27 January 2008

Books And Village Churches


January is the main month for new books. Christmas brings money and book tokens, and these are turned into books.
I have had a few good ones this month: "Sweet Songs of Zion", a series of essays on hymns by John Betjeman; "About the Size of It" by Warwick Cairns, a surprisingly interesting book about weights and measures - anti-metric without being pro-Imperial; and "Spoken Here" by Mark Abley, a book in praise of dying languages everywhere.
But the best has certainly been Sir Roy Strong's "A Little History of the English Country Church". The first part retells (with acknowledgements) the story told in "The Stripping of the Altars" but in a style aimed at the general reader rather than in the magisterially scholarly style of Professor Duffy; and the second part continues the story to the nineteenth century.
These are churches under threat: they are largely abandoned by the people they were built to serve; the CofE seems determined to split into a series of squabbling sects; and the cost of upkeep of more than 16,000 country churches, many of them Grade 1 listed buildings, is getting beyond anything that the CofE's finances can cope with.
I know one large village where the Catholic Mass Centre has been closed and sold, and Mass is said once again in the mediaeval church. That might be part of the solution: Catholics built these churches so that the (seven) sacraments could be celebrated with due dignity. Any place in which God has been made truly present, any place in which a holy relic may still be encased in the altar, has a legitimate call on Catholics; and we have a legitimate call on them.

26 January 2008

Which Eucharistic Prayer?

More help for our priests from the GIRM.

You can always use Eucharistic Prayer I, and you should use it when there is a proper text for the Comunicantes or the Hanc Igitur, or when it is the feast of one of the Apostles, or a saint mentioned in it. Eucharistic Prayer II is only for weekdays. Eucharistic Prayers III and IV are for Sundays only, and IV should only be used when there is no Preface for the particular Mass and on Sundays in Ordinary time.

This summarises paragraph 365.

23 January 2008

Tagged for a Meme

It's Mac's fault.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

"Had you made it to be understood, that in the delusion of this amiable error you had gone further than your wise ancestors; that you were resolved to resume your ancient privileges, whilst you preserved the spirit of your ancient and your recent loyalty and honour; or, if diffident of yourselves, and not clearly discerning the almost obliterated constitution of your ancestors, you had looked to your neighbours in this land, who had kept alive the ancient principles and models of the old common law of Europe meliorated and adapted to its present state - by following wise examples you would have given new examples of wisdom to the world. You would have rendered the cause of liberty venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in every nation. You would have shamed despotism from the earth, by shewing that freedom was not only reconcileable, but as, when well disciplined it is, auxiliary to law."

Burke - Reflections on the Revolution in France - Penguin Edition 1982

So now you see where I get my punctuation from, and my love of long involved sentences.

It has never struck me before, but this could be a Roman Catholic talking to a Gallican Catholic (at any time after 1789 and before, say, the coronation of Napoleon, or the Congress of Vienna if you'd rather), rather than an Englishman talking to a Frenchman. Same result, same admonition. If anyone wants to pursue this to a Doctorate, then it's all yours: there's no copyright in ideas!

20 January 2008

How Will I Face Death?

This isn't a question I devote enough time to, and, when I do, it tends to drift off into a fantasy of the death of a Victorian paterfamilias surrounded by his loved ones. And then I read two articles yesterday which stopped me in my tracks: Christopher Howse in the Telegraph and Pastor Iuventus in the Catholic Herald, to which I can't find a link.

Christopher Howse talks about finding himself, as he thought on the brink of death; the young priest talks about being with the dying.

The very last question in the Penny Catechism asks what you should do after your night prayers.

"After my night prayers I should observe due modesty in going to bed; occupy myself with thoughts of death; and endeavour to compose myself to rest at the foot of the cross, and give my last thoughts to my crucified Saviour."

I remember as a seven year old learning a new hymn at school: all I remember now is the first line "Dear St Joseph, Spouse of Mary" and the repeated last line "Teach, O teach us how to die!". As seven year olds we sang it with gusto: it has a memorable lively tune; but that's all I remember.

Learning how to die has gone out of fashion. But a couple of weeks before my father died, he told me that he remembered his lessons: he had been taught as a boy how a good Catholic should die, and had seen good Catholics die according to the teaching he had received. And so he embraced death as a gift from God, and God gave him a gift of being in his own home, having family around him saying the Rosary, and a priest to say the Commendation as he died; and God gave an Indian doctor who was present the gift of seeing that even the English sometimes know how to "do death".

