Monday 16 January 2012

How far we have come

I have just been watching a programme on RTE about the Queen's visit to Ireland last year. It was an event that was deeply healing and is still being talked about there. Before the visit, the Irish Ambassador in London threw a party for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall; it featured many people from the Irish community in Britain, both the famous and the not-so-well known. Two among the famous caught my eye; Bob Geldof was there, as one might expect. But the figure standing next to him was none other than Ian Paisley. A willing guest in the Irish Embassy! How far we have come, indeed!

When we have so much to lament in our world, there are also things to be grateful for.

Irish and the Liturgy

A few days ago, I stumbled across the blog Lux Occulta, and rather liked it, so included it in my links section, where you can find it. I was a little intrigued by one post, called The Myth of Catholic Exceptionalism in which the author, Shane, takes issue with those on the Catholic Blogosphere who have characterized the Irish Catholic Church of the 1950s as an 'insular, peasant-led, anti-intellectual, aliturgical backwater.' I had an uneasy feeling that I might have been one of those he was rebuking. He left a comment on the last post which reinforced my suspicion.

But either he has misunderstood me in my earlier posts, or I did not express myself very well.
From the earliest days Ireland has regarded herself as indisputably part of the Western Latin Church. Those who would put blue water between her and the Holy See have had to struggle hard; there has been a myth among Anglicans that saw the Celtic Church (their sort-of predecessor, some believed) as a bravely independent body tricked into Roman submission at the Synod of Whitby (664). A look at the life of, say, St Columbanus (d.615) would give the lie to that immediately. In it we see both a devotion to the See of Peter and yet also a very different way of looking at things (not least regarding the relative importance of bishops and abbots).
Throughout the English occupation of Ireland, and especially after the Reformation, there can be no doubt of Ireland's attachment to the universal Catholic Church; indeed bishops continued to be appointed, and took up their sees whenever possible—there was often even a nuncio (or 'internuncio'). The Church was unquestionably under pressure, but never severed its link to the mainstream Church.
There are those who argue that there was a Gallican streak in Irish Catholicism, and there is a certain amount of evidence for this; many priests were trained in France, and I have heard that this accounts for the use of red sanctuary lamps throughout the British Isles (red being the French local colour for the Blessed Sacrament). But when we come to the twentieth century there can be no doubt whatever of the attachment of Ireland to the Holy See: the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, 1932, brought a great outpouring of loyalty to the Pope.
Others may have thought Ireland a backwater; she never thought of herself that way.
Nor did Ireland lack intellectual muscle. It has always, proverbially, been a reading nation, and the establishment and quality of the National University has led to Ireland, a tiny country, being ranked eighth in the world for its high proportion of quality universities. Seven of these were in 2008 ranked by the Times Higher Education Supplement as among the 500 top universities in the world.

Shane exhorts me to write with care about the Liturgical Movement in the 1950s in Ireland because, he writes, it is a subject he knows something about and (he gently implies) I plainly don't. I confess I know very little at all about the progress of the Liturgical Movement in Ireland, and would be very interested to read anything that Shane might write (and I do hope he will). I have never seen much serious evidence for the Movement, though, on the ground. That it was present is highly probable, especially in seminaries and cathedrals; that it never crossed my path is undeniable.

I think, for instance, of the rebuilding of St Columcille's Church in Kells. Co Meath, which took place under the inspiration of the great parish priest Fr McCullen, in the very early 1960s, I think. An spatially-inadequate and ornate 19th century church was demolished (with difficulty, as it turned out—the excuse had been that the old one was about to fall down) and a new one built. Now, to my eyes, it shows a lot of Liturgical Movement influence. Pictures on the web, alas, are few and far between.

It is a very large building, without pillars or columns, so that everyone could have a view of the high altar under a simple tester, raised up on many steps. There were only two side altars, in the traditional Irish position, to the left and right of the high altar—none at all down the nave. Votive candles were strictly forbidden. The interior is very pleasing and harmonious, at least as designed, though it has had some unsympathetic reordering in recent years.
(The Blessed Sacrament is not now reserved , as one might suppose, on the old high altar, but behind Bishop Smith, and the old tester has been removed. The screen has been added, rather jarring with the style of the building) A new altar, as you can see, has been added in the nave.

The building is a good one, but I have never experienced a Mass there which was not hurried—oh, correction; a visiting priest last week celebrated beautifully. I was once (several years ago) rebuked by a resident priest for taking a whole half hour to celebrate a Sunday Mass (including sermon and many many communions).

