The value of learning by heart

The Synod of Bishops in 1977 considered the theme "Catechesis in our Time" and in 1979, St John Paul II issued his Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae which I remember reading as soon as it was available: in those days we had to wait for a printed version but the CTS were always quick off the mark.

A section which struck me then and I think is worth recalling, is paragraph 55 on memorisation (spelt in the official English version with the American Z, of course.) St John Paul recognised the disadvantages that can be associated with learning things by heart, but lamented the suppression of memorisation in catechesis. He says:
"A certain memorization of the words of Jesus, of important Bible passages, of the Ten Commandments, of the formulas of profession of the faith, of the liturgical texts, of the essential prayers, of key doctrinal ideas, etc., far from being opposed to the dignity of young Christians, or constituting an obstacle to personal dialogue with the L…

Thanks for prayers

My health deteriorated steadily during the second half of last year, and with my Archbishop’s blessing (and kindly encouragement) I am currently staying with my sister in Bournemouth while undergoing various tests and procedures. There is much still to be done, but am making some progress thanks to the good medical and other care that I have received. The medical problems are complex and not yet fully diagnosed so I will not attempt to summarise them. I am mainly under the care of the gastro-enterology department, and the GP is also keeping an eye on my cardiac health.

Your prayers are very much appreciated; many thanks indeed. Special thanks to Fr Z and to the Latin Mass Society who publicised requests for prayers.

The good news is that I have to take things easy, so there might be a little time for writing ...

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium 2017

I am happy to pass on the following information concerning the forthcoming Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend myself this time, but I pass on the notice with my support and recommendation.
Booking is now open for the Autumn Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, which this year takes place at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, from Wednesday 15th till Thursday 16th November.

Speakers include Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Monsignor John Armitage (Rector of the Shrine at Walsingham) and Father John Saward.

Full details are available on the Confraternity's website where you can also download the booking form.

Attendance is limited to fully paid up members of the Confraternity, including new members (who can join by downloading the appropriate form from the website)

Those wishing to attend should post the completed booking form, with your payment, to the Secretary at the address given. Mgr Armitage …

CD 297: Laity and the Divine Office

I am trying to pray the Office each day. Should I only use the official breviary or can I use the Little Office of Our Lady?
The second Vatican Council encouraged lay people to pray the Divine Office; indeed the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy encouraged parish priests to see that Vespers are celebrated in Churches on Sundays, something that is quite rare nowadays. So it is an excellent practice for you as a lay person to pray at least a part of the Office. By doing so, you unite yourself to the whole Church in the prayer which Christ offers up as our High Priest. It is rightly called a sacrifice of praise when we pray the psalms to sanctify the hours of the day.

Priests and religious are bound to celebrate the Divine Office every day and must use the Office that is approved for them. Secular priests, for example, must use either the Liturgy of the Hours (the Office that was composed after Vatican II) or the older breviary that was approved before the Council. Lay people who are no…

Event: Day for Catholic Home Educators

I am happy to publicise this notice which was recently sent to me.
Day for Catholic Home Educators
Increasing numbers of Catholic parents are considering home-schooling as the way forward for their children's education. A day about Catholic home education will take place at the Birmingham Oratory on the 30th September. The day starts with Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 9am, with the first talk starting at 10am and the day finishing at 4.30pm. The day includes a talk from Antonia Tully (SPUC) about screen culture. Nursing infants are welcome. There is a hall available for parents to supervise older children and a park nearby. For further details and to book, please contact

Was the Canaanite woman correcting Jesus’ mistakes?

The story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) is a good example of how there is not necessarily a plain and simple meaning in the scriptures. If we look at it purely on the surface we are not going to get anywhere fast by asking naively “What does this passage mean to me?”

