Sunday, 27 May 2007

8 Facts and Habits meme

Gee, thanks, Mac! Anyway, here we are: eight probably not well-known facts about me and habits of mine.

1. I start the day with a whole pot (sometimes two) of strong tea. Each pot gives me at least four good-sized mugs. The Irish drink more tea per head of population than any other nation on earth, I gather. That explains it. I can take or leave coffee (and usually leave it).
2. I prefer blended whisky (or whiskey) to single malts. I happily drink Somerfield Prince Charlie or Waitrose own blend in preference to many a smoky, vinegary, perfectionist's delight.
3. I like a shot glass or three of the above in the evenings with a good book.
4. As far as I know, I have no other non-Irish blood in me except some French Huguenot (on my father's side) and, on my mother's side, some Moravian (basically, Amish who settled in the west of Ireland a couple of hundred years ago).
5. On both sides of my family, my grandparents' generation were passionate Fenians and among the first supporters of Fianna Fail.
6. I think my favourite spot on earth is Lake Albano.
7. Puddings, desserts, don't do much for me. Neither does chocolate.
8. I love dogs, and it is my great regret that my job at present precludes me gettting one.

I really can't dump this on eight people: if the idea grabs you, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Last orders

I embark on this post with a certain diffidence, because the matter could be controversial, and my knowledge of the subject is still not particularly profound. But I have been growing increasingly concerned about it, and I think it has a lot of ramifications.
The sacrament of Holy Orders was discussed at both the Council of Trent, and also at Vatican II.
Here we must pause and consider the nature of a General Council. Its doctrinal and moral teachings are, of course, usually considered infallible. But how does one define a teaching at a Council? In the past, there has been a sort of preamble, and then a series of ‘canons’ , to which the assent of faith is required, using the phrase ‘if anyone should say………anathema sit’. Presumably the preamble was not considered similarly binding under the penalty of anathema. Now Trent used this format, like all the other councils except Vatican II, which had the preamble (in the form of long documents) but had no canons attached. Are we then to presume that the entire text is infallible? That would seem unreasonable. It would be logical to assume that the text has the same status as the preambles in other councils. And we also have the assurance of Blessed Pope John, who said that his council would define no new doctrines. I find this reassuring, because it seems to me that between Trent and Vatican II there is not one mind on a subject concerning Holy Orders.
It concerns the nature of the Episcopate. Is it a completely separate grade of order to which one is promoted in the same way that one is promoted from Diaconate to Presbyterate? Or is the making of a bishop the unfolding, authorizing, releasing of the fulness of the priesthood which one received in potential at one's priestly ordination, but the exercise of which was inhibited by ecclesiastical authority.
In other words, is a priest an inhibited bishop, or is a bishop another thing entirely?

The Scriptures (Pastoral Epistles) write of three orders; Bishop, Presbyter and Deacon. The earlier NT scriptures, if my memory serves me well, though, speak only of bishops and deacons. Ignatius of Antioch (died around 112) mentions only Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons. Some communions of the Reformation (like the Church of England), because of scripture and Ignatius, affirmed a threefold ministry. Against this, Trent (session 23) also had something to say.
It affirms, with an anathema, that the Sacrament of Holy Orders consists of both major and minor orders, but does not list them here, presumably because the East has a different list.
CANON II.--If any one says, that, besides the priesthood, there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both major and minor, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made unto the priesthood; let him be anathema.
It also adds, in another canon:
CANON VII.--If any one says that bishops are not superior to priests; or that they have not the power of confirming and ordaining; or that the power which they possess is common to them and to priests…let him be anathema.
Now this latter canon seems to suggest that there is a real difference between bishop and priest. However, in an official footnote which I remember reading, but can't find on the net it lists these orders as being sevenfold, and lists them thus: porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon and priest. Not bishop. This same list appears in the preamble, chapter 2, 'On the seven orders'.
And whereas the ministry of so holy a priesthood is a divine thing; to the end that it might be exercised in a more worthy manner, and with greater veneration, it was suitable that, in the most well-ordered settlement of the church, there should be several and diverse orders of ministers, to minister to the priesthood, by virtue of their office; orders so distributed as that those already marked with the clerical tonsure should ascend through the lesser to the greater orders. For the sacred Scriptures make open mention not only of priests, but also of deacons; and teach, in words the most weighty, what things are especially to be attended to in the Ordination thereof; and, from the very beginning of the church, the names of the following orders, and the ministrations proper to each one of them, are known to have been in use; to wit those of subdeacon, acolyte, exorcist, lector, and door-keeper; though these were not of equal rank: for the subdeaconship is classed amongst the greater orders by the Fathers and sacred Councils, wherein also we very often read of the other inferior orders.
Seven. No room for a separate order of the Episcopate. So Canon 7 must refer to the jurisdiction of a bishop and a priest, or authority to exercise their powers, not their actual powers themselves, whether activated or latent.

