Thursday, 31 August 2006

Where I will be tomorrow

Tomorrow, I will be taking Easyjet to Geneva and then travelling to the French Alps via Annecy with my sisters for the wedding of my niece, Mary and her fiancé, Robbie. The photo shows Église St Martin at Les Allues where the wedding will take place.

Here is a photo of Annecy which was the home of St Francis de Sales when he was the Catholic Bishop of Geneva. We will be passing through here and may perhaps have the time to stop.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

More images from Parkminster

To finish off the series of posts from Parkminster, here are a few more photos. The first gives and idea of the perspective as one looks down the Great Cloister

Yet another Chapel! This is the Family Chapel. The community meet here for prayers before the weekly walk.

And here is the magnificent and atmospheric library.

A closer shot of the far end shows Our Blessed Lady (much loved by the Carthusians) and the crucifix overlooking the place of study.

This is the view of the Guest House from halfway down the stairs. The Guest House is actually older than the main part of the Monastery. It is very grand but not much used.

This is the Bishop's room - actually set out as a throne room. This room has not been used much in recent years.

10 year olds' right to Confirmation

There is a most helpful article on Zenit regarding a request from some 10 year old girls to receive the sacrament of Confirmation in a diocese where the policy is to delay Confirmation until the "sophomore year" that is the second year of College or High School, I think, so about 13-15 years old. (Could someone from the States clarify this?)

Fr McNamara refers to a letter from the Congregation of Divine Worship to an English-speaking bishop: protocol No. 2607/98/L, published in Notitiae 1999, pages 537-540. In response to a similar case, the letter points to the basic principle in canon law that pastors may not refuse the sacraments to the faithful who ask for them and are properly disposed. The Bishop was directed to confirm the girl.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

1942 advice for soldiers rings true

In response to the various items about the misbehaviour of young people at Lourdes, Paulinus at In Hoc Signo Vinces has found an excellent passage from a 1942 soldiers' prayer book. He called the post Attention all Catholic students.

Manual work at Parkminster

As I mentioned before, manual work is an essential part of the balanced way of life at Parkminster. The monk has to combine some physical work with the hours of office in choir and silent prayer in the cell. In each cell there is a workshop downstairs, comprising two rooms, one of which (with a door onto a garden) is mainly used for storing and chopping wood. The second (pictured below) is used for indoor working. I know that standard equipment in many of the cells was a foot-operated lathe and perhaps some of these still survive.

When I first saw the workshop in my cell, I had the frivolous thought that if you were driven mad by the solitude, you would not be denied the equipment to express your feelings -

The next photo is something of a triumph. Not only did I get the axe-swing exactly synchronised with the camera's self-timer, I also actually hit the wood squarely. That did not by any means always happen. (The "incredible hulk" colour cast somehow got put in by a mistake when reducing the resolution in PaintShop Pro.)

The garden was a little neglected. A previous visitor had cut the grass down quite a bit with a scythe and left a pile of hay. I cleared some foliage from the doorway and other places where it was overgrown. The novice master suggested that I should burn the debris. He said that it was one of the joys of living there that you could start bonfires when you felt the need. Growing up in Croydon is not like being brought up on a farm so my experience of fire-starting was limited to getting bits of furniture to catch light on Guy Fawkes Night, and experimenting with pilfered bits of sodium and potassium from the chemistry labs (our favourite as boys was the half-inch square chunk in the coke can - you have about 10 seconds to get out of the way.)

In addition, decades of helping at youth events, school trips and various other pastoral activities have given me an extensive but utterly superficial knowledge and experience of various outward-bound activities. I can put up a tent, abseil, rock climb, ride a quad bike, use a map and compass, ride a horse, identify edible wild plants, bungee jump, catch mackerel, paddle a canoe, load, fire and clean a Colt 45 and a Smith and Wesson 38, milk a goat, ski - mostly to beginners level 1: a generous assessor might give me a low-level intermediate standard for ski-ing, abseiling and bungee jumping.

