Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Two views of Lourdes

As I was such a glorious day, I re-took one of my favourite views of the basilicas.

I also tried to reproduce a shot of the hemicycle that I have seen on a postcard. This is the best I could do, together with some slightly wacky colour balancing:

Here is one of the chapels inside. To be frank, I think that the average B&Q warehouse is more attractive.

I drafted that post earlier. This afternoon, in the space of less than half an hour, the weather suddenly changed and there was a violent hailstorm for about five minutes. Unfortunately, it washed out the Blessed Sacrament procession and when it dried up a litle, everyone headed straight to the underground basilica. I'll see if I can get some photos tomorrow.

Finding St Bernadette

There are plenty of statues of St Bernadette around – here is one of my favourites:

In addition to the statues, however, I was looking for the relics of the saint. As I mentioned, they have been moved from the crypt chapel. At the Forum Information, a Spanish sister tells me that they are in “un hotel” on the left side of the esplanade. Feeling slightly confused, and presuming that "hotel" can means something else as well as a place where you sleep, I make my way to the left side of the esplanade. Sometimes, you should look for things in an obvious place:

After seeing a couple of comments, I need to add here that St Bernadette's incorrupt body is kept at the Convent at Nevers. The reliquary under the altar in the photograph just contains some relics, not her whole body.

International Mass

I wanted to take some photographs at the International Mass today so I said Mass just after 7am in one of the little chapels off the Crypt Chapel. It is worth mentioning again for priests that you can walk into the Sacristy there at any time of the day and they will set you up for a private Mass. If you have a small group (less than, say, 10 people), you can bring them with you.

This year, at the International Mass, perhaps in response to Sacramentum Caritatis, the Eucharist Prayer from the epiclesis to the consecration was said in Latin - well it is a start. Archbishop Vincent Nichols was the principal celebrant. Here you can see him from my angle, behind the crowds, and on the hanging screen which shows the angle from a suspended camera:

Looking round the Basilique St Pie X, I see that the hanging pictures of the saints now have new saints on the reverse. I was pleased to see Blessed Charles, the Austro-Hungarian emperor included. Joanna and Jamie Bogle wrote a book about him which I recommend.

Today is a beautiful sunny day in Lourdes so I am carrying round the big camera with me. After Mass I met Fr Greg Hogan, Fr William Massie, and his mother.

Outside after Mass, there were a number of photograph sessions going on. Here is the group from Plymouth Diocese:

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Mass in the Crypt

Our Mass this morning was at 8am in the Crypt chapel, the first to be built and the only one to be visited by St Bernadette herself. The relics of St Bernadette used to be housed here in one of the side chapels. This meant that people at Mass were often distracted by people shuffling round to venerate the relics. They have been moved now: I’m not sure where and I intend to find out. This is one of the many small practical improvements made by the Shrine authorities. Mass in the Crypt Chapel is now uninterrupted and the addition of an extra pair of glass doors in the corridor leading to the chapel means that it is much quieter than before.

After Mass, some of the pilgrims watched the official film about St Bernadette and in the early afternoon went on the tour “In the footsteps of St Bernadette” run by the very efficient shrine guides. They give a tour which is historically well-informed, doctrinally sound. The guides are friendly and full of faith which they gently share with their pilgrims.

Straws in the wind

Although it is always a delight to visit Lourdes, the liturgy is not exactly "classical" in style. The music can be particularly awful at times. This is not entirely the fault of the French. I heard some soupy crooning coming up from the Pius X Basilica this morning at Mass for a large English group. In the Pilgrimage booklet this year, there is special hymn to be sung at the International Mass in accordance with this year's theme. It is a jaunty song in 3/4 with the words "Penance, penance, holy penance for the Kingdom of God is close at hand!" It has been translated from the French without regard to the stress in the English sentence so that the last phrase goes "is close AT hand."

I was therefore intrigued to see the welcome sight of these books in the French section of the official shrine bookshop.

Rue du Bourg

One of the most interesting streets in the town above the Domaine in Lourdes is the Rue du Bourg which cuts across from the Rue de la Grotte almost to the Boulevard de la Grotte. At the southern end, there is a shop with antiquarian books including some devotional books in French from the early 20th century and one or two from the 19th century. On the same side a few yards further along there is the English bookshop which is always worth a visit.

A little further along and across the road is the Pro Life Centre, one of the Permanences – permanent establishments each a with particular pastoral focus.

From there I went to visit the lovely parish Church. Tomorrow promises to be a sunny day so if that turns out to be the case, I will go round with the big camera and take some more photos, particularly of the Church and points of interest around the Domaine.


Last evening, surrounded by wires, I counted up the various chargers that I have brought with me. Mobile phone/MDA, laptop, camera batteries, camcorder battery. The camcorder is quite neat – pictured here next to the software CD that came with it. Still photo resolution is up to 10 Megapixels so it will be fine for odd pics here and there. If we have a sunny day this week, I’ll take out the big camera which has a much better lens.

Yesterday evening there were intermittent showers. I did what I usually do in Lourdes and bought a cheap umbrella (6 euros). However that didn’t last long. Up on the esplanade, I was taking a couple of clips of the beginning of the torchlight procession when a gust of wind totalled it – metal spike falling off, that sort of thing.

The coach journey from Toulouse Airport was a full two hours so we only arrived at the hotel just in time for dinner, followed by a quick check-in and then over to the Domaine.

