Sunday, 31 December 2006

Papal photo of the day

No! "Sing it in the valleys" will not do as a substitute for the Te Deum.

After that last post, I realised that this blog has far too few photos of our beloved Holy Father. So I took myself over to the incredible Papa Ratzinger Forum and found this one of the Pope at Vespers and Benediction earlier this evening!!! Thanks to the unparalleled Paparatzifan. It seems that the Holy Father managed to keep the silly vestment brigade at bay today.

Pope Benedict and the Faith Movement

Fr John Zuhlsdorf over at What does the prayer really say? has news of Pope Benedict's address during the New Year's Eve Vespers and Benediction with singing of the Te Deum. Fr John gives the following quotation:
Two different evaluations of the dimension of time thus contrast each other, one qualitative and one quantitative. On the one hand, there is there is the solar cycle with its rhythms; on the other, that which St. Paul calls the "fullness of time" (Gal 4:4), namely, the culminating moment of the history of the universe and of the human race, when the Son of God was born into the world. The time of promises was fulfilled and, when the pregnancy of Mary had reached its end, "the earth has yielded its increase" (Ps 66 [67]:7) as a psalm says. The coming of the Messiah, foretold by the Prophets, is qualitatively the most important event in all of history, to which it confers its own final and ultimate meaning. Historical-political coordinates do not condition God’s choices, but, on the contrary, it is the event of the Incarnation that "fills up" the worth and meaning of history.
It strikes me that Pope Benedict's words here are a confirmation of the vision of Christ as Lord of the cosmos and Lord of history that we try to get across in the Faith Movement. He used to read the Faith Magazine when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is exciting to think that perhaps he may still find time to glance at it occasionally.

New Year Plenary Indulgences

I should have posted this before, but perhaps you may see it in time to help the Holy Souls. The Enchiridion Indulgentiarum 2004 says (n.26 - my translation):
A Plenary Indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who are devoutly present in a Church or oratory for the singing or recitation of:

1. The hymn Veni Creator, either on the first day of the year, imploring divine assistance for the whole of the coming year, or on the solemnity of Pentecost.

2. The hymn Te Deum on the last day of the year, to thank God for the benefits received during the whole of the year that has passed.
The indulgence is, of course, subject to the usual conditions. If you are worried by the condition requiring detachment from venial sin, you may like to read my post from last May Plenary Indulgences not impossible.

In my parish, we'll be singing the Te Deum tonight and the Veni Creator in the morning.

Victory for Helen and Joe Roberts

In December 2005, Helen and Joe Roberts were reported to the Lancashire Constabulary after they asked the Wyre Borough Council to display literature promoting Christianity in addition to their literature promoting homosexuality. When the Council refused to do this, Mrs Roberts complained by telephone, saying in the course of her call that homosexual practices were morally wrong. As a result, two police officers visited the Roberts at their home and interviewed them for an hour and twenty minutes about their beliefs.

Supported by the Christian Institute, the couple sued the Council and the Police and were due a hearing in the High Court next month. The Council and the Police have both settled out of court (£10,000 plus costs) and issued public apologies.

Mr and Mrs Roberts have already announced that they will donate the £10,000 to the Christian Institute. It is well worth looking at the website of this group. There are some very good and balanced articles outlining the threats posed by our Government. See particularly the page Primary school children could be forced to read gay rights books and the pdfs of their briefings.

My American accent

Apparently, in American accent terms, I sound as though I come from the North East.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

More Faith Winter Conference photos

Fr John Boyle, over at South Ashford Priest, has a post with some more photos of the Faith Winter Conference.

New banner for the Cafeteria is Closed

I laughed out loud when I saw the new banner that Gerald Augustinus has for his brilliant blog The Cafeteria is Closed.

Check his blog daily if you don't already.

My blog in Japanese

More from roaming the site meter. Just in case you are interested, here is The Hermeneutic of Continuity in Japanese.

Belloc's "Pelagian Drinking Song"

A tip of the biretta to Katrina at Where London Ends for posting the text of this poem. I have known the penultimate verse by heart since I was a sixth former but it is good to see it in context again.
The Pelagian Drinking Song

Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.

No, he didn't believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
He laughed at original sin.

Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall --
They rather had been hanged.

Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Their orthodox persuasions.

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew!

Hillaire Belloc

Latvian google

Just checking through site meter, I find that I have had 14 visits referred from the Latvian version of Google. Well Laimigu Jauno gadu! to you all!

(If you are tempted to post a comment asking "What does that mean?", please save my blood pressure by taking the following steps: [select text / copy / open google / paste / search] Oh all right, it means "Happy New Year!")

Looking up Google, I find there are several places where you can get simple phrases in Latvian, including Riga Out There which seems to be a chav's guide to a weekend in Riga, taking you through a night out on the town in simple steps:
Hi- Chau!
I don't understand- Es nesaprotu
You got beautiful eyes- Tev ir skaistas acis
I've lost my friends- Es esmu pazaudejis savus draugus
I run out of money- Man nav naudas
Where is the closest bar? - Kur ir tuvakais bārs?
I'm drunk- Es esmu piedzeries
Oddly, they don't include the Latvian for "I'm gonna smash your teeth in" or "Get your hands off me, copper. I never done nothing. I know my rights."

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Family party

When I was a small boy, my parents used to take us all to see Auntie Stella who was one of the Daughters of Jesus. Their Convent in Abbey Wood is not far from where I now live but alas, some time ago it was closed and taken over by the local authority. Our visits included a quite formal lunch after which my parents would talk serious stuff with my Great Aunt while we children used to go to the gym and play football, climb on the equipment and generally mess around.

I am delighted to be able to offer something a little like this for the families of my sisters. Next to my presbytery (through a connecting door) is a small hall where the children can run around. Each year, between Christmas and New Year, they come over to Blackfen for a party. This year was particularly hectic for me since I have only just got back from the Faith conference. This morning, after having stayed up rather late doing the newsletter and entering the Mass intentions, I went shopping for various comestibles for adults and children (I had the foresight to buy the drinks last week.)

Praise the Lord, there was enough food - I also managed also to get people to help me out with some of the chocolates, biscuits and wine that I have been given over the past few days.

We had a great time with little Lucy (my sister's grand-daughter) stealing the show in her Snow White costume. There was a chance to catch up with Mary and Bobby whom I married in France earlier this year, to talk to Chris about various matters philosophical and technical, to hear about Waggy's European stage tour, to meet David's new friend Debbie, to learn about Declan's latest philosophical interests and generally to share news and crack jokes with my amazing extended family.

A perk of being a celibate host is that I get to give out the presents. This is fun on a level that never changes. I make jokes that Uncle Tom made at my expense many decades ago, feigning not to be able to read the labels on the presents for the younger ones, and then helping them to rip the wrapping paper off with frantic anticipation. I love these gatherings with the opportunity to keep up with my family. I think they also help to keep my priestly feet firmly on the ground.

Faith Winter Conference photos

When we were about 45 minutes into the journey to Stonyhurst, on the M11 passing Stansted Airport, I realised that I had forgotten to bring my camera. #Fortunately, Mac over at Mulier Fortis, has posted some that she took on her mobile phone. These are the posts:

Photo fest
I took more photos than I realised
And finally

(Any other good photos would be gratefully acknowledged.)

