30 December 2007

Archbishop Marini - Here's A Thought!

A few days ago, I posted about an article in the National Catholic Reporter, and concluded that the battle lines were being drawn around the Liturgy.

Today, I had the dubious pleasure, here, of downloading the podcast of an interview from a site hosted by the Catholic Communications Network of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

It is an interview with Archbishop Marini, who recently launched his book "A Challenging Reform" on the reform of the Liturgy at Westminster, hosted by Cardinal Murphy O'Connor. The interview is dire: I only lasted nine of the fifteen minutes. The Archbishop does not know how to use an interpreter and talks and talks, leaving the poor man to try to catch up. The history of liturgical change is dealt with outlandishly: Pius X changed the Liturgy, Pius XII changed the Liturgy, so Vatican II did so as well, to make it relevant to our time.

However, it suddenly struck me: why, if the Archbishop cannot speak English, has the book been launched in English, and in Westminster first, and the US next? Who is actually responsible for it? Could it be that Archbishop Bugnini's right hand man is being used as a link to the "glorious days" of the Consilium? And by whom?

The obvious answer is that the battle is already joined. Sacramentum Caritatis was the first shot to be fired, not Summorum Pontificum. This book has been in preparation for a while, quite possibly since the 2005 Synod of Bishops, in response to which the Pope issued Sacramentum Caritatis. The anti-Ratzinger Bishops have combined to maintain the status quo ante.

This Pope's mission seems to me to be ever clearer. God Bless him!

29 December 2007

Damian Thompson

The two of you who remember will recall my post when I came out badly worsted from suggesting, on his blog, that Damian Thompson might not have understood something. He is a very talented journalist with a gift for summarising complex issues into succint stories. There were various things I didn't like about his blog, and his aficionados, but I have found more and more over the last few months that his postings were hitting the bull time after time, and if his tone was at times a bit off-putting, his message was spot on.

We learned today via Fr Ray Blake that the Hierarchy is putting pressure on the owners of the papers he works for to tone Damian down. Fr Z (whom God preserve) has picked up on this as well.

I might have minded only a bit about this, but, by one of those coincidences, I spent yesterday reading Fr Aidan Nichol's "Looking At The Liturgy". (My Mother-in-Law is staying for Christmas and New Year: she always sends me money to buy books, but a few days before Christmas we remembered that I'd have to have something she could wrap with my daughter and give to me on Christmas Day. I'd thought of a couple, but Amazon recommended "Looking at the Liturgy" so I ordered it without even looking at the summary.)

How could I have missed this book previously! It is the most devestating and unanswerable summary of where, why and how a liturgical disaster occurred in the Church in the second half of the 20th century. Reading it - I went straight through it and then reread it straight away! - opened a window on how things should be and why they aren't.

One of the reasons for why things aren't as they should be is that the mindset which infuses the Suppository (The Tablet - geddit?) is the same mindset which infuses the Hierarchy of England and Wales. It knows that it is right and has a condescending attitude to the poor ignoramuses who are tied to old ways. One of the "South Coast" Bishops recently rebuked me (indirectly) for asking for more Masses in school: "we need fewer Liturgies of the Eucharist, and more Liturgies of the Word". It is a mindset which uses the authority of the Episcopacy when threatened by critics who revere the institution of the Episcopacy.

Damian has felt unthreatened by mere Bishops because he is defending mere Catholicsm. So they have decided to use mere bullying to take him on. This is shameless on their part!

So, although I think that Damian and I might not last longer than a single shared glass if we met at a do, I have decided that this issue is binary: it's him or them. And I'm siding with him.

28 December 2007

Something I Found Surprising

"President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad felicitated Pope Benedict XVI on the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ who is the messenger of love, friendship, justice and spirituality on the advent of the New Year.In a message to the Leader of the World Roman Catholics, the Iranian president said the present world is in dire need of guidelines of the divine prophets more than any other time in the history.He expressed the hope that the New Year would be the year of elimination of oppression, violation and discrimination and that of peace, friendship and respect for the rights of people.President Ahmadinejad further wished that the new Christian year would bring peace and tranquility to the international community on the basis of justice and spirituality."
Lifted from the President's own website.

27 December 2007

Battle Lines

Hat tip to Fr Justin and to CathCon both of whom have discovered an American piece of Suppository-like drivel, but Suppository-like drivel from a source that carries great influence in the United States.

