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. "

30 November 2007

Spe Salvi


I wish I knew half as much about anything as the Pope seems to know about everything.

This one is going to take a long time to understand: it takes long enough to read through to realise that you aren't going to understand it first time round.

God Bless Our Pope.

28 November 2007

Something Positive

"The document recognises that the best modern resource for creating a Catholic ethos in our schools is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which present the 'rich and full symphony of faith.'"

I am in the van when it comes to criticising Bishops, so it gives me great pleasure to point out that the Bishop of Lancaster not only thinks that Catholic schools in his Diocese ought to be Catholic, but that he has also given them a document which will help them to become beacons of Catholic light.

Well done Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue!

23 November 2007

Advice for Busy Catholics in London

You are in the Victoria area just after 1100. You have a meeting in Whitehall at 1230. You want to go to Confession.

Go to the Cathedral. Join the queue which is several strong at 1110 even though confessions begin at 1130. Join the shuffle which enables you to focus on the Lady Chapel: the "Tota Pulcra Es", which draws you into the "Ave Maria", which draws you into the mosaic of the life of Our Lady.

Wait your turn. Worry about the time.

Tell yourself to stop worrying.

Go to Confession.

Get one Our Father (that's right: ONE OUR FATHER) as your penance.

Say your Our Father. Feel guilty that the good priest seems to have noticed your briefcase and suit and not how much of a wretch you really are.

Say your Our Father again because you were thinking about the above.

Decide a decade of the Rosary would have been a better penance and say it.

Leave the Cathedral at 1205 and arrive in Whitehall early.

Say Deo Gratias.

19 November 2007

Diamond Wedding


By Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate

LOVE found a voice and spoke two names aloud –
two private names, though breezed through public air –
and joined them in a life where duty spoke
in languages their tenderness could share,

A life remote from ours because it asked
each day, each action to be kept in view,
and yet familiar in the trust it placed
in human hearts, in hearts remaining true.

The years stacked up and as their weight increased
they pressed the stone of time to diamond,
immortal-mortal in its brilliant strength,
a jewel of earth where lightnings correspond.

Now every facet holds a picture-glimpse:
In some, the family faces and the chance
for ordinary talk and what-comes-next;
in others, shows of pomp and circumstance.

And here, today, the diamond proves itself
as something of our own yet not our own –
a blaze of trust, the oneness made of two;
the ornament and lodestar of the crown.

Photograph of a Saint at Mass

Courtesy of Jeffrey, I have this picture of a Saint at Mass.

Kneeling at the right is His Imperial and Royal Majesty the Emperor Charles, now Blessed Charles of Austria.
I posted some time ago a picture of an Australian Padre in New Guinea in WWII. A subtext to that post was the adaptability of the Extraordinary form of the Mass: that adaptability is shown here too, where Mass is celebrated in a railway siding, next to a hospital train.
But as worthy of note is the adaptability of an Emperor, who humbles himself in front of his Sovereign Lord.

17 November 2007

How to Heckle

Remembering what happened when somebody protested at a Labour Party Conference, some young students decide to heckle differently.

Promoveatur ut Removeatur

They are promoted that they might be removed.

I worry less about the occupants of the Sees of the Dioceses of England and Wales than about those responsible in the Seminaries for training the next generation of priests.

If you don't know what I mean, see Fr Ray.

Two of the Seminaries are in safe hands: there is an opportunity for a third. Let's really pray for the discernment of whoever chooses the next President of Ushaw.

12 November 2007

If There Be Fifty Just Men In the City Should They Perish Withal?

I worship in a parish with a liberal Parish Priest in a liberal Diocese. I make small waves. The young curate has begun to learn the Extraordinary Rite, but has told nobody. I have promised to relearn how to serve his Mass: in a form I learnt 44 years ago and used for only three years.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, and then clicking on links in a blogroll, probably Philip's, I came across a posting which described a life of resistance to Modernism in a modern English Catholic Diocese which made realise just how craven I am.

John Kearney has found his vocation: it is, in a spirit of orthodoxy and humility, to stand up to the Diocese of Portsmouth. If you read only one thing today, please read this.

I am reminded of a local St Athanasius: somebody who stands up patiently for God's Truth, but instead of (no doubt as well as) against the pagan, has to do so against the people who claim to be representing God's Church. He has faced the people who do not attack through Ad Clerum confidential letters, but through browbeating ordinary members of the Church into thinking that they, the experts, now understand how the Church of the Ages has been systematically wrong for the last 1900 years. He has stood up to them and they have ridiculed him.

I quoted something by Evelyn Waugh yesterday: "The Mystical Body doesn't strike attitudes and stand on its dignity. It accepts suffering and injustice. It is ready to forgive at the first sign of compunction." This, it seems to me, it what John Kearney has done on behalf of the Mystical Body, and is doing. I am proud to be in Communion with him, but am not worthy to shine his shoes.

11 November 2007

Parsing an Editorial

Or at least a sentence from one.

Courtesy of The Suppository (The Tablet which is a pain in the backside):

"It is already present in some seminaries, where a proportion of young men studying for the priesthood seem particularly attracted to a backwards-looking style of Catholicism that was familiar in the novels of Evelyn Waugh."

Now, if this means anything, it means that Catholicsm in the novels of Evelyn Waugh is backwards-looking. The Catholicsm described in Waugh's novels is, given that they were all written before Vatican II, Tridentine. If, therefore, they are backwards-looking, they look to the period before Trent, perhaps as far back as the time of the Fathers.

Perhaps this is what Waugh was describing when he wrote:

"The Mystical Body doesn't strike attitudes and stand on its dignity. It accepts suffering and injustice. It is ready to forgive at the first sign of compunction."

Not described here are the Tridentine certainties of Bishops who feel that their Headship of a Local Church gives them an absolute dictatorship, but rather the paternal love of a solicitous father.

