Monday, 31 December 2007

Noble Simplicity

Robert 'Misery' Mickens, the Tablet's Rome correspondent, has been no stranger to controversy since the election of Pope Benedict. In the Tablet Christmas/New Year issue, he comments that he had received an invitation to the reception in the Westminster Throne Room for Abp Piero Marini on the publication of his new book. Misery has this to say:
Several bishops were on hand… Their presence was not only a fitting tribute to Archbishop Marini—a liturgist who has long been unfairly and mercilessly pilloried by neo-Tridentines for his attempts to apply the Second Vatican Council principle of "noble simplicity" to modern-day papal ceremonies—but it was also an endorsement of the council's liturgical reform itself.

The phrase 'noble simplicity' is often quoted by those who love the Pauline reforms (I think it is inaccurate to claim that the reforms which actually happened were entirely mandated by the council). I remember many years ago when I was a seminarian visiting Fr Ray Blake, himself then just newly ordained, in St John the Baptist's Church, Brighton, there was an Italian Salesian staying there, and he commented to me:
You Anglo-Saxons misunderstand this word 'simplicity'. In its latinate context it does not mean 'plain' or 'sober', but rather 'unified', 'harmonious'. So plain vestments in a plain church building are 'simple'. Baroque vestments in a baroque church are 'simple'.

This would have been about 1980, and I think he was amused to find a seminarian who was not quite as wholeheartedly enthusiastic about the reforms as most others at the time. But he was very kind, and once even celebrated Mass for me in Latin (new rite: I remember struggling to make sense of the responsorial psalm, which I had to read to him as he sat on a dining room chair by the altar, him gravely making the response in Latin).
But, back to the point. Archbp Marini has been complimented with achieving 'noble simplicity' in his Papal ceremonies. But honestly I can't see it.
The sacristies of the Vatican are full of beautiful vestments that have been gathering dust there for thirty years and more. Someone in Rome told me that for every major Papal Mass in the last pontificate, an entire new set of vestments for celebrant and concelebrants was commissioned, often from top-ranking couturiers, with matching mitres, collars and cuffs and probably socks. All overseen by Archbishops Noe and then Marini. These new vestments are never seen a second time. Imagine the cost of this; and yet there are drawers full of stuff that could be used. Problem? Those vestments in the sacristies are preconciliar; the wrong shape, they 'convey the wrong message'.
And again, a funny thing: it is precisely the people who would take out these Roman-shape chasubles, copes, mitres and use them that would be called 'tat-merchants'; people obsessed with fabrics and shapes of vestments. Surely it would be more 'simple' just to dig them out and use them until they wear out.
So, for all sorts of reasons, I was pleased to see Pope Benedict using Blessed Pope John's cope and Pope John Paul I's mitre. Now that's noble simplicity.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Strange things

There are memes flying around there which involve revealing interesting things about one that people might not know. This isn't a meme, but I've been reminded of four interesting things about my mother's family that aren't widely known, unless you happen to know me well.
The first is that we have a saint in the family; an ancient Irish one. Her name is Findclu (though she is usually known now by her patronymic, which is much better known), and she lived at some indeterminate time between St Patrick and the high middle ages. But apart from the fact that she founded a convent of nuns in the West of Ireland we know nothing else about her, except that she was venerated round about for hundreds of years.
The second interesting thing is that the family have a lake (lough) named after us in the same area.
The third thing is that one of my ancestors was supposed to have fallen in love with and married a swan from the same lough. He displeased her by bringing some undesireable guests home after a day at the races, and she cooked them a meal, then took her feathers out of a chest and went back to the lough, having kissed her children farewell. The lough is still occupied by large numbers of swans.
One last interesting thing is that, my mother's family having a history of weakness of the liver, another saint gave to the eldest male in another family the power of curing the liver problems in my mother's family, but of nobody else's. A sort of private health insurance, one might say. This healing family took it very seriously; there was a kind of ritual involving lots of prayers and, er, a sledge hammer. No, I'm not having you on. I gather the sledge was waved over the body in some arcane way (the chap had to be strong!) and, hey presto, one's liver was cured for life. The last member of my family to have it done was my Aunt Agnes, who died some ten years ago (her liver was fine); all the members of the curing family have now also died, so I guess I'll have to stick with the Alka Seltzer after the excesses (there were not very many) of Christmas.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because today, 29th December, is St Findclu's feast day. And so in our family at least, today she tends to overshadow that other great saint, Thomas of Canterbury.

Friday, 28 December 2007

More Asses

A most interesting comment by Auricularius on the Ox and Ass post concerning the poverty of the English translation of the (N.O.) Breviary (worth a read) reminded me of something that William, another friend, pointed out to me the other day. Since I hardly ever say the breviary in the vernacular (even when I used the N.O. version) I had never noticed it.
In general, the UK version of the breviary tends to be a bit better than the US one (in the translation of the collects, for instance), but how about this howler from the UK Te Deum?

Original: Tu rex gloriæ, Christe. Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
UK: You, Christ, are the King of glory, Son of the eternal Father.
US: You, Christ, are the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father.
For the sake of non-Latinists, the US version is correct. According to the original, the Son is eternal; the Father's eternity is not mentioned.
There is a legend that many of the translations of the UK English Breviary were done by students of the English College, Rome, often in an post-prandial somnolent and alcoholic haze. I have heard this positively asserted with reference to the intercessions at Lauds and Vespers. These are at times cringe-making ("Help us to be generous and kind — let us bring joy, not pain to the people we meet today") and often inaccurate.
I am no great shakes as a latinist, but to find such an elementary schoolboy error in the public prayer of the Church just goes to show what little care they took over it in the first place. Or, perhaps worse, to them it just didn't matter. The Father is eternal, after all, isn't He?

P.S. Please don't point out to me that the picture is of a donkey, not an ass. I know that very well. When I looked for a picture of an ass on Google image search, I can't tell you what I found! I'm still blushing! Another example of the difference between US and UK English usage, I suppose. This particular donkey, by the way, is called Donkey Oatie. Geddit?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Liturgy reform: No going back

I discovered this this morning. It's the editorial to the on-line edition of the (American) National Catholic Reporter. It makes the Tablet look like the Osservatore Romano. I'm going to stick in some Fr Z-style comments.

When the definitive history of the Second Vatican Council is finally written, beyond all squabbles over the council’s actual intent, one undisputed fact will stand -- that taking up the draft for the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as the first focus of debate had a decisive impact on the tone and direction the council took in all its subsequent deliberations. Though the discussion was liturgy, the real subject was ecclesiology -- the church’s understanding of itself.
Hm: I think this might have surprised the Church Fathers, but let it stand.

