25 December 2013

What's He Saying?

From the team that came up with "I can't believe it's not Rutter" and started using different harmonies to well known carols, and even tunes not published in Carols For Choirs, comes "The Hunt for Different Translations". 

O come all ye faithful!
Triumphantly sing!
Come see in the manger
The Angels' dread King!
To Bethlehem hasten
With joyful accord;
Oh hasten! oh hasten!
To worship the Lord.

True Son of the Father,
he comes from the skies;
The womb of the Virgin
He did not despise;
Not made but begotten,
The Lord of all might,
True God of true God,
True Light of true light.

Hark! to the Angels,
All singing to Heaven,
"To God in the highest
High glory be given."

To Thee, then, O Jesus,
This day of Thy birth,
Be glory and honour
Through Heaven and earth!
True Godhead incarnate,
Omnipotent! Word,
Oh, hasten! oh hasten!
To worship the Lord.

What tune shall we use?  Immortal Invisible?

Happy Christmas, everybody!

21 December 2013

Catechesis For Fourth Sunday Of Advent 1964-style

We were discussing the need for catechesis recently, and concluded that it is one of the things which have been lost from catholic education.

What follows is from the children's missal I was given for my First Holy Communion, which followed the scheme for catechesis used in my school.  I had made my FHC in top Infants (Year 2), so would have been taught this in December, in bottom Juniors (Year 3).

What I find interesting is the assumption that the themes here are considered to be understandable by seven year olds if properly taught. The way the teaching role of the priest is subtly linked to the prophetic mission of John the Baptist is particularly inspiring.

This is a contribution to debate, not a proposal to turn back the clock, so that when we take about evangelisation, we might reject from the outset any thought that we might need to dumb down the message.


"John, the son of Zachary", to a world now awaiting its God, pleads for our final pre-Christmas "make ready".  "Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight His paths" (GOSPEL).

Heroically, in the desert, he warns against the softness of iife in the city, pictured in the background. Alive to the danger of a "soft-garments" Iife, he is seen ia a rough "garment of camel's hair", carrying a baptismal shell, "preaching a baptism of repentance."

Introit Is. 43
DROP DOWN DEW, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just; let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour. The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands. Glory be, etc.

STIR UP THY MIGHT, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come; accompany us with great power, so that by the help of Thy grace, we may be mercifully hastened along when our sins weigh us down, Who livest, etc.

EPISTLE 1 Cor 4, 1-5
BRETHREN: let a man so account us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now here it is required in stewards that a man be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small matter to be judged by you or by man's tribunal. Nay I do not even judge my own self. For l have nothing on my conscience, yet I am not thereby justified; but he who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, pass no judgment before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then everyone will have his praise from God. THANKS BE TO GOD.

THE Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless His Holy Name. Alleluia, alleluia. Come, O Lord, and do not delay; forgive the sins of thy people Israel. Alleluia.

GOSPEL Luke 3 1-6
NOW IN THE FIFTEENTH YEAR of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judaea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of the district of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysarnis tetrarch of Abilina, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of the Lord came to John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the desert, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight his pads. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth; and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.'"

HAIL, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with the. Blessed art thou among women and blessed it is the fruit of thy womb!

LOOK DOWN favourably upon these sacrifices, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that they may be profitable both to our devotion and salvation. Through Our Lord, etc. Turn to page 31

BEHOLD A VIRGIN shall conceive, and bring forth a son; and His name shall be called Emmanuel.

HAVING RECEIVED Thy gifts, we pray thee, O Lord, that the frequent reception of this sacrament may advance the work of our salvation. Through Our Lord, etc


KEY WORDS: "Servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (Epistle). "The voice of one crying the desert: 'make ready the way of the Lord'" (Gospel).

I believe that priests have the mission of teaching and governing for the sake of sanctifying members in the mystical body of Christ; that they are messengers of God's truth and dispensers of the sacraments.

I believe that we should have the deepest respect and reverence for their high office; that we should pray often for priestly labourers.

16 December 2013

The Expectation Of The BVM

That should be Thursday's feast: the second feast of Our Lady in the New Liturgical Year after the Immaculate Conception.  It would be the Mass Rorate with one change, a different last versicle at the Gradual: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, Jesus Christ".  A week before Christmas there is an opportunity to reflect on Our Lady's pregnancy and on the physical hardships she endured before Our Lord's birth.  But it was reformed out of the Calendar, not by Bugnini, either in his Pius XII or Paul VI periods, but long before.

A lot went wrong liturgically in the twentieth century, before its second half.

09 December 2013

No Mass When The Priest Plays Golf

No Mass when the priest plays golf.

So when God's Mother has been dishonoured by having her feast moved "to observe the sanctity of Sunday", her soldiers don't just abandon the idea of leaping to her defence ...

... they yawn and have a day off, and go to play golf, and complain that it's hard playing golf on a damp December morning, at least once they get into the clubhouse, the nineteenth hole,  to warm up and have lunch together.

But Our Lady, true to her mission, honoured or not, sets out on the journey to Bethlehem, and so unwoefully arrayed, that all creation should kneel as she passes by.

God, Help us all.

04 December 2013

Fr Hunwicke's Blog

It is absolutely wonderful that Fr Hunwicke has rediscovered his muse and is blogging again here.

The only problem is that I daren't post anything here about any of his subjects of interest because of the absolute certainty that he'll know so much more than me!

But I'm really glad that he's back.

22 November 2013

Richard III's Reburial: Worst Of All Options

There is a piece on the BBC's website about Dr Buckle, a "mediaeval music expert and liturgical adviser" to those planning Richard III's reburial.  She has found something which will allow the powers that be to reconstruct the rites which should have been afforded to Richard III's remains on their transfer to a proper tomb.

I can't think of any worse option: a pastiche of a ceremony carried out by people who don't believe in its efficacy and who do not have the power to effect what the rite is intended for. 

What a depressing start to the day.

Link now working - thanks to Lazarus.

But while I've got you: why would an Anglican Cathedral need a mediaeval music expert to be its liturgical advisor?  Does the CofE not think that it has any of its own?  (And, although I'm no expert, aren't we into the Renaissance in 1485 rather than the mediaeval period?)

19 November 2013

St Peter's Relics Visited

What with all this talk about venerating St Peter's bones, I thought I might produce a slightly edited version of something I posted before about visiting St Peter's relics.  The edit reflects a change in me since I first wrote about this: my attitude to relics and pious traditions previously was orthodox, but not particularly concerned.  Even though I was perfectly content to accept that in line with the very earliest traditions of the Church, St Peter's had been built over St Peter's grave, and that the remains that had been found were his, this was a sort of highlighting, rather than a necessary part of my faith.  Now I'm not so sure.  St Peter's being buried underneath the high altar of St Peter's, the Rock on which Christ's Church is built has come to add a new dimension to my faith, helped, day's after I returned from the visit, by a priest wondering aloud during a sermon whether (or possibly asserting that) the word for "rock" used by Jesus in Aramaic was the same word used for the Rock on which the Temple was built in Jerusalem.

My faith has become less - linear, I suppose.  I still understand and appreciate dogma and definition: they are a critically important part of understanding what we believe and why.  But to that has been added a greater appreciation of mystery: I am more accepting of the fact that some things simply are, even if we can't rationalise or intellectualise the connections.  St Peter's bones aren't beneath the high altar simply because the Basilica was built over his tomb.  St Peter's bones are beneath the high altar because the Church was built from his tomb.  That makes his bones more, not less important, for as they inspired the evangelisation of the world in the first half of the first century, they can inspire its re-evangelisation.

We spent the morning visiting St Peter's Basilica and then went for lunch. We returned, went to the Vatican Post Office to write and send some cards and then asked the Swiss Guards to let us though to visit the Necropolis. I showed our tickets, and they presented arms for us to go through. A large number of tourists thought we were important and took photos of us.

