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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Spot the mistake


Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics with the title After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? They argue that newborn babies are not persons and therefore do not have a right to life. I suppose this is consistent in a ghastly way. If a baby in the womb is deemed to be unworthy of life, there seems no logical reason to say that newborn babies have a right to life.

Perhaps we will now have an ecclesiastical statement saying that we recognise the reality of legal abortion and see no prospect of repealing the Abortion Act, but that we oppose this new development. That seems to be the approach taken to the progression from civil partnerships to gay marriage.

The Holy Spirit, soul of the Church

Here is the text of the sermon that I gave on Monday evening at the Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost as part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the parish of St Mary Magdalen, Brighton.

DSC_0911We speak of the Holy Spirit as the soul of the Church. The first to use this analogy was St Augustine. In one of his sermons, he said:
What the soul is for the body of man, that the Holy Spirit is for the body of Christ, that is, the Church, The Holy Spirit operates in the whole Church that which the soul operates in the members of the one body. (1)
Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, said that the Holy Spirit is “the principle of every supernatural act in all parts of the Body.” (2)

Of course we also speak of the Church as the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ, we affirm with St Augustine that:
Peter may baptise, but this is He that baptises; Paul may baptise, yet this is He that baptises; Judas may baptise, still this is He that baptises. (3)
The role of the Holy Spirit in the Church is to “activate” Our Lord’s living presence, so to speak. At the Last Supper, Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders, so there was a Church in embryo. When we say that Pentecost was the birthday of the Church it was, like a human birth, the occasion on which the Church went out to the world to proclaim the gospel and, on that first day, to baptise 3,000 people in Jerusalem.

We adore and glorify the Holy Spirit as the Lord and giver of life. The last part of the creed unfolds for us the work of the Holy Spirit. There is a mistake in the new ICEL translation: "I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."

There is no “in” in the Latin text. We do not believe in the Church in the way that we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the persons of the Blessed Trinity as truly God. We believe the Church both in the sense of trusting the Lord in Her, and of believing what she teaches us.

Henri de Lubac in his exposition of the apostles creed draws attention to this distinction. The Church is the first gift of the Holy Spirit through which all the other gifts are received. So we say:
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
De Lubac points out that this is not the jumbled list that it might appear to be at first sight. Through the Church we receive the communion of spiritual things (the original meaning of communio sanctorum) the principal holy thing that we share the Holy Spirit presence bringing life to all the things that the Church makes available to us. The forgiveness of sins is received first and foremost through Baptism by which we enter the Church, the resurrection of the body fulfils the preaching of the apostles which was focussed on the resurrection of Christ, so as to bring us to share in the resurrection of Christ. And the life everlasting is the ultimate purpose of the work of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the aim of the Church herself. We should not forget that everlasting life is the ultimate point of everything that we do in the Church.

We are aware that in terms of its human members, not all is well in the Church. It never has been, yet the presence of the Holy Spirit makes the affirmation of the holiness of the Church to be true, not only in theory but also in practice through the lives of the saints. Nevertheless we are aware of sin and failure in the Church. I am indebted to Archbishop Chaput for this story which he used in one of his sermons:
Heinrich Himmler, the chief of Adolph Hitler’s security services during the Nazi era in Germany, once threatened the Archbishop of Berlin, Cardinal Konrad Graf, with plans to crush the Catholic Church. Cardinal Graf listened politely and then responded: "Well, good luck. We’ve been trying to do that for 2,000 years, and [the Church is] still here." (4)
Evelyn Waugh put it more bluntly when he said that the Church must be divine because no purely human institution run with such knavish imbecility would last a fortnight.

That is why the Holy Spirit works in the Church to give that divine assistance to the magisterium so that we may know the truths necessary for salvation with certainty through her infallible teaching. It is also why the sacraments work ex opere operato, such that despite the unworthiness of the minister, the grace of the sacrament is given infallibly if he uses the correct matter and form, and at least intends to do what the Church does.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has seen the need for reform in the Church and has promoted that reform at three levels, moral, doctrinal and liturgical. We pray that the Year of Faith will be a success in reviving catechesis based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the renewed evangelisation of people in countries such as our own that were once known as bastions of the Christian faith.