By invoking the church in biblical terms as the pilgrim people of God and as the body of Christ, nb I think Pius XII did this more than adequately in Mystici Corporis Vatican II set the stage for a crucial shift away from the juridical “perfect society” embodied in the unabashedly monarchical church of Trent. This is just Aunt Sallying. You set up a target, making it look as ridiculous as possible, and then throw mud at it for being ridiculous. Nowhere would this be reflected more clearly than in the way the church prayed. The throne room protocols of the Tridentine Mass, the elevations, barriers, brocade, structures and language separating clergy from laity Excuse me: the elevations separate clergy from laity? gave way to a worshiping community in which all the baptized were called to full, conscious, active participation. In other words, things designed to draw the attention of all, clergy and laity together, to God were replaced by things that drew the attention of clergy and laity to each other. A new way of worshiping (worshipping what?) marked the beginning of the end of the vertical ecclesiology that for 500 years had shaped every aspect of the church’s life and ministry around hierarchical and clerical preeminence. Thus making another Aunt Sally: the only thing the entire work of the Church was about for five hundred years was hierarchical and clerical preeminence, eh? The council carried the same biblical imagery and expansive approach into the major constitutions on the church and the church in the modern world.
For those who still ask if any of this matters and who might care, the recent book by Archbishop Piero Marini (see story) looking back over his 20 years as the personal liturgical planner for Pope John Paul II and, until recently, Benedict XVI, gives a glimpse into the tensions within the inmost circle of church leadership over liturgy as an expression of church identity on the world stage. Marini, most eloquent in his support of Vatican II reforms, managed to survive (this makes it sound as if he had a job doing so: encouraging) as the chief choreographer of events at which John Paul II presided. Those events were often richly inculturated, inclusive and ecumenical liturgies marked by full participation by the laity. Funny to find JPII now the darling of the liberals, isn't it? John Paul II, known for his love of theater, evidently acceded to Marini and was in the end blessed by a remarkable funeral under Marini’s direction. So, though the Extraordinary Form is often criticized for being theatrical, here it isn't theatrical enough. I had always thought that something 'theatrical' is something designed for the entertainment of a group of people. That certainly suits the new liturgy better than the old, which (according to Marini and others) generally ignores them. Though I have to say that the new liturgy doesn't really entertain me.
If liturgy has characteristically been below the radar for most Catholics, opponents of Vatican II knew from the outset that the one way to preserve Trent was to halt liturgical reform. What does he mean, 'preserve Trent'? It's a General Council of the Church. It needs preserving. If he means clerical ascendency, he should say so. To look back over the 42 years since the close of the council is to see that progress in the reform has been real but slow, Yup; our pews are a good deal emptier than they were 42 years ago; if that's progress, then we've progressed and to admit that any awakening of Catholic laity to their full baptismal identity is still in the future. Hm: what does that mean? I've a nasty feeling we're going to find out……At the same time, those devoted at many levels to a pre-Vatican II model of the church have worked hard to bring down many aspects of liturgical reform. Frustrating the process of vernacular translations, erm; actually I think most of us have been fighting for a better vernacular translation (if we've got to have one) crimping the rubrics for Mass to accentuate the ordained again, what does that mean? and, most recently, restoring the Tridentine rite, are among the more visible signs of successful retrenchment.
But there really is no turning back. “Vatican II helped us to rediscover the idea of the priesthood as something universal,” Marini said in an interview. “The faithful don’t receive permission from priests to participate in the Mass. Did they ever? They are members of a priestly people, which means they have the right to participate in offering the sacrifice of the Mass. I'm sure Marini knows his theology better than this; he is deliberately confusing the Baptismal and Ministerial priesthood here. This does his cause no favours. The Church has always taught that the faithful offer the Mass with the priest, but in different mode. This was a great discovery, a great emphasis, of the council. B****CKS The Church has always taught this and believed this and practised this. We have to keep this in mind, because otherwise we run the risk of confusion about the nature of the liturgy, and for that matter, the church itself.” Confused? Who's confused? You, I think.
What they have always known in Rome is important for all of us to know: Liturgy is the visible expression of the arrangement of power. Ah; here we are, now. It's the old feminist thing again. Why does it all come down to this? Because it's human nature, I guess. And yet the Lord came among us as one who serves. The 2,500 bishops of Vatican II, perhaps surprising themselves, began the process of opening up the church to (some of) its own members and to the world. Not to people who thought the 'reform' could have been better conceived. We all have a say in the kind of church we are. Then why the 42 year silencing of those who don't like the reform? The reform of the church was a struggle worth undertaking more than 40 years ago, and it is a challenge each of us, in our own way and in our own faith communities, should prize and not lose sight of today.

Do read the Marini interview: it's very illuminating.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The Ox and the Ass and the Manger Stall

I wonder when the change came? I rather suspect (without running to my books) that it may well have been at the first crib of all, that of St Francis of Assisi, that (Western) Christianity began to focus on the actual circumstances of the birth of our Lord. I mean the manger, and the ox and the ass and all that stuff.
Ever since 7.7.7, I have been using the Extraordinary form of the breviary, and utterly loving it. I say it all, and rarely have I had the sense of weariness ('oh, let's get it over with') that I used to get when having to say the other form. The seven hours each day ('seven times will I praise thee, O Lord') of Matins+Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline mark out the day beautifully, and saying the whole 150 psalms in a week is wonderful; much better than saying 148 of them over 4 weeks.
But I'm straying off the point. The breviary takes a different line on Christmas—I suspect, older. The accent is on Christ the heroic bridegroom leaving his chamber to go to that of his wife. The analogy is that of heaven being wedded to earth; man reconciled with God; God's almighty Word leaping down from heaven as the world's Redeemer.
Against this cosmic and dramatic background, the ox and the ass hardly get a look in: they are taken for granted. There is one solitary antiphon that occurs to me, but it's a good one;
O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum jacentem in præsepio. O beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Jesum Christum. Alleluia!
O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the Lord born and lying in a manger. O Blessed Virgin, whose womb is worthy to carry the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
A happy and blessed Christmas, everybody.

The picture is from an early Christian sarcophagus, unidentified.
Which goes to show that even the early Christians
thought at least a little bit about the ox and the ass.

Monday, 24 December 2007

A good argument

"Some people are worried because they can't understand the words. But I tell them, the key to this mass is not about the words. Do we need a brochure to enjoy the music of Beethoven? Or the beauty of the Sistine Chapel? This is not about the words. It's about God."

Saturday, 22 December 2007


More on St Vibiana's here.
And here.

Cathedrals in LA

Here we have the original St Vibiana's Cathedral in an old postcard view. Pretty, but sort of small, I suppose, for a great city.
This is St Vibiana's today, having had a great deal of money spent on it. It was nearly lost altogether, but the US National Trust ran a great campaign to save it, and now it is a very secular arts centre; they are about to build corporate hospitality bits and a hotel as well.

And here is the new cathedral, familiar from a million incredulous pictures. Well, it's bigger than the old one. Strangely, it says to this UK dweller, 'Festival Hall' or 'Fairfield Hall'. So the LA dweller goes to a concert in a church and to church in a concert hall.

This is St Sophia's, LA's other Cathedral (in this case, Greek Orthodox). There's an Antiochene cathedral too, but I didn't show it as Blogger only lets you post five pictures, and I wanted to include the last one.

I'm sure you'll agree it's worth posting. This is the throne of the Greek Orthodox bishop of LA. No messing around here, then.

Live Simply

Our Diocesan newspaper proclaims that our diocese is now to celebrate the first anniversary of the Live Simply campaign.
No, that's campaign, my Lord, not champagne!

