Showing posts from 2021

Enjoying the Feast of the Holy Trinity

The weather in London today finally broke into just above 20 degrees centigrade, or just tipping 70 if you are using old money. It was a beautiful day to celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. This weekend and last, I have been helping at St Bede’s, Clapham Park. In a most pastorally sensitive swap, the late Archbishop Smith allowed Fr Basden to move from Clapham Park to Ramsgate, and Fr Holden to move from there to Clapham Park. Thus, continuity was secured for both parishes. The parish choir at St Bede’s has been going from strength to strength. On several recent visits I have heard them sing polyphonic masses with aplomb. Today we had Victoria’s Missa O Quam Gloriosum .  As is the way with many traditional Masses in parishes, the older servers have had children who are now competently taking over. More than one young teenager that has served me as MC has asked his parents for a vintage copy of Fortescue for his birthd

Blessing of the New Painting of St Bede at Clapham Park

This morning, the parish priest at Clapham Park, Fr Marcus Holden, blessed a new picture of the parish's patron, Saint Bede, painted by James Tildsley. It is sited over a recently installed side altar near the rear of the Church. The altar itself was acquired from Antique Church Furnishings . The website gives the information that the altar was built and carved by a nun in a convent near Liverpool. It is a beautiful piece of work and it is always a joy when such works of art find a suitable and dignified home. The inscription on the gradine is AMANS AMATUS AMOR. The sellers translate this as “Loving is the object of love” which is a reasonable stab at “dynamic equivalence”. Today the parish's relic of St Bede was exposed for veneration in its distinctive brightly-coloured reliquary. After the blessing, there was High Mass with Fr Holden as celebrant, Fr Littleton deacon, and myself subdeacon. That gave me the enjoyable task of chant

Rogationtide and the Prayer of Petition

Rogationtide is traditionally a time of prayer in preparation for the Ascension; England was one of the earliest countries to spread the custom. In Rome, fasting but not abstinence was observed, a concession to the continuing joy of Easter. Challoner mentions abstinence in the 1775 edition of his Garden of the Soul, but it had gone by the 1872 edition. Guéranger lamented that the Rogation days were so little noticed. At the very least, this time reminds us that it is always a good idea to pray and do some penance before great feasts. The prayer of this Rogationtide emphasises our need to implore the forgiveness of our sins, protection from calamities such as pestilence, and a bountiful harvest. We therefore keep in our hearts not only the needs that we have ourselves, but also the welfare of all those among whom we live. In the past, plagues and pestilence would usually be associated with famine. As we take for granted the sup

St Peter Canisius, bringing people to their senses using the “new media” of his day

Saint Peter Canisius was a monumental figure of the counter-reformation. That movement which grew out of the Council of Trent and produced so many great saints, leaves him in the shadow of such luminaries as Saint Philip Neri, Saint Ignatius Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross. Yet our saint was a prolific writer and preacher who saved the faith in Germany from oblivion and whose influence extended across Europe, notably in Poland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands to mention only a few examples. For fifty years he effectively led the counter-reformation in central Europe. Of all his works, probably the most influential was his set of catechisms. With pastoral genius, he produced versions for adults, teenagers, and children, teaching the faith straightforwardly and accessibly in answer to the subtle and manifold versions of errors against the faith that confused and troubled ordinary people.

Our Easter Faith: Not a Pious Crème Fraiche

In public life, some basically well-meaning figures have the graciousness to wish us well at Easter and to recognise the importance of the Christian feast day. Perhaps they might assure us that their thoughts are with us at this time. That is kind of them and in Christian charity we should thank them for their kindness, but Easter should be a great deal more than that for us. We must believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the grave, in the flesh, and lives for eternity. We cannot treat Easter as a jolly holiday that heralds spring, or the remembrance of a significant event from the past. It must change us today and every day, change who we are and what we do. The Christian faith cannot be a mild custard or blancmange of religiosity. (I am showing my age. Nowadays, I should say that it cannot be reduced to a pious crème fraiche .) We bow down and adore the King of Kings, risen from the tomb, who, “[…] continues for ever,

Christ the Divine Embryo, the Turning-Point of History

The angels are immeasurably more powerful and holy than any of us. We would quake in terror were we to meet an angel face-to-face. Yet the Holy Gabriel bows down in humility before the Blessed Virgin to acknowledge his Queen. When we repeat his words in the Rosary, the Angelus, the Liturgy of the Church, and on many other occasions, we should try to make that salutation in the same spirit of humility before the one who was chosen to be the vessel of honour who carried the living God in her womb. The Archangel Gabriel continues by addressing her as “ gratia plena ”, that is, full of grace as a past, existing, and enduring state. As we know from the teaching of the Church, Our Lady was conceived immaculate, so she was full of grace from the first moment of her life. She was also able to grow in grace throughout her life, because a person’s capacity can grow if that person is, like Our Lady, actively holy and virtuous in complete accord

