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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas


"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will."

A hundred and forty-one years ago the Prussian Chancellor, Bismarck, attempted to crush the Church with the Kulturkampf. He failed. Translated, this is the “Culture War” which we face today, especially in Europe and the United States. Stalin tried something similar, though more saunguinary, taunting “How many divisions does the Pope have?” Blessed Pope John Paul did not need any tanks. Neither did the apostles and their successors in the early Church need Legions to gain freedom for the Church in the face of the might of the Roman Empire.

These battles, along with our Culture War of today, are fought without weapons, often despite dungeon, fire and sword being used against the innocent followers of Christ. We do not win every battle in this peaceful struggle, but we know that with Christ as our champion, the Nazirite, the new Sampson, over the centuries, and in the end, the final victory of the truth of God incarnate is assured. He has conquered, we follow Him.

We only need to look upon the crib to see how Christ once again comes to our aid against the dictatorship of relativism in our own time. When the very foundation of our society, the family, based on the mother and father who are espoused to each other, is under attack from the redefinition of marriage by our Government and others, along with the destruction of the unborn and the manufacture of life in the laboratory; we gaze lovingly upon the Holy Family.

God could have simply created a human body and soul for Christ without the intervention of any mother. Instead He chose in His infinite wisdom, to call Our Blessed Lady and ask her to give birth to His Son. God could have arranged for Jesus Christ to be cared for by angels. Instead He chose to call St Joseph to be His foster-father. The crib, the simple model which we humbly put up in our Church and in our homes for the glory of God now takes on a significance that previous generations would not have imagined even in their nightmares. The image of the Holy Family protests silently in support of the natural family created by God. The Christmas crib is today a banner of freedom in Christ, the protection of human life, and the sanctity of the family.

The message of Christ bursts forth anew in every age, whatever the forces of evil throw against it. When faced by popular opinion, manipulated by the mainstream media, we do not need to flounder in doubt or succumb to the well-oiled secularism of the BBC. Our Lord said to the apostles “He who hears you hears me.” He is the Word, certain in all his ways and certain in every age, continuing to teach us through the magisterium of His Holy Catholic Church.

He came down to earth humbly. He, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, chose to share the weakness of human nature. We endeavour, in our witness to the Catholic faith, to make some reparation for the neglect which is shown to the great act of divine condescension by which “He came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all.”

We kneel before the figure of a child, knowing that in truth, we are nothing before the living God-made-man whom that figure represents. We submit ourselves to Him: not only in the acts of penance and charity that we make for His sake, but also in the submission of our minds to His truth. We conform our judgements and our opinions to His, for he is the creator of the universe, the One who was awaited by the prophets and sages, the One who was greeted by the Blessed Virgin, and the One who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

We rightly swell our voices to sing Venite adoremus, “O come let us adore Him.” Let us indeed adore Him and rejoice in our God who comes so close to us. He was born in a place on our earth called Bethlehem. He comes to every place on earth where the Roman Catholic Mass is offered daily. He comes to us tonight once again on this glorious feast as we gather in our little corner of the earth called Blackfen.

Let us bow down with the shepherds and the Magi and say “My Lord and my God! I adore you! I praise you! I will live and die in loyalty to you in the Holy Catholic Church which you founded for me as the ark of salvation. May I never separate myself from you again through sin. May I give glory to you with the angels and praise you with them for all eternity!”

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will."
A very happy Christmas to all readers. I will remember you at the Masses on this beautiful feast day.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Dan Cooper Bene Merenti


Congratulations to Dan Cooper (known here as Sir Dan of the Blogosphere) who has been awarded the Benemerenti medal by the Holy Father: well deserving indeed. He is pictured above with the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Southwark who presented the medal, and a painting of St John Fisher who, in the words of the school hymn, alone of his peers brooked the displeasure of King Henry VIII. The school has a report on Dan's work there which concludes:
He is a strong defender of the Catholic Faith, the unborn child, marriage and family life, the Eucharist and fidelity to the Holy Father.
Dan has worked for several decades with boys at the John Fisher school and has, with the help of the Holy Spirit, been influential in promoting many priestly vocations. When I spoke to him, Dan was very appreciative of this papal honour, but those who know him will be amused, but not surprised, to hear that he also said "medals won't solve the crisis in the Church."

Saturday, 22 December 2012

New media sacramentals?


A few weeks ago, my Catholic Dilemma column for the Catholic Herald ran as follows:
I use my iPad to follow the readings at Mass, for prayers after Communion and sometimes to follow the chant. Last week someone behind me tutted loudly. Is it wrong to use an iPad in Church?

Some readers might say “Yes, you should be using an Android tablet” but I prescind from that argument. There is no intrinsic reason why you should not use an electronic device to read the scriptures or the text of prayers and devotions. The iPieta app is a wonderful collection of spiritual writings, scripture, theology and magisterial teaching, and I know several Choir Directors who find the Liber Pro app an amazing resource for Gregorian chant.

One potential problem with using any backlit device in Church is that the bright screen could distract others. A small phone can be hidden but a tablet is likely to catch peoples’ eyes from quite some distance, especially if the lighting in the Church is subdued. In the current state of technology, the use of an e-book reader is less problematic in that it is not a light source; with a discreet cover, it can be made to look quite like a book and therefore not scandalise people who think that others should not play with what they think are just silly toys.

Let us be honest as well that if the use of tablets in Church becomes popular, some people will not resist the opportunity to check their email or catch up on their favourite blogs. If you are ever tempted to do this, consider whether you would start texting people in Church or take out a copy of the Daily Mail. The use of a device that is connected to the internet will always require a certain discipline.