Devotions and wifi

Confession made (absolution received & penance accepted & completed), several large candles lit (paid for first, of course), mortal frame fittingly shocked by dunking in baths (prayers said in Latin), dunking Brancardiers duly blessed, Breviary finished, Grotto visited, rock venerated, ground kissed, water drunk, Rosary Basilica visited... so time for a little blogging.

An enquiry earlier at the tourist office opposite the parish Church was rewarded with a list of locations of internet cafés and wifi hotspots. A big "heads up" to the Café Le Carrefour, just round the corner from the Hotel - it has free wifi. Outstanding! Glad I bought the laptop with me.

There are two big English pilgrimages here this week: Birmingham and Middlesborough. So far, I have met Fr Greg Hogan and Fr John Paul Leonard. Fr William Massie is lurking around somewhere as well...

Being a priest in the square in front of the Basilicas means being on fairly constant "blessing duty." I met two ladies from New York today and blessed their statues and rosaries. Owl of the Remove tells me that there is a group of 40 people from Burlington, Vermont, with their Vicar General here on Pilgrimage. I'll look out for them.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Greetings from Gatwick

Well that's a relief. No nasty settings intervened to prevent me from getting online at the T-Mobile wifi hotspot in the departure lounge at Gatwick airport. Now I know it works, I'll be looking for wifi places in Lourdes. Jolly useful stuff.

Glad to say that I have also found exactly what I was looking for by way of a camcorder. It is very small and only records to an SD card, and will take still photos. It is splashproof so it shouldn't get damamged when I choke on my coffee if I need to video some diocesan group deciding to have Hindu dances at Holy Communion or invoke the name of Allah instead of the Kyrie. YouTube here we come!

Sunday, 27 May 2007

To Lourdes tomorrow

This year our secular substitute holyday happens to fall on Whit Monday. As it is also the school half-term, it is the occasion for the annual parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes. We will have Mass at the Lady Altar first thing followed by the Itinerarium (prayers befoer a journey) and then fly to Toulouse followed by a viewing of Jean Luc Delannoy's excellent film Bernadette on the coach transfer to the Hotel D'Angleterre. I love Lourdes more and more each year and I am really looking forward to tomorrow night's torchlight procession.

Once I have got my Catholic Herald article finshed and emailed to the editor, I will pack: it doesn't take me long - I'm a cleric, I travel light and I don't have to worry what colour shirts to bring. Then I will go to bed happy, knowing that in less than 24 hours I will be praying before the spot where Our Blessed Lady appeared to St Bernadette.

Last year, I blogged from Lourdes via one of the internet cafés. This year I hope to check out the free wifi hotspot that I discovered on the internet. Failing that, I'm happy to pay - there seem to be plenty of hotels with wifi. The challenge will be getting my computer to play along. If not, a café will do.

(By the way: to avoid being flamed, please do not comment on the "terrible commercialism" of Lourdes without first reading my post from last year on... The "terrible commercialism" of Lourdes)

Press photos from Birmingham Oratory

Peter Jennings of "International Media Contacts" sent me these photos from the feast of St Philip Neri at the Birmingham Oratory with his kind permission to post them here. The first is of the sanctuary during the Canon of the Mass. The incense is a fitting symbol of the shekinah, the cloud of the presence and the glory of God:

Picture by Peter Jennings

The second was taken in the sacristy after Mass. (L-R) Brother Lewis (subdeacon) Myself, Fr Paul Chavasse (celebrant), Fr Guy Nicholls (deacon)

Picture by Peter Jennings

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Sermon for the feast of St Philip Neri

Some people asked me for the text of the sermon that I preached at the Birmingham Oratory for the feast of St Philip Neri so here it is:

St Philip, a saint for saints
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. (Psalm 33.2)

Fr Bowden in his Miniature Lives of the Saints says that the life of St Bernadine was St Philip’s favourite among the saints and the last he read before his death. Fr Bouyer on the other hand says that the last book he had read to him was the Fathers of the Desert. Perhaps we should make a distinction between reading or being read to; or perhaps St Philip inspired the two fathers with different information as a joke.

We can understand why St Philip loved St Bernadine when we think of the great gatherings of feuding renaissance factions listening to his sermons and then ending with an emotional reconciliation with the bacio di pace. The holy Franciscan’s withering attacks on homosexual vice would also have met with approval surely from the Holy Father who could smell the vice of impurity in some of his penitents.

On the other hand, we can imagine the attraction which the Desert Fathers held for St Philip. His nights of solitude in the catacombs, his frugal diet and his devotion to the ascetical life all speak of lessons learned from those holy Fathers.

Yet we know that St Philip’s ascetical life was combined with the love of genuine friendship and holy allegria. His was an asceticism that could also participate in a wine-drinking contest in the interest of the apostolate.

St Bernadines’ original bonfires of vanities, predated that of Savonarola (whom St Philip also admired greatly) by several decades. Those bonfires find an unexpected echo in the glee of St Philip’s companions at singing “vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas” (vanity of vanities, all is vanity) as they tramped through Rome from Church to Church.

In the history of the Church, there have been various ways of dealing with corruption and worldliness. Not the least of St Philip’s achievements was to trump the worldliness of Rome in has day with a vivid, existential demonstration of the joy of the Christian life of prayer, penance and charity lived without compromise. As Newman put it:
“he perceived that the mischief was to be met, not with argument, not with science, not with protests and warnings, not by the recluse or the preacher, but by means of the great counter-fascination of purity and truth”
In his lifetime too, of course, St Philip was the mentor and acquaintance of saints. Having such devotion to St Bernadine, it must have warmed his heart to have seen the see the completion of the Church of the Gesu for the now thriving company formed by his friend St Ignatius. We can recall the famous saying of St Ignatius that his friend Philip was like a Church bell, calling people to enter but remaining in his tower.

