26 February 2007

The Traditional Rite

Most of the people who post about the Traditional Rite have pictures of sumptuous celebrations of Pontifical High Masses. This picture shows the same Sacrifice in as worthy a setting. God comes to those who need Him through the actions of a priest.

Home Schooling and Control Freakery

I've always thought that people who went in for home schooling were gluttons for punishment: it's an heroic vocation but not easy one. There is a whiff of eccentricity about it, and often a note of single-issuism. But to each his own. These are harmless people who love their children.

A friend has alerted me to proposals that the Education Department wants to bring in:

• A duty for parents to register children educated at home.
• A duty for parents to meet with the local authority annually.
• Powers to require access to the child for welfare checks.
• Powers to require access to the child to assess educational development.
• Powers to require the child’s work to be inspected.
• Powers for DfES to set curriculum content which must be included in the educational provision.
• Powers for DfES to set standards and methods of teaching

Is there any aspect of our lives that the Government doesn't want to control?

25 February 2007

A Lenten Meme

I was tagged by Mac at http://mulier-fortis.blogspot.com/

1. What is your favourite Sorrowful Mystery?

The Agony in the Garden. This is where I most feel like one of Christ's disciples: very keen as long as I don't have to stay awake past my normal bedtime. Yet He still died for us. I can really picture myself along with Peter: full of sound and fury, until I'm asked to do something simple like staying awake.

2. What is your favourite Station of the Cross?

The fifth: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his Cross. Imagine being able to help just that little bit! Imagine being singled out! Of course it happens every day: there is rarely a day when we can't serve Jesus in helping somebody else, even if we don't usually bother.

3. Do you fast during Lent?

Yes. No alcohol during the week; and I smoke less.

4. What is your Lenten Resolution(s)?

No alcohol during the week. Smoke less and put the money saved into the poor box. Buy fewer books and put the money saved into the red Mission box. And a lot more spiritual reading.

5. Do you use Holy Water during Lent?

No more than usual, and that means crossing myself with Holy Water when I go in or out of a Church. Holy Water is a Sacremental which plays a very small part in my life. This is one to ponder during Lent: should I use it more? How?

6. How many times do you go to Mass during Lent?

Whenever possible, though in practice this means that when I go up to London I do without lunch to go to Mass at the Cathedral. (I suppose this counts as an extra penance: doing without lunch, that is; not going to Mass at the Cathedral.)

24 February 2007

Too many books ... ?

I was asked in an e-mail "do you read a lot?"

My wife thinks that one can have too many books; I don't. She thinks that books that have been read, and are unlikely ever to be read again should be sent to the Oxfam shop; I don't.

I have never got rid of a book I have bought or have been given. Every book I read is like a milestone on the path of my moral or spiritual development (a few are signs pointing backwards). That's why I don't want to get rid of them. Just looking at the spine reminds me of where the book came from, as well as what I got out of it; I remember when I read it, and what it meant to me at the time. Sometimes I reread it, just because I noticed it.

I have, from time to time, kept a diary: a thousand words a day isn't that hard, when you aren't trying to be literary, and at the end of a three year period of writing diaries, you have a million words: each of which, like Proust's madeleines, takes you back to a particular point in time and place, and lets you compare then and now: remembrance of times past is not just nostalgia: it allows you to comapre then and now. But my words are just about me: real books tell me about everything else.

I realised recently that unless Mystic Meg does it for me, and I come into untold wealth to build an extension to the house, I will never be able to put all my books out. I have what I like to think of as a few hundred books in boxes in the garage, but my airy assumption about numbers is, I know, an underestimate. I have a few on the floor by my side of the bed, but I counted "the few" and found that there were fifty-three, in two great piles.

I look to my right and in a glance see "The Awe Inspiring Rites of Initiation" by Fr Yarnold next to "Hell and other Destinations" by Piers Paul Read next to "The Pendulum Years" by Bernard Levin next to "While Rome Burns" by Alexander Woollcott next to "Moab is my Washpot" by Stephen Fry next to "SOE 1940-46" by MRD Foot: five books among twenty on one shelf of a set of bookcases which go from floor to ceiling. The "New Marian Missal" (the 1962 Missal: my ninth birthday present from my parents) is next to the Liber Usualis that my Mother was given after completing the course for Catholic teachers run by the monks of Solesmes. "The Biggest Pub Quiz Book Ever" is next to the "Atlas and Index of Parish Registers"; "The Crossman Diaries" is next to "The Battle for the Falklands"; the "Family Historian's Enquire Within" is next to "The Royal Irish Constabulary".

