Saturday 31 December 2011

To elevate or not to elevate

Not that long ago I was upbraided for my unrubrical celebration of the Mass. I was somewhat stung, as I thought that I do take a lot of care do say the black and do the red, as Fr Z would put it. My particular offence was that
1) I elevated the Host and Chalice high after each consecration, and
2) not high enough for the 'Per Ipsum'.
It was pointed out to me that the rubric directs, after the Consecration that the priest
Hostiam consecratam ostendit populo
and, after the chalice:
Calicem ostendit populo.
The priest is to show the Host and Chalice to the people, and no more. This is underlined by the instruction that at the Per Ipsum, the priest is actually to elevate the Host (on the paten) and Chalice:

Accipit patenam cum hostia et calicem, et utrumque elevans, dicit: Per ipsum…
Therefore, I was instructed, I should lift chalice and paten high for the Per Ipsum, and merely present (as it were) the Host and Chalice after the consecration.

I took the point that this was indeed what the text said, but mutinously continued to maintain my practice, only with an uneasy conscience, on the grounds that

a) my practice was sanctioned by tradition,
b) I thought the other looked silly and (I'm afraid)
c) I wanted to.

I thought to mention this on a post that Fr Z put up yesterday, and then went to check some facts. Interestingly, I discovered that the Extraordinary Form also directs that the priest after each Consecration:
ostendit populo [Hostiam & Calicem]
and, at the Per Ipsum,
elevans parum Calicem cum Hostia, dicit 'omnis honor et gloria'.

Now it is very clear from a hundred liturgical commentaries that the 'showing' at the Consecration is a lifting up high, while the elevation at the Per Ipsum is parum, a little.

Here the Sarum use may be of help, being more explicit. The Celebrant is directed to
elevet [hostiam] super frontem ut possit a populo videri
(let him raise the Host over his forehead that it might be seen by the people)
elevet calicem usque ad pectus vel ultra caput.
(let him raise the Chalice to his chest or over his head)

In using the same expressions in the same places, Mgr Bugnini was clearly intending that the rubric be interpreted exactly as it always has been interpreted otherwise he would have made a change (as he did in requiring that the paten be involved in the Per Ipsum). And therefore, I contend, it is those who do not lift the Host high after the Consecrations who are being unrubrical.

There is, by way of interest, another useful connection that can be made. I do not think that this has any ancient witness to it (unless some of you know different), but surely there is an interesting parallel between the elevation and the crucifixion:

John 3:14—
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

John 8:28 —When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he,

John 12:32—And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (ESV)

At least catechetically, then, there is an important connection to make in people's minds here.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Christmas Prefaces

First, the ordinary tone, which to my mind definitely needed some adjustment:

And I thought I'd have a go at setting it to the tonus sollemnior (Ben having reminded me in the last post). It actually seems to work rather better than I thought it might, though the proof of the Christmas pudding will be in the eating.
If these are any use to you, I dare say you could easily print them off. I wrote them on A4 paper, so if you're using American Letter, you might need to scale down a little.
The resolution could be higher, and I could replace these with a clearer version if anyone thinks it a good idea.

Saturday 17 December 2011


On the whole I am pretty happy with the new translation. One thing, though, that I find particularly irritating is that the prefaces have not been set well to music. My spies tell me that the musicians had almost no time to reset the prefaces once Mgr Moroney had stopped tinkering, so did a rush job.
No doubt many celebrants have experienced the same thing. Particularly awkward is the fact that the musicians don't seem to have noticed that prefaces fall into three 'paragraphs' which need separate musical treatment. Some of the settings remind me of priests who can't read music, and have a go at vaguely fitting the tune to the words without preparing it first (we've all encountered those priests).

The preface for Advent I wasn't very good, nor others I've looked at, so I thought that I'd have a go myself. Here's the one for this weekend, Advent II: actually the one in the missal is very nearly okay, and I've agreed with it almost everywhere. But it was good for me to get the practice. And I prefer square notes for this sort of thing.

Friday 16 December 2011

Services of Reconciliation

Yesterday I held two 'reconciliation services' in the parish; one in the morning at our smaller centre, where some twenty (more senior) people came and another in the evening in the main church. I had asked two other priests to help, and they kindly came. The participants? Ten. From a Sunday Mass attendance of between 250 and 350.
I have read so often that the reason people do not come to confession is that the priests are failing in their duty to preach about it, or make opportunities. In this parish, I offer an hour and a half every week (distributed through the three churches) (when I sit alone saying my breviary), and a conveniently timed 'reconciliation service' during Advent and Lent. And I do preach about it. Occasionally very directly.
In the past, I have been told that it is 'forbidden' to hear confessions during Mass. I know that this advice is false.
I should add that the times are calculated to be easy and available, and that the opportunity in the main church coincides with the hour's exposition of the Blessed Sacrament that happens daily.
I know excellent priests who hear confessions before every Mass; these tend to be city-centre parishes, and this would simply not work here.
So, I would be interested to know whether anyone has tried the experiment of having visiting priests hearing confessions during Sunday Mass a couple of times a year.
Or, frankly, I would be grateful for any advice at all.
I am very depressed about this. My parishioners clearly think that they are saints. Some may be, but most, I suspect, are no more saintly than I am. Well, perhaps a little bit more.


I have been receiving emails encouraging me to engage in some sort of competition. The prize, apparently, is to see some arctic monkeys. I do enjoy those David Attenborough programmes, and have seen polar bears (not nearly as cuddly as one might suppose), though never arctic monkeys.

Someone suggested that it might be the name of some pop group. Sounds very unlikely to me, though of course the Beetles are named after insects. What's become of them? I haven't heard them for some time.
But now I have a worry: if I enter this competition, I might stand some remote chance of winning. And if I won, perhaps they would make me go to the performance. I don't think I should like that. Flower power was never my thing.