Now I was not sure how easily hay would catch fire. The novice master thought it would be great if the stubble in the garden also caught light. I did point out that with ten foot high walls, it would probably be wise to be in the end of the garden nearest the door in that case but he did not seem too worried. Parkminster being a newspaper-free zone, I screwed up a few more pages of the Thompson Directory and put them underneath the edge of the pile. A bottle of Kerosene with a nozzle was provided in the workshop so I squirted a bit of that to help things along. It only took one match...

The Great Cloister is about two-thirds of a mile all round. In recent years, the brothers have taken to delivering messages on bicycles.

With all this activity, and the healthy diet, they do keep the good Lord waiting quite a while before their mortal remains are laid to rest in the simple cemetery which is in the centre of the Great Cloister.

Evangelium course arrived

The other day I received the copies of Evangelium that I had ordered. This is a new catechetical resource from the CTS (Catholic Truth Society). I put up a post about this in mid-July. Evangelium was written by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent, two recently ordained priests from the English College in Rome. We are going to use it in my parish for the RCIA course.

You can see some samples of the material at the CTS Evangelium page.

Monday, 28 August 2006

Vatican II, Paul VI, the Carthusians, and the private Mass

Many people are under the impression that the private Mass was abolished by Vatican II. You may well be told by liturgists that saying Mass without "the people" present makes no sense in the modern Church - or even that it is forbidden. Next time anyone tries to tell you this, refer them to the letter Optimam partem of Pope Paul VI in 1971 to Fr Andrew Poisson, the Minister General of the Carthusians. The text (in Latin) can be found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1971, volume 63 pages 447-450. Here is my translation of the relevant section of the letter:
Monks who are bound by the obligation of choir in the Carthusian Order, almost from its beginning, have been priests, or religious who are preparing themselves to receive sacred orders. There are those today who are of the opinion that this is not fitting that cenobites or hermits, who are never going to exercise the sacred ministry, should be raised to the priesthood. As we have already said elsewhere (Cfr. AAS 58 (1966) p.1181) this opinion certainly lacks a firm foundation. For many Saints and very many religious have combined the profession of the monastic or indeed the eremitcal life with the priesthood because they have had a sound perspective of the fitting relationship between both consecrations, that proper to the priest, and that proper to the monk. Indeed, solitude, the absolute loss of the goods of this world, the abnegation of one's own will: things that are undertaken by those who enclose themselves within the bounds of the monastery, most singularly prepare the soul of the priest to be devoutly and ardently offered up for the eucharistic sacrifice which is "the source and summit of the whole Christian life". Furthermore, when that full self-giving, to which the religious devotes himself, is added to the priesthood, he is configured in a special way to Christ who is at the same time priest and victim.

When the second Vatican Council treated in a special document about priests and their duties, it rightly laid down that those duties include the care of the people of God. However, this care is carried out by yourselves in celebrating the eucharistic sacrifice as you are accustomed to do every day. This celebration most often takes place in your eremitcal oratories, that is to say, in a devout recess, where the soul of the monk, fixed on the things of above, drinks in more richly the Spirit of love and light. Therefore the vocation of the Carthusian, when it is faithfully adhered to, brings it about that the universal intention, which is present in the eucharistic sacrifice, becomes the intention of each monk who is carrying out the sacred rites. The Vatican Council itself declared this fullness of eucharistic charity in these significant words: "In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfil their office most especially, the work of our redemption is continually carried out, and therefore its daily offering is warmly commended. Even if the presence of the faithful is not possible, this offering is an act of Christ and the Church." (Presbyterorum Ordinis 13)
The novice-master put me onto this document last year when he was talking to me about the course in sacramental theology. It is listed as one of the important fontes in the Carthusian statutes - one of very few magisterial documents to refer specifically to the Carthusians. By affirming the value of the private Mass, it is also important for the secular priest who should never feel awkward about celebrating Mass quietly on a day when he is not bound to celebrate a publicly scheduled Mass.

Food at Parkminster

The Conventual Mass at St Hugh's is at 8.15am during the week. Afterwards, I followed the custom of celebrating a private Mass as the Carthusian priests do every day. More about that later. After this and thanksgiving, the first period of manual work or study begins at 10.30am. At 11.15am, the monks say the office of Sext and then lunch arrives delivered by trolley around the cloister and placed into the hatch of each cell.