And thus it was that in the past one spoke of the 'ordination' of a priest, but the 'consecration' of a bishop.

However, Vatican II in Lumen Gentium #28, seems to imply a threefold sacrament of order, since it mentions only the Episcopate, Presbyterate and Diaconate:
Thus the divinely established ecclesiastical ministry is exercised on different levels by those who from antiquity have been called bishops, priests and deacons.(63*)
The footnote, 63, refers us to exactly the paragraph from Trent quoted above as if it said the same thing!

Now, of course, the two things are not exclusive, or we would have to do some fast talking to explain the difference. Vatican II simply did not list the other orders; it never asserted their non-existence. But one might be forgiven for thinking that the implication is there.

And it developed. Now, bishops are 'ordained', not 'consecrated'. I wish I had the introduction to the new pontifical to hand; it would be interesting to see what it said. The interrogation of a bishop-elect at his consecration/ordination refers to working with priests and deacons 'who share your ministry'. If priests share his ministry in the same (extraneous) way as deacons, then it clearly does imply a difference of kind.
Pope Paul VI, in the Apostolic Constitution establishing the new rites of ordination has this to say:
For from tradition, expressed in liturgical rites and in the usage of the Church of both East and West, it is clear that the laying on of hands and the words of consecration bestow the grace of the Holy Spirit and impress a sacred character.
Which is clear enough. Paul VI believes that Episcopal consecration imposes a sacred character, like ordination to the priesthood. And he argues that the new prayer of consecration is better, being taken from the Apostolic Constitutions of (the anti-Pope) Hippolytus, still used in the rites of the West Syrians and Copts. He continues
Thus in the very act of ordination there is a witness to the harmony of tradition in East and West concerning the apostolic office of bishops.
Yeah, right. If he means by the East two non-Chalcedonian churches, and the West not at all!

I'm told that all this was enthusiastically supported, if not actually initiated by Karl Rahner. Certainly in the seminary I was taught that one actually stops being a deacon when one is ordained priest, and presumably one stops being a presbyter/priest when one is ordained bishop. That is why priests 'dressing up' (as it was elegantly put) as deacons is not allowed. And yet, even when a priest says Mass without deacon, when he reads the Gospel, by tradition he does not open his hands at the Dominus vobiscum, because he is exercising the diaconal ministry at that point.

And the implication is that whereas a bishop is a successor of the apostles, a priest is not.

And there are some difficulties here.
1) If a priest is not an apostle, albeit one with some of his powers inhibited by the authority of the Church, then how can he validly absolve? He can only validly do so when granted faculties by his bishop, certainly, but the granting of faculties surely does not grant the power: that is something given at ordination. The faculties 'release' the latent power.
2) If a priest does not share the power of a bishop to ordain, how is it that he lays hands on at priestly ordinations? In the old rite, he continued to extend his hand throughout the prayer of ordination, whereas that is now not done (officially, at any rate, though I have seen it plenty of times).
3) Ditto the co-consecration of the chrism with the bishop.
4) There is also the problem that there are two or three instances from the middle ages when abbots (who were not bishops) ordained their own monks. The Abbey of St Osyth in England was given this privilege, for instance.