A seminarian from the American College greeted us. He told us the how the Constantine Basilica had been built, how a Roman cemetery had been covered with earth, in order to level a platform on the Vatican Hill and place the new Basilica above St Peter's tomb; how the exact site of the tomb of St Peter had been lost over the ages; how the Basilica we know today had been built, leaving the floor of Constantine's Basilica as the crypt of the modern Basilica.

Then we went down into the Necropolis. This was a normal Roman burial ground, on the surface once upon a time, but buried - and therefore unwittingly preserved - by Constantine when he wanted to build on the site because not even the Emperor could disturb the last resting place of the dead.

 He told us the story of the discovery (or rather the rediscovery) of the Necropolis in 1940, and Pius XII's encouragement of the archaeologists who hoped to find St Peter's grave. He told us about (and later pointed out) the very early shrine to St Peter - the first Church and possibly the burial ground of the first Popes: Linus, Cletus and Clement, perhaps - which stood on the site. He told us of the archaeologists who got closer and closer to what, a very few years after St Peter's death, was already a site of pilgrimage; and he told us about the incredible mix up of archaeological finds caused by disagreements between the priests involved. He told us how St Peter's bones had been found.

Then he took us into the Necropolis. We were in a Roman cemetery. As we moved along the street he showed us the increasing signs - one piece of incredibly fine mosaic, one crude piece of graffiti - which showed that Christians had venerated this spot as St Peter's grave since the earliest times.

His story - the mix of detective story and archaeological dig - began to change as we got closer and closer to the grave itself. He told us the story of how Peter came to Rome to die the death Our Lord had prophesied for him. He told us what we had seen and asked for silence as we went to the chamber where we would see what remained of Peter's body.

In a niche in a wall covered in graffiti from the earliest pilgims to St Peter's grave the transparent plastic boxes in which St Peter's bones are now contained, and which were replaced there in 1968 in the presence of Pope Paul VI are clearly visible. The young man's injunction not to speak was unnecessary. We prayed: in my case as fervently as I can ever remember praying.

We went upstairs into the crypt. None of us spoke for a good while. In fact, apart from the odd "shall we cross here?" as we walked back to our hotel, none of us spoke at all for a couple of hours.

"On this Rock I will build my Church." I have seen the remains of the Rock, and I have seen the Church built on it.

15 November 2013

How Right, How Right, How Right!

Via Ches via Elliot Bougis: as Chestertonian a paragraph ever to have come out of Mgr Knox.

“[O]ur minds are so chained to the things of sense, that we imagine our Lord as instituting the Blessed Sacrament with bread and wine as the remote matter of it because bread and wine reminded him of that grace which he intended the Blessed Sacrament to bestow. But, if you come to think of it, it was just the other way about. When he created the worlds, he gave common bread and wine for our use in order that we might understand what the Blessed Sacrament was when it came to be instituted. He did not design the Sacred Host to be something like bread. He designed bread to be something like the Sacred Host.”
– Ronald Knox, The Window in the Wall (London, 1956), p. 80
This makes me really wish that I was simple and clever.

28 September 2013

Orthodoxy Shouldn't Be An Easy Way Out

I've deleted the text of this post and frozen the comments.

It didn't get close to the people it was aimed at, and my bending over backwards not to annoy the Orthodox led me to knock myself out, as it were: I got some facts wrong, hence the corrections from Anagnostis (though some are his points are worth discussion, just not here).

Sorry, folks!

24 September 2013

Struggling With Pope Francis

Of course, there's nothing he says that can't be explained, and sometimes he explains it himself when he says something different in one audience from what he said in an interview; and if he doesn't, you can always rely on Fr Z to explain what he said, even while the Tabletistas are dashing down the wrong track.  He never attacks the deposit of the Faith: we know, because other people explain his comments and put them into a proper context.  But I find the hermeneutic of Pope Francis baffling.  How is it that somebody so wise, so clever, so holy, seems not to care about expressing himself in a way that allows people not just to draw wrong conclusions, but to pin them fairly and squarely on him?

If he stuck for a year to his homilies and avoided all other public utterances (he can say what he likes on the phone as long as nobody is recording him) we might begin to appreciate the radicalism of his Faith, the challenge that the Truth he expresses at times so clearly means for the way we live, the gentleness of his continuity with B16 and JP2 (rabbit hole: is this mutatis mutandis what JP1 would have been like?), and appreciate his obvious holiness as a complement to the obvious holiness of his predecessor, and therefore another challenge to the rest of us.

Instead I read in a Spanish newspaper yesterday that the Pope wants to appoint a female Cardinal, a deaconess in an order of the early Church that he will restore.  He won't, of course, because it's an ontological impossibility: but how many readers of an article by a Spanish version of an ACTA follower will understand that the author has twisted the Pope's words to suit his agenda?  How many people seeing the Pope wonder why so many disciplinary matters are referred to Rome may conclude that the hierarchy of E&W's not acting against heterodox Bishops is because they aren't heterodox, rather than because the CBCEW is a capon in a farmyard full of menace?  How many people see his looking at the synodality of the Orthodox as a belied in the dogmatic infallibility of Bishops' Conferences, when Orthodox orthodoxy is rooted in the orthodox mission of the Bishop as an individual, not as a team member?

Maybe I'm missing something.  Maybe the Tabletistas were right all along.  Maybe the Pope's words are right and will have a magical effect on those who aren't orthodox Catholics which will bring them into the Church in droves.  Maybe he's right to make us question what we actually believe in, and that's what he's trying to do.

It's a funny way to be right, though.

06 September 2013

Fr Ray Blake And All PPs

I'm not going to repeat what we all know and what lots of people have already posted about the press attack on Fr Ray in particular and on the Church in general.  I note from where the support has come.  I also note from where it hasn't.

Can I invite you to join me in a Novena to St Michael for priests who live in parishes by themselves, starting perhaps on Sunday after we have observed the Pope's Day of Prayer and Fasting for Syria.  There are few people the Devil hates as much as holy priests; there are few paths to holiness harder than that of being a priest, with all of the awesome obligations that entails.  So let's ask St Michael to help.  There are lots of good prayers available online: it might be instructive that there are even two alternative prayers on Wikipedia.

And even if you don't want to join me in this Novena, please pray for priests.

22 August 2013

A Query On Licetness

Browsing Denzinger, as you do, to try to find a clue to just what it was that the Council of Florence said in 1215 which impelled the Friars to start encouraging lay use of the Little Hours as a devotional aid, I stumbled across the letter Perniciosus valde which Pope Honorius III wrote to Archbishop Olof of Uppsala on 13 December 1220 adjuring him to use a lot more wine than water during the admixture at the Offertory.

It reminded me to ask if anybody else has noticed a practice of some permanent deacons of only adding water to the wine in the chalice being used by the priest and not to those being offered to the laity?  I've noticed two do this now in two different parishes in two different dioceses.  I can't work out what point is being made, unless it is a subtle protest against the use of multiple chalices instead on one single chalice large enough for all the wine which is to be consecrated.

It's very easy simply not to queue up for the chalice and to return to your seat after receiving Communion, and I'm sure that the wine in the chalices without added water is as consecrated as that in the priest's chalice, but does anybody know if there is a specific instruction for this circumstance either way, or whether there is an "English practice", or whether I have simply stumbled upon the same creativity twice.

18 August 2013

As Joshua Says ...