Here is the lunch as it is delivered. The can on top is fresh milk. There are three trays with food in, a fruit basket and your preference of drink:

The meal is taken at a shelf in the window recess, called the Refectorium. There is a personal tablecloth, a metal knife and a wooden fork and spoon to eat it with.

To drink, there is a choice of fruit juice or Parkminster's home-made apple wine. It sometimes gets called cider but apple wine is probably a safer name because it is 10% abv. It is quite dry and decepively strong. I had this for the first two days then asked for orange juice because the wine made it difficult to stay awake during Vespers.

Here is one day's meal: a dish of sardines with some spicy sauce, a dish of fresh vegetables and a dish of mushroom soup. There is always plenty of fruit and bread. The dish of vegetables and the basket of fruit is constant. The hot dish varies and can be fish, eggs, a vegetarian pasty or something else (never any meat). Instead of soup, there is often cereal.

The diet is probably as healthy as it is possible to be - the monks had this worked out long before modern nutritionists. I found that there was plenty to eat although to be fair, I did not do as much manual work as most of the monks and therefore did not need to eat as much. They look pretty fit physically and some quite elderly men seemed to thrive on heavy labour in the "obediences" which is the name given to the areas where the vegetables and fruit are grown, the wood is chopped and other manual tasks are undertaken. Traditionally this area is for the Brothers to work in but the Choir Monks also work there if it is conisidered suitable.

From Easter until September, a second light meal is delivered after Vespers: one dish of eggs or something like that. From the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter, there is the "Great Fast" when this meal is omitted. On Fridays the monks fast on bread and water. On some days such as vigils, they abstain from lacticinia - any products of milk or eggs. However it is always possible to get bread or fruit from the cloister near the chapel:

The bread hatch lights up automatically when you open the door. The picture of St Thérèse of Lisieux shows that even very simple things can be an occasion of prayer.

Pope Benedict on Saints Monica and Augustine

I don't usually post the Pope's messages because they are available in so many other places on the Internet. But I have just read yesterday's Angelus message, courtesy of Zenit and it is such a fine example of simple pastoral preaching that I couldn't resist putting it here. I think I will print off some copies for my parishioners.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, Aug. 27, we remember St. Monica, and tomorrow we will remember her son, St. Augustine: Their testimonies can be of great consolation and help for many families also of our time.

Monica, born in Tagaste, in present-day Algeria (in Souk-Arhas), of a Christian family, lived in an exemplary way her mission of wife and mother, helping her husband Patricius to discover, little by little, the beauty of faith in Christ and the strength of evangelical love, capable of overcoming evil with good.

After his death, which occurred prematurely, Monica dedicated herself with courage to the care of her three children, two boys and a girl, among them St. Augustine, who in the beginning made her suffer with his rather rebellious temperament.

As Augustine himself would say later, his mother gave him birth twice; the second time required a long spiritual labor, made up of prayer and tears, but crowned in the end by the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive baptism, but also dedicate himself entirely to the service of Christ.

How many difficulties there are also today in family relationships and how many mothers are anguished because their children choose mistaken ways!

Monica, a wise and solid woman in the faith, invites them not to be discouraged, but to persevere in their mission of wives and mothers, maintaining firm their confidence in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer.

As to Augustine, his whole life was an impassioned search for truth. In the end, not without a long interior storm, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his life and of the whole of human history. In adolescence, attracted by earthly beauty, he "fell upon" it -- as he says honestly (Confessions 10, 27-38) -- selfishly and possessively with behavior that caused some sorrow in his pious mother.

But through a toilsome journey, thanks also to her prayers, Augustine opened himself ever more to the fullness of truth and love, to the point of conversion, which occurred in Milan, under the guidance of the bishop, St. Ambrose.