But we should be pleased: the Pope's opponents are coming out of hiding and setting out their battle lines. They have chosen the Liturgy as the field on which they wish to fight, no doubt because they believe the Pope is not the Liturgist they know themselves to be.

2008 is going to be a really good year: this battle has got to come, and the Pope's enemies, who have woefully underestimated him so far, think that they can bring the faithful with them. Our job is to provoke our Hierarchs into declaring themselves.

Our Lady of Victories, pray for us!

Our Lady of Defeats, pray for them!

How We Can Help

Mass for the fourth Sunday of Advent saw a team of seven Extraordinary Ministers - all women - helping the priest, even to the extent of relieving him of having to purify the sacred vessels: still, that meant that he had time before the Blessing to discuss Saturday's football results.

My daughter described the music at Mass on Christmas Day as "like a cheesy pop concert". It was.

We can help. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal for England and Wales is available as a pdf download here. We can help our busy priests by reading it carefully so that we can point out helpfully any accidental mistakes which have been made before they become institutionalised.

That will make us popular, won't it!

24 December 2007

The Oxen

I'm thinking of Jeffrey this evening.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees,’
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come, see the oxen kneel!

In the lowly barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know’;
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thomas Hardy

23 December 2007

Enjoying a Family Christmas

Unlike the stereotypical husband, I am blessed with having my mother-in law here for two weeks. She normally stays for Christmas at my sister-in-law's, but as that family has had a year that makes the Book of Job look like a Barbara Cartland novel, she has come to us.

First blessing: we told the children (17 and 14) that Grandma might come to stay for Christmas and that would mean a lot of work before, during and after. "Mint!" was the reaction. ("Mint" is better than "cool".)

Second blessing: "Do you two want to go out so that we can Grandma-sit?" No, actually, because it's so many (ie 17) tears since we've been out together that we wouldn't know what to talk about, but what a delightful thought!

Third blessing: "Can I bring my friends in to meet Grandma?" And in troop teenagers, incredibly polite, just to meet somebody who is 83 years old and who treats them as though they were friends of her own age and generation.

Fourth blessing: children arranging the TV schedule around what Grandma might want to watch. "Oh dear! We won't be able to watch x: never mind - we can record it."

Fifth blessing: out for a walk and son says "Watch where you're walking Grandma: you're the only grandparent I have left!" and while wife and I look daggers at him, he and his Grandma burst out laughing.

Sixth blessing: my wife has her mother to stay for Christmas.

Seventh blessing: family. Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family, have added value this year because of an added and extremely welcome visiter.

And the stories: "My mother-in-law was a tailoress and did big dresses and hats so that when her mother was going to Nazareth (the chapel, not the town!) she couldn't walk on the pavement because her dress would brush against the walls, and she wouldn't walk in the gutter, so every Sunday she would walk to chapel down the middle of the road."

22 December 2007

A Carol in Arabic

It is entirely possible that the people who believed Jesus when he spoke to them and who kept the Faith in the places where He walked in spite of 2000 years of that land being fought over will finally be forced to abandon the Holy Land. The exodus of Christians has been precipitated in recent years: unloved by Palestinian Arabs and Israelis, scorned by Muslims and Jews, persecuted by terrorist acts, it is hard to imagine how awful their suffering is.

21 December 2007

A Special Feast of the Holy Family for Spain

On 1100 on 30 December, thousands, millions, of Spaniards will gather in the Plaza de Colón in Madrid to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Father will speak to them live from Rome.

Please pray for the Church in Spain at this time, and encourage anybody you know who might be in Madrid that Sunday to take part. The Spanish Government needs to understand that the Church is strong and united.

17 December 2007

Grumbles become Advent

Work gets busier just at the time that I should be out looking for Christmas presents. Just this morning I was told "You'll have to stay in London on Wednesday night because you have a meeting at 0900 on Thursday. But straight back because you have a meeting here on Thursday at 1400."

Advent rarely feels like Lent, but this year, it strikes me, life is so hectic that Advent is becoming a much more penitential season than usual. I have to stop every day to recollect what is going on, and to offer up so much hassle.

And this helps me remember why Advent should be like Lent: we aren't worthy of what is going to happen in a week's time, but it will happen anyway, because our unworthiness is a given. Concentrating on, or trying to concentrate, on what we are preparing for is a good thing. (And at least nobody has suggested giving up anything!)

Commercialising Christmas is nothing like as bad as commercialising Advent.

13 December 2007

Something to Depress Everybody!

