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Friday, 30 January 2015

The Synod On The Family - A Mother's Perspective


The January-February 2015 issue of Faith Magazine has been published. You can read the full articles online at the website or via issuu, or download a pdf of the Magazine. The editorial is on St Joseph, Model of Heroic Fatherhood, Joseph Estorninho has an article about Gregorian Chant in the GIRM, my regular column on the Liturgy tackles the question of The Scylla and Charybdis of Participation and there are many other items of interest including the question of science and religion which is at the heart of the Faith Movement's apostolate.

I particularly recommend The Synod On The Family - A Mother's Perspective by Jacqueline Stewart. It is good to see her confidently billed as "a stay-at-home mum to five children whose ages range from 5 to 16." The article is an intelligent, direct, and critical appraisal of the Synod on the Family from the point of view of a mother trying to bring her children up in the Cathoilic faith. Se asks:
What message was the Church offering my teenage children as they reach such a crucial stage of their formation as young Catholics considering their vocation? The simplicity of “chastity before marriage and fidelity within” almost takes the breath away of parents with teenage children when they realise how easy it can be to explain what the Church teaches to young minds. The mass media never promote such thinking and parents need the Church to shake off any reluctance or bashfulness in proclaiming these very clear teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

British Government to crack down on meetings of intellectuals?

Poland 006

Christian Concern alerts us to a worrying development in the push to enforce the teaching of "British Values" in the wake of the "Trojan Horse" scandal of Muslim infiltration of state schools. An Open Consultation has been published on draft guidance to be issued under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, for "specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism." This is itself a dangerous Trojan Horse.

Christian concern particularly highlights the effect that this guidance would have on Christian Unions in universities and Colleges (See: Protect gospel freedom in universities and colleges)

We share the concern of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in this matter because the guidance would also effect Catholic Societies at Universities and Colleges. Essentially, such societies would need to provide, at least two weeks in advance, details of speakers and events that they are organising, including an outline of the topics to be discussed and sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast etc.

This would impose an impossible burden on student societies. It is difficult enough to organise speakers, arrange travel expenses, print a programme and advertise the event around a university. To have to go through a vetting process would kill off initiatives that are part and parcel of a healthy university life. (I well remember the heady days of being President of the Newman Society in Oxford in Hilary Term of 1979, arranging a controversial term card of speakers to present traditional Catholic teaching, and getting the word out.)

A couple of years ago I visited Poland and met with some fine lay people who had taken an active part in opposing the Communist regime. As well as standing guard outside the residence of Blessed Jerzy Popielusko, and taking part in Solidarity demonstrations, they organised clandestine and illegal meetings of intellectuals which were the powerhouse of the struggle for freedom.

Are we soon to be reduced to such measures in England? Let us presume so, and begin to organise house groups, family gatherings and meetings of intellectuals before draconian laws are introduced under the guise of preventing terrorism, measures that will in fact prevent freedom of expression and enforce secularism, anti-life and anti-family policies in the public square.

Saint John Paul. Pray for us.

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy statement on marriage

The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has published a statement on Marriage in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Parish priests may wish to download the pdf version for distribution.

This statement is a good summary of Catholic doctrine concerning marriage. Ordinarily, it might be considered simply a workmanlike pastoral document for sharing, to avoid different priests having to compose their own text. In the present circumstances, it has the character of a courageous statement of what we have always believed and continue to believe, despite the efforts of some to undermine Catholic teaching or compromise with the values of the world.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A patron saint for rejecting the occult


Sadly it is common in England today, to see advertisements for psychic fairs, shops selling occult paraphernalia, and booksellers displaying books of spells for young people. I recently called into a shop I thought might be interesting but walked out again smartly when I saw that there was a tarot card reading session taking place.

Christians were blamed by superstitious Romans for natural misfortunes. Tertullian pokes fun at this. I quote him first in Latin, because lovers of his barrister's tour de force style will enjoy it.
Si Tiberis ascendit in moenia, si Nilus non ascendit in arva, si caelum stetit, si terra movit, si fames, si lues, statim Christianos ad leonem! adclamatur. Tantos ad unum? (Liber Apologeticus 40.1)
The translation gets the meaning, but not the accelerating punch of the original:
If the Tiber rises too high for the walls, or the Nile too low for the fields, if the heavens do not open, or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, instantly the howl is, "The Christians to the lion!" So many to one?
The venerable Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa of South Africa experienced a similarly savage expression of superstitious ignorance. He was a convert to Catholicism, a married man with eight children, a Catholic school headmaster, and an upstanding and socially responsible member of the community conspicuous for his charitable work. You can read more about him at the Benedict Daswa website.