I'd have to turn my head more than 90 degrees to start on the fiction books, and their are five cases just in this room full of them. And that's just one room in a house where seven have some or more, or a lot more, books.

My life is encompassed by the books I read: they guide and teach me when nobody else does; they are a refuge when the world presses in; they are a stimulus in a grey society; they are a large part of my world.

22 February 2007

Another quiz

http://www.beliefnet.com/section/quiz/index.asp?sectionID=&surveyID=95 got me rather well, though I have never seen the film.

You Are a Daily Rosary (Very Traditional) Catholic You'd like the church to revive the time-honored devotions, liturgical practices, and strong institutional discipline that prevailed before the Second Vatican Council—and you're hoping that Pope Benedict XVI will lead the church in exactly that direction. Your favorite hymn is probably a traditional Latin composition such as the "Panis Angelicus," and your favorite pope is probably a pioneer of the Church's great liturgical tradition such as Gregory the Great. You loved "The Passion of the Christ."

Parliament hears (momentarily) about institutional anti-Catholic discrimination

John Selwyn Gummer is not a politician of the last Conservative period for whom I retain a great deal of nostalgia, but his speech (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2007-02-20a.154.0#g154.1) asking leave to propose a Catholics (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill was accurate, moving and notably less strident, and therefore more powerful, than it might have been.

It won't happen: legislative change would be necessary in more than a dozen countries, and the number of Constitutional Acts which would need amendment is sufficient to tie up Parliament for an entire session. No Government would want either to lose the chance to legislate or to open a Pandora's box of "if that's up for change, what else might be".

This isn't the sort of discrimination that affects us as individuals but as a Community. Even then, let's not pretend that it is an oppression under which we groan.

But tuck it away in the back of your mind, and next time the canvassers come round to solicit your vote, have a bit of fun with them: "what are the candidate's views about repealing the Act of Succession?"

21 February 2007

Is your Operating System Catholic or Protestant?

I tip my hat to Fides et Ardor at http://durendal.wordpress.com/ for a quote from Umberto Eco, taken from an article he wrote for Espresso in 1994.

"Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It’s an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ‘ratio studiorum’ of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach - if not the Kingdom of Heaven - the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of Scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutic upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revellers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions; when it comes down to it, you can decide to allow women and gays to be priests if you want to…."

19 February 2007

Lenten Reading

Over at The Universe forum, Mr Bleaney has recommended a site he has found with a "Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan: With Texts". Right click on http://www.churchyear.net/lentfathers.html and "Save Target As" to your PC and behold! a .pdf file with readings for every day of Lent will be vouchsafed unto you.

Put more simply: you get a reading for each day of Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday with the Didache and going on to St Leo the Great. Each day's reading should take about 10-15 minutes. And as you've downloaded them to your PC you have no excuse: a quarter of an hour at the start of your browsing and offer up the opportunity to lose a quarter of an hour to secular pursuits. Log on to http://www.radioset.info/ for Gregorian and Mediaeval music to put you in a suitable frame of mind and read, learn, and pray.

And in answer to the most repeated question a Catholic can receive, as well as spiritual reading, I'm giving up alcohol during the week.

17 February 2007

When will they ever learn?

A good rule in secular life is to know when to stop digging. I wish that the Bishops would learn it too. (Weren't they trained, once upon a time, at Hatch End in how to be media-savvy?)

One might have thought that after the "Gay Adoption" row everything to do with Catholic adoption agencies would be ruthlessy examined for anything which might weaken the Church's position. Not so. I am reliably informed that a leaflet is being given out this weekend in the Clifton Diocese to accompany a second collection in aid of the Catholic Children's Society. It includes the following paragraph:

"There are Catholic children waiting for Catholic families and sadly not enough people from our parishes are coming forward. In order to match the children with families who reflect their own heritage and background, we welcome enquiries from people of all faiths and none and are keen to discuss adoption with anyone who feels they have something to offer these children. You may be single or a couple, with or without children, a homeowner or in rented accomodation. Age is not a barrier - many adopters are in their 40's and 50's."

