31 May 2007

Losing a friend

Would I join my (very) high Anglican friend at a local Christians Together meeting at the local URC Chapel? I said that I wouldn't: I don't like lowest common denominator religion, and the agenda was about supporting Oxfam and Cafod, and I don't support them.

After a while, he asked if I'd come to Benediction at his church. I said that I wouldn't.

"Is that because the Roman Mission in England believes that we are worshipping a piece of bread?"

"I wouldn't have put it that way ..." I started, and waffled, and gradually felt the threads of friendship beginning to untangle. "Don't let's fall out."

"We already have."

I'm of an age where new friendships are rare, and can't easily replace old ones; and old friendships become more valuable just because of their endurance and durability: old is good, a lot of the time, just because it's old.

But not all the time.

Oh well. Back to the poems.

29 May 2007

More R S Thomas

I stumbled across his biography on a shelf of a forgotten bookcase a couple of days ago. He's up there with Larkin and Betjeman.

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

28 May 2007

As lyrical a love poem as any ...

... in the English language. R S Thomas about his wife.

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
Love's moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
'Come' said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance. And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

26 May 2007

Good News from Australia

In a comment on a posting in the New Liturgical Movement, "Tom" says:

"On a matter perhaps of interest, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, today celebrated Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Throne for the Vigil of Pentecost with the Nuptial Rite (according to the books of 1962) at the Minor Basilica of our Lady of Victories in Camberwell, a Melbourne suburb. It is believed to be the first time a bishop has celebrated nuptial rites within a Solemn Ponitifical Mass in Australia ever. The whole Mass was filmed ..."

O felix Australia! Not only is Archbishop Hart going to celebrate Confirmations in the Traditional Rite, but Bishop Howse celebrates traditionally too! Hat tip to Juventutem.

24 May 2007


I had my annual performace review today. I was told that I was too intellectual. I said that, given that we didn't have problems any more, only opportunities, then my intellect might be an insurmountable opportunity. I was told that that was exactly the sort of thing that they were talking about.

Ho hum.

Developing a point

I said below:

"For most of us in English speaking countries, the Reformation was the great catastrophe: Catholics were martyred by people who claimed to be doing God's work. The analogous catstrophe in Latin countries was the French Revolution: Catholics were martyred in the name of politics, not religion. Perhaps this is why Belloc is different from Chesterton."

I have been asked to elaborate.

By the time of the French Revolution, Catholics in countries like Britain which had undergone the Reformation had managed to come to a form of greater or lesser tolerance by the States in which they lived. English Catholics had places of worship throughout the 18th Century, and priests could minister to them. If you were rich, there will still limitations: you couldn't go to the Universities, or join the Army - at least in England; but you could study, and serve the King, by going to University or by joining the Army in Hannover. If you were poor, you would be at worst tolerated, and the odd Gordon Riot apart, your place of worship would not be destroyed. (Incidentally, in Barnaby Rudge, Dickens mentions the execution of Catholics executed for joining in the Gordon Riots, pointing out that they were attended by their priests.) It meant that by the time of the French Revolution, Catholics in Britain were part of the polity of the State: not fully part constitutionally, but desirous of showing their loyalty.

The effect of the French Revolution on the countries which had not undergone the Reformation was different: the reconciliation of the Catholic population to the forms of the State has never fully taken place, and the ideology of the Left has always included anti-Catholicsm.

This, I suggest, is one reason why the SSPX has been viewed with more suspicion on this side of the Channel than the other. The integrisme of politics and belief which is common on the Right in Latin countries is founded in the Revolution and as such does not echo here. It is hard to believe that Bishop Williamson actually represents in any shape or form a point of view that resounds in Catholic hearts in Britain today.

The politicisation (perhaps better, the non-liturgical baggage the average non-Latin Catholic sees the SSPX bringing in its train) of the Tridentine Mass has been a gift to those Liberals who wish to see the past forgotten, especially those in English-speaking countries where the dichotomy of political Left versus religious Right might not otherwise hold. The Motu Proprio might allow this dichotomy to be shown up for the false alternative that it is.