My point has always been that good or bad liturgy has never been vital to the spirit of the Irish Church; it has relied on other things, and so has survived both a lack of liturgy in the penal days and bad liturgy today. Call the other things 'peasant' if you want; I would not, for everyone practised them. What I want to do in another post is to look at some of those things and find a Catholic rationale for them.

Of course you could always find good liturgy; the point is that is was not commonplace. And is probably less so today.

Told you so

At the time of Ireland's closure of its Vatican embassy, I remarked to several people that Enda Kenny and his government would come to regret it. 'It will come back and bite them', I said. 'They underestimate the residual loyalty of Ireland to the faith, and are simply playing to those they think are in the gallery.'
I considered blogging upon it, but decided not to; besides, those days before Christmas were simply too busy and I didn't do much blogging at all.
I want to write some more on Ireland, and will do so soon. In the meantime, you can read the account here, thanks to Fr Z.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Indolence and truth

Journalists are apt, like most of the human race, to take a shortcut wherever possible. The surprise that the Vatican obtained information for its biographies of the new cardinals-elect from Google (Archbishop Dolan is a Catholic, that sort of thing), directly lifted and without attribution, is but one example.

The précises of Papal homilies is another example. Inevitably journalists pick on the one phrase that they think will interest their readers, usually some sort of a negative comment, as you can read here on First Things:

(Thanks to The Pulpit, and apologies that I can't put in links very well; they aren't easy to do on an iPad)

Wouldn't it be sensible for the Vatican Press Office to send around to the accredited journos not just the full text of the Holy Fathers' homilies, but a predigested account of the central message? Just a paragraph that the journos can tweak a bit to make it different enough not to be accused of plagiarism, or to make the Telegraph's account not too like the Guardian's. Perhaps with a bottle of whiskey to encourage the journos to use that rather than trawl through the homily itself to find the most potentially inflammatory phrase (when portrayed in a particular way)

This, of course, suggests that the Holy See provide some more help to the indefatigable Fr Lombardi, who always appears to project a strange mixture of puzzlement and confidence, of blind panic and quiet reassurance.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Friday Abstinence again

I noticed that The Bones had a dilemma about whether or not to eat meat last Friday, it being the livid scar of the feast of the Epiphany. I, too was in a dilemma.

You see, I was travelling. It is my memory that travellers were dispensed from abstinence, but in their restoration of Friday abstinence, our bishops did not grant dispensations (at least explicitly) or specify when these might apply. I think that in the old days a parish priest might dispense his parishioners for a good reason, and in certain cases (such as when travelling) the dispensation was automatic. I should have liked to see a dispensation for dining when others (who are not Catholics) have cooked and when one does not wish to cause an awkwardness. In fact our bishops explicitly directed that in such cases we were to explain to our friends that we were not permitted to eat their food, but to explain to them charitably a concept that few Catholics understand these days. It would appear to amount to:

'well, no, it isn't about doing penance, because we left all that behind us forty years ago. It is actually about us feeling good about being Catholics and being different, and this being a good witness to you about Living Simply'.

So you get to inconvenience, annoy, exclude and patronise your hosts all at one time. Fun.

Like old Boney, I thought about it being the real feast of the Epiphany, and about travelling, and so at the airport I hovered over a chicken salad sandwich before good old Catholic Guilt won out and I took the egg mayonnaise.

On arrival in my uncle's house, he was already laying a chicken casserole on the table as I came through the front door. I ate it with him. Now, we are in Ireland, and the law of abstinence doesn't apply here. But I still felt guilty, and wondered whether I should be inconveniencing, annoying and patronising him to do my religious duty.

Last night we went to the only Sunday Mass in the parish -- strangely late on Saturday night, and it was carefully explained that as we had celebrated Epiphany last Friday, the Mass would be that of the Baptism of the Lord. So even had the abstinence laws applied in Ireland, my uncle was right to serve meat, and I had felt guilty for nothing ( even though I know that I had no need to anyway).

As for the new translation in Ireland; well the stories you hear about it being a disaster area are not correct. My uncle tells me the there was some grumbling from some of the priests (during Mass of course), but that the laity just got on with it. That was my experience, too. Everyone said the prayers at their own pace as usual, the speed ranging from very fast to lightning, and all but one of the people near me were using the new text without leaflets except for the Gloria and Creed. Only one person kept up the old responses, but as she was going faster than any others around her that was perhaps to be expected. The celebrant didn't stumble or grumble once (though he ad libbed from time to time), and he encouraged the correct people's responses by saying them loudly into the microphone faster than anyone else. Only at one point did all the congregation pray all in solemn unison instead of the usual in-your-own-time,-folks style, and that was the Pater Noster, said in Irish. I really am going to have to learn that.

