30 April 2007

A new blog from Jeffrey

I once posted a coment in The Undercroft (I can't remember where, and am become Jeffreyish about bothering!) about the last time I met HM the Queen, and how I bottled out of saying to her: hic autem non habemus mantentem civitatem (though I sort of paraphrased). I remembered that this weekend when reading a piece in a Portuguese blog (which I have asked permission to translate here) which also called to mind the temporality of our civilisation. What struck me was that while here we have no abiding City, we have (especially those of us in lands conquered by Rome, the lands which can truly be called civilised) lots of clues about us, in the landscape, in the architecture, and in many of the common exchanges which pass between us as civility, which can actually help us recover our roots. The ghetto I suggested as perhaps the most appropriate place for Catholics to seek in 2007 isn't the dank shtetl but a cast of mind, which can be informed by the history, and perhaps the genius locus of wherever we happen to be in our country. There is lots wrong about the UK at the moment: there is also lots right.

Up pops Jeffrey: some of us find one blog hard enough, but Jeffrey is not content with one. He has just started a new one: Let Britannia Rise: which he subtitles "A Love Letter to the British Isles". He probably recognises the faults we find in our country but wants, I think, to point out that we are still very lucky in what we have.

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"

Visit his blog to see how we can still be perceived, how we can still perceive ourselves, if we want to take the opportunity not to accept that the forces of darkness have won.

25 April 2007

Another "How Not To Celebrate Mass" Video

On the day that Zenit posted an interesting article about how the Agnus Dei should be sung at the Fraction, I saw a new YouTube video which shows the Agnus Dei being sung inappropriately, while accompanying a major liturgical abuse.

Can I be a grumpy old man and right, both at the same time?

23 April 2007

A Song for St George's Day

(Flanders and Swann, you should be living at this hour ...)

The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest.

The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You'll find he's a stinker, as likely as not.

Och aye, awa' wi' yon Edinburgh Festival

The Scotsman is mean, as we're all well aware
And bony and blotchy and covered with hair
He eats salty porridge, he works all the day
And he hasn't got bishops to show him the way!

The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest.

Ah hit me old mother over the head with a shillelagh

The Irishman now our contempt is beneath
He sleeps in his boots and he lies through his teeth
He blows up policemen, or so I have heard
And blames it on Cromwell and William the Third!

The English are noble, the English are nice,
And worth any other at double the price

Ah, iechyd da

The Welshman's dishonest and cheats when he can
And little and dark, more like monkey than man
He works underground with a lamp in his hat
And he sings far too loud, far too often, and flat!

And crossing the Channel, one cannot say much
Of French and the Spanish, the Danish or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are red,
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed!

The English are moral, the English are good
And clever and modest and misunderstood.

And all the world over, each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practice beforehand which ruins the fun!

The English, the English, the English are best
So up with the English and down with the rest.
It's not that they're wicked or natuarally bad
It's knowing they're foreign that makes them so mad!

For the English are all that a nation should be,
And the flower of the English are (Your name) and Me!

22 April 2007

An Episcopal Irritation

Well, two actually.

A friend tipped me off to a consultation document which the Diocese of Clifton has launched. Apart from by the document itself, he was profoundly irritated by Bishop Lang's introduction:

'My motto "Evangelii Nuntiandi" (Evangelisation in the Modern World) reminds us that ...'

So that's what Evangelii Nuntiandi means! Pope Paul VI's December 1975 Apostolic Exhortation wasn't about "Proclaiming the Gospel" after all.

Is nobody in the diocesan curia sufficiently familiar with Latin? Does the Bishop himself speak Latin? I hope he's not part of ICEL!

Grump, grump, grump, grump, grump!

20 April 2007

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Jesus' Blood never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
Jesus' Blood never failed me yet
It's one thing I know
For He loved me so ...

In the late 1960s, Gavin Bryars wrote the music for a documentary about street life in London. One of the shots was of an old alcoholic singing an old hymn he remembered.

He wrote:

"When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism."

In 1993 he recorded his final version of the piece in 5 movements with a Coda, featuring, in the last two movements, Tom Waits accompanying the tramp. You can hear a fragment here. You will either love it or hate it (though bear in mind that that piece has taken more than an hour gradually to build up to this point.) I love it.

