Showing posts from 2017

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium 2017

I am happy to pass on the following information concerning the forthcoming Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend myself this time, but I pass on the notice with my support and recommendation.
Booking is now open for the Autumn Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, which this year takes place at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, from Wednesday 15th till Thursday 16th November.

Speakers include Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Monsignor John Armitage (Rector of the Shrine at Walsingham) and Father John Saward.

Full details are available on the Confraternity's website where you can also download the booking form.

Attendance is limited to fully paid up members of the Confraternity, including new members (who can join by downloading the appropriate form from the website)

Those wishing to attend should post the completed booking form, with your payment, to the Secretary at the address given. Mgr Armitage …

CD 297: Laity and the Divine Office

I am trying to pray the Office each day. Should I only use the official breviary or can I use the Little Office of Our Lady?
The second Vatican Council encouraged lay people to pray the Divine Office; indeed the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy encouraged parish priests to see that Vespers are celebrated in Churches on Sundays, something that is quite rare nowadays. So it is an excellent practice for you as a lay person to pray at least a part of the Office. By doing so, you unite yourself to the whole Church in the prayer which Christ offers up as our High Priest. It is rightly called a sacrifice of praise when we pray the psalms to sanctify the hours of the day.

Priests and religious are bound to celebrate the Divine Office every day and must use the Office that is approved for them. Secular priests, for example, must use either the Liturgy of the Hours (the Office that was composed after Vatican II) or the older breviary that was approved before the Council. Lay people who are no…

Event: Day for Catholic Home Educators

I am happy to publicise this notice which was recently sent to me.
Day for Catholic Home Educators
Increasing numbers of Catholic parents are considering home-schooling as the way forward for their children's education. A day about Catholic home education will take place at the Birmingham Oratory on the 30th September. The day starts with Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 9am, with the first talk starting at 10am and the day finishing at 4.30pm. The day includes a talk from Antonia Tully (SPUC) about screen culture. Nursing infants are welcome. There is a hall available for parents to supervise older children and a park nearby. For further details and to book, please contact

Was the Canaanite woman correcting Jesus’ mistakes?

The story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) is a good example of how there is not necessarily a plain and simple meaning in the scriptures. If we look at it purely on the surface we are not going to get anywhere fast by asking naively “What does this passage mean to me?”

First of all, we need to submit our minds to that of Christ made explicit in the magisterial teaching of the Church. From this source, we know that Jesus Christ is truly God made man, and that his humanity is perfect and free from sin. Following the settled teaching, we do well also to listen to St Thomas Aquinas who asks the question of whether Christ learned anything from man, and answered in the negative. (ST 3a q.12 art.3) As St Thomas says, Our Lord did advance in acquired knowledge from experience, as is affirmed in Luke 2.52, but not in His infused knowledge or (still less) His beatific knowledge (ST 3a q.12 art.2). Put in another way, Our Lord grew in human knowledge from experience, but did not grow …

The “Readings” at Mass: Worship or Instruction?

Following my post on Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary, Peter Kwasniewski kindly sent me a scan of his article “The Reform of the Lectionary” which was published in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century. At first, I thought of simply summarising some of the main points but it occurred to me that several principles were important and worthy of further discussion, so I will look at some in due course.

The first is the most fundamental. Kwasniewski rightly says that it should be engaged before examining any particular principle behind the new lectionary. It is the question of the purpose or function of reading the scriptures at Mass. As he puts it:
“Is it a moment of instruction for the people, or is it an element of the latreutic worship offered by Christ and His Mystical Body to the Most Holy Trinity.” He affirms that what we may call the doxological purpose is primary.

This question determines any subsequent discussion of what passages are chosen, how they are distribut…

An edifying newsletter from a monastery with a welcome problem

Silverstream Priory kindly send me their twelve page newsletter In Coenaculo. Parish priests receive a lot of newsletters and I am afraid that I don't tend to bother with most of them, but I find that news from Silverstream is always both encouraging and edifying. Father Prior (Mark Kirby OSB) has to preach sermons quite regularly for the clothing of new novices; he manages to come up with great personalised addresses each time. The diary is great to read, too. The newsletter is available as a pdf download at the website. Here is the link: In Coenaculo. Summer 2017 (pdf)

Silverstream has a serious problem, though. They have recently completed the construction of some new monastic cells and they are all now full. In the house Oratory, new members of the community have to sit in the window sills as there are not enough places for them.