With regard to minor orders, one has to conclude not that they have been abolished, because Trent teaches with an anathema that they exist. It is simply that they are not given in the Latin Rite, except, as it were, per saltem at ordination to the diaconate. And to me it is truly strange that the lay ministries of acolyte and lector, intended to bring the concept at least of the minor orders back to the parish, are rarely, if ever, given in the parish, but only in the seminary where they fulfil roughly the same role as the minor orders used to. We might as well have the minor orders back for seminaries (conferring the clerical state) and keep the ministries for parishes.

Oh, I've rambled on for long enough. If you're still with me, what do you think? It seems to me that, at the least, the Church has some clarification to make concerning the apparent shift in the theology of holy orders over the last forty years.

Or perhaps I've just missed the whole point.

Friday, 25 May 2007


A friend of mine, who lives many miles from Blogbury, is in a quandary. For thirty years or so she has belonged to a local Evangelical congregation and has been something of a leader there. Prayer groups, Bible study groups… she leads them all. Her dearest friends, whom she feels she cannot do without, are members of this congregation.
The problem is that Ruth (not her real name) has come to love the Catholic Church, and the rest of her congregation believe that Catholics all go to hell. Not the minister, as it happens, who is a gentle and good man. Ruth has spent many years battling with this and finally she has come to the point where she sees the truth and knows what she must do. But she is a warm and loving individual; her friends have threatened her with cutting her off entirely should she become a Catholic.
Now you or I might think that these friends are not really very friendly, but Ruth is a generous person and hates to give them the hurt, and herself the pain, that the severance will cause.
Do not underestimate this, please. This is the most horrible hurdle, and I'm not convinced that she has the strength for it.
Please would you, now, pray for her?
And if any of you have words of advice, I'll see that she gets them. Especially if you have been in this situation yourself. Ruth says that she knows nobody who has been in this position before, though she knows several Catholics who have become members of the Evangelical congregation (!)
Please mention if you would rather I didn't publish your words on this blog: I can easily avoid doing so if you wish.

The wisest fool in Christendom

I found this on the net this morning, and find myself shaking my head. The late Fr Kavanagh seems to have belonged to a group of people, many of whom I have known, who have been frantically opposed to the old Mass for years, and yet whose devotional and intellectual life point unfailingly towards it. It reminds me of that scene in CSLewis' The Last Battle where a group of dwarves are unaware that they are eating and drinking the most wonderful food, and believe themselves to be gnawing on bits of old rubbish from a stable. Most of the people in this group whom I have known seem to have found their way to the old Mass eventually, and embraced it with joy when finally they allowed themselves to. There seems not to have been time in the case of Fr Kavanagh.
Which is to say, don't be put off by his first paragraph: keep reading to the end.
The article is taken from Commonweal magazine's blog, which you can find here if you would rather read it on the original site.


A Countercultural Tornado
May 24, 2007, 2:17 pm
Posted by J. Peter Nixon
One of the voices I am missing in the current debate over the forthcoming motu proprio on the liturgy is that of the liturgical historian Fr. Aidan Kavanagh, OSB. Kavanagh, the author of such well-regarded works as On Liturgical Theology and Elements of Rite, died on July 9, 2006.

Awhile back I came across an essay that contains much of what I think Kavanagh would say to us now if he could. It is contained in a collection of essays entitled The Awakening Church, published as reactions to a study of liturgy in 15 parishes across the United States. Kavanagh’s contribution to the book is notable for its thoughtfulness and balance.
In the essay, Kavanagh makes his core commitments quite clear:
I am a creature of the Second Vatican Council; my ministry, piety, and academic career have been framed by the Council; I am a steadfast advocate of its reforms and will remain so long as I live. I continue to refuse to have anything to do with the revival of the Tridentine Mass liturgy quite simply because I regard such an attempt as a vast mistake, often well meaning, but still mistaken. It is a mistake because the reformed liturgy that has issued from the Council is an incomparably more rich, vital and traditional liturgical settlement in the truly Catholic sense than that of Trent, given its times, ever could have been. If the reforms of the recent Council in liturgical worship are not perfect, and if they have suffered from reductionism and misinterpretation, the same happened to the less insightful reforms of Trent during the Counter-Reformation period. Even a Mozart concerto can be badly played.

