Saturday, 31 July 2010

Gregorian chant - nobody really likes it do they?

You may have heard the news of the forthcoming release of Voices: Chant from Avignon which is to be released on 8 November by Decca Records (here is a link to the Track List.) The above photo shows Dickon Stainer, Managing Director of Decca, passing the contract through the grille in the parlour of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation in France. You may also have seen the promo video which is good. I chose another video which I'll post tomorrow.

If you haven't heard the news, you can look up any one of the 546 stories currently listed on Google News or read any of the 1390 results from the blog search. (The YouTube video has had 38,755 views since it was uploaded last Sunday.) Unfortunately given the massive interest in the new CD, and the fact that most journalists mention the fact that Decca also publishes the songs of someone called "Lady GaGa", it is not a good idea to try to find pictures of the Abbey or the nuns on Google Images.

In an excellent article at the Chant Cafe, Another Round of Chant Mania, Jeffrey Tucker picks up on the irony for Catholics:
Striking, isn’t it? Here we have music that is organic to the Roman Rite liturgy that was assembled and codified over the first millennium of Christianity, and yet it still retains the ability to be news, to create globally popular collections of music that people listen to in their cars, their homes, on the iPhones and MP3 players - everywhere of course but in the typical Catholic parish.
As he points out, the more sophisticated defenders of the pop music played in Church will argue that the postconciliar liturgical reform called for the active participation of the laity, and that liturgical music should be accessible and easily understood so that the laity could join in and play their rightful part in the worship of God.

Many advocates of the traditional heritage of Catholic liturgical music take issue with this interpretation of active participation and point out, as did Pope Benedict himself, that listening prayerfully to beautiful and sacred music is itself a form of active participation.

Without in any way denying the importance of such discussions, Jeffrey Tucker highlights the obvious lesson to be drawn from the way in which the forthcoming CD has gone viral: Gregorian chant is extremely popular. It does not alienate people.

A stunning Kyrie Cunctipotens

Via the excellent, this video shows the schola Exsurge Domine, a young group of singers who got together to provide the music for the usus antiquior Mass celebrated every Sunday and Holyday at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Cagliari by Monsignor Dante Usai.

Their style recovers some of the connection between the western and byzantine traditions of chant and reminds me of the schola which sang at the Masses I celebrated in Estonia last year. Here they are rehearsing the singing of Kyrie "Cunctipotens" of Mass IV.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Thankful for rejection of false advice

The Good Counsel blog Maria Stops Abortion carries a moving and important story about bad advice given by a doctor and by what was then the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and one person's reason for gratitude that the advice was rejected.

How the bikes got home

The Via Romea blog shows how the bikes of the intrepid three got carried home by the resourceful British Airways:

Here is a close-up of the cycle rack:

Of course, those photos are doctored. Here is the original advertisement that really clinched the deal:

The intrepid three return home

This is the photo we've all been waiting for - the intrepid three with their bikes at St Peter's. They cycled 1320.52 miles to get there - except Greg who had to cut a bit of the cycling out on account of an inconsiderate lamp post somewhere near Piacenza which had the bad manners to leap out and knock him off his bike. He did have the consolation of a brief stay with the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Florence. I'm proud to hear that they asked him to serve Low Mass which he of course can do without any problem. He admitted to me that because he did not have a cassock in the pannier, nor a Franciscan habit, nor black shoes, he had to serve in a cream coloured alb and trainers. Unfortunately, we haven't got a picture to show the MC.

There are many more pictures Pictures from Rome over at the Via Romea blog but I put this next one in just to stir Swiss Guard fan Carolina Cannonball to undying enmity of Anna Marie who got to chat to them:

The trio have had written about their awards ceremony in Rome which is a fun read. Just a few examples:
  • Worst bit of kit: The empty 300 ml single cream pot we carried the entire way. Or the phrasebook.
  • Most Frustrating Continental Habit: The Siesta. Please, it's lunchtime. Someone sell some food...
  • Epic Language Fail Award: When Anna stood on an Italian's foot and said 'Prego'.
  • Via Romea Gold Star Award: Electrical tape. You could build a bike from it we think... we nearly did.
After generously giving out these prizes, they add:
The award winners would like to thank their family, friends, sponsors, pets and paniers. They also want world peace.
This morning I had the great joy of seeing them safely back again. Apparently they consumed most of the spare sandwiches that British Airways had available and since they were travelling light, their bicycles did not put them over the luggage allowance.

It is perhaps one of the more consoling moments that there could be in a priest's life when three such young people after a journey like that turn up for weekday Mass the morning after their late night arrival home. Greg did have a cassock and cotta to serve. And black shoes. After Mass, I asked for a photo at the Lady Chapel:

Then one in rather better light outside:

The t-shirts donned hurriedly are designed by the indefatigable Brenda Walsh to promote the visit of Pope Benedict to Britain in September. A friend of hers showed me one yesterday so I ordered a dozen and gave away the first three this morning. Here is the front:

And here is the back:

Congratulations to Anna Marie, Joseph and Gregory. Go over and enjoy the Via Romea blog. And don't forget to make a donation in thanksgiving at the Fundraising Page - charities are Mary's Meals and the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative.

In the footsteps of St Dominic

A little late, I know, but warmest congratulations to Thomas Skeats and Robert Gay who were ordained last Saturday at Blackfriars in Oxford by Bishop Longley, and the internet's finest Catholic photographer, Fra Lawrence Lew who was ordained deacon.

Fra Lawrence has written about his love for photography and you can browse over 7000 photographs in his Flickr photostream. I knew that I was in some of them so I had a look through some of the sets...

On the Godzdogz blog there is also this video from 1964 to promote vocations to the Dominican order. A Dominican priest, ordained ten years, reflects on his own vocation to explore God's truth together with his brothers under Mary's protection. There is some fascinating footage of the Dominican rite of Mass.