Monday 12 December 2011


I had an enquiry this morning from one of my ecumenical opposite numbers about the song A Partridge in a Pear Tree. She had heard that this was a sort of catechetical song of the Catholic Underground during penal times. This is an explanation that I have heard, too, but I have to say that I don't find it remotely convincing. The only thing that it might teach is a child to count backwards from ten; what one might want a child to learn is not that there are seven sacraments so much as what those sacraments are—children would learn that there are seven anyway.
Several of these sorts of crypto-Catholic practices were described in Fr Mark Elvins' book Old Catholic England, and I hesitate to say that I think that lots of these connections are simply fantasy, romantic invention, but, having hesitated [……], there, I'm afraid that I do think that they are just that.
I'd be interested to hear if anyone knows any more about it: I'd be very pleased if any sort of real connection were made between these things and the recusant period.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Extraordinary Form Train and a very Ordinary Form church

While outside the church today, waiting to hear our 8-year-olds first Confessions, I was pleased to hear a chuffing in the distance from the railway line that runs past St Peter's. It's 34067 Tangmere, on the way to Bath.

Saturday 3 December 2011

What if?

…and I write as a financial dunce (please don't rub it in)…

 Catholics, Christians, were to put their money into those British Islamic banks that don't do usury? Or even have our own, similar, institutions?

In the end, has the ancient prohibition of usury been shown to have more behind it than might have appeared, say, ten years ago?

Friday 2 December 2011


Irony, do you think?

Monday 28 November 2011

Giving the Jerusalem Bible a Belt

On Mondays I tend to start my week reading over the Gospel for next Sunday, moving on later days to commentaries. Next Sunday we will read the beginning of St Mark's Gospel, and, as usual this morning, I read it first in the Greek, and then used various translations to get the best sense. But I discovered a peculiarity. In 1:6, the strange clothing adopted by St John the Baptist is described:

καὶ ἦν ὁ Ἰωάννης ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσθων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον.

The Vulgate has:
Et erat Joannes vestitus pilis cameli, et zona pellicea circa lumbos ejus, et locustas et mel silvestre edebat.

And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and he ate locusts and wild honey.

The English Standard Version (basically RSV) has:
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt round his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.

All pretty straightforward (the translations, I mean, not St John's clothing). However, when we come to the Jerusalem Bible, we get:

John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. 

Strange. Where's the belt gone? A problem of the Lectionary, I thought; these things aren't unknown. I've even discovered a passage in a Gospel where the vital word 'not' is left out (though I can't remember where). But I went to my JB and checked. No belt. Okay; the plot thickens. What about the New Jerusalem Bible?

John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.

Just the same as old JB, in fact. 

Perhaps there is a variant text in the Greek; this Sunday's Gospel had one; either 'Watch' or 'Watch and pray'. But no, there seems to be no disagreements among the Greek versions; John did indeed have a leather belt.

Finally, I tracked it down in the Jerusalem Bible (original) French version:

Jean était vêtu d'une peau de chameau et mangeait des sauterelles et du miel sauvage.

But a footnote adds:

Var: Jean était vêtu de poils de chameau et se ceignait les reins d'un pagne de peau.

There we are. But nobody else seems to think that not wearing a belt is an option. It's just a JB oddity, and, no doubt, they have found a manuscript to back them up, but not one that anyone else seems to have found.

It raises a point, though: what are we supposed to hear at Mass? The biblical critics' version, or that which the Church asks of us in the Latin original Lectionary?

On another point in this verse, the commentary by Dom Paul Delatte, once Abbot of Solesmes is delightfully French: for him it isn't enough to know that John ate locusts (sauterelles; grasshoppers)—he wants to know what they tasted like!

Les sauterelles de Palestine sont longues et fortes, grosses à peu prés comme des crevettes, et, assaisonnées de certaine manière, elles en ont le goût, paraît-il.
Palestinian grasshoppers are long and strong, roughly as big as prawns, and seasoned in a certain way, it would appear that they taste like them.
I have a delightful image of French gourmets haring off to the Judean desert and demanding salade des sauterelles avec sauce Marie Rose, perhaps followed by Gâteau du Foret Noir. Or perhaps not.

—and (a later thought) it seems that Delatte considered that John the Baptist might well have enjoyed his sauterelles assaisonnées de certaine manière. Perhaps with a glass of light Chablis?

Thursday 24 November 2011

St John Fisher

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that the Archbishop of Westminster has written a book about St John Fisher. It is now available, published by Alive Publishing.

ISBN 976-1-906278-13-7
or go here.

There is a very real danger that, simply because a man is Archbishop of Westminster, a book might (a) be published and (b) be dismissed by serious scholars.

This book is a real contribution both to scholars and to Christians generally who want to know more about Fisher. At the book launch last night in Archbishop's House, the eminent historian Eamon Duffy admitted privately that he had expected to have to 'flannel', because of who the author was, but he acknowledged that this work genuinely breaks new ground and contributes to our understanding of Fisher, not just as martyr, but as theologian and pastor. That is no mean accolade from our foremost English Reformation scholar.

Professor Jack Scarisbrick, who also spoke (and what an extraordinary man he is—the father (maybe with Haigh) of revisionist Reformation history) made the comment that whereas St Charles Borromeo has been considered the patron saint of the clergy, St John Fisher has an equal—if not greater—claim to the title. I have long thought this, and am delighted to hear it reaffirmed by so great an authority.

Professor Scarisbrick also mentioned Archbishop Peter Amigo in his talk, something that, I thought might set the foundations of the home of Cardinal Bourne a-trembling. But that's another story.

Do I recommend the book? Well, I've yet to finish it, but so far, I recommend it very highly. It is high time that St John Fisher was written about as confessor (in the old sense); as a genuinely holy and intelligent man who was saintly in his life as well as his death. It is good, too, to set him in his context and compare him to his contemporaries.

As for the launch, somebody asked me why I was invited. I said I didn't know, but I was pleased to be there. Thinking about it, I think that it was probably a mistake, and that they had meant to invite Fr Tim Finigan.