Having said this, Kavanagh also expressed deep concern about some trends in contemporary liturgy:
The old discipline and its egalitarian sense of obligation is now replaced by local options often generated by committees made up of clergy and semiprofessional lay persons who represent largely middle-class values and techniques of short-term joining and therapy, which may be problematic for the poorer classes and disdained by the upper classes. A kind of humorless symbol mongering often results from this, buffering or even suffocating the fundamental sacramental reality at the core of the rite—the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in Christ being transmuted into some kind of cultural high tea followed by seminars on social justice, world hunger, or how we are and are not permitted to speak of God in brave new ways. Such issues, no less than liturgical reform and sacramental symbolism, are very important indeed. They are also very complex, require high discipline and competence, and are trivialized by simplistic reductionism when they fall into the hands of the undisciplined and incompetent.

Toward the end, he reminds us of some first principles that are too often forgotten:
What this Word has always told those who celebrate the liturgy is that the Holy One in whose presence they stand is pleased to have them stand there precisely because of their sin, which merited so great a redeemer, and that because of this they have no abiding city. Their home is with God in Christ, who reveals his Father just as the Holy Spirit reveals him to them as the Christ of God. Their liturgical worship belongs to these three, who allow us to take our unmerited and gratuitously given part in it, and it discomforts us as it comforts. In no way must it confirm us in our illusions—that this liturgy belongs to us, or our social class, or our culture, or our world; that we are without sin; that our salvation is sure in spite of what we do; that our prognosis is only progress; that our city will abide; that our glands preside; that more education has all the answers. A “divine liturgy” is a countercultural tornado, and we do it not for ourselves, or the parish, or the Church, but for the life of the world.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Tagged, by jove!

Fr Tim has tagged me: it doesn't often happen, so I'll make the most of it. I've gone beyond the list in some cases, because I can't limit myself to three, and I've added a couple of categories.
If Fr Michael Brown can absent himself from the murmurings of the forest for a bit, I'd love to see his choices.

Three fiction books everyone should read:

1) Lord of the Rings J.R.R.Tolkien
2) The Sword of Honour Trilogy, Evelyn Waugh
3) All Glorious Within, by Bruce Marshall
I have been an enthusiast for LOTR since the 1970s; this is not a bandwagon choice. Having read English (and Music) at University, I have quite lost my taste for a lot of ‘good’ literature—at least, that written before the 20th century. From this I honourably except Geoffrey Chaucer, Wm Shakespeare, Kit Marlowe and the Brontës. There is a great deal of 20th century stuff I like, however. My choice of three above is no suggestion that they were better than Shakespeare &co; simply that they had an influence on me one way or another.

Three non-fiction books everyone should read:
1) The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy
2) From the Holy Mountain, William Dalrymple
3) Dean Farrar’s Lives of the Fathers
4) Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
5) Ackroyd’s life of Thomas More
Farrar may well seem a strange choice. He was a 19th Century Dean of Westminster Abbey, I think, but he writes wonderfully vividly about these great figures of the distant past. What is rather amusing is his utterly prejudiced Anglicanism: he really believes that all those Fathers were Prayerbook-Anglicans. Writing of Ignatius of Antioch (d.c.112) he might say 'and here we see the beginnings of that terrible Roman perversion of the true apostolic doctrine', without a blush or a hesitation. And you could almost imagine Athanasius kissing his wife and children before going off to Alexandria Cathedral for Evensong, where the choir sang Sumsion in A. But Farrar is a really good read if you want to get to know the fathers. Long out of print, of course; you'd need to scour

Three authors everyone should read:
1) C.S.Lewis
2) Ronald Knox
3) Evelyn Waugh
4) John Henry Newman
5) Fr Faber
6) Arthur Ransome
No, don't rub your eyes. I did put Fr Faber on the list. His writing has been much reviled, and this has prejudiced people against him. Try Spiritual Conferences or Growth in Holiness. They are wonderful; though his prose is dated, he has an intelligent knowledge of human nature coupled with holiness and a great lucidity of expression. Oh, and I still read Arthur Ransome.

Three authors that I can’t get on with (but would like to be able to).
1) Oscar Wilde
2) G.K.Chesterton
3) Hilaire Belloc
4) Jane Austen
With Wilde and Chesterton, it’s the constant parade of paradoxes. I feel something is being slipped past me because it sounds clever but actually isn’t true at all, except I’m not bright enough to spot it. It is a terrible admission about GKC: I feel I’m not really a Catholic!

