18 November 2009

A Hiatus

I'm not blogging again, at least until after Christmas. There are three main reasons:

First, I can rely on the blogosphere, or even the Internet for fellowship, but not for communion, and if I cannot find any way to articulate the manner in which I am in full and proper communion with either my parish priest or my Bishop, while each of them claims to be in communion with the Pope, I need to spend time looking for why somewhere other than here.

Second, I want to reflect on trad Catholic blogging from the outside: the LMS created a fortress of insularity because it needed to. I think that time has gone, but I sometimes sense a new insularity online, that seems to value an idea of ultratrad heteropraxis. "My praxy is better than your praxy" is less bad than "my doxy is better than your doxy", but it isn't good.

(First and second leave me wondering what exactly the Catholic blogosphere is: not national exactly, and not a comunion; not a movement, even if "New"; unguided, unshepherded, even if blessed with a really rich crop of posting pastors; what is the sense in which it is "Catholic" when it consists of lots of people expressing their own interpretation of things?)

Third, I'm not convinced that I'm keeping up with the Zeitgeist: lot's of you are racing off while I feel quite happy at rest. The fact that I can go to EF Mass every week if I try, and so can lots of others, while we can also go to OF Mass every day, feels like a decent start, and one worth bedding in, especially if the alternative involves lots of arguing. I have some big things to argue about with my spiritual betters, but the availability of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass isn't one of them.

I'll still haunt you: I'll comment when I feel moved to. But a pause for reflection might throw up an idea about whether I have anything unquerulous to say, and about how to say it.

God Bless you all, and be assured of my daily prayers.

10 November 2009

Prayers, Please, Times Three

Once, for the family of a dear friend and commenter who has just become a grandfather.

Secondly, for Fr Hunwicke, faced with a big choice.

Third, for a Catholic priest who, up to the limits with his Bishop, took the Anglican option to maintain, as he thought, his opportunity to be Catholic. A Motu Proprio and an Apostolic Constitution later, and he is in a very difficult position indeed, and needs lots and lots of prayers.

08 November 2009


Over in the valley of the River Adur, Fr Sean posted something really good about the manner in which those attached to more traditional forms of Catholic worship should celebrate. He didn't say that 1962 Missal is perfection, just that messing about with the rubrics at this time would be a really unsensible thing to do. I agree wholeheartedly with him.

The best way, perhaps, to think of what happened in the Roman Church after Vatican II and until the election of the current Pope, is to compare it with the iconoclasm which shook the East in the eighth and ninth centuries, not least because one of the arguments the iconoclasts used was that only in the Divine Liturgy itself could Christ Himself be truly seen, and Mass itself, and the manner in which it is celebrated is an icon.

Our iconoclasts have not given up: they are bent on maintaining their austere vision of a communal gathering in a whitewashed hall and will fight for it. They are tremedously powerful, and are cornered, so their victory over a disunited opponent is almost assured: their victory over a united opponent is much less so.

Let's not tryto unpick the reforms of Pius X or Pius XII just yet: let's concentrate on placing 1962 in opposition to "the spirit of Vatican II", and defeating that. Let's behave like Catholics and think in centuries: few of those of us alive today will see the way the Church rights herself after such a turbulent century as the twentieth, so let's not try to bring the Millennium about by ourselves. And let's make sure that we don't make of ourselves a focus for disunity by deciding that the rubrics are for others, and not for us.

07 November 2009

Something Latvian For the Weekend

Some years ago, I was in Mons in Belgium representing my country and had left an interminable reception to go outside for a smoke. I met a Latvian colleague there and told him that I remembered hearing a beautiful Latvian song once years before, and that the tune had never left me, and sang it for him. "You mean 'Saule Perkons Daugava'" he said, and fished out a CD from his pocket and gave it me there and then. It is one of the most evocative pieces of music I know, and sung here by 10,000 people, it sounds good (though I will confess I prefer the non-electric version I have on disc).

03 November 2009

Fr Hugh Thwaites

I had been looking for some new mp3s to listen to on the bus and went to the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice website to see if they had anything. Nothing much inspired me, but I was sufficiently intrigued by the following quote to download a couple of talks:

War Memoirs of an Amateur by Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJ

"In that first letter home I told my parents I had become a Catholic since leaving England, and that, in spite of everything (42 months in Changi gaol) I'd had the happiest three and a half years of my life".

The first talk was better recorded than the second, but, that apart, this is an experience separate to any I have ever had. I have heard many stories of captivity by the Japanese, but none before that have been inspired by Christian Joy. This story has been a life-changing experience for me. I have never so wanted a story not to end since childhood.

01 November 2009

The Future In Clifton ...

I posted a few days ago about the forthcoming reorganisation of the parishes of the diocese of Clifton: the draft report is here.

What irks me (well, one of the things that irks me) is the assumption that the decline in vocations to the priesthood in their diocese is inevitable. Their "best case scenario" assumes that the number of priests will decline by 30% in the next fifteen years (the ridiculously implausible worst case shows a 75% decline, the "median case" - the management-speak is all-pervasive - shows a 40% decline). Do a search on the word "vocation" however, and nothing is found.

If you pentrate the opaque language, however, then some of what this is all about becomes clearer:

"Part of our preparation for the future was the diocesan-wide consultation process “Seeking the Face of Christ” during which a very strong sense emerged that, though we recognise an incredible richness in our past and present, there are aspects of how we operate as a diocese, especially with regard to how we are organised for evangelisation and pastoral care, that need to be reconsidered. This need to reconsider our structures was taken into account in our Diocesan Guidelines “Called to be a People of Hope”, where, tellingly, it has been included in the section ‘Church as Communion’. We are reminded that:

“The root of our understanding of Church as Communion is not ensuring efficient management but understanding what sort of Church God is calling us to be. Pope John Paul II in his letter to mark the beginning of the new millennium reminded us that when the structures of the Church reflect the self-giving love of the Trinity then this: “spirituality of communion supplies institutional reality with a soul”. (NMI 45)

We trust in God that he will give us all that we need to achieve the mission he entrusts to us."

"... what sort of Church God is calling us to be ...": in other words "We are Church".

Linz am Avon?

30 October 2009

The Girl Who Prayed For Her Father's Murderers' Conversion

I got this story at one remove via A Casa de Sarto, to whom thanks. As Rafael says:

"To give one's life for one's friends is something great. To offer one's life for one's enemies is something heroic."

There were many difficulties in the life of this young girl because from an early age she suffered health problems: she was named Maria del Carmen del Sagrado Corazón in an emergency baptism when two days old. Thanks to Bishop Tedeschini, Nuncio in Spain at that time and a family friend, Mari Carmen was confirmed at the age of two years, as sometimes happened, and made her first communion aged six.