On other matters, I do apologize for the thin posting; parish work has been very pressing, extraordinarily so, and I've not been feeling at all well. Say a prayer, please. 
No, don't assume it's anything serious; just lurgies, but debilitating ones. Good for my soul, if not my body.

Thursday 27 October 2011

From the Excellent St Thomas More Legal Centre


A Company limited by Guarantee, Co. No. 6381347
Registered Charity No. 1122184


A Catholic Mental Health Worker has been sacked by the NHS for gross misconduct. What was her offence? Treating elderly patients with callous disregard? Physically abusing mental patients? Ignoring patients who cried out for water? No, it was none of these. The charge against her is that she ‘distributed material which individuals may find offensive’.

Her ‘gross misconduct’ in fact arose from an amicable discussion with a colleague, NOT a patient, who worked as a receptionist organising abortion appointments. In  the course of which she handed over the booklet Forsaken in which five women recount their experience of abortion and the mental problems they suffered afterwards.  The colleague did not object to receiving the book and indeed is not being called as a witness by the NHS.  The booklet contained no graphic images, and it was never suggested that it should be given to patients. The NHS objects to it because the booklet presents a ‘religious view’ of abortion, because one of the women talking about how she now views her Abortion regards it as a sin. Is the expression of a religious view now a sacking offence in Britain?

The Mental Health Worker’s  case is being fought at the Central London Employment Tribunal on November 15th. Her legal representation is being provided by the Thomas More Legal Centre. In addition, we are planning to bring a case against the NHS in the County Court under the Human Rights Act for failure to respect the nurse’s right to freedom of expression, and her right to freedom of religion.  Winning such a case would set an important precedent in defending the rights of Catholics to discuss their faith and beliefs with colleagues without fear

The Thomas More Legal Centre has a strong track record of dealing successfully with similar cases of discrimination through quiet representation of clients’ interests to employers who may have misinterpreted the law and failed to respect freedom of religion. The Centre has for example successfully represented a Catholic trainee Doctor who was told he would not be allowed to qualify unless he referred patients for Abortions, and also successfully represented two Catholic Nurses who were moved to an Abortion Clinic against their wishes.   It has done this voluntary legal work supported by very modest funds to cover inescapable expenses of the charity. The Trustees have always felt that they should not make any public appeal for funds for the charity until a case arose which would have to go to court.

That time has now come. We are appealing for help from everyone who believes in the freedom for Catholics to say what they believe and keep their jobs. We need funds to meet the  costs of legal representation and, as there are no certainties however strong the case,  to cover the risk of County Court costs being awarded against our client (which could be up to £25,000). And we need prayer.

The Thomas More Legal Centre is pursuing the case in the confidence that the Catholic community will come together to support this Mental Health Worker . Because this is not just an injustice being done to an individual, it is a threat to the freedom of the whole Catholic community to express its beliefs.

Donations can be made by cheque (made out to Thomas More Legal Centre) to The Treasurer, Thomas More Legal Centre,  Palmyra Chambers,
46 Legh Street,
WA1 1UJ; or by bank transfer to Yorkshire Bank, 34 Princes Street, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1RE; sort code 05-09-33, account no. 43102195 (Thomas More Legal Centre). If you are a UK tax-payer making a gift by cheque, please send a signed statement with your name and address asking for the donation to be treated as Gift Aid.

Thank you for standing up for Catholic freedom.

Richard Kornicki CBE
Chairman of Trustees

Wednesday 26 October 2011

A new book on St John Fisher

I am very happy to learn that a new biography of St John Fisher has been written, and will be published by Alive Publishing in the next few weeks. It has been written by none other than our own Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. I will provide more details when I know them.

Along with my namesake, Fr Tim Finigan, I have long had a devotion to St John Fisher. His role as a martyr is well known, but I have always felt strongly that, had the course of history in these islands gone another way, and St John lived the full course of his natural life, that he would have been canonizable (is that a word?) as a Confessor.

Born a Yorkshireman (at Beverley) in 1469, he grew up in what I think we would call a middle-class family and showed early academic promise which led to his gaining a place at Cambridge University in 1484, where he early attached himself to the new approach to studies and theology now known as the Christian Humanist Movement. He followed what I think we can only call a brilliant academic career, and came to the notice of the extraordinary Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. She has been variously judged by historians, supposedly being responsible with the widow of Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, for bringing the Wars of the Roses to an end by uniting the Lancastrians (in the person of Henry Tudor) to the Yorkists by the marriage of Henry to Elizabeth of York, and also for managing thereby to get her son onto the throne to which he had only the very slimmest of claims. Be that as it may, John Fisher had the highest regard for her and thought of her as little short of a saint.

Elected Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, he managed to persuade his wealthy friend Margaret Beaufort to endow two new colleges, St John's (he himself consecrated the chapel) and Christ's College, to study the new approach to theology and the scriptures; he attracted to Cambridge scholars of Greek and Hebrew, so that the Bible might be studied in its original languages.

It was inevitable that he be drawn into Royal circles, and the royal favour got him the diocese of Rochester, the poorest in the land. In later years he was nominated to Winchester, the richest, but refused it. He was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University, and pursued its interests at court assiduously. On the deaths of Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry VII, Fisher was chosen as the preacher.

The growth of the Lutheran Reformation disturbed him, and, at the instance of King Henry VIII, he preached a famous sermon at St Paul's, when Luther's writings were symbolically burned. He wrote assiduously against the Protestants, and has been suspected as the real author of the Assertio Septem Sacramentum, for which Henry VIII took the credit (and the title Defensor Fidei). He also wrote many spiritual works, such as his commentary on the Psalms.

He became something of a tutor and friend to the new King Henry VIII and his Queen, Catherine of Aragon, sharing with the Queen a real interest in fostering the new Christian Humanism, she promoting the scholar Juan Luis Vives, who served also as her chaplain.

