31 March 2008

The Passion On BBC


I seem to be spending most of my time on Catholic forums and websites at the moment apologising for my ignorance, so my own site might as well be the same; and so I'll confess to enjoying something which, from the resounding silence I have noted elsewhere, everybody else has consigned to the "pretty bad" category.
I watched all four episodes of The Passion during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday and thought it was pretty good. It was telling that, when the character who had walked with the disciples to Emmaus broke the bread and the actor changed to the actor who had played Jesus, my daughter said "Oh! 'They recognised Him in the breaking of the bread.'" No messing about with the main part of the story; a fairly literal following of the order of things; lots of familiar words and expressions. Some flesh put on something we normally only experience in the imagination.
I tried watching the Mel Gibson version but was put off by the SSPXness of it all: Latin, in a country and at a time when everybody would have used Greek as the lingua franca; the emphasis on the blood and gore; what I might think of as a sort of post-Irish-neo-Jansenism: none of us are worthy of the Man who suffers like this, and we can but try to suffer like this to show that we recognise our unworthiness; and we'll still go to Hell, which we deserve to do, unless we confess with our last breath - but at least we recognise what sinners we are. (OK, maybe a bit unfair, but only a bit.)
This wasn't a production for Catholics, but it ended up as though, somewhere along the line, somebody in the production team decided that he didn't want to annoy anybody who was Catholic. So while the earlier part of the narrative went a bit wild about who did what, when, the Passion narrative showed Jesus and the Apostles from the Last Supper to the Resurrection and the road to Emmaus. It didn't try to suggest, for example, that there was a third thief crucified along with Jesus, or that Mary Magdalene wasn't a prostitute, or that Jesus commended Our Lady and John not to each other, but to some hypothetical counsellor who would make everybody feel comfortable with what had happened. It wasn't a Life of Brian for believers.
It wasn't wonderful: it was much better than Robert Powell's 1977 Jesus of Nazareth, and miles better than The Greatest Story Ever Told. It felt like a sincere attempt to tell the greatest story ever told without resorting to capital letters. At the end Christ had died, and Christ had risen, and that was a miracle that nobody in Judaea could understand, even Jesus' followers. That was worth my licence fee for the week.

30 March 2008

The First Day Of Spring

It's mild, the may flower is bursting out, there are buds on the hazel, the magnolia has flowered, the sparrow chicks are being taught how to forage. Crocus and snowdrop are a memory, and the daffodils are just about finished. It's spring!

The same "force that drives the green fuse" has hit the children: all the local boys are out on the green playing cricket.

It's still March!

29 March 2008

Sailing To Byzantium - For A Friend

A friend, after years of struggle, has abandoned Catholicsm for Orthodoxy, Rome for Byzantium (although he'd probably call it Constantinople). It would be inhuman not to be pleased by the happiness and calm which have come to him after the resolution of years of mental struggle, but I find the direction in which he's travelled incomprehensible and the destination a cul-de-sac.
Here's another view of such a journey.

THAT is no country for old men. The young

In one another's arms, birds in the trees-

Those dying generations - at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,

Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long

Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,

Nor is there singing school but studying

Monuments of its own magnificence;

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,

Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,

And be the singing-masters of my soul.

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is; and gather me

Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium

Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

24 March 2008

O Si Sic Omnes!


You have to look hard to work out that this is Pope John XXIII. You would have to spend ages to try to work out who anybody else was. But you wouldn't bother because this isn't a photo of people: it's a photo of the Consecration during a Papal Mass.

23 March 2008

One Way To To Celebrate Easter

Put a ringtone of the Christus Vincit (Radio Vaticana-like, cheapo organ version) on your mobile.

Set it as your alarm tone, as well as your incoming call tone.

Set yourself alarms for, say, every ten minutes that you'll be out in public.

Make sure the volume is set to very loud.

Go out for a longish walk where there are lots of people.

WARNING: this really embarrasses 17 and 14 year olds. Make sure they understand "Be a fool for Christ's sake" and let them go and buy the paper and some milk, and don't worry when they try to pretend not to be with you. Then tell them they can go by themselves to the funfair this evening.

My ringtone has verses, never mind just the chorus!

Happy Easter, everybody!

16 March 2008


Mac was garlic, OTSOTA was coriander, but I ... well, I hope this isn't faulty.