He was also a friend of St Francis Xavier and would have followed him to the missions but for the famous advice of his confessor “Rome will be your Indies”; advice for which I am sure we are all very grateful here.

St Charles Borromeo came to his assistance when he was falsely accused. St Charles’ cousin, Federico was, of course, one of St Philip’s most regular visitors. He was the confessor of St Camillus de Lellis and advised him to become a priest, thereby indirectly being responsible for the founding of the Camillan fathers, and incidentally for a major contribution to care for victims of HIV and AIDS today.

He was also a friend of St Felix of Cantalice and organised with him a procession with a crucifix during the carnival at the conclusion of which a famous fellow Capuchin preached, effectively wrecking the carnival for that year. St Philip managed to get Giuseppe de Cesari to sketch a portrait of St Felix surreptitiously – a portrait that he cherished ever afterwards. Then of course, the heroic virtue of his protégé, Baronius was recognised by Pope Benedict XIV.

It is rightly said of St Philip that he was very cautious and reserved about falling into bad company. However he seems to have been quite adept at falling into good company. Terrible as the reformation was for the Church, God raised up a new “great cloud of witnesses” in response, several of the most renowned being personal friends and confidantes of St Philip. He is almost like the president of a saints’ club. “Almost”, not because there wasn’t a saints’ club – I think that is quite a good description of these varied characters in 16th century Rome – but because the title “President” would never have fitted his unique self-effacing and humble way of influencing others to follow Christ.

His character was different from the determined and necessary vigour of St Charles to ensure that the decrees of the Council of Trent did not become a dead letter, excommunicating offenders where necessary. He did not require of his company the military obedience that was necessary for St Ignatius to organise the counter reformation. And he did not go around Rome with a shirt of mail studded with spikes as did his friend St Felix. He was radically different from all of them yet a cherished friend of each. He understood the importance of the unique and necessary contribution which God in his providence had called each of them to make to the to the life of the Church; yet he did not find it necessary to imitate their particular characteristics, being a large enough and saintly enough character to bring his own unique and universal attractiveness to his apostolate in Rome itself.

I believe that the “saints club” did not finish at his death. We may discern in St Philip’s life an anticipation of the characteristics of many saints who were to follow him.

When we consider the effect St Alphonsus had in preaching on the last things so graphically, we may recall the tactic of St Philip Neri in getting worldly young men to consider graphic reconstructions of being in the tomb or conversing with a poor soul in hell.

The long hours spent in the confessional by St John Vianney remind us of St Philip’s habit of hearing 40 confessions before dawn and even cutting short his thanksgiving after Mass in order to hear confessions until lunchtime.

Reading the life of the little flower, dear St Therese, we find that she wanted to be a missionary and even became the patron saint of the missions without leaving her native France. She echoes the desire of St Philip to follow his friend St Francis Xavier.

St Francis de Sales’ understanding of the world, St John Bosco’s skill at motivating boys, St John Eudes’ love for the Blessed Sacrament, St Vincent de Paul’s practical love for the poor could all be found in the life of St Philip.

Fr Bouyer said that St Philip lived in an age “captivated by beauty, freed from all control, and suspicious of any restraint…” Newman describes well his response to that age
“he preferred tranquilly to yield to the stream, and direct the current, which he could not stop, of science, literature, art, and fashion, and to sweeten and to sanctify what God had made very good and man had spoilt.”
It has often been said of St Philip that he was, in the best sense “all things to all men”. Perhaps that why he has retained such affection from his many followers in the Oratories and those who come to known him through their work.

Our age has many characteristics in common with his except perhaps that it is captivated less by beauty and more by excitement and sensual pleasure. His uncompromising insistence on purity is necessary today more than ever.

His jocularity and sense of fun is important but should always be seen in conjunction with his asceticism and love of the Mass. It would be easy enough to promote a Catholic life that was superficial and witty. The genius of St Philip is not that he could play jokes on others – any fool can do that. St Philip managed to do so as a part of his apostolate which had the determined aim of saving sinners from hell and producing saints instead.

It is that which the Church needs in any time of reform. It needs it today and we pray to dear St Philip to help us also to begin to do some good.

Oratory hospitality

For me as a parish priest living on my own, it is always a tonic to spend a little time in a community of priests. As you can see from the photos in previous posts, the Birmingham Oratory Church is glorious in its splendour and a fitting home for the worship of God. The Oratory itself is not a place of luxury, however. The house bespeaks a proper sense of priestly moderation and asceticism whilst being a comfortable home for the Fathers. Here is the room which I was given:

Meals are taken in common in the refectory, in silence. Around the walls are portraits of illustrious oratorians:

At formal meals, one of the community reads from the lectern:

The common room is the venue for recreation after meals. The Fathers and their guests sit together and converse on matters of interest, ensuring that the day does not pass without interaction between members of the community. Here is the common room:

The main staircase boasts a good portrait of St Philip Neri:

Upstairs is the library of "the Cardinal" - J H Newman, of course. Browsing the volumes here, the visitor is likely to come across annotations made by Newman himself in the margins of his books.

