Monday 16 January 2012
When we have so much to lament in our world, there are also things to be grateful for.
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.
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
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
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
(translation further down, should anyone need it)