(Just incidentally, as a matter of interest and nothing to do with any of this, of course, Silverstream celebrates the sacred Liturgy according to th…

Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind

It was not until my first year at University that I became aware that some converts were unhappy about making a qualitative distinction between converts and cradle Catholics. I was told that the comparison was usually to the disadvantage of the converts.

Until then, I had just admired converts because they had found their way to the faith and taken the trouble to go through whatever steps were deemed necessary in their local parish before being received into the Church. My youthful reading included John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton and Ronald Knox, all of whom I enjoyed immensely; they helped me to have a certain reverence for the category of people “converts” and it simply would not have occurred to me to think of someone as a second class citizen in the Church as a result of their having made a conscious adult decision to join it.

Later, I came to understand how much of a price some converts had paid in their family and social lives for becoming Catholic. As a priest, I have had the…

The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days

My post on "Interesting parallels in Jewish customs" seems to have been well received, so I thought it might be helpful to look at today's feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot's observation concerning St Peter's profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the "after six days" of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

Then there is the feast of tabernacles itself. This feast lasted for a week. O…

CD 291: Confession now I am older and have fewer temptations

I go to Confession twice a year, at Easter and Christmas because I feel I should. I find it difficult to know what to say as I no longer seem to be assailed by the temptations of earlier years. One priest told me rather irritably not to come to Confession if I had nothing to say.
I am sorry to hear that a priest was irritated with you. Say a prayer for him asking the Lord to give him the virtue of patience. I don’t agree with his advice. In your letter, you spoke of another priest who encouraged you to go to confession more frequently. He is on the right lines, I think. People who go to confession frequently usually remember more to confess. This is not because they are greater sinners but because their conscience becomes more sensitive to venial sins. This is not some kind of morbid “guilt” but a desire for holiness in small things. When you say that you do not have the temptations you used to have, perhaps you are thinking that the sacrament is only for mortal sins.

In fact it is al…

Unsettling advice for preachers from St Alphonsus

For the feast of St Alphonsus, I have been taking another look at some things I have quarried from the great man for this blog over the years. In 2015, I gathered some passages from St Alphonsus which were relevant for the Year of Mercy. Our saint writes with wonder at the love of God and the abundance of His grace, he encourages the sinner to convert, making a heartfelt prayer of repentance which we can use for profit, and warns sternly of the abuse of God’s mercy, using this again as a call to conversion. (See: St Alphonsus, a saint for the Year of Mercy)

There are a couple of salutary admonitions for priests which I was glad to be reminded of in the post St Alphonsus on preaching. The work “Sermons of St Alphonsus Liguori for All the Sundays of the Year” is instructive in the themes that the Saint chooses. I sometimes amuse brother priests by pointing out that his subject for the sermon for Easter Sunday is “On the miserable state of relapsing sinners.” In fact, St Alphonsus relat…

Saint Ignatius on heresy, and the capsizing boat

On the feast of St Ignatius, I offer my prayers and good wishes to some great Jesuits. Just off the top of my head, I think of Fr Joseph Fessio SJ the founder of Ignatius Press which has not only published the English translations of various works of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, but has also given a break for good Catholic authors both of theology and of Catholic fiction. Then there is Fr Bob Spitzer SJ, with whom I studied in Rome many years ago, and Fr Paul Mankowski SJ who has written some superb articles over the years. Here in England, I recall Fr Anthony Meredith SJ, the great fatherly commentator on the Fathers of Cappadocia and in Rome, there is Fr Gilles Pelland SJ, the fierce French-Canadian patristics scholar was a bit harsh when I first arrived in the Holy City, but seemed to soften a bit when after 5 years he seeme satisfied that, though English, I was not a modernist.

Many of my Jesuit priest friends and mentors have now reached “that night when no man can work” an…

Sunday book notices: "Laurus" and "Spoilt Rotten"

Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin
An extraordinary novel. It begins in the fifteenth century Russia and continues with a journey of redemption up to the recent past, following the life of a spiritual healer who eventually becomes a hermit. The blurb says that it will appeal to fans of "The Name of the Rose" but I think that it is much better than that. For Catholics, I would say that it will appeal to fans of Michael O'Brien. To find out more about the author, you could read an interview with Rod Dreher.

Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality by Theodore Dalrymple
The prolific Dr Dalrymple is an author whom people either love or hate, but since many of my friends share my enjoyment of his writing, I thought I would include this volume on an exasperating phenomenon of our times. The author has worked as a prison doctor and as a GP in an area of some deprivation, so the stories with which he illustrates his points are often amusing if macabre. For instance:
To ask how muc…

Bl Titus Brandsma's Last Act of Evangelisation - with the Rosary

The website of the order of Carmelites has a brief life of Blessed Titus Brandsma with this detail from the end of his life:
The nurse, who administered the fatal injection in the “hospital” at Dachau, testified at his beatification process that he had given her his rosary at the end and said “What an unfortunate girl you are. I shall pray for you”. His response, the nurse said, was instrumental in bringing her back to the practice of her faith. For a fuller account, see this pdf of the testimony of the nurse herself. The memoir fleshes out the story with details such as Blessed Titus' generosity in giving the nurse a couple of his (thin and poor) cigarettes, even though she was able to get good cigarettes herself. He defended his brother priests, some of whom had not made a good impression on the nurse.

His cheerfulness in suffering made a deep impression, as well as his charity to the other prisoners. Blessed Titus was already ill before being imprisoned, but spent the last day…

CD 288: Cremation 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 recovered a…

Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary

There has been quite a bit of discussion about Cardinal Sarah’s article in La Nef recommending liturgical reconciliation and suggesting ways in which the mutual enrichment which Pope Benedict called for, could be implemented practically. His Eminence suggested that there might be a shared calendar and a shared lectionary so that the two “forms” of the Roman rite could celebrate more feasts together and have the same Scripture readings at Mass.

Fr Raymond de Souza, in the Catholic Herald’s blog, wrote approvingly of the proposals (see: Cardinal Sarah’s challenge to traditionalists), and he was followed the next day by Joseph Shaw, pointing out that the proposals would be unworkable. (See: Why Cardinal Sarah’s liturgical ‘reconciliation’ plan won’t work - see also on Rorate Caeli: A reply to Cardinal Sarah on 'liturgical reconciliation'). Fr Zuhlsdorf picked up on the discussion and added his own observations. (Wherein Fr. Z rants: Card. Sarah’s proposals for “mutual enrichment…

Sunday book notices

Three books I have read recently and can recommend, in case you are looking for something to load up on your Kindle or arrange on your shelves.

Walking the Road to God: Why I left everything behind and took to the streets to save souls by Lawrence Carney
Father Carney just spends hours walking around town. What makes the difference is that he does so wearing his cassock and soup plate hat, and carrying a rosary and a crucifix. His book is a simple account of some of the meetings that has experienced and some of the conversations that have arisen with people who see him and start talking.

The result is a charming and sometimes quite moving witness to the power of basic evangelisation. Fr Carney certainly gives the lie to anyone who thinks that traditional clerical dress is a barrier to dialogue and encounter, to use the fashionable terms. The secret of Father Carney's apostolate is his own happiness in his experience of Our Lord, particularly in the Holy Mass (which he celebrates in…

High Mass for the feast of St Philomena - and other sung Masses in Margate

There will be High Mass (usus antiquior) at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate on the feast of St Philomena, Friday 11 August, at 7.30pm. The schola Cantabo Domino, directed by Gregory Treloar, will sing the Mass setting by Johannes Bernardus van Bree (arr. R.R. Terry), and Edward Elgar's Ave Maria and O Salutaris Hostia.

We also have A Day With Mary at St Anne's, Cliftonville on Saturday 5 August, starting at 10am, with Missa Cantata at 11am. We have Missa Cantata every Sunday at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate every Sunday at 11.30am.

(In the modern rite, we have English sung Mass every Sunday at 9.30am with the propers and the ordinary of the Mass sung, and hymns as appropriate at the Offertory and Holy Communion.)

If you are planning a day trip or short break to Margate, the parish website has links to google maps for both Churches. There are some great places to eat in and around Margate, but it is advisable to book in advance at the weekends, especi…

Fundamentalist integralism or sensible co-operation?

Like the French with Gallicanism, the Americans have been unfortunate enough to have a heresy named after them. Americanism was the name given to a loose collection of erroneous opinions related to minimising authority, in teaching, spiritual direction and religious life, and in cultivating a too radical separation of Church and State. In his encyclical letter Longinqua Oceani of 1895, Pope Leo XIII condemned the view “that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.” (n.6) and went on to say that “[the Church] would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority.”