At the end of the main residential corridor is a bust of St Philip and here is Fr Guy Nicholls, one of the Fathers and a contemporary of mine from Rome:

Round the Oratory Church

Between my own Mass and the High Mass, I had some time to go around the Church and take some photographs. Here is the beautiful Lady Altar:

At the eastern end of the north aisle is a small chapel dedicated to St Philip Neri which recalls the chapel in the Chiesa Nuova in Rome where the Father's body is enshrined:

Last night and today the relics of St Philip were solemnly honoured:

Around the Church are a number of painted canvas hangings with scenes from the life of St Philip. They are now quite faded but the lighting in the Church has been arranged so that they can still be seen. One favourite for any alumnus of the English College in Rome is the scene of St Philip meeting the students. He used to say to them Salvete flores martyrum! ("Hail, flowers of the martyrs!")

The students would go to see St Philip to obtain his blessing before their return to England and, for many of them, death for the faith.

My visit to Birmingham was at the request of the Fathers who had kindly invited me to preach for the feast day. Here is the rather terrifying pulpit from which I spoke:

A couple of views from the sacristy; first the press where vestments were laid out for the priests who came to concelebrate:

And here is the press with the vestments laid out for the Celebrant, Deacon and Subdeacon.
Mass was celebrated according to the Novus Ordo. It represented a real example of the "hermeneutic of continuity" whereby the celebration of Mass with the scripture readings in the vernacular was visibly in continuity with the ancient Roman Rite. The music was absolutely glorious and at the end of Mass, a popular hymn to St Philip was sung with gusto.

Birmingham Oratory High Altar

Last night we had traditional solemn Vespers with four pluvialists (cantors wearing copes) followed by solemn Benediction. One seminarian from Oscott who came thanked the Fathers afterwards for the opportunity to participate in the "Bible service with Hymns" - an excellent example of seminary wit!

Here is a view down the nave of the Oratory Church:

And here is a closer view of the High Altar:

Above the altar is a depiction of the coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven:

And here is a closer view of the beautiful Testa:

St Philip's Chapel

This morning, I said a private Mass in the St Philip's chapel which is where the Fathers have their "Oratory" or spiritual excercises in the evening:

The figure on the sanctuary is Matt Doyle who kindly came to serve my Mass. Here is a close-up of the altar itself

In the chapel, there is a particularly good statue of Our Blessed Lady:

And here is the display of relics:

Brummie bloggers

Jackie Parkes (Catholic Mom of 10) hosted a bloggers' meeting in Birmingham that ended up as an impromotu Catholic family day. Pictured above are Fr Sean Coyle, editor of Misyon Online (left) , Jackie and Fr Gerry. Fr Guy came along later as did another family and my sister, Jane ,with some of her children; including Damien so that we could have a "Dominus vobiscum" session.

I think the star of the show was Maddie, held here by her mother, Wendy:

Matt Doyle, Maddie's father, was also there and has posted on the meeting over at Lacrimarum Valle.

And here is Maria Ines with her mum, my sister Jane:

Friday, 25 May 2007

Cathedral in the Eye

Westminster Cathedral has attracted the notice of Private Eye. In the current edition, there is a piece on page 12 "Music and Musicians" reporting on a new work by John Tavener, commissioned by the Prince of Wales that is to be performed in the Cathedral. According to the article:
It is based on the Koran and sets the 99 names of Allah to music, to be intoned over an hour and a half with choir, full orchestra and Tibetan gongs.
Lunchtime O'Boulez comments
To a liberal minded Christian this may all seem unexceptionable, even worthy. But it's treading dangerous ground, not least because no one seems to have done much research into what Muslims will think about giving the names of Allah full choral treatment in a Catholic cathedral. "It will be a respectful, reverent event and we're not anticipating problems," said a spokesman. So that's alright then.
He has a point. It is not so long ago that the Cathedral piazza (a public highway) saw another form of Islamic expression:

Photo: Joee Blogs

It may be that singing the names of Allah in the Cathedral is intended as a conciliatory gesture but I do hope that Lunchtime O'Boulez is wrong and that somebody has checked how this will go down with the Muslims. Webislam seem happy enough at any rate.

Of course, from a Catholic point of view, there are questions to be raised about the appropriateness of the initiative. I wonder what the Bishop of Cordoba would say. He has resisted requests from the Junta Islámica de España to use the Cathedral (a former mosque) for prayer, saying that it would generate confusion and lead to religious indifference. (Article in Typically Spanish)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Warsaw declaration on the family

Delegates at the fourth World Congress of Families recently held at Warsaw adopted the Warsaw Declaration. Here is an extract:
"The future of humanity passes by way of the family"[3] and "there is no more efficient way for the rebirth of the society than its rebirth through healthy families"[4] that are faithful to their conjugal and parental vocations.

Such families bring to the world today:
  • Faithfulness to the Divine Truth versus relativism;
  • Real love, being the complete and impartial gift of oneself versus hedonism;
  • Faithfulness in love throughout life versus lack of responsibility toward those closest to us;
  • Respect for the life of every human being from conception to natural death versus discrimination against and extermination of the weakest;
  • Joyful responsibility for every child-to-be, versus fear of the child expressed in the contraceptive mentality;
  • A moral community in which young generations can grow versus false ideologies propagating demoralization;
  • And, last but not least, the "springtime" of a civilization of love and life versus "demographic winter."

3 (Familiaris consortio, 86).
4 Speech of the Pope JP II in Szczecin, 11 VI 1987

Visit to Birmingham

The Fathers have very kindly invited me to preach at the Birmingham Oratory for the Feast of St Philip Neri on Saturday. I will be travelling up to Birmingham tomorrow and meeting first at the house of Catholic Mom of 10 where Matt Doyle is going to join us with Wendy and Maddie.

