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Showing posts from 2020

Thomas Becket: the simple but daunting question he puts before us today

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There is much discussion about the faults of St Thomas Becket before he became Archbishop of Canterbury. Alban Butler, who could hardly be accused of lack of sympathy, said that as well as being decisive and intelligent, with great leadership qualities, he showed an excess of magnificence when travelling in state (he scandalised the French in this regard) Butler also says that he was proud, irascible, and violent. Fr Thomas Hogan who has recently led a popular Novena to the Saint, on Twitter, and wrote a biography which was published earlier this year [ Thomas Becket: Defender of the Church   from OSV ,  also on Amazon ] recently commented that, “Remorseful & penitential, he could be angry, rash, imprudent, vengeful, coldly tactical; gentle & forgiving at times to Henry, but often annoyed at the Pope. Passionate & aloof, he was a work in progress.” After his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury and his spiritual conversion, he wore a hair shirt and a black cassock in

Cancelling Christmas and preparing the way for the turkey

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On Sunday, many newspapers announced that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had solemnly proclaimed that he had been compelled to cancel Christmas. I found this amusing and wondered if he had sent a negotiating team by time travel to the reign of Caesar Augustus, tasked by Her Majesty’s Government to persuade the High Priest, to petition God the Father to delay the incarnation for the time being. An anonymous spokesman from 10 Downing Street would then brief the media that although saving the human race was important, it was necessary first of all to save the NHS. Of course the Prime Minister didn’t really mean that and we may have sympathy for him in making difficult decisions. We should pray for him and for all those who hold civil power. Unfortunately, however Christmas for many is far removed from the celebration of the incarnation of the second person of the Blessed Trinity. It may seem that Christmas has indeed been cancelled for anyone who has been preparing the way for th

From the Immaculate Conception to the Blessed Sacrament

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St John the Baptist clearly states he is not the one who is to come, but that there is indeed one who is to come, the Christ, or Messiah, who had been expected through long ages. St John the Baptist’s exalted vocation was to be the last and greatest of the prophets, the one privileged finally to prepare the way for Him. St Paul says that Our Lord is “before all, and by him all things consist.” (Col 1:17) In another place, he says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” (Eph 1:4) If we follow many theologians, especially those of the Franciscan school, we can read St Paul as indicating that the very incarnation of Christ was in the mind, or the wisdom, of the Blessed Trinity from before all creation, to bring us to the fullness of life in Him. The means by which we are given the fullness of life here on earth is the Blessed Sacrament, our Holy Communion with God, through the body and blood of Christ. The sacred flesh and blood of Our Lord is united to His

Retirement of Bishop Patrick Lynch

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Pope Francis has accepted the request of Bishop Patrick Lynch (auxiliary in Southwark) to retire slightly early on health grounds. Bishop Lynch has had special responsibility for the deaneries of the SE London area, including the parish of Blackfen where I served for many years and Lewisham where I now live in semi-retirement. I wish him well. If you are tempted to ask me details such as dates, here is the page on the ever-helpful Catholic Hierarchy website for Bishop Lynch . The following is a statement from Archbishop John Wilson: Archdiocese of Southwark The Retirement of Bishop Patrick Lynch SS.CC We are grateful to the Holy Father for granting this request and for the support of Archbishop Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain. We thank the Religious Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary for the gift of Bishop Pat to the Archdiocese of Southwark, first as a priest and then as a Bishop. As he now steps back from the formal office of Auxiliary Bishop,

Happy Thanksgiving

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  A very Happy Thanksgiving to all readers in the United States of America. I hope that you have a lovely turkey, pumpkin pie and all the rest. May God bless your families and may God bless America.

Saint Catherine, a patron much needed today

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One of the pictures that I most treasure is the central panel of the St John Altarpiece by Hans Memling. It was commissioned for the altar of the Old St John’s Hospital in Bruges and completed in 1479. The work is still there, though no longer adorning an altar. The Sint-Janshospitaal is a place that I have visited many times over the years on my regular trips to that beautiful city. On the left of the picture, the infant Jesus places a wedding ring on the finger of St Catherine who has, on the floor beside her, the famous wheel, broken, at her knees, together with the sword with which she was beheaded. The legend of St Catherine tells that before her baptism, Our Lady asked the infant Jesus to receive St Catherine among his servants. After her baptism, Our Lady presented her request again, and this time Our Lord placed a wedding ring on her finger. This mystical marriage shaped her life and her death. As a high-ranking intellectual, so the legend continues, St Catherine was chall

