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Friday, 31 May 2013

Simcha Fisher on dressing in summer

Along with many other people, I do enjoy Simcha Fisher's writing. She is a fine example of the thoroughly modern orthodox Catholic woman: witheringly sceptical about feminism but also a woman to steer clear of if you have any thought of patronising women.

Today she has a typically trenchant post on modesty in dress for women as the summer heat draws upon us. She lacerates the practice of wearing "look at me" flesh-exposing outfits while also being practical on the difficulty of choosing what to wear when it is hot (she ends up in the living room wearing a paper bag.) A good taster quote:
If we're old enough to be choosing our own outfits, then we're old enough to choose something that doesn't look like it was dreamed up by a twelve-year-old boy who doesn't have a reliable father figure in the home.
See: Why I'm Wearing This.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

"A Brief History of Marriage" by John de Waal



Family and Youth Concern has produced A Brief History of Marriage as a free online resource for schools. Many adults would find it a useful overview. Here is the summary from Family and Youth Concern:
In twelve short chapters, experienced educator John de Waal traces the history of marriage from the ancient world of Egypt, Greece and Rome down to the present day. Along the way, he interacts with the disciplines of literature, theology, philosophy, psychology, politics and sociology in clear and accessible prose.

Wide-ranging and varied in style, A Brief History of Marriage includes references to marriage customs, laws and policies through the ages, alongside extracts from love letters and quaint and homely tips given to husbands and wives in bygone days.

Attractively produced and well-illustrated, this online resource is suitable for use in PSHE, history or Religious Education classes. Each chapter concludes with several questions which will stimulate further thought and provide a basis for classroom discussion.
I have just read this over lunch and warmly recommend it. Even if schools don't take it up, I am sure it would be a great help to homeschooling families and to other parents who want their children  have some reliable information about marriage.

Links: Flyer and whole book (1.67 Mb pdf, 91 pages)

CD 273: Competitiveness at work

We are under pressure at work to achieve targets and our results are made public as a way of encouraging us. This can give rise to some bad feelings between us: can my faith be of any help in this?

Competition is not a bad thing in itself and can be a way of encouraging people to work hard, but the intense atmosphere of some workplaces with public comparisons has an obvious downside in tempting people to deceit, jealousy and disloyalty to colleagues. Certainly our Christian way of life can be of help. First of all, at a management level, whilst competition is a motivator, the cohesiveness of a team is also crucial to overall effectiveness and better results. Backbiting in the office is not going to have a positive effect on the balance sheet.

If you are not in a position to change the overall ethos at management level, you can still try to promote a better work atmosphere by living the virtues opposite to the vices which harm relationships in your own team. Integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and loyalty to colleagues –combined with hard work along with them – will mean that at least some balance is brought in. Crucial also both to the effectiveness of the competitive spirit in business terms, and to the fostering of good relationships, is the sincere and friendly recognition of the success of others.

The hard-driven nature of your work also presents particular challenges in your own spiritual life and your relationship with your family. If at all possible, try to keep work and home life separate: “switch off” before you get home. One way of doing this would be to schedule a time of reflection (with an examination of conscience) at the end of your working day. If you can visit a Church before catching the train home, that is ideal. If not, there may be a park or open space you can walk in for, say, a quarter of an hour whilst trying to pray reflectively. As a last resort, you could load some sacred music on your phone and listen to that prayerfully on the train.

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

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dame Joanna Bogle's Investiture

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At St George's Cathedral last night, Auntie Joanna was invested as a Dame of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great, founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831. Mgr Keith Newton celebrated Mass and Archbishop Peter Smith presented the decoration. Fr Stephen Langridge of the Vocations Centre preached an excellent sermon.

Aid to the Church in Need recommended Joanna for the Order but Joanna's charitable and campaigning work extends far and wide over many years and through a wide variety of apostolic works and organisations. It was a lovely occasion and a great opportunity to meet up with many friends in the Amigo Hall afterwards. At one point there was a bit of a John Fisher Old Boys Reunion - "old" being the operative word since we are all, ahem, getting more "senior" now.

Here is a close-up of the cross:

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And the citation:

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And a photo of Dame Joanna with Sir Dan of the Blogosphere:

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The above photos are all from the Flickr Set of Mulier Fortis. There will probably be some photos posted at the Archdiocese of Southwark website in due course.

A different Italian bishop: "Try this older Liturgy for yourselves!"

Fr Z has the translated text of a great sermon by the Most Rev Luigi Negri, Archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio at a Mass according to the usus antiquior which he celebrated at the Marian shrine of Poggetto. He says that Pope Benedict "overcame that spurious distinction between “old” and “new” which is made by the followers of the hermeneutic of discontinuity" but there is so much good sense in this sermon concerning the place of the usus antiquior that I encourage you to read it all. The people of his diocese are fortunate indeed to have such a Bishop.

Anti-trad Italian Bishops call for Marini to be sacked. Pope Francis says no.


Many thanks to a commenter for pointing me to the article on the Eponymous flower blog: Why Pope Won't Fire Marini: "Put the Treasure of Tradition to Use. This has a translation of an article by Guiseppe Nardi with material supplementary to the article in Il Foglio which I mentioned yesterday. Tancred posted the translation earlier in the day and I missed it. (Note to self - put Eponymous Flower in higher category on Feedly.)