I was going to say something frivolous and rude about the architecture in Birmingham but reflected that my first view of it is generally New Street Station and environs which is perhaps not entirely representative. In any case, I have already offended Man-U fans and it would be silly to alienate the whole of Birmingham as well. So I point you instead to Matt's post on Birmingham Architecture.

In fact, I have no reason to be superior since I will be leaving from the equally ghastly Euston Station. I might take some pictures of it just for a laugh.

Aid to the Church in Need events

I received notice today from Aid to the Church in Need UK of two forthcoming events that I recommend highly.

LEEDS, Saturday 9 June
Mass celebrated by Bishop Arthur Roche in St Anne's Cathedral. Talks afterwards.

Fr Samer Nassif
In Search of a Future: The Lebanese Church
As a Lebanese priest, Fr Samer has had to witness an exodus from his homeland as the people fled from the tragedy of conflict. With tensions in the Middle East at boiling point, the Lebanese Church is once again facing a crisis. Fr Samer examines how the Church is bringing the hope of a brighter future to a flock that has been the innocent victim of violence, political instability and the rise of militant Islam. He asks what the future hold for the Faith in the lands of the Bible, where extremism and fear reign.

Neville Kyrke-Smith
The Soviet Fall-out
Under Soviet communism, the faithful in nations where Christianity once flourished were forced to worship in secret, or under strict controls, to preserve their spiritual heritage. With the collapse of communism, millions hoped for religious freedom.

Recently returned from a project trip to Georgia and Armenia, ACN UK's National Director examines how religion in the former Soviet states is recovering from decades of brutal oppression and asks how free these newly-independent countries really are from Russia. Join us to hear stories of faith, hope and courage - from the heart of the Caucasus to the former Soviet border.

BIRMINGHAM Sunday 17 June
Talks at 2pmn at the Birmingham Oratory. Mass celebrated by Bishop William Kenney at 5.30pm

Fr Saad Sirop Hanna
Christianity in Iraq: a shattered heritage
Returning home from saying Mass in Baghdad last August, Fr Saad was kidnapped at gunpoint. One of a spate of attacks on Iraqi priests, his capture was part of a militant campaign to force Christianity out of Iraq. Freed after a terrifying month in captivity, Fr Saad vowed to pray for his captors. hear how a courageous faithful, led by heroic priests like Fr Saad, is keeping alive Iraq's historic Church

Fr Samer Nassif
In Search of a Future: The Lebanese Church
(see above)

John Pontifex
An Ancient Faith Renewed
years of famine, civil war, dictatorship and extremism threatened to crush the ancient Faith of the Horn of Africa. Yet ACN witnessed a flourishing Church there. Hear their inspiring stories.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Library Thing - brilliant!

Every week, there are dozens of breathless new ideas about how to make use of the internet. Now and again, there is a real gem with tremendous potential. I believe that Library Thing is just such an idea.

Type in a few words from the title of a book in the search box and hit "Enter". The site searches Amazon and the Library of Congress catalogue as well as others. You then select the item which matches the book on your shelf and it is added to your "Library". All the details are included - author, title, date, publisher ISBN etc. It is amazing how quickly it is possible to catalogue a dozen or so books. You can export your "Library" to a file, import from other files, put a widget on your blog etc. The service is free for 200 books and after that it is $10 per year or $25 life membership.

I'll be using this big-time as it is the first practical answer to cataloguing me library without taking a six month sabbatical. I will be doing a shelf at a time. Going through the first Patristics shelf, I found that one or two books didn't show up but I was surprised at how many did.

This site is likely to be a big hit with Catholic bloggers who seem mostly to be quite avid bookworms. Very grateful hat tip to Dilexit Prior at Letters from a Young Catholic.

First experience of the Classical Rite

I thought I would pass on to you (with permission) this comment I received the other day by email from a parishioner:
I attended last Thursdays traditional latin mass which was a first for me. I must admit I had thought I wouldn't really enjoy it,as it seemed a strange and exclusive concept with the priest having his back to the congregation. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was wonderful and very surprisingly I found my concentration and spiritual contribution was far more intense than the normal mass, where at times my imagination takes me away from the celebration, despite my resolution that it will not. I think that because the mass is in latin and because there is far less 'activity', the atmosphere is such that distractions are very minimal.

Many thanks for introducing me to this tradition.

Tom Ward at Warsaw

Dr Tom Ward was one of the speakers at the World Congress of Families in Warsaw earlier this month. He was speaking on behalf of the National Association for Catholic Families. The following is an extract from his speech:

The Rights of the Family
Pope John Paul taught us that loving the family means identifying the dangers and evils that menace it in order to have the knowledge, ability and confidence to overcome them. True optimism is based on realism. The United Kingdom is a nation in an advanced stage of the Culture of Death. Our policies have a pivotal role in the attack on families both in that quarter of the world which shares our Common Law Jurisdiction and in the European Union. As a family doctor of almost 40 years standing and as a founder of an association of families I now wish to highlight three dangers to our families.

Danger 1
The failure of many of those in authority in the Church to follow the unequivocal teaching of the Popes on the grave immorality of the artificial separation of the unitive from the procreative components of human sexuality in spite of the evidence of the damage done to marriage and young people from contraception, from the horrors of IVF and now the sinister homosexual revolution. It is urgent that the beauty of Humanae Vitae is now taught. Only such a recovery will bring great hope of a new spring -time to our dying continent.

