31 July 2007

One for Brighton!

Inspired by Rafael, I recount a short version of the story St Pelayo, Martyr. (911-925)

This nephew of Bishop Hermogio of Tuy, in Galicia, was brought up in a still-Christian part of Spain, and went to school to learn the Psaltery and how to serve at the Mozarabic Rite of Mass. But as happened with so many children in those times, he was captured during a Moorish raid and became a prisoner of the Emir, Abderramán III. His uncle was captured in 920 at the battle of Val de Junquera and was to be ransomed, but, as no gold appeared, Pelayo himself became the ransom. He became a slave of the Emir, building the wonderful buildings of Córdoba, and suffered as he saw the sufferings of his companions.

His good behaviour meant that his captors were tolerant towards him and he was allowed to study, and to learn from priests who were also held captive. His great prayer, in the terrible circumstances in which he was held, and in the terrible moral climate of the city in which he was held, was that he might maintain his purity. One day the Emir caught sight of him and insisted that he be bathed and perfumed and brought to him. Pelayo chose the best part.

"I am a Christian and always will be. Your riches are worth nothing. I will not renege on Christ who is my Lord, and yours, even if you don't wish Him to be so." And when the Emir tried to touch his clothes he said "Get away, dog! Do you think I'm like the young men who you always have by your side? Lord: free me from the hands of my enemies."

It was too much: he was fired by a catapult across the River Guadalquivir and being found not yet to have died, was decapitated by a palace guard.

His relics are venerated to this day, but not, I imagine, by those who think that sodomy is a Catholic option. We should venerate St Pelayo as much as we venerate St Maria Goretti.

29 July 2007

Harry Potter and Catholics

Some comments on a post Mac made about buying Harry Potter 7 saddened me: some people seem not to have stopped and thought. I hate it when Catholics repeat the comments of ignorant Evangelical fundamentalists as though these latter have developed some insight which the Church seems not to have reached. I hate it just as much when people don't understand what books are for.

Ready? Deep breath ... J K Rowling is an excellent children's author and her Harry Potter series is great!

Now - I told you to take a deep breath - her books are not about witchcraft, any more than P G Wodehouse wrote books about the semiotics of Class, or than Lady Chatterley's Lover is about the economics of rearing game on a Staffordshire estate in the 1920s. Nobody is going to be inspired to Devil-worship by reading her books, who wouldn't be by reading about Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop. Her books are about humans: and are about the differences between human beings, and how those differences are transcended by things like Love and Hate, by Selfishness and by self-sacrifice.

The fact of magic in the stories is as relevant as the fact of magic in a fairy story: was Rapunzel a real girl who could grow her hair 20 feet long and strong enough to allow a suitor into her tower? Was Snow White really lucky enough to come across a colony of seven dwarves? Of course not: tales are about the imagination, and about learning how moral choices are made; they are parables.

I bought, once, from a coin dealer, a couple of leptons as a present for my parents: a lepton was the lowest denomination coin in circulation in Palestine during the time of Christ. It was the widow's mite. Could either of those leptons have been the widow's mite? No, because Jesus' story was a parable. Did holding those leptons help us understand the story more? Of course they did!

The Harry Potter books are a series of stories: they are not works of apologetics, but there is plenty there for a Catholic child or adult to grab hold of: Hell, as the final end of those who have no remorse; the Communion of the Saints, in the sense that those who have died without meriting Hell are available to help those still on earth when called upon; self-sacrifice, in that the hero is called on to accept death, if that is the end to which he is lead; love for one's enemies, even to the risk of death; the joy of fellowship; Limbo.

I repeat: these are not works of Catholic apologetics, any more than Tolkien's stories were; but they are good and wholesome, and will inspire children towards what is good, and Catholic children towards what is Good and True.

25 July 2007

Cardinal Pell: Please Get a Grip

The official hymn for World Youth Day has been released. You don't want to hear it (oh well, if you do it's here, but boy! do the organisers of WYD2008 have something to learn about bandwidth) as a look at the words should tell you all you need to know.