When was the last time you heard a Priest preach on the sins of the flesh? On Sex? A lot of you will not like the quote which follows ("if you don't want to know the score, look away now"), some because of the message, some because of the language in which it is couched, but the more I reflect, the more apposite I find it.

It comes from a collection of essays by Piers Paul Read, a Catholic writer whose Catholicism has, as he explains in a different essay, brought him little favour.

He reflects on the erotic and concludes:

"It is therefore with some sorrow that I have come to accept that the Church is right and novelists are wrong. Art portrays the pleasures of this life, not the next. The whole drift of revealed truth suggests a divine distaste for the erotic. It even seems likely that the aboriginal calamity of original sin was sexual in kind, for why else should Adam and Eve have covered their bodies with fig-leaves? Copulation is undoubtedly man's most animal act. Even as he eats or defecates his mind can be elsewhere, but in copulation body and soul are concentrated in his loins. Orgasm is the surrogate ecstasy peddled by the Devil - an easy pastiche of that mystical state achieved by the most holy saints and ascetics.

This truth about God is hard to accept. We tend to forget that we are made in his image and likeness, not God in ours, and consequently convince ourselves that something so powerful and pleasant must accord to his will. Alas, it is not so, and it would be presumptuous to criticise our Creator for the way things have turned out. 'Is it for you to question me about my children,' asks Yahweh in Isaiah, 'and to dictate to me what my hands should do?' Only in marriage, when sexual intercourse between husband and wife may lead to the propagation of more souls, does God smile on copulation."

I wonder sometimes about NFP: is it about natural family planning, or about sex without the risk of children? I wonder about a Church where priests can talk about the sexual urge (as opposed to the procreational urge) as "holy". I wonder what they teach at seminaries.

I put forward, hesitantly, the view that the Church has lost a lot more since Vatican II than proper celebration of the Liturgy, and that She has to recover a sense of what men and women are for, not just what individual men and women should believe.

05 December 2007

Portuguse Bishops: One Last Chance

H/t to JSarto.

During an ad limina visit, the Portuguese hierarchy has been told what to do, and how to do it in what the Pope might think of as the "real spirit of Vatican II".

"The organisation of the Portuguese ecclesiastical community, and the mentality of its members, need to be changed in order to have a Church in Vatican II's rythm, in which the function of the clergy and the function of the laity are properly established, bearing in mind that, since we were baptised and made part of the family of the sons of God, we are co-responsible for the growth of the Church.

This ecclesiology of communion in the path of the Council to which the Portuguese Church has particularly felt called following the Great Jubilee, is, my beloved Brothers, the right path to follow, as long as you do not lose sight of possible traps, such as horizontalism at its source, democratisation of the attribution of sacramental ministries, the balance between Orders given and emerging services, the debate about which member of the community is first (a worthless debate, as the Lord Jesus has already said that it is the last who is first). But questions like these should not distract us from the true mission of the Church: it isn't about talking about itself, but about God."

A poor translation, but it's late. This is dynamite, though. Here is a liberal hierarchy being told to change. And to change now.

03 December 2007

Paulinus is back!

Have a look at this and a) wonder whether the Bishops of the South Coast will sleep a little less easily tonight, and b) thank goodness that the good Paulinus has returned.

01 December 2007

What Christianity Brings to Leadership

In the same week that I read in the British Army Review a statistic that shows that a much higher proportion of the miltary than of British society as a whole is prepared to declare itself as Christian, I came across the transcript of a speech on leadership given by General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, to a conference.

There are one or two errors in the transcript (one of which I've corrected below), and it is a transcript of the speech as delivered rather than of the text, so it reads a little oddly at times, but if you like what follows, you'll enjoy the rest.

"I’ve already suggested that the flip side of leadership is followership, and that the real trick of being a successful leader is to make people out of their own free choice, their own free will, follow. Not out of curiosity but out of a belief and confidence that the direction of travel is right, and the objective is worth the cost along the way. Following his father’s plan and doing what he had to do cost Jesus Christ his life. But his belief and confidence in his father’s plan led to him opening up the way to life after death for those who are also prepared to put their trust in him.

In my business asking people to risk their lives is part of the job. But doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is life after death is perhaps something of a betrayal. Therefore I think there is very much an obligation on the leader, certainly on a Christian leader, or a leader who purports to be a Christian, to include a spiritual dimension into his people’s preparation for operations and the general conduct for their lives. So qualities and core values are fine as a universally acceptable moral baseline for leadership. But I think the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to a completely different level. "