Danger 2
In the United Kingdom a legal infrastructure has now been laid down for a massive attack on the Church and on our families. In particular the Sexual Orientation Regulations seek to privatise and penalise the Magisterial teaching of the Church on human sexuality, marriage and the family. The financial penalties are severe. The lives of our families are based on these God-given truths. We will respond to these threats to our families by continuing to joyfully announce these truths to all and by remaining totally faithful to our beloved Holy Father Pope Benedict.

Danger 3
The usurpation by the State of the right and duty of parents to be the primary protectors and educators of their children. The removal of this God-given inalienable right leaves their children without protection from pressures both for premature sexualisation and now homosexualisation.

So how better to respond to these challenges than with these words of Pope John Paul II?

‘Be not afraid - The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear…There is every reason for the truth of the Cross to be called the Good News.’

That is our hope.

Dr Thomas Ward
President, National Association of Catholic Families
The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima 2007

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Connexions interview

One of my young parishioners was recently interviewed by a Connexions officer. I asked for a written account and am told that part of the interview last year went something like this.
C= Connexions officer, P=Pupil
C Can I have your moble number?
P I don't have one.
C Can I have your home number?
P Why?
C You are the first one to ask that. Because we might need to contact you.
Now this is interesting. The Child Potection Officer for our diocese has advised that Youth Workers should not communicate with young people by mobile phone or text messages because the informal nature of young peoples' use of mobile phones can mean that a wrongly over-familiar personal line of communication is set up. This seems a reasonable precaution to me. Furthermore, schools will not even release under-age pupils contact details to the police without the parents consent.

Another part of the interview went something like this:
C= Connexions officer, P=Pupil
C What do you want to do?
P Medicine
C That's rather difficult to get into, have you considered nursing?
P Well, no, I really want to apply for medicine.
C You'll need good grades. You should do psychology for A level, its easier to get into medicine with that.
Then followed more encouragement to look into nursing.
This would be laughable if it were not so outrageous. Our area is one in which low aspirations of students is a significant factor in preventing the take-up of High Education. The school serves a deprived part of the Borough, the student is well-motivated and gets outstanding results for public exams. And of course the conversation smacks of old-fashioned stereotyping.

Connexions is a Government "support service" for young people in the UK, offering advice and information on careers, housing, work, money... oh, and of course "sexual health" and "relationships". They'll put you in touch with the FPA, the Brook or others if you need condoms, the MAP or a secret abortion.

Their "sexual health" advice includes such gems as:
  • It's much easier and safer to prevent catching STIs by using condoms with all sexual partners
  • Don't be pressured into having sex without using a condom - you're worth it!
Presumably valuing young people like that is meant to make them feel good about themselves. Pass the sick bag!

No smoking at the crematorium?

Yesterday, Stuart Bell was answering questions in Parliament for the Church Commissioners on the matter of no-smoking signs in Churches.
18. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): What the Commissioners’ policy is on smoking in properties for which they are responsible. [137945]

22. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): What preparations the Church Commissioners have made for the coming into force of the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces with respect to cathedrals. [137949]

24. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What advice the Commissioners are giving to cathedral deans in England with respect to the enforcement of no smoking laws from 1 July 2007; and if he will make a statement. [137951]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): Smoking in places of worship has never been acceptable. Policies for many other Church properties, from offices through to schools and church halls, vary, although many, including the national Church offices, are already smoke free. By way of a statement, guidance about the new provisions is being discussed with the Department of Health and will be promulgated as widely as possible, including to cathedral deans

Mr. Prentice: But we are only a few weeks away from the smoking ban coming in, so would it not be absolute lunacy to require cathedrals and churches to affix no smoking signs to their doors?

Sir Stuart Bell: I agree with my hon. Friend. His original question had to do with the Commission’s offices, and I can tell him that the national Church institutions have had a no smoking policy in place since 2000. They have updated the policy recently, to comply fully with the Health Act 2006.

Mr. Swayne: I speak with some feeling, as a man whose wedding photograph is marred by the fact that an exit sign on the ancient church door appears between my wife and myself. Will the hon. Gentleman resist the regulations vigorously? It would be ironic indeed if we were to give way on this matter as, when the members of the council of my parish church applied for permission to put up a plaque containing the 10 commandments, they were told to get lost.

Sir Stuart Bell: I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that his marriage is steadfast, notwithstanding the exit sign. I also agree with the Dean of Southwark that it would not be sensible to place no smoking signs on a beautiful Norman doorway that has been locked closed for 500 years. Discussions on the matters are taking place with the Department of Health, which I believe is taking a reasonable approach to signage.

Michael Fabricant: I was somewhat alarmed to hear the hon. Gentleman say that all smoking was banned, as I presume that incense is not covered. I support the smoking ban in general, and voted for it but, if he is right and we have to have signs, does he agree that they could be Gothic, with twirly whirly bits, or Norman? Signs like that would fit in more appropriately with beautiful cathedrals such as the one in Lichfield.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The House will be pleased to know that the Government’s signage policy will be reviewed in the next three years. In the meantime, I anticipate that we will see Gothic signs, if nothing else.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): The hon. Gentleman has got the idea that there is general outrage among anybody who has an interest in cathedrals. I have the privilege to represent two and I used to sing in another. I hope that he will tell the relevant Ministers that, if it is required, all parties should be absolutely willing to agree a very quick change in the regulations so that things can be absolutely clear before D-day and so that we have no stupid notices on buildings that have not needed them for the last 1,000 years.

