Saint Gabriel

The angels call for our veneration and awe as part of God’s creation. Part of the destructive modernism of the 1970s included advice to Catholic school teachers that they should not talk to children about angels. This wrought lasting damage which continues to need rectifying. We should include in our prayers a heartfelt recourse to our own Guardian Angels. The Archangel Gabriel “God is my strength” would be terrifying were he to appear to any of us. Our Lady was “troubled” at the word of Saint Gabriel and wondered at the manner of the salutation. Immediately, according to his mission, the awesome messenger explained himself. Modern retelling of the event is often reduced to the jejune “Mary said Yes to God”. In fact, she said “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word”. This conveys more accurately the flawless faith and trust of the Immaculata. In the infinitely wise providence of the Father, we now know the structure of the event in even more detai

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

  In 320 AD, 40 soldiers of the Roman army’s Legio XII Fulminata, garrisoned at Sebaste, in Armenia, were executed under the orders of the Emperor Licinius who ruled of the eastern part of the empire and and opposed the policy of Constantine who had freed Christianity. The feast of these martyrs is also an appropriate occasion to pray for the civil power. We ask the intercession of the 40 martyrs for those who act to oppose the law permitting the killing of the unborn, and laws which contradict our nature which is affirmed in the book of Genesis “Male and female He created them”. We also thank God for the gifts both of nature and grace that he gives us daily. PICTURE CREDIT: Wikimedia. Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Anagoria .

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

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