While we bicker about matters liturgical and ecclesiological, Joshua puts an Australian finger on the pulse here:

"The true vocations crisis in the Church is not a lack of candidates for the priesthood: it is a lack of committed Catholics (from whose ranks a small but sufficient percentage of men would naturally be drawn to Holy Orders). There is a reason why the number of church weddings, not to mention baptisms, declines yearly: it is called erosion of the faith, decline in commitment to living out the Faith, and general forgetfulness of what previous generations, often at great cost, nevertheless succeeded in passing on – until the last half-century or so. The tradition has failed: discontinuity and rupture has broken the links formerly passing down the Apostolic tradition in continuity from one generation to the next.
In this Year of Faith, what is too evident is a crisis and a lack of faith. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" – Hosea iv, 6. I recall what St Thérèse of Lisieux noted: that if there were no love in the heart of the Church (and she felt her vocation to be to live as that loving heart), the apostles would forget to preach, the martyrs would not bother to die for Christ, the missionaries would not labour to spread the Gospel. Terrible to say, what she spoke of per impossibilem has in many places throughout the West – certainly in Australia – come to pass.
What is believed by too many nominal Catholics is rather a comfortable falsehood, according to which Scripture and Tradition have little value, nor does commitment to the harder moral precepts or duties such as Mass-going (which ought in any case actually be a joy if one realize what Mass is, but I digress); rather, a fairy-floss version of eviscerated Christianity is given lip-service, according to which bourgeois niceness and thinly disguised versions of the current secular virtues (the fashions of the moment) are all that is required, to which the more pious may add lounging about on bean-bags and playing at prayer, since sometime hopefully far distant in the future we all go to "some heaven light-years away" anyway (though one should not be too serious about such fables, unappealing as they are to the worldly), and in the meanwhile "celebrating the life" and dabbling in trendy forms of do-goodery is really all that is necessary. Indifferentism replaces Christianity, in point of fact."
In a "Year of Faith" we might have expected that these "harder moral precepts" would have been drummed into us Sunday by Sunday in the weekly homily, but as it isn't happening - where I live the "Year of Faith" is a logo on the parish newsletter - we're just going to have to do it ourselves.

15 August 2013

Annoyed By The Laudate Hymnal

Some people on twitter had to put up with my frustration at having Mass this morning ruined by a bowdlerised version of "I'll sing a Hymn to Mary".  The Laudate Hymnal, instead of having "When wicked men blaspheme Thee, I'll love and bless Thy Name" has "Oh may I imitate thee and magnify God's name" as part of its Year Zero approach to what it would probably refer to as a) gender issues in Catholic hymnology and b) Catholic exclusivity issues in Catholic hymnbookology.

Most of the bowdlerisation of the hymn book is aimed at reducing sexist references to men, but the example quoted above is so gratingly awful that you have to imagine that somebody was taking the mickey.  Is there a feminist in the land so keen on equality that she sees "wicked men" as exclusive of and discriminatory against, presumably, "wicked women"?  No, absolutely not!  But there are a lot of Nuchurchians who dislike the idea of the veneration of the name of the BVM: they probably hate the idea of the "Holy Name of Jesus" as well, but as it doesn't seem to be a feast, or a line in a well-loved hymn any more, they have probably won that particular skirmish.

So, clever-clever them, they have abolished the nasty words and replaced them with a prayer referring back to the Magnificat: absolutely fine, if change were necessary, but if it isn't (and it's not!) why not write your own hymn about the Magnificat, which is about the Lord, and leave the rest of us with our hymn to Our Lady?  (The answer is easy: Estelle White.  I rest my case.)

I'm afraid that my solution - sing the old words loudly and make uncharitable comments in between verses - is not really commendable, however satisfying it might have been for me, and isn't even a tactical success, really.  But I am left wondering:

 - who compiled the Laudate Hymnal, and why?
 - who gave permission for it to sell itself as Catholic?
 - why is at pushed at priests by diocesan authorities?

The bowdlerisation is, believe it or not, not the major issue.  the real problem with the hymnbook is that it is full of protestant hymns: in PTP's words "actual protestant hymns in the hymnal. (not hymns written by protestants but those expressing prostestant theology)".  Hymns that misrepresent the doctrine of the Atonement, for example, denying that anybody who is a Christian might go to Hell.

There are times when Lenin's "Kto? Ktovo?" (Who? Whom? - who is in the driving seat and to whom are they the dominant force?) seems like a mission statement for the apparatchiks.  If it isn't, why do so many of them behave as if it is?

07 August 2013

The Funeral Of Richard III

Lots of you will have been upset to learn that the official CBCEW response to planning work for the interment of the remains of Richard III simply said that Bishop Malcolm would play whatever ecumenical part those organising the ceremonies thought fit, rather than insisting on a Catholic burial for a Catholic King.  What none of us seems to have seen is the letter from Archbishop Nichols to the Prime Minister.

"Dear Prime Minister

When we last spoke, after the passing of the Same Sex Marriage Act, I said to you that I would write about an opportunity for the Catholics in this country to demonstrate their continuing allegiance to the Crown and the State and for you to recognise it without giving up the principles to which you want to demonstrate your adherence.  I think the interment of Richard III might be that opportunity.

Richard was the last but one monarch in full and open communion with Rome and his funeral should not have been the hasty affair it was.  Even the King who vanquished him, Henry VII, paid for a fine memorial to one who, whatever side one takes in the great English Civil War of the fifteenth century, was consecrated as King.  As such he deserves the Catholic funeral for a King which the circumstances of 1485 denied him.

England is no longer a Catholic country and the Church of England, to whom responsibility for the King's interment has been given, will pay him the respects due to somebody being buried in the twenty-first century.  It will be an ecumenical ceremony which will strive to emphasise national unity against national strife, and the local Catholic Bishop will play a full ecumenical part.

But I am sure you will agree that it would be imaginative if on the vigil of the national ceremony being planned for his interment, Richard III's remains could be prepared for their final burial in the way that he and his contemporaries would have expected, in a lavish rite focusing on him as an individual rather than as a symbol of national unity.

The traditional Catholic rite for the funeral of a King has not taken place in this country since the death of Henry VII, or indeed anywhere since the funeral of the Emperor Franz Joseph in 1916. If you will authorise the transfer of the casket containing the King's remains the day before the interment, we will give him the funeral he merited, demonstrating our loyalty, but also recognising that we are no longer part of the national establishment which you represent.

I would celebrate the ceremony in Latin, in the rite the King would have known, the rite which Cranmer adapted into the Book of Common Prayer; the other four Metropolitan Archbishops: Southwark, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool; would perform with me the Absolutions proper to an anointed King; the Bishops of England and Wales and the Abbots and Priors of the religious houses would attend in Choir.  And I am sure that great numbers of the Catholic faithful would attend.

We understand that the Church of England would feel that for this to take place in Leicester (or even in Westminster Abbey) would look like an attempt by Catholics at taking over, so I would propose that the ceremony should take place in Westminster Cathedral: appropriate geographically for a monarch, but not threatening for the secular and C of E establishment.

As a conservative, I am sure you will appreciate this opportunity to link our people back to their past.  As an Anglican, I am sure you will appreciate our wish not to usurp what belongs to the State and its Church.  As a politician, you will be glad of an opportunity to show that we can still work together.

Please be assured of my prayers for you, your family, and your ministry.

Yours faithfully


05 August 2013

Sorry For The Silence

Like Fr Blake, who is cutting his way through the same thicket as I am, I am finding it hard to drive a path back through Trent to what was before and what might/could/should have been.

The questions are about ecclesiology as much as about liturgy: why should we follow the practices of the diocese of Rome when we are in our own diocese?  Why should the Mass be separated from the rest of the Liturgy other than in monasteries?  Apart from Bishop of Rome, who do we, and he, think the Pope is?

Ignoring all of the post-1789 changes (if that's when the wheels really came off), what might the post-Reformation Reform have consisted of?

The glib answers won't do, so I continue to delve in the muniments, some of them dustier than others, and am constitutionally unable to avoid rabbit holes (did you know that the UK went to war with Germany at 11.00 pm on 4 August 1914?) so this might take a while.

09 July 2013

What Might have Been

I've reached a point, looking at the changes to the Liturgy introduced by the reformers, where, with the resources I have at hand, I can't work out exactly why they went the way they did.

Contemporary views of the development of the Liturgy weren't such as would definitively push any group of people towards what we ended up with, and the archaeologism condemned by (even though indulged in) by Pope Pius XII could easily have led a reform of the Mass in other directions.

I need to explore further the consequences of a post by the LMS Chairman which I think makes one wonder as much about the ecclesiology of the reformers as about their liturgiology, if only to avoid finding myself heading down a path towards conspiracy, freemasons and albino monks, but in the interim, here is a challenge.