(My father was the sort of literal-minded man whose examination of Conscience was based on the Ten Commandments and on "Have I clothed anyone who was naked?" "Have I visited anybody in prison?" etc. He thought the SVP was God's gift to him to allow him to do what Jesus wanted him to do.)

My death might not be imminent: but it might be. So might yours. Are we prepared?

19 January 2008

Bishop Williamson, the SSPX, and a New (to me) Blog

I have mixed feelings about the SSPX. Part of me wants to applaud them for their fidelity to the Truth; part of me wants to take issue with, what seems to me, their wilful refusal to contrast Vatican II with the "spirit of Vatican II"; part of me recoils at outright refusal to obey Rome; part of me is glad that they have the momentum to maintain a structure in which the Mass as always celebrated continues to be celebrated; part of me feels sorry that a consequence of this Pontificate is that the SSPX will be superseded, and will become a footnote. The SSPX has been part of a debate that has informed my religious life ever since the day I served my first Novus Ordo Mass aged about 10 and asked the priest in the sacristy how many times I should ring the bell at the Consecration: "How the bloody hell does anyone know any more?" was the irreverent but accurate reply.

One part of me has always been convinced that the SSPX's chief problem is Bishop Williamson: he has never been a Catholic other than as part of the SSPX,

Update: I got this wrong. See the combox.

and, while his risible views on everything from women wearing trousers to "The Sound of Music" reflect on him personally, his views on Rome, his close to sedevacantist views on "the Two Churches" (the Church and the SSPX), reflect on the Society itself.

I came across a new (to me) blog here and, for the first time got a better idea about what Bishop Williamson might be about, a better idea about what the man behind the daft soundbites might actually believe and be like, and an idea that a bit of Charity towards the man, if not the soundbites, might be in order.

So: until the next time he says something daft, I promise not to post anything about Bishop Williamson here, or anywhere, and will dedicate effort, instead, into praying for the formal reconciliation of the SSPX with Rome.

13 January 2008

The GIRM Is Our Friend

I suggested, a few weeks ago, that we ought to use the GIRM to "help" our priests ensure that our Masses were celebrated worthily. David Schütz, whose blog, Sentire Cum Ecclesia, features in my blogroll, is a former Lutheran Pastor in Melbourne who now works for the local Archdiocese. He runs another blog, Sing Lustily And With Good Courage, about hymnody, and it was there that I came across an interesting point.

David said: "In fact, it is prohibited to replace the responsorial psalm used in the liturgy with a paraphrase."

I e-mailed him to ask about this and he has pointed me to the GIRM. In the edition for England and Wales it says:

"57. In the readings, the table of God’s word is prepared for the faithful, and the riches
of the Bible are opened to them. Hence, it is preferable to maintain the arrangement
of the biblical readings, by which light is shed on the unity of both Testaments
and of salvation history. Moreover, it is unlawful to substitute other, non-biblical
texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God."


"61. After the First Reading comes the responsorial Psalm, which is an integral
part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance,
because it fosters meditation on the word of God.

The responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a
rule, be taken from the Lectionary.

It is preferable that the responsorial Psalm be sung, at least as far as the
people’s response is concerned. Hence, the psalmist, or the cantor of the Psalm,
sings the verses of the Psalm from the ambo or another suitable place. The entire
congregation remains seated and listens but, as a rule, takes part by singing the
response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through without a response. In
order, however, that the people may be able to sing the Psalm response more
readily, texts of some responses and psalms have been chosen for the various
seasons of the year or for the various categories of Saints. These may be used in
place of the text corresponding to the reading whenever the Psalm is sung. If the
Psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in such a way that it is
particularly suited to fostering meditation on the word of God.

The following may also be sung in place of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary:
either the responsorial gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the responsorial psalm
or the Alleluia psalm from the Graduale Simplex, in the form described in these books."

What these two paragraphs mean is that there is a limit to the amount of choice the Priest or (more likely) the parish Musikmeister has at Responsorial Psalm time. It's either the Psalm as printed in the Lectionary, the Psalm for the season of the year or for the category of Saints, or the alternatives from the Graduales.

What is implicit in the Australian and E&W translations, and explicit in the US translation is this:

"Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm."