Do we think that the anonymous editorialist was thinking about that when she wrote it? (Can the word "thinking" be used about the supremely silly act of name-calling?) Probably not. She was probably thinking vaguely about the TV adaptation of Brideshead.

Is a proportion of young men studying for the priesthood particularly attracted to a backwards-looking style of Catholicism that was familiar in the novels of Evelyn Waugh? I have no idea, but I have my hopes.

10 November 2007

For Remembrance Day

The Last Post at the Menin Gate

Both my grandfathers and all of my great uncles fought in World War One. Two died, and their bodies were never found. One is named on the Menin Gate, the other on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Both of my parents and all of my uncles and aunts served during World War Two. All of them survived.

Because of their sacrifice, nobody in my generation has had to join the Armed Forces.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

08 November 2007

Bishop Hollis Keeps Digging

I will tip my hat to Cathcon, but with heavy heart. Bishop Hollis of Portsmouth is at it again.

This time he wants to legalise prostitution.

"If you are going to take a pragmatic view and say prostitution happens, I think there's a need to make sure it's as well-regulated as possible for the health of people involved and for the safety of the ladies themselves.

That's not to say I approve of prostitution in any way. I don't. I would be very much happier if there was no prostitution in Portsmouth or anywhere else because I do regard those involved in any way as involved in some form of immorality.

But it's going to be there whatever we do – it has been from time immemorial, so I think that's something we have to be realistic about."

I like the idea that something that has been around since time immemorial can suddenly, now we are in 2007, be sorted out.

This is the New Labour, Spirit of Vatican II, idea that changing things solves them; that novelty is a substitute for truth; that we, today, have solutions to all of the things which have plagued mankind since the Fall.

No hint from the Bishop that the problem might be rampant sexuality. No hint that people living well-ordered lives might act as examples to their neighbours. No hint that prostitution is both a sin itself and a cause of sin.

No mention of sin, actually.

In what morass have we sunk, and who has guided us there?

05 November 2007

The Westminster Stakes - An Update

Light movement on the book on the next Archbishop. Here are today's odds from Paddy Power (earlier odds in brackets):

Rt Rev Vincent Nichols 2-1 (7-2)
Rt Rev Kevin McDonald 5-1 (7-2)
Rt Rev Alan Hopes 11-2
Fr Timothy Radcliffe 6-1 (10-1) (6-1)
Bishop William Kenney 15-2 (6-1)
Cardinal Pell 10-1
Fr Aidan Nichols 11-1 (5-1) (6-1)
Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Patrick Kelly 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Arthur Roche 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Bernard Longley 12-1
Rt Rev Peter Smith 12-1
Rt Rev Michael Evans 16-1
Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue 16-1
Bishop George Stack 16-1
Fr Christopher Jamison 20-1
Bishop John Rawsthorne 20-1
Bishop John Patrick Crowley Non-runner (33-1)

Only two changes: Archbishop Fitzgerald drops to 12-1, and Bishop Stack enters the list: another Westminster Auxiliary. My guess is that this is a pious and speculative shot by a few parishioners in his area.

Cardinal Pell maintains his place on the list. 10-1 will look like very good odds if he comes to the See.

04 November 2007

Four Stories of the New Spanish Martyrs

Courtesy of the Casa de Sarto, here are the stories of four of those martyrs beatified last week.

Mgr Laplana was Bishop of Cuenca in 1936 and was arrested with his manservant and his secretary by a group of militiamen. They were driven out to a roadside near Villar de Olalla where they were shot. Mgr Lapana received a wound to the hand as he was trying to bless his killers. After killing them, the militiamen mutilated their bodies.

Francisco Güell Albert, Parish Priest of Bellprat was arrested by militiamen who took him to Rocas de Paratge, where he was shot in the head and chest and was left for dead. Some local people found him and took him to the hopital at Igualada. However, tipped off by a doctor, the militiamen came to the hospital and took him to Pla de les Malles where they killed him.

Antonio Sierra Leyva, a former Administrador of Guadix Catedral was brutally beaten by militiamen in an attempt to make him blaspheme. As they were unable to do so, they doused him in petrol, set fire to him, and then buried him alive: throughout his agony he continued to reapeat “Father, forgive them”.

Perfecto Carrascosa, a Franciscan priest, fled from Madrid after three friars had been murdered, to the village of Villacañas where he had been born. He was arrested and brutally tortured by militiamen who wanted him to call his mother and the BVM whores. “My mother was not one, as well you know” he said; “and the Most Holy Virgin was always Immaculate”. He was badly burned by candles before being shot near Tembleque.

Holy Martyrs of Spain, pray for us.

03 November 2007

Fiorella de Maria

I read a book by this author recently - Fr William's Daughter - and I can't get it out of my thoughts - for the right reasons I should add. The blurb goes as follows:

"Francesca Saliba's father dies in a cleverly conducted traffic accident when she was eleven. As the only witness, she knew it was murder but only her English uncle, a West Country parish priest, believed her story. Her father's death marked the end of her Maltese childhood: within days, she had been spirited out of the country, her passport had been revoked and she found herself living in the eccentric little world of the one relative prepared to take her in - Father William Arrowsmith, the most English of men, the most Catholic of priests.

Father William's daughter tells the story of a refugee forced to start a new life in the alien world of an English market town and traces Francesca's journey home ten years later, where she begins her quest to discover why her father was killed and who betrayed him. But as Francesca and her long-suffering guardian revisit the murky post-independence world of her childhood, they are forced to acknowledge that the truth may be more elusive and more distressing than they could ever have imagined."
I had expected something like a detective story but found something rather more like an early P D James than an Agatha Christie. It is well written: sufficiently well written that I could imagine that she could develop into a real prose stylist. And she avoids sentimentalising a story that could have ended up dripping with saccharine.
She manages to evoke two different worlds: that of Catholics in a provincial town living in that semi-attached manner that Catholics outside the great clusters of the Faith in England have developed; and a Malta in which the problems of the late 1970s and early 1980s still smoulder beneath the surface ready to blaze up again. The main theme is about growing up and letting go, but I only realised that the second time through the book: I spent the first racing through to uncover the plot.
This is the Christmas present for somebody you can't really think what to get for, not least because in a few years time when she has become a bestselling author, they will be able to boast about how they have been reading her for years! But if you do buy it as a present, make sure you give yourself enough time to read it first!