We do not know what new hardware may become available even in the relatively short term. The Church was in the forefront of making use of the new technology of moveable type and Pope Benedict has several times encouraged us to use technology in the service of the Gospel.

And by the way, tutting at others in Church is not quite the thing either.
This weekend, the paper carried a thoughtful letter from Stephen D Wood. I have added incidental comments in red in order not to distract from the principal question which Mr Wood raises, which I will address afterwards:
SIR – Fr Tim Finigan (Catholic Dilemmas, October 5) approves the use of the iPad at Mass, saying that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. [With some qualifications.] I beg to differ.

Like prayer books, statues or the rosary, objects used for devotional purposes at the liturgy are sacramentals. Sacramentals are a means to receiving grace, but unlike the sacraments are instituted by the Church rather than directly by Christ. Also the reception of grace depends on the disposition of the individual using it. [An approved sacramental also benefits from grace given ex opere operantis ecclesiae, that is, from the prayer of the whole Church.]

First, I don’t think the iPad can be dscribed as a sacramental. The book, or a piece of paper, contains the sacred text in a completely different way to how the iPad contains it. The spatial aspect has effectively vanished with the iPad and with it the purposeful dimension. These two elements of a sacramental are significant for they reflect the Incarnation. [But remember that Our Lord also had a human soul and mind as well as human flesh.]

Secondly, regarding the disposition which the iPad represents, it is one of “the consumer”. It user is conscious always of choice. He or she selects the texts from maybe thousands of possibilities.[There are choices in a prayer book - the iPad presents more choice and this could be a problem secundum quid but not absolutely.] Entering the church we need to sense – and how much more in this age of rampant consumerism – the given.[I heartily agree in terms of the Liturgy itself, but I also support the idea of leaving people free to participate according to their own dispositions.]
In his irreplaceable canonico-moral tractatus on the sacraments, Fr Felix Cappello SJ set out a list of different types of sacramentals which I summarise in my notes as follows:
  • Things and actions – (holy water, blessings)
  • Permanent and transitory – (a blessed object, a blessing)
  • Blessings and exorcisms (asking for a good effect, compelling the departure of the devil)
  • Blessings and consecrations (consecrations use blessed oil)
  • Reserved and non-reserved (some blessings are reserved to the Bishop or to the Pope)
  • Real, personal and local (blessing of a rosary, of a person, of a house)
  • Verbal and real (blessings with a form of words, blessings with only an action)
  • Private or solemn (according to the nature of the rite or prayers used)
  • Constitutive and invocative (e.g. permanent consecrations e.g. of a Church; blessing of the sick)
A car or a house can be blessed. This does not make the car or house to be a sacramental in itself: it is the blessing which is a sacramental. When a rosary or prayerbook is blessed, that thing itself should be treated with respect as a sacramental in itself now that it has been blessed.

An iPad could be blessed. Since it can be used to look at email or the Guardian, or many billions of other pieces of content, it seems reasonable to say that the blessing of an iPad it is more in the nature of the blessing of a car than the blessing of a rosary.

But could there be virtual sacramentals? Let me take as examples Universalis (the modern office) and iPieta (a magnificent collection of liturgical, catechetical and spiritual texts.) Stephen Wood's point about the spatial and material aspect of prayerbooks is important. A piece of software does not fit. Although we could point to the source code and say "Well that is a script that can be printed on a piece of paper", that is not how it is used. The iPad user, normally unaware of the underlying code, just downloads the app and uses it. It is indeed ephemeral in that it can be deleted at the tap of a finger.

Still there is the question of something intellectual that exists in a way that is more concrete than an idea in my mind. We can pinpoint changes - whether the updating of the office to 2013 or the addition of further texts to iPieta. Also, Our Lord was made man - not simply in having human flesh but also in having a human soul and having human knowledge and will (these doctrines were thrashed out and defined by the Church in the wake of Nicea and Chalcedon.) Is is too outlandish to suggest that intellectual property, set out in something downloadable by the Christian, could itself be a new type of sacramental now that the printed word is challenged by new media?

Since the Holy Father has repeatedly encouraged us to use the new media, and has set an example himself, perhaps those projects which especially enrich Catholic life could be blessed and benefit from the prayers of the whole Church, being given the status of working ex opere operantis ecclesiae?

And finally once again - thought I think it could be OK to use an iPad in Church to pray, I do not approve of distracting others or using it to surf around aimlessly in the house of God.

Friday, 21 December 2012

A little bit of dusting



If you are overwhelmed by the cleaning you have to do before Christmas, consider the Sampietrini who have to clean the baldacchino in St Peter's. I'm going to look closer at it next time I am in Rome. Apparently there is a bronze rosary hanging off the base of one column as if someone just left it behind.

H/T CNS via Luke Coppen at the Catholic Herald

Pope: article in FT and address to Curia


I was as surprised as anyone when I read the other day that the Holy Father had written an article for the Financial Times: A time for Christians to engage with the world. He takes as his starting point the verse "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," and offers a reflection that I venture to hope would be respected by the readers of the FT. Apparently the Editorial Office just asked and the Pope responded willingly "despite the unusual nature of the request."

This morning, the Holy Father gave his annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia. The key section is where he speaks about the question of gender, referring with approval to the study of the Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, and launching his criticism of the new philosophy of sexuality from the expression of Simone de Beauvoir "one is not born a woman, one becomes so." He defends the idea of a human nature and the teaching of Genesis "male and female he created them." (Gen 1:27) The Pope also addresses the important question of dialogue and proclamation.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Diocesan magazine's Youth Page - on the old rite!