21 May 2007

Can the US be so sunk in sin?

According to the Daily Eudemon (a daily "must", by the way), the Catholic Mens' Quarterly is offering a book with every new subscription. He says:

"I can’t vouch for the book, but I’ve ordered a copy. Go here to subscribe to CMQ. It’s only $20 a year. I know guys who spend more than that every year on underwear (I don’t hang out with those kind of guys, but they exist)."

Really? That's £10 sterling! Who are these people?

20 May 2007

A Translation

This is the translation of a piece by Rafael Castela Santos called "Letter to My Daughter: from Europe to Anti-Europe". For most of us in English speaking countries, the Reformation was the great catastrophe: Catholics were martyred by people who claimed to be doing God's work. The analogous catstrophe in Latin countries was the French Revolution: Catholics were martyred in the name of politics, not religion. Perhaps this is why Belloc is different from Chesterton.

Dear daughter

I write because you really are European; because you were conceived in Portugal, in Fatima; because Spanish, French and German blood runs through your veins; because you grew up in the United Kingdom; because you speak several languages, including a bit of Latin; and because your father, who loves you profoundly, sees a certain Carolingian idea reflected in you which fills him with longing. And above all, because you are Catholic, which is the True Faith: the One True, as I often have you repeat, petite chouanne. Because the only real way of being European is to be Catholic. Those who aren’t, and those who fight our True Religion are the destroyers of Europe, whether they know it or not.

About two thousand years ago, a noble people, the Romans, conquered Europe. They were excellent civil engineers and excellent soldiers. Remember the bridges and aqueducts we have seen in Spain, and the Roman roads and ruins we have seen in Cirencester, in Metz, in Salamanca, in Merida, and in Evora. Apart from all of this, they left us their laws, Roman Law, an impressive monument, which continues to inspire us. I’ll explain one day, but this is all about what your Dad says to you about being fair, about being fair to our neighbours, or about your being fair to the other girls at school.

You know how I go on about how in Spain and Portugal the Roman influence penetrated deeper than in the rest of the Empire. It’s as though we are more Roman than the rest of the Romans. You know that reverential love that I have for your grandparents, my parents? You know how the first thing that I do when I take you to Spain is to go to the cemetery? Well, sweetheart, that is something that comes from our religion, but also from the Romans. When I’m old, I want you to respect me in the same way that I respect your grandparents, and when I die, I want you to pray for me in the same way as I pray for all our dead. I’m not asking this for me particularly, nor for you, but that you remember your roots; and because by honouring your parents and your ancestors, you honour your country as well.

I always tell you that you should think about things, that you should use your reason; because of all the powers your soul possesses, reason is the most important. The Greeks taught us this, and the Romans, as they developed and invaded other lands, were not stupid, and realised that the Greeks were very clever and precise. The Romans were amazed by the Greeks. Do you remember Socrates whose death was so serene? Aristotle, of whom I have spoken to you, who had the greatest intellect of Antiquity? Well – they were Greeks. One day, God Willing, we will read them together and discuss them. But the Greeks lacked life. There was too much death and cruelty. There was slavery. Above all, there was darkness. All this because our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned. This human race need to be restored, but only God could seal off the offence which we humans had committed against God. And from among a people chosen by God, the Jewish people, whose blood also runs through your veins, the Messiah, the Redeemer was born: Our Lord Jesus Christ. But Israel, called to be the light of the world, turned its back on the most sublime Son of the chosen people and his message came to Rome, to the Gentiles.

And on that assumed obligation of loving God before all other obligations, they built, over centuries, the greatest civilisation that had ever been: Christian Civilisation. Think of the Cathedrals and castles we have seen together, all of which had Jesus Christ, True God and True Man at their centre. Think of the beauty of the things they made. The saint to whom we always pray, St Thomas Aquinas, wrote, a guiding work. A genius, the poet Dante, wrote the Divine Comedy. I remember as one of the greatest moments of my life sitting beside your crib and rereading the Divine Comedy. The Blessed Virgin spread her blue protective veil across that civilisation.