31 October 2007

It's That Man Again ...

Cardinal Pell, that is.

(Zenit) Cardinal Pell on Peace and War

"The Battle for Public Opinion"

SYDNEY, Australia, OCT. 30, 2007

Here is an excerpt from the address delivered Monday by Cardinal George Pell before the Sydney Institute, a nonprofit current-affairs forum. The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Sydney, spoke on "Prospects for Peace and Rumors of War: Religion and Democracy in the Years Ahead." The event marked the launch of Cardinal Pell’s book "God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics and Society," published by Connor Court and Catholic University of America Press.

A large battle is likely to open up over human rights and anti-discrimination legislation. Last week English papers carried reports that a couple with an unblemished record as foster parents to 28 vulnerable children have been forced to give up this work. As committed nonconformist Christians they were unable to teach the children they are fostering that homosexual relationships are just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages.

This requirement was imposed under the Sexual Orientation Regulations, the same laws which forced Catholic agencies out of adoption services earlier this year. The British government refused to grant church agencies an exemption from the laws, even though it meant that the country would lose one of its most successful adoption services.

In Australia, the concept of exemptions to anti-discrimination laws to allow church agencies to go about their work in a manner consistent with their beliefs continues to survive. But it was subject to sustained attack during the debate in the United Kingdom over the Sexual Orientation Regulations. These laws prohibit any discrimination against homosexuals by anyone providing "goods, facilities and services". This makes them practically all-encompassing, with exceptions only for a small number of narrowly defined religious activities, primarily services held in churches. Church adoption services were therefore confronted with the prospect of being forced to place children with homosexual couples, contrary to their beliefs.

When the Catholic bishops petitioned the government for an exemption for church agencies a member of the Scottish parliament said it would make "a mockery" of society’s decision "to end discrimination" if exemptions were granted "to those groups most likely to discriminate". The English philosopher AC Grayling said the Catholic bishops’ request posed "the threat of a possible return to the dark ages. We are trying to keep a pluralistic society, and elements in the Christian church and other religions are trying to destroy it".

The American academic lawyer Ronald Dworkin said the laws were "necessary to prevent injustice", and argued that respect for religious freedom does not mean accommodating any "preference” designated as religious. Even though supportive of an exemption for church agencies on adoptions, Dworkin claimed that, as a matter of general principle, allowances should be made only for the "central convictions" of religious believers, and must not extend to the state allegedly taking the side of religion on questions such as abortion or same-sex marriage, by restricting or prohibiting them.

At the heart of this attack on the concept of exemptions for faith-based agencies lies a false analogy drawn between alleged discrimination against homosexuals and racial discrimination, and this is already beginning to appear in Australia.

This analogy allows opponents of exemptions to dismiss the objection that the law makes exceptions all the time - for example, for halal abattoirs, or for Sikhs to wear turbans, or for pacifists to avoid military service - by pointing to the legitimate absence of exceptions in laws against racial discrimination. Opposition to same-sex marriage is therefore likened to support for laws against inter-racial marriage (which continued in some US states until the 1960s), and opposition to homosexual adoptions is likened to refusing to adopt children to black parents.

The analogy is false because allowing blacks and whites to marry did not require changing the whole concept of marriage; and allowing black parents to adopt white children, or vice versa, did not require changing the whole concept of family, or for that matter, the whole concept of childhood. Same-sex marriage and adoption changes the meaning of marriage, family, parenting and childhood for everyone, not just for homosexual couples. And whatever issues of basic justice remain to be addressed, I am not sure that it is at all true to say that homosexuals today suffer the same sort of legal and civil disadvantages which blacks in the United States and elsewhere suffered forty years ago, and to some extent still suffer.

All the same, the race analogy has been very effective in casting the churches as persecutors. So, in the United Kingdom, and also in Massachusetts where a similar issue arose in 2006, warnings that the Catholic Church would be forced to close its adoption services if exemptions were not granted were described as blackmail.

* * *

English precedents remain powerful in a cultural and legal sense, especially throughout the Anglophone world, but the religious situation in Australia is somewhat closer to that of the United States rather than post-Christian Britain. Both our Prime Minister and his challenger are serious Christians. Neither the British Prime Minister nor his alternative are in this mould, and the Catholic community here is larger and with a much longer and stronger tradition of contributions to public political life than in Britain, whose history and traditions are still residually anti-Catholic.

All the same, this case shows what can happen when bills of rights are interpreted from the premises of a minority secularist mindset, especially when it is sharpened, as in Europe, by fear of home-grown Islam. Reading freedom of religion as a limited right to be offensive to which only a limited toleration is extended is not acceptable in a democracy where many more than a majority belong to the great religious traditions - even more so when it is claimed that this is “necessary for democracy”. Democracy does not need to be secular. The secularist reading of religious freedom places Christians (at least) in the position of a barely tolerated minority (even when they are the majority) whose rights must always yield to the secular agenda, although I don’t think other religious minorities will be treated the same way.

28 October 2007

Those Jesuits ...

Courtesy of La cigüeña de la torre, I find a picture of a crucifix in a Jesuit Church in Cochabamba, Bolivia. How low can these people sink?

I bet that Catholics from Eastern Europe are really, really, impressed by this.

A hammer and a sickle.

You can just hear the "artists" congratulating one another.

The first time the Jesuits were supressed, those responsible were scheming freemasons and freethinkers. Perhaps the next time, those responsible will be Catholics.

Am I alone in finding this unutterably sick?

