Monday, 30 January 2012

CD 249 Vatican II anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Why is the Church not doing anything to mark this significant occasion?

In fact, Pope Benedict has announced a “Year of Faith” to mark the 50th anniversary of the second Vatican Council. It will begin on 11 October, the day that the Council was formally opened by Blessed Pope John XXIII. The focus of the Year of Faith will be the new evangelisation: something very much in accord with the concerns of the Fathers of the Council.

In his message for the opening of the Council, Pope John said that the Council wanted “to transmit doctrine, pure and whole, without attenuations or misrepresentations,” but also in a way that corresponds to the needs of our time. On the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Council, the Synod of Bishops (one of the fruits of the Council) called for a new Catechism as a sure point of reference for local catechisms. This new Catechism was completed in 1992, the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Council.

Pope Benedict has explained that Vatican II should be understood in terms of reform and renewal in the continuity of the one subject Church which was founded by Christ, rather than as a rupture with the past. It is wrong to speak as though everything before the Council was bad and everything after it was good. The Catechism, the recent movement to reform the Sacred Liturgy, the laity’s pro-life witness to the world, the foundation of new movements for evangelisation, and many other initiatives of young Catholics, all put into practice this vital concern of the Holy Father and of the Council itself.

The Year of Faith will be an opportunity to rediscover the teaching of Vatican II, to read the documents again, to see how the vision of the Council Fathers is presented in the new Catechism, and to reflect on our own role in the new evangelisation. The Council is often presented in terms of quasi-political slogans. By studying its actual teaching, we can learn instead about how the Church encourages us to evangelise the world.

Catholic Dilemma 249 published in the Catholic Herald

Anniversary of King Charles I

Today is the anniversary of the death (some would say martyrdom) of King Charles I. This would have passed me by were it not for the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley announcing that they have abandoned any normal liturgy for the day. Instead, they are remembering how the forces of nothing-being-much-fun won. Among other activities, they're having mince pies, Christmas cake and spaniel racing. Jolly sound - but that's just my view.

A revered Archbishop with whom I studied many years ago was part of the King Charles I Society at Oxford. He was the Chairman. As he said to me "We didn't have a President, you understand."

Planned LMS Conference 9 June

The Latin Mass Society are planning a conference at Regent Hall on Oxford Street. This is an event for ordinary members of the LMS, and non-members will be welcome. Here (quoted from the publicity leaflet) is the line-up of rogues that they have prepared - I'm looking forward to being part of this team.
Fr John Zuhlsdorf (aka the blogger 'Fr Z')
Fr Tim Finigan (blogger and columnist)
Dr John Rao (of 'The Roman Forum')
John Hunwicke (of the Ordinariate)
Stuart McCullough (Good Counsel Network)
This should be fun. Probably not the conference to go to if you are looking for complimentary copies of The Tablet.

Tickets are available from the LMS (020 7404 7284 or see other contact information at the website.) Members £15, non-members £20. Buffet lunch and drinks £9 supplement. Regent Hall is opposite BHS, about five minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station. Timing is not finalised yet but will probably be from 10am to 6pm. I'll be in the afternoon session as I have Mass to say, confessions to hear and adoration to celebrate in the morning.

Friday, 27 January 2012

New Fundamental Law for Hungary: pro-life, pro-family

Hungary has passed a new fundamental law which, among other things, protects the rights of the family and of the unborn child. The new law replaces the communist era constitution. I am grateful to C-Fam for their report on this:  Hungary Defies Critics With New Family Law. They give a link to the draft of 25 April 2011 which was passed, though I don't know whether amendments were made to it (some of the points in the C-Fam report can't be found in the draft.) In any case, there are some elements that look very good.

The Fundamental Law establishes a national holiday on 20 August to commemorate the founding of the state and its founder, St Stephen, as well as 23 of October, to commemorate the 1956 uprising.

Under the Basic Stipulations, Article M (1) states:
(1) Hungary protects the institution of marriage between man and woman, a matrimonial relationship voluntarily established, as well as the family as the basis for the survival of the nation.
(2) Hungary supports child-bearing.
(3) The protection of families is regulated by a super majority law.
Under Freedom and Responsibility, Article II. states:
Human dignity is inviolable. Everyone has the right to life and human dignity; the life of a foetus will be protected from conception.
and how about article XV (2-4). for some common sense:
(2) Parents have the right select the upbringing for their children.
(3) Parents are obliged to care for their minor children. This obligation encompasses the need to ensure the education of their children.
(4) Adult children will be obliged to care for their parents in need.
Predictably, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have complained because of the clause protecting the rights of the unborn child.