Does this not play exactly into the Government's hands? And is this really what we expect a Catholic adoption agency's position on the adoption of Catholic children to be?

16 February 2007


Fr Tribe, at http://thenewliturgicalmovement.blogspot.com/2007/02/rites-and-wrongs-of-passage.html, and those who so far have commented, have explained beautifully why ritual matters.

The Last Days of Paul VI

Fr Schofield, at http://romanmiscellany.blogspot.com/2007/02/last-days-of-paul-vi.html has an interesting film about events in the last couple of years of the life of Pope Paul VI. My friend Moretben of http://theundercroft.blogspot.com/ (currently unavoidably silent) recently picked me up in an email for describing Paul VI as Hamlet:

"I've always though of him as Lear rather than Hamlet ... ; Cornwalls, Edmunds, Regans and Gonerils aplenty ... "

I think this is rather good.

15 February 2007

The Catholic Prayerbook from Downside Abbey

Does anybody else use this?

The quotes on the back: Cardinal Hume; Fr Timothy Radcliffe; and Archbishop Nichols; make it look modern. The number of prayers from the Book of Common Prayer and (eg) Pastor Niermoller make it look ecumenical. But it is a wonderful compendium of Catholic prayer: Litanies (Sacred Heart, Most Holy Name of Jesus, Holy Spirit, Loreto, and the Saints); Stations; the Prayer for England; the Commendation; how to examine your conscience before Confession; the service of Benediction; prayers of Blessing. It is a wonderful aid to prayer, and a thoroughly old-fashioned compendium of prayers.

Its compiler is Dom David Foster and its ISBN is 0567086704. Have a look at it if you get the chance.

11 February 2007

Close, but no cigar

You are a 99% traditional Catholic!

Congratulations! You are more knowlegeable than most modern theologians! You have achieved mastery over the most important doctrines of the Catholic Faith! You should share your incredible understanding with others!

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?
Make Your Own Quiz

So where did I go wrong? Do I need to be from Baltimore to get 100%

09 February 2007

Unlock the Secrets of how Men become Pope!

How could I have missed the Vatican Boardgame available from http://www.vaticanboardgame.com/COD/index.php?id=1294? It is, according to its website:

VATICAN The Board Game
From Cardinal to Pope—how it happens . . .

VATICAN, historically accurate, is more compelling than the depictions of the Catholic Church in popular culture. Reality and truth are always more interesting than fiction.

VATICAN is a fascinating way for all to understand a central point of Catholic identity, and will appeal to a wide variety of audiences, whatever their religious preferences.

VATICAN is sophisticated, filled with nuance that makes replays as enjoyable as the first time you play it. For teachers, it’s a powerful educational tool – for a gathering of friends, it’s a stimulating experience.

VATICAN – a high quality game that makes the ideal gift. Buy now – fun and learning in an outstanding package!

The six game pieces look interesting: which one would you choose?

They are certainly more interesting than an old boot.

According to Cathleen Falsani, Religion Writer for the Chicago Sun-Times:
"It's complicated, clever and a lot more fun than it sounds ... a hybrid of Monopoly, Risk and Clue -- with a bit of theological Chutes-and-Ladders thrown in for good measure."

(I assume that Chutes-and-Ladders is an American version of Snakes and Ladders.)
All this for only $39.95 plus postage and packing outside the United States.

08 February 2007

In favour of life, especially new life

H/t to Mr Smith's Refusal (http://mrsmithsrefusal.blogspot.com/2007/02/drunks-whores-and-murderers.html) who quotes, from Cella's Review, a wonderful piece by GKC. Read what Cella said, to get the full piece, and read what Mr Smith said to understand the context, but enjoy a paragraph which tells us why we the pro-life message is a positive one, and not just a negative one about being "anti-abortion" or "anti-contraception".

"Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them, and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world."

06 February 2007

Holy Intolerance

In Spain, during and after the Civil War, the concept of "Santa Intolerancia" - Holy Intolerance - was developed. It has been cast aside because it was applied, it has to be said, scandalously. But conceptually, it feels like an area of theology ripe for development.