But men fell away, and Europe – Christianity – stopped being Christianity. Anti-Europe, Anti-Christianity began. In the same way as when Moses descended from Sinai and found the people worshipping the golden calf, the idea that money and trade were the most important thing began to gain ground. The knights who protected maidens in castles, as in the stories I have read to you, were no more; and kings and the powerful exploited the poor and the weak instead of defending them as is their duty.

People began to think strange things. They emptied words of their meanings and began to do ugly things. Up to then, God, Jesus Christ, had been the centre of all things. But they began to put Man at the centre of things and stopped thinking of God as so important. There were some awful men, like Luther, who split Europe in two. And as you will have noticed in Alsace, there are Lutheran villages which at first look cleaner on the outside, but end up looking uglier than Catholic villages.

Then horrible things happened, as in France, your other mother country, where some miserable revolutionaries built a world out of hatred of God and the Holy Catholic Church. Anti-Europe, Anti-Christianity began to show its true face. Now do you understand why, whenever we travel through France, I get angry and start shouting whenever we see statues of people like Eckermann, Kleber or Napoleon, murderers of the worst kind?

But there was resistance in every country. We resisted in the Vendee, in France, in the way that I hope that you, petite chouanne, will resist. We resisted in Spain, with the Carlist heroes, right up to the Last Crusade in 1936. In the other Spains, which are also European, we also suffered greatly, for example in Argentina, or later the Cristeros, martyrs in the lands of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We also stood up in Portugal to republicans, masons and liberals. In Italy we did what we could against Garibaldi and the Carbonarios, orcs who issued forth from Hell.

Meanwhile in Russia, Sauron was in incubation. Even if in Europe he has lost his power, little by little he has taken over in Asia, China and Russia. Communism, the penultimate heresy, but the worst so far, has triumphed in these countries. One day, if we follow the message of Fatima, Russia will return to the Faith and the Church. That is the day when Europe will arise.

What they call Europe today – the European Union – is no more than a few steps towards the Antichrist, the man of perdition. Do not believe in it.

I am not well and perhaps will not live to see Europe arisen. But I have given to you the best of what I know and am able to give. Europe is Christianity: nothing else. Whatever is not Christianity isn’t Europe; it is de facto Anti-Europe. Be virtuous; fight for virtue, even if it costs you your life. Pass this on to your children, my grandchildren and if you become a nun – and how pleased I would be if you did! – pass it on to your spiritual children, the ones who call you Mother.

Fight phariseeism, a cancer which corrodes the spirit. Be hopeful. We are living through bad times, but victory will be Christ’s and nobody else’s. Europe will be Christian again and there will be a shout of joy, great as the centuries have never known, and there will be peace in Christ. I’ve already taught you the Latin: Pax Christi.

Oh! One more thing: don’t eat so much chocolate.

From your father, who loves you with all his soul and all his being, and who blesses you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost

Rafael Castela Santos

18 May 2007

Tagged for a Meme - Five Catholic Places in England

Fr Ray Blake tagged me for this one.

First, Lancashire, the County Palatine, the Duchy ("The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster!" as we toast her, loyally) and the place where the faith was never extinguished. As early as 1611, a new public Catholic cemetery was consecrated in Little Crosby.

We had six houses at school, and each was named for a Lancashire Martyr: Almond, Barlow, Cottam, Hurst, Rigby, Southworth. Lancashire was where Shakespeare came as a young actor to work for the Stanleys and be able to practice his Faith while he learned his art. Lancashire welcomed the Irish immigrants who came to fuel the Industrial revolution.

Second, the Church of the Holy Name on Oxford Road in Manchester. When I was at the University of Manchester, this was a Jesuit Church, and the Jesuits ran the Chaplaincy next door. The "spirit of Vatican II" was abroad and the Chaplaincy was in the van, but one of the priests, Fr Orr, took an interest in my spritual, moral and intellectual development, and allowed me to serve at his private Mass. The Jesuits gave the church over to the Oratorian Fathers, and I pray that Manchester's Oratory will become as London's and Birmingham's.