Sir Stuart Bell: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The point that he made about regulations is interesting and I will put it to the Department of Health, but we require local authorities to be sensible in their approach and, as of this moment in time, we have no reason to believe that they will be otherwise.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Have the nincompoops who have insisted upon these signs also asked for them to be put up in crematoriums?

Sir Stuart Bell: If we are moving from churches to crematoriums, the hell fires are getting very close, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the lighted cigarette in our churches and cathedrals will not be the beginning of those hell fires.
Text from Hansard.
As a Croydon boy myself, I'm happy to give a Birettat Tip to The Croydonian

Since the Sistine Chapel is also an enclosed public space, perhaps the EU - the real nincompoops from which this daft legislation has originated - will need to insist on an alternative method of announcing a new Pope.

Pro Ecclesia downloads

Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice has now uploaded a number of talks by Catholic speakers including Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Fr Hugh Thwaites and Daphne McLeod. They are available as free downloads. Especially useful if you drive a lot and need something other than mindless radio to listen to.

See the talks page at Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice

East Anglia Seminarians blog

A new blog East Anglia Seminarians by Padraig Hawkins from Cambridge Luke Goymour from Peterborough Michael Collis from Ipswich (pictured left) who (I think) are all studying at St Mary's College, Oscott.

I had a trip to Oscott last month to give a talk on Pro-Life preaching - it is great to see that some of the seminarians joined in with the the Birmingham Oratory's pro-life "Siege of Jericho".

Monday, 21 May 2007

Visit to the Adur Valley

Today I enjoyed a tour round the South of England. After driving to Wonersh last night, I joined the community for 7.30am Mass and then spent the morning marking some exams and then going through them with Fr Dingley to check that we were marking fairly. This is a laborious but important task for those students who are taking the BTh degree.

A lunchtime drive along the A281 with a detour round Horsham took me to the Carthusian Monastery at Parkminster where I give a class on Sacramental Theology for the novices and simply professed. We nearly finished the section on the sacrament of Holy Orders today and had some good discussion on the question of the episcopate, the form for the ordination of priests (particularly the ICEL translation) and the theology of gender. It is very helpful for me to get a Carthusian perspective on various disputed questions in theology. As usual, I stayed to join the community in choir for Vespers which is a wonderful privilege.

It was exciting to hear that the paintings in the Chapter Room are being cleaned. These show scenes from the martyrdom of the Carthusians under Henry VIII. When they are finished, I will take my camera down and get some more photos. Here is one that I took last year:

Leaving at 4.30pm, I set the satnav to take me to Shoreham-on-Sea, the home of Fr Sean Finnegan, a fellow alumnus of The John Fisher School in Purley. He had some further things to add on the question of the theology of the episcopate which will be helpful in this summer's revision of my notes. It is always good to spend time in the company of another parish priest discussing matters pastoral, liturgical and theological.

Mercifully, the drive back from Shoreham along most of the length of the M23 and a quarter of the M25 was uneventful, getting me back in reasonable time.

"The Risk of Education" launch

The presentation of the English edition of "The Risk of Education", a book by Fr Luigi Giussani, the founder of the Communion and Liberation movement. The speakers at the event will be Fr Julian Carron (Fr Giussani's successor as leader of CL), Dr Peter Hodgson (Senior Research Fellow in Physics, Oxford University) and Prof John Milbank (Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics, Univ. of Nottingham).

In the book, Fr Luigi Giussani describes true education as "one that matches human reality, that is, educating what is human in us, our source or origin". While the book is written with Christian education in mind, the method outlined - of proposing a tradition which is lived out in the present and that can be critically verified personally by the pupil and educator together - is valid for any human experience.

The event (open to all) is on Thursday 24 May, 7pm at 1 Great George St, SW1P 3AA.

Further information

Birmingham Oratory on Blair

Jackie Parkes has the text of an article by Fr Guy Nichols in the Oratory Bulletin in her post: 'JESUS IS STILL WITH US ' & Mr Tony Blair!. It is an excellent short critique of that hackneyed question "What would Jesus have done?"

Sunday, 20 May 2007

HFEA consultation - Not!

Mulier Fortis has been digging away at the latest HFEA consultation. They are apparently consulting until 20 July 2007 about whether to allow the creation of human-hybrid embryos for the purposes of experimentation.

But the Government has decided to allow it anyway. Details over at:
Consultation ?? Oh Really??

What everyone should read meme

Fr Z has tagged me with a meme. Well, I'm no literary critic and I don't read much fiction but I'll do my best - here goes, off the top of my head.

Three fiction books everyone should read:
1) Charles Dickens: Barnaby Rudge
2) R H Benson: Come Rack, Come Rope
3) Walter Scott: Rob Roy

Three non-fiction books everyone should read:
3) St Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life
1) Broderick's life of Robert Bellarmine
2) Newman's Development of Christian Doctrine

Three authors everyone should read:
1) Seneca
2) St Alphonsus Liguori
3) G K Chesterton

I tag Fr Justin (Nova et Vetera) and Fr Ray Blake (St Mary Magdalen, Brighton).

Saturday, 19 May 2007

FA Cup Final

I just realised that the FA Cup Final was today. Completely passed me by, I'm afraid. Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 after extra time. As a Palace fan in my youth with Milwall second best (I used to go and watch them when I was in Camberwell) I wouldn't normally want Chelsea to win anything. But I'm glad they beat Man-U. The match was in the new Wembley Stadium.