Fisher could have become like so many other talented clerics of his day, a dedicated climber of the social ladder. But in his own life he maintained a strict austerity which kept him focussed on the one thing that matters. It was said that he cut a window in the wall of his study so that he could see the Blessed Sacrament at all times when writing. If there were people in Rochester whom the clergy would not visit because of the stench of their poverty, Fisher himself would go. When his rooms were searched for his valuables after his arrest, the King's commissioners, finding at last a single locked chest in his bedchamber, broke it open to reveal only a hair shirt.

The matter of the Kings's setting aside of Queen Catherine and his attempted marriage of Anne Boleyn is very well known, as is Fisher's part in it.

I remain deeply moved by his final hours; called early in the morning to be told he must die, he thanked his messenger, then rolled over and contentedly went back to sleep. Later, he dressed in his best clothes ('for this is my wedding day'), read the Bible one last time ('this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent', John 17:3) and commented 'here indeed is learning to last me until my life's end'.

St John Fisher is surely the most wonderful patron for the secular priesthood in England and Wales: we already have St Thomas of Canterbury: St John deserves to be better known, in my view. And thank you, Archbishop Vincent, for bringing him to our attention once more. I look forward to reading the book.

Tuesday 25 October 2011


There's no need to post a picture, because there have been so many on the net, but today our new CTS Missals have arrived; a full one and a study edition for St Peter's, Shoreham, and a chapel edition for Christ the King, Steyning (because the altar is very small).

The doorbell rang for a delivery, and I hoped that it would be the missals, but the deliveryman (a young Pole) seemed to be making very light of the (huge) box. So I knew it wasn't them.

But it was: the vast box contained the three books nestling under a pile of air-filled plastic bags; the books themselves are much lighter than I imagined; though the full edition is quite substantial in size fatness-wise, its pages are actually only A4. It is a handsome book, smelling of leather, and with six very nicely-made ribbons in different colours. No Latin section, which surprised me, since our former altar Missal had the Missale Parvum bound in with it. The much-famed plates are very nice, though I was a bit disappointed that the gold leaf original doesn't look very gold in its reproduction.
The edges of the missal are nicely gilded, though, and the book comes with a cloth wrapper to keep it in good condition. There are page tabs for the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, though some overlying each other which makes them a bit difficult to handle. And, more seriously, the tabs are attached to the wrong pages; normally they are affixed to the page before the one you turn to, so that you are turning actually onto the right page. These are affixed on the page itself, so that, turning over, one has to turn a page back to get to the right one. That is a mistake and should be rectified in later editions.
However, this is certainly the most handsome new liturgical book in English I have seen so far in my life. Not that that is saying much, but this is a very nice book and a great improvement on its predecessor.

What is particularly striking is that the Gospel for the Palm Sunday procession (which appears in the Missal, of course) is only in the RSV version. Let us hope that this presages the adoption of some version of the RSV (sensitively updated, perhaps, 'you', rather than 'thou') for the general lectionary down the line.

The chapel edition of the Missal is smaller, not bound with leather, and the pages edged with pink rather than gold. There is no book-cosy, either, and page tabs only for the first pages of the Eucharistic Prayers (and also on the wrong pages). Other than that, the edition is very nice too.

The study edition, bound in plastic, and printed on white, rather than cream, paper, isn't as handsome as the others, but is still very nice. I will use it as a 'book at the chair', and hope that its present propensity to close as soon as I open it and set it down, will ease with use.

The CTS is to be congratulated. Producing books of this quality cannot have been easy in our present set-up. Even the individual boxes the books came in are handsome, and shall be recycled for some other good purpose.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Revolution 2

I think what demarcated the two parties that emerged in the wake of the Second Vatican Council was not at first theology (either dogmatic or moral) but something else. There had been an awakening of what one might call a moral imperative to do something about the state of the world; the Second World War had ended a mere seventeen years previously, and the horrors of war, brought by the media for the first time into every living room in the comfortable ‘first world’, the devastation of the atomic bomb, the death camps, made those with a conscience ponder what the world was becoming.

There was a picture, popular in Irish homes, called The Peace Sowers; it showed Good Pope John and President John F. Kennedy walking together in a ploughed field, casting seed; living in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the imperative for peace seemed all-important. Yet there were still wars, especially (in the States) against what appeared to be a Communist threat—Korea, and then Vietnam later—which seemed to be going nowhere. They were guided by old men, from the pre-nuclear world who, like Senator McCarthy, destroyed their own arguments by over-stating them. The younger generation was impatient with all the old way of doing things; ‘make love, not war’ seemed a sensible proposition, given where war had got us and what war was now capable of doing.

When Pope John opened his windows to the world to ‘blow off the dust that had accumulated on the throne of Peter since the time of Constantine’, his words found a resonance with the young who wanted a similar revolution in the world. He was pushing at an open door. All the old certainties were to be reviewed and, if found wanting, discarded. At St John’s Seminary at Wonersh, Fr Michael Hollings (then the Catholic chaplain at Oxford University) in 1963 gave the students an electrifying retreat in which he urged them  not simply to follow the seminary rules, but to examine their whole way of life, and if something was in their opinion wrong, then to work to get it changed, because simply going along with the old way of doing things was to collaborate in it, to give passive assent to something that was being perpetuated when it shouldn’t.

And this was the watchword. Throughout the 1950s, the Church had been extraordinarily energetic in her missions and her outlook. Vocations were abundant, especially to the missionary congregations, and these young clergy and religious were the people to be particularly energized by the new ideas.

‘What if,’ a young sister might say, ‘instead of attending Terce, Sext and None, I stayed working in the hospital? Wouldn’t that achieve even more good? Isn’t the Office sung in common actually a hindrance to doing God’s work in the world?’ These long sleeves on my habit could harbour infection. And this wimple makes me a danger when I drive on the roads. And anyway, doesn’t it frighten people off?

I really don’t think that these things were excuses for people wanting a more comfortable life. They were—misguided, in my opinion—attempts to live the Christian life more ‘authentically’ (in the existentialist cant of the day) in the service of our neighbour.