Tonight with the beautiful music sung at the service of the Sacred Liturgy, in the context for which it was composed, and the prayers and rituals of the traditional Roman High Mass (“the most beautiful thing this side of heaven” as Fr Faber called it) we thank God for Pope Benedict’s perception of the importance of the reform and renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, given a strong shove by the removal of previous restrictions on the celebration of the traditional liturgy.

These reforms of Pope Benedict are not meant to be purely external reforms, like a Government Policy (or “raft of measures”) but are intended to transform us personally. As Blessed Pope John Paul said in one of his General Audience addresses:
The Spirit who dwells in the Church also abides in the heart of every member of the faithful: he is the dulcis hospes animae. (5)
The Holy Spirit is the “sweet guest of the soul” and we must welcome Him in the devotion that we bring to our public and private prayers, the submission of our minds to the mind of Christ, and the sincere effort to correspond with the grace of God in overcoming sin in our lives.

The celebration of such a significant anniversary for such a significant Church is indeed an opportunity for reform in our lives, the renewal of our life of prayer and our moral life, and the celebration of our Sacred Worship in the best way that we can. It is a joy to be able to participate in the programme of events that has been organised to make the best of this opportunity. May God bless your parish, all the parishioners, and your parish priest, and may St Mary Magdalen intercede from heaven for the sanctification of all who take part in the celebrations.

Notes
  1. St Augustine. Sermones. 267.4
  2. Pope Pius XII. Mystici Corporis Christi. (1943) n.57
  3. St Augustine. In Evangelium Ioannis Tractatus. 6.7
  4. Archbishop Chaput (sermon) http://fratres.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/the-holy-spirit-soul-of-the-church/
  5. Blessed John Paul II. General Audience. 8 July 1998

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Evangelisation at Brighton


The Church is empty in the picture (H/T Mulier Fortis) except for the parish priest, but it was standing room only by 7pm when Mass began. Here is the procession out, after singing the Te Deum:


Fr Blake has organised a number of events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the parish of St Mary Magdalen, Brighton. Last night it was a V High Mass of the Holy Ghost with Schubert's Mass no. 2 in G major, Bruckner's Locus iste, and the world premiere of Tom Bennet's Tu es Petrus. Fr Blake was celebrant, I was deacon, and Fr Simon Heans of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was subdeacon.

I preached the sermon. To be honest, I was not really satisfied with it and wondered if people might find it a bit boring; I was surprised at the number of enthusiastic comments. I think this was one of those times where God teaches us as priests that it is not our own skill that matters but how he moves people. I'll post the text tomorrow as it is getting late tonight and there are some typos to be edited.

The whole occasion was magnificent, and fulfilled Fr Blake's hopes of using the usus antiquior as a means of evangelisation. There were plenty of parishioners there, but also people of other faiths and none, some coming for a free concert, but experiencing the music in the context for which it was composed. Pray that God will move hearts through this series of events at Brighton. I mentioned Fr Faber's famous line that the Solemn High Mass of the Roman Rite is "the most beautiful thing this side of heaven." More than one person came up afterwards to express their agreement.

Piano recital at St George's on Thursday


Happy to post information on this piano recital at our Cathedral of St George this Thursday. Full size flyer here.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The magnificence of God's creation


This is a really cool graphic illustration of the scale of different things in the universe.

The start button takes you to a scale of 1 metre and you can slide up or down from there. It is a helpful illustration of the magnificence of God's creation.
O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth! For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens. (Ps 8.2)
And remember: Jesus Christ is the master key to the meaning of the universe.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Magic iPad fun



Thanks to Jennifer's Favourite Links for this fun video with a magician doing tricks with an iPad. As Jennifer says:
It's in German, but you don't need to understand the language to understand the coolness.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Dumb ideas for Lent

Lent: a time for repenting of our sins and battling against the devil - something we are reminded of when we take Holy Water.

Lent: a time for meditating on the death of Christ - something we are reminded of by the crucifix.

Lent: a time for following Christ in his Passion - something we are reminded of by the Stations of the Cross, especially on Fridays.

Fr Z reports on three dumb ideas for Lent:


These examples remind me of Christopher Derrick's definition of a liturgist:
A man sent by God so that in times when there is no direct persecution, the people of God may not be denied the opportunity of suffering for their faith.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

CD 251 Sloth

An examination of conscience I was reading spoke of looking at various ways that we are prone to the seven capital sins. I wondered how much sloth is a problem now that people are so busy.
Sloth is still alive and well, though it causes many people to be neither of those things spiritually. Doctors call high blood pressure the hidden killer. In spiritual terms, that description could be given to sloth. When we examine our conscience, we might indeed dismiss the idea of sloth, thinking that because we are very busy and have lots of work to do, it does not apply to us. Paradoxically sloth can be associated with the stress and overwork that many people experience: we can become averse to all other effort, reluctant to spend our spare time on anything of genuine value, and particularly indifferent to prayer.

