Showing posts from 2015

A good day to arrive at St Thomas's hospital

Above is a good "My View for a While" photo, to use an expression coined by Fr Z . I'm on the 7th floor of St Thomas's hospital, opposite the Palace of Westminster. I arrived here yesterday on the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, after whom the hospital is named: it goes back to within living memory of the holy Bishop and Martyr. Today the consultant surgeon brought me the very welcome news that the waiting is over and tomorrow morning, I am to go under the surgeon's knife. Do remember me in your prayers - indeed thank you for all the prayers you have offered already. Several priests have very kindly offered their Mass intentions for me over the past couple of weeks and I am most grateful for that. If you have scheduled Mass intentions, a memento would be much appreciated. On a practical note, general visits are not encouraged. If all goes well and there are no complications, I'll be in the intensive recovery unit for a bit, then gradually clearing out

A uninterrupted sleep and then "all systems go"

Last evening I was moved to a side room in another ward. I was able to shut the door and sleep without interruption for seven and a half hours, waking up without having to struggle with grumpiness half the morning. Which was nice. Now it is "all systems go." I am about to be transported to another hospital where a bed will be waiting for me, and presumably without much delay, will be prepared for surgery. Nowadays, heart bypass surgery is quite common, and generally successful, but it is a major business, so your prayers would be much appreciated - for the success of my operation and recovery if that is God's will, or for my eternal salvation if the Lord decides it is time for me to render an account of my stewardship. Remember - heart attack or no heart attack - we will all face eternity within a few short years. We forget that so easily and concern ourselves with stupid trivia or even sinful things that last a moment but can lose us salvation. May I join my voice

Serco turkey at the CCU

Since Wednesday, I have been on the shiny, hi-tec Cardiac Care Unit. I got taken down for the angiogram yesterday morning. The process bore more than a passing resemblance in my mind to a scene in a Jason Bourne film. The warehouse-like antechamber was in stark contrast to the futuristic op room with screened control desk, boom arms and an enormous screen showing things going round my blood vessels. The upshot is that my coronary arteries are like the Dartford crossing on a Friday afternoon and so I will have a heart bypass operation as soon as a bed is available in the hospital where they do those. It will be an inpatient transfer, so in the meantime I wait on the Cardiac Unit. This makes for an unusual Christmas Day. This morning, for the first time since my ordination, I was able to get the Urbi et Orbi blessing and indulgence. I unplugged the headphones at the end bit for the nurse to hear the papal national anthem - which, to be honest, is my favourite bit. I have been ab

Happy Christmas

May our Blessed Lord, born in the stable at Bethlehem for our salvation, shower his blessings upon you and your families on this holy feast. "But tell me, my sweet Infant, why dost Thou turn Thine eyes on every side? What art Thou looking for? I hear Thee sigh; tell me wherefore are these sighs? O God! I see Thee weep; tell me wherefore dost Thou weep? Yes, replies Jesus, I turn My eyes around; for I am seeking for some soul that desires Me. I sigh out of desire to see Myself near to a heart that burns for Me, as I burn with love for it. But I weep; and it is because I see but few souls, who seek Me and, wish to love Me."  St Alphonsus Liguori

Liberated from the Mindray

Today is Liberation Day. When I came onto the ward, I was connected by five leads to a machine that displays a moving graph and numbers for ECG, oxygen saturation, non-invasive blood pressure and respiration. Yesterday, in everyday language, that started "playing up." These machines are like a lot of yesterday's technology in that they have a complex nest of menus and submenus with non-obvious titles, default settings and navigation. Once you get lost down a dark alley, it can be difficult to find the path home again. The problem is that if an "Internet of Things" approach were adopted, and all such data were displayed in a user-chosen GUI on any device, there would be a whole new front opened up for hackers to steal sensitive data. Anyway, my five-lead machine was replaced with a slightly newer three-lead machine that was basically similar in principle: the "Mindray Datascope Trio." On the website of Pacific Medical , there is a section "C