Recently, in La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa have criticised American Catholics in a way very different from Pope Leo XIII's: Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism.

There have been many…

CD 287: Blessing after civil marriage?

My partner and I have planned our wedding at a seaside hotel. Can the priest give us a blessing afterwards?
A Catholic must marry before a priest and two witnesses according to the form prescribed by the Church. A marriage entered into by a Catholic according to a civil ceremony is not considered valid by the Church. A priest cannot “bless” such an attempted marriage, though he can arrange for the marriage to be convalidated. This is essentially a ceremony in which the couple take the vows of marriage anew in the canonical form. This is not something that should be planned in advance but a remedy for a situation entered into perhaps through ignorance.

If you have made some preparations already, the best thing to do would be to ask the priest to arrange for the celebration of your marriage quietly in the Church. He can also arrange for your marriage to be registered civilly, either by the presence of an authorised person (himself or another person who holds this office) or, if the Chur…

Interesting parallels in Jewish customs

Some time ago, at an academic conference on Liturgy that featured contributions from people of various different faiths, I was interested to chat to a Reformed (or Liberal) Rabbi who was frank about some similarities between the controversy within Judaism over liturgy and some of the things he had heard about the reaction to traditional Catholic liturgy. He also lamented wistfully that it was his younger worshippers who wanted him to offer the prayers in Hebrew and face the same way as them when praying.

More recently, I found this guide on Judaism 101: Jewish Liturgy setting out the differences in worship that a visitor might find between the various movements within Judaism
In Orthodox synagogues, women and men are seated separately; in Reform and Conservative, all sit together. See The Role of Women in the Synagogue.In Orthodox and usually Conservative, everything is in Hebrew. In Reform, most is done in English, though they are increasingly using Hebrew.In Orthodox, the person lea…

Back in the saddle and a redesigned blog

The great Fr Z has posted a kind article referring to me being "back in the saddle again" with an appropriately amusing video which I have put at the foot of this post. I am also very grateful for personal messages that I have received over the past couple of years encouraging me to get going with the blog again, and recent ones thanking me for doing so.

Things change rapidly in the online world and we have to respond; yet nothing is lost, as Ovid said: omnia mutantur, nihil interit. (Metamorphoses 15.165) One massive development over the past few years is that a lot more people have smart mobile devices and access the internet more from them than from anything with a screen and keyboard: over 40% of my pageviews are from mobile devices. That makes it essential for blogs to be "responsive", that is, to rearrange the page elements according to the device that they are viewed on.

Fortunately, Blogger is helpful in this regard, having issued some new standard themes …

Sunday book notices

Three books I have read recently and can recommend, in case you are looking for something to load up on your Kindle or arrange on your shelves.

Reformation Divided by Eamon Duffy
Our Cambridge historian, Eamon Duffy, must be credited with the greatest influence in turning around the historical consensus on the reformation. In Reformation Divided, he has edited and put together a collection of articles and themed them quite successfully into a book whose principal point is to explore two reformations that were going on side-by-side.

That is to say that what is usually called the Catholic counter-reformation did not follow breathlessly in the footsteps of a supposedly longed-for protestant reformation after it had happened. The reform of the Church was already underway and the two reforms competed for the loyalty of Christians.

The book has a balanced look at the life and work of St Thomas More, and has already helped to restore the saint's reputation after his popular vilification …

How to listen to the sermon tomorrow

There are plenty of criticisms you could make of the sermons that you hear at Mass. Moving on from "boring", you might say that the priest did not prepare well, or that he read out an essay, that he was too serious, or too light-hearted, that he ignored current events, or talked about news items, that he was too theatrical, or lacked rhetorical skill.

You may well be right: priests are not always great communicators, but did you know that a sermon is a sacramental? That is to say that a sermon signifies spiritual effects which may be obtained through the intercession of the Church. By sacramentals, we are disposed to receive the grace of the sacraments.

So we can use a sermon, as a sacramental, to increase in grace - but we have to use it properly. Simply finding fault with the delivery, the rhetorical skill or the erudition of the priest isn't going to get us nearer heaven. What we need to do is to ask the Holy Spirit what He wishes to give us here and now through this…

5 ways to keep Friday special

“I thought it was Sunday we were supposed to keep special” I hear you say. Well, Friday is also a special day because it is the day that Jesus died for us, thereby meriting the grace of all the sacraments, our eternal life, the forgiveness of all our sins – you know, that sort of thing. So Catholics have developed various ways to keep Friday special.