I asked about the lapsation in light of the recent troubles of the Church, and here in the wild and wooly parts of County Clare it doesn't seem to be a problem; Mass attendance is still about 90-95%, and even draws in the increasing number of (non-Catholic) immigrants from England, Germany and elsewhere, who have discovered for themselves what an important part of social cohesion the Church is here. Well, it's nice to hear some good stuff, isn't it?

They hadn't heard about the new Nuncio, but were highly amused to hear that he he is called Charlie Brown. No doubt he will be presented with a dog soon.

Thursday 5 January 2012

A very different way of doing the first reading

Here, from the Sarum Christmas Missa in Gallicantu, beginneth the first reading:

(translation further down, should anyone need it)

Duo clerici de secunda forma in capis sericis in pulpito simul cantent lectionem.
Laudes Deo dicam per sæcula, qui me plasmavit in manu dextera, atque redemit cruce purpurea sanguine Nati.

Hic cantetur alternatim:
Lectio Esaiæ Prophetæ.
In qua Christi lucida vaticinatur nativitas.
Hæc dicit Dominus. 
Pater, Filius, Sanctus Spiritus, in quo sunt omnia condita superna atque ima.
Populus gentium qui ambulabat in tenebris
Quem creasti: quem fraude subdola hostis expulit paradiso: et captivatum secum traxit ad tartara;
Vidit lucem magnam; 
Fulserunt et immania nocte media pastoribus lumina.
Habitantibus in regione umbræ mortis: Lux
Sempiterna et redemptio vere nostræ
Orta est eis. 
O stupenda nativitas,
Parvulus enim natus est nobis, 
Magnus hic erit Jesus Filius Dei.
Et Filius 
Patris summi,
Datus est nobis.
Ab arce summa prædictum sic erat.
Et factus est principatus super humerum ejus.
Ut cœlos regat atque arva.
Et vocabitur nomen ejus,
Messias, Sother, Emmanuel, Sabaoth, Adonai.
Radix David,
Dei Patris,
Qui creavit omnia,
Barathri claustra perimens teterrima
Pater futuri sæculi,
Rex omnipotens et cuncta regens,
Princeps Pacis
Hic et in ævum.
Multiplicabitur ejus imperium. 
In Hierusalem, Judæa, sive Samaria,
Et pacis non erit finis, 
Per sæcula sempiterna, 
Super solium David et super regnum ejus sedebit, Et regni meta sui non erit aliqua.
Et confirmet illud,
In fidei pignore.
Et corroboret in judicio, et justitia, 
Judex cum venerit judicare sæculum.
A modo
Illi debetur gloria, laus et jubilatio.
Et usque in sempiternum.

Hic cantent usque ad finem:
Ab ortu solis usque occiduos, 
ad fines mundi orbis per climata 
laus Creatori resonet congrua. 
Amen dicant omnia.

Let two clerks of the second bench, in silk copes, chant this Lesson together in the pulpit:
I will sing praises to God for ever, Who formed me in His right hand and redeemed me on the cross with the purple blood of his Son.

Then alternately:
The Lesson of Esias the Prophet.
In which is foretold the glorious birth of Christ.
Thus says the Lord,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by whom are created all things in heaven and earth,
The people that walked in darkness
whom you created, whom the enemy expelled from Paradise by a subtle fraud and led captive with him into hell,
Have seen a great light.
And at midnight strange brightness shone on the shepherds,
On those who dwell in the shadow of death, a light
Everlasting, and our true redemption,
has shined.
O stupendous birth!
For unto us a child is born,
Jesus the Son of God; he shall be great,
A son
Of the highest Father
is given to us
So had it been foretold from the throne on high.
And the government shall be upon his shoulder,
That he may rule heaven and earth.
And his name shall be called
Messiah, Soter, Emmanuel, Sabaoth, Adonai,
The Root of David,
of God the Father,
who created all things,
overthrowing the hideous gates of hell,
The everlasting Father,
King Almighty and governing all,
Prince of Peace
Here and for ever,
Of the increase of his government
In Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria,
And peace there shall be no end,
For ever and ever,
Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom
and there shall be no bounds to his reign,
To order it
In the bonds of faith
And to establish it with judgment and with justice,
when he shall come as Judge to judge the world.
From henceforth
to him be due glory, praise and rejoicing
and for ever and ever.

Here let them sing together to the end:
From the rising of the sun to its setting
let fitting praise resound to the Creator
through all places to the ends of the world
and let everything say Amen.

Sunday 1 January 2012

By gum!

And here was I thinking that I was an all-Irish product. My mother, at seven minutes past 2011, reveals that my great-grandmother, one Mary Burnell, was a Yorkshirewoman.

Happy new year, everyone.