Thus he remains as model of the way to God, supreme truth and good. "Late have I loved you," he wrote in his famous book of the Confessions, "O beauty so ancient and so new .... For behold you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside .... You were with me and I was not with you ... You called and cried to me and broke open my deafness: And you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness" (ibid.).

May St. Augustine obtain for us also the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ, an encounter above all also for all those young people who, thirsty for happiness, seek it in mistaken ways and get lost in dead ends.

St. Monica and St. Augustine invite us to turn with confidence to Mary, seat of wisdom. To her we entrust Christian parents so that, like Monica, they will support their children on their way with their example and prayer.

To the virgin mother of God, we commend young people so that, as Augustine, they will always tend to the fullness of truth and love, which is Christ: He alone can satisfy the profound needs of the human heart.

Pope Benedict XVI - Angelus message given at Castel Gandolfo on 27 August 2006

[Translation by ZENIT]

Sunday, 27 August 2006

"Too many abortions"

An article on Angus Reid consultants is titled Abortion Numbers Too High, Say Britons. The opening paragraph reads:
Many adults in Britain believe the incidence of pregnancy termination in their country should be reduced, according to a poll by Communicate Research for Choose Life. 53 per cent of respondents believe the number of abortions in the country is too high.
This is all fine and dandy - but my question is:

How many abortions is just about right?

Pro-Life Prayer Vigil 30 September

Helpers of God's Precious Infants

The next vigil at BPAS abortion facility, Bedford Square WC1 will be on Saturday 30 September 2006, beginning at St Patrick's, Soho Square. It will be led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

9am Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St Patrick's, Soho Square
9.40am Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
9.50am Prayerful and peaceful procession to BPAS abortion facility with image of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Holy Rosary and hymns
11.30am Return procession with prayers and hymns
12noon Benediction
12.15pm Break for tea and get-together (please bring packed lunch)

Theology of the Body conference

I am happy to advertise the forthcoming Theology of the Body Conference at Westminster Cathedral.

How to study and reflect on John Paul II's Theology of the Body
Thursday 14 September 2006
Westminster Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue SW1P 1QJ

Welcome: Bishop Bernard Longley - Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster
Introduction: Edmund Adamus - Director for Pastoral Affairs, Westminster Diocese
Keynote Speaker: Anastasia Northrop - Theology of the Body International Alliance

Bookings can be paid in advance or on the door.
Entry fee £5 - cheques payable to WRCDT

Send to Catherine MacGillivray: Dept for Pastoral Affairs
Vaughan House, Francis Street LONDONSW1P 1QN 020 7931 6064

Please mention The Hermeneutic of Continuity when replying :-)

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Homeschooling links

Maureen over at the Trinity Prep School has a post called Seven Habits of Highly Effective New School Years. Trinity Prep School is her home, as Maureen is one of the growing number of Homeschoolers in the United States. Homeschooling is not very common in England - sometimes people are surprised to find that it is actually legal. The seven habits are suggestions by Maureen who is inviting other homeschoolers to do their own lists. She has, in the process compiled a list of Homeschooling blogs. Families in England who are thinking of homeschooling might find this list helpful - look up a few blogs, look up their links ... you'll have loads of information in no time.

I found Maureen's blog after following up a link on my site stats. It turned out to be a post on a homeschooling bulletin board group from my sister, Jane, in Birmingham. From there, I found Mary Vitamin at the Castle of the Immaculate (what a fantastic name for your home!) and then on to Trinity Prep.

British disgrace themselves in Lourdes

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The scandal of British pilgrimages to Lourdes has finally hit the headlines with a piece in the Daily Telegraph recently had a piece titled Drunk Britons shatter peace of Lourdes. It is sad to see how the behaviour of British youngsters has given the excuse to paint a tawdry picture of Lourdes in the national press. Actually, Lourdes does not have "drinking spots" or a "profusion of fast food restaurants". There is one MacDonalds at the top of the town, well away from the Domaine and there are, of course, many cafés which sell food and drink all day to pilgrims who are able to relax and enjoy a drink without spoiling things for everyone else. It is the British who turn them into "drinking spots".