When I looked quickly at the "Teens & 20s" page of the current Portsmouth People (the Diocesan magazine) I thought that it was just another Yoof piece. In fact, it is given over to Thomas Messenger's account of why he goes to the FSSP at Reading for Mass in the old rite.

"Oh the times they are a-chay-ee-an-gin!"

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Questioning the use of microphones


Before 1876 when Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter, it would not have been possible to hear the prayers that were said by the priest at the High Altar of a large Church unless he shouted (a suggestion made by Luther) or sang. Hence, at High Mass in the traditional form, any prayers that are not sung are said secreto. To preach, the priest would walk some way down the nave, climb into a pulpit, and project his voice with the aid of a sounding board above him.

Now we have clip-on radio microphones that can transmit every whisper, cough and snuffle of the celebrant, catching sometimes on the polyester collar of modern vestments to interject loud scratching noises into the Mass. Fortunately I think that the use of these devices is now being called into question. In the older form of the Mass, microphones are not generally used except for preaching, where they will usually be necessary until the pulpit is rediscovered.

The bad influence of the microphone is seen most obviously in religious communities where they are used in the singing of the office for parts that are sung solo by one member of the choir at a lectern - or worse, as a means of amplifying the schola. I remember the great László Dobszay complaining about this, saying that he wanted to hear the schola, not a loudspeaker.

Kevin White explores the subject in an article for First things: Drop the Mic, pointing out that the public address system has the effect of homogeneising different kinds of speech:
To a member of the congregation, the prayers, the dialogue, the readings, the sermon, and the parish announcements are all emanations from one and the same source, the nearest loudspeaker. In my pew, I see the priest look towards me, but I hear his voice coming from another direction, that of the loudspeaker.
The article also suggests other ways in which the microphone has affected the Liturgy in recent times.

Dropping the use of the microphone is something that will seem madness to many who are used to the hearing-every-word aspect of the modern liturgy. Therefore it is worth remembering that the audibility of every word cannot be of the essence of the Christian liturgy since Christians managed without microphones for more than 90% of the Church's life to date.

H/T The Chant Café

Advice for the end of the world

As you probably know already, this Friday 21 December is the end-date of a 5125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. While Mayan experts do not support predictions of impending doom, it appears that in Russia and China particularly, people are buying up candles, matches and tinned food, and preparing to go to the top of a nearby mountain to be rescued by aliens.

Actually, the world might end on Friday. Our Blessed Lord Himself, according to the knowledge proper to His human nature, did not know when the end of the world would be. Neither do we. So what should we do if the end of the world is to be on Friday?

Matches, candles and tinned food won't help, nor will climbing the nearest mountain. The best thing to do would be to be baptised if you are not already baptised, to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church if you are not already in communion. For those who are in communion with the Catholic Church, a good confession would be sensible, accompanied by sincere prayer, penance, and works of charity.

In other words, all the things we should be doing anyway. It is not a bad idea to consider that the world might end on Friday, and to put our lives in order. If you think about it, that's what we should already be doing in Advent.

Negotiating same sex marriage confusion

In the general bafflement over the Prime Minister's obsession with legalising same sex marriage, an obsession surprisingly shared by Iain Duncan Smith, John Major, Michael Gove and others we thought might have known better, we are all wondering what on earth is behind this. A popular suggestion is that it is David Cameron's Clause 4 moment, that he is seeking to shed traditional conservatives from his party to make it more electable, just as Tony Blair changed the face of the Labour party.

The suggestion is hotly denied, even by Charles Moore who looks at the political implications of David Cameron's determination to introduce same sex "marriage". I find it all very difficult to understand in political terms. Given the rolling news story of corruption in our political class, I'm afraid I just assume that somebody is shelling out large sums of money.

My Catholic Dilemma for last weekend's Catholic Herald was on the question:
As a lifelong conservative I am deeply concerned by the Government’s proposal to legalise same-sex marriage. Should I now vote for UKIP?
I kept to my priestly non-committal stance about party politics and offered some general advice about voting for the candidate, not the party. Today I am relieved that I did so because Geoffrey Clark, UKIP candidate, seeking election to Gravesham Borough Council, suggests in his personal manifesto compulsory abortion for children with Downs Syndrome, Spina Bifida or "similar syndrome" (similar as in what respect? being disabled in some way?) so that we might reduce the national debt. Since well over 90% of such children are killed before birth already, I'm not sure how much killing the rest of them would help reduce the national debt. Maybe if we learned to value children and adults with Downs syndrome our moral compass might be a little better at finding ethical ways to reduce the national debt.

The politics of this weird episode in parliamentary proceedings, which has implications far beyond anything the Prime Minister or his advisers have yet grasped, is indeed almost impenetrable. So we need to keep on insisting that the Government does not have the competence to redefine marriage, and that doing so will inevitably bring about harm to society - and further attacks on Christians of orthodox faith.

If you are writing to your MP, I thought it would be helpful to gather together links to some good articles for ease of reference:

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has written a good letter to the Daily Telegraph.

Brendan O'Neill as ever, writes with great good sense on Spiked: The iron fist in the velvet glove of gay marriage with the strapline "Under the radical cover of being pro-gay, the state is expanding its sovereignty over all of our private lives and most intimate relationships."

Letter to David Cameron from Bishop Philip Egan and Bishop Egan's Statement.