Mari Carmen was always very generous. Once, a beggar knocked at the door of her house. She opened the door, gave him all the money she had and said: "now knock again and ask Mummy for something". She knew that her mother used to give used clothes to the poor, and on several occasions said that her almost brand new clothes were old.

Two of her favorite pastimes were keeping holy pictures in a box and giving short retreats to her dolls: teaching them to pray and make the sign of the Cross. Aged four or five she used to lead the family rosary and recite the litanies of the Virgin in Latin, something that her parents were very proud of.

The religious persecution that had begun some years earlier, then became stronger, leading to numerous murders. "We do not believe that there has ever in the history of Christianity been a similar outbreak of hatred against Jesus and against religion, to that which has been manifested in all aspects of thought, of will, and of passion, and in just a few weeks ... The martyrs are numbered in thousands" said the Spanish bishops at the time. Valerio Gonzalez's family was not spared these events because in late August, the father was arrested and taken to prison, where he would make an emotional statement to his wife: "The children are too small, and will not understand, but when they grow up tell them their father has fought and given his life for God and for Spain, so that they can be educated in a Catholic Spain where the crucifix hangs in every classroom." Days later he would be killed.

After the death of her husband, Mari Carmen's mother went to live at the Belgian Embassy: she was in danger because of her family relationship with many political personalities. Her children were taken into the care of her aunt Sofia, who later described the girl's attitude to those difficult times: "during her stay in my house, she recited every day the Rosary of the Wounds of the Lord for the conversion of the murderers of her father." Even for a young girl, the prayers were centred on the President, Manuel Azaña. Mari Carmen later asked her mother: "is Azaña going to heaven?", to which her mother replied that if she prayed for it, he would be saved.

One day, while attending Mass with her grandmother, Mari Carmen asked, "can I give myself?" Her Grandmother nodded, not understanding what her granddaughter meant. "I followed her after her communion, and it was as though the angels were carrying her. She covered her face with her little hands, then spent a moment on her knees in thanksgiving. On leaving the church, she asked me the exact meaning of surrender, and I replied that it means giving yourself entirely to God and belonging entirely to him" says the grandmother.

Her uncle Javier explained: "Mari Carmen wanted the conversion of sinners, and she offered the sufferings of her illness and death for the conversion of Azana, President of the Republic, a symbol of religious persecution and of those who murdered her father." Sometimes she said to her aunt: "Aunt Fifa, pray for Daddy and all of the people who killed him."

In early April to the little one was diagnosed with scarlet fever: it rapidly got worse and she was confined at home. Even during her sickness she gave clear evidence of holiness, something that became apparent when on one occasion, one of the nuns who was looking after her drew the curtains of her room; she replied "Thank you, Mother, may the Good Lord reward you". Soon another sister came and pulled back the curtains to let in more light. Mari Carmen thanked her the same way: "Thank you, Mother, that's just right".

She lost her hearing, and then contracted double phlebitis. She was covered with gangrenous sores, and fainted with pain when her sheets were changed. Only the name of Jesus helped her to endure things, because there were no painkillers. "Mari Carmen, ask the Child Jesus to heal you", her mother told her. "No, Mummy, I do not ask why, I ask that His will be done." She often asked for the prayers for the dying to be read for her, and lived with her thoughts more on heaven than here on earth.

She did not ask for one moment that God should save her, but "to do His will". All attempts to heal her were unsuccessful. One of the nurses said later: "when I had to inject serum into the veins of one of her hands, because those in the other were damaged, she asked us to pray, so we prayed the Creed and Our Father, all together with her. We said them very slowly, but when we injected her then we prayed a lot faster." The sufferings she endured were truly unbearable, but she abandoned herself to Jesus Christ, because only his name appeared to soften the pain. Mari Carmen said that the Virgin Mary would pick the day of her birthday on 16 July for her death. When she learned that her aunt Sophia was to marry that day, she announced that she would die the next day instead. And she was right: on the morning of 17 July 1939, Mari Carmen sat up in bed, something she hadn't been able to do for a long time, and said: "today I'm going to die, I'm going to heaven!" Dona Carmen, her mother, brought the whole family around the child. She apologized for not having been able to love her nurse, and once for failing to say her prayers. Then she asked his mother to sing "How good you are, Jesus". She turned to her and said: "soon I will see Daddy, do you want me to tell him something from you?". Hours later, Mari Carmen surprised everyone by saying: "love one another".

When she died, Mari Carmen was devastated and physically deformed by the disease, but one of his uncles noticed a startling fact: "look how beautiful she is getting!" he said. Moreover, everybody smelled a scent different from that of the flowers around her. The stiffness of her body had disappeared and was she was transformed into something beautiful.

Very few people know what happened in the moments before the death of President of the Second Republic. On 3 November 1940, Azaña died in Montauban, a city in southeastern France near Toulouse. According to the bishop of the diocese, Monsignor Theas, who at the time gave him spiritual assistance: "he received with lucidity the sacrament of penance, expiring in the love of God and the hope of seeing him". What neither the president nor his friends knew was that a girl of nine years had prayed and offered hardship throughout her life for his salvation.

Mari Carm,en has been declared Venerable, and there are hopes she will soon be beatified.

27 October 2009

(Bad) Book Review

What couldn't there be to like? The story of the wartime exploits in the British Embassy in Madrid of Tom Burns, friend of Woodruff, Waugh and Greene, erstwhile editor of The Tablet when it was a Catholic intellectual weekly for all.

Written by Burn's son, I had expected the book to offer some illumination of why Tom Burns had joined Sir Samuel Hoare's wartime Embassy to Franco's recently installed government, and what he had done. What I hadn't expected was a book so full of errors in things I understand, that I can't know whether or not it is accurate about the things I don't.

Consider just this, describing his father's First Holy Communion, undated but in context between 1912 and 1914:

"Burns found himself absorbing the mysteries of a faith that had at its core the doctrine of the Real Presence. He munched on his first Communion wafer, and sipped at the chalice, fully believing that this was the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, as recited by the priest, and that the words were part of the same mystification as that experienced by the apostle at the Last Supper."

Or, for those who know a bit about the attack by Oldmeadow in The Tablet on Waugh's Black Mischief, the suggestion that Burns had manoeuvred Oldmeadow into it, and was able three years (sic) later to organise the group which bought The Tablet's owners out.

Add some prurient comment about his father's relationship with Anne Bowes-Lyon, a cousin of the Queen Mother and therefore, in the author's eyes, some sort of scion of the Royal Family; and the (credulity-stretching) suggestion that Philby and Blunt both personally conspired against him; or that he was told that he had been refused a CMG because "too many RCs were getting gongs"; and this reader, for one, ends up feeling that a great opportunity has been missed.

26 October 2009

24 October 2009

Degsy The Next Roche?

Here is some news from a Clifton-based correspondent.

The Bishops' Appointments column in the Catholic Herald doesn't mention it, but on Wednesday, the clergy of the Clifton Diocese will learn how their Bishop intends to "manage decline".