Three films everyone should see
1) Babette’s Feast
2) A Man for all Seasons
3) Branagh’s film of Much Ado about Nothing

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Ascension Thursday Sunday

Today, according to the bidding prayers, was
1) World Communications Sunday
2) Not-for-Sale Sunday (something about sex trafficking)
3) Christian Aid Sunday

Somehow the feast of our Lord's glorious ascension got rather lost. It just felt like another Sunday with all the bolt-ons that we are supposed to have.

I had several complaints about it not being on Thursday.

It was fun announcing it as Ascension Thursday Sunday, though……

Saturday, 19 May 2007

An upside-down look at Our Lady

The Upside-Down Fr Dwight is conducting a fascinating debate on our Lady at the moment; he has some really insightful and useful things to say, and I recommend that you take a look by clicking here.

Friday, 18 May 2007

The Sign We Give

I took a brother priest to lunch the other day in a local Italian restuarant. Actually, it's run by a Kossovan, and it's really good: I think the chef may be Italian. All the rest of the staff, as it happens, are European Moslems.
Just as a waiter brought a dish to the table, my brother priest, regaling me with a story, let fly with the holy Name, as an expletive. Twice, and then a third time.
I saw on the face of the Moslem waiter first shock and then contempt.
I don't blame him.

Blessed be the holy name of Jesus.

Songs of Praise — Rowan Atkinson style.

H/T to Christopher the Believer

How to get rid of the parish debt!

H/T to Mulier Fortis for this handy tip. Apparently, what I have to do is not use my garden to rear pigs, whereupon I will receive a subsidy of £3000. Will I get double for not rearing pigs in the church car park too?

Music in Leeds

In the 12 May edition of the Tablet, there was a very interesting article about choral music in Leeds.
Bishop Arthur Roche, who appears to be something of a rising star in matters liturgical, (being also chairman of ICEL) comments:
Catholics have a right to experience good liturgy in their cathedral.
Well, quite! And what is even more encouraging, is that he means by 'good liturgy' something rather more like what I mean by good liturgy, and less what, say Paul Inwood or Stephen Dean might mean.
One of the main obstacles to having really good music in one's church is money. It's certainly the case in my parish, where we struggle with debt. Leeds has come up with a novel solution. The cathedral musicians travel around in the locality to schools, and give in each an hour's tuition a week in choral singing, for which they are paid. In this way, not only do they have their salary subsidized, but they also foster good music among young people, and have access to discovering good voices to sing in the Cathedral choir.
The Tablet noted that Bradford Anglican Cathedral are rather cross about this, because Leeds Catholic Cathedral is snapping up the best voices. It also notes that whereas Anglican cathedrals have a rather limited repertoire of Victorian and Edwardian Evensong music, Catholic repertoire is so much wider.
I was also thrilled to see that the Cathedral choirs sing Mass and Vespers four times a week. That's really inspiritional, and wonderful to know that at least one Cathedral in this country is not dumbing down, but the reverse.

Here's a movie tour of the Cathedral with a message from the bishop, followed by the choir singing a polyphonic Regina Caeli very well indeed.
And just look at this splendid music list!

The reign of terroir

I had dinner last night with two of my favourite parishioners. Really sweet people; the food was delicious (vegetarian, but I don't mind that once in a while, though I'd prefer it to be a Friday so as not to waste another day), and the wine nice, too.
With one exception.
Mine host was very anxious for me to try one particular bottle. I had mentioned to him that I liked most wine, but wasn't fond of New World Chardonnays: I'd rather have retsina, frankly, though I didn't say that. I said that I loved French chardonnays, however, like Chablis (it is a chardonnay, isn't it?). He, thinking I was a French wine snob, I suppose, proudly produced a bottle made by an Australian who has large-heartedly left his native Oz to teach the French a thing or two about wine-making, and is now making Oz-style chardonnays in France. So you can still be a snob and drink New-World chardonnays.
Now, there are many New World wines I really love—the country is not the issue. And, I'm sorry to say, the wine he produced didn't disappoint. I hated it. Why can't somebody go from France to Australia and show them how to make Chablis? Is it really too hot there?
Still, I don't really imagine that all the French DOC vineyards are really going to be taking this challenge seriously. We've just got to keep buying the good stuff, I suppose, and wishing it cost less……