1. Every nation, every tribe,
come (sic) together to worship You.
In Your presence we delight,
we will follow (sic) to the ends of the earth.


Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power, from the Holy Spirit!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power to be a light unto (sic) the world!

2. As Your Spirit calls to rise (sic)
we will answer and do Your Will.
We’ll forever testify
of Your mercy and unfailing love.



Lamb of God, we worship You,
Holy One, we worship You,
Bread of Life, we worship You,
Emmanuel, we worship You.
Lamb of God, we worship You,
Holy One, we worship You,
Bread of Life, we worship You,
Emmanuel, we will sing forever.


I feel, listening to it, like I feel when my daughter has the radio on in her room. The music and the singing are vacuous. But I feel offended when I think this is meant to be a hymn: the lyric is trite, the music is banal, and the totality is unsingable. It is a pop song, and the assembled Yoof will no doubt listen and applaud, but it has nothing to do with Divine Worship. It's not written in English, but then no pop song is.

And what a monstrosity to visit upon an elderly gentleman who likes music!

Cardinal Pell: while we appreciate all that you have been doing on the world stage recently, it's time to turn your gaze inward. Something involving boiling oil is called for.

22 July 2007

Harry Potter 7 - no spoilers here

The best yet. I spent all day yesterday reading it. I have spent some of today rereading crucial bits. The good news is that JK Rowling has left herself plenty of wiggle room to allow for further books.

I'm happy to discuss the book offline, but I reckon we should leave a week before we start talking about the contents in public.

18 July 2007


As Rafael points out, responsible fatherhood, in the meditation I have translated below, does not mean contraception.

If being pure was easy, there wouldn't be
So many anonymous fathers
So many single mothers
So many betrayed husbands
So many cheated wives
So many abandoned children
So many immature engagements
So many wounding affairs
So many casual encounters
Such a cult of eroticsm
Such sexual violence
Such shame of virginity
Such credulity
And such brazenness disguised as love.

It isn't easy to be pure in the absence of Jesus and Mary.
When responsible fatherhood is absent,
When the miracle of motherhood, accepted and wanted, is absent,
Or when love for children is absent,
Somebody ends up being just something for somebody else.
Sexuality without God is a disaster.
Sexuality with God is a Blessing.

Fr P. Zezinho

(When was the last time I heard a sermon on purity? Actually, I can remember: it was 1973, and at the end of the sermon the priest said "John Smith, I want to see you in the sacristy after Mass". He needed a server for a funeral the next day, but we didn't let John Smith forget it.)

15 July 2007

O infelix Anglia!

Last December I made a prediction about the reaction of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales to the Motu Proprio. I said that they would say:

"Private Masses are not the 0930 Mass that the Parish Newsletter advertises for every weekday. Private Masses are not, in fact, to be advertised, because they are "private". You can have a few people round but under the same conditions as for a "House Mass" in the Novus Praxis.

No priest can be forced to say Mass in the Old Rite (as if any could, but the Bishops will make a big deal about the pressure the Old Massians will put on a few simple priests).

"Parish Masses" ( however defined by the local Ordinary) must be in the New Rite.

No priest can celebrate the Old Rite who has not passed a test, and we will establish a committee to set one: it will put in place conditions by 2012.

No unreordering of Churches may take place just to favour celebration of the Old Rite.The Novus Ordo must always have primacy over the Vetus Ordo.

And we have leant so far back to accomodate you that any cavilling against our authority is an attack against the Church."

I also wrote:

"I'm probably wrong: the Bishops will welcome the opportunity for Mass to be celebrated always and everywhere as it was always celebrated. I can recognise a flying pig when I see one!"