You Are Basil

You are quite popular and loved by post people.

You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.

You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.

On Being Forced To Think

I get my news about the Church from the Catholic Herald and Zenit, and I get my understanding of what it means from the blogging prests I have listed in my combox. I cast rather more widely both for secular news and for a better understanding of theology, but for ecclesiastical current affairs, I have Zenit for the world, and the Herald for the UK.

I rather passed over Anna Arco's article about the SSPX Bishop Williamson last week: I said a couple of months ago (here) that a post I had read about him on a blog had alerted me to the fact that there was more to him that his views on trousered women and Julie Andrews, and I thought that the article was just covering old ground, and pointlessly at that!

The Sensible Bond has a couple of posts which have made me think a bit harder. Was the Herald's article a (vain and foolish) attempt to split the SSPX-supporting community in the UK, and might the result have been to drive them even further from reconciliation with Rome?

(And the author of the post's treatment at Damian Thompson's Telegraph blog showed the Editor in Chief of the Herald off at his cattiest "best".)

I must say that I know little of the SSPX, or the FSSP, or any of the societies which more or less licitly maintain the liturgical narrative which links the Church today directly with the Church of always in a way that the mainstream Chruch in England and Wales seems incapable of (I was told at Church today that "Mass on Good Friday" would be at three o'clock). But these articles, and a piece I read in the Universe's forum, have led me to think more than I might have wanted to about traditionalism and neo-traditionalism, traditionalism and Vatican II-traditionalism, traditionalism and John Paul II-traditionalism: in fact traditionalism and any sort of adjective-qualified traditionalism.

There are two letters side by side in the Herald this weekend: one, by Archbishop Conti, about the desireability of mass versus populum has been more than adequately fisked by Fr Z (whom God preserve) already; the other reports a reaction from (looking at the sender's address) the Bishop of Wrexham to a request for the TLM: he is quoted as saying that the Motu Proprio imposes no obligation on Bishops to extend provision of the Mass in its Extraordinary Rite.

I find myself coming closer to a point at which the decision about whom to follow: the Pope, or the Hierarchy in England and Wales (and Scotland, by the look of it): is becoming binary; either/or, rather than both/and.

The piece I read in the Universe's forum contained a paragraph which said:

"At the other end of the Catholic episcopal continuum, although the 99 Names of Allah (or whatever it was called) was the work of a composer claiming the Orthodox allegiance, it's certain that any Orthodox bishop prostituting his cathedral for the performance of such a work would be canonically deposed within the week."

What sort of Church do we have, in which such a statement should be in any way surprising?

15 March 2008

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate ...

Ecclesiologically, this has been a pretty hard week. A close friend has given up attending SSPX Mass and has reconciled with ... Constantinople; the Catholic Herald has had a disastrously misaimed pop at the SSPX; and Archbishop Conti has discovered that the orientation of the priest at Mass is a richness discovered by Vatican II.

But I have one thing to give great thanks for: a new insight.

It is not surprising that the average practising Catholic hears little about what went on during the Passion which will stop him in his tracks. He knows the narrative inside out; he has learned that he was the one shouting "Crucify Him!" by the simple expedient of having to take the part of the ignorant people every year during the congregational Passion. He can time what time he will be out of each of the Holy Week ceremonies.

So it's very rare that anybody can make us stop and start at a new insight into what happened. But Fr Ray Blake has: look at this.

10 March 2008

Father And Son

We woke up this morning to find that the wind had lifted one of the fence panels separating us from next door and had deposited it on the grass. These panels are about 6 foot by 6 foot, and given the torrential rain, which had thoroughly soaked it through, I could barely lift it off the grass.