It is always encouraging to hear good news and I am delighted that the Dominicans both here and in Ireland are flourishing.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Documentary on The Taking of Christ

Rorate Caeli has posted videos from YouTube which show in five sections a documentary on the life of Caravaggio, whose 400th anniversary was on 18 July. The programme focusses particularly on the painting The Taking of Christ which belongs to the Irish Jesuits and is currently housed in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Programmes which are uploaded in ten minute segments are easier to view if they are in a playlist. You can then click on the playlist and the clips will automatically start up in sequence. I have made a playlist of these videos at my YouTube channel so if it is helpful do click on the link: The Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece: the Taking of Christ.

Film: There Be Dragons

Fr Z reports on an upcoming film There Be Dragons, a drama set during the Spanish civil war which has various themes running through it, including the story of the young St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. The film is made by Roland Joffe who directed The Mission.

At the official site, you can currently see a trailer but not much else. There is a Wikipedia page with more information, and Marcel at Aggie Catholics reports on a pre-release screening. The film is scheduled to be released later this year or early next year. I'm rather looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hopi ear candles, quackery and the BBC

Not having put candles in my ear before, I was intrigued by this sign in Chislehurst advertising Hopi Ear Candles (with the promise of more.) Now people often deride Wikipedia because of the edit wars that go on over entries concerning politicians or celebrities; but the relentless drive for citations and neutral point of view does have its advantages when it comes to an objective assessment of such things as ear candling. Reading the entry over dinner was most entertaining.

In the "therapy" of ear candling, a cylinder or cone of waxed cloth is placed into the ear and lit, creating "negative pressure" (that sounds scientific, doesn't it?) Supposedly it thus draws wax and debris out of the ear canal. In fact, the material that results has been found to be residue from the burnt cloth. The FDA in America has warned that the practice is dangerous, for the eminently sensible reason that,
"the use of a lit candle in the proximity of a person's face would carry a high risk of causing potentially severe skin/hair burns and middle ear damage."
As of 2008, two people have set their houses on fire while ear candling, one incident resulting in death.

What about the "Hopi" bit? you might ask. Ear candling enthusiasts insist that it is an ancient therapy, and the manufacturer of the ear candles, Biosun, claims that the candles have their origin in the "Hopi Indians" and other primitive tribes. Unfortunately the "primitive tribe" (in fact, a respected ethnic group of Native Americans based in Northern Arizona) has not been complacent in the claims of Biosun. Now magazine of Canada contacted the Hopi Tribal Council in Kykotsmovi. Their Public Relations Officer, Vanessa Charles said that the practice of ear candling "is not and has never been a practice conducted by the Hopi tribe or the Hopi people."

It is sad enough that people in Chislehurst should part with their money for such quackery. It is astonishing, though, to find the BBC website carrying an article extolling the benefits of this entirely discredited therapy. A link directs readers to the BBC Health Website which offers, among other things, advice on Sexual Health, promising to give the facts about STIs and how to protect yourself. The item is illustrated by multi-coloured condoms. Young people who might rely on their information would be well advised to look at the official Statistics on STIs.

Can we trust the BBC? Not on ear candling or on sexual health, no.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Open letter from priests to the Holy Father

Fr Ray Blake has posted an Open letter in support of Pope Benedict to which I have added my name. I encourage other priests to sign up.

Father mentions the possibility of setting up something along the lines of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy which our Aussie brothers have run so successfully for many years. I know that there are plenty of priests who are interested. We really need someone who has the time and energy to get this going.

Here's the text of the letter but please do go over to the post at Fr Blake's blog to sign it.
We, priests of England and Wales, wish to express our joy at the forthcoming visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Britain.

We welcome the many wise things the Holy Father said to us through our Bishops on their ad limina visit earlier this year which are of particular significance to the health of the Church in England and Wales, such as "the Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice" and the need "to be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit, who guides the whole Church into the truth, gathers her into unity and inspires her with missionary zeal".

More than ever, with the proximity of the Papal visit and anxious for its success we recognise especially the need "to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and Wales". Concerned for the Church's mission we to see a great need in England and Wales to ensure "that they [not only the lay faithful but we priests] are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church’s mission". We also acknowledge the importance within our national context of what His Holiness said about the Magisterium, "In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free."

We wish to thank His Holiness for encouraging our Bishops to hold up to us "an example of dedication to prayer, pastoral sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the Gospel", and also for urging them encourage the faithful "to avoid any temptation to view the clergy as mere functionaries but rather to rejoice in the gift of priestly ministry".

Patriarch urges Orthodox clergy to blog

Patriarch Kirill has urged his clergy to use blogs for missionary work. There are already some good Orthodox resources on the web such as the Orthodox Christian Information Centre and blogs like Ora et Labora. Floreant!

H/T Splintered Sunrise

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The most northerly peaches in the world?

The Transalpine Redemptorists have posted an update on Our Lady's Garden showing photos of the massive greenhouse at various stages of preparation. Although they are still experimenting, they have, since March, been able to produce their own flowers for the altar.

The Kiwifruit vine was unsuccessful and, after three years, they are asking "why cumbereth it the ground?" (Lk 13.7) By way of contrast, the grapes have grown, and they have had a crop of juicy peaches, leading them to ask whether theirs are the most northerly peaches in the world.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A little less "stupido" would be good

Elizabeth Scalia, "The Anchoress", over at First Things is planning a trip to Rome to do some loud pounding on desks while yelling "Stupido! STUPIDO!" This is in view of the obvious public relations disaster that was the announcement of new norms for dealing with priests who commit crimes against minors, and various other delicts such as, well, the attempted ordination of women. (See: The Vatican’s Epic Fail – UPDATE) This is much along the same lines as Damian Thompson's post of last week.

For an alternative view of the announcement, read Fr John Boyle's expert analysis and for a solidly neutral assessment, there is John Allen.

For what it is worth, my own position would be nearer to that of Elizabeth Scalia and Damian Thompson. (The Catholic Herald also has a good article on the matter this week.)