The answer will not be: "by increasing vocations". It will be about increased roles for lay people: ladies in green cardigans to the fore; ever parish has a parish council with a "liturgy committee" which the PP is allowed to be a member of.

It will be about new approaches to parishes; how to cope with a parish structure imposed at a time of lots of priests, when the number of priests will, inexorably, carry on diminishing.

My bet is that rather than try to close parishes - we all know how HORRID people were to +Arthur when he came up with such sensible provisions - +Degsy will come up with a new Deanery-based structure which will leave the Parishes juridically intact, but managed through a new, kewl, team-based structure. It will be the clever version of what happened in Leeds.

It would be awful, though, if people protested. It would be terrible if the news came out in an uncontrolled way.

Dear readers: these people will not admit that they have lost and will keep fighting; and they will be much, much, more vicious than any of you think.

21 October 2009

Not Just About Anglicans

For most of the world, "Anglican" will be the title of some obscure sect that they no little about, other than that the Holy Father, in paternal love, has worked out a manner in which as many of them as want to can return to the bosom of Peter without having to compromise principles which HH the P believes are on the other side of his line in the sand.

They can have their own liturgy and Ordinaries who are not Bishops (at least in the manner Catholics and Orthodox understand Bishops); they don't have to be subsumed into Latin Rite dioceses; they simply have to acknowledge a Catholic understanding of the Petrine Ministry and accept what (until the end of the 60s) everybody would recognise as "what every Catholic believes".

There is a mood abroad which suspects that this is also an invitation to the SSPX to see that what has been written on a small scale with Tridentine Latin Rite Communities is at least potentially writable large.

But I wonder whether one of HH's eyes might not have been facing East. There is an interesting message to the Orthodox Churches that says that this Pope's exercise of the Petrine Ministry is that of a loving father, and not that of an absolutist monarch.

18 October 2009

Spain On The March

Two million people, according to the organisers; one and a quarter million according to the authorities in Madrid.

LOTS of people came out onto the streets of Madrid yesterday to protest against government plans to allow abortion on demand up to 14 weeks.

I even managed to find a piece of reporting from the BBC: it's here. It's a short piece, which borrows from RTVE, the Spanish state broadcaster. There is also a set of photos in the Spanish newspaper ABC, available here.


17 October 2009

EF Mass liberates The Laity!

There have been lots of comments from priests about how the celebration of the Extraordinary Form liberates them: they don't have to perform any more.

There has been much less about the liberation of the faithful: imagine being able to turn up for Mass knowing that you don't have to do anything. The priest says the Mass, the server says the responses, and I ... well, I attend Mass; I hear Mass; I pray the Mass; I participate in Mass; I'm at Mass.

I am entirely free. I could say the Rosary; I could follow the Mass gesture by gesture from my missal so as to be nearly word for word with the priest; I could decide to meditate on something; I could sit/stand/kneel and ask God to fill me with Himself. But it's my conscious choice: it's not imposed.

The point is that it's not about me: the liturgical action happens whether I'm there or not, and my attendance is a privilege, not a right; I'm lucky that the priest is there doing his bit: not the other way round.

It's about God.

16 October 2009

Just A Thought

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).-

Africa's Catholic leaders are facing the challenge of inculturation by discerning which cultural values are compatible with Christianity, said the president of the Kenyan bishops' conference. Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, stated this Wednesday in a press conference at the conclusion of the first phase of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

He affirmed, "We come from far away, we are far away and we are going far: this is the situation of the Church in Africa."

"If we want to be Christians, we cannot choose the values we wish to follow," the prelate stated, and thus we must discern which African values are "compatible with Christianity."

The cardinal discussed the relation between inculturation of the faith and traditional religion.The "relatio post disceptationem" [report after the debate] noted that "fear and uncertainty characterizes the life of faith in many African populations."

This fear and uncertainty cause mistrust, self-defense and aggressiveness as well as recourse to magic and occultism, or an attempt at syncretism between Christianity and traditional religion.

Bishop Manuel António Mendes dos Santos of São Tomé and Príncipe addressed the topic of the persistence of esoteric practices.

He explained: "The relation with mystery is part of African culture. From this perspective, atheism, for example, is not comprehensible for an African."

So why not entrust them to a Uniate Church?

11 October 2009

Flucht Nach Musik


All sorts of things are going on at the moment and my brain hurts trying to keep up. And a steady trickle of "don't write about this but pray for us" e-mails makes me wonder if a concerted attack on a particular type of Catholic belief and practice in southern England is underway. I have one story of two-faced hypocrisy which would be unbelievable in a Jeffrey Archer novel, but which is positively attributed to a member of the Episcopal Conference. What a world we're in!
So the arrival of two multi CD sets is very welcome, especially as these come from either end (chronologically) of the era of German music which fascinates me.
Telemann's Brockes-Passion is something I've heard of, but never heard, and the six late Haydn Masses (of which I don't think I could ever tire) come accompanied by various motets and the Te Deum for the Empress Maria Theresa. These aren't Classic FM popular classics, but neither are they simple concert pieces for Radio 3 in the afternoon. This is a serious bit of stuff, a world in which I shall be immersing myself from time to time until Christmas.
Is escapism necessarily a bad thing? Well, I've put the question in a way that only allows the answer "No" to justify the fact that I am going to build a little musical hidey-hole. God Help us all that I should need to.

05 October 2009

What's Happening?

The signs of the time are worrying.

The swine flu prohibition on Communion on the tongue feels, at least in some parishes in some dioceses, like an attempt to ban the practice completely.

The attacks, or rather the continual pinpricks, against Summorum Pontificum priests seems, if reports are true, to be on the increase: but there are some attacks as well and some of these attacks are vile and potentially high profile.

The staff at the E&W Bishops' Conference continue to plan for an Ad Limina visit which will take the attack to the Pope.

With the exception of the Archbishop of Westminster, not a single Bishop in E&W seems to have welcomed the idea of a Papal visit.

If I can be forgiven the analogy, we are in early 1942. The Americans have finally entered the War but the Japanese have conquered the Pacific and look unstoppable; the Germans still seem to be advancing in North Africa; and as the winter ends on the Eastern Front, everybody is expecting the worst.

Nobody has realised that the enemy has extended itself as far as it is able, and only two things are necessary for its defeat: unity, and a willingness to take all the time final victory needs, whatever the attraction of a negotiated peace.

They can't win. We can win, and we can lose.

26 September 2009

Can The Bishops Ban Communion On The Tongue?

Fr Z offered advice to a correspondent who was being hounded by her PP for genuflecting before Communion and receiving on the tongue. According to the CDW’s 2004 Redemptionis Sacramentum, it seems that communion on the tongue may not be prohibited. Is swine flu such a uniquely deadly disease that Bishops are entitled to ignore the instructions from Rome? In how many countries, and in how many dioceses in those countries has such a ban been introduced?