SPUC Conference on Maternal Health

SPUC are holding a conference on abortion and maternal health. This is a question that is often used by the culture of death to promote abortion, so it is an important issue to address. You can find all the details at the SPUC website: Abortion or maternal health. there are materials linked there to help prepare for the conference, and you can book for it online.

The main speaker is Professor Robert Walley and he will be joined by legal expert Dr Roger Kiska of Alliance Defence Fund, consultant obstetrician gynaecologist Dr Obi Ideh from Nigeria, and maternal health campaigner Mrs Fiorella Nash.

Fiorella has also written an article for the SPUC blog: Pro-abortion ideology is costing lives of women in developing countries. If there are any complications, childbirth can be risky both for mothers and for their babies. It is right that we should do all that we can to help mothers in developing countries. The pro-abortion lobby has muscled in on this issue with their false assertion that legal abortion equals safe abortion, and their promotion of abortion as an answer to maternal mortality. It is good to see SPUC tackling this question.

Petition against communion in the hand

My good friend, Fr Andrew Wise, of the diocese of Sale in Victoria (Australia), together with Fr John Speekman, has drawn up a petition to the Holy Father which reads as follows:
Your Holiness,
We are convinced of the great spiritual harm inflicted on the Catholic faithful, and the profanation of the Blessed Sacrament that often occurs by the practice of Communion received on the hand.
We implore Your Holiness to personally intervene to restore once again the normative practice of reception of Holy Communion on the tongue alone.
There is also a blog in support of the petition. Andrew Rabel wrote a piece to give a little background to the petition, and Cardinal Arinze has written in support of the piece. Bishop Schneider has also written in support, and has signed the petition. I have also signed the petition. Many ordinary laity receive Holy Communion in the hand because that is what they were taught to do; in some cases they were told that it was the more proper, reverent, ancient, grown-up, or modern way to receive Holy Communion. Bishop Schneider's book "It is the Lord" (sold in England by Gracewing) answers all of the usual justifications for the practice and urgently recommends a return to the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

Apart from the major concern over the danger of profanation with Communion in the hand, the "sign value" of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue distinguishes the act of receiving Holy Communion from an ordinary act of taking an ordinary snack to eat. Little toddlers recognise this if they accompany their mother to the altar rail: when Mum receives Holy Communion in the hand, they will often ask "Can I have one?"; this is much less common if Mum receives Holy Communion on the tongue. They are given an early lesson in the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary bread.

Sign the petition here.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Our Lady of the Rosary from the Galera Real

The carving of Our Lady of the Rosary which adorned the Christian flagship, the Galera Real at the battle of Lepanto has been recovered and is being restored. Fr Z advised me of this news earlier today as it is of particular interest for a parish dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. Father has himself posted about it: Statue of Our Lady at 1571 Battle of Lepanto comes to light! ABC Salud has an article in Spanish which highlights the importance of the find.

For a brief account of the battle of Lepanto, there was a good post on the feast day last year at Roman Christendom. (An additional point that I like to emphasise is that 12,000 Christian galley slaves were freed as a result of the victory.)

This evening, after speaking to the candidates for Confirmation, I was struck by the position of the crescent moon over our statue of Our Lady. An antiphon used in the Office, and for the Catena of the Legion of Mary is:
Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?
It is good to know that as well as protecting Europe from invasion and slavery, Our Blessed Mother is looking after the suburb of Blackfen. This photo was taken from just outside my front door.

OLR moon

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

CD 248 - arguments on Twitter

I enjoy interacting with other people on Twitter but find that sometimes I get into rather uncharitable arguments with atheists and even with fellow Catholics. I wonder if it is too much of a temptation.

As with all social media, Twitter can be used for good or evil. It is an effective way for people to share information, views and arguments. At its best, it can be a part of Pope Benedict’s vision of co-workers for the truth engaging in evangelisation. At its worst, it can be used as a form of cyber-bullying. People can also bully others by writing nasty letters on paper, so there is nothing new under the sun. It is not the means of communication that is the problem but our use of it.