Saint Jude advises three ways of correcting sinners

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Statue of St Jude at Faversham Many good Catholics know St Jude as the patron saint of hopeless cases. His shrines are popular places of devotion. In my own Archdiocese of Southwark in England, we have the National Shrine of St Jude at Faversham. We should remember that St Jude also wrote an epistle (of just one chapter) which is found in the first nocturn of Mattins for today’s feast. It is regarded as an obscure epistle, difficult to interpret. The apostle refers to Henoch, whose books are not included in the canonical scriptures, and he refers to a cosmic battle of St Michael against Satan, contending over the body of Moses. St Jude tells us that St Michael did not presume to pronounce judgement on the devil, but said Imperet tibi Dominus! , “may the Lord rebuke you”, an appeal which forms part of the prayer to St Michael which we say after Low Mass. In verses 22 to 23 the apostle teaches us of three ways in which we ought to respond to sinners and the faithless, depending on t

Mass rocks, the devotion of the people, and encouragement for priests from St John Paul

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Mullaghgarve Mass Rock, Slieve Anierin - stone altar It was very sad to hear that in the Republic of Ireland, the celebration of Holy Mass in Churches has recently been suspended once again. The Irish Republic is now the only country in Europe where it is not possible to attend a public Mass in Church. Public Masses had previously been suspended from 13 March, until 29 June when they were allowed again, but with a limit of 50 people attending. They were suspended anew on 5 October, though Churches are open for private prayer. These measures were taken in response to guidance from the government of the Republic of Ireland. Yesterday, William Thomas at the National Catholic Register posted an article Ireland’s ‘Mass Rocks’ Are Becoming Popular Again . (H/T Fr Z: IRELAND: The longings and the lessons in the Mass Rocks ) After Oliver Cromwell's destructive violence, Catholic bishops and priests were banned from Ireland, though some remained, at the risk of their lives, to offer t

"Christ our Eucharist": A sermon given at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane

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Corpus Christi: High Altar On 3 September this year, I was asked to preach the sermon at the regular Mass of the Sodality of the Blessed Sacrament at the Church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane. It was a great joy to assist at Mass and Benediction and I am grateful to Fr Robinson for his kind hospitality and the members for their company at dinner afterwards. Cur Deus homo ? Why was God made man? I wish to propose respectfully to you the Franciscan thesis, that the incarnation of Jesus Christ was decreed in the eternal plan of God from before all creation, and therefore independently of sin. We do, of course, believe that Our Lord came to take away our sins, but the Franciscan or Scotist thesis is that even without sin, He would nevertheless have become incarnate, and we would still have the unsurpassable gift of the Holy Eucharist. Fr Faber was a thoroughgoing Scotist, a view which he expounds in his book The Blessed Sacrament . He says, Those who hold it [this view] dwell very mu

Fr Charles Briggs RIP

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Of your charity, pray for the repose of the soul of Father Charles Briggs who died in the early hours of this morning at St Christopher’s Hospice, fortified by all the rites of Holy Mother Church.  Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum, per misericordiam Dei, requiescat in pace. Amen. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Fr Charles Briggs – an update

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Fr Briggs is very grateful to you all for your Masses, prayers, cards and kind wishes. Please continue to keep him in your prayers. As expected, Father’s health has continued to worsen because of the cancer that he has, along with his existing health problems. Following medical advice, his family today agreed to transfer him for the time being, to St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham where additional support is on hand.  In the current circumstances, St Christopher’s has told us that they cannot allow visitors apart from two named people. Father Charles has asked his brother Matt Briggs and his priest friend, Father Finigan to take on this role. Cards and letters can be sent to Father Charles care of: St Christopher’s Hospice 51-59 Lawrie Park Road London SE26 6DZ Emails can be sent to him care of the parish email address: chislehurst@rcaos.org.uk  Thank you for your support and concern, and especially your prayers. Fr Tim Finigan Matt Briggs 23 August 2020

The Good Samaritan: an ancient tradition of interpretation

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The parable of the good Samaritan presents us with a moral lesson, and the saints who have commented on it do refer to this lesson. However the parable is also remarkable for the way in which the Fathers of the Church consistently understood it as an allegory in which the traveller is the fallen human person, Jericho is the world, Jerusalem is heaven, and the good Samaritan is Our Lord. This kind of interpretation is found in St Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St Ambrose and St Augustine.  This line of tradition is such that a scholar like Jean Danielou could suggest that it goes back to the first Christian community. If that is the case, it is probable that it goes back to Our Lord himself, in the “many other things” that Our Lord said. (Jn 21.25) This is why the Fathers of the Church are so important; they preserve for us the apostolic tradition, the lessons which the apostles themselves learned from Christ but are not written down. St Basil, for example, speaks of this t