The Holy See should consider the public impact of its statements, taking into account the fact that many journalists, and not only those hard-wired to seize on any opportunity to attack the Church, will not read the full statements issued by the Vatican. This is even true of some Catholic pundits who simply follow the pack.

Anyone with an ounce of PR awareness could have shouted "Nooooo!" at an early stage, knowing that the juxtaposition would be like bowling a nice bouncy underarm to Sachin Tendulkar. (Seen above hitting Brad Hogg for six.)

Surely it would have been possible to issue the substantive norms concerning "The more grave delicts against morals" in an initial document, with the procedural norms attached; and then a few months later, to issue the substantive norms concerning delicts against the sacraments. The attempted ordination of women would then be lumped in with desecration of the Blessed Sacrament and the violation of the seal of confession.

It should also be said that while it is reasonable to complain about PR disasters, it is also important for Catholics to be well informed by reading the documents themselves, and pointing out that the journalistic take on the norms is also "stupido." The Curt Jester has a pertinent article in which he expresses his outrage that the State of Florida equates child abuse with impersonating government officials.

Convent needs Sisters, Sisters need Convent

Joseph Shaw at the LMS Chairman's blog has news from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. They are appealing for benefactors to help them start a new community in Darlington. If you have the funds, you could own a beautiful building and do a good work for the Lord in letting the Sisters use it for its proper purpose. The photo above is of the sisters at Lanhearne and is from Joseph Shaw's flickr set. Here is the information from Lanhearne:
Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Lanherne Cornwall

DARLINGTON CARMEL (one of the very early Carmels to be established in England [1830]) is up for sale. The very few remaining sisters are soon to move out. At Lanherne we have known about this for several months and we have been to visit the establishment. Wonderful for our needs! The Sisters are not going to leave Lanherne, in fact another house is needed as a new foundation. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate have a goodly number of vocations; especially sisters who at the moment belong to the “active” branch who have a vocation to the contemplative life. So another contemplative house is needed. There is a major problem. Yes, you’ve got it! The FSI have no money and the Carmelites at Darlington require one and half million pounds. If you know Darlington and the Carmel then you will be surprised that it’s going for only £1,500,000. It’s large and fine, in good order and a Grade 2 listed building.

So we are looking for a benefactor. Franciscans cannot own property and therefore a possible benefactor would continue to own the Carmel and would let the FSI use it – or a trust could be set up. It is possible that with a serious bit of thinking other activities may be considered - retreats etc. ALL is possible. May I remind you that the FSI use ONLY the 1962 liturgical books. A centre for traditional Catholics in the north of England would be a great help to many people.

Please pray that a benefactor or a group of benefactors may be found.

Please contact me and let me know your thoughts.

Father Joseph M Taylor
Lanherne Convent
St Mawgan

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Fabulous nerdy video

Here's a fun video to help you start the day if the time before your annual is starting to drag: "A Biologist's Mother's Day Song"

Thanks to Jennifer's Favourite Links who heads her post "If there is a more fabulously nerdy video, I have not seen it."

Two good rhymes:
mRNA mitochondria
That back in the day once belonged to ya


I roomed in your womb for nine whole months and never paid the rent
Your glucocorticoids shaped my hypothalmic development
In a whimsical way, and perhaps without intending to explicity, this song has a "light touch" pro-life message woven in (or perhaps "spiralled".)

Monday, 19 July 2010

Protect the

Protect the is a new website which counters attacks on Pope Benedict’s reputation and integrity, and provides information and resources for Catholics to respond to incidents that constitute incitement to religious hatred.

At the launch of Protect the Rev Nick Donnelly, a permanent deacon of Lancaster Diocese who set up the site, said:
‘Its been said that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice, and in a way we Catholics have colluded in this by ignoring it, hoping it will go away. But the personal attacks on Pope Benedict in the run up to the Papal visit show us its not going away.

Since 2006 we’ve had the legal right to protect ourselves from religious hatred. Of course people in this country have freedom of expression, but this does not mean they have the right to create a climate of hostility and fear. It’s a question of protecting our human rights to freedom of belief and freedom of worship.’
The website gives information on the law regarding hate crime and provides Catholics with the means to report to the police incitement to religious hatred or acts of religious hatred which take place during the Holy Father’s visit. The website also has an anti-Catholicism log tied into its news feed to help raise awareness of anti-Catholic prejudice.

Philippine bishops oppose "contraceptive mentality"

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III assumed office on June 30 and the Philippine Bishops have wasted no time in calling on him not to promote a contraceptive mentality.

In a previous post, I gave some of the figures from the UNAIDS report showing the enormous difference between the Philippines and Thailand, in numbers of people living with HIV. It is not surprising that the Philippine Bishops should be concerned to avoid the same disastrous policy in their country.

Speaking on behalf of his brother bishops, Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, the president of the bishops’ conference, said:
Among the many concerns, the media has shown a particular concern on sex education and reproductive health bills. There are no changes in the stand of the Church. Human life starts at conception, and conception takes place at the fertilization of the egg by the sperm. Human life is a gift of God and has to be respected and protected from conception till natural death. The Church is always concerned with the poor, and the many church institutions and groups that help the poor bear this out. Poverty cannot be solved by promoting contraceptive education and programs. Education does not merely deal with knowledge and skills; rather it must promote values that are inherent to us as Filipinos. Parents have the primary right to educate their children and sex education is properly to be done in the family.
EWTN Report: Philippine Bishops Urge New President Not to Foster Contraceptive Mentality


Friday, 16 July 2010

Cardinal Cañizares on youth and liturgy

NLM has a full translation of an interview given by Cardinal Cañizares Llovera to the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost on the occasion of the third anniversary of the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

He praises Bishop Dominique Rey of Toulon as an excellent man who is implementing in his diocese the concept of the hermeneutic of continuity with evident good fruits. He also recommends priests to make their preparation for Mass as is provided for in the traditional books.

