On the clinking of chains and a possible duel

Tomorrow I will be travelling to the Isle of Wight to give a lecture to some holy and fearsomely learned nuns on the subject of efficacious and sufficient grace. I considered that their knowledge of the Fathers would humiliate me and therefore a post-Tridentine controversy which is part of a course I gave to the Carthusians would at least enable me to hold my head above water.

At the last minute, I am wondering whether I should have chosen a weightier subject which has arisen on Fr Zuhlsdrof’s blog regarding the us of the thurible: To clink or not to clink. There is a poll attached to the post and at the time of writing the clinkers are in a massive majority of 91% which goes to show how Fr Z attracts sound readers to his blog.

I am certainly a clinker. Not only a double-tap for each incensing of the cross, but often a weaker clink when the pot is lowered in between – possibly misleading people into thinking that I have broken even more 1962 rubrics by giving three swings. At our solemn Masses we now have extra clinks because I have finally got round to housing some fine relics that were recovered during the time of the French Revolution. The chaps clubbed together to get some good reliquaries which now adorn the altar.

Mind you, we must not be extreme and intransigent in our support for clinking. The Carthusians who have not changed much since the 11th century, retain a single handed thurible swing in which there is no clinking at all but an expert swoosh for each monk in choir, in turn. So far I have not seen any black eyes or bleeding noses, but the guys there are physically robust so it would probably just be a matter to laugh about on the next walk. (I think that the Carthusian style is similar to how the Orthodox incense people, except that they have bells on the thurible which seems just silly.)

Fr Z has impugned me by asking in reference to our occasional Fire extinguisher training with the altar servers: “Is H.H. a notoriously bad at incensation?” There is only one possible resolution to this attack on my honour. I shall tweet a gauntlet across the Atlantic pending Father’s visit to Blighty in June.

For the duel, I shall choose a Heckler and Koch MP5 on the advice of one of my adult servers who was loaned one by the Norwegians on a tour of duty some years back, and swears by it. I fear that Fr Z will have more experience at shooting, living in a country where you can have guns if you want, even if you are not a criminal, but you never know what might happen on these occasions.

I wonder if the excommunications for duelling are still in force or whether they were abolished by Pope Paul VI sometime between 1968 and 1972, like everything else. Liberals ought to consider that the Church was completely out of touch in its approximately 200 year fight against the practice when all reasonable people thought that duelling was a necessary evil and that they could ignore the authority of the Pope. On the other hand, Pope Benedict might now maintain that the excommunications were in principle never abrogated and are still in force.

Perhaps I should calm down on the duelling issue. Admittedly I have from time to time struck the altar during the return bit of the incensation when you have to swing the thurible over the front edge. Needing glasses for reading, I usually leave them on at the offertory incensation, making for a dangerous miscalculation of distance.

As the modern Lourdes hymn has it: “Problems of life, you 'elp us to face...”

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