Christmas is coming…

Fr Ray has some images of the Holy Father receiving (rather early) Christmas greetings from the assembled cardinals.
Cardinal 1: 'Just coming up to your busy time, Holy Father!'
Cardinal 2: 'Er, what time's Midnight Mass, Holy Father?'

Friday, 21 December 2007

And now for something completely different.

Do you like broccoli? My friend sent me this remarkable alternative purpose for the vegetable. I see on YouTube that the, er, artist has managed to do things with carrots, too.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Another Papal Restoration?

Now, I may well be mistaken about this one, not having been to Papal Masses for some time, but if my memory serves me rightly, from the time of Paul VI until recently, the procession has emerged from one of the doors in the façade of the basilica and sort of sidled to the altar. Here's a bit of a home video from YouTube which clearly shows Pope Benedict following the old Papal processional entrance from the Bronze doors, through the square, and thus approaching the altar from the front. Much better. Now all we need to do is to persuade him back into the sedia gestatoria.
Being a home video, please excuse the cries of 'is that hiyum?' and 'Oh my Gaaaaaaad!'

Friday, 14 December 2007


Thanks to a comment by one Brother Pius on Fr Zs blog, I negotiated my way (eventually), here, to the complete text of the 2002 Missale Romanum, electronically rendered. Handy, especially since the paper version weighs in at several tons. Here you can find the Eucharistic Prayers for Children in Latin (very useful), the emergency rite for blessing an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in Latin (must happen all the time!) and various other little gems.
I noted also that it reproduces the 2002 text exactly, even to the misprint in Eucharistic Prayer 4 which once caught me out when celebrating at the London Oratory. I found this unfamiliar word, but when you're sight reading (come on; how often do you celebrate EP4 in Latin?) you don't have time to think, and so it only sunk in a moment or two later that I had said something completely nonsensical.
An Alma Redemptoris for the first person to spot the error.

Fun-sized Cardinal goes to his (big) reward

I was so very sorry to read of the death of Alfons Cardinal Stickler at the great age of 97. Having spent a long life surrounded by books and dust, he suddenly shot to fame in his eighties as a Cardinal who was not afraid to be connected to more traditional liturgy. Many will miss this little man with a big heart—the only bishop whose mitres were bigger than he was. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The Golden Flop

Others have noted abundantly (so I didn't bother) that
1) The Golden Compass is coming out, and isn't nice to Catholics.
2) The US Bishops, however, think it's a jolly good thing.
3) The film has flopped.

Now, I notice, the US bishops have withdrawn their approval.
I do hope that it's in response to 1) above (albeit late), and not 3).

Read more about it here.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Christmas Meme

Mac has tagged me with a meme; one I haven’t much enjoyed doing really, but I like Mac and want to make her happy for Christmas.

I think that priests probably have a different take on Christmas than human beings do; perhaps its partly to do with being blokes, and partly with not having children. But also there is the fact that a priest gets to Christmas utterly exhausted—we all get sick of people saying, right up to Christmas Eve ‘Just coming up to your busy time, Father’. In fact, the period of Christmas itself is bliss; very little indeed happens. It all happens in the weeks leading up.
I am very repelled also, by the commercialization of Christmas—a friend of mine calls it the Saturnalia, because to most people the fuss has very little to do with the birth of our Lord.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Both mean misery.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Real is so much nicer, but the needles and the disposal afterwards are not.

3. When do you put up the tree? Christmas Eve, ideally while listening to 9 Lessons and Carols.

4. When do you take the tree down? The day after the (real) Epiphany.

5. Do you like eggnog? Isn’t that some sort of American vice? I shouldn’t think I’d like it, though I like lots of other American things.

6. Favourite gift received as a child? It may be a false memory thing, but I can’t remember getting much other than clothes. I do remember a paint box and pad of paper, which I was scolded for using up within a couple of days. In my early twenties, I got an Amstrad Computer, which revolutionized my life. I think that has the award of the best Christmas present ever.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? Oh yes; it’s much more important than a tree.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My mother. I’m now used to the fact that she will say that she loves whatever I get her, and then take it back to the shop at the first opportunity. The plus side of this is that it doesn’t matter very much what I get her, I suppose.

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? It’s a bit mean to think about actually disliking a gift.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Christmas cards are just misery. Worry about finding time to write them, worry about not having time to write them, guilt about therefore not sending many or any.

11. Favourite Christmas Movie? Anything that doesn’t have Robin Williams in it.

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Too late.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? If you mean have I given it as a new gift to someone else, then no.

14. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Good sausage rolls. Good Christ Stollen.

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear and non-winking.

16. Favourite Christmas song? No contest; Adeste Fideles, in Latin.

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Since my father died, my mother comes to me for Christmas.

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? No, and if I could, I wouldn’t.

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel.

—Phew; is this thing never going to end?—

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Late Christmas afternoon, after the Queen’s speech.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Exhaustion; Many fewer Confessions than Communions; Secular Christmas beginning somwhere in October and ending Christmas Day; St Stephen’s Day being called ‘Boxing Day’ (why?); Santa Claus and his bloody reindeer; BBC or Channel 4 taking the opportunity to futher debunk our faith.

22. Best thing about this time of year? That people make an effort to be kind. The three Masses. When I was a University Chaplain, I once was entirely alone for Christmas, and celebrated all three Masses, at their proper times, on my own, in what is now the Extraordinary form; I sang everything from the Liber, and even used incense. Maybe you think that is rather sad, but in fact it was somehow very special.

Westminster again

I have to say that I am a dissenter from the clamour for a religious as the next Archbishop of Westminster. Dom Hugh of Pluscarden has had his name much mentioned — except by those who know him well, which is significant. For a job of such varied responsibilities and national (if not international) importance, mere orthodoxy and holiness are not enough. There are other gifts such as eloquence, prudence, the ability to govern and inspire others. A knowledge of how a diocese works is very important—Cardinal Hume, for all his virtues, largely left the running of the diocese to the area bishops, and was not popular with his priests.
Whoever is appointed is going to have to be a very hard worker who can really get among his priests to revivify parish life. He will need to tackle the seminaries both at Rome and in London, and he will need to do battle with the schools to make them Catholic again.
For instance, on the last topic, I would estimate that I have in my parish about six or seven admirable practising Catholics who teach in non-Catholic secondary schools. They have tried and failed to get jobs in Catholic schools, and so have given up. Meanwhile, our local Catholic secondary schools are packed with lapsed and non-Catholic teachers. I have been told bluntly by a school, when I asked, that selection is simply made on the teacher's teaching ability; their faith is, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant. I do not believe that my parish is the only one in this position. It will take a bishop, and preferably the next Archbishop of Westminster, to take a lead on this. Thank God that the Bishop of Lancaster has made a start!
Some seminaries are almost a joke. In Rome, the student body is almost to a man orthodox to traditional. And the staff are still running the place like a seventies base community, despairing to each other and to whoever will listen about how impossible the modern student is. Allen Hall, I am told, is somewhat better. At Wonersh, the staff are largely doctrinally orthodox, but the practice and life at both places still remains firmly in the seventies, which is to say, Theological College style rather than Seminary.
And then there is the morale of the clergy; hit from every side. The Bishops have shrugged off onto their priests the entire blame and responsibility for the appalling child abuse debacle, and salved their own consciences and reputations by making the priests jump through hoops that make pastoral ministry very difficult (just try talking to a child now without its mother being present). They refuse to bring priests in from Poland to ease our workload, in case they also bring Catholicism with their luggage. In my diocese, two young and active priests are employed full-time doing, it seems, very little, while I and others have to run around like headless chickens trying to administer multiple parishes. The only thing to get the bishops really worked up is preventing priests celebrating according to the Extraordinary form.