[90.] “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined”, with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”.
[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.
[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

20 September 2009

Archbishop Nichols On The Money Again

To what is to me a baffling lack of comment, the Archbishop has issued a pastoral letter about the importance of prayer and Confession, with a bonus of how to obtain a Plenary Indulgence when visiting St Thérèse's relics. He also says something else, talking about Cardinal Newman:

"As you know, he came only gradually to the fullness of Catholic faith. It was a difficult journey for him. Yet, in his own words, he came to recognise our faith as “a working religion”, not concerned with ideas or vague generalities, but taking us up into the true worship of Christ himself. At the heart of Newman’s sense of the realism of our faith was the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, “as real”, he said “as we are real”.

We can learn from him to reawaken in ourselves this faith in Christ’s real, abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist, reserved in the Tabernacle. When this happens, we behave accordingly in His presence, giving Him our attention and the love of our hearts whenever we are in church. In this way we not only build up our own life of prayer but also encourage each other, in church, to give this precious time to Him. After all, He is the only one who can bring lasting peace into our lives."

We seem to have got a Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, who understands Catholicsm and who preaches it. But all there is to read about him on the Internet is how he gets things wrong.

"Tell it not in Geth, publish it not in the streets of Ascalon: lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph".

16 September 2009

Archbishop Nicols On Mission

On Sunday there was the annual Missions appeal, at which a nun told us that missionaries were not in Africa to convert people. Luckily, the Archbishop seems to have more robust ideas: read through to the end.

"St Paul, in his reflection on the outreach of faith to the Jewish community of his day, reminds us of the need for people who will speak of Jesus, who will act as missionaries. He asks ‘And how will there be preachers if they are not sent?’ This ‘missio’, this ‘sending’ is central to the dynamic of the Gospel. It is a dynamic in which we all share, for at the end of every Mass there is indeed a ‘missio’. We are sent out to fulfil our share in the mission given to us by the Lord.

St Matthew gives us the words and actions of the Risen Christ in ‘sending out’ his disciples and commissioning them to proclaim the Gospel and to baptise. It is, indeed, a co-missioning because Christ also gives us his unfailing and consoling promise to be with us always. Yes, the mission we receive is one and the same as the mission of Christ himself. He was sent by the Father ‘that we might have life and have it to the full’ (cf. John 10.10). And this mission of the Son exists from and in all eternity. Here is its deepest meaning on which we must reflect today.

The Father ceaselessly ‘sends out’ the Eternal Word, that expression of the very mystery of God, and does so in the utter, self-emptying love which is also the nature of the Godhead, the love which is the Holy Spirit. This giving out and receiving in of love, which is the very life of the Holy Trinity, is the first and unequivocal meaning of the word ‘missio’. God, of his infinite nature, is ‘missio’ and, of course, ‘communio’. These are the foundations of our use of this word, its most profound truth for us to keep in mind always.

The first outward expression or fruit of this inner ‘missio’ of the Godhead is, of course, the work of creation. St John tells us that all creation, every being, has its existence through the eternally spoken Word of God.

And so that this creation might indeed find its integral and full development or salvation, that Word become flesh in a particular and historical Incarnation. This ‘missio’ of the Eternal Word into our flesh and history gives all the defining characteristics of our sharing in that mission, in our work of ‘missio’ today. It is the full revelation of ‘integral human development’ and establishes for ever the need for the Gospel to be present as an essential part of human progress. Only in the Gospel is the full truth of our humanity told; only in the Gospel, which is Christ, does our humanity come to its true source and fulfilment, the mystery of God and God’s unequivocal love."

13 September 2009

I Thought I'd Escaped


... but I think I might be going back here soon!

08 September 2009

The Pope To The Bishops Of Brazil

Nobody else seems to have noticed this rather important text, or maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. Is reading what is being said on other Conferences' ad liminae a requirement for our Bishops before theirs?

(Not my best translation - I want this out there!)

Dear Brothers

in the decades following Vatican II, some people saw the opening to the world, not as a requirement of the missionary zeal of the Sacred Heart, but as a gateway to secularisation, seeing in this some values of great Christian density, such as equality, freedom, solidarity, being willing to make concessions and find areas of cooperation. This led to the intervention of some Church leaders in ethical debates, meeting the expectations of the public, but not talking about fundamental truths of the Faith, such as sin, grace, the theological life. Many Christian communities unconsciously fell into self-secularisation: these, hoping to please those who never came, saw the departure, cheated and disillusioned, of many of those who had come: our contemporaries, when they come to us, want to see what they do not see elsewhere, that is, the joy and hope that spring from the fact that we are with the Risen Lord.

There is at present a new generation born into this secularized church environment, which, instead of being part of this openness and consensus, sees the gap between Society and the Magisterium of the Church, especially in the area of ethics, widening even more. In this desert of God, the new generation feels a great thirst for transcendence. It is the young men of this new generation who are knocking at the door of the Seminary and they need to find true men of God, priests fully dedicated to formation, to witness to the gift of self to the Church through celibacy and an austere life, following the model of Christ the Good Shepherd. These young men will thus learn to be available to meet the Lord in daily participation in the Eucharist, to love silence and prayer for, first, the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Dear Brothers, as you know, it is the task of the Bishop to establish the essential criteria for the formation of seminarians and priests in faithfulness to the universal law of the Church: in this spirit the ideas on this subject, which arose during the plenary assembly of your Episcopal Conference, in April should be developed.

Assured of your zeal with regard to the formation of priests, I invite all bishops, priests and seminarians to emulate in life the love of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, as the Curé d'Ars did. And, like him, take as a model and as a protection of your own vocation the Virgin Mother, who responded in a unique way to God's call, by bearing in your heart and in your body the Word made flesh in order to give it to mankind.

To your dioceses, with a cordial greeting and the assurance of my prayers, please bear my paternal Apostolic Blessing.

06 September 2009

Fr Fortescue

No, I'm not going to write the whole book out, bit by bit. I note that Abebooks has plenty of copies available. But I liked this enough to want to share:

"Our so called Missa Cantata is the compromise of a compromise, a Low Mass, with singing as at High Mass, only justifiable to enhance the dignity of Sunday Mass when a deacon and subdeacon cannot be had. (And the practice of saying a Low Mass while the choir sings bits of things is too dreadful to be described.)"

04 September 2009

Lucky ...

A first edition of Fr Adrian Fortescue's "The Mass: A Study Of The Roman Liturgy" came my way today.

The person to whom thanks are owed has been thanked.

01 September 2009

Welshmen And Their Sheep

Found by Jeffrey.

31 August 2009

Welcome To A New Blogger

Any new blog whose first post begins:

"It is an honour and a responsibility to have been given the Catholic Faith of the Church that was founded by Christ on Peter the Rock"

feels like one worth following. Have a look here and say hello to Dorothy.