As was also rightly commented, there is another important point in the episode worth noting, as well as the Holy Father's insistence that we should treasure tradition: some of the Italian Bishops have been putting pressure on the Holy Father to sack Mgr Guido Marini. He has refused, saying that he wants to benefit from Mgr Marini's traditional formation and to allow Mgr Marini also to be formed by him.

Some may say "Oh what does Pope Francis mean by 'my emancipated formation'?" Well I think we just need to see how that all works out. Personally I find it consoling that Pope Francis, whose liturgical celebrations in Buenos Aires have been given plenty of publicity, and who is obviously not a devotee of traditional liturgy, is open, shrewd, and generous enough to learn from his much-maligned MC, and will not give in to pressure to restrict the terms of Summorum Pontificum. We have been waiting for some indications on these questions. Now we have them, and I for one am greatly relieved.

(Does anyone have a link to the original article by Guiseppe Nardi?)

UPDATE: Rorate Caeli has some important further comment on this issue: Did the Pope say to resisting bishops: "Summorum will not be touched"? Not really. which is worth reading for further reference to Sandro Magister who seems to be the source of all the comments - I could not find the original Italian article by Magister last night.

I still remain optimistic about the indications given in these reports.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Pope Francis rejects attack on old rite and says "treasure tradition"


The Bishops of the region of Tavoliere met recently with Pope Francis on an ad limina visit. On their return home, one has given a fascinating glimpse of the attitude of Pope Francis to those who are seeking to use the opportunity of his papacy to attack the traditional Mass. This is reported in the Italian paper Il Foglio, in the article: La messa antica non si tocca, il Papa gesuita spiazza ancora tutti ("The old mass is not to be touched, the Jesuit Pope wrong-foots everyone")

Here is my translation of the relevant part of the article which tells of other bishops raising concerns with the Holy Father and goes on to speak of the intervention concerning the old Mass:
Then it was the turn of the bishop of Conversano and Monopoli, Domenico Padovano, who recounted to the clergy of his diocese how the priority of the bishops of the region of Tavoliere had been that of explaining to the Pope that the mass in the old rite was creating great divisions within the Church. The underlying message: Summorum Pontificum should be cancelled, or at least strongly limited. But Francis said no.

Mgr Padovano explained that Francis replied to them saying that they should be vigilant over the extremism of certain traditionalist groups but also suggesting that they should treasure tradition and create the necessary conditions so that tradition might be able to live alongside innovation.
This is not really a surprise (did anyone expect that Pope Francis would somehow "repeal" Summorum Pontificum?) but it is a welcome confirmation of what we would all expect.

One thing that jumps out of the story is that the bishops of this region judged that their main pastoral priority - to be communicated to the Pope on a five-yearly visit - was to attack Summorum Pontificum. Forget abortion, embryo experimentation, the push for same-sex marriage throughout Europe, the loss of faith of many Catholics and our failure in catechesis and evangelisation. No, the really big problem is a small number of priests legitimately saying the old Mass. Given what Pope Francis has said about the danger of being a self-referential Church, I can well imagine he gave them short shrift.

Novena to St Norbert


The feast of St Norbert is on 6 June. Norbertine Vocations have therefore announced that there is a Novena to seek his intercession for our own needs and for the needs of the whole Church, starting today.

The Norbertines of St Philip's Priory, Chelmsford, have produced a fine booklet which gives a summary of St Norbert's life, then texts for each day, including a reflection on some aspect of his life and spiritual example. Here is a link to a pdf of the booklet: Novena in Honour of St Norbert.

St Norbert was one of many saints in the history of the Church whose work included the reform of the clergy: always a thankless task. In his case, the secular canons spat at him and tried to have him taken away by the secular authorities. St Norbert had a particular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to Our Lady and to the relics of the saints. More information in the Novena booklet.

Happy birthday to Arundel and Brighton

This day in 1965, Arundel and Brighton was erected as a Diocese and Southwark was elevated to a Metropolitan See.

Congratulations to all my friends in Arundel and Brighton. Perhaps a glass of Prosecco might be allowed as that seems to be the celebratory drink of choice in many Catholic circles nowadays. A&B used to be known as the "gin & jag" diocese but a priest friend of mine suggested some years ago that it should be updated to "real ale & Range Rover." What would it be today?

When the diocese was formed, the rule was that priests became part of A&B if they were stationed in the territory on the day the diocese came into being. I remember older priests telling me of manoeuvres to get into one or other diocese before the guillotine came down.

A most beautiful book


The Saint Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal was kindly sent to me by someone whose name I cannot clearly make out from the signature on the enclosed card. Whoever you are, you have my warmest thanks and assurance of prayers. (You can email me if you wish.)

The book could be described as a celebration of the glory  of the usus antiquior, a labour of love for tradition and beauty in the Sacred Liturgy. In the age of the Kindle, people often say that they like the feel of a real book and I reply that I do like real books but could not care much for glued paperbacks. This is a real book of fine quality: lovely to see such books still being made.

The texts of the Ordinary for Low Mass and High Mass have photographs and colour illustrations, including newly created illuminated capitals. Throughout there are digitally enhanced line art illustrations (which are being made available online in high resolution.) There is an amazing section with ancient manuscript illustrations to show the continuity of the texts that are used in the Mass. The whole Kyriale is printed (18 Masses and 6 Credos) together with a selection of hymns and devotional prayers.