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster's Statement

Archbishop Nichols and Smith criticise "shambolic process"

Archbishop Smith: Marriage in its current form is essential to the common good

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Solid good sense from Bishop Egan

Thanks be to God for Bishop Egan. His letter to David Cameron is just what we need from our Bishops. Not only does he challenge the Prime Minister forthrightly but his background in philosophy and theology comes to the fore in pinpointing alone of the basic fallacies in the whole gay marriage fiasco and in much other public policy besides:
"Equality can never be an absolute value, only a derivative and relative value."
Do go over to the Portsmouth diocesan website and read the whole letter. If you are tearing your hair out at the folly of the Government's determination to push this through, at least you will be able to read a sensible refutation.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Economist article "A traditionalist avant-garde"


The Economist this week carries an article on A traditionalist avant-garde. It’s trendy to be a traditionalist in the Catholic church. I thought it was very good - we are used to silly uninformed articles on the Catholic Church in the mainstream media and it is good to see something that is balanced and informative with an intelligent understanding of the issues.

Any of us might baulk a bit about the idea that being traditionalist is now trendy, but the Economist has picked up on something. We all want it to be much more than just trendy: it is up to us to make sure that it is.

Fr John Edwards dormivit in Domino


Dear Father John Edwards SJ died yesterday evening shortly after assisting at Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May he hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant" from Our Lord whom he served so faithfully. He was a highly effective mission preacher and retreat giver, wrote straightforward booklets on a variety of subjects including "Ways of Praying" that has helped countless people embark on a serious path of prayer whilst living in the world.

He was also a "priest's priest"; as a guest he would express himself diffidently though it was clear that he thoroughly understand the demands of parish life and the task faced by the parish priest. He will be remembered with great fondness by priests and people alike.

He also preached effectively on purgatory and the importance of praying for dead. So let us return that kindness by praying for him. Even if he does not need our prayers himself, there will be many souls grateful to him as the merit of those prayers benefits them.

The Funeral Mass for Fr Edwards will be at Farm Street Church on Thursday 20 December at 11am.
Requiescat in pace.

@pontifex crowd-sourcing evangelisation


Andrew Brown has an article at the Comment is Free section of the Guardian, headlined The pope's Twitter blessing: not absurd or boring to Filipino migrant workers. The article has the strapline: "Pope Benedict XVI has started tweeting. Bored, rich westerners may mock, but so far he has made a success of his account."

This made me a little shamefaced after my (I hope gentle) mockery of the Pontifical High Tweet yesterday. This morning I tweeted:
Don't forget to reply to tweets from @pontifex - he needs us to engage, not leave it to the anti-clericals
Looking at the Twitter account and the replies to the Holy Father's messages, the penny dropped. It dawned on me that while the Pope's tweets are of necessity rather general in scope, they do provide an instant opportunity for the entire Catholic twitterverse to engage with others.

Entirely predictably, many of the replies to the Pope's tweets are aggressive, anti-clerical and snarky. For those who have the time, these can be replied to with charity. For anyone who follows @pontifex, it is possible to take a few moments to reply in a different vein. For example, when the Pope tweets
Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?
we could, er, make some positive suggestions, no? We don't need to fuss about whether Pope Benedict will personally read our tweets: other people around the world who are following @pontifex will do so.

The Pope's engagement with Twitter can become a platform for Catholics all over the world to engage in proclaiming the faith. @pontifex thus becomes a crowd-sourced form of evangelisation.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Bishop Campbell of Lancaster on marriage redefinition proposal


Just in today, Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster's statement on the government's proposal to redefine marriage. Here is the text:
STATEMENT FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER
ON THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL TO REDEFINE MARRIAGE
IN FORTHCOMING LEGISLATION


Despite the widespread opposition evident in the recent consultation, the Coalition government appears determined to introduce legislation which will redefine the traditional understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This government proposal, if passed into law will, I believe, prove seriously detrimental to one of the pillars of our society which is family life, and carries extremely worrying long-term consequences for the family as we know it.

This proposed alternative vision of married life stands in marked contrast to the Catholic and Christian understanding of marriage as something inherent in the divine purpose for the well-being of humanity. We believe that Almighty God created man and woman with their specific differences to complement each other, and their mutual expression of life-giving love within marriage enables the children who are the fruit of that love to grow and flourish. To tamper with and attempt to redefine through law the integrity of this ancient and honourable institution of marriage will not serve the best interests of our present society, nor of those who will come after us.

I make my own the words of Archbishops Nichols and Smith in their statement: “We urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others. We urge all parties to ensure their Members have a free vote. It is not too late to stop this Bill.”

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

12-12-2012
Bishop Campbell has a blog which has delightful photos of his Lordship exercising his daily pastoral care of the diocese administering the Sacrament of Confirmation, and visiting schools and parishes, as well as articles on the Synod of Bishops, visits to Rome and other events of note. Many thanks to him for his forthright defence of marriage and the family.

Englishman as new Nuncio for Australia

Yesterday's Bollettino announced that Archbishop Paul Gallagher has been appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Australia.

Archbishop Gallagher was ordained priest by Archbishop Worlock for Liverpool Diocese and served in a parish for a time before going to study at the Accademia Ecclesiastica in Rome during my time as a student at the English College. It was rumoured that he was the only Englishman who ever completed the course there, but that may be an urban myth.

He has served the Church at the European Council at Strasbourg, and as Nuncio at Burindi (where the previous Nuncio was murdered and the Nunciature was mortared) and recently as Nuncio in Guatemala.