I'd better stop here, or I'm going to go on for hours………

Anyway, that's why I think that what Westminster needs is somebody entirely new, and promoted from the diocesan clergy, not a religious who has no experience of these matters. I have some good ideas about one or two who might be just ideal for the job, but I'll spare their blushes.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Westminster — more speculation

According to a source in one of the Roman congregations, someone who has worked with His Holiness in the past, the only two names among our present hierarchy that the Pope is both familiar with and approves of, are those of the Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith, and the Bishop of East Anglia, Michael Evans.
The latter is supposedly very ill indeed, and therefore not a likely candidate. Peter Smith might well be a candidate—his name already has been mentioned as being in the running.
A Londoner, ordained for the Archdiocese of Southwark in the early 1970s, having studied for the priesthood at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, he served as assistant priest at Larkhall Lane, Stockwell, for a very short period, and then went to Rome to study Canon Law. At the English College, he was highly critical of the lax and liberal atmosphere fostered by the then Rector, one, er, Monsignor Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and, I think, left to live at the Beda College instead.
Back in England, he returned to St John's Seminary, Wonersh, and taught Canon Law and associated subjects (this was before the promulgation of the 1983 Code, when it was rather difficult to teach this subject, since everyone knew things were about to change, but not how). In due course, he was made Vice-Rector, and was much admired by the more conservative students, since he made no secret of his difference of views with the then Rector, one, er, Monsignor Christopher Budd, who was then systematically changing the seminary into something more like an Anglican Theological College.
For a year, Peter Smith was placed in charge of a parish—St Andrew's, Thornton Heath—which, with his 6 months or so at Larkhall Lane, was to prove his only parish experience, but on which he would continue to draw endless stories to illustrate this or that point of moral theology or canon law. Christopher Budd left Wonersh for his only pastoral experience (6 weeks as administrator of Brentwood Cathedral), and the seminary was run by one, er, Father Michael Evans, for a few months.
Peter Smith returned to Wonersh triumphantly as Rector, and then Monsignor, where he spent the next few years happily espousing all the causes he had spent the previous ten years despising. If Budd had been into psychobabble as a remedy for every problem, well, then Smith would make every student see a shrink. In fact he'd have a shrink on the permanent staff. If Budd made Compline sometimes optional, well then Smith made it always optional. Those like myself who had looked forward to a Smith rectorate as something of a restoration were to be sadly disappointed.
In due course, Smith was made Bishop of East Anglia, with a reputation for fairness, on the whole, and London good humour. He had his fingers burned over the publication of a school textbook by the wife of a former Jesuit which appeared to question the Resurrection, but, Teflon-like, the dirt slid off and stuck to someone else (who, I happen to know, wasn't really responsible: the real culprit was neither of these two, but the author and one other whose name was never mentioned in connection with the affair).
Since his translation to Cardiff, I've rather lost touch, but what I hear is unremarkable but good. He has spoken well on moral issues for the BBC, and the Archdiocese seem content.
So there we go; make your own mind up. Which is the real Smith? The conservative Catholic? The liberal reformer? Or something else?

Thursday, 6 December 2007


I'm delighted to see that Pope Benedict has decreed a Plenary Indulgence for those who make the pilgrimage to Lourdes in this 150th anniversary of the apparations.
Granting an indulgence is such a Catholic thing to do that I can already hear the screeches of horror from the Tablet; something about 'mediæval invention', 'insult to the memory of Martin Luther', 'ecumenically disastrous'……

In fact the practice of granting indulgences is very ancient indeed. They first caused a problem not in the time of Martin Luther, but in the time of the Decian Persecution (about 250ad), when the practice was already hallowed by age and custom. We know most about the Church in Carthage during this period, under the leadership of Saint Cyprian.
The Decian persecution caught the Church on the hop, and many Christians did not behave very well. There are records of frightened Christians rushing to the temples to sacrifice. At Carthage, the majority of Christians apostatized. Others pretended to have sacrificed, obtaining (by persuasion, bribery or other means) certificates, called libelli, saying that they had in fact done so. Having sometimes been under considerable pressure (torture was frequently used, and there would be the natural instinct to protect one's family, which might encourage a father to sacrifice or obtain a libellus to remove his wife and children from suspicion) many of these sacrificati and libellatici simply expected to be able to receive Communion as usual and were shocked to discover that this was now forbidden them, and they must expect to do many years' penance before being readmitted, if they were to be readmitted at all.
So they resorted to the expedient of visiting the Confessors, those Christians who had refused to sacrifice to the gods or the emperor, and were now in prison awaiting transportation to the mines or the arena for execution. And this brings us to the nub.

These confessors would issue notifications declaring that the bearer of this notice had had his penance done by the confessor, and so could go to Communion. And sometimes confessors when going to martyrdom left behind them with someone else permission to administer these pardons in their name, presumably without restriction.

This made St Cyprian very cross, as it seems to subvert the authority of the bishops to absolve, and, indeed, the martyrs seem to have been making themselves into an alternative hierarchy. He wrote to the Roman clergy about it (here).
The whole matter eventually settled down; nobody denied that the merits of the confessors and martyrs could be applied to another person, but the whole must be administered by the bishops of the Church to whom the power of binding and loosing is given.
And though the use of indulgences waxed and waned from time to time, and unquestionably grew in sophistication during the Mediæval period and the Counter-Reformation, it really doesn't make sense to deny that the practice is genuinely an ancient one!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Irish Lover — a true story

And now I have got something to post about, inspired by a post on The English Lover on Fr Ray's blog. This is a true story, and it takes place in the little Irish midlands town where my father came from.

Kitty and Joe (let us call them) had been going out together every Wednesday evening since they had been teenagers at school. They never missed; they would go to a tea shop, and then to see a film or have a walk together, just the two of them.
When they turned sixty, Kitty, sitting in the car, finally took her courage in her hands and said:
"Joe; isn't it time we were getting wed?"
Joe looked at her with astonishment.
"But Kitty, who'd have us now?"

They are both now dead some fifteen years. Both died single.

For the sake of Josephus' Digestion

That always-interesting commentator, Josephus Muris Saliensis, has requested a new post to greet him, rather than those kaftaned ladies. I quite understand. They were beginning to make me queasy, too. I couldn't think of anything to blog about, so I just looked for a nice picture.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

And while we're about it……

One of the better arguments against women's ordination:

I suppose this is a sort of 'hedging your bets' stole; just in case the Moslems or Bahai's are right after all, we'd better include them in.

A co-ordinated chasuble, shoes, earrings set which will equally well do for the attempted Eucharist and for the posh do afterwards.

And one to make the fuller figure look positively mountainous.

His Daft Materials

Versus populum:

Arsus populum:

Our Lord is, apparently, the 'goodest person in the world'.
No Ofstead awards there, then.
I need a bucket.