In 1990, after heavy rain and lightning in the Venda area, and while Benedict was away, a traditional healer was brought in to find out who was the witch that was responsible. On his return, Benedict refused to pay a share of the healer's fee and insisted that lightning happened because of natural causes. For his stand against the occult, Benedict was ambushed on the road a couple of weeks later by a mob who stoned and beat him to death. Before his death, he said "God into your hands receive my spirit."

Just the other day, Benedict was officially recognised as a martyr, so the way is open for his beatification.

Pray to him for all those involved in the occult, for young people tempted to dabble, for those who sell occult items or promote occult events. When you pass a shop selling crystals, tarot cards, withcraft accessories and suchlike, quietly pray the prayer to St Michael and the prayer to your Guardian Angel. If you don't know those prayers, it would be a very good idea to learn them. In the meantime, say three Hail Marys.
Prayer to St Michael
Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in the day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the wicked spirits, who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Prayer to your Guardian Angel
O Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day, be at my side
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Lovers of Latin may like to know that the Guardian Angel prayer is translated from a Latin prayer that rhymes. Not classical of course, but easy to remember:
Angele Dei
qui custos es mei,
me tibi commissum pietate superna;
illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna. Amen.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Pegwell Bay, Vespers and the new Schola Augustini

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The number of fast trains from St Pancras to Margate was doubled shortly after Christmas to two each hour, each taking only an hour and a half. This will help to increase the number of visitors as well as those who realise that it is possible to commute to London and work on the train.

Quite a few priests find their way down here on days off, and the attraction of the Shrine of St Augustine at Ramsgate brings many lay Catholics. Of course the senior Catholic parish here at Margate needs to be better known as well ;-)

Last weekend was one of those on which many things and people came together. The new Schola Sancti Augustini, directed by Tom Neal is formed of local volunteers who wish to learn and sing Gregorian Chant. They plan to sing Vespers once a month at the Shrine of St Augustine and yesterday was the first occasion. Above you can see Fr Holden, the Rector of the Shrine, incensing the altar during the Magnificat. The Church, if you don't already know, was AW Pugin's own "ideal Church" and is being restored in pristinam formam with help from the Friends of St Augustine and a grant from English Heritage for this gem of Christian art and architecture.

Vespers was followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

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After the morning Masses at the (also extremely beautiful and historically significant and architecturally spendid) Church of St Austin and Gregory in Margate, there was time for a little trip to a part of Thanet I had not yet visited: Cliffsend overlooking Pegwell Bay. The Belle Vue Tavern dates back to 1720 and has a glorious view over the Bay. Yesterday I'm afraid the photos captured a leaden grey sky, and coats and scarves were needed for venturing onto the terrace. But it is easy to imagine how delightful it would be on a warm and sunny day. The incumbents Tony and Shirley Pearson are welcoming and friendly, the food is excellent, and real beer is on tap.

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The wonderful sacrament of anointing the sick

Extreme Unction Rogier Van der WeydenHospital chaplaincy was a part of the first five years of my priestly ministry 30 years ago. I must admit honestly that I was not looking forward to being on hospital call-out again after such a long time. A good priest friend (younger than me) brought me up sharply by saying simply "Well you get people into heaven." I should have re-read the section of my own sacramental theology notes where I observe that the doctrine of Trent was forgotten because of Jansenist rigour.

I rely heavily on the manual of Fr Felix Cappello De Sacramentis published in 1945. He develops an interesting line of thought on the end or purpose of the sacrament of extreme unction and refers to the Council of Trent’s introduction to the sacrament where it teaches that
By the sacrament of extreme unction, he [viz. our most merciful Redeemer] strengthens the end of life with a most firm defence. (Session 14 "Doctrina de sacramento extremae unctionis" c.1 - Denzinger 1694/907)

Cappello proposes that the primary end or purpose of the sacrament is to prepare the soul for entry into glory. In support of this, he cites the ancient Ordines which implored the mercy of God so that by the help of this sacrament, the sick should enter into heavenly blessedness immediately upon their departure from this life.

He also refers to a consensus of the scholastics on the subject, quoting Albert, Bonaventure, Scotus, Durandus and others. He gives various passages from St Thomas including the passage that we quoted before regarding the defects that remain to be healed after the forgiveness of sin.