Please pray for the Archbishop as he takes up this new and important responsibility.


Michael Davies on the hermeneutic of continuity

I came across this nugget in Michael Davies' book on Vatican II. For the Year of Faith and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I am currently reading various secondary works on the Council and finding some interesting tidbits along the way. Michael says:
We should, then, accept the conciliar documents as official, though not always well formulated, Church teaching which must be studied with prudence and reserve and measured against, and interpreted in accordance with, the traditional teaching of the Church - particularly the Councils of Trent and Vatican I. Pope John himself provided us with a mandate for this in his opening speech when he insisted that his own Council concurs "with tranquil adherence to all the teachings of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council." (Michael Davies. Pope John's Council. Augustine Publishing. 1977. page 216)
Michael gives as his reference for the quotation from Pope John The Tablet 16 September 1972 p.893. Here is a link to the Latin text of the Allocution.

Given the present debate on the question of the hermeneutic of continuity, I don't pretend to know what Michael would have said on the question. However he was prophetic in setting out the central requirement that the second Vatican Council should be interpreted in accordance with the traditional teaching of the church and especially of the two previous councils. He was always a great admirer of Cardinal Ratzinger and I venture to guess that he would like the idea of the hermeneutic of continuity. He coined a famous expression referring to the "time bombs" of Vatican II: expressions that were ambiguous and would be exploited later in a sense widely different from what the Fathers intended. He would, I am sure, agree that the correct way of reading Vatican II is in reference to the traditional teaching of the magisterium.

Pontifical High Tweet



I must confess to chuckling through this video of the Holy Father's first tweet. He has set an example of how to tweet in style.

Now I am thinking that I must set up in the Parish Hall a good antique table and throne, have an altar server solemnly bring in the iPad (perhaps accompanied by acolytes) and arrange for various people to be on hand to film and take photos (probably Mulier Fortis and one or two children.) I think that I could persuade the MC and a local politician to dress in white tie and be the gentiluomini, accompanied by some technical staff (Defende nos in proelio) to make sure that the tap was done correctly: that after all would be the essential matter of the quasi-sacramental ceremony. A crowd on hand to cheer and sing songs (led by Bara Brith) in celebration of the tweet seems to be the thing, so I'd probably need to get some champagne and cake. This would make me obnoxious to the charge of treating as well as tweeting but in all honesty I don't think I could attract a crowd spontaneously like the Holy Father. Perhaps we could arrange the Solemn High Tweet shortly before a Millwall game on the telly.

Seriously though, I am glad that the Holy Father is setting an example of using new media in the service of the Gospel. I expect that he probably also found the Pontifical Tweet session a little ridiculous, but he has already done the most re-tweeted tweet of all time (i.e. since Twittter started in 2006) and that's jolly good. It has even got me looking actively at Twitter for the first time in ages (meetings, Christmas preparation, talks, you know the excuses.)

Bishops criticise "shambolic process"

Thanks to Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith for their statement on the government response to the same sex marriage consultation:
The meaning of marriage matters. It derives that meaning from its function as the foundation of the family. The union of one man and one woman for love and mutual support and open to procreation has over the centuries formed a stable unit we call the family. Marriage is the enduring public recognition of this commitment and has been rightly recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection.

The government has chosen to ignore the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to stay, and we are told legislation to change the definition of marriage will now come to Parliament.

We strongly oppose such a Bill. Furthermore, the process by which this has happened can only be described as shambolic. There was no electoral mandate in any manifesto; no mention in the Queen’s speech; no serious or thorough consultation through a Green or White paper, and a constant shifting of policy before even the government response to the consultation was published today.

We urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others. We urge all parties to ensure their Members have a free vote. It is not too late to stop this Bill.
I am glad that the Bishops mentioned both the C4M petition (do sign it if you haven't got round to doing so.) They are absolutely right to describe the process towards yesterday's Government announcement as shambolic.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Strong testimony from Bishop Egan

In his address to the Bishops of England and Wales after their meeting in November, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini said:
“We find that we are placed in a similar situation to the Church in France, where Cardinal Vingt-Trois and the French bishops have issued a spirited appeal to the faithful asking them to do all in their power to resist so-called ‘same-sex marriage’. We surely can do no less and I thank all of you for your strong testimony.”
At the website of the Portsmouth Diocese, we have this spirited statement from Bishop Egan:
STATEMENT ON “GAY MARRIAGE”
13th December 2012, Memorial of St. Lucy

In response to a recent TV interview with David Cameron in which he gave his backing to gay marriage in church (BBC News, 7th December) and the outcome of the so-called consultation process, Bishop Philip Egan has issued the following statement to the priests and people of the Diocese and to all people of good will:

David Cameron has said that he is an enthusiastic supporter of marriage and that he does not want "gay people to be excluded from a great institution." Yet however well-intentioned, and despite huge opposition from Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, by attempting to change the natural meaning of marriage, he seems utterly determined to undermine one of the key foundations of our society. Such a change is of immense significance. By this change, he is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered. To "extend marriage to gay people", he intends to impose the will of a tiny minority on the vast majority. If the Prime Minister proceeds with these intentions, he will pervert authentic family values, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behaviour of future generations. He will smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission. I would like to ask Mr. Cameron: What about the rights of Christians? Will you exempt the Church, its preachers, resources and premises, from having to support your harmful ideology? Will Catholic schools, societies and institutions be free (and legally safeguarded) to teach the full truth of Christ and the real meaning of life and love? The institution of marriage has had its ups and downs, but will we ever forget that it was the leader of the Conservative Party who finally destroyed marriage as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between a man and a woman?