Dom Gregory Dix expressed an ideal of public worship as practised mediaevally.  Mutatis mutandis, I can't see this as anything but an ideal to aim at, but I can't see that this is practised anywhere any more, but am I alone in perceiving it as an ideal?  (NB the fact that this worship is carried out not by regular, but by secular clergy, who therefore need to be supported by the faithful to carry out this practice.)  (NB also that the capitalisation is Dom Gregory's, not mine.)

"Yet it would not be just to judge the mediaeval western liturgy by the regime of low masses alone. They were a devotional by-product, even an unavoidable one, though one with momentous consequences. Rather our judgement must be based on the complete round of the liturgy as it was meant to be performed, not so much in a religious house as in one of the great secular churches set in the midst of a busy city, like old S. Paul's or Notre Dame de Paris or the Duomo of Milan or the Dom of Cologne. There the dav began with quite a large staff of clergy and clerks rising before dawn for the long office of mattins and laud lauds, to praise God on behalf of the citizens before the city's day could be spoiled by sin. All through the day the public recitation of the hours of the office followed one another to the Nunc dimittis of compline, voicing prayer and penitence and praise on behalf of the whole population working in the streets around the church  - making the sign of the cross continually over the city's daily bread. But the centre of it all was the mass. The thirty or forty low masses going on continually through the earlier hours of the morning were offered for the special intentions of individuals, and they made it possible for any who wished to join in the central act of christian living before daily work began. The chapter high mass, offered corporately and solemnly every day in the name of every christian soul in the diocese, lifted to God and brought under His kingship the cares and joys and troubles and work of the whole christian people as members of Christ.

It may have been a great burden of worship for those who offered it to bear easily, especially with the additions of the Office of our Lady and the Office of the Dead which the ninth and tenth centuries had unconsideringly added to the daily round. Few mediaeval visitations failed to reveal evidence of routine and formalism and sometimes downright irreverence in such corporations. Yet there is this to be said: Society at large supported these quite considerable bodies of men in leisure for continuous public worship, because it was then convinced that God ought to be assiduously praised and thanked for the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, where the substance of worship is held to lie in the sincerity of the individual's interior response to God and his own consciousness of that response, the whole conception of such a 'worship by representatives' will seem meaningless or worse. Protestantism has been consistent in its general abandonment of a liturgical worship offered on behalf of society. Its public worship is held not as representative of society, but as an opportunity for each of the individuals in society to attend and be 'edified' for himself in company with the others. But mediaeval men had not a purely subjective notion of worship; it was still for them, as for the primitive church, largely something 'done'. Nor had they arrived at the notion of society as essentially composed of isolated individuals. On their own grounds they too were consistent in what they did.

It is a historical mistake to idealise and romanticise the middle ages. The ordinary mediaeval man lived in a world which was horribly uncomfortable and dangerous, very poor in material resources and also very sinful. And he knew all that quite well. But his literature, from the popular literature of the ballads up to the great works of genius, reveals a world that was hopeful nevertheless, and had a great zest for living. Our own world is also uncomfortable and dangerous; it is much better  equipped with material resources, though it has made poverty its nightmare. And it is reluctantly returning to the conviction that it is sinful. But it is hardly what one would call hopeful, and it has a fear of living. This is because our world has forgotten or has ceased to believe that it has been redeemed."

29 June 2013

Is The SSPX Fracturing Everywhere?

I note that a group has fractured away from the SSPX and has set up a "Resistance Mass Centre" in Wandsworth, and that Bishop Williamson has set up an "Initiative", soliciting funds, and proposing the following:

"It seems that, today, God wants a loose network of independent pockets of Catholic Resistance, gathered around the Mass, freely contacting one another, but with no structure of false obedience, which served to sink the mainstream Church in the 1960’s and is now sinking the Society of St. Pius X. If you agree, make contributions to the St. Marcel Initiative; they will certainly come in useful. For myself, once my situation stabilizes, I am ready to put my bishop’s powers at the disposal of whoever can make wise use of them."

Is this happening everywhere, or only in the English-speaking world?

This matters to the rest of us because it will become a new stick with which to beat Benedict XVI and the EF or the Roman Rite, just at a point when those opposed to what the Pope Emeritus did feel that they are in a strong position.  It matters because, as happened when Bishop Williamson made his remarks about the Holocaust, the secular world thinks that these people are like Catholics, just a bit more so.

26 June 2013

Uncharacteristic Silence

I am working hard at trying to work out what I think people thought was wrong with the Liturgy post-WWII and pre-VII and whether they were right or wrong, and what I think people should have thought was wrong PWWIIAPVII, and what in fact I think was wrong.  It is, anglice, doing my head in, not least because I am going to have to come to a view and only an Anglican seems to get it like no Catholic does.

So forgive the uncharacteristic silence: I do have a view on absolutely everything, but am trying to concentrate.

14 June 2013

Chesterton's Anniversary

His poem, as I think it, a response to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.

The Two Women
Lo! Very fair is she who knows the ways
Of joy: in pleasure's mocking wisdom old,
The eyes that might be cold to flattery, kind;
The hair that might be grey with knowledge, gold.

But thou art more than these things, O my queen,
For thou art clad in ancient wars and tears.
And looking forth, framed in the crown of thorns,
I saw the youngest face in all the spheres.


10 June 2013

Mass Then And Now

Just think - what does this sound like?

The Bishop processes into Mass.  There is nothing on the altar but the Missal - behind it, arranged in a semicircle, are seats for the priests and deacons, with the cathedra in the middle. During the procession the choir sings the Entry Antiphon.  As he approaches the altar, he reverences the Blessed Sacrament, bows to the altar, makes the sign of the cross, and at the end of the antiphon says the opening prayers.  As the choir sings the Kyrie, he goes round to his place behind the altar. The Gloria is sung, then the Epistle is read, an Alleluia verse is read, and, after a blessing from the Bishop, a Deacon reads the Gospel.  The sacred vessels are then placed on the altar, and the people bring in the gifts of bread and wine.  Water is added to the wine, and the singing stops so that the Offertory Prayer can be said.  After that the Eucharistic Prayer, the Dialogue, the Preface and the Sanctus, and then the rest of the Canon, read aloud facing the people. At the end of the Canon comes the Our Father, then after the fractio, the breaking of bread, the choir sings the Agnus Dei. The Bishop communicates, then the clergy in the Sanctuary, then the people, while the choir sings.  Afterwards a final prayer is read, after which the Mass ends and the procession returns to the sacristy.

Yes, of course, I'm teasing you, and I've tinkered with the details.  But this isn't an ordinary visitation Mass or a Deanery Mass today, or indeed any old Bishop, but the stational Mass of a Pope in Rome around 675.  It is described in Jungmann's Mass of the Roman Rite, first published in 1949, a book which inspired those who reformed the Liturgy after Vatican II. 

I set myself the challenge of getting into the mind of those reformers: what did what, at the time, were the authoritative works, say about the origins of the Mass, and what, therefore, inspired the reformers in their particular direction.

The first, obvious, charge against them is archaeologism: they have selected a form of celebration of the Mass particular to one time and place in the past, and have declared it normative because of its antiquity.  Why any earlier form of Mass was rejected, and why any subsequent developments were ignored, are not issues addressed by the reformers: their authority as the Consilium has given them the right to choose an external authority to justify what they want to do.

Jungmann is an interesting choice of authority: he makes it clear that he is not like his predecessors, believing rather that he is of the generation that has made liturgiology a science.  He was Austrian, rather than German, which meant that he was able to travel soon after the War: he was in the US before this book was published, and, translated into both English and French at the start of the 1950s, it had an influence beyond any other history of the development of the Mass.  (Interestingly, his very short Bibliography includes Bishop, Dix and Fortescue.)

Not too far before the description of the Pope's Mass, there is a section which shows how Eucharistic Prayers were not fixed in form (other than in Rome) until shortly before this period: every Prelate could compose his own.