The Abortion Act: Reform versus Repeal

There is no way that the Abortion Act is going to be repealed in the foreseeable future, so let's support campaigns which at least reduce the number of weeks during which abortion is legal, says one side, supported by the two Cardinals: Damian Thompson convinced me this was the right course to take.

Then, via Fr Boyle, I read a book review by Colin Harte which turned me the other way: "when we exclude 'the last and the least' from proposed abortion legislative reform we thereby exclude Christ himself. Restrictive abortion legislation, he emphasises, 'always excludes from protection some unborn children equally entitled to protection'."

Then Fr Mildew reminded me that "Politics is the art of the possible" and made me think that there has to be some realism.

It was, however, reading an Anglican blog that turned me back to an absolutist position. Do not click on the link that follows if pictures of the results of abortions are likely to disturb you - at least disturb you any more than pictures of such atrocities really should. The poster - Cranmer - writes a witty and incisive blog on political and religious matters. He is a mainstream member of a disappearing denomination with fairly conservative views, among which are that the Church in England and Wales is a foreign mission to these shores, but every now and then he is spot on.

I'll repeat the warning: in fact, I'll copy the author's own warning: "this article contains images which some may find disturbing. Cranmer makes absolutely no apology for publishing in all its ugliness the barbaric and depraved depths to which the United Kingdom has sunk. May the Lord have mercy."

This post convinces me.

26 October 2007

Succumbing ...

I dropped my wife and daughter in town. My son was at home doing coursework. I went to PC World to look for inspiration for presents.

I came out 15 minutes later with a laptop. You know, 2 GHz of memory, an Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 processor, the Manager's special.
I went to pick wife and daughter up. "Did you get much?" I asked. I was told about winter tops and coats. "How about you?" they asked. "Oh, just a toy" I answered. "But one that you can all play with as well."
So now I have to learn Vista: it didn't come in XP.

22 October 2007

Cardinal Pell, Again

An example of why the Cardinal Pell might be just what Westminster needs. (By the way, I'm in trouble now for being on the computer instead of packing a suitcase.)

The good Cardinal has published a book "God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics, and Society". The Amazon blurb reads as follows:

"Many of the great questions of our day once again revolve around religion. The secular era of the past two centuries is ending in incomprehension and denial, overwhelmed by the cultural uncertainty and political conflict that have dominated the first years of the new millennium. In the face of developments such as the fall in birth rates and the rise of neo-paganism, secularism has little to say. What does remain in the United States and Europe is a vociferous hostility to religion, especially to the role it plays in public life.

The ensuing conflict continues to play itself out in politics, culture, science and the universities. New phenomena such as multiculturalism and significant Muslim minorities have both arisen in the West. But the focus of suspicion has remained squarely on Christianity and its relationship to democracy, human rights, and secular society.

Cardinal George Pell, one of the Catholic Church's leading spokesmen, has played a significant part in this drama. God and Caesar brings together a selection of his writings on Christianity, politics, and society from the last ten years. Drawing on a deep knowledge of history and human affairs, the essays pinpoint the key issues facing Christians and non-believers in determining the future of modern democratic life.

Cardinal Pell considers questions such as: Is democracy only secular? What role can the Catholic Church and its moral vision play, and have they played, in strengthening democracy? How does "religious capital" strengthen political society? What is the bishop's critical role in building a culture of life? And why is belief in God important to the health of a democratic society?
Christ's instructions to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21) remain the starting point for any reflections on Christianity and political life. God and Caesar is an indispensable text that helps illuminate what Christ's teaching means today."

I liked a comment on one of the essays:

"In one essay which was delivered as a talk to the Linicare Conference in the UK in 2000, under the title "The Role of the Bishop in Promoting the Gospel of Life", the Cardinal warns that the Catholic Church would not grow unless the full teaching of the Church on life issues was promoted. "Tactical silence", as practised by many bishops, would in fact stifle growth, he suggested.

Cardinal George Pell, said a “common heresy of our times” is believing that Catholics can accept and practice contraception, using the “primacy of conscience” as a justification.Taking a metaphor from Oxford professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, the Cardinal called this belief that has spread among Catholics the “Donald Duck heresy,” referring to the Disney character who "knows it all", and "has an unshakeable conviction of self-righteousness." The self-indulgent duck, explains Pell is well-meaning but "his activity is often disastrous for himself and others." "

More of Ttony's children's inheritance being converted into book capital.

Another Affecting Story

I'm about to go away for a couple of days. I wanted to make sure an expected e-mail had arrived, and succumbed to looking up a few favourite blogs. How lucky I was to read this from Cathcon.

I feel blessed. I even feel ready for the Diocese of Portsmouth.

21 October 2007

The Feast of Bl Charles of Austria


A King, Emperor, and Saint.

Read about this holy man at The Remnant.

20 October 2007

Not Quite Fr Ray's Meme

Fr Ray asked me to do his meme: "If I were Archbishop of Westminster I would ..."; but I can't. I don't know enough about the mechanics of running a diocese and I don't know enough about how a Bishop should nurture his clergy. However, I can do a different one:

"How Will We Know the Vatican Has Got The Right Man?"

The Church in England and Wales will have a Leader who will inspire Catholics to a deeper Catholicsm, because he will be a theologically sound man of prayer and Catholic Action.

We will be distinct from the other Christian Communities in E&W, and we will be proud of it.

The Archbishop of Westminster's regular public pronouncements will always be newsworthy, even in the secular press.

The number of priests and religious will rise.

The number of conversions will rise dramatically.

Politicians will court the "Catholic vote".

Participation in Corporal Works of Mercy will be a natural mark of being a Catholic.

The Liturgy, in whichever Use, will always be celebrated reverently.

Guilds, Societies and Sodalities will become part of parish life.

Parish life will become part of everyday life for Catholics.

Catholic education will mean more than just orthodox RE lessons: where there is a Catholic school, homeschooling, or non-Catholic education would become unthinkable for Catholics.

We will happily put what we are paid for an hour's work into the plate on Sundays because we will know the good use to which it is put.