By all accounts, I didn't miss much. Whalley's World of Sport has a six word summary of the match: "DROGBA scored. Chelsea won. Terrible match."

Shot to Nothing has FA Cup Final in quotes from the commentators John Motson and Mark Lawrenson
“Sorry we’re a bit quiet, it’s just that there’s nothing to talk about…” - 30 mins

“Maybe the grass is too long and it’s affecting the play…” - 42 mins

“Any body bored yet?” end of 1st period of Extra Time.
But I think the best comment has to be Whalley:
Today's FA Cup final was the closest I have ever seen a football match get to an episode of Hollyoaks. If you've never seen Hollyoaks (you've probably never lived with a woman under 35), it consists entirely of a lot of very glamorous people constantly arguing with each other about nothing.
If you want to see some real football, featuring Stan Mortenson and Stanley Matthews, here is a Pathe film about the 1948 Cup Final when Man-U beat Blackpool. There are some great moments here "Sun warms the stadium as 100,000 spectators settle themselves for an afternoon's enjoyment as the King greets the players with a friendly handshake", "Blackpool kick orf" etc.

The pro-life power of the blog

An excellent and very encouraging article by Hilary White in Thursday's LifeSite news tells of the power of the blog to fight back against the mainstream media, especially in pro-life matters where we have, over the years, simply become numbed into apathy by the relentless anti-life bias.

This year's March for Life in Canada had a record attendance of just under 7000 people. The organisers have meticulously counted numbers during the past few years because of routinely inaccurate media reporting. This year most media reports "estimated" numbers at about 3500. CBC National News said “about 1,500 demonstrators” gathered on the Hill. CTV News affiliate Ottawa's CJOH said "Hundreds of people from across the country marched from Ottawa's St. Patrick's Basilica and then gathered on Parliament Hill." (They got the route wrong too.) Many other major national and local papers just ignored the march all together. Here's a LifeSite photo of the crowd:

I remember as a teenager first being angered at the media coverage after a major pro-Life rally in Hyde Park - they did the same, "estimating" numbers at about a fifth of the genuine total. Until recently, there has been little we could do to counteract this bias...
But with the advent of so-called ‘citizen journalism’ and such popular websites as YouTube, bloggers are pushing news media towards greater accountability. This year, the mostly under-thirty crowd of 7000 was filmed with hand-held cameras and cell phones and the digital videos were posted to the internet, making it impossible even for such diehard pro-abortion mainstream news outlets as the CBC to ignore.
The quotation is from Hilary White's article:
Bloggers Trump Mainstream Media With YouTube Videos of Canadian March for Life.

This follows up a previous article by Gudrun Schultz and Steve Jalsevac
Mainstream Media Ignores, Falsifies Canadian March for Life Attendance

The LifeSite article has a list of videos on YouTube. Here is one:

And here is a powerful speech by a pro-life Canadian MP

One thing that strikes me is the importance of getting a video camera to carry to events that are likely to be misreported. Off to Amazon...

More on the Ascension

Henry Dietrich posted on the moving of the feast of the Ascension back in 2003 and his post Ascension Sunday? is well worth reading.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Nova et Vetera

Fr Justin has a new blog Nova et Vetera. In his profile, he says that Fr Justin is not his real name but a way of being able to say what he really wants to. He has a post today "The Reign of Terroir" in which he explains his distaste for New World Chardonnay. He also explains how to make it:
Now, if you like New World Chardonnay (and why not? some people even like Harvey's Bristol Cream), you can make your own. Take one bottle (or more) of white wine. Use a chardonnay grape if you like, but it won't make much difference by the end. Uncork it, and leave it in the garage for five years or so. Now, brush off the cobwebs, and pour all the wine into a large saucepan. Reduce it by half. Add several large spoons of golden syrup. If the resultant mixture is too gloopy, you could always top it up with water, I suppose. The colour should be like old urine. Now, export it to the French and see what they say.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Ascension dissension

At Blackfen this evening, we had a Low Mass in the Classical Roman Rite to celebrate the feast of the Ascension. (I'll also be celebrating the Novus Ordo on Sunday for the same feast.) For two young lads in my parish, this was their first chance to serve the Mass after lots of practice with me - they did a great job. They need a little more practice with the responses at the foot of the altar but they managed to get through them and serve the whole Mass with great reverence and enthusiasm.

We had a good congregation of families and individuals from the parish, people from the Deanery Pastoral Council, and the Latin Mass Society. I reflected on the beauty of being able to celebrate the traditional Mass as something for the parish and the deanery together with those who have stuck to it through difficult times.

The Curt Jester amusingly refers to today as the Feast of the Rant that today is not Ascension Thursday

Joanna Bogle points up the disunity that has been brought about by the decision to move the Ascension to Sunday.

Lacrymarum Valle has a report with photos on the High Mass today at the Birmingham Oratory. (Alleluia! Ascendit Deus in Iubilatione

Man with Black Hat has a good post Hail which festival day? proposing a fictitious "biblical scholarship" argument that Our Lord ascended to heaven 43 days after Easter and then saying
And if you believe all that, moving a Feast Day to a Sunday because we're all too damned lazy to go to Mass on a weekday (or a weeknight) makes about as much sense.
I'm sure there are many more posts around the blogosphere exhibiting similar disaffection with this decision.

Here's a competition. Does anyone have a link to anything on the internet (excluding official Bishops' Conference websites) that actually welcomes moving the Ascension to Sunday?
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