29 August 2009

Seven Things

Mac tagged me for a meme: "What are the seven things that we, as Catholics, want or would like to see happen?"

1. The abolition of all Education departments in the diocesan curiae in England and Wales. The quality of teachers can be handled by headteachers; fabric can be sorted out by people who understand it, and RE becomes part of the catechetical department: because

2. Children are (normally - there will always be exceptions) prepared for Confession, First Communion, and Confirmation in their Catholic schools. Where there are Catholic schools, and Catholic parents choose not to send their children to them, the parents can face the consequences. (Some people will be surprised to know that at the moment children are prepared for none of these three sacraments in Catholic schools.)

3. The Bishop in each diocese appoints a Director of Liturgy who takes responsibility for the Liturgy in the diocese (responsibility here is a big word: it means doing things, rather than having a new paragraph in the CV, and it means doing them according to the book, in this case the Rubrics, and it means ensuring, with however big a stick necessary, that things are done according to the book throughout).

4. Any hymn book with hymns written or bowdlerised after 1970 is temporarily withdrawn so that they can be sorted out. We don't need hymn books for Mass. For the occasions we need hymns, the PP can print out a few sheets for the people attending.

5. Any parish which offers the EF also offers Vespers (at least in the simplest form) at least once a week.

6. Black vestments, unbleached candles and pleading for the soul of the departed are an option anybody can insist on for the funeral they are arranging.

7. The Church in England and Wales stops trying to be part of the Establishment, stops trying to be anything other than (and proudly!) the outpost of the Church of Rome in England and Wales, a challenge to everybody who is outside the fold of Peter.

25 August 2009

Ad Limina: A Powerful Weapon

Is this a summer cold or swine flu? I've no idea. Pray for me, please.

A Roman correspondent has sent me a fascinating message about the results of the last Ad Limina visit. There is a story, that you either know or you don't, about the Bishop who was sure he was going to get Southwark: so sure that he'd packed his Library.

Now, the reason he didn't was that in the lead up to the visit, one of his flock had sent to the Congregation for Bishops evidence that the Bishop had done something wrong, and this was enough to stop his translation.

Because what the Congregation responds to is evidence, not assertion: if the Bishop has written to a person or group saying (for example) "you can only have an EF Mass if there are 50 parishioners", then you've got him; if you say "I know the Bishop isn't in favour of EF Mass" then you haven't. If you can show that a Diocese has sent £250K to an organisation that supports anti-Catholicsm, then you've got it; if you assert that "My Bishop doesn't support Catholic teaching on sex education" then you haven't.

This is the way to do it.

So let's do it.

19 August 2009

Ad Limina: How We Might Influence It

I have been in correspondence recently with someone about our chances of influencing the Vatican before the Ad Limina visit. We have disagreed gently about the possibility of starting a petition about the way "relationships" are taught in Primary School. The disagreement was about tactics: I think that any attempt to draft a petition about sex education will end up causing more divisions and attracting less signatures; he, less cynical than me, thinks that wording expressing exactly what we all agree on can be found; I don't think many people will get involved; he does.

I suggested, however, that something in last week's Catholic Herald had left me really angry: "tamping mad" as my mother-in-law might say. Only Catholic Action seems to have noticed it online.

It's about Marriage Care, and its Director, Terry Prendergast, and the fact that the A of W is its patron, and the English dioceses fund it. The story is awful - this is just a bit:

The manual, called Foundations for a Good Life, is designed to help to teach pupils at Key Stage 3 and 4 - the last two years of secondary school - and college students about relationships, marriage, the family and sexuality.

The final two modules are aimed at young people over the age of 16 and deals with methods of contraception.

There is no discussion of the morality of the methods with the focus on function and effectiveness. The manual hails condoms as 98 per cent effective in avoiding pregnancy, and the Pill, the coil and hormonal injections as 99 per cent effective, but says that NFP methods are far less reliable.


Joe Mannion, the charity's director of relationship support, said he unaware that the information was inaccurate. He said that Marriage Care would be prepared to change the text of the manual if "it's shown to be different" by new evidence.

Terry Prendergast, the chief executive of Marriage Care, recently caused an outcry when he said marriage is no better for children than other family set-ups.

The charity has an annual income in the region of £900,000, about 10 per cent of which comes from diocesan grants. Its president is Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

It strikes me that this is our petition to the Vatican. This is a call to arms. This isn't about the precise detail in which aspects of the National Curriculum should be taught in primary education: this is about the Catholic Church allowing its teachings to be subverted by people claiming to speak for her.

Does Rome know about this? Have they read this article? Do they know what our Bishops support? Is the lay structure in the Diocesan curias and at Eccleston Square responsible for undermining the Church in E&W from within? Big questions. But unless Rome is invited to think about them, and turn them onto the Bishops of England and Wales, then not only will there be no challenge, but the fact of no challenge will be adduced by Eccleston Square as Vatican support.

I wonder whether this is one chance to stick it to the structures which have so corrupted catholic life in England and Wales for so many years ...

18 August 2009

Tagged For Ches's Meme

For the person who had that very day received a couple of boxed sets framing the Classical Era: Haydn: The Six Late Masses; and Telemann: Brockes Passion; to be told that he has a pound in his pocket and three jukebox songs to choose might prove difficult. Very little music I listen to would ever find its way near a jukebox, but here's three that might.

Leonard Cohen, who, I realised one day, just did it for me.

Men At Work Down Under: I've never listened to the words: indeed, I'd never seen the video until I found this; but the noise it makes, a cheery reggae inspired celebration, always makes me think of Oz, a place I always enjoy going to.

And Ana Belén: she could sing "Matchstick Men" and "There's noone quite like Grandma" and still fell me.

16 August 2009

Nice Day

We can't all afford Italy, but England will do sometimes.

13 August 2009

Ad Limina: Another Staffer's Proposal

One proposal that was doing the rounds was that of showing the variety of diocesan educational curricula as a way of demonstrating the vibrancy of Catholic education: indeed, Catholicsm in Education.

The covering letter would go something along the lines of:

"You've seen and approved of PO'D's curriculum just because he happened to send it to you. All of our dioceses have curricula which respond in a Catholic manner to the National Curriculum, though most of us are modest enough not to burden you with every example of support to Catholic education we have been responsible for in the last six years."

12 August 2009

Ad Limina: The Bishops Strike Out

At least, Eccleston Square wants to!

Damian, here, asked earlier:

Is the Holy Father aware that traditionalist Catholics in this country do not have a single bishop who shares his own understanding of the place of the traditional liturgy in the life of the Church?