Two things strike me: the worthy thought is that the reformers really believed that they had been blessed with a vision of the Liturgy before a lot of mediaeval (I bet they used the word mediaeval as an insult) accretions were codified as mandatory, and were liberated by the thought that liturgical creativity had an ancient history.  The unworthy thought is that they didn't get much beyond page 75 (though to be fair to them, Jungmann himself seems to really like this model, and has a bizarre passage about liturgical orientation which seems to suggest "do your own thing" as well just a few pages later).

My contention is that this "liturgical science" is something which divorces history from praxis: which ignores "what we do and how we do it" in favour of "how we, knowing what we know, should do it".

In short, what we think of as "the Spirit of Vatican II" was abroad a good ten years before the Council.  It infused post-war thinking about the Liturgy; it appealed to poor old Pius XII's self-view and led him to his archaeological reform of Holy Week; it created a momentum of change which had some basis in arbitrary historicism but none in the practice of Catholic Worship.

Bugnini and his pals weren't wrong because they were modernists, crypto-protestants or freemasons (I bet they weren't any of these, actually): they were wrong because they thought that the spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist, was with them and they had the opportunity to return the worship of the Church to a scientifically proven ideal, or at least set of ideals.  They were wrong.

But, wrong as they were, they were still responding to the fact that neither spirit-of-VIIists nor trads seem prepared to address on terms: that for a century and a half it had been recognised that Catholic Worship was in a cul-de-sac, and needed reform.

More soon.

20 May 2013

On A Point Of Order ...

Is there any sense anywhere that the people who read the readings at Mass should:

a. be literate;
b. have looked at the readings before they step up to the lectern; and
c. have thought about the relationship between the readings and the Gospel which follows?

I ask because at Pentecost Mass yesterday I had to endure somebody who didn't fulfil any of the three: apart from not being able to pronounce any of the place names, we had the joy of "cretins" for "Cretans".

She is what is described as a "Minister of the Word", which tells you a lot about the parish where I attended Mass.

The Parish Priest thinks it is wrong to turn away anybody who offers their gifts in ministry.

The front line might at the moment be gay marriage, but here in the rearguard, the message to the front line is "Don't count on us!"

12 May 2013

The Reformers

In my previous post, I mentioned that all was not well in the Church at the end of the 1950s, and suggested that Cardinal Heenan's proud proclamation that:

“Our people love the Mass, but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached”

was indicative of a malaise.

Coincidentally, and while looking for something else - I am developing my unified theory of where it all went wrong -  I came across something quite odd in Bugnini's History of the Reform:

"The point of departure for the reform should not be "private" Mass but "Mass with a congregation"; not Mass as read but Mass with singing. But which Mass with song-the pontifical, the solemn, or the simple sung Mass?

a) Given the concrete situation in the churches, the answer can only be: Mass celebrated by a priest, with a reader, servers, a choir or cantor and a congregation. All other forms, such as pontifical Mass, solemn Mass, Mass with a deacon, will be amplifications or further simplifications of this basic Mass, which is therefore called "normative."

b) There must be a substantial sameness among all the forms of Mass with a congregation, with or without singing. For if, in fact, Mass with
out singing were made the model because, for example, of the vernacular, sung Mass would gradually fall into disuse.

c) A sharper differentiation can be made between Mass with a congregation and Mass without a congregation ("private" Mass). Mass with a congregation requires several areas (for the altar, for the lectern, for the presidential chair) and perhaps fewer formulas, since by its nature
its celebration will take more time. Mass without a congregation, on the other hand, does not require these several areas and can have longer or more numerous formulas that may augment the devotion of the celebrant."

In other words, the Consilium, the body set up to reform the Liturgy, didn't actually understand (or didn't recognise as important, or couldn't care less) that the development of Low Mass from the normative practice of the first thousand years of worship in the Church obeyed a particular set of circumstances and had never been considered as an ideal until the twentieth century.

Looking elsewhere in Bugnini's book, I came across a passage about Eucharistic Prayer II.  I had always believed until relatively recently what I was taught in 1970: that EPII was the earliest extant anaphora of the Church and its use in the New Mass took us right back to the worship of the Early Church.  Ignoring the number of questions being begged in that particular statement, the status of the Anaphora of Hippolytus is no longer that of model of the Primitive Church.  Volume 1 Number 1 of Usus Antiquior contained an essay by Matthieu Smyth which comprehensively trashed this idea.  But Bugnini said in his book:

"The aim was to produce an anaphora that is short and very simple in its ideas. The anaphora of Hippolytus was therefore taken as a model. But, although many thoughts and expressions were taken from Hippolytus, Eucharistic prayer II is not, as it were, a new edition of his prayer. It was not possible to retain the structure of his anaphora because it does not have a Sanctus or a consecratory epiclesis before the account of institution or a commemoration of the saints or intercessions. All these developed after Hippolytus and could not now be omitted in a Roman anaphora. In addition, various ideas and expressions in the anaphora of Hippolytus are archaic or difficult to understand and could not be taken over into a contemporary anaphora."

In other words, the chaps in the Consilium knew that Hippolytus wasn't the (or even an) anaphora of the Early Church but wanted to sell it as such.  What Matthieu also points out is that when Bugnini says"various ideas and expressions in the anaphora of Hippolytus are archaic or difficult to understand and could not be taken over into a contemporary anaphora", what was removed was (inter alia) references to the end times, and the victory over Hell: quite a clue towards discovering the intentions of the reformers.

Somebody else will pick up on this: Ben's series on the Lectionary of the New Mass shows other evidence that some of what is going on here is about reshaping the way the Faithful thought about their Faith, but I want to highlight something else.

Can there ever have been such a time in the Church when the people responsible not only for good order, but for the reordering of worship where that was necessary, were so ignorant about the source of that order?  And is it possible that in spite of the definitive refutation of so much of the reformers' cherished wishful thinking, not least during the last two Pontificates, there are people in authority still peddling the same errors?

05 May 2013

A Worm In The Apple

At times I feel as though I'm on the Enquiries Desk of an online Catholic Library, finding questions out there and answering them.  As somebody who reveres the office of Librarian, who would be prepared to argue that it sits at the top of the list of secular vocations, my regret is that I don't know as much as I should, and that the muniments here are often not enough to answer everything satisfactorily.

The other thing that happens is that instead of simply looking up the answer to a particular question I end up thinking about it and then brooding when I realise that something is lurking in the woodshed.  Regular readers will probably be glad that I'm not going to bang on about the 1980 National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool this time, but want to address another issue: the fact that Pope John's convocation of a Council was very necessary; that the Church was in need of reform; and that even if what the Church got was hijacked, and the resultant actions were not what was needed, it doesn't affect the fact that, however healthy things seemed to be, there were fundamental problems in the Church which needed to be addressed.

All this started with a simple question about the Saints who were "demoted": Hugh of Avalon asked whether prayers to the saints whose feasts had been suppressed in 1969 because the evidence of their historical existence was deemed to be too weak was licit or not.  The search for an answer (which is that their feasts have simply been suppressed in the new Calendar, but haven’t in the 1962 Calendar which governs the EF of the Liturgy), which led me to the Motu Proprio establishing the new calendar, went via Bugnini's description of how his committee had approached the revision of the calendar.  (NB what Pope Paul saved us from, by the way.)

“The Proper of seasons shall be given the precedence due to it.  By celebrating . . . [the] passage [of the martyrs and other saints] from earth to heaven the Church proclaims the paschal mystery of Christ achieved in the saints. Lest the feasts of the saints take precedence over the feasts commemorating the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be cerebrated by a particular Church or nation or religious family; those only should be extended to the universal Church that commemorate saints of truly universal significance. With these criteria as the basis, the study group began its work and produced seventeen schemas.