It does for me what Taize Chant does for other people: it takes a very simple motif and repeats it again and again. And again, and again, and again, for an hour and a quarter. There is a wonderful musical conceit: improvisation around a piece of improvised yet unchangeable performance; but I can barely listen to the music for listening to the words, the words printed above, repeated every twenty seconds or so, for the entire length of the piece.

The CD went missing nine years ago. This is a chaotic house, and books and CDs go missing for long periods of time. A twenty second fragment of music easily sticks in the mind, however, and I have never lost it. It accompanies me frequently, especially when things are conspiring to get me down. It conveys the simplest of truths, especially at Easter: Jesus' Blood never failed me yet. But not just at Easter: I have twice had the coffin of a parent on my shoulders, as I trudged across a cemetery with a gaping void in front of me, and each time, these words filled my mind.

Searching this evening for things to go to a jumble sale, my daughter found a box full of videos and CDs. And guess what: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet was in it. She is 13 and thinks that it is rubbish. She might be right about the music - well, she isn't, but you know what I mean. But the message is sublime, and I am uplifted. God is Good.

17 April 2007

A Meditation on Ten Years of our Governance

The men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And bees and birds of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar.

And they that rule in England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.

G K Chesterton Elegy in a Country Churchyard

15 April 2007

In Memoriam

His father gave him a box of truisms
Shaped like a coffin, then his Father died;
The truisms remained on the mantelpiece
As wooden as the playbox they had been packed in
Or that other his father skulked inside.

Then he left home, left the truisms behind him
Still on the mantelpiece, met love, met war,
Sordor, disappointment, defeat, betrayal,
Till through disbeliefs he arrived at a house
He could not remember seeing before.

And he walked straight in; it was where he had come from
And something told him the way to behave.
He raised his hand and blessed his home;
The truisms flew and perched on his shoulders
And a tall tree sprouted from his father's grave.

Louis MacNeice

13 April 2007

Paul Johnson on the Pope

A very typical piece by Paul Johnson in this week's Spectator (full article available). I have heard John Paul II criticsed for many things in the past but "John Paul was not much interested in aesthetics and all that side of God’s wonders" was a new one. It made me think, though: was the late Pope's sensibility theatrical rather than aesthetic?

Wish the Holy Father a Happy Birthday online!

At the Vatican website there is a form to allow you to wish the Pope a Happy 80th Birthday for 16 April. You can even send him a message of support.

12 April 2007

W H Auden on ICEL

"The poor Roman Catholics have had to start from scratch, and, as any of them with a feeling for language will admit, they have made a cacophonous horror of the Mass. We had the extraordinary good fortune in that our Book of Common Prayer was composed at exactly the right historical moment. The English language had already become more or less what it is today, so that the Prayer Book is no more difficult to follow than Shakespeare, but the ecclesiastics of the sixteenth century still possessed a feeling for the ritual and ceremonious which today we have almost entirely lost. Why should we spit on our luck?"

W H Auden A Certain World: A Commonplace Book 1970

11 April 2007

Computer Security: Passwords

Trying to work out who Terry Nelson might be, I learned of his IT problems.

Here's a mnemonic for the Internet age: "Passwords are like pants" (knickers, underpants).

1. Change them regularly.
2. Don't share them, even with your friends.
3. Don't show them to anybody.

10 April 2007


I have never seen the mayflower so early or so abundant, yet the hazel is well behind its normal schedule, the first buds just beginning to show. The oaks haven't acknowledged the end of winter yet. And so far in the garden we have had bullfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, a linnet, tree sparrows, woodpeckers, blue tits, great tits, collared doves, woodpigeons, blackbirds and house sparrows. The bats come out at dusk, and there is a pair of owls nesting nearby whose cries wake me up sometimes in the night. There have been no thrushes yet, which is strange. The robins are still plentiful. A pair of buzzards is circling lazily in the thermals. It is ridiculously early for the housemartins, swifts and swallows, but they'll probably be here soon. All very strange, but good fun.

09 April 2007

The other sort of Holy Week

All the blogs are full of how well, how reverently, how faithfully, Holy Week was celebrated. It wasn't here.