I was especially struck by his words concerning the participation of young people in the Sacred Liturgy:
We need a new introduction to Christianity. Also for children and young people. An introduction to the liturgy does not only mean to know something about the celebration, although of course that is indispensable both theologically and doctrinally. Young people and children should participate in liturgies celebrated with great dignity, which are entirely permeated by the mystery of God in which the individual konws himself to be included. Active participation does not mean to do something, but to enter into the worship and the silence, into listening and also the prayer of petition and all that which really constitutes the liturgy. As long as that does not happen, there will be no liturgical renewal. We have to turn around one hundred eighty degrees. Youth ministry should be a place where the encounter with the living Christ in the Church takes place . Where Jesus Christ appears as someone of yesterday, neither liturgical education nor active participation is possible. As long as the awareness of the living Christ does not awake again, nothing will come of the much-needed renewal.
I would like to add that in my opinion, Cardinal Cañizares is also an "excellent man". In the photo above, I am chanting the epistle at the Pontifical Mass which he celebrated in January at the Basilica of St John Lateran. Meeting His Eminence on that occasion, I was edified both by his own prayerful preparation for Holy Mass and by his kindness and warmth once the Mass and his thanksgiving were completed.

Virgin of the Rocks

One of the great treasures of the National Gallery is Leonardo da Vinci's The Virgin of the Rocks. The masterpiece has recently been cleaned, leading to the cautious conclusion of the curator that "it now seems possible that Leonardo painted all the picture himself".

In a fascinating article for the Guardian: The Virgin of the Rocks: Da Vinci decoded, Jonathan Jones shares his enthusiasm for the painting itself: "Once you've seen it, everything else in this collection looks like flat daubs.") and the restoration: "Conservative this restoration may be in style, but its implications are revolutionary."

Telegraph blogger, Harry Mount Harry Mount also has a warm appreciation of the restoration which overcame his "ingrained scepticism about over-cleaning".

It is a great privilege to be within close reach of such treasures in London. I will be slogging through the transport network this evening on my way to Lichfield, but will not have time to stop off at Trafalgar Square. I do have an engagement up in town within the next two weeks, however, and will add in a little extra time to pop in to the National Gallery.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


LMS Chairman Joseph Shaw reports on an Exchange with the Tablet concerning the age of those who attend old rite Masses. In the post, he has some fine photos of the Chartres Pilgrimage, including the one above.

In the course of his post, he says, as an aside:
Still, we don't read The Tablet for logic. We read it for self-mortification.
I must say that I admire Joe's fortitude. I take the easy option, fasting on bread and water, wearing a hair shirt and scourging myself with chains.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

"Every piece of my flesh ..."

Via Luke Coppen's Morning Catholic must-reads the other day, I came across an inspiring account of A Vibrant, Living Church in China by Elizabeth Hansen. Pope Benedict's 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics demonstrates the immensely difficult conditions in which the Church in China operates and it is edifying to see the sincere desire of the underground Catholics to avoid discord.

In the course of her article, Hansen tells of the commemoration last Friday of the 120 martyrs canonised by Pope John Paul. She highlights the example of 18 year old Chi Zhuzi who was preparing for Baptism and refused to renounce the faith when he was captured and tortured during the Boxer Rising in 1900. Even when his right arm was cut off, he refused to deny Christ, telling his tormentors:
“Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”
He was eventually flayed alive.

At the Vatican website, you can see a summary for St Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions who died for the faith between 1648 and 1930.

Hansen's article is carried by Headline Bistro, an initiative of the Knights of Columbus in the USA. You can read about the launch and "Like" the Facebook page

And you thought Twitter was pointless

@summatheologiae has set out to post an abridged version of St Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae via Twitter. He explains:
The goal: 1 article per weekday, broken up into a few tweets. I'll do my best to be brief & funny and inspire you to look up the original.
That is not at all as daft as it might sound. Even following a summary of the Summa in this way would be very beneficial; and as the fellow says, it should prompt you to look up the original.

There are plenty of sites with an English translation of the Summa. Out of habit, I have always used the New Advent site which is helpfully laid out. @summatheologiae points to a Dominican site with nice printable pdfs of the Summa in the 1920 Dominican translation so you can print out a particular question (or article) to take with you on the train.

For those who know Latin, there is the monumental Corpus Thomisticum which has all the works of St Thomas Aquinas in the original Latin, as well as several other useful resources.

Posting an article a day on Twitter is a long-term project, of course. I just did a quick estimate assuming an average of 5 articles per question. On that reckoning, it would take over seven years. But someone may have some statistics and be able to tell us exactly how many articles there are.

UPDATE: Gregory the Eremite has supplied the information that there are 2669 articles in the Summa which is an average of 5.21 articles per question. I'm rather chuffed that my estimate was quite close!

See also Gregory's blog Reading the Summa which is written in support of the York Aquinas Reading Group which is working through the Summa.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

No extradition for priest rapist

A Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a 13 year old girl at a colleague's house was originally charged in the late 1970s with six offences including rape and sodomy, but negotiated a plea bargain. He served 42 days in a US secure psychiatric unit. He has always maintained he was promised a short sentence, but he fled the US after hearing rumours that the judge was about to re-sentence him for a much longer term.

Recently, he has spent some time under house arrest in Switzerland, electronically tagged, and anxiously awaiting the outcome of his extradition trial. He has now been set free after the Swiss government rejected the request from the Los Angeles District Attorney for his return to the US.

The French Culture Minister said that the time for calm had come and that the Catholic priest's rich personality, and his universally admired works should all regain their standing.

The philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy said:
"Switzerland has found the path to reason ... What a beautiful lesson in democracy."
The world's media have reverently quoted the Catholic priest's expression of gratitude to his supporters released via the AFP news agency:
"I simply want, from the bottom of my heart, to thank all those who supported me and tell them today of my great satisfaction,"
The BBC gave a balanced report, giving full weight to the joy of the Catholic priest's associates and the priest's own side of the story. Various news outlets pondered over whether the Catholic priest might find it difficult to travel as freely has he has done in the past.