Non-Catholics will look at us and see that we have something they haven't.

And we will be the King's good servants, but God's first.

19 October 2007

Another One of Jeffrey's Quizzes

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

17 October 2007

Offerring Advice on the Next Archbishop of Westminster

I have spent what seems an inordinate amount of time recently ploughing my way through "The Worlock Archive" and Archbishop Bugnini's history of the reform of the Liturgy. The direness of the latter will become apparent in some future post (though I think I am amassing evidence to prove my point that the man was wrong-headed and out of his depth rather than malevolent).

Reading the former was like bathing in something unpleasant: good for the soul but bad for the senses. But one startlingly good thing shines out like a light.

Cardinal Heenan did not like Worlock: in fact, I think that it is not stretching the point to say that he loathed him. Worlock was the apparatchik that Heenan never was, and the Cardinal hated the fact that Worlock saw the See of Westminster and the Red Hat as his manifest destiny.

So Cardinal Heenan put a spoke in the irresistible rise of Derek Worlock: a couple of years before his death he invited the priests and people of his Archdiocese to think about who they might want as his successor; what qualities should the Archbishop of Westminster have? And he asked them to let the Apostolic Delegate know.

Liberated from the complaisant acquiescent stereotype in which English Catholics had allowed themselves to be understood from within and without the Church, the people spoke and wrote, and eventually the Abbot of Ampleforth rather than the Bishop of Portsmouth was appointed to the See. ("The best man did not win", Worlock said.)

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has not invited the people to express an opinion. It is unlikely that he loathes any member of the Bishops' Conference, after all, and he is probably pretty sanguine about his successor: it will be one of the boys.

But it doesn't have to be. Fr Ray, here, has said exactly what has gone wrong in the role of the laity in the Church, and, more jocularly, in response to a couple of blog posts, said here what he would do were he to be appointed Archbishop (elevated Gloucester Old Spots noted).

This can be the start of the mass consultation that Cardinal MO'C has not asked for. Let's all start writing to the Apostolic Nuncio now, and tell him what we think the big issues facing our Church are, and how they can be resolved, and, if we have any idea, who might be the right person to resolve them.

Blogging is fun; letting Rome know what the Church in England and Wales know is rather more important.

15 October 2007

A Poem by Robert Frost

One of the delights of having a son who has started AS Level English Literature is the voyage of discovery which comes from finding new poetry, especially as my son, who has never learned explication de texte as we were taught it, faced having to analyse from scratch a poem by Robert Frost. He asked for help!

For my sins, I was only aware of two poems by Frost: "The Road Not Taken" and the one about snow falling in the woods in winter which ends "and miles to go before I sleep"

So to be faced with a poem which was as new to me as to him meant unleashing intellectual muscles which I feared might have atrophied with time, only to discover that not only could I get excited by a new poem, I could convey the enthusiasm and help somebody who (to be honest) started out without much interest to get enthused not just by the ideas in the poem but by the structure and the techniques Frost uses to carry the poem along.

I enjoyed it so much I have even left in the American spelling! The wall which the narrator feels as a division is an artefact which his neighbour feels unites them. At the same time they are making wall, and the wall is making them.

Mr Amazon will be pleased that more money will be winging his way shortly, but this has cleansed me from the excess of Worlock and Bugnini I have been undergoing.

Making Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

12 October 2007

Reflections on the Charismatic Renewal

David Palmer has posted about his experience of a charismatic service. It set me to thinking about my experience of "the Renewal".

I should preface my comments by pointing out that I was never much of a rebel: my rebellion against doing the Oxbridge scholarship exams was to fearlessly insist on doing A Levels and going to a (venerable) Redbrick University instead. Similarly, while contemporaries denied God and took to chemical substances, I took to the Charismatic Renewal. For much of the period between 1974-1979, I would be found at "Days of Renewal", arms outstretched, "speaking in tongues" and praising God.

One of the curses of middle age is looking back at one's youth and experiencing the embarrassment one should have felt at the time: the elaborate pursuit of some girl who, you realise with hindsight, was as attainable as the Koh-i-Noor, and as contemptuous of you as you were moonstruck by her; the brilliant essay one wrote as an 18 year old which, you informed your Professor, was the final answer to the subject in question; your insistence that, drunk as you were, you could still perform in front of a crowd of some hundreds.

I add to this list my belief, proclaimed to so many people, that the Charismatic Renewal was the fruit of the Holy Spirit: that we were the first generation since Apostolic times to be able to receive God's Spirit as he had always intended us to do.

I was that knowall. How I appreciate with hindsight the kindness and love of so many priests and nuns who seemed to pay me attention and to meditate on what I was telling them: not one of them ever laughed. My parents "didn't understand"; they mocked: I know now that they did understand, really understand; they understood their son, and they understood the Church.

Now I am older I understand a lot better what was really happening: somebody who was not really a rebel had to find a safe rebellion, one that wouldn't threaten anything too serious. If I was to embarrass my family, then a surfeit of religious enthusiasm (and a beard) was better than an absence of religion (with or without a beard).

I knew instinctively what I have only recently found demonstrated by phonologists: that the "gift of tongues" is rarely, if ever, a new Pentecost, and is rather an emotional reaction to what is going on.

However, I received a real gift: I learned how to praise God. I learned to praise God just for being God; to praise Him for His Creation; to stand before Him in awe at His Magnificence; to praise Him for the Greatness which, I perceived for the first time, wasn't remote, but could be experienced here and now, even if through a glass, however darkly. The absolute Wonder of God was everywhere, and was so Great that He could contain himself temporally in a host which He would allow me to receive. That gift has not left me, even if it is rarely as vivid now; but I used at the same time to go to confession far, far more frequently than now (another fruit of the Renewal), and I am left concluding that the two are connected.