Regarding the bad behaviour, the article does not exaggerate. I visit Lourdes every year and I am sick and tired of having to look sheepish in the morning after the hotel staff and guests from other countries have been kept awake half the night by the loutish antics of British yoof. Apparently their behavious has meant that the local gendarmerie have now called in the CRS to sort things out.

The standard excuse given by Pilgrimage organisers is that "they have been working hard all day and need to let their hair down". There is also a good deal of collusion with the attitude summed up by one young lady who was quoted as saying "We come here to party after being reverential all day". It may have escaped their notice but there are thousands of Italian youngsters with the UNITALSI pilgrimages, and many others with French, German, Dutch, Belgian and Eastern European pilgrimages who do not find that they need to seek relief from their hard work or their spiritual exercises by getting ratted until 2 in the morning and then waking everyone up on their way back to their hotel.

The attitude on the part of many pilgrimage organisers and chaplains is that we must all pat ourselves on the back for getting youngsters anywhere near a shrine. This is seen as such a triumph that no further demands are made regarding moral behaviour. Frankly, I have not wanted to enquire into the all too obvious further consequences of allowing youngsters simply to go out on the town every evening. Fr Ray Blake fills in some of the details in his post on the subject.
I love the place, but I have not been to Lourdes for years. I hate the drunkenness, I hate the fornication, I hate the abuse of the liturgy, I hate the lack of real spiritual care for the young helpers. Last year all my antipathy was confirmed with a picture of one of our English bishops performing a drag routine, dressed as a nurse, even so I hadn't realised things had got to this state...
The most important point here is probably the "lack of real spiritual care". We need to stop assuming that when taking young people away on a pilgrimage or youth event, anything will do, simply because we have "got them there". It will be no use appealing to this on judgement day if our lack of spiritual care has left them in a spiritually worse state than they were in before the "Pilgrimage".

One thing is for sure. If the CRS are getting involved, the Pilgrimage organisers need to let the youngsters know that those guys mean business. It will not be like chucking-out time at the local club on a Saturday night, telling the local Bill that "I know my rights". The French know that when the CRS appear on the scene, your best response is to run for it. I do hope the British pilgrimages clean up their act before they start cracking heads.

Pictures of the Carthusian Martyrs in the Chapter House

The Chapter House at Parkminster is an austere chapel with immaculately polished flooring and panelling. The front and back walls are covered with paintings of the sufferings of the English Carthusian martyrs. The paintings reminded me of the pictures in the tribune of the Venerable English College in Rome. The latter were painted in order to impress upon the students what their fate was and to encourage them to face their possible ordeal in England with the courage of their forbears.

There were 18 Carthusians martyred during the reign of King Henry VIII. In this picture you can see one monk hanging while another forgives the man who is about to execute him.

The penalty suffered by the Carthusians was that of being hanged, drawn and quartered. In this picture an axeman is quartering one who has just been hanged.

Ten of the Carthusian martyrs were deliberately allowed to die of neglect and starvation in Newgate prison where they were tied to posts with their hands behind their backs. There were actually eleven in the prison. Brother William Horn who was allowed to survive was hanged, drawn and quartered on 4 August 1540.

Below are some more pictures from the back wall of the martyrdom of these gentle but incredibly tough and saintly men who refused to take the oath of supremacy declaring Henry to be the head of the Church in England.

Saint John Houghton pray for us
Saint Robert Lawrence pray for us
Saint Augustine Webster pray for us
Blessed Humphrey Middlemore pray for us
Blessed William Exmew pray for us
Blessed Sebastian Newdigate pray for us
Blessed John Rochester pray for us
Blessed James Walworth pray for us
Blessed William Greenwood pray for us
Blessed John Davy pray for us
Blessed Robert Salt pray for us
Blessed Walter Pierson pray for us
Blessed Thomas Green pray for us
Blessed Thomas Scryven pray for us
Blessed Thomas Redyng pray for us
Blessed Richard Bere pray for us
Blessed Thomas Johnson pray for us
Blessed William Horne pray for us

There is a good article on the Carthusian Martyrs at Wikipedia.