Oops! Did I write "Catholic priest"? Silly me! What I meant to say was "Film director".

H/T Christina Odone: Guilty Roman Polanski and innocent Pope Benedict: Lefty luvvies show their hypocrisy

Getting some balance

Hoping to help you smile as you hit the desk this morning, let me treat you to an exchange from the Health and Drugs section of Questionland ("Questions and Answers about Life in Seattle")
where can i find shoes without any rubber in the soles?
i read some research that separation from the earth, for example via insulative shoes and spending all day in buildings, is detrimental to health because we are electrochemical beings and our charge becomes too positive (too many electrons/free radicals). the soil/earth is negatively charged and adsorbs the excess electrons thus acting as a natural antioxidant bringing us back into balance. i'd like to walk without insulative shoes to see for myself. the only other suggested way to connect with the earth is to sleep with a foil blanket connected to a rod that is driven into the earth outside. that doesn't seem natural to me, although people seem to like it.
The "Greatest Answer" was from A. Noyd:
If you're keen to trample all over science, why don't you strap a pair of physics textbooks to your feet? You can find them at University Books and they're, like, made out of trees 'n' s**t. Natural, right? The weight of them will definitely keep you grounded. Though, if you want some balance, I'd suggest reading them instead.
I'm sure that the inhabitants of Seattle will be grateful to A. Noyd for saving their reputation.

If you want a longer debunk, see Your Friday Dose of Woo: "Grounded" in woo; or you could do the foil blanket and rod thing just to be on the safe side.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Great update from Via Romea

The cyclists have posted more news today; they have finally found an internet café after getting blank looks from people, so kudos to Dampierre-sur-Salon. They will be in Besançon this evening, enjoying a campsite with running water before heading into the Alps tomorrow.

Yesterday they had experience of the life of the Church in France:
Day 7
Sunday. Left early to try and find a church. Thought we'd head for the nearest big city, Chaumont. It had a basilica and 2 churches, can't go wrong we thought... but no, no Mass all Sunday, so we cycled over to the next village to a new age shed church for Mass. The basilica round the corner was much better designed for the French summer... meltdown.
Go over to the Via Romea blog for the full update and for some pictures. The one above is from Day 5 (Friday) when they cycled into Rheims in the morning. It looks for all the world as though they are going to cycle up the nave of Rheims Cathedral.

Don't forget to make your donation (Mary's Meals & Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative) at the Fundraising page.

New blog: "Catholicism pure & simple"

Catholicism pure & simple is a new Catholic team-blog. Already there are articles from half a dozen contributors who hail from around the globe. They include one priest.

The blog describes itself as follows:
Catholicism Pure is for Catholics who love their Faith untainted by the heresy of Modernism or the implacable nature and mediocrity of the “New Church” that has emerged following Vatican II. We aim to defend and propagate authentic Catholic teaching, educate our readers about the Catholic Faith in all its “Splendour of Truth”, spread knowledge and love of traditional Catholic culture and be a lash to the backs of those clergy and laity whose quasi or actual heresy is destroying our and our children’s Catholic Faith.
So far, the blog isn't as polemical as that introduction sounds; the postings cover a range of range of subjects. This morning, Frere Rabbit has a personal story from Parkminster, God will know the name.

No sex-ed during Ramadan

Each local council in England and Wales is required to have a Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) with representation from people of different faiths, to advise the Local Education Authority. (Their advice is directed to state schools, not Catholic schools.)

In Stoke on Trent, the SACRE has recently published a Public Document Pack which includes advice on Ramadan.
Sex and relationship education
Whilst fasting, Muslims are not permitted to engage in any sexual relations and are expected to take measures to avoid sexual thoughts and discourse. Schools are therefore advised to avoid scheduling the teaching of sex and relationship education, including aspects that are part of the science curriculum, during Ramadan.
Other sections advise schools to avoid parents' evenings and after school functions during the fast, and to avoid swimming lessons because of the danger of accidentally swallowing water. There is also advice on Muslim requirements for modesty, particularly decrying any possibility that while changing for swimming, the Muslim requirement of avoiding nakedness before others should not be compromised.

To be honest, I'm fairly sanguine the idea of schools making provision for the religious observance of Muslims although I find it most interesting that where Muslims are concerned, even the aspects of sex education taught in the science curriculum can be suspended for religious reasons. And one wonders what they think of cartoon pictures of naked children being shown in the sex-ed programmes.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Cyclists well along the path to Rome

Friday's update on the Via Romea blog has the young cyclists from Blackfen reaching Chalons en Champagne that afternoon, and intending to make some more ground in the evening. I heard from their Dad today that they had reached Chaumont yesterday. This is not bad going at all.

The family had visual updates, tear-off slips for the web address to donate, and cakes for the children after Mass this morning. The cakes were a good idea - they made people stop around and look at the display. They were also scrumptious so many thanks to Rachel and Elizabeth who made them.

If you haven't already donated (Mary's Meals & Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative), call on over to the Fundraising page.

Updates at the Via Romea blog, and you can write on the wall at the Facebook Group.

Successful All-Ireland Rally for Life

The All-Ireland Rally for Life which was held a week ago in Belfast, was a great success with large crowds, a youthful upbeat feel, and powerful speeches in defence of human life. Organised by a coalition of pro-life groups including Precious Life, Youth Defence and the Life Institute, the rally attracted about 4000 people.

Speaker Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told the rally that the most immediate threat to life in Ireland was the proposal to allow experimentation on human embryos which is being proposed by Health Minister Mary Harney. Other speakers at the rally were Fr Sylvester Mann from Priests for Life Ireland and the Reverend George Hargreaves of the UK Christian Party.

The Rally also received support from several Bishops. Bishop Boyce of Raphoe said,
"Life is our most precious gift. The ‘All-Ireland Rally for Life’ is a celebration of life. To attend or take part in it in any way is a worthwhile endeavour to pursue as Catholics. We stand up for God's gift of life".

Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor sent a message of support to Precious Life, telling them that all parishes had been informed of the Rally for Life and that he hoped there would be a good attendance. Bishop Joseph Duffy from the Diocese of Clogher also notified all his Parish Priests about the Rally and his good wishes. Bishop Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry, sent Precious Life his apologies for being unable to attend the Rally but assured them that they were in his prayers from Rome. He said, “May the Lord of Life inspire, sustain and guide you in your endeavours for life.” Archbishop Edwarda Ozorowskiego from Poland, who was at St Agnes Parish in Belfast on the day of the Rally, also gave members of the Rally for Life Team a special blessing.

There are reports at LifeSite News, the European Life Network, and the ProLife Alliance

An Inju5tice to Catholic families

All the little epsilons reports on the visit of boyband Inju5tice to the state school in which she teaches. (See: The sort of evangelisation Catholic Voices and other lay Catholics might be more usefully engaged in?)

Not surprisingly, I suppose, these boybands have long been popular at events on the gay scene which have proved a lucrative sideline for them. Now it seems that the fashion is to be more openly ambiguous and milk the gay market at the same time as appealing to teenage girls. You can go to all the little epsilons for the link to their interview with Bent magazine in which the members of Inju5tice submissively respond to questions such as which male star they would like to date, and what brand of "undies" is their favourite.

As epsilon observes in their list of engagements, their tour includes visits to several Catholic schools. I'm not sure what the value is of inviting them into schools at all, still less Catholic schools. Catholic parents who are conscientiously and tactfully trying to divert their children's attention away from such morally dubious dissipation must be quietly fuming. If they openly fume, of course, they will be branded as puritanical troublemaking killjoy "Catholic Taliban". And their children will be taunted the following day as news of the complaint leaks out to the playground.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

"The 13th Day" available on Amazon

Over a year ago, I mentioned the new film about Fatima called The 13th Day. The film opened in the USA in October, and today I received the good news that it is now available to order in the UK via Amazon. I ordered my copy today and look forward to seeing it.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Merry Wives at Ightham Mote

Changeling Theatre in conjunction with the Hazlitt Arts Centre have a summer Shakespeare Tour, staging The Merry Wives of Windsor at various outdoor venues in Kent, set in the 1950s with skiffle songs, and outfits of the period.

This evening the performance was held at Ightham Mote, a 14th century moated house; its historical and architectural importance may be guessed from the fact that it has a Grade 1 listed dog kennel.

My sister Sarah played the part of Mistress Page. The Changeling publicity billed her as follows:
Sarah Finigan is Mistress Page, one of the Merry Wives, returning after an absence of TWO years. And boy did the audiences miss her. Sarah ( or as we call her, Fin) has appeared in TWELFTH NIGHT as Maria, the Nurse in ROMEO & JULIET, a witch and Lady Bracknell in MACBETH & THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. The last time we saw her was in THE BEGGARS OPERA/TAMING OF THE SHREW. She is going to be hilarious.
(She was.) Sarah is pictured here in Act II, Scene I where she and Mistress Ford discover that they have both received the same love letter from Sir John Falstaff. The prosecution of the main part of the plot is established:
... Why, I'll exhibit a bill
in the parliament for the putting down of men. How
shall I be revenged on him? for revenged I will be,
as sure as his guts are made of puddings.
The same scene has the witty exchange:
Mistress Ford
O woman, if it were not for one trifling respect, I
could come to such honour!

Mistress Page
Hang the trifle, woman! take the honour.
which perhaps goes some way to justifying Hazlitt's irreverent description of the play as the Only Fools and Horses of its time. Tonight's performance was outstanding, conveying Shakespeare's humour with freshness and verve, making for a most enjoyable summer evening. The tour is running until early August (see Hazlitt for booking information.)

Thursday, 8 July 2010

"You got to pray"

I just came across this video on YouTube of Fr Stan Fortuna of the Franciscans of the Renewal with a very straightforward message about prayer:

There's much more of Fr Fortuna over at Francesco Productions.

The Hour of Testing

Rich Mastrogiacomo is a third year seminarian studying for the sacred Priesthood in Rome. He has a great love for music and now writes popular style melodies and songs for Our Lord. For more details, see his "About" page at the blog "That Most Holy Heart".

One project that Rich has been engaged on recently is setting background music to some of the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The one in which Archbishop Sheen speaks of The Hour of Testing is quite inspiring.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Christ, "centre of history and the cosmos"

In his General Audience address today, the last before his summer break, the Holy Father returned to the figure of the Blessed John Duns Scotus, commenting that "in this great Christocentric vision, the Incarnate Word appears as the centre of history and the cosmos." Such an affirmation from the Holy Father is always music to the ears of those of us in the Faith Movement who promote just such a vision of Christ as centre and Lord of history and of the cosmos.

As Sandro Magister has commented in his Italian language blog Settimo Caelo, the question of the primacy of the will in Scotist theology raises the question which the Holy Father himself brought up with regard to Islam in his Regensburg lecture. An absolute and innate freedom opens up the possibility of a God who is not tied to the true and the good. However, Pope Benedict points out that the desire to preserve an absolute transcendence of the impenetrable will of God does not take account of the fact that God is revealed in Christ as "Logos". The Holy Father continued (my translation):
Certainly, as Duns Scotus affirmed within the line of Franciscan theology, love exceeds knowledge and is capable of perceiving more than thought, but it is always the love of God "logos". Even in man, the idea of absolute liberty, located in the will, forgetting its link with the truth, ignores the fact that the same liberty must be liberated from the restrictions that come from sin.
I expect that an English translation of the address will be online soon (and perhaps an English translation of Sandro Magister's article - look out on his blog Chiesa.) In the meantime, here is a link to a summary from Vatican radio.