The Pope's Cologne

Thanks to Fr Nicholas Schofield of the Roman Miscellany, I found my way to the site which sells The Pope's Cologne. They say:
The Pope’s Cologne is a classic Old World cologne made from the private formula of Pope Pius IX
and further that they obtained information about this cologne from the commander of the Papal Guard of Pope Pius IX and a lifelong friend, General Charles Charette.

They claim to have succeeded in capturing the same fragrance that Pope Pius IX and his entourage enjoyed 150 years ago.

Irish government sending young girls abroad for abortion

A disturbing report in yesterday's SPUC News tells of the Health Services Executive of the Irish Republic taking four girls in their care abroad for abortions.

Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution says:
"The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."
Patrick Buckley of the European Life Network, based in Dublin, said,
"Quite clearly the right to life of these four babies was not acknowledged, respected, defended or vindicated. They were simply terminated."
In terms of Catholic moral theology, this is formal co-operation in evil. In terms of social care, it is also a disastrous failure of responsibility towards the young girls involved.

Friday, 29 December 2006

Faith Winter Conference last day

The last day of the Conference is rather a rush. After breakfast and morning prayer, the last talk was given by Fr Stephen Dingley who has a doctorate from Cambridge in astrophysics (radio-astronomy) and currently teaches dogmatic theology at Wonersh. His talk was a brilliant summary of the relationship between Christianity and other faiths, the reasons for their being different religions and the importance of the relationship between faith and reason. He drew particularly from Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture. I hope that I will be able to refer you to the text in due course.

After Mass and lunch, there was an extensive session of goodbyes with the younger ones becoming pleasantly boisterous in seeing each other off. One coach goes up to Scotland, another down to London and an assortment of cars to various parts of the country.

My own journey back was very smooth: across the M62, down the A1 and M11, and round the M25. No holdups or accidents, thank the Lord. Anna-Marie and Benedict kept us entertained with a medley of pieces they have sung with the Bexley Youth Choir. They were able to sing in harmony from memory an astonishing variety of things. We also had some interesting discussions. We stopped at Cambridge for some dinner. Benedict has had an interview there recently and is nervously awaiting the outcome. Say a prayer for him.

Anna-Marie was particularly scathing about the fact that everyone over 21 at the Conference talked incessantly about blogs and seasoned her comments with some piercing observational humour.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Faith Winter Conference, day two

I find the morning rather leisurely, running as it does on a student-type timetable with breakfast from 8-9pm and no absolute commitment until Lauds at 9.30am. This leaves me the possibility of getting up a little later than usual and still having plenty of time for the morning meditation.

The second talk of the conference was given by Sr Andrea Fraile of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life. She spoke about the proper understanding of inter-religious dialogue and the non-negotiable claims to truth which we make of the Catholic faith. In the question session afterwards, there was an interesting discussion of the particular difficulties of working with Muslims in pro-life work. There were also one or two discussions started on the question of faith and reason.

This afternoon, it was my turn. I had the task of speaking for 45 minutes on "Some common difficulties: How can God have a Son? How can God be three in one?" To be honest, I was not too happy with it at the end. I felt that I had tried to cover too much in too short a time. However, there was some encouraging feedback over dinner from several students which cheered me up a bit. When I get back, I'll do a couple of necessary edits and post a link here to the text.

The second night always sees the Holy Hour with confessions. About 15 or so rooms are found for priests in addition to the three confessionals in the Church and we are kept busy. The evening concludes with a Ceilidh. David Kerr will be there with his kilt to call the dancing. I know the Curé of Ars might have objected but this is much more wholesome (and much more enjoyable) than the entertainment that is generally on offer for many of the youngsters here. They have a whale of a time.

Scotsman on Dawkins

Also in the Scotsman, there is an article Abide with Me reflecting on secularism and Christmas. The author, Gerald Warner, highlights the substitution of aggressive atheism for the evangelical bores of yesteryear. He says,
Can Dawkins honestly claim he lives in a society oppressively infused with Christian belief and practice? Yet, there he is, like a latter-day Savonarola, chiding the British public for its excessive attachment to God. This, it must be said, is a social problem that few but the perceptive Professor Dawkins have detected: it is an insight that is not shared by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Moderator.

Scotsman on Sisters of the Gospel of Life

Blogging from the computer room at Stonyhurst College where Sister Roseann Reddy of the Sisters of the Gospel of life is looking at various blogs. the good sisters run the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative which is celebrating its 10th anniversary on 9 March 2007.

It is great to see (via Credo) that there was a very positive article Winning Babes in last Sunday's Scotsman on Sunday.

Blogging at the Winter Conference

I'll try and put up a few posts while I am here and at least get your comments posted. However, I may not have much time to answer questions and look up things for you so do try google first if you are looking for something.

Faith Winter Conference first day

Yesterday evening saw the start of the Winter Conference of the Faith Movement, at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.The conference began with Mass in the magnificent chapel, filled with the 212 participants at this year’s Conference. Fr John Paul Leonard was principal celebrant in a sanctuary crowded with over 25 concelebrants.

The first talk was given by Fr Luiz Ruscillo. He began in characteristically amusing style by quoting some questions and answers from a book produced by the New Scientist called something like “Why don’t penguins’ feet freeze?” As he said, we expect answers to scientific questions, and when we have the answer, we do not expect to be told “that is just your opinion” or “that may be true for you.” Similarly in matters of faith, we seek the truth. He went through an argument from science for the existence of God, spoke about the uniqueness of the human person with a spiritual soul, and presented the importance of our relationship with the living and true God.

In the discussion afterwards, somebody asked about the different styles of retreat, some offering the enneagram and other novelties. This was answered well, with one priest referring to the letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation. Several in the room were itching to make mention of the Prayer of the Frog and so reference is given here also to the Notification concerning the writings of Fr Anthony de Mello SJ.)

After the talk, there was Compline in the chapel followed by an opportunity to chat in the bar. There are several seminarians here and it was good to catch up with how things are in the various colleges. Anna-Marie who travelled up with me, is studying English Literature at A-Level. In the car on the way up, we were all discussing the ramifications of various views on literature. Tonight, we somehow got onto a discussion of the nature of numbers and mathematics. I roped in Fr Stephen Dingley for some help on that one.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Boxing Day party at Parkminster

This afternoon, I drove down to Parkminster. Heavy traffic meant that I arrived only just in time for a humorous but informative presentation on St Nicholas with different St Nicholases entering, from Hungary, Scotland, India, and Holland. Then there were songs from many of the community. We had English, American, Scots, Australian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hebrew (by an Indonesian) and German. The latter language was to render several beautiful carols composed by Fr Aloysius who has been a Carthusian for about 50 years, I think.

The novice-master warned me beforehand that this was an occasion for the community to relax and that there might be some unorthodox moments. He was not wrong. Introducing one of the songs, a newcomer to the community from Poland announced that the melody contained an interval that had been forbidden by the Church for some centuries: an augmented fourth. But he felt that it would be OK on this occasion.

After the singing, there was tea, accompanied by various luxuries not normally encountered such as sweets and mince pies. The centrepiece was one of the most substantial cakes I have ever seen: a (heavy) fruit cake about a yard square. It was well-spiced, and very palatable. As a guest, I was carved off a piece not much smaller than a house brick. I managed to pass half of it off to a brother who was from Catalonia.

It was a valuable opportunity to chat to my students whom I normally only talk to in class, and to the other members of the community whom I only see in Choir. Most monasteries have a special meal on Christmas Day, perhaps with an extended recreation. At Parkminster, Christmas Day itself is a day of extra recollection; the recreation takes place on the feast of St Stephen. The Prior was very keen to let as many nationalities as possible sing something so we actually extended past the set time for Vespers - but at his word, the community scurried off to the chapel where I was able to join them.