The gravity of this sin varies according to the duties that we neglect. It often affects the generosity with which people devote time to their spiritual life. For example, the Rosary takes about fifteen minutes to say, but it is seen as a great chore compared with three hours watching television or aimlessly surfing the internet. This vice is encouraged by the “Have It Your Way” culture in which we are conditioned to think that we should simply do whatever we feel like once we have finished the work that we absolutely have to do.

Hence the spiritual writers teach that a primary remedy for sloth is an intellectual conviction concerning the duty to use our time wisely and well. This forms a motivating foundation for that sustained and intelligent effort by which we sometimes see individuals of ordinary background, means and ability achieve so much. Overcoming sloth does not mean that we have no leisure time; in fact a well-ordered Christian diligence helps us to relax with greater profit. Again, prudence based on a sensible assessment of how we need to be refreshed can help to use that time to the greatest benefit. Undoubtedly the value of giving time generously to prayer is one of the best uses of any time that we have spare.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox.

Something you'd be unlikely to see in England


This photo came via a priest friend from Matthew who was visiting Cincinnati. Matthew writes:
Cincinnati is the most Catholic city I have been to, there are so many Churches and Mass times, maybe not as much Poland but still a lot and people seem to talk about Church a lot more. There was a beautifully sung Mass this morning at 7.15 which had 50+ people at it. 
Also, I saw the attached sign in a Fastfood place; I was ordering some food in the bar and they read off the menu and said "Oh for the Catholics as it's Ash Wednesday we have..." and read off some non-meat options".
 Of course if any service provider offers food it is normal to ask for any special dietary requirements. It's our fault that if these are specified, offers are made for halal, kosher or vegetarian. We should be more confident about saying "I'm Catholic and it's a Friday so please could I have a non-meat option."

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sodality Votive Mass of the Five Holy Wounds


The Sodality of the Five Holy Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ will be meeting at Blackfen on Friday 16 March at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen. There will be a Missa Cantata at 8pm (or shortly after - we have Stations of the Cross at 7.30pm to which all are, of course, welcome.)

The Mass will be a Votive Mass of the Five Holy Wounds and will be offered for the intentions of all members of the Sodality. Everyone is welcome to come. There will be tea, coffee and other refreshments afterwards in our Small Hall.

I have taken on the role of Spiritual Director to the Sodality after consulting with Fr Southwell who has stepped down from this role. After the Mass, we will discuss possible future events and activities for the Sodality. Devotion to the Five Holy Wounds is a very English thing, popular among our martyrs and others who suffered during penal times. I look forward to taking a role in this Sodality.

The above picture is the new logo, designed by Catholic illustrator and artist, Daniel Mitsui.

Looking forward to speaking to "Call to Youth"


On Thursday 1 March I'm giving a talk to the London Oratory's "Call to Youth." (8pm in St Wilfrid's Hall) The title is "Was Christ tempted ‘just as we are’?: Understanding the temptations of Christ". These talks are open to people from 18-35 years old. This work with young adults at the Oratory has been remarkably successful and I am looking forward very much to the occasion.

If you are tempted to fire off in the combox the Jerusalem Bible translation of Hebrews 4.15, do be aware that the meaning (and therefore the proper translation) of that verse is one of the principal points at issue. Key dogmatic point: Jesus did not suffer from concupiscence.

Here is a list of some other events for Call to Youth during Lent from their email today:
On Thursday 29th March from 8pm in the Little Oratory:
An Evening of Recollection for Lent
Prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament & Lenten meditations

Both evenings will end with the usual sandwiches & drinks.

***
Also do try to make time for these:

Lenten Evening Oratory with the Fathers
in the tradition of St Philip Neri
6.30pm – 7.30pm
in the Little Oratory on Wednesdays in Lent

29 February:
Getting through Lent.

7 March:
Penance and Reconciliation.

14 March:
Preparing for the Forty Hours.

28 March:
Passiontide.

Prayer. Short spiritual talks. Music.

