Showing posts from September, 2010

Dangerous cliffs and a trouser kite

After lecturing at Wonersh yesterday, I drove down to Eastbourne for a couple of days R&R. This afternoon, Fr Briggs and I visited Beachy Head, home to some perilous cliffs: Sadly, Beachy Head is a renowned place for people to commit suicide and the Police, a chaplaincy team and other volunteers try to do their bit. It is scary to be near the unprotected edge of the cliffs. In a very British manner, one gentleman was making use of the wind to fly a couple of kites: One of them being a pair-of-trousers-kite: This morning we enjoyed the hospitality of the good people of Our Lady of Ransom parish Church at Eastbourne for Mass. We'll be there again tomorrow morning (about 10.30am). Here is a picture of the beautiful Lady altar which I took on my last visit:

Farewell to Sylvester

The Mulier Fortis just sent a text message to say that the much blogged and beloved cat Sylvester died earlier today after failing to recover from anaesthetic. Taking good care of animals is a sign of our humanity and it is sad to hear of a pet dying. In honour of Sylvester, here is a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. ( Catechism 2416 )

The Family Rosary

After evening Mass today I was invited round to a family home in the parish for a delicious plate of roast lamb, and fun conversation with a group of youngsters who are, one-by-one growing up and leaving the nest for university. The evening ended with the family Rosary led by Dad in a sitting room lit only by a candle (last year's paschal candle, in fact - big families always find uses for things that would otherwise be thrown away.) As a secular priest, living on my own in the parish, outside of the Sacred Liturgy, I usually say my prayers on my own. It is therefore a joy to share prayers with a family occasionally. When I was in Camberwell, the renowned Fr Hugh Thwaites SJ once spoke to the youth group. They were mainly of Irish families and he asked them whether they said the Rosary together as a family. Some did, some didn't. He pointed out that if they did not, they were probably the first generation in a thousand years to abandon this practice. The Family Rosary is a

Just another great picture from the Mall

I just filched this photo from one of my Facebook parishioner friends (- with slight edits.) It shows a group of parishioners on the Mall at night after the Hyde Park vigil. London became quite Catholic for a day. (For those not familiar with London, that building in the background is Buckingham Palace.)

Ad multos annos from The Seminarians

The other day I began again at Wonersh with the first lecture of my course on Sacramental Theology. There was quite a buzz at the seminary after the visit of the Holy Father. Several students had been helping at Eccleston Square with reinforcements being drafted in during the immediate run-up to the visit. The highlight for them was the gathering of all the seminarians at Oscott to meet the Holy Father. The video above shows them gathering for the photo. Mgr Mark Crisp, the Rector of Oscott, was a year above me at the English College in Rome. It was great to see him sitting next to the Holy Father. I also picked out in the video students that I have taught in the past, some of whom are to be ordained to the Diaconate in December, as well those who are currently enduring my explanation of the phrase ex opere operato . It was a good idea for the seminarians to start up the Ad multos annos for the Holy Father. That is sung at many seminaries on the occasion of an ordination, an an

Telly addicts - well just for a few days

Picture taken of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate at a motorway service station somewhere near Slough on the way back from Cofton Park.

Brendan O'Neill on "Protest the Pope"

Brendan O'Neill, whom I met recently, is an atheist who writes for Spiked online. Today he has a very good article discussing the Protest the Pope demo. Here is a flavour: This was less a coherent protest against a real problem, and more a madcap attempt to transform the pontiff into a political pin cushion, into which every group desperately seeking a sliver of purpose could then stick their particular pin. So some were protesting against paedophilia, others against AIDS; some were concerned about Holocaust denial, others about homophobia, and others still about the undermining of human rights. And apparently the pope, taking over from money, is the root of all of these problems and of evil in general, being a wicked, Prada-wearing, Bush-meeting devil and all. Some even waved placards saying ‘STOP STONING’ and ‘Religion flies planes into buildings’, which, correct me if I’m wrong, are problems that are associated with the Islamic faith rather the Catholic one. But who cares. G