What should our attitude be towards a government which tells us that gay couples can adopt children and bring them up? Intolerant, but in an intolerance imbued with Charity. What should our attitude be towards a government which tells us that non-Catholic families should not only be allowed to attend Catholic schools as of right, but that the school can't ask the parents to sign a document accepting the nature of the school to which their children will be sent? Intolerant, but in an intolerance imbued with Faith. What should our attitude be towards a government which tells us that abortion should be liberalised? Intolerant, but with an intolerance imbued with Hope.

These thoughts are inspired by Fr Dwight Longenecker's posting on "Tolerance and Tyranny", a short meditation on what the Pope means by "the Dictatorship of Relativism". It strikes me that in the West our inculturisation to the secular world has come to mean accepting tolerance as a supreme virtue. Fr Dwight quotes Chestertom: "Tolerance is a nice word for indifference and indifference is an elegant word for ignorance".

I have taken this far further than Fr Dwight probably would want to go, but I think that the time for a bit of properly theologically founded Intolerance might be a better response to what my friend Moretben (from http://theundercroft.blogspot.com/) described, in another place, as what certainly feels to me like "an attack on the Mystical Body". My first thought was that the Scottish Cardinal's statement that he would simply ignore the SORS legislation, and wait for Catholic adoption agencies in Scotland to be hauled before the courts, left us open to a government "divide and rule" policy. I'm beginning to think that I was wrong, and that he has got it right: let us be wholly intolerant (and "holy intolerant" - let's not make the Spanish mistake) of attacks on our core beliefs.

03 February 2007

The Westminster Stakes - a good time to place a bet?

Paddy Power has posted the latest odds for Westminster. Here they are (earlier prices in brackets):

Rt Rev Kevin McDonald 7-2
Rt Rev Vincent Nichols 7-2
Rt Rev Alan Hopes 11-2
Fr Aidan Nichols 6-1 (5-1) (6-1)
Fr Timothy Radcliffe 6-1 (10-1) (6-1)
Bishop William Kenney 6-1
Rt Rev Patrick Kelly 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Arthur Roche 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald 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 33-1

Two things have happened that might make this list a less authoritative guide than hitherto. First, the Gay Adoption row: Archbishop Nichol's Newsnight performance is unlikely to have advanced his cause, and those members of the hierarchy who have, or have had, Catholic Adoption Agencies under their control might be expecting letters soon asking if it is really true that they have been placing children with single parents (whether gay or not).

The other is the Pope's donation of £2000 to the Cambridge University Chaplaincy. This is a sign that the Pope takes a direct interest in the Church in England and Wales, and puts Bishop Kenney's surprise appointment as Auxiliary in Birmingham into a new context: the Curial nominee for the See of Westminster will not simply be rubber stamped by the Pope.

The three Regulars are not losing ground: indeed, some money looks to have gone in the direction of Fr Timothy Radcliffe during January. The three front runners remain firmly in place, though the silence of Archbishop McDonald and Bishop Hopes leaves us little idea about what they stand for. The rest seem to be fading.

But, while Paddy Power is digesting the implications of events of the last couple of weeks, now might be a good time to camp outside the Nunciature to watch the comings and goings, and place a speculative bet.

01 February 2007

A comment on the adoption row

Not from me, but by the editor of The Universe on his forum.

"Isn’t it amazing how things develop. On Monday we had the cardinal’s high profile intervention, accompanied by widespread support across the faith communities, so that by my Wednesday lunchtime deadline I had despatched this Sunday’s Universe to the printers, complete with the full text of the letter, stories detailing the support, and pretty rousing editorial comment. By Friday morning I was pulling out of numerous requests to be a Catholic spokesperson on radio and TV because I just couldn’t think of any sound explanation as to why Catholic adoption agencies were sending children out to gay singles, co-habiting couples and single parents, nor could I clarify the remarks of leading Catholic commentators to the effect that gay singles were fine as adoptees because it’s the ‘act, not the orientation that we’re against,’ and obviously ‘single gay people won’t be sexually active, whereas couples would be!!’"

He has a pretty good point.