A Council Father's reminiscences

Shane of Lux Occulta has sent me a link to an interview that was given by the late Archbishop Thomas Morris, emeritus of Cashel and Emly, to Kieron Wood, religious affairs correspondent of RTE in 1992. Archbishop Morris had been a Bishop for two years when the second Vatican Council started. At some points, the interview seems a little naive twenty years on, but there are some gems. I thought that this was a good insight from the Archbishop:
At the opening Mass of the Council, I was near the altar and heard Pope John XXIII speak about the serious difficulties and sufferings of earlier Councils because of undue interference of the civil authorities, Kings and Emperors and so on. I put a note in the margin of the sermon: what about interference by the media?

It’s an almost insuperable temptation for the media to influence the events they report, perhaps by an implication of approval or disapproval. I felt that good Pope John wasn’t aware that this would happen, but I saw it happening. I knew the Irish journalists who were reporting and I saw their methods, though they weren’t the most reckless of the reporters there.
Later, he says:
There was a lack of foresight on the part of the people organizing the Council. They should have organized relations with the press and media a bit better.
Fifty years on, I think the penny is beginning to drop ...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Saying Yes and Saying No - CMA Conference


The Catholic Medical Association is holding another conference in my parish this weekend. the theme is "Saying Yes and Saying No. Skills for clinicians dealing with ethical dilemmas in medicine."

There will be lectures by various consultants and legal experts, time for conviviality, and all night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. All healthcare workers are welcome, and everyone is of course welcome for the adoration and other spiritual exercises on the programme.

Here is a link to the poster with full details of the conference.

Coalition for Marriage petition

The Coalition for Marriage is an umbrella group of individuals and organisations in the UK that support traditional marriage and oppose any plans to redefine it. The Coalition has organised an online petition in support of marriage. It reads:
I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it.
Ther are over 13,000 signatures so far.

Sign the petition here.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fire extinguisher training


Recently we had the great good fortune that two of our carbon dioxide extinguishers ended their safely useful life. Therefore we had an opportunity for training altar boys in the correct use of such apparatus (tip: don't hold the horn as it gets quite cold.)

It is also important that the parish priest has a go undertakes appropriate health and safety training:

Saturday, 18 February 2012

FSSP Vocation Discernment Weekend

Fr De Malleray sends me news of a Vocation Discernment Weekend to be held at St John Fisher House in Reading from 30 March to 1 April. This is for Catholic men between 18 and 35 years of age. The weekend will be led by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP, assisted by Fr Simon Leworthy, FSSP and Rev Ian Verrier, FSSP, a seminarian of the Fraternity who was interviewed by Mary O'Regan for the Catholic Herald last month. You can read the interview at Mary's blog The Path Less Taken.

You can find full details of the Vocation Discernment Weekend at the FSSP forthcoming events page (scroll down.) You might also want to take a look at the page with links to the new Vocations flyer and videos.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Cardinal-to-be Dolan speaks of going to confession in Rome


Archbishop Dolan's message about confession the other day was a fine example of simple pastoral care for his people.

Love, Prayers, and Best Wishes from Rome

Well, I did it again…

It’s usually one of the very first things I do on my first full day back in Rome…

Early in the morning, I walk down the Janiculum Hill – where I stay at the North American College – to Saint Peter’s Basilica, there to go to confession and then to celebrate Mass.

Two powerful sacraments, Eucharist and Reconciliation, constants of our spiritual life, at the heart of the church, near the tomb of Saint Peter.

I don’t want you to think that I only approach confession when I’m in Rome!

At home with you in New York I try to go every two weeks, because I need it.

But it does have a special urgency and meaning here in Rome.

Near the tomb of Saint Peter, I can hear Jesus ask Him three times: “Simon, do you love me?” and then examine my conscience to see how I have failed to love the Lord and take care of his sheep.

Near his tomb, I picture myself, like Saint Peter, doubting Jesus and sinking in the waters of the storm.

Adjacent to his burial place, I even admit that, like Peter, I have, in my thoughts, words, and actions, denied Jesus.

So my contrition is strong, my purpose of amendment firm, and I approach one of the Franciscans for confession in the corner of the massive basilica.

Then I say my penance before the tomb of Peter, under the high altar, and go to vest for the greatest prayer of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And then I go for pasta….

Lent begins next Wednesday. I’ll be back to start it with you.