Welcome back, Paulinus

And he's straight in with a wonderful liturgical tour-de-force, here. Be sitting down when you read it.


Here you can see the splendid cross and candlesticks all in their proper place. Phew! Many thanks to a comment in the last post from Josephus for the link.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Vespers: a little more

Like most of you, I was very encouraged to see the pictures of last Sunday's Vespers. But on looking at the Felici website, I saw one or two other very interesting things. First, look at the server holding Pope Paul VI's wonky crucifix.Is that or is that not a corona?

And here's the proof. No doubt this young man is a cleric of the Clerics Regular of the Mother of God. How interesting that the Holy Father is now introducing members of the traditional orders to the public worship in St Peter's.

And I must say that it is encouraging to see a much more appropriate throne being used than the chair in front of the altar. Much, much better. Next year, perhaps back to the apse.

One or two improvements I'd like to see: I do hope that the Holy Father is going to ditch the wonky crucifix. It was never the tradition for the Pope to use a crozier of any sort. Second, I couldn't see the high Altar properly, but it looked as if there was (a) no frontal and (b) no candles. Perhaps one of you has got a better view that shows them, but I can't see them. Third, am I mistaken? I always thought that the celebrant at Vespers wore cope but no stole, and is assisted by other clergy in copes, not dalmatics. Now, perhaps pontifical vespers is different, and no doubt you'll tell me all about it in the comments box.

Fr Tim has a little more information on the tonsured cleric here.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Book bound in Jesuit's skin

When I first saw this headline (New Oxford Review), my first irreverent thought was 'Where can I buy one?'
But it's actually a seventeenth-century book, from the days when Jesuits were wholly admirable, which book you can read about here. It is a diatribe inveighing against the possible participation of Fr Henry Garnet in the Gunpowder Plot. You can read about Fr Garnet here: though executed, he was never canonized because of the suspicion of his possible involvement in a political assassination attempt. It states in the article that there are not many relics of him; it doesn't, however, mention two that I know of. The first is this book, of course (though I suppose it has no authentication other than tradition), but the other is better established. It is, if my memory serves me rightly, a vertebra or two, on permanent display in the church of St Edward, Sutton Park, Sutton Green, near Guildford in Surrey. St Edward's is worth a visit in its own right, having also several other notable relics, including a shoulder blade of St William of York (presumably slipped into someone's pocket when the shrine was destroyed at the Reformation) and an altar cloth embroidered, it is said, by Queen Catherine of Aragon and her ladies—it is covered with her symbol, the pomegranate.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Fr John Boyle, in response to the last post, made the following comment:

A question: at concelebrations, is each concelebrant actually consecrating, or is there just one consecrator and the others acting as co-consecrators? If the celebrant for some reason failed to consecrate some of the elements, could the intention of one (or more) of one of the concelebrants bring about the consecration of those elements?
I'm not sure we are that clear about our role as concelebrants.

I think Fr John is putting an important question. Actually, I think the whole question of concelebration is something that needs revisiting, because it was not particularly well thought out in the 1960s.

The best work on the subject—in fact, I suspect the only work—is by the famous rubrical gazeteer (whose day job, incredibly, was being porter at Archbishop's House, Westminster,) Archdale King who was requested to write a book justifying the practice in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It's called, predictably, Concelebration. At the end of the book, I wasn't actually convinced; he hadn't persuaded me that the revival of concelebration was a wholly good idea, and I rather suspect that he hadn't convinced himself. The work, I think, was one of obedience.

There are two sorts of concelebration: sacramental and ceremonial. In a sacramental concelebration, the concelebrants recite the words of consecration, and truly celebrate Mass with the chief celebrant, and as a token of this can claim a stipend for an intention which differs from that of the chief. At a ceremonial concelebration, the concelebrants assist in the vestments of their order, and may even stand at the altar, but they do not pronounce the words of consecration. This form of concelebration is far more common historically; most, if not all, Eastern rites have some form of it, and in the West, the ancient Carthusian rite has it, and the Papal Mass of Coronation would seem to have had it. Clearly a ceremonial concelebrant could not claim a stipend.

If I remember rightly, Archdale King seems to be able to advance only one example of sacramental concelebration from antiquity, but this is enough, he says, to justify the practice. Again a comment on the last post, from ADV, gives it:

The rite of Concelebration was modified at Rome (perhaps in the time of Pope Zephyrinus, 202-218) so that each priest should consecrate a separate host (the deacons holding these in patens or corporals); but they all consecrated the same chalice ("Ordo Rom. I", 48; see also Duchesne, "Liber Pont.", I, 139 and 246).
In the sixth century this rite was observed on all station days; by the eighth century it remained only for the greatest feasts, Easter, Christmas, Whitsunday, and St. Peter ("Ordo Rom. I", 48; Duchesne, "Origines", 167). On other days the priests assisted but did not concelebrate.
I seem to remember from Archdale King that the hosts were held on glass patens before each concelebrant by kneeling acolytes.

I wonder, though, whether this early example is really a true concelebration, or rather of what has been called 'parallel Masses'. This was a practice beloved of certain 'liturgical movement' monasteries in the 1950s. Dom Lambert Beaudouin's abbey at Chevetogne in Belgium is one such example. There would be a 'lead' celebrant at the High Altar, and all the other priests on separate altars with their own chalices, patens and missals, would do their best to say Mass in perfect synchrony with the 'lead' celebrant. Thus, not one Mass, but many (though, of course, there is only ever 'One' Mass).

So, is there, in the entire history of the Church, one single pre-1960s example of priests concelebrating sacramentally; wearing the vestments of their order and consecrating one host and chalice together, saying the words of consecration, and being permitted to take a stipend for a separate intention?

The answer is yes. But it isn't particularly ancient, I suspect. The ordination rite in the Extraordinary Use has a full sacramental concelebration in this form, where the newly-ordained priests fully concelebrate while kneeling at prie-dieux, and can claim a stipend. Though strangely for one saying Mass, they do not receive the Precious Blood, but only wine. One can understand why full sacramental concelebration might be thought appropriate at such an occasion.

So where does that leave us, Fr John? To answer your question, I think that it is the intention of the Church at the moment that all priests truly say Mass in the fullest sacramental sense when they concelebrate. Therefore the intent of one concelebrant can supply the defect of another.

Personally, I am uncomfortable concelebrating, and I never take a stipend or intention for a concelebration, but simply join my intention with that of the chief celebrant. To my mind, the symbolism of one priest celebrating Mass in persona Christi for the Church is very important, and this is diluted when there is more than one Christ (as it were). I think that it has contributed to the whole business of lay people joining in with priestly prayers and even manual gestures. It has led to priests in large communities being able to stand at the altar and offer Mass 'properly' only once or twice a year, perhaps not being even able to see the altar, as at some diocesan funerals, (see previous post) while claiming daily stipends for sticking out a hand and mumbling the words of consecration.

Which is to say, the practice is certainly legitimate (though not particularly well historically grounded), but whether it is prudent or good for the Church in the longer term is something I doubt.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Something to cheer us up, perhaps.

I haven't seen these ones before, so I thought that perhaps you mightn't have either.