Whether he does or not, I understand that one of the drafts prepared for the Ad Limina visit by a staffer at Eccleston Square (which might well have gone to and therefore have so excited The Suppository) insinuates that the troubles caused by Summorum Pontificum might actually have been caused by the uncollegial way in which it was implemented. Indeed, one wag apparently suggested adding a comment that the reason that the new translation of the Mass into English would eventually be so welcome was that there had been collegial discussion on the subject since 1994, thus guaranteeing that when final consensus was reached, everybody would be happy.

The interesting thing is that the Eccleston Square attitude to the Pope reminds me of The Guardian's attitude towards Middle England: they despise him, snigger at him behind their hands, ignore him whenever possible, and use such defiance as a shibboleth of belonging.

Archbishop Nichols needs to take on the mantle of Cardinal Pole.

10 August 2009

Ad Limina: A Bishop's Examination Of Conscience

(Yes: I am going to get pretty boring on this subject. If you have anything you want to make public, themunimentroom@hotmail.co.uk is one place to think of sending it to.)

According to Francisco José Fernández de la Cigoña, here, a Bishop should ask himself the following:

"When the wolf gets into the fold, the shepherd neither sleeps nor rests; he works day and night to get rid of the wolf to save the lives of his sheep. If, through lack of care, of vigilance or of effort, we should lose lives, how would we answer Jesus Christ when he calls us to account for the souls he entrusted to us?"

How will those who have lost tens of thousands answer? What about those who barely have a flock left? Which believe in Jesus Christ? How do you follow a shepherd who doesn't care about his sheep? Is there a wolf? Are there sheep? Is there a shepherd?"

Just something to think about.

09 August 2009

More On Ad Limina Visits

According to the Vatican website, here, the procedure for ad limina visits is as follows:

Art. 28 — In keeping with a venerable tradition and the prescriptions of law, bishops presiding over particular Churches visit the tombs of the Apostles at predetermined times and on that occasion present to the Roman Pontiff a report on the state of their diocese.

Art. 29 — These kinds of visits have a special importance in the life of the Church, marking as they do the summit of the relationship of the pastors of each particular Church with the Roman Pontiff. For he meets his brother bishops, and discusses with them matters concerning the good of the Churches and the bishops’ role as shepherds, and he confirms and supports them in faith and charity. This strengthens the bonds of hierarchical communion and openly manifests the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the episcopal college.

Art. 30 — The ad limina visits also concern the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. For through these visits a helpful dialogue between the bishops and the Apostolic See is increased and deepened, information is shared, advice and timely suggestions are brought forward for the greater good and progress of the Churches and for the observance of the common discipline of the Church.

Art. 31 — These visits are to be prepared very carefully and appropriately so that they proceed well and enjoy a successful outcome in their three principal stages — namely, the pilgrimage to the tombs of the Princes of the Apostles and their veneration, the meeting with the Supreme Pontiff, and the meetings at the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

Art. 32 — For this purpose, the report on the state of the diocese should be sent to the Holy See six months before the time set for the visit. It is to be examined with all diligence by the competent dicasteries, and their remarks are to be shared with a special committee convened for this purpose so that a brief synthesis of these may be drawn up and be readily at hand in the meetings.

The organising body is the Congregation for Bishops, and that is, I imagine, the Dicastery to be addressed if we have points we would wish to be considered during the visit.

Its address is: Palazzo della Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII, 10, 00193 Roma and its phone number is: so we have no excuses.

Caught In My Tracks

Not quite what you expect to see in the middle of a Georgian streetscape on a sunny English Sunday afternoon!

08 August 2009


When even a repeat makes it worth watching TV on Saturday evening!


07 August 2009

Ad Limina Visit From England And Wales

Fr Ray Blake has scooped the world by announcing that the somewhat overdue Ad Limina visit by the Bishops of England and Wales is now scheduled for January.

What I know of the mechanics of these visits is a bit limited: I know that the Bishops' Conference has to send in a report; I know that each Bishop has a private one-to-one with the Pope; I know that a final statement which can include what in secular terms might be called an "Action Plan" is published by the Vatican at the end of the visit.

What I don't know is how the Vatican carries out its own preparation for the visit: presumably the Nuncio has a significant input, but who else has? Can anybody write in? To whom? And if the answer is "yes", will anybody at the Vatican end actually bother to read what is sent?

My experience suggests that October and November will be when the preparatory work for a January visit will be carried out, leaving December for the Holy Father and his advisors to take their position and raise any last minute queries.

That gives us seven or eight weeks.

Great as is my admiration for Archbishop Nichols, I can't believe that he is yet in a position to achieve authoritative editorial control over what the staff at the Bishops' Conference will produce: it will be full of self-congratulatory guff about this or that pastoral initiative, and will give an impression of a Church in E&W in which clergy and laity (I nearly wrote workers by hand or brain) are well on the way to achieving the Kingdom through support to the third world and a drive for carbon neutrality or even negativity.

If anybody knows how we can counter this, will they please speak up.