Being edified by hospital, gulping pills, and disconnecting from the drone

A mild December morning here in hospital land and all is well. It is the first time I have been an inpatient in a hospital and the experience is helping me to understand a bit more of how a hospital ward works. The crossover and co-operation between all levels of staff is impressive. Normally as a visitor you only get to see passing snapshots of the care that is given. Being in the same ward means that you hear the whole saga when "Bert" or "Lily" needs some particular personal attention. It is moving to see the patient, respectful preservation of a person's dignity in such circumstances. So far today, I've given an early-morning blood sample, cracked jokes with the trolley guy who bought round the breakfast, got to know the student nurse, managed to shave using a cardboard bowl of hot water, and bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph which nowadays I only buy in emergencies such as this when it might be a diversion later to do the crossword. The qualifi

A Minor Cardiac Episode and my view for a while

Claud Cockburn won a competition with colleagues at the Times for the most accurate yet boring headline "Small Earthquake in Chile, not many Dead." I am reminded of this when trying to calm friends and family down over what happened to me in the wee small hours this morning. I had a minor heart attack. One of the doctors did use that expression, though a young nurse who spoke to me later was versed in the new terminology of "cardiac episode" which makes me want to think up a script for Doctor Who. I'm not dead, but the experience of not being able to breathe properly does help to sharpen up one's focus on those meditations of St Alphonsus. Perhaps my many repetitions of the prayer "that we may not be surprised by a sudden and unprovided death" got me off this time. I have been x-rayed, injected, and given a cocktail of drugs that has brought my blood pressure down to an impressively normal figure. I have wires connecting my chest and a bleepy m

Sir Roger Gale MP's sound words on Sunday Trading

My MP, Sir Roger Gale, has consistently voted pro-life and, for example, has been in the lobbies to vote No to the redefinition of marriage, three parent embryos, and assisted suicide. H sends out articles to constituents who wish to receive them, and the other day, I was delighted to read his sound and well-argued piece on Sunday Trading . Here is a sample paragraph: There is, within any family`s budget, only a certain amount of money that can, after all the demands for housing, utilities, transport, clothing and so on have been met, be spent upon the purchase of new curtains, carpets and sofas.. The idea that we are all now so busy that we cannot, somehow, find time within six days of virtually round-the-clock shopping in the High Street, the Mall or on line, buy all of the goods that we can possibly afford (and probably also goods that we have no way of paying for) is retail rubbish. We have, nonetheless, already added in a chunk of Sunday for those incapable of organising their

Plenary indulgences and Masses for the Holy Souls

As the month of November is fast approaching, it is good for us to remember the generosity of the Church at this time - indeed the great mercy that is shown to our departed brothers and sisters. There are two plenary indulgences that we should all try to gain: 1. A plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions on the commemoration of All Souls by visiting a Church and saying the Our Father and the Creed. 2. A plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions by those who visit a cemetery from 1-8 November and pray for the faithful departed. For "the usual conditions", please see my post Plenary indulgences not impossible . Most Catholic Churches have a box for donations for the "Holy Souls" box. Mine now has a brief explanation since I am sure it is by no means obvious to many Catholics, let alone non-Catholics what happens with a donation for the Holy Souls. Essentially these are used to provide Masses for the Holy Souls. Each

Chasuble development examples in the V&A

The other day, I spent a while in the Victoria and Albert Museum, a wonderful collection that never fails to fascinate. I noticed that there are several examples of chasubles made in the 15th century that were later altered in the 17th century. The notes on the chasuble in the above photo tell us that it was dates from 1425-1450, and was remodelled after 1600. (We are also told that it is of silk damask with metal thread, from Italy or Spain, with embroidery from Southern France in linen and silk with metal thread.) If I have correctly applied what I have learned about these things (I am by no means an expert) then presumably the chasubles were originally of a much fuller shape (perhaps even conical) and were cut down to a more-or-less Roman style, a little like the "Borromean" style which has become more popular recently. I am reminded of the stories of Cardinal Hinsley who was wont to take scissors to gothic styled vestments to make them Roman in shape.