+Philip

Bishop of Portsmouth
Huzzah!

CD 267: Prayer and exams

I have important exams coming up and life is really hectic preparing for them. Isn’t it reasonable to cut down on some of my commitments at the Church?

If you are involved in a lot of apostolic activities, it might be reasonable to assess priorities – though primarily because doing your best at your exams will help you to have a more effective apostolate afterwards. What must not be dropped is the essential core of your prayer life. Advice for examinees always includes ensuring that you have a proper amount of sleep and exercise, and eat sensibly. As Christians, we take an even more holistic approach, including our spiritual health as a part of being properly geared up for the ordeal. So don’t be tempted to give up your daily prayers and your assistance at Mass (serving if you are a altar server): and make a good confession as part of your preparations, so as to be in the best possible state of soul.

Satan is the father of lies: one of his whoppers is to convince devout people that prayer is a chore, that it is difficult, time-consuming, exhausting. Although sometimes we do find it hard to pray without being distracted, time spent in conversation with Our Lord is an oasis of peace and refreshment for the soul, nourishing us for whatever work lies ahead in the day. Your exams are a critical moment for you, yet it is always difficult to find time to put our lives in perspective. As they will affect your future, it is wise to take a long-term view, discerning your vocation and the “definite service” that God asks of you.

Naturally you will also have some more immediate concerns for which prayers of petition are appropriate. Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom is a powerful advocate for examination candidates. In my own final exams, I said a short prayer to her before each paper and she certainly gave assistance. There is also St Joseph of Cupertino who is reputed to have been given only the questions to which he knew the answers – well we can always ask!

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

Saturday, 8 December 2012

English College students (properly dressed) meet the Holy Father


Last Monday, the Holy Father venerated a relic of St Ralph Sherwin, the first of the 44 martyrs of the Venerable English College in Rome. The occasion was the 650th anniversary of the founding of the hospice for English pilgrims in Rome (the oldest English institution outside of England) which became in 1579 a College for training students to return as priests to the English mission at the risk of their lives. Here are two quotations from the the address of the Holy Father:
Potius hodie quam cras, as Saint Ralph Sherwin said when asked to take the missionary oath, “rather today than tomorrow”. These words aptly convey his burning desire to keep the flame of faith alive in England, at whatever personal cost. Those who have truly encountered Christ are unable to keep silent about him. As Saint Peter himself said to the elders and scribes of Jerusalem, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). [...]

Your forebears faced a real possibility of martyrdom, and it is right and just that you venerate the glorious memory of those forty-four alumni of your College who shed their blood for Christ. You are called to imitate their love for the Lord and their zeal to make him known, potius hodie quam cras. The consequences, the fruits, you may confidently entrust into God’s hands.
The whole occasion looks to have been a very joyful encounter between the future priests and the Bishop of Rome. I was delighted to see that the students all dressed properly in their cassocks for the occasion. Here they are singing for the Pope:


The photos are from Osservatore's Servizio Fotografico. The photo pages are served by Flash so don't have separate URLS. To find the pages of photos from the audience, click as follows:
  • Galleria Fotografica
  • Benedetto XVI
  • Eventi 2012
  • Dicembre 2012
  • Venerabile Collegio Inglese

Will the Tablet survey saga put the laughing policeman out of business?

Last week I posted on the Tablet survey on the now established translation. Five days later, after a lot of comment in the blogosphere about how they had misquoted the texts about which they were asking people's opinion, the survey was corrected and the results to date were trashed. So now there is a new version, which has re-jigged the questions. There's a "ner ner" question comparing the old ICEL to the usus antiquior:
Just as admirers of the Tridentine Rite have been allowed to continue using the pre-Conciliar liturgy, I think people who favour the old English-language translation of the Mass should be allowed to celebrate it in that version.
So there!

Another question of the kind that Bara Brith compares to the Blackadder and The Flanders Pigeon Murderer trial asks whether you think that "Some of the florid language is obsequious and distracting." The title of the survey is itself of the same genre: "The new Mass text - has it won you over?" because, you know, with all that florid obsequiousness it couldn't just be accepted enthusiastically from the word go, you have to be won over to it.

You would think that after the embarrassment of having to correct the mistakes in the previous version of a survey that would obviously attract considerable attention, someone would have made sure that the new version was sub-edited so that a howler like this didn't get published:


Still, do go over and complete the survey - and any subsequent revised versions. As you do so, you might want to play this in the background:

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Another new rite at Blackfen

DSCF7133

Quietly, with just two members of the faithful and myself, we had a little piece of history at Blackfen last night with Mass celebrated here for the first time according to the Book of Divine Worship (BDW). This is the book produced for the Anglican Use parishes in the United States (they are in full communion with the Church). It is legitimate for priests of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to use this rite.

Fr Simon Heans is a great help to me at Blackfen, usually saying either Saturday or Sunday evening Mass and often assisting at other functions. He often says a quiet Mass on a Wednesday evening when his prison Chaplaincy duties allow, and I suggested that he might like to offer this Mass according to the BDW. With a small and friendly congregation it is a good opportunity for him to become accustomed to the rite. It is also a chance for diocesan Catholics in the parish to hear and pray some of the beautiful prayers of the English tradition.