I left work early to see what I could do and quickly realised that the only thing I could do was ring my son on his mobile and ask him to leave school early (he has a free period last on Monday of Week 2) to help me. He came straight back and bounded into the task with enthusiasm. However, we failed. The concrete pillars into which we have to slide the panel are also six foot high, and trying to support a sodden fence panel in gusts of 35 mph proved beyond us: it was like a very heavy sail. As another squall came in, we decided to put the panel at the side of the house and leave it for a few days.
My son reflected on this after we had cleaned ourselves up and said we should wait until the weekend: he could his bring two of his friends around and if two of them raised and the other guided, the panel would slot back in without a problem.
I asked what my role would be in this plan: "you can open us a can of cider each after we've sorted it out" he answered, with a grin. "You're not really tall enough to do this." He and his friends, all of them 17, are all pushing six foot and haven't stopped growing, so he has a point when talking (down) to his 5' 8" father. Then he added: "And I don't want you hurting yourself, either."
The torch has been taken: I don't remember passing it. But the idle, slovenly, unthinking, uncaring, incurious, ungrateful, teenager who grunts at us across the breakfast table showed himself to be the considerate, thoughtful, strong, resourceful, young man his teachers tell us about on Parents' Night; one who has thought how he and his friends will accomplish the task that he and his father won't manage; one who doesn't count the cost in advance but sets to with a will; one who is happy to take on a brutally hard bit of manual work without complaining, before, during, or after.
My son, and I'm proud to be his father.

04 March 2008

Worsted By A Catholic Editor, Again!

I got the online version of a tongue-lashing a few months ago when I suggested on his blog that the Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Herald might not be right about something.

I tried to defend a friend against some glib comments by the Editor of The Universe on his forum and have come off even worse: he accuses me of being a tabloid journalist.
The moral is obvious: don't tangle with these people as you aren't going to best them.
Get your mate onto it instead.

03 March 2008

What Say Computers That I Am?

What are my politics?

One of those quizzes that Jeffrey finds all over the place.

You are a

Social Conservative
(25% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(33% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Totalitarian (33e/25s)

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid.com: Free Online Dating
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

02 March 2008

Hexham And Newcastle

Seeing various posts about the death of the Bishop, I visited the website, and found, on a link to the Cathedral parish the following:

"Pupils at Our Lady & St. Anne's School are automatically included in the annual preparation for First Communion celebrations, usually held in June. This normally involves Year 5 pupils. Catechists hold preparation sessions at the school during normal school hours and the children also attend a number of Saturday morning classes at the Cathedral, which last 45 minutes."

The month of June in Year 5 means you have to be 10 years old before you can make First Holy Communion.

A fat lot Pope St Pius X knew!

Surprised By Jeffrey And Opus Dei

.How can a bloke keep so many blogs up?


Anyway, here he posted about the Shrine of Torreciudad about which I knew nothing. How is this for a building from the 1970s?

How is this for an altar from a building from the 1970s?

Carved from alabaster, this altarpiece was completely unknown to me until Jeffrey posted a link. Reading the explanation of the artist (Juan Mayné Torras) gave me a clue as to why I knew nothing about it:

"I read what the founder of Opus Dei had written and this helped me, while I was still designing, to get what he wanted: images which would inspire devotion and prayer; and that the whole altarpiece would be a piece of catachesis in alabaster, like the other altarpieces of Aragón".

This is an Opus Dei shrine to Our Lady of Torreciudad, before whose image the mother of St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer gave thanks after her two year old son had recovered from an illness thought to be mortal.

Opus Dei: two words which are supposed to chill our blood. But, be objective: go to the shrine and find, for example, that the confessionals are in the crypt because they are the foundation on which everything else is built. And there are always priests available for the Sacrament of Confession.

Read all about it here.

01 March 2008

Tradition And Modernism In The Church

My translation of a piece by Rafael Castela Santos

The very essence of the Church demands continuity between Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and our times. So those who call themselves “Christians”, but who have broken this continuity, cannot be part of the Church. Neither Lutherans, nor Calvinists, nor Methodists, nor members of any Protestant sect, are part of the Church, however much they might claim to be.

The Catholic Church doesn’t just have a 2000 year history of real and effective existence: it actually has a 6000 year history, because the Old Testament Prophecies are fulfilled in Christ. All of Judaism pours out into Christ, however little the Jewish people see it. In fact Judaism, in order to survive into modern times, has to drink deeper from the Talmud than from the Old Testament, and the Talmud was compiled after the time of Christ. As many theologians have noted throughout history, the new Israel – the chosen people – is the Catholic Church. A marvellous book called “How Jesus Christ Said the First Mass” explains how the institution of the Eucharist and the Mass at the Last Supper thrusts its roots deeply into the Sacred History of the Old Testament. Many of the things which take place prefigure the third and definitive Revelation which is of God himself: Christ.