You have probably already heard about this Missal already from Fr ZNew Liturgical Movement or Rorate Caeli. Joseph Shaw, LMS Chairman, has given a mixed review with some criticisms of the book particularly concerning its practical use as a book to take to Mass. I couldn't really argue with most of the points he makes.

Still you have to hand it to Corpus Christi Watershed - it is a most beautiful book and considering the quality, the price is surprisingly reasonable.

There is a page of links at Corpus Christi Watershed including videos, sample pages (including a high-res version of the picture above) and instructions for purchase.

Monday, 27 May 2013

"Heralds of the Second Coming" by Stephen Walford

Our Lady, the Divine Mercy and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pius IX to Benedict XVI.

Stephen Walford focusses principally on the "Popes of the Marian era" (an expression he explains and justifies) their teaching on the end times and, more particularly, our response to the present time in which many of the signs of the end are present. The signs which previous Popes and saints discerned, sometimes in graphic language, are far more evident today than in their times which seem morally healthy and placid by comparison

As he says at the end of chapter three:
The popes of the Marian era, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, carefully discerned the signs of the times and courageously proclaimed the reality that for the Church, its final, great struggle against the forces of evil was at hand. By recognising the maternal mediation of Mary, they placed before the faithful the image of the Hodegetria, she who "shows the way" to the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ. In Mary Mos Holy, the Roman Pontiffs perceived the role of the Mother of the Second Advent, who would stay at the foot of the Cross, dispensing the graces necessary for the church to accept its own crucifixion.
Interestingly, there is a chapter on the eschatological teaching of Vatican II. This is overlooked today, and it is true that the teaching of the Council on this question as on many others, was hijacked in the aftermath of the Council to the extent that "eschatological" became a buzz-word, used to excuse aberrations in dogmatic and spiritual theology. However Walford is right to highlight the genuine teaching of the Council documents in their reference to "the final age of the world." The second half of the book is devoted to Blessed Pope John Paul, with an epilogue on Pope Benedict.

This is a useful contribution to eschatology, collecting material from a variety of modern sources and offering a balanced reflection on how we should live in the Church at times of crisis. It is helpful both in giving a reasoned rejection of millenarianist approaches to eschatology, and in reminding us that in the Church we are ever focussed on the second coming of Christ.

Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pius IX to Benedict XVI
has a Foreword by Cardinal Ivan Dias, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. It is published by Angelico Press and is available from Amazon UK for £10.95 (link below.)

Family Lawyer: costly wedding receptions contribute to divorce

The absurdly high expense of many weddings is not only unnecessary but actually a contributing factor to the breakdown of marriages.

Recently there has been some talk in the press about the amount that couples spend on their weddings. For example, the Guardian has an article: Here comes the bride's £14,000 bill

The press and many couples often unfairly cite "Church fees" as a reason for not getting married in Church. In fact, as the Guardian list shows, fees associated with the Church are dwarfed by, for example, the fee you would pay a professional photographer, let alone the cost for "food and drink": the reception is always by far the greatest expense.

(The fee listed by the Guardian as "Hire of Church" would include the fee for registration - something people would have to pay anyway for a civil marriage.)

A parishioner passed on to me an interesting follow-up letter in the Times. Here is the link to the letter by Amanda McAlister, Head of Family Law at Slater and Gordon. It is behind the Times paywall, but I have copied out a "fair use" quotation:
I estimate that between 70 and 80 per cent of divorce cases I deal with, within five years of marriage, cite overspending on their wedding day as a contributing factor to their relationship breakdown.
My normal motivation for advertising that marriage in Church need not cost very much is to encourage people actually to get married rather than just cohabit. Amanda McAlister's letter adds an important new perspective from an authoritative source.

Sometimes cohabiting couples say to me that they have to wait until they can afford a lavish wedding reception because of pressure from their families to have a "traditional" wedding. I point out to them that the tradition is actually that the bride's father pays for it. If we returned to that custom (or even had the cost shared between the parents) it would soon reduce the expectations to a more realistic level and save the spouses themselves from having to go into debt for the sake of pleasing others.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Another massive Manif Pour Tous march in Paris


Paris was yet again filled with pro-family campaigners today. H/T to David Quinn on Twitter for posting photos from the Facebook page of La Manif Pour Tous. Thanks be to God for the relentless opposition of the French to the redefinition of marriage.



Friday, 24 May 2013

Ajmal Masroor Sky News Interview on the Woolwich atrocity



Ajmal Masroor, an Imam from a London Mosque, interviewed on Sky News gives a stirring response to the Woolwich atrocity. You may quote other imams, the Koran or other sources but I think that this man deserves a hearing. A quote:
"If they have done it because they want to go to heaven, well those who murder will never smell heaven."

Visit to Good Counsel Network


Always a rewarding and enriching experience. I go to the Good Counsel Network's London centre now and again to give Benediction at the end of the working day. I was there on Wednesday but my mention of my visit was overshadowed by the murder that happened in Woolwich, so I wanted to follow up on the Good Counsel Network.