The hymn was wonderful - but as so often, the tone had one or two very slight different from the one used in the Roman Gradual. Looking it up again, now I am home, I find that I cannot remember whether it began Jesu Redemptor omnium or Christe Redemptor omnium. "Christe Redemptor" is the more ancient. "Jesu Redemptor" was the revised version issued by Urban VIII. So it was probably "Christe Redemptor". Checking in Lentini's revision after Vatican II, I find that he changed it back "Christe Redemptor" but he mentions in a footnote the variant "Christe Redemptor Gentium". Connelly, in his Hymns of the Roman Breviary, says that "The text seems always to have caused trouble and the number of variants is large."

Yes, this is one of those things that I will not be able to resist checking on my next visit...

That's enough brussels sprouts - ed.

252 votes were cast

Uurgh! Hate em!
82.5% - 208 votes

Yummy, they're great!
13.9% - 35 votes

As a moderate, I eschew such extremes. They are palatable but I would not enthuse wildly about them.
3.6% - 9 votes

I must say that the large number of moderate votes came as a surprise :-)

Brussels sprouts and electric shocks

I'm sure you'll all be edified to know that I ate my Brussels Sprouts. They were cooked very well and therefore there were none of the sulphurous compounds which apparently cause the general distaste for them. We had a magnificent lunch, actually, cooked by my sister Mary. I brought them some pink champagne so we could toast our Cockney - Canvey - Croydon cultural roots.

One present which went down well was the one I bought for my nephew Patrick who is 16. In "Shocking Roulette", up to four people put a finger in the machine and one receives an electrick shock. Shock level can be set to high or low. Really silly but hilarious.

Perfect gift from Mary - Shadowplay by Clare Asquith, a book I have been meaning to read. It explores the hidden beliefs and coded politics of the Bard, especially his Catholic references.

I gave her Raymond Arroyo's book on Mother Angelica - another one I must get round to.

After lunch, we played a speeded up version of scrabble called "Take Two", Poker (Texas Hold'em rules which seem to have become popular), Blackjack with me as the dealer, trying to remember a reasonable set of house rules. These were played with loose change from Mum's special margarine tub. We had some rounds of Uno (so young Charlie could join in). There was also had time to watch the Christmas "Doctor Who", eat some "Bubble and Squeak" and discuss the present state of the Church at some length while the children were watching something else. A most enjoyable day off.

The one thing I miss on Christmas Day is the Urbi et Orbi Blessing. England is an hour behind Italy and so the blessing takes place in the middle of my 10.30am Mass.

Guild of St Stephen Mass

Today in both the old and new breviaries, we have the Sermon by St Fulgentius of Ruspe about St Stephen.
Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
At our Mass on Boxing Day, we invite all the altar servers to come since it is their patronal feast day: they belong to the Archconfraternity of St Stephen. There is an enrolment ceremony for new servers who have served regularly for some time at which they receive their medal, to be worn whenever they serve Mass.

Here is a photo of the medal. The Chi-Rho emblem, representing Christ, is surrounded by the legend "CUI SERVIRE REGNARE EST" (to serve whom is to reign).

While giving a brief summary of St Fulgentius' sermon, I suggested to the altar servers that they might like to choose St Fulgentius for their Confirmation patron. Admitting that this was unlikely at the moment, I said that if any of the older servers got to sing in a rap band or star in a soap opera, they could do us a favour by taking the stage name Fulgentius. That would ensure that St Fulgentius gained the same popularity that St Anastasia recently gained among confirmandi.

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Like the Dawning of the Morning

Mac, over at Mulier Fortis, (there you go, Mac, I gave you a link!) reminded me of Faber's hymn Like the Dawning of the Morning. Mention of both Newman and Faber on the same day! I am feeling so ecumenical - it must be Christmas.

I remember this hymn from my days at St Mary's Junior School in Croydon. Not long after I started there, my father became the Headmaster which meant that I had a - well strange - school experience. Advent was always heralded by us singing this hymn at morning Assembly. I loved it then and missed it for many years. About three years ago, I asked Brenda, our indefatigable parish organist, if she could find the score anywhere. In her magnificent cupboard with "things old and new" she found a copy in the Leeds Catholic Hymnal. It had been expunged from the Westminster Hymnal and never made an appearance in any of our modern "a few trad hymns and a thousand mindless ditties" books.

The version in the hymnal has only the first two verses and the last verse. Here is the full version as penned by Fr Faber and included in the 1849 Burns & Oates edition which I managed to purchase at a very reasonable price via the excellent Abebooks. It is number 44 and Faber entitles it "Our Lady's Expectation."
Like the dawning of the morning
On the mountains’ golden heights,
Like the breaking of the moon-beams
On the gloom of cloudy nights;
Like a secret told by Angels,
Getting known upon the earth,
Is the Mother’s Expectation
Of Messiah’s speedy birth.

Thou wert happy, Blessed Mother,
With the very bliss of Heaven,
Since the Angel’s salutation
In thy raptured ear was given;
Since the Ave of that midnight,
When thou wert anointed Queen,
Like a river over-flowing
Hath the grace within thee been.

On the mountains of Judea,
Like the chariot of the Lord,
Thou wert lifted in thy spirit
By the uncreated Word;
Gifts and graces flowed upon thee
In a sweet celestial strife
And the growing of thy Burden
Was the lightening of thy life.

And what wonders have been in thee
All the day and all the night,
While the angels fell before thee,
To adore the Light of Light.
While the glory of the Father
Hath been in thee as a home,
And the sceptre of creation
Hath been wielded in thy womb.

And the sweet strains of the Psalmist
Were a joy beyond control,
And the visions of the prophets
Burnt like transports in thy soul;
But the Burden that was growing,
And was felt so tenderly,
It was Heaven, it was Heaven,
Come before its time to thee.

Oh the feeling of thy Burden,
It was touch and taste and sight;
It was newer still and newer,
All those nine months, day and night.
Like a treasure unexhausted,
Like a vision uconfess’d,
Like a rapture unforgotten,
It lay ever at they breast.

Every moment did that Burden
Press upon thee with new grace;
Happy Mother! Thou art longing
To behold the Saviour’s Face!
Oh his Human face and features
Must be passing sweet to see
Thou hast seen them, happy Mother!
Ah then, show them now to me.

Thou hast waited, Child of David,
And thy waiting now is o’er;
Thou hast seen Him, Blessed Mother,
And wilt see Him evermore!
O His Human Face and Features,
They were passing sweet to see;
Thou beholdest them this moment,
Mother, show them now to me.