First of all, we need to submit our minds to that of Christ made explicit in the magisterial teaching of the Church. From this source, we know that Jesus Christ is truly God made man, and that his humanity is perfect and free from sin. Following the settled teaching, we do well also to listen to St Thomas Aquinas who asks the question of whether Christ learned anything from man, and answered in the negative. (ST 3a q.12 art.3) As St Thomas says, Our Lord did advance in acquired knowledge from experience, as is affirmed in Luke 2.52, but not in His infused knowledge or (still less) His beatific knowledge (ST 3a q.12 art.2). Put in another way, Our Lord grew in human knowledge from experience, but did not grow …

The “Readings” at Mass: Worship or Instruction?

Following my post on Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary, Peter Kwasniewski kindly sent me a scan of his article “The Reform of the Lectionary” which was published in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century. At first, I thought of simply summarising some of the main points but it occurred to me that several principles were important and worthy of further discussion, so I will look at some in due course.

The first is the most fundamental. Kwasniewski rightly says that it should be engaged before examining any particular principle behind the new lectionary. It is the question of the purpose or function of reading the scriptures at Mass. As he puts it:
“Is it a moment of instruction for the people, or is it an element of the latreutic worship offered by Christ and His Mystical Body to the Most Holy Trinity.” He affirms that what we may call the doxological purpose is primary.

This question determines any subsequent discussion of what passages are chosen, how they are distribut…

An edifying newsletter from a monastery with a welcome problem

Silverstream Priory kindly send me their twelve page newsletter In Coenaculo. Parish priests receive a lot of newsletters and I am afraid that I don't tend to bother with most of them, but I find that news from Silverstream is always both encouraging and edifying. Father Prior (Mark Kirby OSB) has to preach sermons quite regularly for the clothing of new novices; he manages to come up with great personalised addresses each time. The diary is great to read, too. The newsletter is available as a pdf download at the website. Here is the link: In Coenaculo. Summer 2017 (pdf)

Silverstream has a serious problem, though. They have recently completed the construction of some new monastic cells and they are all now full. In the house Oratory, new members of the community have to sit in the window sills as there are not enough places for them.

(Just incidentally, as a matter of interest and nothing to do with any of this, of course, Silverstream celebrates the sacred Liturgy according to th…

Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind

It was not until my first year at University that I became aware that some converts were unhappy about making a qualitative distinction between converts and cradle Catholics. I was told that the comparison was usually to the disadvantage of the converts.

Until then, I had just admired converts because they had found their way to the faith and taken the trouble to go through whatever steps were deemed necessary in their local parish before being received into the Church. My youthful reading included John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton and Ronald Knox, all of whom I enjoyed immensely; they helped me to have a certain reverence for the category of people “converts” and it simply would not have occurred to me to think of someone as a second class citizen in the Church as a result of their having made a conscious adult decision to join it.

Later, I came to understand how much of a price some converts had paid in their family and social lives for becoming Catholic. As a priest, I have had the…

The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days

My post on "Interesting parallels in Jewish customs" seems to have been well received, so I thought it might be helpful to look at today's feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot's observation concerning St Peter's profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the "after six days" of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

Then there is the feast of tabernacles itself. This feast lasted for a week. O…

CD 291: Confession now I am older and have fewer temptations

I go to Confession twice a year, at Easter and Christmas because I feel I should. My I find it difficult to know what to say as I no longer seem to be assailed by the temptations of earlier years. One priest told me rather irritably not to come to Confession if I had nothing to say.
I am sorry to hear that a priest was irritated with you. Say a prayer for him asking the Lord to give him the virtue of patience. I don’t agree with his advice. In your letter, you spoke of another priest who encouraged you to go to confession more frequently. He is on the right lines, I think. People who go to confession frequently usually remember more to confess. This is not because they are greater sinners but because their conscience becomes more sensitive to venial sins. This is not some kind of morbid “guilt” but a desire for holiness in small things. When you say that you do not have the temptations you used to have, perhaps you are thinking that the sacrament is only for mortal sins.

In fact it is…

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