The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the basement chapel during the day and constant prayer is offered up as a part of their work while others are upstairs counselling and giving women the opportunity to keep their child rather than have an abortion. A recent development is that they now have a scanner which makes it possible for mothers to see that their baby is in fact a baby and not a blob of jelly.

Their success rate in saving the lives of unborn children is phenomenal. Very many mothers and children have lifelong gratitude for the help and support that they received at a difficult time. This continues after the birth of the baby with help finding accommodation, baby clothes, buggies and other things. So your kind donations would be most welcome...

(To donate, you can go to the Donations page. This offers you the choice of donating by PayPal, by credit/debit card at the Justgiving website, or by sending a cheque in the post. (Could I gently suggest that readers from outside the UK donate online rather than by sending a cheque since UK banks charge a considerable fee for clearing foreign cheques.) If you are a UK taxpayer, you can send in a Gift Aid Declaration which can be downloaded from the Donations page. If you would like to send a baby thing, there is an Amazon wish list from which you can make a choice.)

I always stay for a cup of tea afterwards. Being at the heart of a major spiritual battle, the workers at the Good Counsel are keenly aware of the importance of the spiritual support they receive. There are amazing stories of young women who had been absolutely dead set on abortion who suddenly and inexplicably change their mind. Inexplicably that is, until it is discovered that someone in the chapel there or elsewhere decided to say the Rosary at exactly that time.

So as well as your kind donations, do consider saying the Rosary for the unborn. Your act of piety may bring grace to a mother and preserve life for a child.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Sinful priest, valid sacraments


Yesterday, I posted a Catholic Dilemma that was published a while ago in the Catholic Herald on The priest, sin and saying Mass. In these articles I have to keep within 350-360 words and therefore there are always things that I have to omit. (This is a very salutary discipline for a writer, I think: it certainly helps you to be ruthless with redundant words and phrases - as you might very much say, so to speak, if I might be somewhat rather a bit bold...)

In this case, however, there is a particular point that is worth following up (and will be the subject of a future Catholic Dilemma.) If the priest is bad, does that affect the validity of the Mass or of the sacrament that he ministers? People do often get confused on this matter.

The Donatists of the 4th and 5th centuries held that those who had handed over the scriptures as a token of repudiating the faith under persection - the traditores - could not adminster baptism validly. They maintained that people had to be baptised by one who was part of the Church of the saints.

St Augustine opposed this heresy and clarified for posterity the important principle (implicitly part of the apostolic tradition) that the sacraments do not depend on the worthiness of the minister because the sacraments are primarily works of Christ. His most famous words on the subject are:
Peter may baptise, but this is He [Christ] that baptises; Paul may baptise, yet this is He that baptises; Judas may baptise, still this is He that baptises. (In Evangelium Ioannis Tractatus. 6.7)
So even a bad priest can offer Mass validly, baptise validly, give valid absolution, and so on for the other sacraments.

There are plenty of other matters related to the validity and fruitfulness of the sacraments (valid matter and form, intention to do what the Church does, impact on the devotion of the participants...) but there are shallows and rocks in all of them it is probably best to stick to one question at a time.

This summer I hope to make some progress on getting my notes for Sacramental Theology into publishable form.

Great new titles from the CTS

The Catholic Truth Society has just released its new selection of pamphlets which are, as ever, a great service to the Church and especially to those who wish to learn more about their faith, and grow in their spiritual life.

The CTS takes seriously its role as "Publishers to the Holy See" and has always made available printed texts of the teaching of the Popes. Thus there is a new pamphlet with the First Addresses of Pope Francis. Nowadays, of course, many people read these on the internet long before they are printed but they serve two purposes: first to make the texts available to those who do not use the internet or have not yet realised what a wealth of Catholic material is available, and secondly for anyone who wants to carry the texts around in a pocket-sized format for reading at leisure.

A special publication this time round is a beautifully presented hardback collection of The Encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI. Properly bound in signatures with quality paper and printing, Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi and Caritas in Veritate are given a fine presentation. The price of £9.95 strikes me as very reasonable for a production of such quality.

Among the other new pamphlets there is a good short biography of Pope Francis by Fr Dushan Croos SJ. I took this on the train with me yesterday (small format fits in jacket pocket) and found it a helpful summary, tackling some of the controversial issues that have been raised in the first couple of months of his pontificate, including the dirty war and his relationship with the Argentine President. It is a good balanced introduction and will be finding a place on our pamphlet rack at Blackfen. I liked the way that Fr Croos concluded with Our Lady, Untier of Knots.

In the Deeper Christianity Series, there are two new booklets The first is by Eileen Clare Grant on Understanding the Story of the Bible. This mainly focuses on the Old Testament and it occurred to me that it would be a good introduction for young people who needed to get an overall picture of the history of salvation. The other is on Catholic Architecture by Steven Schoeder. This is an excellent introduction which distils the author's expertise in an accessible way, dealing with modernism, the question of signs and symbols, the sacraments, the old and new testaments, especially the themes of the Body of Christ, Temple, Tent and the City.

Among the several other new titles are Effective Parenting by James B. Stenson and Christian Love by the late Fr John Edwards SJ. Finally Saints of the Roman Canon by Julien Chilcott-Monk which is a great addition to devotional material for the Mass giving short biographies of each of the saints together with suggestions for prayer.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Woolwich atrocity

This evening I was in London to give Benediction at the chapel of the Good Counsel Network which does so much good work in saving the lives of unborn children and helping their mothers to live with dignity, knowing that there are people who genuinely care for them and will give practical assistance.