A quote for Christmas

Praise the Holy Spirit for bringing to my mind this quotation from the works of Newman. I first read it when I was a callow youth at Oxford. The sermon was recommended to me by my good friend, John Hayes who was reading English at Keble. (Say a prayer for John - he has suffered from ill health for many years.) I learnt it off by heart and was saddened a couple of years later to see how it had been misused by James Joyce in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Newman's use of English was superb; I would be happy to have a hundredth of his mastery of our language which can be so beautiful. Here it is - my Christmas present to you, my kind readers. Read it out loud and learn it by heart! After all those years, it still makes me weep.
He once had meant to come on earth in heavenly glory, but we sinned; and then He could not safely visit us, except with a shrouded radiance and a bedimmed Majesty, for He was God. So He came Himself in weakness, not in power; and He sent thee, a creature, in His stead, with a creature's comeliness and lustre suited to our state. And now thy very face and form, dear Mother, speak to us of the Eternal; not like earthly beauty, dangerous to look upon, but like the morning star, which is thy emblem, bright and musical, breathing purity, telling of heaven, and infusing peace. O harbinger of day! O hope of the pilgrim! lead us still as thou hast led; in the dark night, across the bleak wilderness, guide us on to our Lord Jesus, guide us home.
John Henry Newman, Discourses to Mixed Congretations 17 (second sermon on the Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son)

Devotion to the baby Jesus

What happened to devotion to the baby Jesus? Some time in 1967, Sister Mary Paul (now Jody) went on a course given by Fr Trendy Trousers and learnt that the infancy narratives were all fictional, that it did children irreparable psychological harm to talk about the baby Jesus and that adults had to be more grown-up and think of Jesus only as "the man for others."

In a "hermeneutic of continuity moment" earlier this week, I got to thinking about this particular devotion and my parishioners have heard me mention it both from the pulpit and in the confessional. So it must also go on the blog.

When St Francis constructed the crib at Greccio, he showed his saintly understanding of psychology. Many of the saints have encouraged us to picture scenes from the Gospel in our imagination. By constructing the nativity scene, we give ourselves the opportunity to meditate upon the awesome mystery that it represents. The Word of God, all-powerful, omniscient, creator of the universe, begotten of the Father before time began, came to visit us as a baby. We can also reflect on the part played in the scene by Our Lady, St Joseph, the shepherds or the magi: but I think that the 1960s denigration of the baby Jesus has remained in the theological subconscious so that we are perhaps a little embarrassed even to use this expression. It is against that embarrassment that I wish to take up arms.

My own thought was this: whenever parents bring a new baby to Church, there is a kind of rugby scrum afterwards. People want just to see the little child - they count themselves lucky if they are able to stroke his head or to hold him. Something in us responds immediately, with an infallible instinct, to a small infant. (One day, a consultant in the parish was at the edge of such a scrum and joked "Let me through, I'm a doctor!")

By imagining in our prayers the infant Jesus, cradled in his mother's arms, we can appreciate the infinite humility of our God. Despite our having sinned against him, turned our backs on him, cast him out of our lives in favour of some paltry gain, petty vindictiveness, or passing pleasure that we have placed at a higher value than his love, he has not cast us off, destroyed us, sent us to hell. Instead, the all-holy God has come to us utterly weak and vulnerable, a tiny infant whom nobody could fail to love.

This, surely, is a most powerful reason for giving thanks for our Christian faith. Allah is indeed all merciful, just and powerful. But his mercy is shown in a way that exceeds anything we could dare to hope for. This baby is the living God and he invites us to love him, to change our lives, to give him our all.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Striking picture of Our Lady

I found this lovely picture today at the blog of Fr T E Jones St Peter's, London Docks. Father added the text:
What a great thing, if, during temptation, all Christians thoughtof confidently invoking Mary's name ! They would certainly never fall. (S. Alphonsus Liguori: The Glories of Mary)
Have a look at Fr Jones' blog: there are some very good things there, typical of that devout Anglo-Catholic remnant of the Church of England.

I hope Fr Jones will not take it amiss if I ask you all to pray earnestly for him to join the Roman Catholic Church. We really need him and many like him. Indeed, we have benefited from many of his confreres who have brought their solid priestly spiritual life to the Catholic Church in England.

Do not underestimate how hard it is for someone to leave the Church of England. There is a sense of responsibility that lingers - perhaps to convert the Church of England back again to true Christian values. There is also the terrible sense of loss that accompanies any journey into the unknown; one former priest described it to me as leaving through the garden gate, knowing that you could never again return to such a homely place. Newman knew this in his own life: we should not minimise it.

But Fr Jones (and apologies if this post has embarrassed you) we would love to have you among us. As the book title put it so well: Come on in. It's awful!

Friday, 22 December 2006

Blackfen Youth Vigil

A few weeks ago, a sixth-former from my parish asked me after 10.30am Mass one Sunday, "Father, can we have a vigil of adoration for young people?" There is only one answer to that: "Yes!" I volunteered to provide pizza and a film afterwards. This was entirely my own initiative: the young lady concerned would have settled simply for the vigil of adoration but I felt that it would be good to offer some recreation afterwards.

Tonight we met at 6pm, exposed the Blessed Sacrament with the O Salutaris and a short opening prayer of adoration. I then went into the confessional and stayed there to hear confessions while the youngsters said the Rosary, taking it in turns to lead the decades, then had some periods of silent prayer interspersed with various set prayers taken from different sources. (Fr Stephen Langridge will be pleased to hear that they prayed for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.)

We finished with the Tantum Ergo, versicle and Corpus Christi Collect, Benediction and Divine Praises. The young leader included the Divine Praises in the booklet (which she produced and copied herself) with a mention of their original purpose of reparation for blasphemy. I often make this explicit, (and did this evening) mentioning especially blasphemies in the mass media. Afterwards, Domino's Pizza supplied the refreshments. (The local branch know me well via the internet.) It was a great evening and we are planning our next youth vigil for sometime end-January, early February.

The film we watched was Molokai, the story of Fr Damien (1840-1889) and his priestly work on the Hawaiian island where those with leprosy were exiled. He eventually contracted the disease himself and died of it. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Molokai is a moving film with some glorious scenes. The classic is the one where the Bishop finally goes to hear Fr Damien's confession - this is the one thing that he sadly misses on the mission. Fr Damien makes his confession in French from a boat. In fact, he used to make his confession in Latin from the quayside to any priest who was on a ship visiting the island.

Then there is a moment when your heart sinks; a young lady comes in to see him and tells him how special he is. You think that there is going to be one of those "Hollywood moments" with the priest giving in to temptation, but Fr Damien says to the young woman "No, I mean it, please leave!"

At another point, he is subjected to an intimate medical examination by an arrogant doctor who believes that leprosy is the final stage of syphillis, the result of immoral behaviour (nothing unpleasant is shown on screen). As Fr Damien leaves the doctor's surgery, he shoves the chair violently against the desk in legitmate anger at this slur on his virtue. The closing scene where a radiant sister finally comes to minister to him in his last illness (she has previously been prohibited from any contact with him) is absolutely beautiful. I heartily recommend this film.

Mary meets Dolly

Heads-up to an excellent pro-life site with articles and information on bioethical issues. Mary meets Dolly is subtitled "A Catholic's Guide to Genetics, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology." The intro says:
Mary Meets Dolly is, literally, the meeting of the world of genetics and genetic engineering, represented by Dolly, “mother” of modern biotechnology, and the teachings of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of life, represented by Mary, mother of Christ and the Church. So, while “Mary Meets Dolly” may sound glib, its subject matter is definitely not.
The site has topics of interest, links, Church teaching, booklist, glossary and blog. A must for every pro-lifer's bookmarks.

UK Government Dalek social policy

The Daily Mail ran a report yesterday: More than 100 teenage girls a month have multiple abortions. The statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act make depressing reading. Apparently, Simon Blake, the chief executive of the Brook, said that they have "clearly been failed by our education and health systems." Well, yes. And reading the comments from Government officials, it seems they will continue to be so failed. A Department of Health spokesman said:
"Government is determined to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception."
Keep repeating that in a Dalek voice:
Government is determined to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception.
Government is determined to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception.
Government is determined to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception.