Sometime over those forty days leading up to Easter, take a cue from your archbishop: get back to confession!

My love, prayers, and best wishes from Rome.
This really struck a chord with me. When I go to Rome, I go into St Peter's early and go to confession before celebrating my first Mass in the basilica. There is something special about celebrating the sacrament of penance there. Another advantage is that if you go to confession, then say Mass (or simply receive Holy Communion if you are a layman) you can go straight to the tomb of St Peter and gain the plenary indulgence.

Archbishop Dolan spoke this morning to the Holy Father and the College of Cardinals. Here is a link to the full text of his address. I have fired it over to my Kindle to read before I go to bed. I am very glad that he is being made a Cardinal tomorrow.

The condoning generation

"InfiniteGrace" writes a blog called Postabortion journey, walk with me...

The introductory text for the blog is:
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.
Go over and have a look.

Many people know that there is an ecclesiastical censure of excommunication attached to abortion. Actually it is applied to any person who procures an abortion. It is unlikely that a 17 year old girl who was under pressure would have incurred the censure. But the person who pressured her and gave her the money ...

We need to focus some of our preaching on what a priest friend of mine called the "condoning generation". Even if they did not actually encourage the abortion, many took the line "I will support you whatever you choose" which effectively leaves a vulnerable young girl with little choice. It is this generation that is likely to be resentful of pro-life preaching (youngsters don't usually have a problem with it.) We need to persuade people that repentance and forgiveness is a a life-giving path in contrast to denial and the rejection of the truth.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Ramsgate treasures saved

Pugin Monstrance

I expect that several other bloggers have picked this up, but there is good news about the historic items from Ramsgate Abbey: they are now to remain in Catholic hands.

See the full press release from the Catholic Communications Network.

Faith Symposium

The annual Faith Theological Symposium is in full swing at Ampleforth. I have only limited access to the internet, and no wifi, so I can't post it. Just to say that it is going well with excellent lectures and conviviality. This evening we have a holy hour so I will remember readers then, and at Mass tomorrow.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Double standards #2567


There are prima facie credible allegations that a deceased priest abused minors, the Church knew about it, had made no enquiry, had not informed the police, and now refuses to comment.

Oops! No, sorry, the story is not about a priest, but a TV celebrity, and not about the Church, but the BBC.

So that's all right then. Nothing to see here. No hostile interviews. Please move on. Instead you can read a glowing obituary of Jimmy Savile at the BBC website.

See Guido Fawkes: Did the BBC Fix It For Jim? Awkward Questions for Director General Mark Thompson
See also Daily Telegraph: BBC 'buried Savile sex abuse claims to save its reputation’

The celebrity in question took part in Church events involving children, notably at Lourdes. Perhaps the Bishops might ask the BBC why they were not informed about the possibility of his being a risk to minors. Imagine the furore if the Church had supplied a priest for a children's programme on the BBC and failed to communicate a reasonable safeguarding concern.

In other news: The Holy See has held a major conference in which recommendations have been made for action to be taken against Bishops who do not act correctly in safeguarding children.


New novel dealing with euthanasia

Keep Breathing is set in Britain, only a few years into the future, when the government is in the hands of the New Phoenix Party, whose leader is determined to implement a UN resolution for the reduction of Individual Units of Consumption (people.)

The proposal is that in addition to the Assisted Dying Act which had already allowed for assisted suicide, a new measure would allow people 15 years of state pension after which a Maturity Contract would offer the choice of terminal sedation or an opt-out clause. The opt-out clause would involve a reduction in the state pension by 5% per year to a minimum of 50%.

Retired journalist Howard Mitchell leads a campaign in which pensioners bring London to a standstill, the State Security Service tries to bump him off, and ordinary people come to realise just how horrendous the government’s proposals are. An interesting twist is that Howard’s sympathies politically are left of centre; this gives an unpredictable flavour to the plot and the characters. There are many references to the Catholic Church in the story and it is a great joy to read a novel where these are sensible and accurate.

