'm so used to the EF:

Ad regias Agni dapes
Stolis amicti candidis
Post transitum Maris Rubri
Christo canamus Principi.

Tuesday 5 August 2008


And, once again, Valle Adurni is happy to provide the new translation of the Mass, or at least a link to it; this time the final version.

Our Sydney Correspondent on Jet Lag, WYD, and Miraculous Snow

I thought I'd give you Andrew's letter in full, as it touches on lots of items in other posts.


Bentornato - there doesn't seem to be a concise English equivalent to the Italian phrase!

I too am familiar with jet lag, flying over 200,000 kms every year. Most of these trips in my current role are to East Asia where there is only a 2-3 hour time difference from Australia, but 4-5 times a year I go to the East Coast of the US, where it is virtually opposite with a 14-16 hour time difference. Strangely, this does not seem to affect me nearly as badly as trips to Europe (8-10 hour time difference). That could be just the sheer length of the flight - you are exhausted when you arrive, and sleep like the dead on arrival. And it is a known fact that travelling westwards produces less of a jet lag effect than travelling eastwards, so it's always worse getting back to Australia. In 2004-5, I had a major client in Milan, and ended up making 11 return trips from Sydney to Milan in a year, so was permanently jet lagged like your cousin. I felt out of sorts for quite a while after the assignment ended, I can tell you. I also swear by melatonin - it doesn't prevent me waking in the night, but enables me to get back to sleep easily.

I am also of the view (not scientifically proven) that there are several other factors involved in long haul travel which combine to make you feel a bit ordinary on arrival: the extremely dry atmosphere on the plane (compensate by large intake of water); the roaring noise (compensate by wearing noise cancelling headphones - Bose are expensive but excellent - and soothing classical music on your iPod); the effect in the body at travelling at such high speed for long periods (no known remedy). And if you do end up wide awake in the wee hours, the best thing is to fight back by having something to eat (I thoroughly recommend a cheeseburger and beer if in the US), and I can usually get back to sleep. Doesn't do much for the waistline though..... The very worst thing about jet lag is the 3PM wall, where you just feel like crashing. A cup of tea usually helps.

I feel I owe you a final review of WYD. The general consensus is that "hard-bitten" Sydney was on the whole delighted to find itself host to hundreds of thousands of happy and enthusiastic young people, all thoroughly enjoying themselves WITHOUT being on drugs or alcohol. Public transport rose to the occasion and the normally traffic choked streets of the CBD were reclaimed by smiling youths. And despite the presence of quite a number of demonstrators (mainly against the Church's stand on homosexuality and birth control), the pilgrims waved back in good natured and friendly greeting. There was only one arrest reported, of a young Australian pilgrim who took issue with a demonstrator. Pope Benedict gave a stellar (and energetic) performance and came impressed all as a very principled and kindly man. The papal mass at Randwick racecourse was a great success attended by over 400,000 people, and covered live on television.

The Pope's forthright and unequivocal apology to victims of clerical abuse was very well received, although there were complaints that not all victims got to meet him personally or to attend the special mass held for this. It was also commented on in the press that what the Catholic Church now needs to do is to deal with such cases humanely rather than throwing armies of lawyers at any claims (which certainly seems to have been the case).

We also had the pleasure of seeing our eldest son on television in the large choir (consisting in large part of pupils from Sydney's Catholic schools) behind the Holy Father as he celebrated mass. Our son reports that this honour was - almost - worth missing most of the WYD events in endless choir practice! And finally, the whole event was blessed with superb Sydney winter weather - mainly blue skies and strong sunshine with warm daytime temperatures. Even overnight temperatures of 7 degrees C did not dampen the enthusiasm of the pilgrims who slept in the open the night before the Papal mass.

Talking of weather, the attached pictures show a sight you don't see very often in Sydney, apparently a snowfall (last recorded in 1836). Yesterday afternoon around 4 PM, the sky turned (literally) black, the temperature plummeted and within 20 minutes the streets were covered with what looked like snow (which remained on the ground overnight) in several northern suburbs of Sydney, including where I live. Unfortunately the killjoys at the weather bureau advise that it was not in fact snow, but rather "soft hail" - apparently the difference is that it did not fall as snowflakes. Try telling that to the neighbourhood kids, who leapt into action building snowmen, throwing snowballs and trying to use surfboards as makeshift sledges.