03 August 2009

Archbishop Nichols - Hope For Us All

There was a fascinating article in the Herald this weekend (actually there were several, but bear with me).
"Archbishop Vincent Nichols celebrated a Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of St Vincent de Paul primary school in Victoria, London on Friday July 17.
The opening of the school was marked by a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wiseman in an attic in the building where the school was founded. One hundred and fifty years on the current Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor by celebrating Mass for the school. The Mass was attended by pupils, staff, parents and Sisters of Charity. In his homily Archbishop Nichols described the symbolism of his bishop's mitre, which represents the Bible, upon which his ministry is based. He said the two points of the mitre symbolised the Old and New Testaments, a reminder of his ordination as a bishop, when the Bible was held over his head. Archbishop Nichols also said that the crozier represented a shepherd's crook, to show everyone that, as Archbishop, he is the shepherd of Westminster."
There are several things here: the Bishop exercising his teaching mission, as well as his pastoral mission; his respect and fidelity for tradition and the past, both in repeating what his predecessor did 150 years ago and in having a mitre held properly; and knowing how to talk to (rather than down to) children.
Unlike some Catholics who seem to think that Archbishop Nichols is an unCatholic failure, purely because he doesn't seem to want to do what they want him to do, I think he is building up to being a Catholic success, precisely because he isn't doing everything I want him to do.
The full story of how Archbishop Nichols came to be selected will never be known, but there are three phases: first ++MO'C offered his resignation to the Pope, and a terna selected by the magic circle (presumably with ++Vincent's name on) was presented to Rome; after a while in which it seemed that the magic circle would have its way, a campaign began to debate the sort of man the Church in England and Wales would need to succeed ++MO'C and the Cardinal was asked to stay on for a while longer; a new terna selected by the magic circle (presumably with ++Vincent's name on) was presented to Rome and ++Vincent was named for Westminster.
The second phase is interesting, because, I believe, it marks a decisive shift in the Church in this country. Just as Cardinal Heenan, intent on ensuring that whatever else happened, he would not be succeeded by ++Worlock, asked the people of his Diocese to tell the Nuncio what sort of priest should succeed him, a group of (mainly) lay people opened a debate about how the succession should happen. Damian Thompson and his blog played a key part in ensuring that there was a focus for the exchange of information, not just about the archiepiscopal possibles, but about the fruit of their parish and diocesan work. And at least one high profile prelate, Cardinal Pell, who was never ever realistically a candidate for Westminster was nevertheless proclaimed to be one, in order to provoke discussion and thought.
What was happening? This is the first time in which candidates for high office in the Church in this country were measured publicly against the Pope's criteria. Not, this time, nudges and winks in Eccleston Square, and a library packed and ready to be moved before an announcement was made: instead we learned about candidates by watching them at work and then discussing them.
What gives me hope that the Pope has chosen splendidly well is the very fact that it is unlikely that we will see ++Vincent celebrate Mass in the EF. He obviously doesn't want to, but has both an Auxiliary Bishop and priests in his diocese who are prepared to do so (a situation not without parallel in the Diocese of Rome, though we might assume its Ordinary to be a bit keener) and he is encouraging them to. Like the Pope he is keen to avoid the EF becoming a shibboleth for disunity.
My point is that we have witnessed a lot of ++Vincent's journey from Fr Trendy to ++Seriously Catholic. He is a not a turn-the-clock-back Traditionalist - far from it! - but understands and appreciates the need to be faithful to Tradition, and to allow those more traditionally disposed than he is to feel welcome. Above all, he understands the direction in which the Pope is leading us and is prepared to lead in the same direction.
There seems to be a lot of faux-ingénus about at the moment who profess to believe that they stand for a sort of labeless Catholicsm: there's no such thing. Why I think ++Vincent is a good thing is that the label he has embraced seems to be "Benedictine".
Somebody said recently: "much better than his predecessor; not as good as his successor". That'll do me; and it will do a lot of very good Catholics who will never voluntarily go to an EF Mass as well. In fact, that would be a pretty good epitaph for any of us.
(By the way, if you've got this far: what was Cardinal Mahony doing at ++Vincent's installation?)

01 August 2009

Typical Summer Day


You don't have to be some demented eco-nut to see that the climate is changing. You just note that this is the third summer on the trot that the jet stream has not behaved as it should and contrast what is happening here to what is happening all across the Mediterranean.

31 July 2009



I chronicled last year my purchase of a Kodak ZD710. It is a bridge camera: half way between a point and click digital, and a "real" SLR.

I had bought my first digital camera shortly after the near coincident catastrophic failure of three 35mm cameras. I was always mildly obsessed by photography, something, like liking knives, I inherited from my father. My very first camera was not an Instamatic, but a serious (well, serious-ish, old, second-hand, war booty) German 35mm, and for many years I didn't look back.

After his death, I inherited my father's cameras and have been away in my time with Praktika and Olympus bodies and six lenses! But in 2002-3, all of my 35mm cameras gave up the ghost.

On a whim, just before a day I thought I might appreciate having a camera to hand, I bought a Canon Ixus. I was immediatrely converted: the thing I had never conceived was the idea that I could shoot hundreds of photos in one shoot. Setting, composition - thought - could all be set aside, as in a collection of a couple of hundred shots, there'd always be four or five which were worthwhile. This is, of course, balderdash. Without realising it, I'd sacrificed most of the hard-earned fun of photography for the meretricious satisfaction of instant gratification. There was no reason to stop using the Ixus, as I'd not really noticed that my approach to photography had changed completely. What stopped me in my tracks was another coincidence: a fault in the camera, and hearing one of my children saying that Daddy used to take really nice photos.
So I bought the Kodak: a bridge camera as I said above, and began to relearn the art of photography, but with the luxury of feeling encouraged by the very cheap price of memory of being able to make lots of mistakes. Over the last year and a half I have got more and more used to having the camera at my side again, and to have the feeling that recording the world is good.
And allied to this was the realisation that the Kodak simply wasn't up to what I wanted: this is no reflection on it, as it does exactly what it is asked to do. But if you want to set out on a big job, you need decent tools.

More Canon tools, as it happens. An EOS Digital SLR, with an 18-55 lens and a 55-250 telephoto lens to go with it. The power is awesome: full control again over depth of field and focus, the option to use real filters, but all of this allied to the option of fully digitised images (including the option of RAW format) to enable me to do whatever post-processing I might ever find myself wanting to do.
In an odd sort of way, this feels like growing up - I have achieved in my time exactly what my father achieved in his, and I feel a sense of contentment as I feel the weight of a proper camera again, and one I have to use the viewfinder for instead of that ***** screen on the back. This is what the modern age should be about.

28 July 2009

A Prayer For Priests

This prayer, which was sent to me for whatever reason by the Priestly Society of St Peter, is a good one to try to say every day during this Year of the Priest.

O, Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests; for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests labouring at home and abroad in distant mission fields; for your lonely and desolate priests; for Your young priests; for Your dying priests.

Above all I recommend to You the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptised me; the priests who absolve me; the priests at whose Masses I assist and who give me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who have taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.

O, Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and eternity. Amen

27 July 2009

What Do Others Write About?

It's fun: click on the pictures to see what bloggers have been blogging about.

Fr Ray:

Fr Tim:

Fr Z:


What Do I Write About?

I like this.

26 July 2009

For Father Z


To make Fr Z feel at home while in this green and pleasant.
The tits come to feed here, as well.

20 July 2009

Forty Years On

And I remember my eleven year old self being got up at some uneartly hour by excited - yes, excited: that was strange - parents to watch TV, a TV which was strictly rationed as a rule.

I can still remember the feel of the pyjamas and the dressing gown I'd been given the previous Christmas. Half awake, I watched some grainy black and white TV footage, and was then sent back to bed.

Were my parents dressed or in nightclothes? I have no idea. But apart from the memory of the feel of the clothes, and the fact that I, but not my older sister (girl) or younger brother (baby) had been woken up, the memory I have is of those grainy black and white images.

What were you doing when Man landed on the Moon?

Yawning. And wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown. And watching TV.

And vaguely realising that this must be some massive deal, if I'd been woken up to watch television.

19 July 2009

Archbishop Nichols: Better And Better

The latest information, courtesy of Damian Thompson here, is that Archbishop Nichols has continued his public ministry of dewreckovating by dereordering his private chapel. This is really important news: a statement of where this Archbishop is vis-à-vis both the Pope and vis-à-vis his predecessor.

As you might expect, the entire English Catholic blogosphere is alive with encouragement and support for a new leader who seems to want to reorient English and Welsh Catholicsm.

Or, rather, it isn't.

Odd, that, isn't it.

(Honourable mention to Fr Ray, who picked up on the fact that the Archbishop of Westminster wrote a defence of Life in Friday's Telegraph, in the context of the suicide in Switzerland of the Downes.)