Of course none of this is possible without the existence of Tradition, a deposit of Faith, Doctrine and Liturgy which is passed from generation to generation and which is changeless. The Faith requires some basic assumptions, which we call Dogmas, and which Catholics have to believe if they are going to continue to be Catholics. Dogmas are immutable, as is the Faith. Of course it is possible to make clearer something which is implicit in Doctrine: for example, the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception happened in the nineteenth century, but there is evidence that this feast was celebrated as early as the third. One of the authors who writes most clearly about this is Fr Juan González Arintero OP, who in the three volumes of “Development and Vitality of the Church”, and in his “Mystical Evolution” explains how the development of doctrine is organic, yet does not introduce novelties or, even less, contradictions.

The best expression of the biblical saying “one Faith and one Shepherd” is the Mass codified by Pope St Pius V. There are several Catholic rites, but they have always shared three nuclear aspects which come from Tradition: the Canon, the Offertory and the Consecration. Various additions were made to this foundation through the centuries, because Tradition is not about stagnation, but about sensible, accurate, thought-through, organic progress. The Roman Canon codified this one Faith – while respecting venerable Rites such as the Hispano-Visigothic (often referred to inaccurately as the Mozarabic Rite), the Rite of Braga, or the several eastern Catholic Rites. Pope St Pius V accepted that the Mass could be added to in the future, as happened with the Leonine prayers to St Michael at the foot of the altar. But “Anathema Sit” was hurled at those who would change what was codified: modification of the Canon of the Mass, which had been sealed by the Holy Pope at a time when the enemies of God and His Church moved towards their high tide, could not be accepted.

It is Tradition which links us directly to the time of the Apostles and to Our Lord himself. Because if Christ instituted One Church, the Catholic Church, it is no less certain that He gave it the power to bind in Heaven: Tradition means respect for the past, the impossibility of a rupture with the past. Pope St Pius V codified the Mass, and there is no human nor angelic power able to change this dogmatic statement. Nobody, not even the Holy Father himself, can change a dogma which has been proclaimed. As Chesterton said: “Tradition is the democracy of the dead”. And as the Church has three parts (the Militant, the Suffering and the Triumphant) we have no right to attack the link which, across time, unites those of us who are alive on Earth with those who live in the hereafter. The democracy of the dead has one of its axes in Christ, and is therefore theocentic.

The modernist proposes that all our principles and our dogmas should be adapted to the spirit of the times, the Zeitgeist. Modernism, which Pope St Pius XII called “the sewer of all heresies” empties the Faith of content because it empties dogmas of content. Although there has to be an intimate connection between Faith and Liturgy, modernism has managed to make of the Catholic Liturgy of today a multiple, chaotic, changeable and ugly thing, which reflects the philosophy which inspires it.

Grass doesn’t grow beneath the feet of the modernist, because he might cut it at any moment. In modernism, the axis is no longer centred in Christ: it has become anthropocentric. Modernism is, therefore, immanentism.

And a word about that weak creature that can be seen here and there: the Vatican II conservative. He is not a defender of Tradition. He is somebody who has accepted some of the precepts of the Revolution while rejecting others. He wants to freeze the Revolution at point that suits his interest or his convenience. He wants to preserve odd remnants of the Traditional order of things, even though they may already have been emptied of content or meaning. Unlike the Traditionalist, the Vatican II conservative is stagnant, even though, much to his discomfiture, he is permanently surfing the waves of Revolution. He is disguised as a chameleon.
If the liberals are high speed anthropocentrists, the Vatican II conservative is a low profile anthropocentric: but they are still both anthropocentrists.

Neither those who openly favour rupture with the past: the modernists; nor those who tacitly allow it to happen: the Vatican II conservatives; belong in Christ’s Church. The Mystical Spouse of Our Lord admits neither circumlocution nor compromise. The Mystical Spouse is outside time, and even at Her foundation She sinks her roots deep into the first Revelation to our first parents. The Mystical Spouse can only be understood and loved through Tradition.
The Catechism says that there are three pillars of authority: the Holy Scriptures, the Fathers, and Tradition. And isn’t it Tradition which connects and holds everything together?
Juan Vázquez de Mella says that the difference between men and animals is traditionalism.

He is spot on.