All very exciting and dramatic especially in a city that rarely even sees frost.



Our Lady of the Snows

Here's one small way in which the EF can have a positive effect on the OF. Today's feast is a good example of how interesting corners of our tradition have been ironed out to make (changing metaphors) a featureless grey.
The Dedication of Our Lady of the Snows has simply become the Dedication of the Basilica of Our Lady. Here's the 3rd reading from Matins in the EF:

When Liberius was Supreme Pontiff, a Roman Patrician called John and his wife, also of noble birth, who had no children to inherit their goods, vowed to bequeath everything to the most holy Mother of God. The blessed Virgin hearing their prayers and vow, approved them by a miracle. On the Nones (fifth) of August, when the heat in Rome is at its highest, there was during the night a fall of snow on a certain part of the Esquiline hill. And on the same night, the Mother of God spoke separately to John and his wife in a dream that they should build a church on the same spot. John told this to Pope Liberius, who confirmed that he had received the same dream. So they went to the snow-covered hill and there laid out a site for the new church, which John and his wife erected at their own cost, and which was later restored by Sixtus III. It has been called by various names, but so that its title may signify its excellence, it is best known as the Basilica of St Mary Major.

Well, I find nothing to strain credulity in this story; meteorological freaks have occurred often in improbable places. Andrew, my Sydney correspondent, tells me they had a freak snowfall there (soon to be posted) recently; the first in a couple of hundred years. I sadly saw this morning that even our new Martyrology makes no reference to the legend.
It does, however, mention that today is also the feast of Saint Oswald, converted King of Northumbria, who died in battle against the pagan Mercians at Oswestry. More here.

Monday 4 August 2008

Faith Down South

Fr Luke, a priest from the Southern States at the Merton College conference told me that in Louisiana there has been a great resurgence of practice of the faith since the natural disasters which took place a couple of years ago. I suppose I should not be surprised, but I am certainly touched to hear it.

Mutual Enrichment

At dinner at Merton College, Oxford, during the conference organized by the Latin Mass Society last week, the guest of honour, Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, gave a very well received speech in which, among other things, he spoke of the mutual enriching of ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite envisaged by the Holy Father in his letter Summorum Pontificum. He made a humorous aside, remarking that perhaps it might be wondered how the extraordinary form was actually going to benefit from the ordinary. The words were received well.

The blogosphere has picked this up, and here and there you can find references on one side or another. But I have to say that I can see ways in which the ordinary form might enrich the extraordinary. Here are a few (and I expect that some of you may want to express other views in the comments box).

1) A greater awareness of the ex opere operantis dimension of the sacramental celebrations is, I think, the most important thing. How often have we heard it said that the Mass used to be celebrated perfunctorily? In fact, it is one of the charges most commonly levelled against the EF, with the presumption that those of us who celebrate it these days are still doing the same thing, such as gabbling a Low Mass in 12 minutes. Actually, I cannot remember ever having seen a perfunctory celebration of the EF in all my life—though I cannot exclude, a priori, the possibility that such celebrations do go on. But perhaps a greater awareness that the people of God are both present and matter to the celebration of the Sacrifice is not an unwelcome thing to bear in mind as we celebrate.

2) Clearly the addition of the more recently canonized saints cannot be but a good thing. Fitting them into the traditional calendar may not always be easy, but with a little good will and flexibility, this ought to be possible.

3) The new prefaces. Well, I'm not totally in favour of uncritically augmenting the prefaces, but there are many very good new ones, and I wouldn't mind using them with the EF. And actually, if you were to look at the pre-Tridentine Roman Missal, there were many more prefaces than are now to be found even in the current OF. I seem to remember that many, if not most, saints had one of his or her own in a Roman Missal of 1470 that I looked at.

