Showing posts from July, 2017

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…

Saint John Fisher and integrity in public office

For those of us who had the blessing of being able to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in England today, it was the feast of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. As a first class feast in England, it outranks the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.

Looking through old posts on the blog, I have covered some of the better-known stories of St John Fisher, but here is one that I like, because it shows the saint's integrity not only as a Bishop, but also in his public office regarding legal and educational matters.

Archbishop Cranmer had proposed some changes to the statutes of St John's College, Cambridge. St John Fisher was the only surviving executor of Lady Margaret Beaufort, from whose estate the college was endowed, so his approval was needed for the changes.

The master and fellows of St John's College sent two of their company to give greetings from the College and to ask St John Fisher to confirm their statutes under his seal. They were worried that his time of imprisonment …

Reminiscences on the release of Summorum Pontificum

The Catholic blogosphere had started to take off as a vehicle of commentary and discussion, untrammelled by official censorship. I joined up in April 2006. One of the subjects of discussion throughout 2006 and the early part of 2007 was the rumour of a "universal indult" for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. The rumour mill became entertainingly farcical as it became clearer that Pope Benedict was indeed going to do something.

One or two fellow bloggers had managed to get an advance copy of the document a few days before. (One incurred universal opprobrium by breaking the generally-agreed voluntary embargo.) I did not have a copy but did have a friend in Rome who had one on his desk and phoned me up. He knew that I regularly celebrated the traditional Mass - I even had the short-lived "Celebret", a rescript from Ecclesia Dei giving me permission to do so fairly freely. My friend was not a devotee of the traditional Mass, but not particularly opposed t…

St Maria Goretti and the Madonna di Ipswich

While a student in Rome, I joined a group that visited the Shrine of the Madonna delle Grazie at Nettuno, which houses the crypt, altar and relics of St Maria Goretti. We had Mass at the altar pictured above. I found it a very moving visit because I already had a devotion to St Maria Goretti and it was wonderful to visit her shrine and hear about her from the Passionist Father who was looking after the sacristy.

If you don't already know the moving story of this young virgin martyr, there is a site dedicated to St Maria Goretti which will give you all the basic information, not only about the saint, but also the amazing story of the conversion of her attacker, Alessandro Serenelli. The site also has some good articles, for example Why St. Maria Goretti Was Canonized by James Likoudis. He tells us that the canonisation of St Maria Goretti in 1950 was attended by 200,000 people: at that time the largest number ever to attend such a ceremony. Here is a photo from the occasion:

I wro…

Relax the rules a bit to make sense of feast days

The transfer of Holydays of Obligation to the nearest Sunday causes a lot of negative comment from Catholics who are strongly committed to practising their faith. While the transfer of the Ascension to Sunday does mean that the Sunday Mass congregation gets to participate in a Mass for the feast, it verges on the absurd to lose the temporal significance of the forty days after Easter.

The question of obligation is one of the arguments used for moving feasts to the Sunday. Medieval England had a genuine problem with the number of days off work necessitated by feast days, but nobody nowadays actually has a holiday on a weekday holyday, with the single exception of Christmas, and so, for many people, there is a genuine difficulty in getting to Mass on the feast days.

The structure of the traditional calendar from before the reforms of Pope Pius XII in Cum nostra hac aetate (1955) could offer a solution. Major feasts had an octave. The Mass for the Sunday within the Octave usually had the…

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