12 July 2009

England At Its Best

England was looking pretty good earlier today.

05 July 2009

PO'D, Again - And A Thought

I wonder what late-flowering plant Bishop O'Donoghue would take as his emblem? What angel spoke to him and invited him to a completely new and different witness?

There is an irony that would be lost on Tabletistas that PO'D is being prohetic in the way they like to use the word: that he is comparing and contrasting the great and good of this world against God's will; that he is speaking out on behalf of those who have no voice; and that he is doing this as fearlessly within the Church as without.

Unfortunately for the Tabletistas, this started off by disassociating his diocese from its children's society, which wanted to observe government regularions, and has now ended up criticising bishops for distancing themselves theologically from Peter, and to diocesan clergy for distancing themselves from their Bishops.

Now here's what I'm beginning to wonder: is PO'D Archbishop Vincent's stalking horse? Has he agreed to take up a series of positions which once would have been as obvious to Catholics as that night follows day, just to see which ones have the sort of traction that will allow His Grace to choose the right first field of battle on which to take on his - our - enemies?

Just a thought.

03 July 2009

Archives and Muniments

Most of the last week has been spent in an archive, and the hay fever which started to take hold a couple of years ago, has been aggravated this year by whatever lives in dirty old papers.

But it's worth it!

29 June 2009

Serving the TLM

Once a week, I serve Mass for a priest who has learned the EF but who is not allowed to celebrate it publically. I have to serve for him sometimes when nobody else is present, because, as the Mass is not public or announced, the only people who come to it are those whom he or I invite, and there is an understanding that invitations are not a way of making these private Masses public or regular celebrations: anybody who comes thinks it's a secret one-off.

It is hard to express just how special it is to serve a priest when there is nobody else present, especially when he says Mass at a great High Altar which was built as an expression of the triumph of the Holy Sacrifice. The server's role is always subservient to the priest's, but the Priest always emphasises his unworthiness, and as a result, the craftsman and his apprentice, Don Quixote and Sancho, approach the altar as one person who happens to be able to do something he scarcely ought to, and his assistant who worries that he can only get things wrong.

And in amidst the mistakes, the mispronunciations, the difficulties with working out the optional memoria, God appears on the altar and humbles us. After he has had Communion the priest turns and holds up the tiny white focus of light that I am about to recieve and gives me the chance to say on my behalf and on behalf of the odd visitor who happens to be there that we aren't actually worthy just before God gives us Himself anyway.

The moment the server sees which nobody else does comes just before the Consecration: as the priest prepares to bring God to earth, in the final moment before he commences to say the prayer Jesus said, he runs his fingers and thumb along the cloth on which the host is resting to ensure that any speck of anything which might have touched his fingers since the Lavabo, a few minutes before, when they were cleaned, can be removed. How much does what is about to happen matter!

28 June 2009

Thinking Back

Sat in the back garden, watching huge cumulus slowly pass behind the hill like clippers in full sail, like in a film about the Battle of Britain, only in colour, my mind goes back to pasts I know, even though they take place before I was born.

Courtesy of Cathcon, I find my way to the site of Pathe News, and discover that the Whit Walks in Manchester from the 20s and 30s are now available for all to see here. This selection covers the years in which each of my parents made their First Holy Communion: are they here?

And in the wake of Archbishop Nichol's Enthronement, look here at those of Archbishops Griffin and Godfrey, and here at Archbishop Heenan's. Look especially at this last one and see somebody who really fits into the vestments and the role. Here is a man born to achieve this See, and to suffer for it.

Back to the clouds.

25 June 2009

St. Thérèse's Astronaut Visits Vatican

From Zenit. I can't think of a single thing that's wrong with this story.

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. astronaut who carried relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux into space and put them in orbit around the earth attended Benedict XVI's general audience today.

On a Discovery shuttle mission one year ago, Colonel Ronald Garan brought the relics given to him by a Carmelite community in New Caney, Texas. The astronaut had called the women religious before his space flight to ask for prayers, and at that time he told them he could take some small item into space on behalf of the community.

The sisters reported that the words of St. Thérèse came to mind: "I have the vocation of an apostle. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But oh, my beloved, one mission would not be enough for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages."

Garan stated that he will be bringing a second relic of the saint to space on his next mission, which is scheduled for March 2011.

The colonel is also the founder of the Manna Energy Foundation that, by using NASA technology and U.N. funding, is implementing a unique system to make potable water in the villages of Rwanda.

24 June 2009

Posh Or What?


Things my mother would never had said to my father that my wife says to me:

"Can you stop off at Waitrose on the way home and pick up some lamb."

There was no Waitrose in North Manchester. There never will be.
Sainsbury's was posh enough. We did Tesco's.
My father did not "stop off" on his way back from work. He came home.
My mother shopped when she shopped. She didn't miss things.
Because you know what you're eating ever day.
My father did not get involved with "food shopping". He worked.
"Some lamb" would have been meaningless to him. A leg is "some lamb"; so is a chop.

And if they thought that en famille we'd be eating curry on a Wednesday evening they'd be worrying. And then they'd remember that "down South" is a foreign country and that they do things differently there.

21 June 2009

Fr Rolheiser

Is it just me? Each week I look at the back page of the Catholic Herald, hoping that there won't be an article, and each week the enigmatic face is there, and I feel as though another little bit of oxygen has been stolen from the atmosphere.

Why is he in the Herald? Can the Tablet not afford his column?

17 June 2009


Is it really just a coincidence that just as Peter is locked into trying to exert his authority over the Austrian Bishops, the SSPX announces that it is going to ordain 30 new priests?

Is there a sense in which wishing a plague on both their houses might be licit?

16 June 2009

More About The Past

One of the problems of researching Modern History is coming across the relentlessness of anno domini.

A friend found a reference in a 1945 document to Squadron Leader Newton-John, and established that, yes, it was Olivia's father.

He then found out that she's 60.

14 June 2009

Learning About The Moral Compass From The Past


From the Telegraph, about Bletchley Park:

"Mr Greenish is the one who now paces the potholed paths and contemplates the task of rescuing what he believes is the single most important British site of the Second World War. He is up against Government indifference, but his vision is compelling: to use Bletchley's legacies of rigour and selfless service to lead a renaissance in the teaching of mathematics and the idea of public service.

At a time when incomprehensible financial instruments have brought down the banks, and MPs have lost their moral compass in a mire of expense abuses, does not the work of the devoted mathematicians who worked in secret for the national good not offer a refreshing model of service for modern Britain?

Mr Greenish certainly thinks so. "If we look at what was done at Bletchley, proper maths, proper analysis, everything recorded and accounted for, and if we look at the morality of those who worked here, who never spoke a word about what they did and when asked to keep the secret for the rest of their lives, have done, it is an example for the nation," he argues."