There have been quite a few interesting comments on the last post concerning the possible invalidity of consecrations when the consecrator cannot see the elements to be consecrated.
I haven't looked this up (not having much leisure at the moment) but there are a couple of further observations.
Some have remarked that the presence of the elements on the corporal is important. I think that the answer here is both yes and no. Priests are encouraged to make a general intention when saying Mass to consecrate whatever is on the corporal, but it is the intention that matters, not the corporal. That general intention is made in order to guard against an absent-minded moment during the words of consecration. However, the question of intention leads to the second point:
There has to be an intention to consecrate. Once (before the Council) Archbishop (then Bishop) Cyril Cowderoy, celebrating High Mass at the seminary, was alerted to the fact that, at Communion, the ciborium containing hosts for that Mass was still sitting on the credence, having been forgotten at the offertory. He said clearly 'I intended to consecrate enough hosts fot the Mass, therefore they are consecrated', and proceeded to distribute these hosts as Holy Communion.
That this event has been remembered means that even at the time his judgment was considered questionable but possibly correct.
If the Holy Father intends to consecrate all those hosts held in ciboria, then perhaps they are consecrated. But it seems to me that this is open to all sorts of abuse; to reduce it ad absurdum, a sick person could reserve 'blank' hosts at home, the priest making an intention to consecrate one with the morning Mass and, hey presto, it's done; the sick person's daughter, an extraordinary minister, simply gives Communion. Now, that's a very extreme version, but is it really different in kind from the Holy Father consecrating a host at an altar on the steps of St Peter's when the deacon carrying it is still inside the basilica on his way out?

Monday, 26 November 2007

All change at St Peter's

Fr Ray clued me in to the fact that it isn't only lace which has reappeared in St Peter's. As you can clearly see, (click the pics to enlarge) over a beautiful frontal embroidered with Pope Leo's arms, a 'big six' is now fully back in its proper position, with a crucifix in the centre, instead of being huddled to one end in a rather embarrassed way. The only thing that is rather strange is that there isn't a seventh candle as there should be when the bishop of the diocese celebrates solemnly. Even Paul VI used to use three stumpy candles in one corner and four in another, if my memory does not play me false. But let's give him time……
And while he's looking for wherever Noe or Marini (1st edn) has hidden that seventh candle, perhaps he might give some thought to two other points. The first is this awful deposition of the chair—though a splendid piece of carpentry, one can scarcely call it a throne—which you can see the Sanpietrini carrying away like a stage prop. The seat of a bishop is such a potent sign, and the seat of Peter all the more so, that simply to treat it like a bit of furniture that can be moved aside for the dancing is symbolically very impoverished. Can't he sit in, or at least towards the apse, as of old, even if he won't go right to Bernini's Chair at the back (yet)?
And there there is that awful business of priests (& deacons?) holding ciboria which the Holy Father has to consecrate as it were from a distance. Is the consecration really valid if the celebrant can't even see the ciborium? There has to be a better answer. Does everyone really have to go to Communion, and does every Host have to be consecrated by the Pope? Couldn't Communion be distributed at the side altars from the reserved Sacrament? Sure, I know it's desireable to receive from Hosts consecrated at that Mass, but surely common sense would suggest that it isn't always practical or fitting.
But these are (relatively) minor points which I'm sure the Holy Father will sort out all in good time. I just thank God that there is a pretty good chance he will turn his attention to them when he can. I used to think 'change and decay in all around I see', but now I tend to hum 'changed from glory into glory' and 'God bless our Pope, the great, the good'!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


I have a friend in the Oratory who has an impressive collection of ecclesiastical headgear. However, even he would be pushed to match this cornucopia of religious hats. That's Cardinal Slipyj, by the way, in his galero.
Thanks to Eoghain for sending me the link.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Ex pertinacia scientia

I see from the Catholic directory that one or two of our bishops have eschewed the Latin language in selecting their mottoes. If it was through inability to manage Latin, they could well have gone here for help.

Friday, 16 November 2007


Please suspend for a minute your various faculties of outrage and consider this: A man, in the privacy of his own room (in a hostel in Scotland), being (one supposes) driven by various mysterious inner urges and, no doubt, for lack of a more suitable companion, proceeds to attempt sexual acts with, er, a bicycle. Yes, a bicycle. I have not discovered (nor do I care) whether this alluring temptrix was a mountain bike or a sit-up-and-beg. We have a crude analogy in the UK that likens a lady somewhat generous with her favours, shall we say, to a bicycle, but this is not a case of this kind. This is a bicycle-type bicycle.

Said gentleman—and for the lack of other evidence, we must assume him to be a gentleman—was discovered in flagrante delicto with the said machine by two cleaners who promptly reported their discovery to Somebody In Authority. As a result, the frustrated Don Juan was had up in court and duly found guilty of a sexual breach of the peace.

Now, you may have found this ridiculous enough, but the crowning absurdity is that this poor man, in addition to the very public humiliation of having his name linked with such a silly act, has had his name added to the list of sex offenders in the UK, along with rapists, paedophiles and other sad criminals.

And there I was, thinking that all along that sex protection policies were all about safeguarding children and vulnerable people. In fact, it would appear that it is all about criminalizing any sexual act that a judge finds distasteful, even when performed in what the perpetrator would have considered privacy.

Please don't get me wrong—I'm not suggesting for a minute that the gentleman concerned was a paragon of virtue or under the moral law entitled to do whatever he did, but there has to be a sense of proportion here. Surely the embarrassment and consequent humiliation was sufficient for coitus velocipædus.

Which is to say that you can be an upstanding member of society though you kill your unborn child. But you can have your life blighted forever, officially, for having the weakness to outrage the virtue of a bicycle.

I didn't really want to link to this item, for reason of betraying the chap's name and still further embarrassing him. But I suspect that right now he is beyond futher humiliation, and I've been asked to provide what is in the public forum anyway. So, if you must, you can read a little about it here.

Friday, 9 November 2007

One bride for seven brothers

This Sunday's Gospel will tell of the conundrum of the woman who, on the death of her husband, married all his brothers, one after another, for such was the command of Moses. (Luke 20:27-38). I wonder if this text ever occurred to the various parties in the sixteenth century debating the validity or nullity of Henry VIIIs marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who had been formerly married to his older brother, Prince Arthur. He cast off Catherine on the pretext that God had forbidden such a marriage. In today's Gospel, we read that, on the contrary, God had commanded it.
Good Queen Catherine is one of my heroines, and I am certain as I can be in my own heart that she is a saint and, God willing, one day will be raised to the altars. Perhaps I'll blog about her soon.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Barchester Burblings

At present, I'm listening to Barchester Towers, by Trollope, on my iPod. Yesterday, in the car when on the long journey home from my mother to the parish, I heard this passage, occasioned by Mr Slope's first sermon in the cathedral. It struck me as being apposite for today, too.

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilised and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling audiences to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. Let a professor of law or physic find his place in a lecture–room, and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases, and he will pour them forth to empty benches. Let a barrister attempt to talk without talking well, and he will talk but seldom. A judge’s charge need be listened to per force by none but the jury, prisoner, and gaoler. A member of parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town–councillors can be tabooed. But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we Sindbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday’s rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God’s service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship; but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God without that anxious longing for escape, which is the common consequence of common sermons.