[1967... 1977... 1987... 1997... 2007...]

Government is determined to reduce the demand for abortions by improving access to contraception.
And if this approach which condones and promotes promiscuity with the false promise of "safe sex" contines to fail dismally as it has over the lifetime of these poor teenagers, use the backstop:
Never mind the girls and women whose lives are blighted as the second victims of this utterly discredited policy.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Conventual admiratio

Hey look at this! Some Retreat House is teaching the "Prayer of the Frog"!

Carthusian website

Ken very kindly posted a link in the combox to a Carthusian website that I had not seen before. If you select "texts" in the sidebar, you can get the whole text of the book by Dom Guillerand that I have been mentioning. There are also links to a number of Carthusian liturgical texts.

By the way, have a look at Ken's blog Hallowed Ground.

St Alphonsus for priests (Tuesday)

Prayer to be said by the priest after celebrating Mass (Tuesday)

Ah! My Lord, how could I have offended you so many times, knowing that by sinning, I was so greatly displeasing you. I beg you, through the merits of your passion, forgive me, and bind me to you by the bond of your love; may the stench of my faults not separate you from me. Make me acknowledge more and more your goodness, and the love which is owed to you, and the love with which you loved me.

I desire, O good Jesus, to devote my whole self to you, who have willed to offer yourself in sacrifice for me. You have bound me to yourself by innumerable proofs of charity; do not permit me, I pray, ever to separate myself from you. I love you, my God, and I wish always to love you. And how can I live separated from you and without your grace when I have known your love?

I give you thanks because you have borne with me when I was living without your grace and because you have still granted me time for loving you. If destruction should have come upon me then, I would not have been able to love you any more. But because I can love you now, I wish to love you with all my strength, O most sweet Jesus, I ardently desire to please you in all things. I love you, O infinite goodness, I love you more than myself; and because I love you, I give you my body, my soul, and my whole will. Do, and dispose with me according to your good pleasure. I subject myself to you in all things. If you would grant that I should always love you, I ask for nothing else. Give earthly goods to those who want them; I lack nothing and ask nothing else except perseverance in your grace and your holy love.

O eternal Father, relying on the promise of your Son Amen, amen I say to you, if you should ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you (Jn 16.23), in the name of Jesus Christ, I ask of you holy perseverance and the grace of loving you with my whole heart, and of perfectly doing your will from now on. O Jesus, you became a victim for me and you gave yourself for me, so that I should give myself to you, and so that I should immolate my will; for you say: My son, give me your heart (Prov 23.26). Behold my heart, O Lord, behold my heart and my soul which I give to you and completely devote to you. Nevertheless, you know my weakness, O Lord: help me; do not permit me to take back this my desire so that I should sin against you. No! Do not permit this; grant that I may always love you, make me love you as a priest should love you; and as your Son could say while dying on the cross It is consummated, so also in my death, may I be able to say that from this day, I have kept your commandments. Grant that in every temptation and danger of sinning against you I may always come back to you and not fail to implore your assistance through the merits of Jesus Christ.

O Mary most holy, who can do all things with God, obtain for me this grace, that in temptation I may always fly to God and to you.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

We have turned the whole universe away from God

Yesterday, I mentioned The Prayer of the Presence of God by Dom Augustin Guillerand. (See the post for some information about him.) The back cover describes prayer as "a habit of tranquil listening that allows God to enter our souls by all paths and to establish His presence there." I was not quite prepared for the hard-hitting second chapter of Part 1. As soon as I read it, I felt that it would be of interest to readers of this blog.

We might expect a spiritual writer living in the world to be familiar with combat against evil. To read a description by a Carthusian is not necessarily surprising, particularly as it was written during the second World War, but I felt that it had a great impact. Dom Guillerand does seem to get to the heart of the spiritual battle by describing it as a cosmic battle. It is daunting to realise that he is simply and determinedly teaching the life of prayer as the means of reversing the tide of this war.

Here is the selection:
We must pray always in order to be on our guard. Our life, both of body and soul our natural and supernatural life, is like a fragile flower. We live surrounded by enemies. Ever since man rejected the Light that was meant to show him the way, everything has become for us an obstacle and a danger; we live in the shadow of death. Instead of pointing to the creator and leading us to Him, things show only themselves, with the result that we stop at them. The Devil, to whom we stupidly gave them when we gave him ourselves, speaks to us through their many voices; his shadow darkens their transparence. Beyond their attractive forms we no longer seek the beauty they reflect, but merely the pleasure and satisfaction they are able to offer us.

But the enemy is not only at our door; he is even more within us. And he is at our door, because he is within us. It is we who have invited him in. In turning toward him, we have turned the whole universe away from God. This is why the world is against us. It is inimical, hostile to us, and not without reason. Through the world and by it, we have let war loose within ourselves and in everything. This is only what we would expect, but it is terrible all the same.

What a profound definition of peace is St Augustine’s! Above all, in these days, when the world is convulsed to its center, when men and things (the latter through men) serve only to kill and destroy, how necessary it is to ponder well these words, whose very sound is full of the calm they express: Peace is the tranquillity of order. Order means that everything is in its proper place. God made men superior to all things, and all things turned to God as to their source, to receive from Him their being moment by moment, and to thank Him and bless Him. That was the way God acted and this is his order and His peace, It was this that fundamentally constituted the terrestrial paradise and will one day be the heavenly Paradise for those who have understood and taken up again this attitude.

Dwight Longenecker's blog

Fr Dwight Longenecker has a blog called Standing on My Head. It has some pics from his recent ordination as a Catholic priest and some thoughtful "Letters" to various figures. His comment on the Anglican Church is, of course, very well informed.

Pro-life vigil report

St Francis in the centre of Maidstone had a Funeral Mass today at 12.30pm so we started the vigil a little late. We began with the Angelus, the Prayer to St Michael (my suggestion) and Pope John Paul's Prayer for Life, said before the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the porch of the Church. Beginning the Rosary, we had a short procession, led by the picture of Our Lady, just a couple of minutes' walk to the Marie Stopes Centre. We stood on the edge of the pavement opposite the Centre and said 20 decades of the Rosary, including the Mysteries of Light. That takes up the hour of the vigil which concluded with us saying the Divine Mercy chaplet as we processed back to the Church. The vigil finished with singing the Salve Regina.

While we were praying, Michael did the work of pavement counsellor and I have to say that I was most impressed. There was only one woman who did not stop to talk to him. Several stayed and chatted for at least five minutes, sometimes laughing and never looking as though they were trying to get away. It was amusing that one who was just walking by the clinic stayed talking even though her friend was shouting at her from the bottom of the street to get a move on.

Michael said that is was all down to prayer. I am sure that is true; however, I think he also brings great human gifts to this apostolate. Basically, he was offering a free Rosary and Miraculous Medal, together with small leaflets as appropriate. One of them advertised the services of the Good Counsel Network for post-abortion retreats, for example. In some cases, the women he was talking to had been in for a scan and were due to return so we may pray that some will change their mind.

As I said before, this work is absolutely peaceful and non-confrontational. Of course, some people assume that we are there to "condemn" women in difficulty. Such is the power of the media which subtly conveys this impression at every possible opportunity.

Apparently there is usually some vocal opposition from an office opposite the "Centre" and from some passers by. However today there was virtually none of that. Perhaps the office is already closed for Christmas.