And remember: just rolling along to Mass on Sunday is a minimum to avoid falling into mortal sin. If we love Our Lord, we don’t just want to avoid participating in His scourging by refraining from mortal sin. In these times more than ever, we should be consoling His Sacred Heart by our devotion.

So here is a simple and, I hope, unoriginal list, a simple reminder of some Catholic things:

1. Abstain from meat
In England and Wales, and in many other countries, this is obligatory. In some countries it may be replaced by some other penance. Yeah right! Who actually does that? Abstaining from meat is a simple witness to the passion of the Lord …

St Mildred and a monastery that has outlived the Vikings, Danes, Henry VIII and Mr Hitler

Today is the feast of St Mildred (or Mildrith) the patron saint of the Deanery of Thanet, daughter of Domneva (or Domne Eafe or Eormenburh), great great grand-daughter of Ethelbert (who was baptised by St Augustine of Canterbury), and Abbess of Minster.

Over the centuries, Minster Abbey has proved resilient, being refounded after Thanet had been plundered by the Vikings, and again later after the Danish invasion. King Canute granted the property to the monks of St Augustine's Canterbury in 1027 and the tomb of St Mildred became a place of pilgrimage. Goscelin described St Mildred as  "the fairest lily of the English, the one jewel of our fathers.”

Under King Henry VIII, Minster fell to the greatest land-grab in English history and the buildings went into private hands until 1937. In that year, Abbess Benedicta von Spiegel zu Peckelsheim of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga in Eichstatt received a letter from Dom Bede Winslow, a monk of St Augustine's in Ramsgate with…

Devotion to the Sacred Head in a time of intellectual crisis

The Servant of God Teresa Helena Higginson (1844-1905) was a British mystic. She was born in Holywell, and became a schoolteacher at Bootle in Lancashire. There is more information about her life at the Teresa Higginson website, and at the blog Teresa Higginson and the Sacred Head. What prompts me to draw attention to her is not so much her life, edifying though it is, but the devotion to the Sacred Head of Jesus which she promoted. (There is a website for Devotion to the Sacred Head.)

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a providential answer to the crisis caused by Jansenism. That heresy involved a denial of the greatness of the love of Christ and tended to restrict people from receiving that love through the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion.

Since the French revolution, the enlightenment, or whenever you wish to mark its origin, the prevailing heresy, growing in strength, sophistication and audacity, has been an assault on the truth of the faith, an intellectua…

The folly of shortening the Mass with Eucharistic Prayer 2

When altar servers ask me how long Mass will be, my stock answer is that we will carry on until we have said or sung all the prescribed prayers. I do usually relent and then tell them roughly how long it will be, but I think it is good to teach that we are not governed by the clock.

In the matter of influencing how long Mass will take, there is a significant difference between the celebration of the modern rite and the usus antiquior. On the Pray Tell blog there was recently a discussion of the question of "Trimming Time", asking specifically whether it is better to use a shorter Eucharistic Prayer or to omit the sign of peace. Some of the suggestions, such as omitting the Gloria or Creed, or saying rather than singing some of the proper texts would not be considered in the older form of the Mass. In the modern rite, the selection of options can affect the duration of Mass in a way that is not possible in the traditional Mass.

Aside from any such question, it is true that t…

Prayers for "Mother Mushroom", jailed Vietnamese Catholic blogger

Say a prayer for Vietnamese Catholic blogger Mary Magdalene Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (37) aka "Mother Mushroom" who was sentenced to ten years in prison on 29 June. She was charged under the Article 88 of the 1999 penal code for “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” (See the full story at the Asian Catholic News Service UCA News.)

Among other causes, Mother Mushroom has campaigned against the killing of civilians by police, a Taiwan-owned steel plant Formosa Ha Tinh which has killed thousands of fish in Vietnam by releasing toxic wastewater, government land confiscations related to a Chinese-backed bauxite mine, the suffering of poor people waiting at hospital because they were unable to bribe officials,

Mother Mushroom received the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award in 2015 and the 2017 International Women of Courage Award.

Mary Magdalene Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh has already spent nine months in prison awaiting trial. During the first seven months…

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