St Gaspar del Bufalo and the Precious Blood

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Saint Gaspar del Bufalo (1786-1837) was an apostle of devotion to the Precious Blood. Imprisoned for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to Napoleon, and notable in charitable works, he preached with such power that the banditti came to lay down their weapons at his feet. Devotion to the Precious Blood is of fundamental importance. The talk quotes from St Gaspar, St John XXIII and our great English priest, Father Faber. (While you are on YouTube, I would be most grateful if you were to click or tap on the button to "Subscribe" to my channel .) Here is the text if you prefer just to read it: **************************** [Text] St Gaspar del Bufalo and the Precious Blood St Gaspar del Bufalo was born on the feast of the Epiphany in 1786, so his mother named him Gaspar, Melchior Balthasar when he was baptised (on the same day). His family worked in service and lived opposite the Church of the Gesù in Rome, so the young Gaspar would have known the painting there of the

A personal message from Fr Charles Briggs

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While we were away this week on a short break to Eastbourne, I assisted Fr Briggs in drafting this message. He wanted it to be published here for the benefit of friends that he may not be able to see personally. A message from Fr Charles Briggs Dear friends, I must let you know that my health has recently taken a turn for the worse. Just over two weeks ago I woke up to find that a tooth had fallen out. After a visit to the hospital, I was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw. Since then, events have moved quickly. After some investigation, the doctors have told me that there is no effective treatment for my condition and that the tumour is growing fast. Although it is difficult to predict with accuracy how quickly things may develop, it is likely that I may have only months, or weeks, left for this world. My mobility has further decreased since my diagnosis and quite soon I will need to move into nursing care. Your prayers would naturally be very much appreciated. As a priest,

Medieval Squints and Adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

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The term “ocular communion” is a new one to me, but I can see what is meant by it, and I liked Fr Z’s treatment on his blog yesterday, to which I refer you if you are puzzled by it. ASK FATHER: Ocular Communion . His post concludes with the excellent point, "While sacramental, physical Communion is wonderful for those who are in the state of grace, there is a great deal to be said for looking with longing on the Host, at the elevation or exposed. It could be part of a process of a return to the state of grace or else of far better sacramental Communions." The practice of elevating the Sacred Host after the consecration developed in response to the development of the doctrine of the real presence. Although this is usually dealt with in sacramental theology, it can be forgotten in the rush to deprecate medieval devotion, that the development of doctrine came about because of theological errors that needed to be corrected. Chief among these was the error of Berengarius wh

The Vesting Prayers and Recollection in the Sacristy

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Before celebrating Holy Mass, the priest should be recollected in the sacristy, thinking prayerfully of what he is about to do: to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the person of Christ, the sacrifice by which our sins are taken away, and to consecrate the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ which he will receive in Holy Communion. Others in the sacristy who are about to assist should also be led in a spirit of recollection, helped to reflect prayerfully on what they are about to do. If this is common, everyday practice, people learn that it is not the time right now to come in with matters of practical business, a comment on the day’s news, or a funny story that they just heard. It isn’t that such things are wrong in themselves, or that the priest has to get cross or make people feel uncomfortable. If the custom is to have quiet and recollection in the sacristy, then most people get to “read” that. We can be patient and kindly to those who don't. It is helpful for th

Saint John Fisher, the Cardinal Martyr and inspiration to the young

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The feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More is celebrated today in England and Wales (the anniversary of St John Fisher's martyrdom) in the modern calendar and on 9 July (the anniversary of St Thomas More's martyrdom) for those who celebrate the traditional Latin Mass. The Redemptorist Fr Bridgett's 1890 "Life of Blessed John Fisher" tells of how the Saintly Cardinal Martyr (also in fact the only Cardinal Martyr) was patiently awaiting the time when the writ for his execution would arrive. Finally, Sir Edmund Walsingham, the Lieutenant of the Tower, came to see him just before 5am to break the news. He waffled for a bit about St John Fisher being an old man and therefore not expected to live too much longer anyway - a "good innings" speech about as inappropriate as those usually are. Then let us take up Bridgett's narrative: [the lieutenant] told him at the last that he was come to signify unto him that the king's pleasure was he shoul

The Holy Ghost and the meaning of divinely given peace

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A short talk on the Holy Ghost. An astounding moment in the temple and the gift of the Holy Ghost – who is a person and not a force. What peace really means in the texts of the Mass. The refreshing peace, and “refrigerium”. Our presence at the Mass is essential. (While you are on YouTube, I would be most grateful if you were to click or tap on the button to "Subscribe" to my channel .) Here is the text if you prefer just to read it: **************************** [Text] The Holy Ghost and the meaning of divinely given peace The feast of Tabernacles was a popular feast in Jerusalem. People came from all over the country. They built elaborate tents to stay in, to remind them of the journey of their forefathers through the desert. It was a joyful feast of thanksgiving for the harvest, but also of all the good things that God had given. Each day, the priests went round the altar and sang “O Lord, save me: O Lord, give good success.” (Ps 177.25) One of the priests came f

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