The public line from the Hierarchy is that the MP is an opportunity for a few old people who have gone to SSPX Masses to go to LMS Masses instead (I caricature, but not much). The private line seems to be one of panic. The MP isn't the only thing to have happened recently: the Pope's letter to China has restated the role of the Church in civil society; the MP has freed priests from the shackles of modern Catholic Episcopalianism; the letter from the Holy Office has put an end to the Ecumenism we have known and endured for the last forty years.

I understand that some of our Bishops are in denial, and are having difficulty coming up with an agreed statement that they can all sign up to and which will actually accord with the MP; the Nuncio, who is broadly sympathetic with them, has little help to offer.

Fr Z {]:¬) (whom God preserve) has pointed out that the relationship between Bishop, Priest, and Laity has been changed significantly by the MP. It has always been ironic that liberal Bishops are those most likely to demand total obedience: it is those Bishops who are seeing their world collapse around them and who will fight hard to retain what they see as their place in the sun.

This may all turn a bit nasty.

13 July 2007

Ugly Rumours

This was, of course the name of the former Prime Minister's "band" when he was at Oxford. Rest assured that that is not my subject.

The ugly rumours of which I write concern a cabal, a combination, of priests who are setting out to subvert the Pope's intentions in respect of the Extraordinary Rite. There are alleged to be e-mails doing the rounds among priests who are opposed to "the return of the Latin Mass" (as one English diocesan website puts it) suggesting that they are allowed, in the terms of the Motu Proprio, to declare themselves incapable of celebrating Mass in any form other than the Ordinary Rite. If enough priests in any given locality agree, then the only way to accomodate the Extraordinary Rite will be for the local Ordinary to ask a priest from outside to say it. "The pressure of normal Sunday services" will be quoted to ensure that legitimate celebrations of the Extraordinary Rite will take place at odd times: like 4.00 pm on a Sunday afternoon; and in a different parish every week: thus making the building of a community difficult.

Were such ugly rumours true, it would suggest that the current extent of Indult Masses accorded to the LMS might be as much as would be achievable even under the Motu Proprio. Surely this can't be what the Holy Father intended!

But look to the websites of the dioceses of England and Wales and, with the honourable exception of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, look in vain for a welcome to a Church in which our common Rite has, from September, two Uses.

We shouldn't start planning for the worst; a few ugly rumours might be no more than just that: ugly, and rumours. But it might be worth spending five minutes thinking about the way me might mobilise ourselves were such a thing to come to pass where we live.

11 July 2007

Fr Dwight scores a 180!

Fr Dwight posts as follows:

'B16 says in Jesus of Nazareth, "The Scriptures can only rightly be interpreted in the lives of the saints."

Doesn't that just kick you? Not first and foremost textual criticism. Not redaction criticism. Not the historico-critical method. Not psychological interpretations or feminist interpretations or lesbi gay trans reading. Not the Schofield reference Bible or Mrs Baker Eddy or the Watchtower or the five points of Calvinism or whatever else interpretative method you want.

Scripture is rightly interpreted in the lives of the saints. I love it. Scripture is a living book of the Holy Spirit and it is through the life of the Church and the teaching of the Church and most of all in the Truth incarnated lives of the saints that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures is at work in the lives of ordinary men and women, and therefore still at work in the world.'

This has been ringing in my head since I first read it at the weekend: it is so right. A hat tip to Fr Dwight for bringing it to my attention.

I am increasingly awestruck that I live in the times in which God has raised Josef Ratzinger to be the Servant of the Servants of God. I mentioned to a friend yesterday that having three weeks off to think and pray might refresh the Pope to the point at which he comes out with lots more of the stuff he has been coming out with this year.

Can we take it? You bet!

08 July 2007

Two footnotes to the Motu Proprio

7 July is the feast, in what we probably should now call the Extraordinary Calendar, of SS Cyril and Methodius.

They are Co-Patrons of Europe, and are venerated in the East as "like-Apostles". What better day to promulgate the start of the return of the Western Church to its liturgical roots? What better Triple-Crown-tip to the Orthodox Sister Churches? What brighter token of the Pope's faithfulness to Tradition?