Relics at Parkminster

Next to the library at Parkminster is the relic chapel. Above the altar is a fine statue of the Sacred Heart - the photo does not do it justice. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is important in the history of the Carthusians because the heresy of Jansenism provided a subtle trap for those who are dedicated to contemplation in solitude and silence.

The chapel is filled with display cases containing hundreds of relics.

The most important is under the altar, the body of St Boniface (notice the skeleton underneath the reclining statue.)

I rolled up the lace trim of the altar cloth to get a good photograph. But the lace itself is worth looking at in its own right. It is a very delicate lace - perhaps someone who is an expert can comment on it.

One one wall is an Agnus Dei. This is a wax tablet with the Lamb of God impressed on the front. On the reverse is an inscription recording the papal blessing. These devotional objects were very popular with Catholics in England at the time of the Reformation. Possession of an Agnus Dei was used as evidence that the holder was an obstinate papist.

One of the more gruesome displays is the reliquary of St Victoriana:

On the back wall of the chapel is a prized second class relic: the stole of St Hugh of Lincoln.

St Hugh was a Frenchman, born at Avalon castle in Burgundy. He became a Carthusian at the Grande Chartreuse in 1160 and was the prior of the first English Carthusian monastery, founded at Witham by King Henry II in 1175 as a penance for the murder of St Thomas Becket. It is sad to reflect that by the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII, there were twelve Carthusian houses in England. St Thomas More had at one time considered joining them.

Friday, 25 August 2006

Tour of a Carthusian cell

The Great Cloister of St Hugh's, Parkminster is the largest in the world. The photograph below shows part of two sides of the Great Cloister with the cells attached:

The next photo shows the door to the cell I was given. Each cell has a text on the door: mine was "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". To the right of the door is the hatch where the brothers leave food and any other items such as toiletries, light bulbs etc. that have been requested.

Inside is a spacious ambulacrum with windows onto the enclosed garden. There is thus room for the monk to take exercise if the weather prevents him from walking in the garden. The stairs go up to the main living quarters and down to the work area and garden. To the left of the cell door, you can see the inside door of the hatch.

Here is a view of the ambulacrum from the stairs:

Upstairs, the first room in the main part of the cell is called the Ave Maria.

The custom is to kneel down and say a Hail Mary every time you enter this room. The novice master noticed that I knelt on one knee and he gently told me off - "Ah you're like the old Irish fellow - you'd be holding your cap on the other knee and be out the door as soon as the priest said Ite Missa Est." (Fr Cyril is Irish himself.) The Ave Maria is used for light work.

Then there is the main part of the cell, the cubiculum. The photo shows the bed and the Oratiorium. The bed is simple - a wooden bed with a thin mattress and a pillow. The pillow gave me another fit of the giggles. Expecting it to be like a modern pillow, I picked it up and moved it. It came down with a thud, being as heavy as a rock and almost as hard.

The Oratorium (next to my tell-tale Roman cassock) has a full size choir stall. When saying the office privately in cell, the Carthusians observe all the postures that they would observe if they were in Choir.

The wood burning stove provides hot water as well as heating. It wasn't really necessary at this time of year but I couldn't resist trying it out. If the fire is packed properly, it roars up very quickly and efficiently. One problem is that the paper used to start the fire was from old copies of the Thompson Directory. It was a bit laborious tearing out pages and screwing them up but I realised that newspapers would be a potential source of distraction.

The Carthusian leaves his cell three times a day - for the Night Office, Mass, and Vespers. If it is necessary to leave the cell for something else: to go to the library or to a class, for example, the recommendation is to try to arrange that activity after Mass or before Vespers so that there is no need to leave the cell on an additional occasion.

The purpose of the solitude and silence is to draw closely to God in contemplative union - to broaden the inner horizon while restricting the worldly horizon would be one way of trying to explain it. There is a great emphasis on prayer as "direct" union with God - praying rather than thinking about prayer, or God, or the truths of the faith. The Carthusians thus have a strong affinity with the desert Fathers whose aim was essentially the same.