The Second Vatican Council—especially towards the end—seemed to be inclining in this same direction. I have commented before that really there were two councils; one in the Aula of St Peter’s, and the other, (more important, as it turned out) in the bars and restaurants all around St Peter’s, where the periti with their new ideas met journalists. Those journalists were not interested in the documents of the Council which mandated the retention of Latin, for instance: ‘dog bites man’ is never news. They were interested in change and revolution within the Catholic Church, and, fuelled by the speculations of the periti, and deprived of sight of the actual documents until they were published, change and innovation is what they reported in their newspapers. It caused a ferment. And that is what greeted the bishops when they returned to their dioceses; a Church on fire with the prospect of exciting and radical change.

What were the bishops to do? Reach for the fire extinguisher and tell everyone that they had got it wrong? Some tried that, but the majority decided to ride the wave and go for popularity.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Extraordinary Form in the Adur Valley

Those who live in Sussex might care to know that there will be an Extraordinary Form Mass each fourth Sunday of the Month at Christ the King church, Steyning, beginning this Sunday, 23rd October, at 9.00am. The regular Wednesday morning Mass at 9.30am in St Peter's, Shoreham, will continue as before each week.

Monday 17 October 2011

Revolution 1

Robert Mickens, that bête noir of so many blogs, has written in the current edition of The Tablet of a new book published recently in Italy Mal di Chiesa, or Church Sickness.
The author is veteran Vatican journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, who covered the Council for the Ansa news agency and then worked two years (1983-85) as assistant editor of L'Osservatore Romano. Svidercoschi says the Catholic Church is ailing right now, not because Vatican II went too far, but because it was a "revolution, left only half done". His 120-page booklet is only one of a number of recent publications by committed Catholics here in Italy who are voicing alarm over the direction Pope Benedict appears to be taking the Church.
The word "revolution" is a telling one. For years the Church has been reassuring us that what happened in the 1960s was a "reform". The word "revolution" has tended to be used by those who resisted the changes, such as the eminent Michael Davis, and has been considered a very controversial term. So it is interesting to read the word being used by someone on the other side.

It really would seem to be only now that we are becoming able to get a bit of distance on the whole Vatican II episode and look at it with something like historical dispassion. Recently I completed a book which had to deal with that period (among others), and I felt that I could not just write another yah-boo account of the period; there have been far too many of these, from Xavier Rynne onwards, with a simplistic division of the parties in the council into 'goodies' and 'baddies', according to one's perspective.

Regular readers of this blog will probably be able to guess my own perspective fairly readily. But I did not want to make yet another Aunt Sally of those who differ from me: that does little to serve the cause of truth, and if my own perspective is to have any value at all it has to rest on truth.

Those of my persuasion are far too liable to caricature the 'liberal' wing in the 1960s as being deliberately malicious destroyers of two thousand years of history, enfants terribles who had managed to seize the wheel and had turned the Barque of Peter onto dangerous rocks, just to see what would happen. The 'liberals' were apt to caricature those of a traditional persuasion as being power-hungry despots with no care for the poor, or the Gospel; deliberate train-wreckers of reform, lacking vision, lacking faith, resisting all change simply on principle.

If we are to understand this period with hope of enlightenment, then we must firmly set aside such caricatures and try to start from the principle that all parties were zealous Christians who truly sought to do God's will.

Thursday 6 October 2011

I, for one,

I, personally, do not wish to see the days of the criminal persecution of practising homosexuals return. I genuinely believe in 'live and let live', and I would rather win others round by persuasion. I hope that they would think the same thing as me, that they would rather persuade me than persecute me.

But I think that by them seeking to embrace marriage, a heterosexual lifestyle, simply with a difference in plumbing, as it were, they are actually doing themselves a disservice. They have all the advantages of unions with the civil partnership thing: it seems to me that by trying to imitate marriage they are admitting that, actually, there is something missing in the quality of their relationship.

Part of the problem is that we have failed to define marriage as what it should be, as necessarily involving openness to the gift of life, meaning children.

Once one has said that marriage is simply for the emotional, sexual, and (sometimes) economic interest of a man and woman, the question naturally arises 'why not for two men, or two women, too?'

Should the Government establish the union of two individuals of the same sex as what it calls 'marriage', I will never vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat again until the policy is reversed. And I, for one, will do my best to encourage others to think and do the same.

The Conservative Party should be very careful of alienating its natural supporters in the hope of attracting a new constituency from other parties. That they would succeed in this is highly improbable: why should proles vote for a load of toffs, after all? 

Our beloved leader simply wants to show that he is right-on. Down with it. And all those other things. Blairus revidvivus, in fact. He said a year ago that the Holy Father had 'made us sit up and listen'. Well, not very much, it would appear.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Save a life!

I rarely re-post material from other blogs, but I have to repost this one, about an Iranian Protestant pastor condemned unjustly to death.

Blondpidge makes a number of suggestions that might perhaps do some good. If Iran is aware that the world is watching, it might (stop laughing!) be a little more circumspect about its actions.

Thank you to Blondpidge for bringing this to our attention.

Biretta tip to Mulier Fortis.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

There are a great number of Koreans who consider that Thomas An Jung-geun, a man who assassinated the Japanese Prime Minister in 1909 and was executed a few months later, might be a candidate for beatification or even canonization. The Church had condemned the murder, but in 1993, Cardinal Kim of Seoul offered a public Mass for An, and now the archdiocese is preparing to initiate the beatification process.

The comparison is being made with Joan of Arc. Well, I am now going to risk alienating all my new-found French friends by saying that I have never really been able to get my head around la Pucelle.

I mean, if An, then why not Anthony Babington?

Or Guy Fawkes?

Or Michael Collins?

Or Eamon de Valera?

There will be those who will redouble their efforts for the beatification of Francisco Franco. Or even Augusto Pinochet! After all (despite a little skulduggery on the side) these two did fight the enemies of the Church as well as those they considered the political enemies of their country.