The author, Adam Grace, is himself a retired journalist who spent 20 years with the Telegraph; the writing is as impeccable and taut as you would expect from such a professional. I very much enjoyed reading the novel and I recommend it to you. Here is the Amazon link:

Thursday, 9 February 2012

"The Church right on birth control"

Business Insider, a secular media website, carries a spectacularly good article Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control. The authors succinctly demolish the argument that the Church's teaching on birth control is outdated and obviously silly. Here's a taster:
Today's injunctions against birth control were re-affirmed in a 1968 document by Pope Paul VI called Humanae Vitae. He warned of four results if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted:
  • General lowering of moral standards
  • A rise in infidelity, and illegitimacy
  • The reduction of women to objects used to satisfy men.
  • Government coercion in reproductive matters.
Does that sound familiar?
Because it sure sounds like what's been happening for the past 40 years.
It seems that President Obama's version of the dictatorship of relativism with the proposed HHS rule is generating some powerful support for the Catholic Church. In the USA, the Bishops have been pretty stout in speaking out about the threat to freedom of religion and have been garnering widespread support by their strong stance.

Here's another quote from the article: I found it amusing:
And if you don't think women are being reduced to objects to satisfy men, welcome to the internet, how long have you been here?
Do read the whole piece.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Charles Dickens

My esteemed friend Fr Zuhlsdorf has reminded us all that today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.

Some years ago, I was at a dinner with a couple of other priests I had not seen in a while. In conversation I mentioned that I was reading through all the novels of Dickens. Their disgust was almost palpable, and a complete surprise to me. Theirs was not the "I was made to read Dickens at school and hated it" kind of dislike, it was a cultural distaste; some of Dickens' works were published weekly and were the soap operas of the day (O tempora! O mores!) My guess was that he was also seen as a kind of socialist, though they explicitly objected to his sentimentality. Apparently nowadays too, according to a commenter over at WDTPRS, literary modernists don't like him for various reasons, principally related to his style of writing.

Well I did read through most of the novels and thoroughly enjoyed them. It was while reading one edition in a rather small print "complete works" collection which my sister gave me, that I realised that I should go and get my eyes tested: I have worn spectacles for reading ever since. That interrupted me, I did not get back to the great man and so I have not yet read the American Notes or Martin Chuzzlewit. Now I will look out for a collected works edition for the Kindle and probably start reading them all again.

People who like Dickens vary in their reasons for doing so. One of my own is his wit, the way that he gently lampoons many of his characters. Since reading him, I have never been much attracted to films or television adaptations of his stories (much less the tedious "Oliver" musical) because they cannot capture the observational humour of his descriptions of people and their foibles; and those are often the best parts of his books.

I just took a few volumes from the bookcase to look, more or less at random, at passages I marked. Here is one from Barnaby Rudge that made me chuckle again:
... they sat down to tea in the bar, where there was an uncommon display of buttered toast, and - in order that they might not grow faint for want of sustenance, and might have a decent halting-place or halfway house between dinner and supper - a few savoury trifles in the shape of great rashers of broiled ham, which being well cured, done to a turn, and smoking hot, sent forth a tempting and delicious fragrance.

Mrs Varden was seldom very Protestant at meals, unless it happened that they were underdone, or overdone, or indeed that anything occurred to put her out of humour. Her spirits rose considerably on beholding these goodly preparations, and from the nothingness of good works, she passed to the somethingness of ham and toast with great cheerfulness. Nay, under the influence of these wholesome stimulants, she sharply reproved her daughter for being low and despondent (which she considered an unacceptable frame of mind), and remarked, as she held her own plate for a fresh supply, that it would be well for Dolly, who pined over the loss of a toy and a sheet of paper, if she would reflect upon the voluntary sacrifices of the missionaries in foreign parts who lived chiefly on salads.
If you want to start on Dickens, Barnaby Rudge is a good choice for Catholics because it involves Lord Gordon and the riots in London against the Papist Act of 1778 which relieved some of the penalties imposed upon Catholics.

Monday, 6 February 2012

CD 250 Masses for the dead

My parish priest told me that only one Mass was needed for a dead person to be released from Purgatory and so I have not had Masses said for my deceased father. After finding alternative views on the internet, I wonder whether this advice was correct.

I am afraid that I do not agree with the advice that your priest gave, though I am sure that he meant well. Although the Mass has an infinite value, our capacity to receive God’s grace is limited. Therefore it is proper for us to offer Masses regularly for a deceased relative or friend.