To avoid the rush hour, I stopped for a bite to eat near Charing Cross and after getting home and tidying up a bit of work at the desk, I allowed myself a look at the social media. So I was confronted by the ghastly breaking news of a soldier from the Royal Artillery Barracks being hacked to death by muslim extremists in nearby Woolwich.

Quite understandably there are some very angry comments flying around. Certainly I will make a memento for the poor man tomorrow at Mass - requiescat in pace - but I am also praying hard that this will not set off another cycle of violence locally. May God preserve us!

Our Lady of Sorrows. Pray for us.

CD 271: The priest, sin and saying Mass

Recently we have learned that priests are human and can commit serious sins. What is the priest supposed to do if he has to say mass (and receive Communion) without being able to go to confession?

St Ambrose, St John Chrysostom, and many writers since them, have given sobering advice to priests on the damage that is done by their sins. One of the most important works of the Council of Trent was the reform of the education and life of the clergy; it would be a fair historical judgement to say that it achieved a measure of success. In recent years of course, we have been saddened by the scandal of priests committing horrendous sins. These should remind us that sinning does not make a man more human but less human. Our Lady did not commit a single sin during her life and she was the most “human” person that ever lived.

When a priest commits a serious sin, there are a number of consequences which aggravate the damage that he does. In many cases the sin will be worsened by the scandal that is given: and as you rightly point out, he may also be obliged to celebrate Mass, thereby running the risk of committing several sacrileges. Canon 916, following the teaching of the Council of Trent, stipulates that a priest who is conscious of grave sin must not celebrate Mass or receive Holy communion without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess. If the priest has a duty to celebrate a public Mass, he must make an act of perfect contrition (sorrow out of the motive of the love of God) and resolve to make sacramental confession of his sins “as soon as possible” which moral theologians generally reckoned to be within about three days.

Although it is surely good that we emphasise the love and forgiveness of God, we must also recognise the damage that sin does to others, the value of frequent confession and the importance of genuine sorrow, a firm purpose of amendment, and sincere penance and reparation.

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

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Pope and exorcism

Denials are always difficult in public relations. Today's big denial from the Vatican is to say that the Holy Father did not carry out an exorcism. More or less every major news outlet seems to be carrying the story of the non-exorcism: after all, exorcism, even if it didn't happen, is a subject which is exciting for many people.

The Vatican news site continues with a short interview with Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ which is very sensible. As a teacher of sacramental theology, I include an excursus on exorcism in my course. Fr Hagenkord rightly and briefly states that exorcism is not a sacrament. An interesting point for theologians is the question of whether exorcism is a sacramental. It is usually listed as such in the manuals, including that of the most excellent Felix Cappello. However, the highly respected theologian, Dr Manfred Hauke wrote in the periodical Antiphon (Vol 10. 2006) arguing that it was a specific priestly power given by Christ, not simply a sacramental instituted by the Church. I am sure he is correct in this.

Quite rightly the Church tries to avoid sensationalism on this subject. In fact, the devil's work is not an exciting horror-movie spectacular, it is sick, nasty, destructive, (and often revoltingly petty.) I think that the adversary's work is often accomplished most effectively in causing discord, jealousy, and hatred between good people. You don't have to be a tree-hugging hippy to draw the lesson from St John that the remedy is that we should love one another. This includes forbearance when we are wronged, patience with those who annoy us, and the spiritual scud missile of conscious acts of supernatural charity (however small and hidden) carried out with the motive of the love of God. Prayer to Our Lady, to the holy angels, the use of holy water and so on are all vitally important, but active charity is what really gets the tracks moving.

The video of Pope Francis praying over the disabled man does unfortunately give people a bit of spectacle (the disabled man's own physical reaction makes wild speculation possible but it may perfectly well be a purely natural reaction to the event of the Holy Father's attention.) To me Pope Francis' action looks very like the sort of prayer that happens at charismatic healing services - not surprising given the Holy Father's charismatic background. It might therefore be a prayer for deliverance if not strictly a simple exorcism (it is not a solemn exorcism because for that, the Pope would have the liturgical book to hand, put on a stole and read the prescribed prayers.)

I wrote a while back about Fr Jeremy Davies' good pamphlet on exorcism published by the CTS. It is worth remembering that any priest may carry out a minor exorcism if he prudently deems it appropriate. It is always important for him is to rely entirely on the power of Christ and to be ruthless in excluding any pride - especially the slightest thought that the good achieved might be anything to do with his own personal qualities.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The importance of St Simon Stock

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The Shrine of Aylesford in Kent is used by the Archdiocese of Southwark for some big events, it is a place of local pilgrimage for the Union of Catholic Mothers, the Knights of St Columba and other excellent Catholic organisations. Still I feel that it is not given the prominence that it should have.

Aylesford was confiscated by Henry VIII and became a private house for several centuries before being bought back by the Carmelites in 1949 when it came on the market. The Carmelites, including the saintly Fr Malachy Lynch raised money for its purchase and fine renovation in what could justly be included in the New Liturgical Movement's "other modern" category.