4) The new collects. In some cases the collects have been somewhat robbed of their depth (and, as a commentator has reminded me, in some cases theologically mangled). But in others, they have been considerably improved (I'm speaking usually of the Latin here, not the 1970s ICEL). If you compare the collects in the Sanctoral cycle, for instance, you will find that in many cases in the EF, the collects are taken from the Common, with the name of the saint simply inserted. In the OF, proper collects have been written which actually reflect something about the saint's life or teaching. This I can see as an improvement.

5) The use of the vernacular in some of the celebrations of the Ritual. The sacraments of Anointing or Baptism for instance, it seems to me, can benefit from some use of the language of the hearers, which enables the celebrations not only to have effect but also to teach and comfort, since often booklets for the participants are not available, and at emotional moments, managing service books with parallel texts is not really convenient.

6) A more relaxed approach to rubrics. Now, before you jump down my throat, you should know that I am very keen on correct rubrics, as any of those who were under my tuition at Merton will confirm. It is just worth remembering that rubrics are God's table manners, and not the dinner itself. I remember a priest at school telling me that a candle had blown out while he was saying Mass. He mentioned that if he had continued saying Mass with one candle, he would have committed a venial sin, and with no candles, a mortal sin. I can't be doing with that attitude (and, to be fair, no more could the priest who was telling me this). Another blogger grumbled that at Merton some priests were wearing their birettas incorrectly, and that the celebrant at one Mass had pronounced the ekphonesis nobis quoque peccatoribus with a short instead of a long 'o' in quoque, and spoken it too loudly, too. For him this seems to have been the abiding memory he carried away from the Mass. A shame, to remember this in a Mass that was otherwise celebrated very beautifully. But then, that particular blogger has other things on his mind right now.

And, of course, I agree with Bishop McMahon that the the EF has a very great deal indeed to teach the OF. The coming years will show just how that will play out.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Whither the Anglicans?

I take no joy in the current efforts of the Church of England to tear itself to pieces. Some of the comments I have read on the internet smack uncomfortably of schadenfreude which is both unchristian and unpleasant. Many parties among the Anglicans, equally convinced of the justice of their cause, have behaved with what appears to be sometimes horrifying vindictiveness towards their co-religionists: this is, perhaps, not surprising since the matters are scarcely light ones.
In the middle sits the Archbishop of Canterbury, trying vainly by one means or another to prevent the house of cards collapsing. Further divisions among Christian communions are not likely to please our Lord, nor yet speed the reconciliation of many with our Lord's Church.
I read in the Tablet a couple of weeks ago that Rowan Williams likes going on retreat to a monastery in Northern Italy, and that his closest advisor at the Lambeth Conference is Timothy Radcliffe, the eminent Dominican. I don't know what his co-religionists make of this, but I find in it only further demonstration of the sheer distance of much of Anglicanism from Catholicism. It is as if the Archbishop wants to make use of this or that from Catholicism to season his own particular stew of beliefs, or perhaps that of the Anglican Church. It is no sign that he thinks Catholicism has the truth, simply some useful ideas. Again and again, we see the Cartesian self at the centre; I am the centre of truth, I decide what is true. It is, perhaps, easy to caricature the opposite view as fundamentalism, and it is true that many extremists take this view of revelation as something to which we submit (='Islam') as being axiomatic. But accepting that truth exists outside oneself, independent of oneself, yet can be known by revelation, does not necessarily imply either the surrender of one's intelligence nor a submission to an arbitrary authority. It simply starts from somewhere other than cogito, ergo sum.
Some Anglicans see this very clearly. I have been charmed by Fr Hunwicke's blog, as I think you know. But his distress in recent weeks bleeds from the last few posts. There can be no doubt that incalculable pain has been caused to good men and women who have done their best in strange circumstances to serve our Lord, and I will not take pleasure in their sorrow. Fr Hunwicke and his brethren face the end of what was, in my view, a lovely illusion, though honestly believed, and now have to face hard decisions. If they try and stay, fortifying their parishes against the cold liberal tide, I think that they must be, at least to some extent, in bad faith—effectively co-operating in what they believe to be sin. If they go, then where are they to go? Oh, it seems obvious to me, of course, but they have spent the last several decades arguing just why they are not (Roman) Catholics. You can't shrug that off overnight; they, after all, have not changed; it is the Cof E around them that has done that. Just because the CofE is no longer believable doesn't mean that Rome presents any more of a delightful prospect. And I have long felt that the principal doctrine, at bottom, of all non-Catholic churches is 'We are not Roman Catholics'. The rest can be mixed to taste.
So the next place to look may well be the Orthodox. They aren't Roman Catholics; indeed, they are a very good example of having anti-Catholicism as a key doctrine. They don't get too fussed about moral theology (except when they do), they have spirituality in spades (except when they don't), long beards and nice vestments (ditto). But they bicker far worse than Anglicans—in fact until recently, the Anglicans set them a very good example of tolerance—and seem to drink bitterness with their mother's milk. They are hopelessly territorial (when did you ever hear of serious Orthodox  missionary initiatives—there is Alaska, but it is the exception that proves the rule) and often nationalistic which seriously calls into question the mark of Unity in their ecclesiality. Just read this, for instance.
Many Anglicans are looking everywhere for answers. Let us please be patient and tolerant. And pray that our own authorities will come up with something imaginative and generous. There have been many instances in the past where conversions have been initially half-hearted, but have strengthened with the passage of time as the imagined ogres prove to be nothing but phantoms and the blessings, quite literally, out of this world.
Which is to say that perhaps the apparent intolerance of the victors at Synod may prove in the long run to be good for both the CofE and for those who find its recent decisions hard to take. The remaining Anglicans will be more united, albeit in beliefs that I frankly cannot share, and those who can no longer call Canterbury home may find a loving embrace in our common Mother, the Catholic Church, and, ultimately, domum non manufactam in cælis.
And all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.
Forgive my rambling.