Confraternity Mass with Bishop Byrne

As promised, here are some photos from yesterday's Mass with Bishop Byrne at St Edmund's, Ware, for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Ordinarily, the principal Mass at the Colloquium is mainly in English, but this year, the Bishop particularly asked to celebrate the Mass in Latin. Most of the priests concelebrate, but attending in choro is perfectly acceptable and a number of priests choose to do this. Facilities are available for private Masses (in either form of the Roman rite) before breakfast. Here are the Fortescue vestments that I wore for Mass yesterday morning: The East window (click on it to get to the Flickr page, then enlarge it to more of the details): The rood: The vestment press first thing in the morning, when the College's collection of old Missals was in demand: And an item from the College museum: the original copy of Adeste fideles: For all the photographs, if you click on them, you are taken to the relevant flickr pag

Statement of the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

At the AGM of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy held yesterday at St Edmund's, Ware, we agreed to make public the following statement following the Synod of Bishops: STATEMENT OF THE BRITISH CONFRATERNITY OF CATHOLIC CLERGY Feast of Ss Simon and Jude, Apostles Wednesday 28th October 2015 The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, at our Annual Colloquium, in St Edmund’s College, Ware, expresses gratitude to the Fathers of the Ordinary General Synod on the Family for affirming, in a climate of challenge and confusion, Christ’s unchanging teachings and the Church’s constant doctrine regarding marriage, the family, and the true meaning and purpose of human sexuality.  We particularly appreciate their upholding the importance of the family as the foundation of civilisation, confirming marriage as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman, affirming the teaching of Humanae Vitae on the essential procreative nature of the marriage act, and the brave

Fidelity, Formation and Fraternity at St Edmund's, Ware

We have just concluded the annual colloquium of the  Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, the British Province of Pope St Gregory the Great  and a jolly good event it was too. This year, we were at St Edmund's, Ware, for the first time. The place breathes English Catholic history, and the Headteacher gave us a fascinating introductory tour. We had papers from Fr Hunwicke on "Church or Churches? Who owns the Magisterium?", Fr David Marsden on "The Formation of the Mind of the Priest" and Fr Nicholas Schofield on "St Edmund's College - the Douai of the South". The variety of topics worked well in giving us plenty of material for reflection. Bishop Robert Byrne came to celebrate Mass for us yesterday. Several of us celebrated private Masses first thing and were able to assist in choir or, in my case, to be free to take photographs discreetly. I have quite a few and will upload the best ones to Flickr tomorrow and post a selection here. We were we

The hermeneutic of continuity applied to #Synod15

In a small bus, nearly 40 years ago, as a first year student from St John's seminary at Wonersh, on my way to do pastoral work of some sort, I listened to a discussion about sacramental theology that I have never forgotten - or rather I have forgotten most of it except for the exasperated exclamation of a man who was my senior, delivered in a broad South London accent "Oh no! Not all that ex opere operaaaato stuff!" Perhaps some readers of the title of this post might be inclined to moan similarly "Oh no! Not all that 'ermenootic of continuuuity stuff!" Please bear with me. Fundamental to Pope Benedict's concept of the hermeneutic of continuity is that it is not a description, but an imperative. Over the years of writing this blog, I have many times seen withering comments deriding the idea that Vatican II is just like all the other councils, or that the modern rite of Mass is just the same as the traditional Mass. If the hermeneutic of continuity were

St Alphonsus, a saint for the Year of Mercy

In just another act of generosity that marks the best of Catholic internet activity, somebody has scanned/transcribed the texts of three important spiritual books: Meditations and Readings for Every Day of the Year selected from the writings of St Alphonsus Liguori The Spiritual Combat by Father Dom Lorenzo Scupoli True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Louis de Montfort The texts are available at the Religious Bookshelf . I am currently using the Meditations selected from St Alphonsus for each day. St Alphonsus is a completely trustworthy writer: so much so that Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a doctor of the Church in 1871, just 32 years after he was canonised by Pope Gregory XVI. Each day, there is a meditation for the morning, a short passage for spiritual reading, and a meditation for the evening. St Alphonsus was certainly able to write with passion about the love and mercy of Our Lord. His reflections on the passion are filled with heartfelt gratitude for the

Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried but not for those who refuse the Church tax?