With what complacency will a young parson deduce false conclusions from misunderstood texts, and then threaten us with all the penalties of Hades if we neglect to comply with the injunctions he has given us! Yes, my too self–confident juvenile friend, I do believe in those mysteries, which are so common in your mouth; I do believe in the unadulterated word which you hold there in your hand; but you must pardon me if, in some things, I doubt your interpretation. The bible is good, the prayer–book is good, nay, you yourself would be acceptable, if you would read to me some portion of those time–honoured discourses which our great divines have elaborated in the full maturity of their powers. But you must excuse me, my insufficient young lecturer, if I yawn over your imperfect sentences, your repeated phrases, your false pathos, your drawlings and denouncings, your humming and hawing, your oh–ing and ah–ing, your black gloves and your white handkerchief. To me, it all means nothing; and hours are too precious to be so wasted—if one could only avoid it.

And here I must make a protest against the pretence, so often put forward by the working clergy, that they are overburdened by the multitude of sermons to be preached. We are all too fond of our own voices, and a preacher is encouraged in the vanity of making his heard by the privilege of a compelled audience. His sermon is the pleasant morsel of his life, his delicious moment of self–exaltation. ‘I have preached nine sermons this week, four the week before. I have preached twenty–three sermons this month. It is really too much.’ ‘Too much for the strength of any one.’ ‘Yes,’ he answered meekly, ‘indeed it is; I am beginning to feel it painfully.’ ‘Would,’ said I, ‘you could feel it—would that you could be made to feel it.’ But he never guessed that my heart was wrung for the poor listeners.

Before the liturgical reforms, I think it was customary that only the parish priest preached at Mass; the curates seldom, if ever. It is my earnest belief that bad preaching is one of the chief causes of lapsation; unprepared texts, mindless drivel about love…… It really is highly unfair to our people to make them, a captive audience, listen to what we have to say if we have hardly given it any consideration ourselves. An MP (member of parliament) once spoke to us when I was in the seminary, and he commented that if he had the chance of speaking to several hundred people once a week for ten minutes, he would be able to do all sorts of things. But so many priests simply throw the opportunity away.
Now I know I'm laying myself open to being accused of being the worst of these, but I think I can honestly say that in my two decades or so of preaching, I could count on the fingers of one hand the occasions when I have not prepared my words—and those because I was taken unawares.
I suspect that if we were to actually abolish the requirement for homilies at most Sunday Masses, we actually might do more good than harm. But if we could be assured of good homilies, then of course preaching is a most useful tool.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

"It's actually very, very deeply not anti-Catholic,"

So said Shekhar Kapur about his fillum Elizabeth—the Golden Age.
Oh, well, that's all right, then. Say what you like about us.
H/T New Oxford Review.

Monday, 5 November 2007


I, as no doubt you, too, have been reading about the application made by the Traditional Anglican Communion for corporate union with the Catholic Church. It is a pleasing prospect, and this morning I've been doing a bit of research.

The TAC is not a part of the Anglican Communion. It considered itself as being so until February 22nd 1994, which is presumably when the issue of womens' orders became irrevocable.

It has a strong attachment to the Book of Common Prayer and, at least in the US, permits no deviation from the 1928 form. In the UK, it permits the use of the English Missal—an English translation of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

In its St Louis Declaration (which is really the closest it comes to a formulation of doctrine) it professes belief in the seven sacraments, and the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.

On the minus side, it lists the 39 articles as being amongst its authoritative documents. How it reconciles one or two of these articles with the last observation is beyond me. I was never convinced by Newman's Tract 90.

The TAC isn't a large operation in the UK: only twelve parishes in England, as far as I can tell, and I've not a clue as to how large these are. Some of them have websites: here, and here. I see that in the latter case, Letchworth, they have already canonized Henry VI themselves.

The Letchworth parish worships in a Liberal Catholic building, and has posted photographs of a High Mass there. I should have thought that the Liberal Catholics (who cheerfully ordain women) were very strange bedfellows for the TAC.
The Liberal Catholic Church has as one of its basic tenets freedom of thought. It "permits to lay members entire freedom in the interpretation of Creeds, Scriptures and Tradition, and of the Liturgy. The Church holds strongly that belief should be the result of individual study or intuition, not its antecedent. A truth is not a truth for a man, nor a revelation a Revelation, until he sees it to be true for himself." ("Statement of Principles")
And I recognize the celebrant: he has attended various services that I have been involved with in the past.

In the end, all Christians who seek reconciliation with the Holy See have to be made welcome if they recognize its truth and desire communion. The 'Uniate Anglican' system in the States has worked very well, on the whole, and there seems little reasons why it should not do so in the UK. In the States, they willingly accepted a modification of the Book of Common Prayer, though it was a little weird—the Novus Ordo offertory was incorporated, with 'you' language instead of the 'thou' used elsewhere, and the Roman Canon in Miles Coverdale's 16th century translation—and as far as I know continue to use it, though some churches now celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and others the Ordinary Form.

There is another issue, and perhaps my friend William might like to comment if he is reading this. The TAC, I'm sure, consists of worthy and saintly clergy and people. But as far as I can see, it is, well, fringe, to put it at its most charitable. All things considered, at least in the UK, it isn't a major player. However, there is a much larger group which is more mainstream, if I can put it like that, and this is the SSC; the Societas Sanctæ Crucis, or Society of the Holy Cross.
I have known a number of SSC members over the years, and have found them to be, largely, an admirable body of chaps. They are in communion (if uneasily) with the C of E, but are unquestionably at the 'Catholic' end, and nearly unanimous in their opposition to womens' orders. What is particularly impressive is that they have a real spirituality; there is a rule of life which they are expected to follow, there are retreats and days of recollection. It consists of both celibate and married clergy. They are organized into regional chapters which, for many of them, take the place of the 'official' liberal diocesan organization. Probably most of them account themselves under the authority and sacramental ministry of the 'Flying Bishops'. The majority use the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in their Eucharists.
If Rome is to accept the TAC into full Communion, then it should keep an eye also on the SSC. It would be a great shame if the TAC were to call all the shots and, effectively, queer the pitch for a much larger and more coherent (in both senses of the word) group who are increasingly interested (it seems to me) in making the same sort of move.
Perhaps more in later posts.

The Extraordinary Form — the argument rumbles on

The famous Fr Richard McBrien has waded into the argument now, to oppose the EF, something which reassures me that indeed the Holy Father was wise. Read about it in the California Catholic here.

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Music Meme

Mac has tagged me memishly all about music.

What song is in your head?

Byrd's four-part Mass. We had it last night for our All Saints celebration; the first time 'proper' music has been sung here in years. And in our present church, almost certainly the first decent music ever. Only one person complained. Lots were enthusiastic, including some whom I thought would hate it. As a consequence, I'm walking on air.

What is the newest album in your collection?

3 in fact: Duruflé Sacred Choral and Organ works Vol 1: It has a setting of the Our Father in French which I have never heard—and Duruflé has only about 20 published works; a volume of Gombert, mixed stuff, including an eight-part Credo; and a collection of bits by John Dunstable. I bought them about a month ago, and have not yet had time to listen to them. Tant pis!