Bl John Henry Newman on the English Martyrs

This is a great video from Mary's Dowry Productions illustrating the words of the Blessed John Henry Newman about the English Martyrs. Here is the information for the video: Cardinal John Henry Newman's quote about the English Martyrs with snippets of footage from original films on DVD on St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Edmund Campion, St. Nicholas Owen, St. Anne Line, St. Polydore Plasden, St. Edmund Gennings, St. Swithun Wells, St. Margaret Ward and more upcoming English Martyrs films available worldwide on DVD. Visit for more information. All of these DVDs are available to buy online and available in all region formats.

News of the World calls Benedict "People's Pope"

The other day, I mentioned the Sun's positive coverage of the papal visit. In England, the largest circulation Sunday paper is the News of the World ("Whose life can we ruin today?") As with the Sun, it is far more widely read than the broadsheets and has a significant impact on public opinion. In today's edition, the subs came up with the headline " Bene's from heaven " and the strapline "People's Pope leaves Britain with a smile on its face". In the run-up to the visit, there were many occasions when I had to respond quietly and patiently to clergy who solemnly told me that Pope Benedict did not have much appeal to ordinary people. So it is hugely gratifying to see the News of the World characterise him as the "People's Pope".

Dinner, coach, and Newman beatification

After seeing the Pope yesterday afternoon, I had to collect my bag from the media centre and then rush down to Chislehurst where Fr Briggs was holding a celebratory dinner at the Chislehurst Golf Club: Camden House which was once the home of Napeleon III and the Empress Eugenie in their exile after the Franco-Prussian war. Back home afterwards, we were in time to see off one of the Bexley Deanery coaches going to Birmingham. Gregory was still sporting his holographic yoof badge which was, it must be admitted, somewhat more kewl than the press pass that I had. There was a great atmosphere as the coach was leaving. Pilgrims I spoke to told me of a gruelling night, arriving at Cofton Park at 4.30am, then having to walk up a hill to the security (though that was not too intrusive.) It was drizzling most of the rest of the night; one family brought a large tarpaulin with them which made it a little less unpleasant than being on wet grass. They also had a giant sleeping bag which di

Hyde Park Vigil

Yesterday my parishioners gathered together at Park Lane before going into Hyde Park for the vigil. they had the smaller of our two parish flags since the other one was being carried by our designated yoof person for the banner parade. I was pleased to see that there was time for a game of football before the vigil itself Here are some of our future bloggers - though by the time they grow up, I expect blogging will be a thing of the past and some new technological invention will take its place. But this was what they all came for - Pope Benedict, the vigil, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the heart of London. During his address at the vigil, the Holy Father referred to Newman's words towards the end of his life. At the end of his life, Newman would describe his life’s work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion. Here is the first lesson we can learn from his life:

When "Viva il Papa" isn't quite so welcome

After the Westminster Cathedral Mass yesterday, I took a stroll up Whitehall, passing a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph. At Trafalgar Square, there was a large police presence and the sound of a distant megaphone, indicating that the Protest the Pope demo was on its way. I managed to get across to Trafalgar Square itself and was quite close to the march as it passed along. One of the sidekicks of Peter Tatchell's Outrage section was not too pleased to see a Catholic priest at the kerb. Many of the placards bore a striking resemblance to the SWP trademark 2x1 stick with standard lettering and footer. (I wonder if they are by any chance related.) Here is one of the more thoughtful ones, though perhaps a little puzzling for the average passer-by: Naturally, the smelly socks brigade included a few clowns with blown-up condoms: And the intellectual level of debate was what we might expect: I'm not sure that the marxists among the crowd would necessarily approv