I wonder if two different trends were in operation in the Charismatic Renewal in that period: on the one hand, the "ultras" of Vatican II aggressively pushed an agenda of "new, "modern", "different". On the other, lots of individuals reached out for a sense of actuosa participatio which they were being denied in their parishes: that of individual participation in Christ amongst their community. It was better than nothing: it was much, much, better than nothing.

I may be wrong: but the Charismatic Renewal carried me through a period in which I could have gone wrong in so many ways. It has nothing to say to me today, except in my memories, which, as I say, are not mellow. But I can't condemn it: not the Renewal I experienced.

I still have the beard.

07 October 2007

The Westminster Stakes - an Update

The lists went quiet when Cardinal Murphy O'Connor was asked to stay on, but the latest betting on the succession shows that things are beginning to stir. (The betting had remained pretty well unchanged through most of 2007 until the last couple of weeks. Here's how they stand (Name, current betting, (earlier betting)):

Rt Rev Vincent Nichols 2-1 (7-2)
Rt Rev Kevin McDonald 5-1 (7-2)
Rt Rev Alan Hopes 11-2
Fr Timothy Radcliffe 6-1 (10-1) (6-1)
Bishop William Kenney 15-2 (6-1)
Cardinal Pell 10-1
Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald 10-1 (12-1)
Fr Aidan Nichols 11-1 (5-1) (6-1)
Rt Rev Patrick Kelly 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Arthur Roche 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Bernard Longley 12-1
Rt Rev Peter Smith 12-1
Rt Rev Michael Evans 16-1
Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue 16-1
Fr Christopher Jamison 20-1
Bishop John Rawsthorne 20-1
Bishop John Patrick Crowley Non-runner (33-1)

What does this say? First, that Abp Nichols is now a clear favourite, ahead of Abp McDonald.

Second, that Dominican fanciers have put their money on Fr Radcliffe (who is surely too liberal for the Pope's taste) ahead of the Pope's friend, Fr Nicols (an unlikely outsider, but the doubling of his odds is, well: odd).

Third, that an Outsider has become an outsider: were Cardinal Pell to follow Cardinal MO'C in Westminster, the Pope's most powerful English-speaking ally would come to Europe while still exercising a pastoral ministry (not least over the episcopacy of England and Wales). The Catholic Herald mentions the Abbot of Pluscarden and the Dominican Rector of Oxford as two other outsiders under consideration, even if no odds have been quoted for them.

Does anybody else get a sense that the succession in Westminster is going to be founded on serious change? What sort of a message does it send that two non-English or Welsmen are candidates?

04 October 2007

Liturgical Reform - Liturgical Change

In private correspondence, Moretben reminded me of a posting of his which, I realise, has been gnawing away at me for just under a year, and which was the source of an increasing concern: why should anything in the Church change?

I understand the need for aggiornamiento: the Church must always be able to proclaim the Faith in a way in which people of each Age can respond to; a nineteenth century priest reading out an eighteenth century court sermon of Bourdaloue to a bunch of working class men and women is, to say the least, inappropriate.

I understand the need for resourcissement: we can't understand the Tradition unless we constantly seek to understand where it has come from. Pius IX said "La tradizione sono io": "I am Tradition"; and he was completely and utterly wrong.

But (and here's a big but) why does either of these principles mean that, for example, the Easter Vigil has to take place at Midnight, when over the course of 1500 years the sense of the Church had gradually moved the time of the celebration?

These are deep waters, and I am not a confident swimmer: but if the Extraordinary Use is to be recognised again, and the anti-traditionalism of the post-Vatican II era is finally to be challenged; and if the 1965 revision of the Missal is to be ignored; and if the idea of "change by Papal Fiat" has gone away; why has the 1962 Missal been selected as a high water of orthodoxy?

01 October 2007

Annunciation, Visitation

For a dear friend who is finally going to have to go to hospital. Please pray for him.

Elizabeth and Zechariah
Walk into the house of fire
Where the angels wreath the spire
And one old man alone
In the temple finds desire
Like a dog his bone.

Gabriel, Elizabeth
Is shaken with your burning breath,
meanwhile in humble Nazareth
The virgin in the house
Attends upon a birth and death
And trembles like a mouse.

Look at her, unwind your scroll,
Let the heavenly message roll
Like thunder through her pale white soul
As ghostly as her room,
Trample like an angry bull
About her seedless womb.

Hail Elizabeth! our meeting
Sees our children leap in greeting,
Hear their fists and foreheads beating
Hard against the wall,
While the lambs in flocks are bleating,
Come one, come two, come all.

Come one, come two, come all to feast,
Come to the lesser and the least,
Come to us out of the East,
While one old man alone
Becomes as dumb as any beast
And still as any stone.

George Szirtes - Annuciation, Visitation

30 September 2007

Tagged for a Meme

Tagged by Moretben, first in his combox (which I could have pretended not to have read), then in mine.

1. Do you attend the Traditional Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo?

I attend the TLM very very rarely: it isn't available in this diocese (or in the neighbouring one) at any time at which an absence of family or work commitments would allow me to attend. On occasion I have been in London and have managed to arrange a schedule which has allowed me to attend. I like to read my TLM for the appropriate Sunday each week.

2. If you attend the TLM, how far do you drive to get there?


3. If you had to apply a Catholic label to yourself, what would it be?

I'll appropriate Piers Paul Read's comment on a description of himself; he said he wasn't a "stern moralist": he was a bad Catholic.

4. Are you a comment junkie?

A bit, but the addicition is under control. If someone writes something that I really like (or rarely, that I really don't) then I like to tell them.

5. Do you go back to read the comments on the blogs you’ve commented on?

Only if I leave a question, or am participating in a continuing discussion.

6. Have you ever left an anonymous comment on another blog?

Yes: though not on Catholic ones.

7. Which blogroll would you most like to be on?

HH the P's, if he had one.

8. Which blog is the first one you check?

Moretben's, when he's posting; otherwise Fr Tim's or Fr Ray's. Occasionally Fr Z (whom God preserve)'s if something is going on.