And what about the other side? Oh, the list could go on and on.

I do hope that there is no suggestion that An be beatified as a martyr!

You can read more about An's potential for beatification here, on the UCA Asian Catholic news site. If you click on the 'opinion' button, make sure you're sitting down with a good glass of something strong.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Il faut que la France survive 7

So why is it all so important to us that France survive?

The penny began to drop for me when I paid my first visit to Fontgombault Abbey in about 1984 or 5. It was late December, and there were some very hardy scouts in their blue uniforms camping in the grounds. Several of them would attend every office in the freezing church, dressed only in their uniforms (shorts!) without even a jacket. A few even came to Matins, long before dawn. What struck me most forcibly was the devout way these teenagers made the sign of the cross; not the hasty dabs made by other nations, but a slow, reverent, deliberate and beautiful gesture.

It seems that France is a country where it is very hard to do anything half-heartedly; its extremes are very important and held to tenaciously. Again, at Fontgombault, I was struck by the fact that in the monastery there were then at least sixty priests. But in the village, quarter of a mile from the monastery gates, there was a parish church which had to share a single priest with umpteen other churches. It would not occur to the monks for one minute to celebrate Mass for the parish, nor would it occur to more than one or two of the parishioners to attend one of the vast array of daily Masses in the Abbey. The secular priesthood is in a bad way in many parts of France, but the monasteries, not just the traditional ones, are thriving.

In other words, in France you can certainly find the worst, and the worst is very bad. But you can also find the best, and the best is really wonderful. And there are always surprises.

Take Paris, for instance. Given the nature of a capital city, and the state of the faith outside, in, say, the diocese of Sens-Auxerre, one might assume that the faith in Paris would be in pretty bad shape. But not at all; in fact, the diocese of Paris would appear to flourish enviably. I hear that the seminaries are doing relatively well. New movements exist here and there and keep the prayer life going. I visited Paris a few weeks ago, and each Mass I attended, including on weekdays, there was a substantial congregation. I never saw rubrics violated; priests were properly vested and said Mass devoutly. I saw extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Notre Dame, ( the congregation was huge and in terms of Canon Law their use might be said to be justified); the ministers were all men, wore suits and ties and behaved very properly and reverently. The only disedifying thing I saw was at Sacre-Coeur; a worshipper had presented him or herself at Communion time and asked the priest for a blessing instead of Communion. Well, the priest indignantly refused and, holding the Blessed Sacrament, roundly told the person off. Then, before giving the blessing, he went off on one (as my secretary would say) and harangued us all saying that if we weren't fit to receive Communion, we shouldn't be in church at all, that we polluted the very air with our foul sinful breath. It was really dreadful, and I felt deeply for the poor individual who had inadvertently sparked off this intemperate diatribe. My ear for French accents isn't that great, but I think the priest might have been Polish.

The highlight of my visit to Paris was unquestionably the feast of the Assumption. I attended Mass at Notre Dame, celebrated by Cardinal Ouellet. The music was Gregorian chant sung by a small (unsatisfactorily amplified) schola, who took the modern Marcel Pérès approach. It was very effective. Everything was done splendidly and, to my great surprise there were two (two!) processions in honour of our Lady on each evening; on the eve of the feast by boat around the islands, and a walking procession on the day itself. There were huge crowds participating—again to my edification and surprise.

There is a serious sense of purpose in the French Church; at one time I used to say that France was in a bad way, but the pilot light is still lit. In many parts of the country that is true, but I think that one can now find many places where the faith is very strong indeed. The Traditionalist corner is powerful and punches well above its weight, but it is not really very big (though bigger than in other countries). There is a lot of other good stuff, too (as in some of these new movements). It will take time to develop, but I think we can see something of the programme for the Church's recovery beginning to emerge above all in France.

I know very well that France still has massive problems with too few (and sometimes unbelieving) clergy, hopeless bishops, lacklustre liturgies, dying active orders of religious, arrogant modernists and the rest. But there is a great deal of energy, too; it just does not tend to be linked up with the hierarchy yet. Sooner or later, the hierarchy are going to realise that it is in these otherwise despised groups that all the future of the Church is to be found. And then it will have to come to terms with them. But they are very strong, and because of this gallic love of polarised and strong positions, they will put off the evil day for as long as possible. And meanwhile the Fontgombaults, the Communities of Jerusalem, the Communities of St Jean and the like will continue to grow and send out foundations as in the past.

We need something like this in the British Isles, but without that indomitable spirit that the French have, I doubt we will achieve it. The community of St John have already made a foundation in London. Its methods are unlikely to transfer to the English, any more than happened in the past; but their presence is very welcome and may truly inspire some good growth in this land.

You see, il faut que la France survive!


Stone, in Staffordshire, has connections with two holy men, both called Dominic. The first was Blessed Dominic Barberi, who opened a small mission here—and on one occasion got stoned. People threw stones at him, I mean. Not the other thing. The little chapel he built still stands, and some years ago I was privileged to celebrate Mass there.

St Dominic is the other great Dominic; the remarkable Mother Margaret Hallahan established the first active Dominican sisters in Britain at Stone, which is now the mother house for the Congregation of St Catherine of Siena. It has a marvellous church, which it shares with the parish, and the sisters run a school and a nursing home.

Mother Margaret Hallahan
She had a friendship and long correspondence with Fr Faber of the London Oratory,
which may account for their similarity in appearance.

The sanctuary and sisters' choir to the left

The sanctuary from the sisters' choir; Mother Margaret is buried very simply
at the altar end of the choir.

Long view with some Dominican friars who kindly offered some atmosphere.

This is Bishop William Ullathorne, Bishop of Birmingham and a great friend of the
community. He, too, is buried with great simplicity in the church.
Some time I must do a post on this extraordinary man.