Mgr Reilly describes these vigils as going in spirit to Calvary. It was a bit penitential today and I realised that I should have worn some warmer shoes. With the temperature at 2 degrees above freezing, 10 decades in and your feet might as well have spent half an hour in the fridge. Bill Bryson would have been proud of us as we repaired afterwards to a Christian Bookshop with an upstairs café where we had "a nice cup of tea." And it was just the ticket, actually.

If there are any priests in the London area who would be interested in leading the prayers at such vigils from time to time, please contact me. There are various venues (the next is in Brixton) but the Maidstone one needs one or two more volunteers. It's an easy drive down the M20.

New Brussels Sprout survey

Further to Brussels Sprouts. It's official. 80% of the people commenting on this issue so far today like Brussels Sprouts. I don't think I had better add this statistic to the Wikipedia article. Instead, I have devised another poll with ultra-rigorous methodology. Vote as often as you like.

(I was going to post the picture of the Brussels Sprouts but whenever I have tried to post pictures today, I have been told: "Blogger has been unable to complete your request" - whether I have tried to upload from my own HD or link from the web. Is this a general issue today?)

Maidstone pro-life vigil

I am off now to Maidstone, about 45 minutes' drive down the M20, to lead the prayers in a pro-life vigil outside the Marie Stopes International Maidstone Centre in the town. Here is their list of "treatments" with prices.

The Marie Stopes Centre is just round the corner from the Catholic Church of St Francis. The group will be meeting there to attend the parish's weekday Mass and then say all the mysteries of the Rosary outside the Centre. There is someone on hand to offer counselling in case any of the women wants to change their mind. The vigil is entirely peaceful, prayerful and non-confrontational. Say a prayer that any opponents will also be peaceful - that has not always been the case in the past.

The "Sisters Speaking Bush Telegraph" has a piece about this vigil, describing it as "insensitive, emotionally manipulative and cruel." They should focus their attention on the various people who have forced often young and vulnerable women into the position where they think this is their only realistic option. That's where you find "insensitive, emotionally manipulative and cruel."

The Sisters also have a very good piece about WH Smith selling pencil cases the the Playboy logo on, aimed at the teenage girl market, and their prominent display of "Lad Mags". As they say, "Why should we let Playboy extend their brand and empire to encompass children?" They give a link to a Guardian article "It's porn, innit?" reporting on a protest by girls from the Coloma Convent (Catholic) Girls School.

Extending the porn empire - abortion provision ... the issues are linked, Sisters.

New blog, Christmas and Brussels Sprouts

David has started a blog called The Fullness of Faith. In his profile, he says:
I am an ex-Anglican Vicar, who has now come to recognise that the fullness of the faith is to be found only within the Catholic Church. I now rejoice to be a Catholic, and share in the fullness of the truth. I am married and working as a Catholic lay Chaplain. I am also studying for an MA in Catholic theology. As a convert I am often amazed at how "cradle" Catholics can fail to recognise the beauty of their faith... so I will do all I can to proclaim it here!
He has a post on "Xmas" with a picture of what must be one of the worst Christmas Cards ever: a pile of Brussels Sprouts. I don't know if this is also true in America but here in England, Brussels Sprouts are traditionally served with Christmas dinner and equally traditionally detested.

The article on Wikipedia Brussels Sprout discusses briefly whether it should be Brussel Sprouts and whether it is Britain's most hated vegetable (2002 survey) or the fifth favourite (2005 survey).

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Campaign to free Chen Guang Cheng

This today via Matt O'Gorman of LIFE, via David Alton:

The blind Chinese Human Rights activist, Chen Guang Cheng, has been given a four year prison sentence. He was convicted after exposing and speaking out against the policy of forced abortions and sterilisations in the Shandong Province. More than 130,000 women were forcibly aborted as part of the coercive one child policy.

Jubilee Campaign are launching a nationwide protest calling for Chen's release. This will take the form of a postcard campaign to the Chinese Ambassador in London. The campaign is supported by various pro-life groups.

To order cards, write to:

Jubilee Campaign
96 High Street

or you can e-mail the Director of Jubilee Campaign, Danny Smith

New book on counter-insurgency

My good friend, James Corum, has just had his new book published "Fighting the War on Terror: A Counterinsurgency Strategy." Jim very kindly invited me to dinner at All Souls College last year; he was on a two term visiting fellowship during which he was working on this book. He has also written a couple of books on the Luftwaffe, and "The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans Von Seeckt and German Military Reform" which tells of the first stage of the build-up of German military power between the wars. His writing is lucid and engaging, making his work accessible to the non-specialist.

Here is a link you can use to pre-order the book from Amazon UK:

Today Christmas Repeal Vote

Fr Stephen Langridge tells of the Christmas "legislative wish list" of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. You are invited to send in a nomination for one law to be repealed. I agree with Fr Stephen that it would be a good idea for as many people as possible to nominate the Abortion Act 1967. If it gets to the top six, it could generate some good pro-life publicity. Send in a nomination at the Christmas Repeal Vote page.

Carthusian Christmas and a good book

I was at Parkminster yesterday to give my fortnightly class on Sacramental Theology. There are two new men joining the community and so I will probably meet them when we start up again in the New Year. I did have it down in my diary to lecture on New Year's Day but the Novice Master felt that it would be merciful for all concerned if we were to cancel that one. Yesterday, going in for Vespers, it dawned on me that I would have the opportunity of singing the O Adonai antiphon in a monastic setting from the great Antiphonale that they use.

Christmas Day itself is observed with great solemnity at Parkminster of course. I am told that the Night Office is the most beautiful of the year. One time, Dom Cyril was urging me to come for it but I had to explain that I had Midnight Mass in the parish.

However, there is an extended recreation (between None and Vespers) on St Stephen's Day - the only day in the year when this happens. I have been invited to join them so I will drive down after my morning Mass for the Altar Servers. I think this has to count as quite an exclusive party!

The Procurator always gives me some goodies to take home. Yesterday, I had some apples from the orchard and a jar of honey, a beautiful Christmas Card with a specially composed poem on Christmas, and a book. This is "The Prayer of the Presence of God" by Dom Augustin Guillerand, a Carthusian who died in 1945. He joined the Carthusians in 1916 and was appointed Prior of Vedana in Italy in 1935. He had to leave Italy in 1940 and found refuge in the Grande Chartreuse where he was appointed co-adjutor to the Father General, a post he held until he died.

Dom Guillerand was like St Francis de Sales in one particular; he had a fiery temperament which he completely tamed through prayer and penance so that he was known as a calm and peaceful man. He destroyed most of his writings but left a few to his nephew which form the collection of thoughts in this book.

It is published by the Sophia Institute Press. Their website is well worth visiting for the excellent collection of titles, including Angel in the Waters, a lovely book for children about a baby growing in the womb - it can be read online.

A new priestly blog

I mentioned a while back that Fr Richard Aladics had started a blog called Friends with Christ. He has been joined as a co-author by Fr Julian Green who is the Catholic chaplain to the University of Birmingham. He also teaches at Oscott College and the Maryvale Institute.

Young Adults’ Retreat at Balham

This from Fr Stephen Langridge:
The annual Youth 2000 New Year Retreat for young adults will take place at the Holy Ghost Church, Balham. It begins on Friday 29 December and ends at lunch time on Monday 1 January. The retreat attracts up to 500 hundred young people from all over the country. We would like to invite young adults (18-30 year olds) to join us for the retreat. A special invitation is extended to any young person (16-30 years) who wishes only to join us for the opening Youth Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kevin on Friday night. Registration is from 6pm. There is a meal at 7pm. The Mass begins at 9pm. For more information visit:
or email:
You can also get more details on Fr Stephen's New Year Retreat Timetable post.