Summorum Pontificum three years on

Today is the third anniversary of the publication of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which established that the older form of the Mass has never been abrogated and that in consequence, no permission is needed to celebrate Mass or the other sacraments in that form. In the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, the Holy Father said:
In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.
On Saturday, 7 July 2007, we celebrated the old Mass in my parish and afterwards had a little champagne and cake.

The effect of Summorum Pontificum has been extraordinary in itself. Although there are some dioceses around the world where positive obstruction is attempted, in many cases the reaction from those who oppose the traditional liturgy has been, like the Jansenists after Cum occasione, a "respectful silence". Compared with the legalistic restrictions and opposition that had prevailed before, this is a major step forward.

There are also those who have always maintained the position that I once held, that there is no need for the old Mass if the new Mass is celebrated reverently. There has been something of a change here too. Whereas prior to Summorum Pontificum, a private old rite Mass would probably have been forbidden at many "new movement" events or religious houses, now such a Mass is just seen as part of the normal life of the Church and accepted without fuss.

The "high profile" Masses offered by Cardinals and Bishops have also had their effect in ensuring that the celebration of the traditional Liturgy is seen to be part of the life of the Church. Having assisted at several such celebrations, I can attest also to the great devotion and fervour that they have inspired among the large crowds of the faithful that have attended them.

Of course there have been difficulties and bitter opposition; I have been one of those who has experienced some of that, but overall the picture is very positive and upbeat.

Do go over and add your voice in the Catholic Herald's first ever online debate: Is Summorum Pontificum a failure?. Here is my hastily written contribution:
I would say that SP has been a success. It trumped the reluctance of Bishops to allow the usus antiquior and has encouraged many priests to learn how to say it. I have met dozens of priests who have only begun to say the old Mass since SP and I am sure that there are many more in the pipeline. In terms of negotiations with the SSPX, it has removed an important stumbling block.

I agree too that it has helped priests to say the new Mass more reverently and to understand some elements of that form of the Mass better, with more awareness of our liturgical tradition. For the people of God, it has brought a much needed sense of the sacred, and an opportunity to participate at Mass with greater freedom of choice in the manner of participation. In terms of the spiritual life of the Church, it has been a much needed element of Pope Benedict's reforms.

Flavigny Benedictines offer Retreat for men at Pantasaph

The Benedictine Fathers of Flavigny regularly conduct spiritual retreats for men, usually at their own abbey. However, some of the Fathers are travelling to the Pantasaph Retreat Centre in North Wales to give a men's retreat (minimum age 17) from Tuesday 17 to Sunday 22 August. You can register online.

Study on Abortion and Mental Health

Dr Pravin Thevathasan, a psychiatrist with over twenty years' experience, who also holds a Masters in medical ethics and law, has written a very helpful booklet on Abortion and Mental Health in which he examines the psychological consequences of induced abortion. He notes:
Perhaps the most important statement in this study is that, while over ninety per cent of abortions are done on the ground that continuation of the pregnancy would lead to serious damage to teh women's mental health, there is no evidence that abortion reduces the mental health risks of unwanted pregnancy. Indeed no study has reported that it reduces mental health risks - a fact which surely challenges the use of psychiatric reasons for justifying abortion.
Another important point is that grieving after abortion is difficult because the woman is just expected to carry on and "snap out of it" and indeed, such grief is frowned upon by society. This booklet would be of help to clergy in understanding one of the many reasons why they should not shy away from pro-life preaching, and to many others who will be in a position to help women to make the right choice for life.

Abortion and Mental Health (£1.95) is published by LIFE - email

More from Invocation weekend

Photo © Mazur/ (from Invocation Flickr set)

Catholic with Attitude has written an enthusiastic personal account of the recent Invocation weekend. (See: Invocation 2010 = Brilliant!) He notes particularly that the heart of the weekend was the communal prayer of the Sacred Liturgy in the Divine Office and Mass, and that there was also plenty of time for private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The weekend also offered young people the opportunity to talk informally with priests and religious about their vocation. Congratulations to Fr Langridge and the team for organising this first National Vocations Discernment weekend. May it be the first of many.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Harvard Commencement speaker to join Dominican Sisters of Mary

The other day, I posted a video of the Commencement Speech given in Latin by Mary Ann Marks. Many thanks to Gillineau in the combox for passing on the news from the Harvard Gazette that Mary Ann is entering the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. It is wonderful to hear this: please say a prayer for Mary Ann. Here is the text from the Harvard Gazette:
Queens, N.Y., native Mary Anne Marks is a classics and English joint concentrator who fell in love with the Latin language by studying Cicero’s Catilinarian Orations. “The links between Latin and Romance languages are fascinating, and, at the same time, Latin has the ability to say things in ways that are not available to Romance languages or to English,” said Marks. “I mused about ideas for the speech for weeks before setting pen to paper, and, once I’d picked a topic, I consulted with friends and acquaintances from various departments to make sure it spoke to their experiences at Harvard.” In the fall, Marks is headed to Ann Arbor, Mich., to enter a community of Catholic teaching nuns called the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, where after three years of classes in the convent on theological and ecclesiastical topics, she’ll attain a teaching certificate at a local university and teach in Catholic schools. “I’ve always thought about being a nun but came to Harvard planning to go to graduate school and perhaps also do some other things before entering,” she recalled. “I decided in January of last year to enter right after college, but a master’s or Ph.D. is still a possibility. One of the exciting things about being a nun is that one never knows what the future holds!”
(I wrote about the Sisters in February in connection with their successful appearance on Oprah.)

A lawyer analyses Doe v Holy See

Neil Addison at the Religion Law blog, has taken a look at the Supremem Court's refusal to review a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the possibility of prosecuting the Holy See in the US courts. He concludes that it is not as important as it appears. I give his summary of the court's decision below, but the article contains further details.
  • The Holy See is a Sovereign State under US Law
  • The Holy See can only be sued in the US on the same basis as any Sovereign State and enjoys exactly the same immunity from suit as any other Sovereign State
  • Catholic Diocese and Organisations in the US are not “Agents or Instrumentalities” of the Holy See and the Holy See cannot be held liable for their actions
  • The Holy See can only be sued with respect to the Acts of its “employees” and not for the acts of Catholic Priests etc generally
(Thanks to Karen for correcting my earlier version of this post.)