The Day of Reflection: The Traditional Prayer for the Living and the Dead

The end-of-life charity Marie Curie , has proposed that today be a day of reflection. It is the first anniversary of the beginning of lockdown last year. (I remember the date, because I moved to Lewisham the following day, when the regulations took effect.) Marie Curie ’s summary is as follows, "Join Marie Curie for this moment of reflection, as guests share their thoughts, words and songs. Together, we’ll honour loved ones who have died and reflect on the challenges we have overcome. During this session we’ll pause to observe the national minute of silence at 12 noon." The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has supported this initiative , emphasising that we should make it a day of prayer. They suggest joining in with the minute of silence at midday, and taking some time in the day to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Where I live, there is the joy of hearing the Angelus bell at 12noon and

Saint Patrick, an Example and Intercessor for those on the Threshold of Cultural Change

The popular image of Saint Patrick has suffered a fate similar to that of Saint Nicholas. His image has degenerated into a soft toy character, with notes of condescending “oirishness”, associated with the colour green, leprechauns, Guinness, and silly hats. Each year, priests and laity who love him as a saint and respect the great cultural influence that he had in his time, and which lasted for centuries in the land he evangelised, try to put the record straight. I hope to do my bit. Saint Patrick is justly credited with a major role in the conversion of Ireland from Celtic Polytheism to Christian truth. This may seem remote from our present concerns, but we need only consider the rise of new age spirituality, often indeed garnished with the popular adjective association of "Celtic", to see that the problem has resurfaced. Nowadays it is not so much that many gods are worshipped, as that a gnostic, supposedly supe

Psalm 121 and longing for the house of the Lord

The Jewish people naturally hated their seventy years’ captivity in Babylon. Essentially, they had been ethnically cleansed from Jerusalem and taken to Iraq. In Psalm 121 we can feel their joy and expectation at being set free and finally making their way back to Jerusalem. Their joy was focussed particularly on being able to go to the Temple and worship God once again according to their ancient rites. The psalm verse of the Introit on Laetare Sunday is, “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps 121:1) It was not a happy-clappy jaunt to meet friends, share the good news and have a cup of coffee afterwards. The ritual celebration of the sacred liturgy was everything. It had been torn from them and they longed to worship once again in the way God had given them. The young people who had never experienced it were excited to take part for the first time in their lives; we can only imagi

The Majestic Wisdom of Christ in Answering the Pharisees

Our Lord took the Pharisees to task many times over their application of the law to particular circumstances. For example, He criticised them for ruling that if someone sets aside the money that should they should have spent on their parents in need, and promises it to the Temple treasury, they no longer have an obligation to support their parents. He says that they have effectively broken the solemn duty that the owe to their parents before God. (Matt 15:3-6) Our Lord explicitly goes further than correcting the Pharisaical interpretation of the law. In the sermon on the mount He claims to have authority over the law itself when He says, “You have heard it said of old … But I say to you.” Our Lord does this because He is the Word made flesh. The Word can also stand for the Torah , the law given by God in His infinite wisdom. Our Lord is the Torah made flesh. When God gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, it was a terrifying

Mass of the Most Holy Shroud of Our Lord, and Preparation for Holy Communion

In the older Roman Missal in the section of Missae pro Aliquibus Locis , there are texts of a Mass of the Holy Shroud of Our Lord, to be said on the Friday after the second Sunday of Lent. In the Collect, we thank God for leaving us the vestigia or vestiges of the passion of Christ. We have such vestiges in the holy shroud itself preserved at Turin. Despite the amazing photograph-like image for which there is no evidence of forgery, it is still doubted. Were it any human discovery with evidence of this sort, there would be general public agreement about its authenticity. It is only because people do not want to believe in a miracle that they have to doubt it. We need not ourselves have any scruple in treating it as a genuine relic of Christ. The Latin word vestigium means first of all a track or footprint. The shroud is a “footprint” left on earth, of Christ, crucified for our sins to win us heaven. Our part is to follow in the footstep

Our Lord's Glorious Humanity, His Temptations, the Transfiguration, and the Reverence We Owe Him

Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, made flesh. His humanity was true humanity. He was indeed made a man like us in all things apart from sin, but we should remember that being without sin also makes Him very different from us in some respects. Being truly God, Our Lord did not have original sin, did not have disordered desires, never committed a sin, and could never commit a sin. When the devil tempted Him, Our Lord responded in peremptory fashion, and with absolute authority. Hebrews 4:15 is sometimes erroneously translated to imply that Our Lord was subjected to all the temptations that we have, though he tried awfully hard and managed to resist. This gives the quite false impression that Our Lord might have actually sinned. In fact, the world for “temptation” in Greek also means a test or trial. Our Lord was not subject to disordered desires or past habi