The first meeting on the revision of the calendar took place on January 23, 1965, at the offices of the Consilium. All the consultors were present and set themselves to studying the schema “de tempore”, which P. ]ounel had prepared. After lively discussion it was agreed to send the consultors and other periti a new schema in the form of a questionnaire that would ask for new suggestions (February 12, 1965). On March 16, 1965, the first schema on the proper of saints was sent to the consultors of study groups 1 and 17. The two schemas were examined on April 1 and 12. On April 25, at the first general meeting, Father Dirks gave the first report to the consilium. After open discussion the Fathers approved the following points as guidelines for the work:

1) The liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent.

2) January 1 has three objects: the Name of Jesus, the commemoration of Our Lady, and the beginning of the civil year. 

(The liturgy of January 1  was always a composite liturgy, that is, various rites had been combined on that day: the Motherhood of Mary, the octave of Christmas, the Circumcision, the Name of Jesus, New Year’s Day, day of peace. The liturgical expression of all these commemorations could not but be composite and unparalleled in the liturgical year. All the themes of the day found benevolent supporters in the Consilium. It was agreed that the Gallican theme of the Circumcision should be completely eliminated. The Name of Jesus is recalled in the gospel for the octave of Christmas; it was thought that the prayer of the faithful should be used for recalling New Year's Day, although some of the Fathers would have liked to see it mentioned in the texts of the Mass. The view prevailed that January l should be once again the feast of the Motherhood of Mary, which goes back to the origins of the Roman liturgy and links Rome with the East, where on December 25 Our Lady is "congratulated". ln the texts of the Mass, too, the Marian feast is given primacy, although other themes are mentioned.)

3) The season known as Septuagesima loses its penitential character (the three Sundays become Sundays in Ordinary Time, but by and large the present texts will continue in use).

(There was disagreement on the suppression of the Septuagesima season. Some saw these weeks as a step toward Easter. On one occasion Pope Paul VI compared the complex made up of Septuagesima, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Triduum to the bells calling people to Sunday Mass. The ringing of them an hour, a half-hour, fifteen, and five minutes before the time of Mass has a psychological effect and prepares the faithful materially and spiritually for the celebration of the liturgy, Then, however, the view prevailed that there should be a simplification: it was not possible to restore Lent to its full importance without sacrificing Septuagesima, which is an extension of Lent.)

4) The season of Lent begins on the First Sunday of Lent.  The imposition of ashes can be done, depending on the judgment of the Episcopal conferences, from Ash Wednesday to the Monday after the first Sunday.  

(A strictly penitential rite on Sunday would be a contradiction. Having the imposition of ashes on the preceding Wednesday was one way of adhering to tradition, but it had the drawback of keeping the association with Mardi Gras. The Pope would subsequently have the decisive word on the matter.)

5) The Sacred Triduum begins at evening Mass on Holy Thursdays.

(Some would have liked to see the Sacred Triduum identified strictly with Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, to the exclusion of the Last Supper. Others pointed out that the Supper could not be separated from the Passion. The Supper is the paschal mystery, "a covenant in my blood; a new law" (Martimort, Wagner, Vagaggini, Pascher, Guano).)

6) The octave of Pentecost is suppressed.

(Here again there was disagreement. The suppression was accepted with the expectation that the formularies of the octave would be used during the nine days of preparation for Pentecost. On this point again there were changes of mind, but the decision of the Fathers finally prevailed.

7) The feast of the Ascension can be transferred to the following Sunday if the episcopal conferences so decide.

8) The feast of the Trinity remains as and where it was.  

(The proposal was accepted after heated discussion. Suppression would be an impoverishment (Vagaggini, Wagner). It is a summary of the work of salvation (Hiinggi). Various suggestions were made for transferring the feast to another day or combining it with another feast, for example, the Baptism of Jesus (Pascher, Martimort).

9) The principles proposed for the revision of the feasts of the saints are approved "as a norm for further work."

At first, I thought that his arguments - the need to free up space in the calendar, the need to focus more on Our Lord, and the mysteries of salvation, rather than on simply commemorating the saints, etc - were simply more of the same Bugnini whom I am not slow to criticise, but I suddenly realised that as far as messing about with the calendar was concerned, Bugnini was simply following in the footsteps of Popes Pius XII, Pius X, Clement VIII and Pius V in messing about with the calendar.

I was also curious to see how the first outing of the Novus Ordo – the demonstration to the Synod of Bishops in October 1967 of the Consilium’s Normative Mass: in Italian, with what became Eucharistic Prayer III – related to the Calendar.  In practice, it ignored it completely: the Mass, which took place on a Monday, was that of the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

In the way that you follow things through, Bugnini’s barbed comments about Cardinal Heenan:

“On October 26, cardinal heenan of Westminster, took the podium and accused the commission of technicism, intellectualism, and a lack of pastoral sense.  Cardinal Lecaro immediately replied that forty-seven Fathers, almost all of them pastors of dioceses, and eighteen parish priests belonged to the Consilium”

led me back to what Cardinal Heenan actually said:

“Like all the bishops I offer my sincere thanks to the Consilium. Its members have worked well and have done their best. I cannot help wondering, however, if the Consilium as at present constituted can meet the needs of our times. For the liturgy is not primarily an academic or cultural question. It is above all a pastoral matter, for it concerns the spiritual lives of our faithful. I do not know the names of the members of the Consilium or, even more important, the names of their consultors. But after studying the so called Normative Mass it was clear to me that few of them can have been parish priests. I cannot think that anyone with pastoral experience would have regarded the sung Mass as being of first importance.

At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel [a demonstration of the Normative Mass] we would soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children. Our people love the Mass, but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached. I humbly suggest that the Consilium look at its members and advisers to make sure that the number of those who live in seminaries and religious communities does not exceed the numbers of those with pastoral  experience among the people in ordinary parishes.

Here are a few points which solely for the sake of time - since only five minutes are allowed for comments - must be put so shortly as to sound brusque.

1. The rule of prayer is the rule of faith. If there is to be more emphasis in the Mass on Bible readings than on Eucharistic prayer, the faith of both clergy and people will be weakened.

2. There is more need than ever today to stress the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. No change in the Mass should be made which might seem to throw doubt on this doctrine.

3. Many bishops in this Synod have spoken of the need of coming to the rescue of the faithful grown restless and disturbed on account of too frequent changes in the Mass. I must therefore ask what attitude the Consilium wlll take to these warnings from the pastors of the Church? I confess in all seriousness that I am uneasy lest the liturgists say "These bishops know nothing about liturgy." It would be tragic if after the bishops have gone home no notice were to be taken of their opinions.

4. In my diocese of Westminster - and in several English dioceses - the rule is that at least one Mass each Sunday must be celebrated in Latin. It would be a great help if the Consilium were to tell the whole Church how the Latin tongue can be preserved. If the Church is to remain truly the Catholic
Church it is essential to keep a universal tongue.”

I noticed something I haven’t before:

“Our people love the Mass, but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached.”

But this means that “our people” have been allowed to go wrong, or at least to be led up a cul-de-sac.  “Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments” is tolerable in the Roman Rite, but is never ideal.  For the Catholics of England and Wales to have been able to form such a strong – exclusive? – attachment to Low Mass is indicative of a defective understanding in those responsible for lay formation of what the Mass was and what it was for.

Similarly, the periodic messing about with the calendar is indicative of an attempt to corral the sacred into something manageable, and capable of being ordered.

These are deep waters, and I am doing little other than sticking a toe into them, but it is worth remembering that while D Prosper Guéranger and the Liturgical Movement identified the problems caused by the way the practice of the Liturgy had developed since Trent, the twentieth century response was to polarise around two unsatisfactory alternatives: a much tinkered-with 1962 Missal, and a Novus Ordo which was nothing less than a reinvention of the Liturgy by people who considered themselves experts.

It has been interesting to see that some of the Una Voce Position Papers have chipped away – respectfully and appropriately – at the idea that 1962 represents some sort of high point in the liturgical development of the Roman Rite.  It will be some time before these arguments get an airing outside of the narrow circles of those who care passionately about them: not under this Pope, at least. But they are important discussions.