The immediacy of exchanges on Twitter does mean that it can be tempting to try to be sharp or witty, and sometimes to be unkind to others. On the other hand, people who engage in exchanges such as these generally know the territory and, within reasonable limits, can take the rough with the smooth. We need not be over scrupulous about using a means of communication which offers the opportunity for robust debate, but we should be aware of the temptation to anger, jealousy, and pride, as well as looking out for those who may have got out of their depth and need our support and advice.

In our own examination of conscience on this matter, we simply look, as we always do, at the commandments and the virtues and corresponding vices. The virtue of charity is naturally our primary consideration when communicating with others; and charity includes the love of the truth and its eloquent expression. Although we use them in a different way from Cicero and Demosthenes, we are essentially still trying to use the skills of rhetoric to inform, persuade and motivate. Unlike the ancients, we have a gospel to preach from the Word made flesh. If we can use modern tools of communication to do so, that is a genuine apostolate, and one that has been encouraged several times by Pope Benedict.

Catholic Dilemma 248 published in the Catholic Herald

Catholic Dilemmas

Each week I write an article of roughly 350 words for the Catholic Herald which has the title Catholic Dilemmas. This is a good writing discipline since at that length you can't afford to waste words, and it is a challenge to answer some of the questions in the limit. I don't have the option to waffle on longer.

In correspondence with the Editor, Luke Coppen, I discovered that I had been too coy about posting the articles here. Since I am paid a fee for them, I felt that it was not my business just to publish them at will. However publishing is changing fast and the editor is happy for me to post my articles - and indeed to have a link to the Herald to boot. So you'll be getting my CDs, as we call them, regularly from now on - after the print edition of the paper is out.

You might also be able to help by submitting dilemmas. Remember that I have to answer them in 350 words. I do make a point of limiting liturgical articles - I do some, but want to keep a balance between those questions, moral, spiritual, and doctrinal questions and occasional light-hearted and off-the-wall items. Feel free to pose dilemmas in the combox but please don't expect me to reply there. You may help me to get the article written a little earlier than just before the deadline but I can't operate a general internet agony uncle service. (Funerals, Baptisms, visiting to do, Masses to say, you know the sort of thing.)

I just filed CD number 249 today so I'll post up some of the back catalogue in due course. In another post, I'll ask about how to get the whole lot online in the most efficient way possible. (They are all in Word files.)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma meeting at Blackfen

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma will be holding its next meeting at Blackfen on Saturday 18 February 2012. Here are the details:
10:30am Low Mass (Our Lady’s Saturday)
11:00am Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Confession, followed by Benediction
12:00pm Talk by Fr Sam Medley SOLT: “Blogging as an instrument of ecclesial communion”
1:00pm Lunch (donations welcome)
2:30pm Informal meeting of the Guild
3.30pm Final prayers and departure

All Catholics who use the new media, either as bloggers or users of social networking sites, are welcome to attend the Guild meeting and/or join the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma.

Address: 330a Burnt Oak Lane, Sidcup, Kent DA15 8LW
Directions are here
We had a bit of a discussion about whether to have the meeting at Blackfen again. Some were worried that it might be imposing on our hospitality. That is certainly not a problem: I am more than happy to host such a group and there are plenty of people here who are willing to help out. From my side, I was worried that Blackfen is a little out of the way, and I didn't want to hog the show, but others said that they liked coming here last time and wanted to come again. The next meeting will probably be elsewhere so that it is fairer to people who don't live in London and the South East.

If anyone would like to come but has problems over expenses for train fares etc. just let me know (in the strictest confidence - email The lunch is provided on a donations basis so if you have already had to shell out to get here, you don't need to give anything, and those who have a bit of spare cash can cover the cost: given the normal generosity of people the parish isn't going to lose out.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

From one mother to another

Simcha Fisher who writes for the National Catholic Register is always worth reading. Today she speaks To the mother with only one child. Her advice is drawn from her own experience of being a mother of one child - but also from her present experience of being a mother of nine. (Mothers of nine were all at one time mothers of one.)

Her article is a master-class of what the Fathers of Vatican II referred to as the lay apostolate. This was not invented in the 1960s; before then there was a thriving lay apostolate in the Church. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it was, to a large degree, emasculated after the council, in favour of lay ministry.

The difference is this: as a priest, I can distribute Holy Communion, I can read out the scriptures, I can celebrate the Liturgy. If lay people do these things, they are essentially helping the priest.

As a priest, I cannot campaign in a trade union for the social teaching of the Church, I cannot gather employees of a bank to say the Rosary during the coffee break, I cannot run a business that gives its employees decent conditions of work. Only lay people can do those things - and there would be many more (and probably better) examples to lengthen the list.