St Matthias, the Cursing Psalms, and the Universal Mission of the Church

When chanting the epistle at Mass for the feast of St Matthias, I must confess to being amused at the part where Saint Peter says, “Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take.” (Acts 1:20) The prince of the Apostles first quotes verse 26 of Psalm 69 which is one of the many verses of various psalms that were omitted in the modern Liturgy of the Hours , and secondly verse 8 of Psalm 108, which is one of the three psalms that were omitted in their entirety. The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hour s explains that “Such omissions are made because of certain psychological difficulties” (n.131) I hope that you did not become depressed or neurotic during the epistle. St Peter applies these verses to Judas because He betrayed Our Lord. He then explains to the 120 or so men and women, including the apostles and Our Lady, that they must choose someone to tak

Recommended Basic Spiritual Reading for Lent

Someone asked if I would recommend some reading for Lent. Here goes! On such matters I generally try not to be original and instead to introduce good Catholics to classic spiritual works in case they have not come across them. If you have read all the below, you are probably in a good position to find other worthwhile reading yourself. But if these are books that you haven’t read, then any one of them would be a potential life changer. And if you have read them all, you will probably know that they are all worth reading again. Most of these books are readily available as books with paper and glue, books that go on your e-reader, web pages, and pdf versions. I don’t have so much experience of audio books but my guess would be that they are now all around in that format too. Over the past couple of years I have gravitated more and more to the Internet Archive  which I now use in lieu of a library, with the help of a Kindle Fire 10 which makes pdfs readable. And do not forget the excel

On the Attempted Cancellation of Father Zuhlsdorf

Since the US election, Fr Zuhlsdorf has been subjected to a concerted attack from some liberal catholic publications. This would not be noteworthy except for the fact that as a result, he has been asked to move from the diocese where he currently works and has now to find accommodation. It is therefore reasonable to speak of an attempt to “cancel” him as the saying is nowadays. The Character of Fr Z’s Blog As an outspoken blogger, Fr Z is accustomed to opposition from Catholics who object to his promotion of the traditional Latin Mass, gays who object to his unequivocal defence of Catholic moral teaching, and modernist priests and theologians whose theology he criticises for being contrary to the magisterial teaching of the Church. In the online “wild west” of the blogosphere, he is happy to give as good as he gets. This makes his blog enjoyable for his followers and probably annoying for his opponents. At the same time, of

St Raymund Penyafort, a miraculous voyage, and the pitfalls of wokeness in Collects

The feast of St Raymund of Penyafort (1175-1275) is celebrated today in the traditional calendar, (7 January in the modern calendar.) Here is the collect in the Roman Missal used before 1962: Deus, qui beátum Raymúndum pœniténtiæ sacraménti insígnem minístrum elegísti, et per maris undas mirabíliter traduxísti: concéde; ut ejus intercessióne dignos pœniténtiæ fructus fácere, et ad ætérnæ salútis portum perveníre valeámus. O God, Who chose blessed Raymund to be a renowned minister of the sacrament of Penance, and miraculously brought him through the waves of the sea, grant that by his intercession we may produce worthy fruits from our penitence and be capable of reaching the haven of eternal salvation. and here is the collect from the modern Roman Missal: Deus, qui beátum Raimúndum presbýterum insígnis in peccatóres et in captívos misericórdiæ virtúte decorásti, eius nobis intercessióne concéde, ut, a peccáti servitúte solúti, quæ tibi sunt plácita líberis méntibus exsequámur.

Absurd anti-Catholic claim in China merits Tertullian's satirical response

The website of the Society of St Pius X has a useful news service which often picks up stories that do not feature elsewhere. Today this story caught my eye: " China: Catholics Accused of Spreading the Coronavirus ". The WeChat and Weibo messaging services have a novel conspiracy theory, that the new wave of Covid-19 is the fault of the Catholic faithful being gathered together by "foreign priests" in the Hebei province. The SSPX article quotes AsiaNews, a widely respected source from The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, originally in Italian, which has had an English and Chinese edition since 2003. Their article " Hebei, Christians labelled ‘spreaders’. The return of Nero " has more detail. The reference to Nero recalls how he set fire to Rome and then blamed the Christians. Perhaps even more relevant is the exasperated satire of Tertullian in his Apologeticum (c.40). It fits quite well. For those who read Latin, it would be wrong to negle

New book on the Our Father shares a loving familiarity with the sacred text

Our Father. A Biblical Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer. By Sr Claire Waddelove OSB. Gracewing. 190pp £12.99 St Teresa of Avila says that Our Lord will help us to understand that “though we have had to say the Paternoster many times, He heard us the first time.” She goes on to say that even if we take a whole hour to say it, we need not worry if we realise that we are in the presence of the Father, if we understand what we are asking of Him, and if we are confident that, like any father, he wants to grant us his favour. Sister Claire Waddelove is following in a fine tradition of commentary on the Our Father, including some of the greatest saints. Yet we may be grateful that she has not been overwhelmed by this. We always need to receive a fresh reading of the prayer that Our Lord gave us as the model for all prayer. Sister Claire’s particular contribution is to present a synopsis of scriptural texts for each section of the prayer, encouraging us to use the texts as a springboard fo

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