9. Have you met any other bloggers in person?

Not to my knowledge.

10. What are you reading?

I'm struggling through Anibale Bugnini's "The Reform of the Liturgy": I think I'm gradually coming to an understanding of why things happened the way they did. Light relief comes from "While Rome Burns": collected pieces by Alexander Woolcott (one of the Algonquin Circle). When alert, I am working on an informal peer-review of an article for a historical review for a friend: this means I am reading through various files from the National Archives. And I'm sharing "My Family and Other Animals" with my daughter, who is reading it for the very first time.

Bonus Question!
Has your site been banned by Spirit of Vatican II?

If it were "the spirit of Vatican II", then I would hope so! See the first part of my answer to question 10, however: I am more and more convinced that Vatican II, or, rather, the decisions of Vatican II, were hijacked by a bunch of people who didn't really know what they were doing, and who were expecting to be stopped at any moment.

29 September 2007

Which Composer are you?

Courtesy of Jeffrey.

You scored as J.S. Bach, You are dedicated and intelligent. People who know you don't understand how you get it all done, and you never give up on life.

J.S. Bach


















Hector Berlioz







Which classical composer are you?created with QuizFarm.com

Brahms is worryingly high on the list ...

26 September 2007

It Made Me Laugh

.It comes from The Sun.

25 September 2007

Cardinal Pell on Harry Potter ...

... and why the series is so popular. Hat-tip to Sentire cum Ecclesia, an Australian convert-from-Lutheranism blogger whose blog goes onto my blogroll as one which I feel I ought to keep up with.

Here is part of what His Eminence says:

"We should remember that young people today are so used to the marvels of technology that magical fantasies are less exceptional for them than for their parents and grand parents. As always most children love entering the world of magic, fairy stories, escaping the limits of normality (I wasn't one of these) and readers love a fast moving tale, especially when the adventures are exotic, the trumpets are calling the good to battle and the narrative is strong and racy.

Through television and computers young people know much more than their predecessors, but often only at a surface level. They are encouraged to be curious, provided the curiosity is not costly or demanding and many have an itch for novelty, a fascination with technological marvels, the mysterious and abnormal, especially if they are ignorant of genuine religious traditions.
Many of this last group are restless and rootless, seeking limits, yearning for a good cause and more than happy to identify with the victims of injustice, with those who bravely confront evil and loyally stick with one another.

Harry Potter fits their bill as a hero, although he also appeals to good young Christians.
The series deserves to be widely read, but I am unsure why it is so hugely popular. We live in an uneasy, somewhat empty time of change."

Here is a Catholic Prelate who really seems to understand: his being host to the World Youth Day in Sydney next year seems providential.

24 September 2007

A Reflection

I turned fifty a few weeks ago, and next week approach the ninth and eigth anniversaries of my father and mother's deaths. So my mind is fixed on the past.

A piece of music took me back to the 1970s: "I'll Be Your Sweetheart, If You Will Be Mine"; not, obviously, because it wasn't a piece of 1970s music.

I grew up in a house where everybody sang: I grew up in an extended family where everybody sang. That meant that we knew "old songs", for the older members of the family liked to hear the songs of their childhood, and as we, as a family, are blessed (mainly) with longevity, long generations and respect, it meant that we sang for Grandmothers (I never knew my Grandfathers) and Great Aunts the songs of their childhood, and some of those were the songs that their parents had sung: Victorian parlour ballads, like "Nelly Dean" or "Come Into The Garden, Maud"; or Stephen Foster songs like "Lily of Laguna". We knew the lot! And when it came to Music Hall - well, my (maternal) Grandmother had trod the boards and we could sing songs none of you would ever have heard of!

My (paternal) Grandmother ran an Over 60s Club (in fact she ran two, but we'll leave the one she shared with Bernard Manning's mother for the purposes of this post) in the parish. A couple of times a year, my father, two uncles and me would dress up in bow ties and cadies (straw boaters to the ignorant) and impersonate a barber shop quartet, my mother accompanying us on the piano.

The songs they (and "they" would number up to 100) loved were the songs of their childhood: for people aged around 70 in 1970, this meant the songs of the First World War. The First World War had affected all of them: this was Lancashire Fusiliers territory, the area of Pals' Batallions; they had pretty well all lost brothers and cousins. Many of the old ladies were spinsters: there hadn't been enough young men to go round in the 1920s and 1930s. (When there was a dance, they used to dance with each other: they'd all learned to dance both parts.)

They loved "Roses Are Blooming In Picardy": Uncle Jim had a fine tenor voice; and would all join in "Keep The Home Fires Burning"; but we always had to finish with "Tipperary", because it had become a lodestar that "Tipperary" was what the boys sang as they marched to the Front. This was keeping faith:

"If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

This is what Tradition is all about: the world changes and we change with it, but the change is informed and softened by the past, and we venerate the past and those who lived in it and through it; not the change.

My Grandmother, dying, relived August 4th 1914: she was on the prom at Blackpool and saw the soldiers marching and the young men forming up behind the band to go and join up: "Come on Willie" she said, in her delirium, to her cousin "are you going to join them too? Look at the lovely red uniforms!" (Willie had far more sense, by the way, and lived until his 90s.)

My other Grandmother told me that as a girl, her Grandmother had told her that, as a girl, she remembered the trains coming to the station in Liverpool with the magazines containing the latest instalments of Charles Dickens' novels, and how people would pay a penny to sit in the room of somebody who could read to hear them read aloud.

In my lifetime I have seen the idea of Tradition as a Good Thing disappear completely; the idea of passing things orally from one generation to the next has gone. We are losing our History, and that means we are losing our identity: I shudder to think what life will be like for our children, locked into a Present like this.

21 September 2007

Lisbon, twinned with Portsmouth

I haven't the energy to translate the letter to priests sent by The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon which I linked to from the Casa de Sarto.