Now, if you like New World Chardonnay (and why not? some people even like Harvey's Bristol Cream), you can make your own. Take one bottle (or more) of white wine. Use a chardonnay grape if you like, but it won't make much difference by the end. Uncork it, and leave it in the garage for five years or so. Now, brush off the cobwebs, and pour all the wine into a large saucepan. Reduce it by half. Add several large spoons of golden syrup. If the resultant mixture is too gloopy, you could always top it up with water, I suppose. The colour should be like old urine. Now, export it to the French and see what they say.

All this makes me sound like the most awful wine snob, and suggests that I have cellars full of precious vintages which I have amassed over the years with money from the parish poor box. Not at all: I just don't like New-World Chardonnays and I wanted to blog about it. But then I suppose you've gathered that by now.

Thursday, 17 May 2007


It's forty days after Easter, therefore it's the Ascension today. I'm so cross at having it moved to the Sunday against almost everyone's wishes, it appears. This morning I said a votive Mass of the Ascension, with text from the Missal for the feast and readings for Thursday of the Sixth week of Easter. Looking on the positive side, I heard about old Priscilla and Aquila in the first reading; they've always been missed out before, on account of the Ascension.
I'm going to cook myself a nice festal lunch.
What have others done today? Is anyone convinced by the move to Sunday?

Tuesday, 15 May 2007


I've just realized that Fr Tim the Continuous Hermeneut has the same scriptural quotation at the head of his blog: there was no plagiarism intended, Fr TIm. But it's such a good line that I'd rather not remove it, if it's all right with you.

Monday, 14 May 2007


I thought I would clarify an earlier post; I think I used the word 'Protestant' too freely. I think it's a Catholic bad habit, really, to lump all communions of the Reformation together as Protestant. Though many are happy with the term, not all Anglicans are, and it wouldn't be a good description anyway. If one accepts 'Protestant' as meaning one who holds the more classically Protestant doctrines, then that would be more accurate, and certainly more useful. No doubt in the past one could have classed most Anglicans that way (as evidenced in the monarch's oath to maintain the Protestant religion) but in more recent years (100 or so) I think that many Anglicans would side with us on most issues. This might not be true in other countries, however. The issue of women priests/gay clergy remains a thorny one, but the dialogue we have with Anglicanism on these subjects is quite different from the dialogue with 'classical' Protestants, who would entirely reject any notion of priesthood, and would base their arguments far more heavily on the Bible alone than would the Cof E. So I dare say it's better to write of Protestants, Anglicans and Catholics, and whether in dialogue or debate it's important to be accurate if dialogue and debate are going to be fruitful. Over-simple pigeonholing is likely merely to be offensive.

Thanks for all the comments: I've turned off comments now for this post as things were getting a little heated……

Saturday, 12 May 2007


That's enough about ecumenism. Let's pray for the conversion of England.
And the reconversion of so many in Europe.

And what the Holy Father has to say about ecumenism

From Brazil (H/T Fr Ray)
As you know, among the various documents dealing with Christian unity, there is the Directory for Ecumenism published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Ecumenism -- or the search for unity among Christians -- has become in our time an increasingly urgent task for the Catholic Church, as is evident from the growth of intercultural exchange and the challenge of secularism. Consequently, given the rapidly growing number of new Christian denominations, and especially certain forms of often aggressive proselytism, the work of ecumenism has become more complex. In this context, a good historical and doctrinal formation is absolutely essential, so as to foster necessary discernment and lead to a better understanding of the specific identity of each of these communities, the elements that divide them, and those elements that can be helpful on the road to greater unity. The greatest area of common ground for collaboration should be the defence of fundamental moral values -- transmitted by the biblical tradition -- against the relativistic and consumerist cultural forces that seek to destroy them. Another such area is faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ his incarnate Son. Moreover, there will always be the principle of fraternal love and the search for mutual understanding and rapprochement. Yet we must also be concerned with defending the faith of our people, confirming them in the joyful certitude that "unica Christi Ecclesia … subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et Episcopis in eius communione gubernata" ["The one Church of Christ … subsists in the Catholic Church which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him"] ("Lumen Gentium," 8).