Lecture by Alice Von Hildebrand

Many thanks to Andrew Cusack for this opportunity to see and hear a great speaker.

Sacred and secular music: the difference explained

Sometimes people ask for a simple explanation of the difference between sacred music which is suitable for the liturgy, and secular music which is not. This video is an excellent attempt to promote music worthy of the Sacred Liturgy.

I found this over at Corpus Christi Watershed located at Corpus Christi, Texas, where you can also find some three part polyphonic motets, newly composed by Kevin Allen.

Report from Invocation

Anna-Marie Treloar, one of my young parishioner (left in the photo) went to the Invocation 2010 weekend. At my request, she kindly wrote this report:
Invocation 2010
The event, probably best described as a youth festival celebrating and promoting religious vocations, was billed by the organizers as ‘the first of its kind in England and Wales’. The weekend was structured around basic liturgy of Divine Office and Daily Mass, with talks from keynote speakers and a selection of workshops.

For me, the talks were the highlight of the event. The first speaker, Abbot Christopher Jamison, spoke about the theology behind the idea of vocation, setting the tone for the weekend. The second talk by Dr Andrew O’Connell was a brilliantly delivered, energetic and encouraging look at the need for vocations today, and how fulfillment can never ultimately be found in a digital age of instant gratification, but only in Christ. The last speaker I heard was Sr Gabriel Davison, who gave a very personal, beautiful account of her life in her community of Poor Clares. I was particularly stuck by the passionate terms she used to describe her vocation, as a love affair with Christ and the Church developed through community life.

I was only able to be there until the Saturday evening, but left wishing I could have stayed longer. The organization and administration was very impressive from start to finish; the events ran very smoothly and professionally.

The setting for the weekend was Oscott Seminary, Birmingham, a good choice with its beautiful grounds and stunning chapel.

Personally, I was delighted to see the unified national effort that had gone into the weekend, and the enthusiasm of the organisers that drove the initiative. There were fantastic numbers of representatives from religious orders and dioceses all over the country (including several Archbishops) and participants from so many new movements and charisms within the Church. Definitely money and effort well spent, hopefully an inspiration for similar national festivals in the future.
Anna-Marie is currently cycling to Rome, having left early this morning after prayers at the Church. Keep up with the Via Romea blog for progress reports.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Ecumenical Diablog says "Don't take the Tablet"

Stuart McCullough of the Good Counsel Network deals on a daily basis with mothers in crisis pregnancies and is acutely aware of the damage done by the promotion of contraception, sex education, and the cruel deception of the illusion of a risk free lifestyle. Naturally he is also opposed to abortion. After a long of pulling funny faces when I mentioned that the internet and especially blogs could help his apostolate, Stuart has recently thrown in the towel and started a blog himself: Ecumenical Diablog. It's worth having that one in your blogroll.

Following on recent articles (covered by James Preece and others) justifying abortion in certain circumstances, the Ecumenical Diablog today urges: Catholics Don't Take the Pill or The Tablet.

I told him it was too nuanced and ambiguous for my liking :-)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Herald has a new website

The Catholic Herald, Britain's leading Catholic newspaper, has a newly designed website with easy access to all the important articles.

The Herald also has a Facebook page so if you use FB, you might like to go over there and click "Like".

progredite igitur corde Haruardniano

Mary Anne Marks delivers the Latin salutatory at Harvard's 2010 commencement ceremonies. I was worried at first with the number of saluETE's and the arm waving, but it gets better and is a good oration. It is good to see such a tradition maintained.

The pronunciation is that favoured in English and US classical faculties and schools rather than the Italianate imposed by Pope St Pius X. I don't really think there is a good reason for that uniformity; and neither did Fr Adrian Fortescue.

H/T Thomas Peters at Catholic Vote Action

Stephen "The Living Camera" draws Rome

Here is the info for this amazing video on YouTube
Stephen Wiltshire from London is a star among savants. Stephen is autistic. He did not speak his first words "pencil" and "paper" until he was 5. Yet, when he was 11 he drew a perfect aerial view of London after only one helicopter ride. For this film we're testing the "Living camera" in Rome. (ColourField production)

H/T Deacon Greg Kandra at The Deacon's Bench

God bless America!

I wish you all a very happy Fourth of July over there in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Have a great barbecue, enjoy the fireworks, may God bless your families and ...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Praise for a faithful pro-life Bishop

The Good Counsel Network's blog Maria Stops Abortion reports on the faithful support of Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood for the pro-life peaceful prayer vigils of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants outside the Marie Stopes Abortion facility at Buckhurst Hill, Essex. They point out that 100% of the Bishops of Brentwood attend while only 5% of priests do, and 1% of laity. So the invitation goes out to you to attend if you are in reach of Buckhurst Hill next Saturday 10 July. For more details, see: Bishop does 99% better than his lay faithful for praying at abortuary

See also the important post looking at the supercilious question "Why do these girls keep getting pregnant?" One significant factor is the aggressive promotion of contraception. The Good Counsel Network deal on a daily basis with women in crisis because of an unwanted pregnancy. The vast majority of their clients have been using one or more forms of contraception.

Correction: Fr Lang talk - all are invited

On Thursday, I posted an item about Fr Lang's forthcoming talk at the London Oratory: Fr Michael Lang to speak at "Call to Youth" on translations. In the post, I wrote that the Call to Youth meetings are restricted to those aged 18-35 and asked people not to "gatecrash" if they were outside the age limit.

I have heard from the Oratory that in fact, for this talk only, as an exception, ALL are invited.

Powerful pro-life witness from Andrea Bocelli

The celebrated Italian singer, Andrea Bocelli, tells a "little story" which makes a forceful point. He ends with a short and jolly song which his children enjoy.
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