Pope Benedict at Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Cathedral has one of the finest choirs in England and it was a fitting reward for their dedication that this morning they were seen and heard throughout the world providing the music for the Votive Mass of the Precious Blood celebrated by Pope Benedict. The backbone of the music was Byrd's Mass for five voices which was sung impeccably with great depth and character. Credo III was sung antiphonally, providing a stirring contrast between the purity of the voices in the choir and the enthusiastic participation of the congregation. The offertory motet was Bruckner's Christus Factus est, and Hassler's O sacrum convivium was sung at Holy Communion, in addition to the proper communion chant and the hymn O bread of heaven . As with other posts, the pictures are screen grabs from the webcast on the UK Papal Visit website. You might recognise one or two of the priests among this shot of the concelebrants: The Mass was celebrated versus populum at the High Alta

Vigil at Nunciature

Various people have passed on positive news of the Vigil at the Apostolic Nunciature on Thursday night. The Holy Father came to the window and waved. Just before I left the media centre yesterday evening, the screens showed him doing the same thing on his return after Westminster Abbey. I hope he got the chance of a good sleep there because it is another long day for him today. Well done especially to James and Daniella of the Pope Benedict in Southwark blog . The Knights of St Columba invite people to join them this evening outside the Nunciature from 6.30-8.30pm

Unusual sight in the Mall

The other day, Anna Arco mentioned on Twitter that there were massive papal flags along the Mall, so I determined to get some photos. It was gloriously fresh and sunny morning first thing this morning in London so it was a great opportunity. The above photo gives you a better impression of the length of the Mall. This zoom foreshortens this next one but you get some more of Buckingham Palace: Looking the other way towards Admiralty Arch (through there you get to the South side of Trafalgar Square): (Note for Americans: jay-walking is not prohibited in England.) Another unusual sight in London is Methodist Central Hall decorated with the papal colours: The Holy Father will drive in the popemobile past St James's Park. Looking across the park from Horse Guards, you wouldn't think you were in central London.

Well there was popery anyway

The ecumenical service at Westminster Abbey has just concluded. There was some very beautiful singing, including Duruflé's Ubi Caritas , the Pope and the Archbishop Canterbury delivered addresses, and venerated the shrine of St Edward. There was a rather noisy gathering of Protestants outside beforehand. Fortunately there were plenty of Catholics mixed up among them so the boos were mostly drowned out by the cheers. Rather a pity to have a protest like that but I don't expect it bothered the Pope too much. A French journalist who was standing next to me was completely baffled by it.

The fragility of social consensus

This afternoon, the Holy Father spoke at Westminster Hall, part of the Palace of Westminster. Once again he praised Britain warmly - for the Parliament which has been so influential, and for the common law tradition. He recalled St Thomas More and this was the launching-point for the main point of his discourse. He pointed out that the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More's trial present themselves anew: Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? He then warned: If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy. As an example of the ethical dimension of policy, he mentioned the abolition of th

Links to follow Papal Visit

I am off up to town shortly and will be there overnight so I want to have a handy list of links to access on my laptop. I know I could use social bookmarking, have my desktop in the cloud or whatever, but plonking them in a post here is a quick way to do it. Besides, it might be helpful to some of you. These are the tabs I am currently keeping open: Papal Visit live webcast Backup of same Papal Visit timeline Catholic Herald live blog Protect the Pope Catholic Voices Media Monitor Telegraph live blog Guardian live blog Following @catholicherald on Twitter is a must.

The Sun now joining the party

On the blogs we tend to quote articles from the broadsheets. In fact, the Guardian has a circulation of just over 300,000 while the Sun has a circulation of 3 million - the largest of our newspapers. It is not a paper that I think should be in any Catholic home since one of its flagship features is "Page 3", a daily picture of a woman showing off her breasts. Nevertheless, anyone interested in popular opinion needs to take note of the line taken by the Sun. Notoriously, the paper can make or break politicians at election time. It is therefore encouraging to see the coverage of the Papal Visit in the Sun today. The summary article has a characteristic headline " Her Maj has tea as Pope sticks to Pop " noting the Holy Father's preference for Fanta which I mentioned a couple of years ago, winning some really bizarre media coverage . That's just the hook, though. The article goes on to speak warmly of the visit, dutifully mentioning the various controvers

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