Third, the Hidden Gem, St Mary's, Mulberry St, Manchester. I can't find a non-copyright photo, but here's a map. This is Manchester's church, the home of the shrine of Our Lady of Manchester. The nun who knew me from when I was born until her death last Autumn (and who discovered Paul Scholes) was sufficiently Irish to be annoyed by Manchester's having its own Marian shrine, though not annoyed enough to refuse to go inside . According to the editor of the Universe, the parish Priest refuses to stock his newspaper.

Fourth, Westminster Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood, and our national church. Bentley's design is both inspired and inspiring. When I go to Whitehall, I always get off the tube at Victoria so that I can walk up Victoria St and pop into the Cathedral. If I'm lucky and the times are right, I get to Mass. I always pay a quick visit to the Chapel of St Patrick where the Irish Regiments which fought in World War One are commemorated to say a prayer for all the loyal Irishmen who died for their country and those who survived but were never allowed to vote on whether or not their country should become independent of the United Kingdom. I have never yet met anybody who was not stirred by the cavernous interior of the Cathedral, and can never forget my wonder as a thirteen year old, visiting for the first time, on being told that one day all of the ceilings and walls would be covered in mosaic.
Fifth, and no picture, every Catholic Church in the country which is open and which allows people to wander in and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. I grew up in an area where men and women unselfconsciously crossed themselves every time they passed a church, on foor, on a bus or in a car. I long for a return to those days.

12 May 2007

Is the Pope a Catholic?

He believes that Mary is the Mediatrix of all Graces.

He believes that anybody who corrupts children by selling them drugs runs the risk of going to Hell.

He believes that it is the job of Bishops to maintain the Catholic Faith in their local Churches.
During his trip to Brazil, the Holy Father is expounding the manifesto for his Pontificate, which is to restate the Faith of the Church.
He'll do me.

A Serious Seminary

Recent graduates of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Seminary tell it like it is. hat tip to Credo.

10 May 2007

In which I learn a lesson

Several lessons ...

I posted a comment on the blog of a Catholic journalist on a national newspaper about the poor young Irish woman who is coming to the UK for an abortion.

1. Newspaper blogs are not quite like blogspot blogs: they are read by people from a wide spectrum of opinion rather than by people who have chosen to read blogs with which they feel in tune.

2. If you have an e-mail address on your profile, a lot of people will feel the need to send you an e-mail. There is an e-mail equivalent of green ink. E-mails can be as vile and poisonous as letters.

3. Journalists are much, much, better at witty put downs (however poor their arguments) than I am; that's probably why they are journalists and I just run a modest blog.

4. If you thought that some of the Catholics who posted on The Universe's forum when it existed were "robust" in their opinions, then try those who read blogs from national press.

5. Remember all four lessons above before posting on a journalist's blog.

6. But also remember that the Truth is Great and It will prevail; and that being a fool for Christ's sake has, at least, apostolic approbation.

Bloodied, and a bit bowed, I am

Dear Readers

Yours affec. in Xto

08 May 2007

Requiem for a Blog

Valle Adurni was one of the first Catholic blogs I read after I had been introduced to blogging by Moretben. It is no more. A cavalcade of video images, sound thought and the great scoop - the Grey Book of the New Translation of the Mass - are brought to nought by the actions of a querelous priest who sought to defame Fr Sean Finnegan, the blog's author, in the eyes of the parishioners in the Adur Valley.

Fr Ray Blake reckons he knows who might have done it. Valle Adurni's author, Fr Sean Finnegan has simply asked for prayers for his flock and for the priest concerned.

I think it is the scoop that did it: there is an atmosphere abroad of "you can be a trad but don't make waves". Publication of the Grey Book's texts made many, many, waves. It may be a pure coincidence that so soon after publication Fr Sean has undergone this trial: but I doubt it.

He has asked for prayers for his defamer: I'm asking for prayers for him. I'm also asking for prayers for Fr Tim Finigan of the Hermeneutic of Continuity: I bet he's next on the list.

06 May 2007

An Iberian Eye Looks at England

In a post commemorating the twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Falklands War, from a rather different point of view than we will see in the UK, Rafael Castela Santos speaks about England.