 His simple tomb (below) is in the floor of this chapel, there being also an effigy against the wall. Perhaps the effigy used to stand over the grave slab.

The cloister is a full one; the only remaining Dominican full cloister in this country, somebody told me.

And finally, in a monastery garden…

Monday 26 September 2011

Solemn Profession

On Saturday I drove a long way; to Stone in Staffordshire and back for the Solemn Religious Profession of Sister Ann Catherine Swailes as a Dominican sister. It was my privilege to have prepared and received Sister Ann into the Church some years ago, and so the Profession was a very special occasion for me.

Before the ceremony, with a picture of the foundress, the remarkable Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan:

and, a rather blurred after-picture.

Many congratulations to Sister Ann Catherine. Ad multos annos!

Sunday 25 September 2011


I'm sorry this has come late, but I have had a very, no frantically, busy week. Celebrating Mass this morning, I found myself stumbling again and again with the new translation, microphones &c, and preaching very lack-lustredly.

But I can't let one incident go by entirely without comment. Fr Ray Blake, who is one of my dearest friends, has been sent a most unpleasant communication, accusing him, essentially, of inciting hatred and bigotry against gay people on his blog, and, essentially, threatening him with a scandal by involving his (and my) superiors.

'Hatred' and 'Bigotry' are words often used by secularists about religious people. It is such a strange comment to make. Now I think that one does encounter it among some Christians in some places; I understand that in some places in the United States certain Protestant Christians feel it their duty to display signs saying 'God hates fags' and similar things. Never, ever, have I heard or seen anything of the sort from a Catholic, however opinionated. And never, ever, have I heard or seen anything of the sort from any Christian, Protestant or Catholic, in this country. I'm not saying these have never happened; only that I have never witnessed them.

God hates nobody. God hates nothing that he has made. God loves gays, lesbians, even Richard Dawkins. Even me, which is really a miracle of tolerance.

Thinking, even writing, that gay people might be better off being continent if they wish to live the full Christian life may be disagreed with, but slinging around cheap accusations of bigotry does nothing even for the gay cause, if truth is what they are after. And this is as true for Christians as for Stonewall.

We live in a multicultural society, and we have to rub along with all sorts of ways of life that we think are less than ideal. It's part of being human. But if certain members of the gay community demand tolerance and understanding, then they have to show it to others also. They demand we understand them; they must try and understand us, and not base their accusations on caricatures of what they think we believe.

Monday 19 September 2011

The SSPX Preamble

Messa in Latino has posted what he believes to be the content of now famous Preamble given to the Society of St Pius X to sign.

Essentially, he says, there are two points. The second point is simple; the Society must change its tone and become more respectful to legitimately constituted authority.

The first expands on the different sorts of adherence that a Catholic must give to different degrees of Church teaching, as expressed in Canon 750 and the Apostolic Letter Ad Fidem Tuendam of Pope John Paul II. Solemn teachings of the Church, proclaimed to be divinely revealed, must be adhered to with firm faith; nobody in the SSPX is going to quarrel with that. Bishop Fellay instanced our belief in the Trinity as an example. Then there are the dogmas that are not explicitly in scripture, but which the Church has taught consistently or else proclaimed dogmatically; for instance the impossibility of the ordination of women or the wrongfulness of Euthanasia. Here too the SSPX is not expected to disagree. The third degree, however, regards the non-definitive teachings of the Magisterium of the Pope or College of Bishops, especially where there has been some degree of change, for example over the issue of usury. Since the Council explicitly (in the words of Pope John XXIII, if not Paul VI also) said that it wanted to define no new dogma, and though it makes assertions, they do not have a dogmatic nature of themselves, one may be cut a certain amount of slack.

Messa in Latino adds:

As the official communique of the Holy See reported, the Preamble left 'theological study and explanation of particular expressions and formulations present in the texts of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium that followed it open to legitimate discussion.' It should be noted that the object of this discussion, which is expressly termed 'legitimate', is not only about the interpretation of documents, but of the text itself of the documents: the 'expressions and formulations' used in the Council documents. So we are well beyond mere hermeneutics; it has become permissible to scrutinize the words themselves (and not only the significance or interpretation of those words) which the Council Fathers chose when putting together the documents.
If the words used in the preamble and so in the official communique have a meaning, here we have a Copernican revolution in the approach to the Council. That is, a move from a mere exegetical level to a substantial one.… In his discourse of the 15th August, Bishop Fellay said that for Rome the Council was taboo, and therefore one was limited to the discussion of the external wrappings, that is of interpretation. Now, on the other hand, it is permissible to tackle also the heart of the matter. This implies furthermore that the controversial passages, insofar as they may be freely discussed, do not even demand that lesser degree of acceptance described as 'religious submission'.
Having said Mass, I've now reworked the translation, and I hope that it is clearer.Thanks to Eriugena for help with a mystery word!

Well, we must wait and see. But we live in interesting times. 

I don't think The Tablet is going to like this one!

Rorate Caeli now has a fuller treatment of this topic

A Tribute

Have you ever flown with RyanAir? I don't recommend the experience. But I do recommend this musical meditation on the subject.
Warning: if you don't like (even justifiable) strong language, don't press play!

H/T Eogh

Sunday 18 September 2011

Three Wassails for the Archdruid

Archdruid Eileen does it again:

An interesting and, I think, enlightening comment from Jeremy Hardy on this week's news quiz (this link will expire on 23 September).

Regarding the total failure of the Large Hadron Collider to find any Higgs Bosons (my theory being that it's a bit too small for them to see) Jeremy Hardy remarks that it's this kind of thing which causes a higher proportion of physicists to believe in God and therefore incidentally makes physics not a "real science". After all, he remarks, we know chemistry works because we've got Boots. Although I suspect he's ignoring the existence of the Boots homoeopathic range.   But Jeremy Hardy rightly points out that physicists eventually have that end point in their research. At the Big Bang - or even if they work out what was before it - at the Higgs Boson - or anything smaller - or whatever they decide may exist instead of it to give us all mass - at some point they're going to have to shrug their shoulders and say "maybe God did it." Maybe not Brian Cox, of course - who seems to believe in analternative higher being. And that has certainly been my experience.