What is also implicit throughout is that the only alternative to the Responsorial Psalm exactly as printed are the official alternatives, also exactly as printed. There is no scope for paraphrase, no scope for creativity.

I might also argue that this means that responses that can't be learned simply and easily by the congregation are not licit either, for how does the congregation "take part by singing the response" if those who are responsible for music have chosen something they really like, but which the congregation can't catch first time round (or, more ominously, second, third, or fourth time round).

Now, I know that this will raise various hackles about actuosa participatio and more, but one step at a time. These are the rules for celebration of the Ordinary Form in England and Wales at present, and it is our duty to make sure that they are observed.

11 January 2008

Who Is Behind Cardinal Pell For Westminster?

Some analysis from the Times.

If this were right, then it would mean that the Cardinal's candidacy was floating around for a while before Paddy Power heard about it - which was around the time that Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's resignation was not accepted. That would add weight to a theory that MO'C was asked to stay on so that Cardinal Pell could enjoy, and make a success of, World Youth Day in Sydney before moving on.

(In fact, imagine if the Pope announced this on World Youth Day!)

This beast has legs!

Spain - The Problems Deepen


A hard week for the church in Spain. The socialist Prime Minister, Zapatero, has accused the opposition party of being “acquiescent” during the demonstration two Sunday’s ago of two million Spanish Catholics in defence of the family. He had wanted them to condemn the Bishops’ “retreat from Human Rights” , but instead accused them of supporting the condemnation of homosexual marriage and quick divorce. He also accused them of spoiling the spirit of the season “half way between the Nativity of the Lord and the Epiphany”.

A former Prime minister, Felipe Gonzalez, and a well known socialist journalist, Iñaki Gabilondo, have added to the attacks: according to the journalist “the Spanish Bishops’ Conference makes it much more difficult to be Spanish than to be British, and more difficult to be a Spanish Catholic than a Belgian Catholic”; while the former PM thinks that the the Bishops “believe themselves to possess an absolute truth, and want to save Spaniards from their errors. Well – we’re sick of being saved.”

There is a sort of hysterical adolescent cheek in the way these people attack the Spanish Episcopate and try to portray it as a branch of the PP, the opposition party. But this is another nail in the coffin of the post-Franco settlement in Spain.

Our Lady of the Pillar - pray for Spain.

07 January 2008

The New Church At Fatima

JSarto posted an interesting comment on the new building at Fatima, which he found at Manuel Azinhal's excellent website.
My translation:
"Looking at the new and old churches at Fatima, the difference between their profiles really stands out. One lifts itself up to Heaven, while the other anchors itself to earth. It struck me that this could explain the difference between the religion of the men who built Cathedrals, and the religiosity of the men who are responsible for these modern buildings. The former did everything thinking about Heaven; the latter have no place in their spirit for anything which transcends the things of the earth. The builders of the former, who worked on the great cathedrals, used to leave marks in the stone of the buildings which could never be seen from the ground: when asked why, they answered, very simply, that it was enough for them that their work could be seen from Heaven.

The difference between the religious attitude which dominates western Christianity today, and the attitude which made the age of glorious Christianity is worrying. Before, men though about God to turn themselves to His Will; now, often, those who turn to God want Him to do their will."
Incidentally, Manuel Azinhal has a wonderful post on the significance of the 100th Anniversary of the Portuguese regicide: does anybody know how to copy a PowerPoint on YouTube so that it can be translated into English?

03 January 2008

Another Thought-Provoking Book

"The Just War tradition ... was not framed in the abstract. It represents a careful attempt, gradually and pragmatically developed over many centuries, to put some moral discipline, some humanity, into the business of armed conflict without imposing a straitjacket so rigid as completely to preclude effective action against grave wrong."
General Sir Charles Guthrie was Chief of the Defence Staff from 1997-2001. Sir Michael Quinlan was PUS at the MOD from 1988-1992. They know whereof they speak.
I know that the people involved at the sharp end of conflict do tend to think about what they do and why they do it. What is really good about this book is having a couple of practitioners explaining how the Thomist principles of the Just War apply today.
Add to that a beautifully produced book, a hardback that lies flat without the spine cracking. £10 for 50 pages might seem a bit steep (only £7 from Amazon), but if you can't afford it, ask the library to obtain a copy. This is an important book.

02 January 2008

The English ...

What we are good at: putting up with the mediocre!

And being strong!