D. José Policarpo, the Cardinal Patriarch is what some of my military friends like to describe as an oxygen thief.

Here are some new conditions for celebrating the Extraordinary Rite: the people should understand the Latin spoken by the Priest; the Priest must be able to sing the Gregorian Chant appropriate for the celebration; no changes may be made (in fact they are positively prohibited) to the Sanctuary to enable the celebration of Mass ad orientem; the Priest must be able to discern that those asking for the Extraordinary Rite are in favour of the Ordinary Rite as well.

Most importantly:

"8. Let us be vigilant, so that this concession granted by the Holy Father, who was bearing in mind the good of the whole Church, cannot be turned into a campaign in favour of the Old Mass. This would be a move against the Reform of the Liturgy and the whole spirit of Vatican II, and would be to ignore the label of Extraordinary which the Holy Father has clearly attached to the use of the 1962 Missal."
And this is from a Patriarch of the Roman Church. O infelix Lusitania!

19 September 2007

Crispian contra Mundum?

Have a read of Damian Thompson's blog in the Daily Telegraph.

The Bishop of Portsmouth has really put his cards on the table - or rather, in modern fashion, has got somebody else to put his cards on the table in a way that the Bishop can later condemn as being "not quite the message he wished to convey".

The enemy is out and in full view: or is he?

My guess is that the B of P is a stalking horse. He is deliberately setting out, on behalf of the liberal Hierarchs, to gauge people's reactions. "His" document (not his, of course, but his "Director of Liturgy's", and what a pretty pass we have come to when the post of Director of Liturgy is given to a musician) is setting out a stall. How people react to the stall will guide Crispian's brother Bishops in what they are going to be able to get away with.

Is this the field on which we wish to fight?

We might as well: let's start here, and then take the battle to "them".

16 September 2007

Malayan Food (or Drink)

I don't know what Andrew is on, in Penang, but we could all do with a dose.

A double, in fact.

God, Not Man

Courtesy of Overheard in the Sacristy, a graphic illustration of what 14 September might mean.

13 September 2007

Not Much Time for Blogging

Not only Alstair Campbell's Diaries (which are superb) but Fr Michael Seed's harrowing account of his childhood, The Worlock Archive, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini's self-serving account of the The Reform of the Liturgy (hardback, shrink-wrapped, and only £6), and out of the blue, courtesy of a friend, Fiorella de Maria's unputdownable "Father William's Daughter".

SWMBO has been laid low by a virus, and hasn't noticed more than the odd box from Amazon: four 900-pagers from Neal Stephenson mean nine new books.

And it was Louis MacNeice's hundredth birthday a couple of day's ago: "a cat who walked by himself"; and I have been reading the Autumn Journal.

"Why do we like being Irish? Partly because
It gives us a hold on the sentimental English
As members of a world that never was,
Baptised with fairy water;
And partly because Ireland is small enough
To be still thought of with a family feeling."

I love blogging, and the Internet, but as long as you'd allow me e-mail, I'd choose books first, every time.

06 September 2007

Another Poem by John Hegley

This is an alternative to the parable of the Rich Man. It's about people like us, like me.


This Messiah walks into a bar
and asks for a drink of tap water.
'Why don't you buy a drink for a change,
instead of changing water into one?'
says the barman.
'Buy one? What with?' asks the Messiah.
'How come you never have any money?'
'Because I don't believe in it.'
'What do you believe in?'
'I believe in you. I love you.'
'Don't give me that,
you buy a drink, or you get out.'
'Oh, come on, what does a drink of water cost?'
'It costs me labour to pour it.
You take up space to drink it,
then I have to wash the cup up after you.
And what if you break it?
Who pays then?'
'I could mend it.'
'Perform a miracle, you mean?
And have everyone crowding around
in amazement
and not buying drinks? No thanks.

John Hegley from Uncut Confetti

05 September 2007

A Meditation for 14 September


In the myth,
in the deep-down maze of the cave,
he went to find the Minotaur.
And before he went
he took a reel of twine:
a trick to traipse the return trip
back to the world of sense and sunshine.
It was sound thinking:
be enticed by new chance and challenge,
but keep in touch
with your place of origin.
Don't let your past be lost,
or it'll cost
your future.

John Hegley - from Uncut Confetti

02 September 2007

A New Blog on the Blogroll

Well - new to me anyway.

Roman Christendom is a blog by Tribunus. I have my suspicions about the identity of Tribunus: indeed, I think that I have said less than kind things about him on this blog. Tribunus writes about Tradition, but Tradition writ large. There are not many blogs which quote the Collect from the Mass Pro Imperatore in their sidebar. And even if I feel that Jacobitism has, well, has had its day, his posting on the Carmelite nuns martyred during the French Revolution is enough to make me think that here is a blogger whom we must pay heed to.

My guess is that he is a Romantic Tory: whatever else he is, he is a Reactionary, a Reactionary of the first order. There is no greater praise than this in my vocabulary.

The quote on his sidebar on monarchy:

"The character of kings is sacred; their persons are inviolable; they are the anointed of the Lord, if not with sacred oil, at least by virtue of their office. Their power is broad - based upon the will of God, and not on the shifting sands of the people's will... They will be spoken of with becoming reverence, instead of being in public estimation fitting butts for all foul tongues. It becomes a sacrilege to violate their persons, and every indignity offered to them in word or act, becomes an indignity offered to God Himself. It is this view of kingly rule that alone can keep alive in a scoffing and licentious age the spirit of ancient loyalty that spirit begotten of faith, combining in itself obedience, reverence, and love for the majesty of kings which was at once a bond of social union, an incentive to noble daring, and a salt to purify the heart from its grosser tendencies, preserving it from all that is mean, selfish and contemptible." (Dr John Healy, early 20th Century Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Ireland)

tells us all about monarchy, and it tells us all we need to know about Tribunus too.

I will not speculate further on his identity, but will declare him the spiritual heir to the man who, until his untimely death, was the greatest living Englishman: Michael Wharton.