Cappello notes that this understanding of the sacrament was neglected or covered over by silence after the Council of Trent. He suggests two reasons for this. First, there was a considerable controversy against the protestants who denied purgatory. Therefore many theologians were disposed to say that only very few people reached eternal glory without suffering purgatory. Secondly, he lays the blame at the door of Jansenist rigour:
Nobody is unaware of how intolerable a burden the Jansenists imposed on penitents for obtaining absolution in the penitential tribunal. But for theologians more or less infected with the Jansenist error, the doctrine could not be pleasing according to which the most merciful Saviour prepared such an easy and sweet means for taking away not only sins but also punishments from the dying. (Cappello De Sacramentis Vol 3 n.137 page 98)

There is a pattern to be discerned here. It is uncommon now to find such Jansenist aberrations as an excessive rigour in the confessional. However, some of the Jansenist errors that were not widely adverted to before Vatican II have, to a degree, persisted in practice. The doctrine of a perfect preparation for entry to immediate beatitude would be most comforting for many who are dying. Yet this component of our theological inheritance has been largely lost because of other considerations which have dominated thinking on this sacrament such as an over-emphasis on physical healing.

So it is a wonderful thing to be called out to visit people who may have neglected the practice of their faith, yet have identified themselves as Catholic and can be assumed to have at least some habitual desire for the sacraments, and as a priest, to minister the sacrament of anointing and the Apostolic blessing with the plenary indulgence, and know that they have been helped on a fast track to heaven.

Inevitably a discussion then arises over whether this is all a bit "Not Fair!" We can of course point out the uncertainty of the time of death, quoting St Augustine "God promises us His grace, he does not promise us tomorrow", and the possiblity that we die without the sacraments. We also know that the Christian life is one of great peace here on earth and brings greater genuine happiness than a life of sin.

But in the end, if we think that the Lord is being unfairly generous in this sacrament, we simply need to read the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. (Matthew 20.1-16.)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

St Gregory and the Angles

Gregory (school)

The Catholic primary school in my parish is called St Gregory's. In the reception area there is the above fine picture of their patron saint (also one of the principal patrons of the parish.)

Here is a close-up of the scroll which the saintly Pope is holding.

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The scroll reads:
Angelicum habent faciem et tales angelorum in caelis decet esse consortes

They have an angelic face and it is fitting for such to be co-heirs of the angels in heaven.
The text is a quotation from St Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book II, chapter I. This is often abbreviated into a simplified account in which St Gregory is supposed to have said "Not Angles but Angels." Here is the fulller version of the episode as related by St Bede:
Nor must we pass by in silence the story of the blessed Gregory, handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, which explains his earnest care for the salvation of our nation. It is said that one day, when some merchants had lately arrived at Rome, many things were exposed for sale in the market place, and much people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and saw among other wares some boys put up for sale, of fair complexion, with pleasing countenances, and very beautiful hair. When he beheld them, he asked, it is said, from what region or country they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, and that the inhabitants were like that in appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism, and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness should own men of such fair countenances; and that with such grace of outward form, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, “for they have an angelic face, and it is meet that such should be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “saved from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Aelli and he, playing upon the name, said, “Allelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”

Then he went to the bishop of the Roman Apostolic see (for he was not himself then made pope), and entreated him to send some ministers of the Word into Britain to the nation of the English, that it might be converted to Christ by them; declaring himself ready to carry out that work with the help of God, if the Apostolic Pope should think fit to have it done. But not being then able to perform this task, because, though the Pope was willing to grant his request, yet the citizens of Rome could not be brought to consent that he should depart so far from the city, as soon as he was himself made Pope, he carried out the long-desired work, sending, indeed, other preachers, but himself by his exhortations and prayers helping the preaching to bear fruit. This account, which we have received from a past generation, we have thought fit to insert in our Ecclesiastical History.
In a whimsical touch, the scroll is presented as a palimpsest with musical notation on the reverse: Gregorian Chant, naturally.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Epiphany Mass at St Augustine's, Ramsgate


This Tuesday at 6.30pm at the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, the Victoria Consort will be singing Palestrina's Missa O Rex Gloriae at an old rite Missa Cantata at which I have the good fortune to be the celebrant.

I have not heard this Mass setting before (Palestrina did write 105) so I just listened to the Kyrie via YouTube. Having heard the Victoria Consort a couple of times now, I am very much looking forward to their rendition for the greater glory of God.


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Last Margate sunset of 2014

sands enhanced

After a late lunch today, I took the opportunity for a walk up to Fort Hill and then down along the beach at low tide. Because I can.

The better biretta

As it is still very much holiday time, it is only right that we should focus on the more important things in life. Fr Hunwicke has helped us in this respect with a thoughtful and erudite post on Birettas. I must say that although the various birettas that I possess all have pom-poms, I entirely agree with my learned colleague that they are a superfluous piece of frenchification and that the biretta is better without one.

Not only that, but Father makes a solid case for the unpompommed hat being the will of our Holy Father. And as he says
We owe it to him to get our headwear right, whatever the cost, come what may. 
I bought a pack of craft knives from the pound shop recently ...
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