Great books online

Fr Schofield over at the Roman Miscellany has been browsing through the Internet Archive and found some gems. He has listed them in his post Online Library. This is the link to get you straight to the Text Archive. (some of the stuff listed on the front page of the main archive is not very nice.)

I was particularly delighted to find Challenor's Garden of the Soul. I used to have an old copy of this but lost it some years ago.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Putting Christ back into Christmas

The Linebacker is back! Here he is, putting Christ back into Christmas.
Christmas Linebacker

H/T to the Roman Miscellany

The investiture of Sir Dan!

I have just checked the poll and, quite fortuitously, the number of votes is 325-0 in favour of Dan Cooper being hailed as "Sir Dan of the Nesbitry" by acclamation. That is exactly the number required!

Here is the official press photo, on the occasion of his investiture, complete with armour and steed. He is ready to ride off and fight against deviousness, blasted wonky types, anything pathetic or generally boggy.

Should you meet him at the Faith Winter Session, you will need to buy several Faith Pamphlets if you are not to feel the crack of his knightly lance around the temples.

Doctor Dylan James!

Fr Dylan James successfully defended his doctoral thesis and has been awarded his doctorate from the Alphonsianum. The title of the thesis was:
The Definition of the Human Person in the context of Bioethics: a comparison of Catholic and Secular thought with particular reference to contemporary British authors Mary Warnock and John Harris.
The work also included a study of the embryo and of brain death, examining how we might define the start and end of life.

Dr Dylan is very grateful for all your prayers.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes

Mon 28th May - Fri 1st June 2007.

Each year, my parish runs a Pilgrimage to Lourdes during the summer half-term holiday. Mac does all the practical organisation, booking flights, hotel etc. Because we do it ourselves, we are able to keep the cost low. This year, I think we will have to have Mass at Blackfen before we go on the Monday, because we will get there just before supper and will want to leave people able to take part in the torchlight procession in the evening. We take part in the international Mass on the Wednesday, the English Mass at the Grotto on whichever day we are allocated and book chapels for the other two days. We stay at the Hotel D'Angleterre which is very near the Domaine. Anyone who wants to join us is welcome.

Half-board 3-star accommodation within easy reach of the Domaine, coach transfers and flights (Gatwick-Toulouse) £320 per adult (sharing), £160 per child under 16. Single supplement extra.

If you want to come, get in touch with Mac who is organising it. She has put up a post talking about Pilgrimage Planning. from

Last date for booking is 14 Feb 2007. Bookings after this date may incur a supplement - we pass on any extra cost we incur.

"The Roman Breviary" online

Shawn Tribe, over at the New Liturgical Movement has posted the news that The Roman Breviary by the Marquess of Bute has now been made available online by the Canadian Internet Archive. This translation is somewhat eccentric but it is an extremely helpful reference work with lots of helpful footnotes. As it pre-dates the reforms of Pope Pius X, it is closer to the Breviary revised after Trent.

Here are the links to the Volumes:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4

The burning babe?

Joanna has a hilarious post today about singing carols at Victoria Station. After telling of the choirmaster from the Ministry of Defence giving them some impromptu drill, she explains how Regulations require that when singing carols in a railway station, you have to be equipped with a fire extinguisher. They're obviously keeping the flame of faith alive.

"The Soul of the Embryo" shortlisted for prize

The book by David Jones, The Soul of the Embryo, has been shortlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize for religious books. In the current issue of Faith Magazine, there is a review of the book by Edmund Nash which concludes with the wish that the book should be read and discussed widely.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Fr Dylan James defensor

Say a prayer today for Fr Dylan James, a priest of the Diocese of Plymouth. He is defending his doctoral thesis in the viva voce examination today. I don't know the exact title of his thesis but he has been working on the concept of personhood, especially as it relates to the personhood of the embryo.

I got stung!

I just paid my car tax using the all new direc-gov website to make it easier for Gordon Brown to rob us electronically. 12 months road tax on my Nissan Primera cost me £190. Ouch!

Entering it in my accounts, I see that last year it cost £155. That's an increase of 22.5%. To put you in the picture if you live in America, £190 is $372 at today's exchange rate. The road tax is just to keep the car legally on the road - insurance, tax on petrol, tax on the cost of the car are all extra to this.

(BTW - how much is a litre of ordinary unleaded petrol (sorry - "gas") in the US?)

Conference on Spiritual Warfare

Fr Jeremy Davies recommended this to me. As it is on a Saturday, I am unable to attend. However, I thought some readers might be interested.

Saturday 13th January 2007 - 10am - 4am
Church Hall, Holy Apostles, Cumberland Street, LONDON SW1V 4LY

St John of the Cross and the Path of Spiritual Freedom
Fr Iain Matthew O.D.C (author of 'The Impact of God'),

The Jewish People and the Second Coming
Roy Schoeman (author of 'Salvation is from the Jews') and

Exorcism and Evangelisation
Fr Sean Conaty (of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle)

Tickets priced at £10 are available on the door or in advance from
Dcn Mike Bykar
58 Haselmere Ave
(please enclose SAE).

Please bring your own lunch.

Do we live in a multiverse?

Richard Dawkins, in his recent book The God Delusion ultimately relies on the concept of a multiverse as the answer to the argument for the existence of God which is drawn from the fact that the universe is structured according to fundamental laws which apply across the whole universe.

The Templeton Foundation (incidentally, a pet hate of Richard Dawkins) sponsors research and discussion on the relationship of science and religion. Each month, the Foundation hosts and online exchange on some important question related to its mission. This month, the question is "Do we live in a multiverse". The dedicated page for the question has an interview with Paul Davies and links to several related articles.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Two good books

Thanks to Fr Stephanos for the link to David Hartline's The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism. It has the following great blurb:
Spread The News, The Tide Is Turning. Many In The Media Are Full Of Doom & Gloom. Don't Believe Their Hype. The Facts Are In The Book & Outlined Below. This Book Is Simply Not Wishful Thinking.
Below Are The Reasons Why The Tide Is Turning

Did you know:

* Vocations Are Increasing!
* The Laity Is Defending The Church In Many Ways
* The Youth's Faithfullness To The Church, Her Traditions & The Holy Father Has Undergone A Profound Resurgence
* Catholic Communications Such As Catholic Radio & Catholic Web Sites & Blogs Have Increased Profoundly
* A Deep Interest In Mary Is Being Witnessed Across The World
* Interest In The Eucharist & Eucharistic Adoration Is On The Rise
* Catholics Are Defending Their History & Teachings That Some In Secular Society Mock Or Don't Understand
For more information, see the notice in Catholic Report. I couldn't find it on Amazon UK yet.