A wider query. In the military:

"Information operations (IO) are described as the integrated employment of electronic warfare (EW), computer network operations (CNO), psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own." (JP3-13)

What is the Catholic equivalent that HH the P has been employing so gainfully to outflank his opponents so comprehensively? Elements are clearly visible: the wonderful video of him concelebrating the NO with his secretaries and listening to a female Vatican employee reading the Epistle; saying the Brazilian 5th Eucharistic Prayer while at CELAM; convincing the liberal Western press that the Cardinal Ratzinger who ran the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith like a leopard had changed his spots and was now a pink and fluffy liberal.

One or two people were impatient at the two and a bit years this Motu Proprio has taken. How wonderful to have a Pope who understands the difference between a Campaign and an Operation. Let us hope that the SSPX, who play Blucher's role here, understand that Wellington is in command.

05 July 2007

A meme about blogging

I've been sent an e-mail from a reader who asked me to start a meme, and I couldn't think of a good reaon to say no! She said she wanted to know more about bloggers than she could learn from their profiles, which, she said, we play for effect (she's right there!). So here goes.

1. How did you start blogging?

The immediate cause was Moretben beginning his blog: I read his, and followed some of his links and thought: "I'll give that a go". A more important reason was an increasing frustration with the Universe's discussion forum, on which debate and discussion seemed to me to be increasingly replaced by name-calling, and on which some startling assumptions about the Faith were revealed by people who thought of themselves as Catholics, and who thought that these were assumptions we all shared.

2. What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful?

As it says above: "Musings about Tradition in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and an attempt to collect essays and articles which would appear in a Catholic press which exercised critical solidarity with the Hierarchy." Another point of my writing this blog was to try to provide for the two or three people who know as much and as little theology as I do, and as much and as little about ecclesiastical politics as I do with a forum, as, with the exception of most of the Catholic Herald most of the time, there is no print Catholic resource to provide Catholic news and Catholic intellectual stimulation to the more traditionally minded in England and Wales. Furthermore, Eccleston Square, the Headquarters of the Bishops' Conference seems as forthcoming as the Kremlin in the 1950s.

3. Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?

The focus has changed a bit, in that there are plenty of essays and articles out there on the Web, particularly in the Blogosphere, and it would be presumptuous of me to try to claim that I have contributed ore ever could contribute very much on that side of things at all. And I think that my musings about Tradition have possibly gone well beyond Tradition in the Church as I understood it when I embarked on this mission, not least because of the amount I have learned from reading other bloggers. I've probably grown more impatient with the Hierarchy as well. I'm quite pleased that I've been able to bring a couple of things in that readers who don't speak Spanish or Portuguese have been able to enjoy: I didn't think I'd be translating.

4. What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?

I wish I'd known that the blog would gain its own personality rather than be just what I wanted it to be. I wish I'd known how well it would connect me to people around the world: I might have started sooner. I wish I'd guessed that I'd end up saying more about myself than I would. I wish I'd realised that Catholics can be incredibly nasty when hiding behind anonymity: at least I had the sense to set up a disposable e-mail account! What might have started me blogging sooner is the number of really nice, friendly, supportive, sympathetic people out there.

5. Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?

No. I embarrass my teenage children enough already. Part of the deal has to be that I don't do this more than they have to endure. (I burst into song in public: when they were 6 or 7 years old, they thought this was "cool"; they don't now that they think they know what "cool" means.)

6. What advice would give to a new blogger?

Have a subject for six postings decided before you publish your first: that way you won't dry up. And enjoy writing for the few rather than for the many: there are very few bloggers who reach hundreds of people, mainly because most people have more sense than to waste their time reading other people's blogs; if there are a few people who seem interested in what you have to say, say it to them, and you might entertain and stimulate them. Encourage others to blog. Put up with some of the rubbish you see from time to time, and enjoy the pearls which your new friends will cast before you. And try to remember to say Fr Z's prayer before logging onto the Internet.