The Mass begins in a different way with a greeting, and the prayer "Almighty God unto whom all hearts are open ..." said by the priest. The Liturgy of the Word is more or less as in the modern Roman Missal, though the greetings have "thee" and "thou" etc. After the Gospel (and sermon and creed if they are included) there are intercessions (set down, not newly-composed for each Mass) followed by a penitential rite in which there is an exhortation to humble confession followed by this prayer:
"Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honour and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
The sign of peace is exchanged after this confession, then Mass continues with the offertory, which is the same as the modern Roman Missal. The preface and the Canon are in an older English translation, but the order of the central part of the Mass is familiar.

After the Our Father, the fraction and the Lamb of God, there is the Prayer of Humble Access (I found out that it is known with affectionate irreverence as the 'umbly crumbly prayer because of the scriptural/patristic reference to the crumbs):
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
There is another traditional English prayer after Holy Communion, then the Mass concludes with the blessing "The peace of God which passeth all understanding ..." and dismissal.

Having heard these prayers as a student in the context of Anglican worship at Oxford, it is an amazing experience to hear and say them in the celebration of the Eucharist within the full communion of the Catholic Church. There is a great deal of learned discussion about what Cranmer did with this or that prayer in this or that edition of the Book of Common Prayer, to make the prayer book more Protestant. The BDW is a kind of reversal of what Cranmer did, moving some of the good bits of the Book of Common Prayer into a thoroughly Catholic rite approved by the Pope of Rome.

I'm not sure what the exact roadmap is but I think that there is to be a rite particularly for use in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as well as a revision of the BDW in the light of some changes in the Roman Missal (for example the acclamation for the Mystery of Faith) but I expect that the basic form of the rite is fairly well established now.

Here is a link to the Order of The Holy Eucharist which is essentially the same as the above and here is a link to a pdf of the BDW which is, I think, the one that we used yesterday. (I hope that is enough disclaimers for liturgical snipers hiding in the bell tower.)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A stunning Church in Hull, the Hull Revised Version of Exodus and a Hull cat post

IMG_0454

St Charles Borromeo Church in Hull is a gem, much loved by people in Hull and environs, especially students. I stayed in the presbytery last night after speaking to the Hull Faith Forum, organised by Fr William Massie with the help of various students. I was last up in Hull in 2008 and it was great to see some of the same young people now graduated from being interested teenagers to being active young adult apostles, as well as some new younger auditores. Helpers included James Preece of Catholic and Loving It.

I was speaking on the Church and trying to pitch things so that the younger ones would receive some catechesis while the young adults would also have some theology to take home. In the question session, one of the teenagers asked me to explain what I was saying about the Song of Songs as a type of the people of God looking forward to the coming of Christ. I chose an easier example to illustrate types: the crossing of the Red Sea. To get younger ones involved, I asked them to tell me what they knew about Moses so that I could explain how the Fathers saw the exodus as a type of our Baptism, the Christian life and the journey to heaven.

One young lad, who was obviously well catechised and knew quite a bit, told me about the escape from the Egyptians, the parting of the Red Sea, and the people wandering in the desert. He made one slip of the tongue which rendered some of the adults incapable for a few minutes. It was just a slip and he corrected himself, but I think nobody will forget the image of God sending manure from heaven down upon the Israelites.

This morning at St Charles, I celebrated a quiet Mass at the fine side altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart before heading back to London on Hull Trains.

No reason not to combine a cat post with all this. Here is the owner and proprietor of St Charles: at least she is not in any doubt about that.

2012-12-05 Hull cat

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Rosary of Reparation at National Gallery

The National Gallery has chosen to exhibit two offensive depictions of Our Lady in homage to the recently deceased British artist Richard Hamilton.  As part of the exhibition, which runs until 13 January, 'The Passage of the Angel to the Virgin' (2007) and 'An Annunciation' (2005) show Our Lady nude and in a sexually suggestive pose. For more information, see the article by Francis Phillips in the Catholic Herald.

By email, I have recived news that on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (this Saturday 8 December) at 2pm, a group will gather to pray the Rosary in reparation, in front of the offensive painting. This is intended as peaceful witness to pray "as much of the Rosary as we can before being asked to leave."

I can't imagine why the authorities should ask people to leave. This kind of "art" is intended to provoke a reaction from ordinary viewers. Surly nobody is going to exercise any authority would want to rule out reparative prayer as a reaction? I would suggest that people have their mobiles and cameras ready in case anything like this happens.

If you want to join in, assemble in the Sunley Room (in the main building) shortly before 2pm. Remember that you need to deposit bags/umbrellas in the cloakroom.

If you can, please complain in writing to the Director, Nicholas Penny, at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN or information@ng-london.org.uk

The email also carried this prayer of Wiseman which is said as part of the Prayer for England on the third Saturday of the month. Always worth reposting:

O most loving Lord Jesus, Who, hanging on the Cross, didst commend us all in the person of Thy disciple John, to Thy most sweet Mother, that we might find in her our refuge, our solace, and our hope; look graciously upon our beloved country, and on those who are bereaved of so powerful a patronage; that, acknowledging once more the dignity of this holy Virgin, they may honour and venerate her with all affection of devotion, and own her as Queen and Mother. May her sweet name be lisped by the little ones, and linger on the lips of the aged and the dying; and may it be invoked by the afflicted, and hymned by the joyful; that this Star of the Sea being their protection and their guide, all may come to the harbour of eternal salvation. Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen

Monday, 3 December 2012

Holy See compares bloggers to bakelite plugs

A cheeky metaphor for bloggers

As you all know, the Holy See has today launched the Holy Father's Twitter account @pontifex. At the time of writing, he has garnered over a quarter of a million followers in less than twelve hours without even writing a tweet. Viva il Papa!