But the reason Aylesford should be known and celebrated more widely is its association with the brown scapular which is used by millions of Catholics throughout the world. The story is disputed in scholarly terms, dating as it does back to the 13th century, but essentially it is St Simon Stock of Aylesford who is supposed to have had the vision of Our Lady favouring him and the Carmelites with the brown scapular which is now a worldwide devotion.

Aylesford has a place in my heart because it was the venue for some retreats in my youth that were formative of my spiritual life and vocation. I never tire of visiting, and am grateful to the Friars for their unfailing hospitality to guests. May St Simon Stock assist them with his powerful intercession.

Further on bullying from Michael Coren

My good friend Michael Coren sent me over an article he wrote last year on the question of bullying: The bullying of schools has just begun. Here is a sample:
The alternative to a gay kid being bullied is not a gay-straight alliance but an end to bullying. But then this isn’t about children being bullied and hasn’t been from the beginning. It’s about government and activists bullying others into acceptance of homosexuality.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

On bullying in Catholic schools

There are reports today that Stonewall has been invited into St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Wimbledon. The Telegraph and others added a human interest note to the story, saying that Stonewall had been invited in after a boy called another pupil's shoes "gay" but Pink News reports that the Headteacher has denied that such an incident happened. Pink News goes on to report the Head as saying that
Stonewall’s programme was tailored specifically for the Catholic school and did not mention same-sex relationships or equal marriage.
Naturally, I would not want to question the Headteacher's word on this, but it is surprising in view of Stonewall's published material which makes a particular point of saying that failure to talk about gay partnerships is part of the problem. (I know of at least one other Catholic school in the Diocese where posters saying "Some people are gay. Get over it." were posted on classroom notice-boards.)

In any case, Stonewall and its materials have no place in a Catholic school. Catholic moral teaching is quite clear on the sinfulness of calling other people nasty names. We do not have to invite a homosexual campaigning organisation into our schools to help us on that.

Catholic schools are generally well regarded for providing a good environment in which children tcan flourish academically. Where many fall down is in providing a good environment for children to flourish in their Catholic life. The vast majority of children have stopped going to Mass by the time they leave Catholic school, even if they had to have a form signed when they were admitted, testifying to weekly Mass attendance. That can, of course, be blamed on the parents, but such an excuse would not be accepted if they left school unable to read.

If Catholic schools are going to focus on bullying, one area would be the victimisation of children whose families have a conspicuous commitment to the faith. By all means let us banish "gay" as a term of abuse; as long as "holy boy" and other insults are also regarded as "bullying."

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Pope Francis gives pro-life witness



The Italian March for Life in Rome last Sunday had the best possible support when Pope Francis turned up unannounced to join them and encourage them.

Pro-Lifers who do marches, vigils and the like often feel a little nervous and unsupported. Opposition, though generally small and sporadic, can be quite vehement. Several of our own Bishops in England and Wales have given great example by attending vigils and it is always much appreciated. How wonderful it must have been for the Marcia per la Vita to have the Pope himself turn up to support them.

By doing so, Pope Francis has not only sent a message about the importance of the pro-life cause, but also an endorsement that taking to the streets to give witness is the right thing to do.

Liking and disliking the Pope

Bishop Mark Davies has given a very sensible homily to the Union of Catholic Mothers today, pointing out that when it comes to the Pope, Catholics do not base their loyalty on personal "likes" or "dislikes." He said:
I can’t remember how many times I have been asked everywhere from radio stations to petrol stations whether I liked the new Pope? To the Catholic mind this is a strange question as the loyalty we owe to the Pope is not based upon personal “likes” or “dislikes”. My invariable reply is that “We love the Pope whoever he is.” This may seem just as puzzling to my questioners. Those long experienced in the media warn of something we may already see taking shape and will require of us the very supernatural perspective Pope Francis urges. They tell of how a public personality can be built up in the media. In this case, it is based on the Pope’s evident goodness and an informal style which is then contrasted even with his most saintly predecessors. Expectations are subtly or less subtly raised that this is the man who will change the Catholic faith itself in accordance with the commentator’s own wishes and agenda. However, when the Pope fails to conform to these false expectations a souring begins to take place. I noticed only last week a concern being expressed in our national media that our Holy Father is proving as “hard-line” as his predecessors. “Likes” may quickly turn to “dislikes” in the public forum.
The Shrewsbury Diocesan website has the full text of the homily.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cardinal O'Malley's straightforwardly correct statement

It is refreshing to see a senior ecclesiastic make a plain and obvious response to a scandalous action by a Catholic College.

Boston College is a Jesuit run university, though you don't actually find that out from their About page. They have invited Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, to receive an honorary degree. Enda Kenny has aggressively promoted abortion legislation. Cardinal O'Malley was invited to join the celebrations. He has refused because of the confusion, disappointment and harm caused by this disgraceful act by the university.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Spiders and vocational discernment

I thought this was a priceless question from a young girl who is pondering a possible call to religious life.
"Mummy, the problem with being a religious sister is... WHO catches the spiders?"
You see: at home it is normally Daddy.

St Catherine's Trust weekend



A couple of weeks ago, one of the families of my parish was missing for the weekend. This was not a case of football, dancing or a taekwando competition but an event organised by the Latin Mass Society for families.