In the early third century, Tertullian spoke of the practice of “making oblations for the dead as birthday honours.” (De Corona 3) He was referring to offering Mass on the occasion of a person’s anniversary. He similarly referred to a widow “offering” on the anniversary of her husband’s falling asleep. (De Monogomia 10) He even mentioned that although the practice was not in the scriptures, it had the authority of tradition and custom, so we may assume that it was being done some time before. In book 9 of the Confessions, St Augustine gives a moving account of the psalms and prayers, and the Mass that was offered for his mother who requested that she be remembered at the altar, which she had served without missing a single day.

A particular person for whom we offer Mass, may already be in heaven and our prayers may no longer needed for them. In such a case, those prayers would not be wasted, but would benefit other holy souls who have nobody to pray for them. At secular funerals, and even at many Christian funerals, there is no concern to pray for the repose of the deceased person but simply to remember a few anecdotes about them and “celebrate their life.”

So do have Masses said for your dear Father. If your own priest prefers not to accept Mass intentions, you could send them to Aid to the Church in Need which would pass on your offering to a priest suffering poverty or persecution.

Catholic Dilemma 250 published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

On the prospect of being shot and strung up


“Old bigots like you father should be shot and strung up.” Normally I don’t publish nasty comments, but on the post Gay Mass Bidding Prayers video I was more lenient than usual since I thought it fair for the gays to have their say on a post that criticised the Soho Mass. (My usual advice to bloggers for hateful comments is to delete them, forget them, and not refer to them. People who write such things are looking for attention and it is generally best not to grant it.)

On this occasion I break my own rule because I am intrigued by the suggestion that I should be both shot and strung up. I thought that this would be overkill (literally) since there would not be much point stringing me up if I had already been shot. Discussing this after Mass this morning, my MC did point out that the stringing-up might be a kind of ceremonial celebration of the shooting.

That could be a temptation, but such a spectacle, especially in our internet age, would be likely to backfire in PR terms for the gay community. (Certainly it would seem especially pointless, if the stringing-up happened first, for there to be a waste of ammunition peppering my already lifeless thorax.) At any rate, if there were to be a ceremonial post-shooting hanging, I hope that I could have a cross, acolytes and a thurifer. Although Fortescue doesn’t have any specific instructions for such a ceremony, my opinion would be that I should have a purple stole and the servers should wear plain cottas. Modern liturgists might suggest white vestments and decorated cottas (or polyester albs) for a "celebration of the life of..." but I would rather emphasise the need for atonement for my sins.

The thought occurred to me that if I needed to be shot, I would consider it a favour if the weapon used were the one pictured above, the early Remington Rolling Block which is a copy of Remington’s M1867, built under license by Wesley Richards in Birmingham and used by the army of the Papal States before their defeat by the forces of the Risorgimento. On the top of the Nock’s Form (the flat section of the barrel adjacent to the receiver ring) there is an image of the Papal tiara and the keys of Peter.


The traditional thing on such occasions is to shout Viva el Cristo Rey! though I am also attracted by Blessed Noel Pinot’s Introibo ad altare Dei. If it were to happen, I pray that God will give me the grace to do the right thing.

Snow fun at a classical location


We have snow here and the children have been having snowball fights after Mass, and building a snowman, but we can't beat the glamour of snow in Rome. Hilary White has collected some great photos on her blog. I did like the one I have copied above - people sledging at the Circus Maximus.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Gay Mass Bidding Prayers video



Look, isn't it about time an end was put to this? It is a scandal to all faithful Catholics and a travesty of the Church's genuine concern and care for people who have particular problems and temptations.

I entirely accept the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2358) that people with same sex attraction should be treated with compassion and sensitivity. In my own ministry, in which I have heard many confessions of people who have committed sexual sins whether heterosexual or homosexual, I hope that I have been kindly and, as far as possible, understanding. It is perfectly possible to offer acceptance and compassion for human weakness without the need to have the Bidding Prayers read by a man with a wig and a dress and a rainbow flag on the ambo.

The Gay Mass phenomenon is also an obstacle to many good people who are struggling with temptations to same sex attraction, and trying to live a chaste life according to the teaching of Christ and the Church. I do not know of any official support that has been given to Encourage, yet the scandal of the Soho Masses seems to be immune from serious, documented and sustained criticism from lay people who can supply (and have supplied over years) reams of evidence of dissent from Church teaching, association with immoral events and groups (such as "Pride") and such travesties of the liturgy as illustrated in the video above.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales will have no credibility in opposing legislation for gay marriage while this is allowed to continue in the heart of London.
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