Shawn Tribe has a Book Review of Cardinal Reflections. Active Participation and the Liturgy. which carries articles by Cardinals Arinze, George, Medina-Estevez and Pell. This is an important topic that is widely discussed. Anyone who wants to go beyond the primary-school-assembly model of liturgical participation that is so commonly taken for granted would probably find this a good place to start. To get it, you can follow this link to Cardinal Reflections at Amazon UK

Bringing out the inner Savonarola

Dale Price (from Detroit, Michigan) has a blog with the excellent title Dyspeptic Mutterings. I Just came across a post of his called: Affirm and go hottubbing, for yours is the reign of God. He begins by saying "Some things just bring out my inner Savonarola" and launches into a fun five-star rant about a spiritual reflection on Advent that he characterises as a "slice of USCCB-certified Grade A headcheese." A sample:
The distant and neuter God loves you. Period. There's nothing that makes God angry. Jesus came as a symbol of divine love--no atonement there. What's remarkable about this is that Fr. Overberg has. no. clue. how this obliterates social justice advocacy. If God truly loves unconditionally, then not even screwing the poor and building a nuclear death ray to fry puppies and redwoods from one of the Lagrange Points is going to hack Himherit off. Godself is all about acceptance--and nothin' but.
Rant or no rant, he's spot on. Jesus did not say:
"If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him affirm himself, put down his cross and have a rest."
(H/T The Curt Jester)

John Fisher School website and Sir Dan

The John Fisher School website has a picture of the school chapel decorated for the final part of Advent. This is the chapel where I began attending daily Mass before school when I was 16. There were various priests at the school in those days (I'm talking mid-1970s) and several of us used to go to Mass early in the morning. There was also Benediction after school on Friday - a tradition that continues today.

If you look at the Christmas Newsletter (pdf), you will find, on page 9, a report on the Faith Club. This was started in 1972 and I was one of the early Chairmen - two after Andrew Nash, the brother of Auntie Joanna. There have been many priestly vocations from the Faith Club since that time. When Fr Roger Nesbitt was moved to a parish (in 1979, I think) we were worried about the future of the Faith Club at the school.

However, Dan Cooper has done sterling work keeping it going more than 25 years on. It still meets in what used to be Fr Nesbitt's study - a room we nicknamed "The Nesbitry." He is well known for his sayings such as "Don't be devious!" and "Have you seen the Herald?" He also offers pungent comment on contemporary culture. My own all-time favourite is
"Have you heard about that film Love Actually? It's fornication, actually."
In every way, I think Dan would be an ideal candidate for a papal knighthood. (He would not really want this - which is all the more reason for him to get it.) The problem is that he has not served on any Committees, edited a publication that dissents from the Magisterium, or donated $10 million to an ugly modern Cathedral so he's probably not on the A-list.

Therefore, I wish to propose a blogoshperical knighthood ("Sir Dan of the Nesbitry") by acclamation. Please take a moment to cast your vote in the poll on the sidebar. Vote as many times as you like.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Selective bible affirmation

Interesting post from Gerald Augustinus about a Bible version that tailors itself to your name. See The Bible is all about me. You can get the picture from a couple of examples that came up for me:
John 15:15 Fr Tim Finigan is a friend of Christ.
No longer do I call Fr Tim Finigan a servant, for a servant doesn't know what his lord does. But I have called Fr Tim Finigan a friend, for everything that I heard from My Father, I have made known to Fr Tim Finigan.

II Cor. 2:14 Fr Tim Finigan is led triumphantly by Christ.
But thanks be to God, who always leads Fr Tim Finigan in triumph in Christ, and reveals through Fr Tim Finigan the sweet aroma of His knowledge in every place.
I can see the point of encouraging people to understand that the scriptures apply to them personally and this kind of thing could (sparingly) be used as a homiletic device, perhaps. However, the rather self-indulgent feel of overdoing the personalisation is accentuated when you discover that the Personal Promise Bible website also offers print-on-demand Bibles all tailored to your name.

Another question that comes to mind is "Why we should stick only to the nice bits?" How about Psalm 68, for example?
Psalm 68.21-25 Let thy burning anger overtake Fr Tim Finigan.
Fr Tim Finigan gave me poison for food, and for my thirst he gave me vinegar to drink. Let Fr Tim Finigan's own table before him become a snare; let his sacrificial feasts be a trap. Let Fr Tim Finigan's eyes be darkened, so that he cannot see; and make his loins tremble continually. Pour out thy indignation upon Fr Tim Finigan, and let thy burning anger overtake him. May his camp be a desolation, let no one dwell in Fr Tim Finigan's tents.
I think there's an important Catholic/Protestant doctrinal divide here. If our justification is imputed, and we are saved once and for all, then only the nice verses apply to us. But as Catholics, we believe that justification is an interior healing that carries on through life, can be lost through sin, and restored through the sacraments.
For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God. (Council of Trent: Session 6, Decree on Justification. chapter 9)

No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life, ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; as if it were true, that he that is justified, either cannot sin any more, or, if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance; for except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God hath chosen unto Himself. (ibid. chapter 12)
Catholics would do well to become more familiar with Trent's Decree on Justification: regarded as probably the finest statement of the Council of Trent. Ecumenical programmes involving Catholics and evangelical Christians often simply assume a protestant understanding of justification - and the Catholics rarely notice. Here is a link for the text of the 6th Session of the Council of Trent, which contains the Decree on Justification.

Holistic Indian Head Massage

Ah, the internet's an amazing thing. One of the services offered at the Emmaus Centre is Holistic Indian Head Massage. (None of that reductionist, atomistic Indian Head Massage here!)

If you look up "holistic indian head massage" on Google, you have to click through a couple of pages of sponsored adverts before you get to the search results. So there's obviously money in this. Should you be inclined to a career in HIHM, you can get a qualification from most up-to-date Universities and Colleges. You can, for example, gain an ITEC Certificate in Indian Head Massage at St Mary's, Strawberry Hill. It's all quite serious stuff. Here are the course requirements:
The ITEC Certificate in Indian Head Massage will be achieved with 4 days of attendance followed by the production of 4 case studies (3 times each), to be submitted to the examiner together with a 2-hour written exam paper and a practical assessment. You will also be required to undertake home studies of approximately 4 hours per week.
That little lot should significantly reduce the chances that you'll accidentally poke someone's eye out. It is also reassuring to find that "Indian Head Massage can be performed without the need to undress." It apparently balances the chakras, too. Well that certainly sounds like a good thing. Who'd want to be going round with their chakrahs all wonky and out of balance? OK, I admit it, I haven't a clue what my chakras are. Off to Google again...

It seems we keep coming back to Reiki with this Indian Head Massage stuff. I find that the chakras are a part of the Reiki healing system. At the Reiki for Holistic Health website, they summarise it all neatly for us.

First of all, to prevent you making a fool of yourself at parties, let me knowledgeably assure you that it is pronounced "chuhkruh." Ellie Crystal's metaphysical and science website tells us confidently that the commonly found pronunciation 'shockrah' is incorrect. (Boy, would I have looked stupid saying "chacra"!) And Ellie is a Psychic, Therapist, Reiki Master, Teacher, Author, Lecturer, Researcher and Broadcaster so don't even think of trying to make a case for the 'shockrah' pronunciation.

Basically, Chakras (Sanskrit for wheel) are Entry Gates of the Aura. The seven main Chakras are positioned on the central line of the body - they are located in the ethereal body and they express the embodiment of spiritual energy on the physical plane. You see, within the physical body resides a body double, a spiritual body, that contains the Chakras. They are responsible for your physical, mental and spiritual functions and they absorb and transmit energies to and from the universe, nature, heavenly beings, people and even things.

So, my advice to you is this. Don't go near an Indian Head Massager or a Reiki Healer. If you should chance to be within striking distance, keep your wallet safely in your pocket or handbag and say the prayer to St Michael.
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