The proper scientists  I've known - physicists, theoretical chemists, even biochemists - seemed to have average or even above-average levels of religious belief. Not fundie 6-day-creation religion, because by definition these people can think clearly. But they certainly often have faith. Whereas the soft-scientists and almost-scientists - zoologists, economists, computer scientists - they don't. And I suspect it comes down to your priorities. Physicists and theoretical chemists are interested in truth and facts and mad stuff like that. Whereas zoologists are into fluffy bunnies, economists think human beings can actually control this world in some meaningful way and computer scientists just got into it because they thought it was a way to meet girls.

If the particle physicists have really spent about £3Bn of our money - that's 3-followed-by-11-zeroes pence, as Brian Cox would tell us - in an attempt to find something that doesn't exist, that's got to be an act of faith that outstrips the Oxford Martyrs, Christopher Columbus trying to find the Indies by sailing west, and even people tuning into Big Brother thinking it might be better this year. And what a waste of money - grief, £3Bn could have bailed Greece out for nearly a fortnight. But maybe, as Prof Brian would tell us, the basket-case Euro-zone countries will always be with us. Whereas the Large Hadron Collider will be quietly re-opened as a fairground ride in two years' time, and we'll forget what it was ever meant to be for.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Il Faut que la France Survive 6

And so we find ourselves in the twentieth century.

Those secularists, in particular Georges Clemenceau, set their minds firmly against the Church, expelling many religious orders, several of whom came to England and did wonderful work. The Grande Chartreuse, having scented trouble, built the great Charterhouse of Parkminster in West Sussex, just in case (though I don't think it ever actually moved there). The Solesmes Benedictines founded Quarr on the Isle of Wight, and actually did live there for several years. And many orders of women came too and founded schools where they insisted on teaching in French, not English, and this chauvinistic impulse made many Catholic Englishwomen bilingual, to their, and their country's, benefit.

Clemenceau was every inch a child of the revolution. After the devastation of the First World War (in which France suffered truly appalling losses) he set about building a new Europe. In this he was assisted by Woodrow Wilson, the president of the USA, who was determined to 'get rid of all those old Kings' (or something like that). No doubt the idea was that it was precisely this old alliance of throne and altar which had led to monarchs being able to devastate their own and others' countries for some abstract notion of glory. Gott mit uns was a common notion on all sides, and it probably was a major contributor to the advance of secularism.

For the French, the gulf deepened between those who held to the old vision, and the secularists.

………It's just occurred to me that I never mentioned de Lammenais and the Ultramontanes in my account of the nineteenth century. Another time! ……

Come the nineteen-fifties, there was a great division in French society; the Church and the integrists on one side, and the workers and secularists on the other. Everyone knew that something had to be done to heal this wound, and it was as a result of this that the Worker Priest movement was born. The Church reached across the gulf to embrace the working world and, some would say, was making progress.

And then Vatican II happened.

It seemed that the Church herself had leapt that gulf, and in 1968 embraced the working people. The windows had been opened and the world and the Church were joined once more. The whole aesthetic of the Church was no longer elitist and separatist, but vernacular in every sense, of the people. Priests abandoned the soutane and embraced the grey suit and blue polo shirt. Choirs were dismissed, and the people would do the singing.

The trouble is that the average workman wasn't that more attracted to this than to what went before. In fact, probably less. He was not convinced that the Church had anything to say to him, and certainly he wasn't impressed by a priest who didn't dress like one, who clearly didn't have the courage of his convictions.

And the old Integrists were horrified at this sell-out, this tawdry abandonment of the vision of a millennium and a half. So they embraced their Gallican heritage and went their own way. But the word Gallican is important; there was not, is not, and cannot be a notion of breaking Roman Communion: it is an essential part of the Gallican 'creed' that it is part of the Catholic Church; simply that it exercises a certain independence of action. It is entirely within the (Integrist) French psyche that

(a) France has a mission for the Church and the world.
(b) France is the eldest daughter of the Church, and has an eldest daughter's privileges and responsibilities to teach her younger siblings.
(c) France is a loyal daughter of the Roman Church, but not her slave.
(d) The appalling division within French society is the work of the devil who seeks to strike just where it is most crucial that there be unity. It is France's greatest shame, and the Revolution is the greatest manifestation of this shame. The perpetuation of the celebration of the Revolution (July 14th and all that) is rubbing salt in the wound.

And hence the insistence of the Society of St Pius X and its co-runners that it has never ceased to be Catholic; rather it is doing its best to make the rest of the Church properly Catholic. One does not need to obey the Pope's sillier decrees to be a proper Catholic, in other words. There is more than simple blind obedience.

Within France, the trouble is that the Integrists have not really found a message that will speak to the masses. Le Pen and his political cronies are willing to use the Integrists, but they are not Integrists themselves. They lay on the Old Mass for their supporters, recognizing that there are a lot of committed Integrists who might well vote for them, but it is really just a flag of convenience. They can speak to the masses, but their message is about immigration and all those other things familiar to our own National Front. They are as republican as the other parties, in effect. The alliance between the Integrist Catholics and the Front Nationale is at best an alliance of convenience; the two in reality have very little in common except conservatism, of a sort.

So what holds this riven France together? Simply, the notion of being French. In all the troubles that beset that fascinating country, every party has been intensely proud of being French. They have disagreed about almost everything else, to the point of copious bloodshed, but the spirit of Clovis and his Franks is still alive to that extent. All of them agree that France is, simply, THE country to live in. It is, to them, self-evident. They have none of that irritating smugness of the Italians about Italy; it is simply self-evident to every intelligent person that France is the best.

And that is why, to them, il faut que la France survive.

In one more post, I'd like to look at why it is necessary for the rest of the world, for us, that France survive.