28 April 2013

DIY Mass And Liturgical Abuse In The Old Rite

In a discussion with The Thirsty Gargoyle this morning on Twitter, I said that it would be hard to imagine a priest saying Mass in Latin messing about with the rubrics.  I was thinking as I wrote about NO Mass, but he typed back: "Now, no, but there's plenty of anecdotal data of DIY Latin Masses back in the day".  He makes a very interesting point, for there was, of course, liturgical abuse by priests celebrating the Mass before the post-VII changes.

I am going to post an extract from O'Connell's "Celebration of Mass", in fact, an extract from the section on defective ways in which Mass can be celebrated: not the sections on Mass said too slowly or too quickly, or on what constitutes valid matter, or what happens if a wasp falls into the Chalice after the Consecration and dies, or what happens if a priest dies half way through Mass, but what Fr O'Connell calls "Arbitrary Changes in the Rite of Mass".

The big, big, difference between now and then, of course, is that the general expectation was that there was only one right way to say any particular Mass, and that, once it was decided which (licitly sayable) Mass was to be said, nothing was left to the priest: there was one way to say Mass properly.  Today, the priest has more options: dramatic options like "Which Eucharistic Prayer shall I say at this Mass?" which the pre-1967 priest could not have dreamed of; and therefore potentially has more ways of accidentally or deliberately going wrong.  But he still has rubrics: the rubrics may not be as prescriptive with regard to every detail as before, but the importance of sticking to the rubrics should be, it seems to me, to be as obviously necessary today as yesterday.

With that caveat: that today's rubrics are less prescriptive than yesterday's: look at Fr O'Connell's view on the gravity of intentionally messing about with the rubrics and ask yourself whether it is the same in both forms.  If you don't think it is, ask yourself whether or not that is because what the priest is doing at the altar has changed or not.

I should say in fairness that this musing has little to do with what The Thirsty Gargoyle and I were discussing earlier, and that I have taken the discussion off in a different direction all by myself - blame a quiet motorway on a late Sunday morning - but this might contribute to an understanding of why there is such a gulf between those who like (or who can take or leave) clown Masses, and those for whom they are an abomination.

Arbitrary Changes in the Rite of Mass

Despite a custom to the contrary - which is expressly reprobated in the code of canon Law - the celebrant of Mass is “to observe accurately and devoutly the rubrics” of the Missal, “and take care not to add other ceremonies or prayers by his own authority.”  Arbitrarily to change in, any way - by addition, omission, or transposition - the rite of the Mass is unlawful. So strict is the interpretation of this law that S.R.C. refused to allow the celebrant of Mass, for the purpose of gaining a rich indulgence, to pronounce, even in a low tone, the words "My Lord and my God" while looking on the sacred Host at the Elevation, and cited canon 818 to justify this refusal.

Whether the mutilation of the rite of Mass .would be a grave sin, or a venial one, or no sin at all (for a sufficient cause) is discussed by the moral theologians. Their reply is that this will depend on: (a) the motive for changing - is it because of contempt for the rubrics, culpable ignorance of them, gross indifference and carelessness, or from mere human frailty, like inculpable forgetfulness, or inattention, or from "devotion" of a wrong kind? (b) The nature and extent of the change - is it one that seriously concerns the reverence owed the Blessed Eucharist, does it occur in an important part of the Mass (important in itself, or because of some extrinsic reason, such as the mystical meaning of the part), is the addition, or omission, serious because of its length? It is regarded as grave to make even a comparatively small change in the Canon of the Mass, because of its intimate connection with the Sacrifice; and it is more serious to have omissions in the ordinary parts of the Mass, the parts that occur in every, or almost every Mass, than in extraordinary parts which occur sometimes only. Thus the omission of all the Prayers of Preparation at the foot of the altar, of the Gospel, of several of the offertory prayers, would be regarded as a notable omission; to omit the purification of the paten (unless there were no visible particles on it) or chalice, would be a grave want of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament; to omit the addition of water to the wine in the chalice, or the fraction of the Sacred Host, or the commingling of the two Sacred Species, would be
a serious omission because of the mystical meaning of these rites. But to omit the Gloria, or Creed, or prayers of commemoration, or the Last Gospel would not, ordinarily, be regarded as a grave omission.

Additions to the Rite

 Arbitrarily to add prayers or ceremonies, with the intention of introducing a new rite, or to a notable extent (especially prayers not found in the Missal), would be a grave violation of liturgical law. To add the Gloria (on days when it should be omitted), or Collects not allowed by the rubrics, or ejaculatory prayers would not, ordinarily, be grave. In general, private (vocal) prayers may not be introduced into the rite of Mass, except where the rubrics provide for it, e.g., at each Memento after the reception of the Sacred Host.

Remedying Omissions in the Rite

The directions of De Defectibus do not, generally speaking, encourage the repairing of nonessential omissions.  If the celebrant should omit anything belonging to the validity, or the integrity (e.g. the Offertory), of the rite of Mass, he must, of course, repair the omission.  If an omission be trivial, it need not be supplied, and may not be, if it is not noticed at once.  If an omission be notable (though not concerned with the validity or integrity of the Sacrifice) and can be easily be made good – because, e.g., it is noticed almost at once – and without causing scandal, it should be.  Thus, if the celebrant omitted, in error, the Gloria, or a commemoration, or the Creed, he must not interrupt the Mass to repair the omission, but he may, indeed should, repair it, if he adverts to it almost immediately.

25 April 2013

We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Charles Crawford, a former British Ambassador in the Balkans and in Poland, is a witty and engaging writer, who has important things to say about Eastern European states and their transition.  He is also very, very, sound on speechwriting, and on communication in general.  He has written something about how pundits frame issues here, which I thought important enough to recommend recently as an introduction to why (in my view) we are being completely and utterly trounced on Life issues in the UK media.  Millions of Frenchmen march against same sex marriage, while in this country, the subject is so settled that there is barely a debate.

Charles Crawford explains how a subject can be framed, a narrative created, so that discussion can be shut off right from the start.  We are probably all aware of its happening: gay marriage, euthanasia; we are on the back foot before the discussion even begins to take place.

How sad to see that the organisation set up to combat this distortion, by putting Catholic Voices onto the front foot in combating media manipulation, has managed to be exactly as distortive in addressing an issue internal to the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

An Agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales came up with a remarkable figure recently: it said that in the 1930s, on average, only 6 secular priests were ordained each year for England and Wales, and that therefore, the current figure, while down somewhat from the high figures of the 1990s, the JPII years, were nevertheless much up on the 1930s .  This 1930s figure instinctively felt odd to several of us: "odd" in the sense of "surely palpably untrue" and we raised our concern, tentatively, via various social media, not least because it had been taken up by Catholic Voices, with a comment that hinted that the decline from the JPII days, was still nothing compared to the illusory good old days of bulging seminaries which trads like to talk about.

In case the hint wasn't clear, an egregious (though not a Catholic Voice) commentator spelled it out: 'Ordinations in E&W "higher than the 1950s, which some look back to nostalgically as an era of vigorous Catholicism"'.

To the credit of the Agency which originally posted the figures, it took them down when it was pointed out to them that in fact the figures for the period 1930-1940 were that 1539 secular and 794 regular priests were ordained.  Catholic Voices didn't: apparently, the only person who could do the correction was away.  And then an addition was made to its web page: you can still see the figures, but there is now a comment (so whoever was away is now back) to the effect that as queries about the reliability of the statistics have been raised, the Agency originally posting them is now making enquiries about their validity.

This is a classic example of the sort of treatment we get outside the Church, but it's a bit much when we get it inside as well.  Whatever the validity of arguments about post hoc ergo propter hoc, the fact remains that there were many more ordinations to the priesthood before Vatican II then there have been afterwards.  I would engage with some of the arguments about the reasons for the earlier quantity with some distaste, but I would engage.  I would engage with arguments about post-Vatican II selection of candidates being based on safer psychological criteria than previously with a mixture of anger and disdain, but I would engage.  But I will not engage with an argument based on figures that even their originator withdrew a week ago.