Common sense at last — from The Times!

This very long article, from the Times on line, is very well worth reading. Written by an American woman, Kathleen Parker, it briefly presents her thesis from her book Save the Males, in which she laments what damage feminism and the sexual revolution have done to men and to families, and thus to children and even women themselves. You can (and I hope you will) read the whole article here. Here's a snippet from near the end:

As long as men feel marginalised by the women whose favours and approval they seek; as long as they are alienated from their children and treated as criminals by family courts; as long as they are disrespected by a culture that no longer values masculinity tied to honour; and as long as boys are bereft of strong fathers and our young men and women wage sexual war, then we risk cultural suicide.

In the coming years we will need men who are not confused about their responsibilities. We need boys who have acquired the virtues of honour, courage, valour and loyalty. We need women willing to let men be men – and boys be boys. And we need young men and women who will commit and marry and raise children in stable homes.

Unprogressive though it sounds, the world in which we live requires no less.

Saving the males – engaging their nobility and recognising their unique strengths – will ultimately benefit women and children, too. Fewer will live in poverty; fewer boys will fail in schools and wind up in jail; fewer girls will get pregnant or suffer emotional damage from too early sex with uncaring boys. Fewer young men and women will suffer loneliness and loss because they’ve grown up in a climate of sexual hostility that casts the opposite sex as either villain or victim.

Saturday 2 August 2008


The shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wisconsin, is finished! You can find these and more pictures here. H/T to Fr Z.


It won't have escaped the notice of dedicated priestly-blog-watchers (including, it seems, their Lordships) that several priestly blogs have fallen silent (or at least quiet) this week, as the Latin Mass Society invested generously in an opportunity for priests to learn how to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in the splendid surroundings of Merton College in Oxford.
As my readers will know, simple reporting of news is not normally my way—I prefer simply to record things that interest me without reinventing the wheel. You will find ample news about the conference on other blogs, which you can access on the left; I recommend St Mary Magdalen, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, South Ashford Priest, Mulier Fortis, the New Liturgical Movement, and, no doubt, others. But I will be remarking on some things that struck me, in the next few entries.