And I cannot tell a mother from experience, about the joys and trials of bringing up children - only a lay woman can do that. As Pope Benedict said (to the Scottish Bishops on their 2010 ad limina visit):
Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest's role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council's vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church's mission to sanctify the world. A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give a strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.
Simcha Fisher has given a fine example of the lay apostolate that Pope Benedict was encouraging.

Please stop saying "vibrant"

Can we all stop using the word "vibrant", please.

I have mixed feelings about the film Braveheart but one line that I do like is when Mel Gibson as William Wallace rides out to the parley on the battlefield at Stirling and says "Ah'm goin tae pick a fight". I have waited for a propitious moment to pick this one, fearful of being seen as attacking any particular person who has recently used the word "vibrant" in print (in fact, only today I saw two examples) but I dive in because scarcely a day goes by without seeing something described as vibrant.

Politicians, Bishops, schools, supermarkets, councils, advertising agencies, the local environmental and climate change awareness group, the police, social services, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, nowadays describe themselves, their activities or their "communities" as vibrant.

Are the communities vibrating or quivering in some way?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Faith Magazine latest issue online

I haven't read it yet, but this is just a heads-up that the January edition of Faith Magazine is now online. Sir Dan of the blogosphere tells me that William Oddie is especially worth looking at. I'll be attending to it over my cocoa later.

Catholic question on Brain of Britain

Question on Brain of Britain on Monday afternoon (I was in the car):
Which Catholic martyr became both Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1504?
[pause.] Em. Thomassss  Thomas Cranmer
Another contestant gave the right answer and the presenter went on to say
Yes. Cardinal John Fisher who was beheaded on the order of King Henry VIII at Tower Hill in 1535 because he refused to accept Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn or the suppression of English Catholicism.
which is not bad for the BBC.

I thought that the contestant might be going to say "Thomasssss  MORE" which would have been a less disastrous mistake. Of course we don't expect everyone to know all about our history and I don't want to attack the poor chap for not knowing everying, but Thomas Cranmer was perhaps about the worst answer he could have given.

Boys and technology

With my new iPad and Kindle, and my soon-to-be-out-of-contract Android phone, I went last week to the John Fisher School to speak to the boys of the Faith group about the use of new technology in evangelisation. One of the main points that I made was that technology can be morally neutral in itself and can be used for great good and for great evil (though as a part of creation, with the input of human intelligence, it is fundamentally good.) Our duty is to make sure that we use it for the good - especially by proclaiming the truth of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and for assisting others to know and love Jesus Christ.

After the talk there were some good questions and the boys enjoyed playing with the iPad. They referred to the "washing machine" effect when you twist it and make the display go rapidly from portrait to landscape and back again.


In November I wrote about the blaze that had destroyed the house called Takapuna, formerly the home of several priests who taught at the school, and the place where the meetings of the Faith Movement were held from its foundation in 1972. We used to pack into Fr Roger Nesbitt's study for a talk on the faith and lively discussion, followed by tea and buttered toast (a tradition that is still preserved.) Above you can see a photo of the house. Here is what it looks like now:

Takapuna 003

As those who know Sir Dan of the blogosphere would expect, he has interpreted this as a symbol of the devastation in the Church. However we "Keep calm and carry on." There are still vocations from the John Fisher School and I pray that this tradition will also be preserved along with buttered toast.

A joke from the club

Marsvin (Phocoena phocoena) lightHere's a Wednesday morning joke scheduled to go up as you arrive at the office. It is from Alex whom I see in the parish club regularly. It is rare that he doesn't have a good one to share. Here's the latest:
I had to contact SeaWorld the other day. When I rang them, the message said: "Your call may be recorded for training porpoises."

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

How to react to criticism

Personally I have never experienced anything but kindness and good spiritual provision from Opus Dei, since I first went on a retreat at Wickenden Manor as a teenage boy some 40 years ago. As a priest I find that the Days of Recollection are a great help and I wish that my parish activities would allow me to attend more regularly.

Still, there are others who criticise various things about Opus Dei, or about particular members. Such discussion is bound to be a part of the life of the Church when a religious society is so effective in its apostolate and powerful in its work for the Church. None of us should expect to be immune from criticism; what matters is how we respond to it.