Edward Pentin's "The Rigging of a Vatican Synod" ( links below ) is well worth reading. It is subtitled "An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family." One commentator suggested that Ignatius Press must have insisted on the question mark in the main title and the "alleged" in the subtitle. I'm not sure this is fair. Edward Pentin does present a studiously balanced account, giving quotations and arguments from both sides. The evidence that is presented is clear enough, but it is not forced on the reader. We English are noted for understatement and it can be a powerful debating tool. Pentin genuinely leaves the reader free to make up his own mind, having taken the trouble to obtain replies from those who would take issue with the idea that the Synod was rigged. This results in the case being made more clearly and convincingly than it would be in a tendentious and one-sided account. For anyone interested in

St John Paul's invitation to women who have had an abortion

One of the key differences between the 1917 Code of Canon Law and the 1983 Code is that in the 1983 Code, there are no longer any reserved sins, only reserved censures - and there are not many of those. Nevertheless, both Misericodiae Vultus , the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and the recent letter to Archbishop Fisichella , speak of permission being given to priests to absolve reserved sins . The letter to Archbishop Fisichella was widely misinterpreted in the press, but that is no surprise, since we have now had two massively important documents that themselves confuse the forgiveness of sins with the remission of canonical censures. Perhaps there might be someone in Rome much more learned than I am in the byways of canon law who could proof-read these things before they are published to the world. As at least some people know, now that the dust has settled, many Conferences of Bishops have, for many decades, agreed that they will all give all their prie

Some meek thoughts on Mitis Iudex

Frequently during my priestly life, I have given heartfelt thanks to God that I am not a canon lawyer. Most of my canonist priest friends spend a great deal of their time on cases alleging nullity of marriage and I am glad not to be involved too much in that. As a parish priest I do necessarily become part of the process from time to time. This usually begins at the baptism of a child, when it turns out that the parents are not married, or are married outside the Church. If, after gently enquiring about the circumstances, it turns out that things could be put right by a declaration of nullity of a previous marriage, and a person wants to go ahead with petitioning for nullity, I do everything I can to help them. This involves some careful explanation of the process, helping them to fill in the forms, and assisting them with writing the initial statement. My personal view of the nullity process does not come into it - I am bound to offer the best help that I can for the person to ben

Lego Mass sets

Father Z today has an article about Lego Mass set bricks from Domestic Church Supply . Here is the picture of the Church with the priest celebrating Mass: I could not help thinking back to  A lego Church that is better than quite a lot of real ones  about which I posted last year. As you can see, it has some more traditional elements (see the post for other photos): There is a transatlantic difference here as well - in England we play with Lego, not Legos. Can you really have lots of Legos? Or a single Lego? Discuss venomously on Twitter, imputing nefarious motives to either myself or Fr Z, and dragging in various tangentially related issues. Top marks to Thuan, who features at the end of Fr Z's post. At the age of 4 has mastered the concept of "Say the Black, Do the Red." after watching daily Mass on  EWTN .

A Year in Margate

On Tuesday the second of September last year, I trundled down to Margate followed by a van full of boxes, most of which were filled with books, most of which have now been put onto shelves. I loved Margate from the day I moved in, and still love it. At lunchtime today I wandered down to the harbour, had a sandwich in Cafe G, a hot chocolate in Bernie's Chocolate bar, and checked out the superb Pararphernalia antique shop, noting a couple of things that might be useful for the sacristy and making a mental note to bring a tape-measure next time. In the parish, we are planning for the autumn Quiz Night, pre-Christmas fair, and yes, the Christmas schedule, at least in terms of dates. We have a new organist for the 9.30am sung English Mass on Sunday, and the beginnings of a new choir. The 11.30am traditional Latin Mass is going well, with good numbers and again a few more volunteers for the schola. There is a healthy attendance at weekday Mass and it is great to have extras like the

Devotional highlights film of A Day With Mary at Margate

The Day with Mary team has sent me a ten minute film with highlights of the Day With Mary that was held at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate on 18 July this year. Principal highlights are the crowning of the statue, the Marian and Blessed Sacrament processions, Benediction and the farewell procession. It was a glorious day. Above is a cropped still capture which I rather liked and below you view the video.