As a parish priest on my own in the parish, I cannot get to these wonderful weekend events but I am glad when my parishioners take advantage of them. I was impressed by Joe Shaw's appeal to people who do not have any affiliation with the older form of the Mass to come along anyway to see what is on offer. I would endorse that encouragement for good Catholic families.

I enjoyed seeing one of my altar servers assisting the great Fr Hunwicke.

Parody of Dan Brown

On Twitter today I found this fun parody of Dan Brown by Michael Deacon: Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown. Ages ago, when The Da Vinci Code was popular, I published my notes on Answering the Da Vinci Code. I was mainly concerned with the inaccuracies in Brown's portrayal of the Catholic Church.

Michael Deacon focusses on his writing style with devastating effect. I particularly liked this passage:
Renowned author Dan Brown gazed admiringly at the pulchritudinous brunette’s blonde tresses, flowing from her head like a stream but made from hair instead of water and without any fish in.
The whole thing is a hoot. Do have a look.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Migrating to dlvr.it

I'm trying to be good and post some real entries on Twitter and Facebook but also like to get blogposts put up automatically. I have been using twitterfeed but that seems not to be working with FB so after a brief google search, I have gone over to dlvr.it which looks good with stats and stuff.

So this is really a test post to see what happens next. *Publish*

Will also go and do some real person updates just to show willing.

CD 271: on meditation

A friend was recently talking to me about “meditation”: I thought this was some sort of Eastern pagan practice but apparently there is a Christian version. Would this be useful to me?

Many forms of meditation are today promoted as practices that might be “useful” by helping you to be in touch with your inner self, have peace, and be healthy, balanced and whole. Unfortunately many of them do have pagan associations and seek to align your chakras, be at one with a world spirit, or balance your yin and yang. I would advise you to avoid techniques billed as tantric, karmic, or yogic, or anything that involves a stranger massaging your head.

In fact, your friend was talking about prayer. Although prayer is indeed useful to us both for this world and eternity, its primary focus is not “me” but God: prayer is the raising up of the mind and heart to God as St John Damascene put it, or conversation with Christ to use St Teresa’s expression (to be understood not simply as words but also as communion with Christ.) In 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a letter to the Bishops “On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” This warned us to avoid impersonal techniques which concentrate on ourselves.

The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius are a classic guide to Christian meditative prayer. St Francis de Sales gives much the same guidance in a more accessible form in his Introduction to the Devout Life. To begin with, it is helpful to feed our imagination on a passage from the gospel or some good spiritual book, and allow ourselves to be moved with love for God, sorrow for our sins or some other genuinely devout affection. Our prayer should also prompt us to practical Christian charity so it is also good to form some concrete resolution. If you set aside some time each day to pray in this way, you will grow in the love of God and grow in holiness. In time, God may give you the grace to remain silently in His presence simply contemplating his goodness and love.

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

Monday, 6 May 2013

Exposing lies and falsehood over lunch

SAM_0787

My not very convincing imitation of The Vortex next to the man himself. Thanks to the Clovis family I had the opportunity for a good chat over lunch with Michael Voris of Church Militant TV along with Fr Briggs, a certain incisive online commenter, and other good friends.

Michael spoke on Saturday at the Family Life International Conference and will be speaking this evening at Nottingham. He is at Tilburg (Netherlands) on Thursday and then London again next Saturday for the Pro Ecclesia et Ponitifice conference. (Details)

It has been quite a weekend. Blackfen has been hosting the Conference of the Catholic Medical Association and I went hotfoot from there for a late lunch before returning for the evening Mass.

I just enjoyed watching one of the latest of Michael's short programmes. It is the "Boretex" in which he extols the Church of Nice and the importance of not being divisive or offending anyone.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Answering hard questions with medics

A bit of a tall order, speaking to Catholic medics on "Answering Hard Questions." After all, medics can throw some of the most difficult moral conundrums concerning material co-operation in evil. This weekend, the Catholic Medical Association are meeting in my parish for their annual conference. Although there are a few old friends, I am always delighted that at these occasions I get to meet many people I have never come across before, all working hard in their own fields and trying to bring their Catholic faith to bear in their professional work.

It is a great privilege to be able to host such a conference in my parish and many thanks to the Treloars for organising it.

My talk was essentially the same as the one I gave last year for a day for catechists for the Southwark Diocese. If you want to see the materials, there are links at the post Answering Hard Questions.

A question came up about alternative therapy which we discussed in a sensible and serious way. I did also make reference to one or two more light-hearted things I had written. If you are interested, try Holistic Indian Head Massage or Hopi ear candles, quackery and the BBC.

My cat post for today

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A mummified cat. This is to be found in the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury which displays items from some of the first professional archaeologists to excavate in Egypt.

Now who says I'm not a cat lover?

Friday, 3 May 2013

Views of Greenwich

7184 cropped

Earlier this week on a beautifully sunny day, Fr Briggs and I were able to take a couple of hours off in the afternoon to have lunch at the Trafalagar in Greenwich, courtesy of a kind friend, and to take a walk up and down Greenwich Park, now more or less recovered from the Olympics.

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We also saw with some degree of horror what has been done to the Cutty Sark.

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You can take the man out of Croydon ...