Orátio ante colligatiónem in interrete:

Omnípotens aetérne Deus,qui secúndum imáginem Tuam nos plasmástiet ómnia bona, vera, et pulchra, praesértim in divína persóna Unigéniti Fílii Tui Dómini nostri Iesu Christi, quáerere iussísti, praesta, quaésumus, ut, per intercessiónem Sancti Isidóri, Epíscopi et Doctóris, in peregrinatiónibus per interrete, et manus oculósque ad quae Tibi sunt plácita intendámuset omnes quos convenímus cum caritáte ac patiéntia accipiámus. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

A prayer before logging onto the internet:

Almighty and eternal God, who created us in Thine image and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the divine person of Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor, during our journeys through the internet we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

So there we are. I tag Moretben, Strongwoman Mac, and Rafael Castela Santos to tell us a bit more about themselves.

03 July 2007

The first New Zealand VC since WWII

Read this slowly and carefully and allow the pictures to paint themselves in your mind.

The official citation for Corporal Bill Henry Apiata NZSAS.

"Lance Corporal (now Corporal) Apiata was, in 2004, part of a New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) Troop on patrol in Afghanistan, which laid up in defensive formation for the night.
At approximately 0315 hours, the Troop was attacked by a group of about twenty enemy fighters, who had approached by stealth using the cover of undulating ground in pitch darkness. Rocket-propelled grenades struck two of the Troop's vehicles, destroying one and immobilising the other.

The opening strike was followed by dense and persistent machine gun and automatic rifle fire from close range.

The attack then continued using further rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun and rifle fire. The initial attack was directed at the vehicle where Lance Corporal Apiata was stationed.
He was blown off the bonnet by the impact of rocket propelled grenades striking the vehicle. He was dazed, but was not physically injured.

The two other vehicle crew members had been wounded by shrapnel; one of them, Corporal D, was in a serious condition.

Illuminated by the burning vehicle, and under sustained and accurate enemy fire directed at and around their position, the three soldiers immediately took what little cover was available. Corporal D was discovered to have sustained lifethreatening wounds. The other two soldiers immediately began applying basic first aid.

Lance Corporal Apiata assumed command of the situation, as he could see that his superior's condition was deteriorating rapidly.

By this time, however, Lance Corporal Apiata's exposed position, some seventy metres in front of the rest of the Troop, was coming under increasingly intense enemy fire. Corporal D was now suffering serious arterial bleeding and was lapsing in and out of consciousness.

Lance Corporal Apiata concluded that his comrade urgently required medical attention,or he would likely die. Pinned down by the enemy, in the direct line of fire between friend and foe, he also judged that there was almost no chance of such help reaching their position.

As the enemy pressed its attack towards Lance Corporal Apiata's position, and without thought of abandoning his colleague to save himself, he took a decision in the highest order of personal courage under fire. Knowing the risks involved in moving to open ground, Lance Corporal Apiata decided to carry Corporal D singlehandedly to the relative safety of the main Troop position, which afforded better cover and where medical treatment could be given.

He ordered his other colleague, Trooper E, to make his own way back to the rear.

In total disregard of his own safety, Lance Corporal Apiata stood up and lifted his comrade bodily. He then carried him across the seventy metres of broken, rocky and fire swept ground, fully exposed in the glare of battle to heavy enemy fire and into the face of returning fire from the main Troop position. That neither he nor his colleague were hit is scarcely possible. Having delivered his wounded companion to relative shelter with the remainder of the patrol, Lance Corporal Apiata re-armed himself and rejoined the fight in counter-attack.

By his actions, he removed the tactical complications of Corporal D's predicament from considerations of rescue.

The Troop could now concentrate entirely on prevailing in the battle itself. After an engagement lasting approximately twenty minutes, the assault was broken up and the numerically superior attackers were routed with significant casualties, with the Troop in pursuit.