What is the top album on your wish list?

Peter Hurford's complete Bach organ works; only it hasn't been put on to CD yet, as far as I know. I've even gone to the trouble of buying a turntable with a USB connection to my computer so that when I've got time (ha ha) I can turn my LPs of Hurford into MP3s.

Which reminds me: I'm a school governor (because I haven't got enough to do, apparently), and the meetings are conducted in a sort of jargon of acronyms and abbreviations which leave the novice (me, even after three years) bewildered. After one long meeting, I said 'You'll have to excuse me, but the PP has got a BSA and is off for a G&T'.

What is the most recent live music event you have attended?

The Byrd Mass last night, I suppose. But I don't go to concerts much—at all, really. Very occasionally.

What is the top live music event on your wish list?

Probably a Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in the Extraordinary Rite with something splendid and Viennese, like the Nelson Mass.

What are the top three albums currently in rotation at your house?

I have my Ipod on the go all the time, but mostly I listen to audiobooks on it. I'm going through the Barchester Chronicles at the moment, with Pope Benedict's book on Jesus of Nazareth in chunks in between.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The sheep of his flock

It used to be the custom in Ireland that a bishop, before confirming children, would personally examine them in their catechism. My father resented to the end of his life that his confirmation was deferred a year because the boy next to him answered a question wrong, and my father got the blame.

A parishioner here told me this about his own confirmation interview.

Bishop: Now if our Lord likens you laypeople to his sheep, what does that make me?
Nervous farmer's son: Er, the ram, me lord.

Dolly Mixture Rage in Sussex

This arrived by post today:

The Sussex Sweet Shop opened Christmas last year, and we were completely overwhelmed by our friends from the churches desperately in need of

- Dolly Mixtures -

… So we have arranged this

- Pre-order Form -

It then goes on to enable me to order 3kg sacks of Dolly Mixture (each sack containing 1800 sweets)

Somebody, please tell me this is all a wind-up! The secretary and I have been rolling around laughing all morning at the image of venerable archdeacons having a punch up over the last dolly mixture sweet.

Monday, 29 October 2007


This, from Zenit:

ROME, OCT. 28, 2007 ( Benedict XVI's vicar for the Diocese of Rome expressed his hopes that religious men and women increase their use of information technology, and thus take advantage of what he called a new form of apostolate.

Cardianl Camillo Ruini spoke to the religious at the Pontifical Urbanian University during the diocesan gathering of the Union of Major Superiors of Italy, which represents 1,287 communities and 22,000 religious in Rome.

According to the Roman diocesan weekly RomaSette, Cardinal Ruini said: "A priest from Novara told me that the theme of 'Jesus' is very much discussed by youth in blogs. The focus, though, comes from destructive books that are widespread today, and not from Benedict XVI’s book ‘Jesus of Nazareth.'

"What will the idea of Christ be in 10 years if these ideas triumph?"

The true Jesus

The 76-year-old prelate admitted, "I don’t understand the Internet, but especially young religious ought to enter blogs and correct the opinions of the youth, showing them the true Jesus.”

“The teaching emergency is central in Benedict XVI's concerns," the cardinal said. "For him, education in the faith coincides with service to society, because to form someone in the faith means to form the human person.

"Simply giving motivations for living defeats nihilism and gives value to the human person, a value that is based on Christ himself, the fact that God became a man."

The cardinal asserted that an educator’s testimony and content can matter more than pedagogical techniques.

He called for catechists to be creative in finding occasions for promoting Benedict XVI’s book, saying it shows the solidity of faith in the historical Jesus of the Gospels, and bases the identity of the Christian in a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Cardinal Ruini said that in Catholic schools, "the religious can witness to Christ in all their lessons, in the sciences, in history and even in Italian literature, in an inseparable union of faith and culture. Your creativity ought to find new techniques for the vocational challenge, which ought to develop in step with society."

Well, I'm neither young, nor in religious vows, but I'll try and do the rest.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

To a Fish Finger

I found this on a Facebook page, by Andrew Cusack, and so loved it that I must make it my re-entry into the blogosphere:

'To a Fishfinger'

Thou shape impacted of Old Ocean's heart,
With frost imbu'd and golden crumbs bedight,
Casual thy vending and thy worth too light:
How soon thy form symmetric must depart!
In rangéd boxes at the supermart
Thou bidest with thy fellows day and night,
Nor dream'st thou'll't scale some culinary height--
Who fries and serve thee needs no subtile art!
And yet for thee the stalwart seaman rov'd
'Mid tempests' rage; and Iceland's anger keen
Endur'd; nor glimpsed 'mid perils dire the end
Sublime: that thou, scorned digit, should'st be so lov'd
Dearer than pizza or th' entinnéd bean,
For solitary men both food and friend!

(From The Oxford Book of Esperanto Verse, edited and translated by Julian Birdbath)

This is wonderful, and quite restores my belief in all sorts of things important. And particularly my appreciation of my alma mater, St Andrews University, for nourishing such a gloriously whimsical flourish.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


for the prayers &c. I'm sorry to have been so mysterious recently, but my mother has had a horrid cancer scare, and as she has nobody else in the world, really, I have had a lot on my mind and hands. But the consultant told her today that things are probably going to be okay.
So thank you to those who have said a prayer, and, above all, thank God.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Out of Office

I'll be away for a few days, and may well not even have access to internet, so there won't be any postings, and I may not be able even to post your comments, which will have to await my return. Sorry.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Tagged again…

Mac, the strongwoman, has tagged me. This time it's about blogging. Hm.

1. Do you attend the Traditional Latin Mass or the
Novus Ordo?

Both. I celebrate the TLM once a week, and would do so more often if I could get away with it.

2. If you attend the TLM, how far do you drive to get there?

I walk around the corner to the church.

3. If you had to apply a Catholic label to yourself, what would it be?

A priest and a sinner.

4. Are you a comment junkie?

No, not really. Now and then.

5. Do you go back to read the comments on the blogs you’ve commented on?

If I want to see whether there has been any responses.

6. Have you ever left an anonymous comment on another blog?

Very, very rarely, and only for some special reason.

7. Which blogroll would you most like to be on?

Don't like to say, really. If I were on a biggie like Fr Zs, then I might feel more under pressure to blog more regularly.

8. Which blog is the first one you check?

Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke, Fr Ray, Fr Z at the moment, but I am fickle.

9. Have you met any other bloggers in person?

Fr Tim, Fr Ray, Fr Michael Brown, Fr John Boyle, Fr Nicholas Schofield, Fr Seán Finnegan, Fr Zuhlsdorf, Fr Michael Clifton, One of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life, the Orthfully Catholic seminarians, Mac the Mulier Fortis, Joanna Bogle

10. What are you reading?

Breviarium Romanum (extraordinary use), St Francis de Sales Treatise on the Love of God, Brown's Life of St Augustine, Asimov's Foundation (vol 1) (again). Just finished (again) Arthur Ransome's Pigeon Post.

Bonus Question! Has your site been banned by Spirit of Vatican II?

I'd love to be worthy of that honour. I love that site; others don't seem to have heard of it. Here's a link, and here's another similar site, the Gorebertines ( a new blog).