Catholic Dilemma 288: Cremation, Catholics and the Resurrection

I am now well into my nineties and have been considering my death for some years. I see that the Church now allows cremation, but since we believe in the resurrection of the body, what worries me is that afterwards, there is no body, only ashes. The 19th century cremation movement, promoted initially by Italian freemasons involved an explicit denial of the resurrection of the body as well as (largely spurious) hygienic and public health concerns. In response, the Church insisted on the ancient custom of burial until 1966, by which time cremation had become more common and was less likely to be promoted for reasons contrary to the faith. The Code of Canon Law puts the present law simply: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.” (Canon 1176.3) In ancient Rome, the bodies of Christians were often recovere

Why are the readings not chanted?

Singing the epistle at Pontifical High Mass in the Lateran Basilica,  celebrated by the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship Recently there has been an interesting exchange on the question of who should do the readings at at Mass in the modern rite. (Cf. Benedict Constable and Joseph Shaw .) Reference has been made to the question of instituted Lectors. Lector was one of the minor orders since at least the time of Tertullian, but in 1972, Pope Paul VI made Lector a lay ministry by the Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam. (Latin original - English translation .) In the traditional orders, however, seminarians are still ordained to the Lectorate as a minor order. A traditional seminarian who has been ordained Lector recently reminded me that Lectors in such seminaries do not read or chant the epistle at Mass. Their "ministry of reading" is limited to occasionally chanting one of the lessons when there are several before the epistle (on ember days, for exam

The blessing of a chariot

When I studied Latin in Rome with Fr Reginald Foster, he used to suggest that a good word for a car was autorhaeda , a word in fact used in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis of 1965 when speaking of a visit made by Pope Paul VI to the Basilica of St Chrysogonus in Trastevere. The word raeda (without the "h") was used by Caesar, Cicero and Horace for a travelling wagon with four wheels and the addition of "auto" does not make for too awful a neologism. In the Rituale Romanum , the blessing for a motor vehicle is the Benedictio vehiculi seu currus . The word currus is normally translated as chariot and reflects the way that people often view their car. Since one's motor vehicle is more likely to be the locus of one's death or injury than many other artefacts, it does make sense to have it blessed. Above you can see us striding purposefully past the Georgian houses of Victoria Road and here is the blessing of the classic mini: The blessing given in the

Gothic vestments: the real thing

The Gothic versus Roman debate on vestments can lead to disproportionately strong feeling. The English College at Rome has a very fine High Mass set made by Pugin. At least it was very fine until the one-time Rector, Arthur Hinsley, cut the chasuble into a Roman shape. Poor Pugin, who was known to have dramatic emotional outbursts, would have had the mother of all tantrums. Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating Missa Cantata  for the feast of the Assumption at the shrine of St Augustine  in Ramsgate with chant provided by the Schola Sancti Augustini under the leadership of Tom Neal. The shrine has recently received a massive grant  from the Heritage Lottery Fund which is great news, since the plan is to restore Pugin's own Church to its former glory as well as providing a visitor and education centre. In the fading light of a gloomy Thanet afternoon I found the above set of vestments designed by AW Pugin himself, waiting for me on the vestment press as if, you know, &q