There is a good example of the approach of Opus Dei on Laurence England's blog. A couple of weeks ago, he wrote a post suggesting that an unemployed person would not be welcomed. The other day, Fr Paul Hayward replied openly, politely and with genuine charity and warmth. It is a fine priestly example of how to react to criticism.

Ordinariate Pastoral letter

Mgr Keith Newton issued a pastoral letter for the first anniversary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I was especially encouraged by this passage:
What of the future? We face it with faith and hope, committing it to the Lord. There is a constant stream of men and women being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, we expect several new groups to be received at Easter and we are preparing for a number of ordinations to the priesthood around Pentecost. In addition several young men are exploring the possibility of ordination within the Ordinariate.
I made copies of the pastoral letter available in my parish because it will help some people to understand what the Ordinariate is. As Mgr Newton explains, many Catholics have had no contact with the Ordinariate and misunderstand it.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Catholic physics joke

I'm sure many of you will have heard this already but I do claim the privilege of hearing the joke when at a Christmas party where a relative of mine was present who does actually work at CERN.
A Higgs Boson particle walks into a Catholic Church. So the priest comes up to him and says "Oi you! Higgs Boson! You can't come in 'ere."

So the Higgs Boson particle says, "Without me you can't have any mass."
Incidentally, as I understand the explanation given to me, the people at CERN haven't discovered the Higgs Boson particle, they have found various places where it doesn't exist, thus narrowing down the possibilities for places where it does, and making it more likely that they will find it in the end. But I am sure that is an over-simplification.

Ordinariate anniversary celebration

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is celebrating the first anniversary of its foundation with Evensong and Benediction at St James's, Spanish Place, next Sunday 15 January at 5pm. The Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton will be the celebrant.

I love the idea of Evensong and Benediction, combining the best of the Anglican patrimony with the quintessentially Catholic service of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I regret that I will not be able to be there as I have my own evening Mass in the parish, but I would very much like to host a celebration of Evensong and Benediction at Blackfen some time.

It would be particularly good to have the psalms sung according to the beautiful four part settings that I became familiar with many years ago at various chapels in Oxford. They could be a part of "mutual enrichment" if Catholic choirs singing Mass in English were to use them for the psalm at Mass, as used to happen at St Aloysius when I was in the choir there.

UPDATE: Also sung Evensong and Benediction at The Chapel of St. John Fisher, Guildhall Street, Cambridge on Sunday 22 January, 6pm. This is catching on ...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Non mittendus canibus

"Canadian priestess sorry for giving dog Holy Communion" was the heading of an email in my inbox today. (Actually the BBC report doesn't use the word "priestess" which I understand is considered disrespectful for some unfathomable reason.) According to the BBC report, the local Bishop said that her actions "had contravened church policy." The Toronto Star reports that Bishop Yu did indeed write to a complaining parishioner that,
"it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals."
If it is a matter of policy, I wonder whether it might change tomorrow after a debate in Synod or Council or Moot or something. Theologically, the BBC gets it right, perhaps unintentionally, by captioning a photo with the words:
"The dog took the biscuit but no wine was offered to the animal"
Episcopalian Church; woman priest; biscuit and wine. Correct.

The Toronto Star comes in with a bit of theological nuance, saying that the bread and wine are meant to represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ and are only to be given to those who have been baptized. Yes, probably a bit of representation going on there as far as some of the congregation are concerned, but not much if we are to believe the "deputy people’s warden"
“I think it was this natural reaction: here’s this dog, and he’s just looking up, and she’s giving the wafers to people and she just gave one to him,” ... “Anybody might have done that. It’s not like she’s trying to create a revolution.”
(An incidental problem for trendies wanting to give "the wafer" to dogs is that they are not likely to follow the more modern practice of receiving in the hand.)

Now of course we have to hope sincerely that this would not happen in a Catholic Church in, say, Austria or Belgium (with viral YouTube video.) If it were to do so, we would be thrown back to the Terrible Middle Ages, the debate on the real presence, and the brilliance of Lanfranc who contested the heresy of Berengarius. The dog would actually receive the res et sacramentum, the body and blood of Christ, but this would be a sacrilege because he would (through no fault of his own, just the circumstance of not having a spiritual soul) not be a fit subject to receive the res tantum, the grace of the sacrament.

It is worth reflecting that if we receive Holy Communion unworthily, we eat and drink judgement unto ourselves. Sometimes it is right to wait until we have received sacramental absolution.

Ecce Panis Angelorum,
Factus cibus viatorum
Vere panis filiorum,
Non mittendus canibus
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