It is ironic that those of us who want to ensure that we are not manipulated by the World have to look over our left shoulders as well.  There is a piece of news - that vocations are on the rise again - that could have been a good news story, but it has been twisted into an ideological stance about the past that has made the purveyor of the message the centre of the story: was this the purpose?

Unfortunately, I don't think that this is an isolated problem: the "Gay Masses" in Soho became a pastoral encounter, and anybody attacking them was making baseless accusations and was enjoined to hold their tongue.  In spite of what Pope Benedict said, clear dissent from Church teaching became legitimate expression of the theologian's freedom to explore.  In so many cases since (this is my blog!) 1980, clever people have framed the dialogue within the Church in England and Wales so that as their premises have been left unchallenged, their aims have been reached.

"It is pastorally insensitive to force children who aren't Catholic to sit through the preparation of those who are to make their First Communion" is a premise which leads to no preparation for the Sacraments in Catholic Primary Schools. 

"We are short of priests, but long on lay people willing to give of their abilities to help the Church" is a premise which leads to hordes of welcomers, readers, Offertory-Gifts-Bringers-Uppers, and "Eucharistic Ministers".

Those of us on this side of the divide have been tilting at windmills: those on that side haven't been aiming at (for example) the form of the Liturgy, even if liturgical argument is what we have been putting forward; they have been aiming at the clericalisation of the Laity (or at least some laity, and that "some" mainly female).

I have a disinclination for conspiracy theories, and this isn't one.  I think the people running the Church in England and Wales since 1980 have had a clear idea of exactly what they want it to be, and aren't really hiding it.  I think they have been clever enough simultaneously to speak against the empowerment of non-magic-circle Catholics (whether in orders or not) by the Internet while using the Internet to corral activist Catholics into as controlled an environment as the pre-Internet Church, all the time using top end techniques to spin and control discussion so that it is always based on their terms.

The Bishops of England and Wales had this year's Low Week meeting in Rome.  They had a retreat this year (do they when they meet at Eccleston Square?) and got to meet the Pope.  Archbishop Nichols said:

"There’s a fresh spring about the Church at the moment and I think that’s from the Pope’s eloquence in gesture and his words when he preaches and at his audiences … I think what is most remarkable in the UK is that everybody seems to have been touched by his eloquence, by his gentleness and by the humility of Pope Francis."

And so inured are we by now, that not a single one of us commented on what he was actually saying.

09 April 2013

Mrs Thatcher - A Point I Haven't Noticed Elsewhere

It was Mike Cliffson (a frequent commenter on this blog)'s mother who told me in 1983 how pleased she was that for the second election in a row there was a clear ideological choice to be made: Thatcher versus Foot; capitalism versus socialism.

It's easy to argue that we should avoid extremes, but in fact, in a parliamentary democracy, the extremes are left to take care of themselves and parties attempt to appeal to the centre.

Appeals to the centre from a defined ideological position, though, whether left or right, are so much more refreshing than people eschewing ideology altogether.  Foot versus Thatcher: you can work out for yourself where you want to be along the (long) line which separates them.  Cameron/Clegg versus Milliband (or Milliband/Clegg): where is the line? Who is drawing it?

Politics actually matters.  And I'd rather people remembered the ideologically opposed days of Thatcher and Foot than pretended that consensus was a goal to be fought for.  I'd rather hear Ken Livingstone explain why he thought Thatcher was wrong, than hear Ed Balls tell us what a towering figure she was.

But I can't help feeling that people in their thirties celebrating her death with parties have lost the plot: not just of politics, but of humanity.

01 April 2013

Having To Explain The Pope, Again ...

So he's a Jesuit, a Jesuit from an earlier era.  He isn't allowed to take up positions of authority in the Church without the permission of the Pope.  He isn't allowed to assume the trappings of temporal power.  But the Cardinals have just elected him Pope.  Whom can he ask?  What should he do?

Fortuitously, wonderfully, the first Jesuit Pope is elected to succeed the first Pope to have renounced his office in 600 years, so there is somebody to ask.  There is also a General of the Jesuit Order to consult.  There are ways of being Pope without adopting all of the traditional temporal trappings: fortuitously that's just what his predessor did, making the focus of his office that of the See of Rome, with the Petrine Ministry as an extra dimension to that role.  There are small things which will mark this Pontificate out (at least until the next Jesuit Pope is elected) like not wearing red capes, or red shoes, or using "PP" as a postnominal.  he is not Monarch of the Vatican City State.

But apart from that: we have a Bishop of Rome who is comfortable in Italian and Latin and does not think that saying "Happy Easter!" in sixty languages (badly) is part of his liturgical office.  He isn't a liturgiologist - but his predecessor was and left things in reasonable shape. 

The Mandatum rite on Holy Thursday will have to be sorted out by next year, but otherwise, you can only say things are going badly if you have an agenda which begins "I know how a Pope should do his poping" or "Back to the 1950s!" or some such.

Almost a year into Benedict XVI's Pontificate, and there were stories of him dressing in a simple black cassock, coat and beret (and black shoes) and sneaking back to the flat he had occupied when a curial Cardinal for ... who knew why? I think we can guess.

Of the modern Popes, Pius XII was trained for the job, John XXIII and Paul VI were led - dominated - by their staffs, John Paul I had no time to do anything but smile, John Paul II shaped the Papcy around his particular gifts: Benedict XVI and Francis are the two Popes who show that being a Pope is something Popes have to learn, if they are not to be puppets of the Vatican staff.  Again: how wonderful that Pope Benedict left Pope Francis Archbishop Gaenswein to give him the space in which to learn.

Much Catholic commentary is unedifying at present: much presents the Pope as a symbol of disunity in order to advance factional positions.  Keep away from anything which suggests that Pope Francis is already a failure, a disaster, a horror: all that tells you is something about the writer.

Pope Francis will make mistakes as he learns, just as Pope Benedict did.  Praying for him might be more useful to him and to the Church as a whole than criticising him.

23 March 2013


Courtesy of Ben! (Read his post for the explanation, and to know what to do to join in.)

Eleven facts about Ttony:

1. Cradle Catholic
2. Mancunian
3. Really pedantic when he can be bothered
4. Loves 1930s and 40s comedians
5. Educated by Sisters of St Paul and De La Salle Brothers
6. Altar boy from 1st Communion (age 6)
7. Lived in Spain for some years
8. Married to somebody who tolerates my enthusiasms
9. Not sure about Distributism but Chesterton got pretty well everything pretty well right (especially regarding food and drink)
10. I don't have to understand to believe
11. Wishes there was more time

Ben's questions:

1. What inspired the title of your blog?
Fantasy: in my wildest dreams I imagine living in the sort of place that has its own muniment room: it's a touchstone of everything the perfect house would comprise
Why should people read your blog?
It might help pass the time?
What is your personal favourite post on your blog?
I still haven't written it.  It's the one which concisely and wittily pulls together all of the problems of the day and resplves them with a single (great) flourish.
What has been the most popular (most viewed) post on your blog?
A very recent one on Apologetics.  My previous best had about 650 hits: this one has had four times as many already.
Which post on your blog has attracted most comments?
The first in a trilogy about the Church in E&W post-VII.
What other hobbies or interests (beyond blogging) are you prepared to admit to?
Photography, oenology (very enthusiastic amateur), liturgical history
What are your hopes for the new pontificate?
That this Pope is as holy and good as the last
Where is your favourite place of pilgrimage, and why?
St Peter's, particularly since visiting the Scavi and being within a couple of feet of his bones
Who is your favourite spiritual author, and why?
I don't know if it's quite what you mean, but Frank Sheed.
Which of these questions did you fid it most difficult to answer?
The one about my hopes for the Pontificate: I think I learned from Pope Benedict's pontificate that it wasn't really about me, and that learning to find and occupy my place within the Church is part of my vocation
Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?
Good Lord, no!
Worthy Recipients
Between Ben and Ches nearly everybody I  would have tagged has been tagged, but not yet Dorothy or Shane.  So over to them.