Downloadable booklets for Vespers

Gregorian Chant Hymns is a most helpful website that I mentioned in a post just over a year ago. As I said then, the site "[...] promotes the learning of Gregorian Chant by making sheet music, recordings, translations, and instructions. There is a short guide to Gregorian Notation (those square notes) and to Latin pronunciation. Everything is available free of charge, in line with other great traditional music websites." Work has continued at the site and there is now a section which makes available pdf (or .docx format) booklets for Vespers for every Sunday of the Year and a few major feasts. There is the basic booklet for ordinary Sunday Vespers which is supplemented by separate files for the Sundays after Pentecost which contain the Magnificat and Collect. Then there are booklets, for example for Advent and Lent, where the office is different from the regular Sunday Vespers with its antiphons. All of the booklets have texts and notation for Benediction and the Maria

"Sewing and Greek" and other summer activities

The Summer Session of the Faith Movement this week has seen young adults from all over the UK enjoying lectures, sport and social activities, daily Mass and other spiritual provision. One of the encouraging things about it is that every year there are newly-ordained priests and deacons along with a large number of seminarians progressing through their training at various colleges. I visited yesterday and attended the lecture given by this year's visiting speaker, Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham . Mgr Newton gave an account of his personal experiences as an Anglican and the motivation which led him to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. During the question time, Fr Roger Nesbitt, who has done so much over the years to invite and encourage Anglican clergy to come into full communion, gave a warm appreciation of what the Ordinariate has brought to the Catholic Church in England and Wales. During the past couple of

Sermon: Mary teaches us to worship

The Day With Mary came to the parish of Margate a couple of weeks ago. Claudio has now put up on YouTube the sermon that I gave at Mass on the theme of how Our Lady, as our Advocate, assists us at our worship. It is always embarrassing to see your own sermon on video - it reminds me of the sermon classes we had as seminarians. There is much to criticise, but I hope that it might be of some use.

Dreamland, the Shell Grotto and Botany Bay

Hardly a weekend passes these days without an article in one of the broadsheets extolling Margate as the place to be for leading-edge short breaks for the culture vulture with a sense of fun. I am beginning to get used to being in a parish where people come to visit; last week was rather special because all of my four sisters came down, together with various children, mostly now young adults whom I have a tendency to assume are all about 14 years old. Their accommodation varied between a good three-storey airbnb, a sea-view hotel and the 15th floor of the brutalist icon Arlington House with fantastic views. The first evening, Dave opened up The Hoy specially for us after I asked to book a table for 16 people. I do recommend it: fresh food, local vegetables, reasonable price, excellent service, real ale and a view across the harbour. (#LoveMargate) The following day was blessed with bright sunshine - perfect weather for a visit to Margate's funfair, Dreamland , re-opened recen

Archbishop Gänswein stands up for "faith and healthy doctrine"

Archbishop Gänswein is probably resigned to the fact that he will be forever known as Pope Benedict's secretary, but he is not shy of teaching in his own right. In an interview with Zenit, he referred to the teaching of St John Paul twenty years ago, in which he did not accept that the divorced and remarried could receive Holy Communion. (See Vatican Insider Gänswein:“Host for remarried divorcees is not possible" ) In the present discussion, it is worth referring to the 1994 letter Annus Internationalis Familiae , written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Bishops on the subject. Section 6 states: Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish th

New priests for Southwark - St John Fisher pray for us

The Day With Mary in my parish coincided with the priestly Ordination of Fr Mark Higgins and Fr Matt O'Gorman at St George's Cathedral in Southwark. I had to give the parish priority and so was disappointed to miss the ordination, especially since I have known both of these new priests well since some time before they began their formation. I am delighted that they are now part of the brotherhood of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Southwark. In fact, both of them, as well as Fr James Cadman who was ordained a few weeks ago, are old boys of The John Fisher School in Purley. I am a very-much-older boy of the same school. In my day, Fr Roger Nesbitt started up and ran the Faith Society from which the Faith Movement was formed. Although not all of the many priestly vocations from the school since that time were directly influenced by Faith, many of them were. When the then Archbishop moved Fr Nesbitt into parish ministry in the mid 1980s (just before my own ordination) i

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