... but you can't take the Croydon out of the man. It is hard to contain my emotion at this film noir tribute to the town where I grew up. It is the best Croydon ballad since Captain Sensible. It is also a promo for a film called Limbo which is actually about purgatory, where purgatory is in fact Croydon. I dare not recommend the film but I did enjoy some of the lines in the trailer.

The tram didn't exist in my youth, but it has essentially taken over much of the railway which used to run from Elmers End through Bingham Road and on to Sanderstead. The bridges were knocked down and a new line built with level crossings. Such determined serial modernising futility sums up a lot of Croydon's post-war history and has a charm all of its own. I actually saw one office block on Wellesley Road built and later demolished during the course of my schooldays.

It really is time I made a pilgrimage to Croydon to see how everything has improved.

Usus Antiquior in Afghanistan



Father Charles Johnson of the US Navy Chaplain Corps celebrates the traditional Latin Mass for the troops in Afghanistan. His intention is for the souls enrolled in the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society, as Rorate Caeli reports. Let us take a moment to offer a prayer for the holy souls, but also for the troops serving in Afghanistan.

(If I had enough hair on the top of my head, I would be tempted to have a haircut like that.)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Culture Warriors



In any battle, there are a few who take the fight to the enemy while many watch and follow if they think it is safe enough. Military metaphors have their limits of course, but I think that in the culture wars we are engaged in, we should recognise those who take the lead. Above you can view a video of Ryan Anderson taking on Piers Morgan on the question of the redefinition of marriage. Under intense fire, he keeps his cool and keeps moving forward.

On another front, Nikki Kenward, who suffered "locked-in" syndrome, throws down the gauntlet to Sarah Wooton, the Chief Exec of "Dignity in Dying." Here is her feisty open letter:

OPEN LETTER TO SARAH WOOTTON,
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF DIGNITY IN DYING

A meme is "an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.

Sarah, I would like to begin by asking a simple question. Is your world full of lovely, caring, sensible people who only want the best for others and see, in that glistening blue sky, that is their future, a sure and meaningful death should they ever succumb to terminal or disabling illness? In your recent publication you state that “80 per cent of the British population” support euthanasia (although you seem strangely reticent to use the term too often).

So that’s 80 per cent saying they don’t want to be disabled, they would rather be dead than be me. You’re hooking in to people’s worst fears and using them for a campaign that will generate only more hatred and visceral fear of the unknown. We who live with disability every day have first-hand knowledge of such attitudes and it is even more significant that you fail to notice that not one organisation for “us” has backed your campaign. Doesn’t that say something to you?

Despite saying that you only work for those with a terminal illness you’ve been quick enough to take up people who are not imminently facing death, such as the Deborah Purdys and, heaven forfend, the Christopher Woodheads of this world, who are ready to be your groupies, whatever the cost to the rest of us. Think deeply, Ms Wooton you are creating a meme, an idea, a practice, that people like them, will, in their last sad days, lick around you for. They fail to realise that the lick contains a future full of greedy relatives, dodgy doctors, grabbing insurance brokers, mealy mouthed horrors of parliamentary rogues, whose present careless and care - less attitude will bring children, old people and the vulnerable to your door.

So, before you open your door I invite you to meet with me, I suggest a public debate, me, you, and maybe one or two of my “supporters”, instead of yours, just for a change. Prove to me that your blue world exists and that I am just one of those disabled people cynical with the world and closed to the kindness you offer me. Go on talk to me Sarah, talk to us. We could be “dying” to listen.

Nikki Kenward
The Alert website gives further information.

One thought occurred to me. If Pope Francis is to shake up some of the human and changeable customs of the Church, one thing he might do is to take a look at the papal gongs. It was great recently to see one awarded to Joanna Bogle. It would be encouraging to see one that is awarded specifically for valour in the field of the present cultural and spiritual battle for life, for marriage, and for family.

Great speakers for a Day of Faith

Bishop Egan, Canon Ruscillo, and George Weigel are speaking at a Day of Faith at St Patrick's, Soho Square, organised by the Faith Movement on Tuesday 18 June. Traditionally, the Faith Movement has worked with young people and has, through our Magazine and pamphlets, offered contributions to catechesis and theological debate within the household of the faith, especially concerning science and religion.

One area which we have wanted to improve on is providing opportunities for mature lay Catholics to learn about our apostolate and benefit from the enthusiastic promotion of orthodox Catholic teaching. To that end, Joanna Bogle has taken on the responsibility for organising a Day of Faith which is open to all.

The Day, linked to the Year of Faith, will include Mass, Adoration, time for confessions, and an optional history walk around the local area, led by Joanna who regularly conducts such tours. The talks by Bishop Egan, Canon Ruscillo and George Weigel promise to be great value. At the Faith website, you can find full details. The cost is £20 for the whole day, including food, or £10 for either the daytime-only or evening-only.

It is essential to book in advance. Send a cheque payable to "Faith-Keyway Trust" to: St Peter’s Church, Bishop’s Rise, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9HN. Please give your name, postal address and email and enclose an addressed envelope.

I am a Trustee of the Faith Movement and have been a member since it was founded in 1972. I heartily recommend this Day of Faith to you. (Unfortunately I cannot be there myself and will be sorry to miss it, but I will be in Melbourne with the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.)
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