As a parish priest, I am often on my own in the presbytery. People who visit to arrange a Baptism or a Wedding comment on how quiet it is, how they can hear the clock ticking, or the birds singing for example. This is in contrast to a world in which people abhor silence, as "nature abhors a vacuum" and blot out the silence with the television or with recorded music. The silence of the Charterhouse is not an empty silence, not simply an absence of noise. It is a silence in which God can communicate with the soul, where distractions are reduced to a minimum.

There are, of course, dangers in this way of life. Over nine centuries, a balanced rhythm has developed and matured between silence and prayer in choir; between solitude and recreation (the weekly walk); between stillness and manual work (an essential part of the life); between fasting and proper nourishment. I will explore some of these in future posts.

Breviary - how long is long?

In addition to the offices sung in Choir and said privately, the Carthusians say the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary either before or after each main office. There was a copy in my cell and for some reason, I got the giggles when I discovered that this Little Office is actually longer than the modern Roman office - sometimes referred to unkindly as the "Liturgy of the Minutes".

Here is a Roman Breviary that I found in the library, dating from 1870.

For Sunday Matins, it has the traditional 18 psalms which are nowadays considered to have been such an outrageous imposition that it was only sensible for Pope Pius X to rearrange the psalter and shorten it. In the process, he also dropped the Laudate psalms from Lauds (still sung by the Carthusians). This change was commented on by Alcuin Reid in The Organic Development of the Liturgy. He pointed out that the tradition of singing these psalms is probably a remnant of the synagogue worship. Therefore they were probably sung by Jesus Christ himself every morning and by Christians all throughout the world until 1905.

It is worth remembering that the supposedly long, complicated and impractical tridentine breviary was used daily by St John Bosco, St Alphonsus Liguori, St Robert Bellarmine and many other saints you might care to choose from - all of whom seemed to get quite a lot of pastoral work into their day as well.

A shorter breviary was devised in the 16th century by Quingnonez. The early Jesuits were offered the opportunity to use it because of the demands of their apostolic work. St Francis Xavier flatly refused, preferring to say the full tridentine breviary in between baptising all those thousands in the far East.

Back to earth

The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds, and it will not rest until it reaches its goal; it will not desist until the Most High responds. (Ecclesiasticus 35.17)

I got back from my few days at Parkminster this evening. Having opened the post, sorted out and resized some photos, here is just a taster - lots more to follow.

First, the Brothers' chapel. Nowadays, the distinction between the brothers and the Choir isn't so sharp but the brothers use this chapel during the office. The books that I had in my cell gave the option of saying a certain number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys instead of some of the office recited in private. So the Carthusians offered the opportunity of silence and solitude for anyone - you never had to be conversant with Latin or the intricacies of the office.

Through the screen is the main choir:

The monastery has always done its own printing and binding. Many of the books in daily use are over 100 years old. Each day at Mass, the chant is all sung from copies of the Graduale Cathusiense printed in 1897. They are bound in leather which is still in excellent condition - owing to the fact that the books are handled and used every day.

Here is the title page of the Graduale:

And here is the enormous Antiphonale Nocturnum

These are placed on book stands so that they are more upright and can be read more easily. There is one copy between two or three monks.

The Night Office begins at 12.30am in total darkness as the traditional silent prayers are said before the Office begins. The feast of St Bartholomew on Wednesday was a 12 lesson feast - referring to the 12 lessons read at Matins. After the 18 psalms, the lections are read and the responsories sung in turn by members of the community going down the choir. The Te Deum, as with many Carthusian chants, is very similar to the Roman solemn tone but different in a few details because the Carthusian chant predated the later standardisation of the chant. There is a pause of five minutes or so - again in total darkness and silence - before Lauds is begun. The Night office for the 12 lesson feast lasted three hours. For the normal days, it was about two hours.

It is important to understand that the Carthusians do not so much interrupt their sleep to say prayers - rather, they interrupt their silent and choral prayer for two periods of sleep. The Night Office is the main work of the Carthusian 24 hour day. Vespers is also sung in choir - the offices of Prime, Terce, Sext, and None are usually said in cell (except on Sundays). Compline is always said privately.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...