Lance Corporal Apiata had thereby contributed materially to the operational success of the engagement. A subsequent medical assessment confirmed that Corporal D would probably have died of blood loss and shock, had it not been for Lance Corporal Apiata's selflessly courageous act in carrying him back to the main Troop lines, to receive the immediate treatment that he needed."

01 July 2007

A Catholic Story

Everything in the story that follows is true, even if I have taken the trouble to disguise names and locations so that the very real people depicted will not be hailed, congratulated or abused by strangers who should not be able to connect the facts with the people involved. It is a parable, but one based on a real occurence. If you object to human pleasures such as smoking and gambling, look away now.

Fr Callaghan has been Parish Priest of the parish of the Miraculous Medal for many years. The parish serves an overspill estate in a northern city. Overspill estates were planned for the people who lived in the nineteenth century slums which disfigured our industrial cities until the 50s, 60s and 70s, when they were destroyed for the soulless new slums which replaced them. Always poor, the collapse of industry left the parishioners much poorer. Many of the men have been out of work since the 1980s, their wives on part-time jobs, and whole families live on benefits - these are the people who would not or could not get on their bikes, but their Church did not desert them.

Fr Callaghan heard his vocation in the fields of an Irish farmhouse in the early 1960s and was trained at Maynooth for the English Mission. Never really aware of how he ended up in the particular diocese, he has given his life to the people he serves. Not an intellectual, not a liturgist or a rubricist, not one for polemic, not one for ecumenism: one for visiting his flock, especially the housebound, the sick, and, in particular, the old people who are frightened to leave their houses after dark because of the violence they feel (quite rightly) is likely to be visited upon them.

Midnight Mass at Christmas is at 7.00 pm on Christmas Eve, and every pensioner will be picked up and escorted home by a bunch of men who have not got work that night as bouncers, and who will be rewarded by free beer at the local Parish Club afterwards. But Father Callaghan makes sure that the bouncers are coming to Church too, and will usually persuade them, when "interviewing" them, to confess their sins so that on that night at least, they can approach their Saviour in a state of grace.

Insofar as he has a mission, it is to the poor, and insofar as he supports organisations, he supports the SVP. Local Corporal Works of Mercy for local people: he wouldn't get the joke, and would be irritated by it, because it makes fun of subsidiarity, a word he has to have explained to him every time I mention it (and I only see him about once a year and don't always mention it) but a thing that he practices. "Nobody understands our people like we understand ourselves." Christmas hampers are personalised, and if Mr Smith likes a drink, then there will be a bottle of whiskey for him, and if Mrs Jones smokes, there will be 50 Rothmans for her. "I'm nor going to judge somebody's pleasures, especially when they can't afford to indulge them."

The SVP conference meets on Tuesdays, and one Tuesday one of the members is able to say that they have won a decent prize on the lottery syndicate they run. Nine of them, including Fr Callaghan put in 50p each week and they buy three tickets, putting the othe £1.50 into the SVP fund. They have won over £400. This is real money: nearly £50 each. The ticket holder promises to get the money in time for the next meeting.

And somebody remembers: Fr Callaghan loves horse racing and has always wanted to put on a big bet. He goes home every summer and loves hearing the stories of the hundreds of euros his brothers and cousins put on the big races, and what they've won, and, usually, what they've lost.

And as a thank you to their priest for being their priest, the Conference members decide unanimously to give all the winnings to Fr Callaghan as long as he has a single bet with it, and buys himself a cigar to smoke at the bookmaker's. He argues, they insist, he gives in and accepts the present.

Anybody who has read this far will want to know: "did he back a winner?" That's not the point of this story. This is a story about a simple priest who gave up a lot of things to serve others. One of the things he gave up was the chance to swagger into a bookie's with a large wad of cash and a Cuban cigar. And, as a thank-you, some of the people who loved him gave him the chance to do just that.