"How I wish that this England, to which I owe so many thanks and which I love so much, could once again be the England of Tolkien, of Chesterton, of Belloc; of St Edward and of Alfred the Great; the England with which I can identify myself! God grant that the vision the holy Curé d'Ars had, of an England whose culture, wisdom and holiness were made magnificent by her return to Catholicsm, might come to pass! How I wish that England could once again be the most monastic nation in Christianity, as once it was! How I wish that the bitterness towards his country of that greatest of writers, Evelyn Waugh, might be changed into a happy smile in the hereafter! If only that idea, so united, so balanced and so perfect, that Cardinal Newman had about so many things could take root in his own country! How I wish that England could stop being Phoenician and could become Roman once again, in every sense of the word!

05 May 2007

Pray for the Church in America

The Catholic Cavemen link to a site which tell how Catholic Bishops have approved some Catholic hospitals in the US giving the "morning after" pill to women who have been sexually assaulted. This is justified as follows:

"The bishops of these dioceses believe they are allowing the use of emergency contraception only in cases where "appropriate testing" has determined that the woman is not pregnant and thus the pill, in halting ovulation may prevent a pregnancy occurring as a result of the rape. The science however does not definitively back up their hopes."

Pray for a Church whose leaders can be (let us be charitable) so ignorant. Pray that they may see the gates of Hell, which gape open for such as collude in the murder of innocent children.

(I also thought about posting about motes and beams. Geddit?)

04 May 2007

Tagged for a Meme

Mac, over here, tagged me for a meme: what books are you reading at the moment?

You and the other reader will have realised that this is a house of books. There are more books than I can count. I have never got rid of a book because each book is a bookmark in my memory. I am dyspraxic, and have an extra-developed sense of memory to compensate for an inability to organise and plan.

I always have at least four books on the go: one for the bus, one for picking up and putting down, and two for when I read before I go to sleep according to the mood in which I go to bed. At the moment there are two for the bus.

I live in a parish where the dismemberment of anything which might remind anybody of what the Mass should look and feel like, in a way that might be familiar to anybody who lived from the third century up to about 1970, is underway. I retain a bewildered loyalty to the idea that my Bishop is in communion with Rome and that sooner or later he will right the wrongs that are occuring. I escape from what is going on by reading a 21st Century edition of Fortescue's "Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described", updated with all that is necessary. I try to remember a time when every action, every word, of the priest was so circumscribed by the rubrics that he could not say or do anything which would not make the Mass a blessed and holy ceremony, replete in every gesture with meaning.

"Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North" by Stuart Maconie was a present. Everybody sniggers when I tell them that I have (had) never heard of somebody I understand to be a well known radio presenter. All I can say is that I have never heard him on Radio 3. A chap from Wigan, living in London, who realises one day when he is looking for sun-dried tomatoes for brunch, that he has become detached from his roots goes back to find out what the north is like. I left Manchester for ever many years ago, and apart from visits to family, never go back. But Manchester has not left me, and this book is convincing me that it never will.

Volume 5 of the History of British Intelligence in World War II is by Michael Howard and is all about Strategic Deception. One of the great stories of WWII is the way that the intelligence services managed to convinve the Nazis that their agents in the UK were working for Germany, when in fact every single one was working for the UK. Prof Howard's history is a masterpiece: scholarly and erudite, yet still a page turner. I have a theory that my generation - the generation of children whose parents fought in WWII - is as affected by the war as its parents' generation. If anyone is still reading and is interested, I am happy to expatiate further.

Finally, "Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics". This is an entriguingly interesting Encyclopaedia of everybody who has gone to the bad in an entertaining sort of way in the UK in the last three hundred years or so. If you are the sort of person in whom George Orwell's essay on "The Decline of the English Murder" resonates, then this is the book for you. The Murder might have declined, as have no end of other sorts of crimes, but our tradition is proud, and even in our days, men and women are doing the sort of bizarre things that their forefathers did. This is the "dip into" book: there is nothing as satisfying as a brief entry on a mass murderer when you are trying to do the cooking.