And what a launch! Archbishop Celli and Mgr Tighe, President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, of Vatican Radio, and of the Vatican TV station, Professor Vian, Director of Osservatore Romano, and Dr Burke, Media Adviser at the Secretariat of State were all there - in the same room. Clearly peace has broken out among these departments which cynics insisted were at loggerheads with each other. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb" and all that. I think there is room now for a new Pontifical Secretariat for Senior Communications Personnel of the Holy See - headed up by someone entirely new.

In the explanatory announcement, there is a cryptic endorsement of the likes of you and me - whether we are to be counted public Church figures or individual believers:
The Church is already richly present in this environment – there exist a whole range of initiatives from the official websites of various institutions and communities to the personal sites, blogs and micro-blogs of public church figures and of individual believers. The Pope’s presence in Twitter is ultimately an endorsement of the efforts of these ‘early adapters’ to ensure that the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church is permeating the forum of exchange and dialogue that is being created by social media.
My reading of the text is that there is a subtle hint to us to keep up with the times. Speaking of us as "early adapters", the suits (and/or cassocks) at Social Communications, Osservatore, Press Office (and Radio and TV) and the Segreteria are hinting that we will need to adapt and survive, perhaps also including a subtle reference to the need to explore new materials as they are invented.

The Italian translation speaks of "pionieri" which is obviously a mistake since the English version is the original text. They mistook the English as though it read "early adopters." I don't buy it. We are being compared to bakelite plugs and there is no shame in that.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tablet survey on the now established translation

There are still some people around who think that the translation of the Mass which we have now been using in England for over a year is a problem for the ordinary person in the pew. Myself, I find that ordinary people in the pew have more pressing problems in their lives and have just got on with it. But don't feel bound by my opinions. The Tablet has a survey about the new translation (which it calls the "new Mass") so why not go over and give your honest answers.




The expectation of Our Lady


At the beginning of Advent I always look forward to Fr Faber's hymn Like the Dawning of the Morning which we recovered at Blackfen a few years ago. The above graphic will enlarge to a printable score if you want one. There is an older post with the words for all eight verses. Usually, people sing verses 1, 2 and 8 but if you have a lot of people for communion, you might want all the verses.

If you want some further food for thought on the theme, here is a sermon:
During Advent, we should prepare spiritually for Christmas. We need to plan to make a good confession, we should look at our daily prayers to see whether we have let those slip, consider how we give priority to Mass by arriving early and staying afterwards to pray. You might also consider whether you can get to one of our times of adoration in the parish, on Thursday evening or on Saturday morning.

As we prepare for Christmas, it helps to consider the example of Our Blessed Lady’s own preparation for the birth of Christ during the time of her pregnancy. At the moment that the angel greeted her with the Ave, she was anointed Queen, the Queen of all the angels and saints, to be crowned by Christ in heaven after her Assumption.

She accepted this veneration of the angels with humility but also with genuine and unsullied joy and gratitude: the Father had bestowed a great favour upon her. Sweetly and in loving happiness, she accepted the sublime vocation with which God favoured her, and she accepts lovingly from us, for the sake of her Son, the veneration which we pay to her.

As she heard the psalms and prophecies chanted in the synagogue, she knew that they were coming to fruition in her own womb where the Messiah was growing. When she heard “You are my son it is I who have begotten you this day” she knew that the Son was begotten now in time to be our Saviour. When she hear the verse of Isaiah “The virgin will conceive and bear a son” she knew that this prophecy had come about in her own life.

She eagerly looked forward to the time when she would give birth and see His face before anyone else on earth.

We are also favoured by God with the sanctifying grace that He gave us at our Baptism and strengthened at our Confirmation. We have also given the living God a home in our hearts when we have received Him in Holy Communion. Humbly, we have also gratefully received the renewal of His grace in the sacrament of Penance.

We carry Christ in ourselves, most especially when we have received Holy Communion. Reflecting on Our Lady’s pregnancy, we can understand a little better the requirement of profound reverence and adoration that we should show when He deigns to come to us. Receiving Holy Communion, we share with Our Blessed Lady the privilege of carrying the Son of God in our bodies. Let us ask Our Lady to help us to have a renewed reverence as we receive Holy Communion today, and prepare for the feast of Christmas humbly thankful for the privilege which many others do not know.

Science a replacement for religion?

Fr Georges Lemaitre who first proposed the theory of the big bang, with Albert Einstein

A comment on the post The Lord of DNA (and everything else) deserves a post to itself because it highlights a common misunderstanding:
I'm never sure how to respond to students (such as a lad in my A level class) who claim that people had religion in the past because they didn't have science. ;)
Two recommendations: 1. the magazine and pamphlets of the Faith Movement, especially the "Reasons for Believing" series "Can we believe that God exists?" and "What makes man unique?" 2. The excellent pamphlet by Frs Marcus Holden and Andrew Pinsent "Apologia" published by the CTS.

Science developed within the Christian culture of the middle ages precisely because Christian philosophy admitted the importance of secondary causes and therefore thought the world worth studying. As the Apologia pamphlet demonstrates, many of the great advances in science were brought about by people with strong Christian faith and in some cases Catholic priests.

Science is not a replacement for religious faith, it is a further reason to wonder at the greatness of the Creator. In fact, as post-modernism grows in influence, seeing science as just another of the myths that we live by, it is likely that real research, based on an objective understanding of the world, will become less popular. We already see this in the utilitarian approach to science teaching in schools.
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