No veils on the statues or crucifixes; during Lent; no veil even, on the Crucifix which was to be venerated on Good Friday. (But to make up for it, we at least had singing.) Annoyance (I infer annoyance from the constant looking at the watch from the Celebrant) at the amount of time the Veneration took. Holy Communion on Good Friday was better organised so as to take as little time as possible. A surprise on Holy Thursday was that the Blessed Sacrament was taken out of the Sanctuary to an "Altar of Repose" in the Sacristy: I assume there was a locked tabernacle in there somewhere. The side chapels in Church were not used, so Our Blessed Lord was left on his own this year: there was no possibility of watching. The new PP has established his authority.

I didn't go to the Vigil Mass: I had a sick person to look after for a few hours. But the main Mass on Easter Sunday was a treat: a three sermon Mass (one after the Rite of Introduction; one after the Baptismal Promises; one just before the Dismissal) but at least each sermon was unprepared, so that the Holy Spirit could show that He wasn't confined to pulpits or prepared texts. And who ever said that rythmn and blues was an unsatisfactory Mass setting? It might be impossible to sing for the congregation, but the music group loved it!

This was awful, but it was typical. Typical of a Church (in England and Wales) which at best tolerates rubrics but doesn't see them as binding; typical of a Church which has promoted an inferior (if valid) Rite which almost demands spontaneity from priest and people, as though spontaneity were a blessing instead of a curse; typical of a Church which has lost its way.

Genuine questions: in what sense am I in Communion with a Bishop who tolerates and encourages this sort of thing? How wrong would it be to abandon my parish to search for orthopraxis? How many more times will I have to apologise to my children for the great Liturgical celebrations not actually being the things I tell them in advance that they are going to be?

07 April 2007

I follow St Melito of Sardis

Another hat tip to Jeffrey for finding this quiz: which Church Father are you? (I think I may have to rethink some of my answers!)

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

An interview with the Cardinal

This week's Spectator publishes an interview with Cardinal MO'C by Stuart Reid. It isn't available online except to subscribers to the print edition. The first three paragraphs give a flavour of what is to come.

It is good on the position of the Church in society, particularly in a secularised country like the UK, though the banner on the cover - "Christians Need More Persecution" - is a bit misleading. It is odd on the question of the Just War, in that the Cardinal is quoted as believing that the principles of just war theory "are very, very difficult to fulfil now" and suggests that the Church is all but pacifist. It is ambiguous and, to my mind, a little patronising on the subject of the Tridentine Rite. And the author concludes by implying the Cardinal's support for Abbot Christopher Jamison as his successor.

The interview tells us rather more about the interviewer than his subject. Don't rush out to spend £2.95 on the Spectator just because of this article.

05 April 2007

The Director of "Into great Silence" interviewed

H/t to the Daily Eudemon for the link to this fascinating interview with Philip Gröning.

Define Neo-trad

Rather than post inspiring pictures of things mediaeval Jeffrey is celebrating "Get It Out Of Your System Day". (Note to self: try not to annoy Jeffrey.)

He quotes the definition of a neo-con as "a liberal who's been mugged by reality". This set me wondering what the definition of a neo-trad is. How about: "a liberal Catholic who was mugged by John Paul II"?

01 April 2007

PM and Cardinal at odds

“But when it comes to our essential values-belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage-then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supersedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.” (Tony Blair, December 2006)

"We Catholics, and here I am sure I speak, too, for other Christians and all people of faith – do not demand special privileges, but we do claim our rights. We come not to impose, but to serve, according to our beliefs; and to be given the freedom and support to do so, as long as these do not undermine the rights and freedoms of others. I appeal to the good sense and fairness of the British people, and to the traditions which have shaped this great nation. I appeal to the need to keep faith with those traditions, lest we pass into a new intolerance which will over time shake the tree of our democracy free of its spiritual fruit. Those who proclaim Britain as a nation under God must be allowed to continue to work freely for His Kingdom here in Britain. That is our tradition. And I believe it is the tradition which British people wish to maintain. We should now engage in tolerant, reasoned and democratic debate on what is clearly the beginning not the end of this question." (Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, March 2007)

Two worlds collide: the Enlightenment and Vatican II. The Cardinal proclaims the true spirit of Vatican II; the Prime Minister proclaims the true spirit of the Enlightenment.