A little more on ecumenism

A couple of mischievous priests recently posted the new ICEL translation of Mass on their blogs. Good for them. One spin-off of the new version (when it happens) will be that the textual convergence of the various English-speaking Christian communions will be broken.

When I was a University chaplain, I had to share premises with the Anglicans, and often new Catholic students (especially from overseas) would wander into the Anglican Eucharist (which occasionally even had incense) and detect nothing wrong. Until, that is, Canon ffitch-Bracegirdle presided. Canon Sharon-Louise ffitch-Bracegirdle, that is. The Book of Common Worship, which the Anglicans use these days, can with very little work be pummelled into a real semblence of the Novus Ordo Missae, often with identical texts.

The other day I came across a copy of An Order of Worship and Second Order for Worship of the United Reformed Church. Presbyterians, in other words. Calvinists, that is.
Well, I was at University in Scotland, and I remember Presbyterianism.
Oh come, let us worship the Lord in song, singing hymn number five thousand and sixty four, but omitting verse seventy six because it mentions that Jesus had a mother!
But this book is an order for the URC Eucharist.

It begins with an Introit ('Scripture Sentence')
Then the Collect for Purity (from the Sarum Mass & Anglican liturgy)
A form of Confiteor and 'absolution'

Liturgy of the Word.
Intro and OT reading.
NT reading (Epistle and Gospel)
'Special Acts, (such as Baptism)'

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
Invitation, then,
Offertory. Did I say Offertory? Yes, I said OFFERTORY!
What is that awful sound I hear?
O tell me true, I crave!
It is the sound of Calvin's bones
rotating in their grave.
Prayer: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation……become for us the bread of life.
Blessed…it will become for us the cup of salvation.
and a third Blessed are you prayer concerned with offering ourselves. Nice.

The Thanksgiving.
Preface dialogue (without The Lord be with you)
Preface and Eucharistic Prayer along the lines of EP4, with Sanctus.

Our Father
The peace.
Lamb of God, exactly as we have it.
Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

The 'sharing of the bread and wine'
'The body of Christ, given for you
The blood of Christ, shed for you'

Postcommunion prayer
Nunc dimittis (odd, but nice, idea)
Psalm, Give thanks to the Lord for he is good

Dismissal & Blessing (in that order)

Well, as I say, I was used to the Anglicans converging, but I was completely startled to see the Presbyterians having even anything like an ordered liturgy, let alone one that could quite easily be mistaken for the Novus Ordo Missae.

Do you believe in conspiracy theories?

On Being Ecumenical

Here's a good topic for things new and old; ecumenism.
For a fairly traditional priest (I love saying the old Mass and wish I could do it all the time) I have this uneasy feeling that I am being inconsistent when I say that I am also quite ecumenical. Now don't jump down my throat: I believe in everything that the Church teaches, and I think that those in other communions should be helped to believe it too. I just think that friendliness might actually be a better tool to achieve the end than icy indifference or heated hostility.
Here in our little town of Blogbury there has long been a custom to have an ecumenical evening service every time there is a fifth Sunday in the month. It rotates around the various communions in the town, and I was reminded by my opposite numbers that it was very definitely our turn to host it. Well, I was very reluctant indeed, because we have an evening Mass, and I didn't want (a) to abolish it in favour of a hymn sandwich which some Catholics would regard as fulfilling their Sunday obligation, or (b), more urgently, sacreligous communions from Protestants who see it as their right to take Communion in all churches whatever. One Protestant laywoman suggested that she would actually like to see (in all its superstitious horror) what we actually got up to when we claimed to be worshipping God. (No, those weren't her words).
So I offered to do a 'slow-motion Mass' where at all the permitted points I would pause and explain what was going on. I thought it might be a good way to get rid of some prejudices and perhaps even persuade some of the beauty of the Holy Sacrifice.
Well, when the evening came, there were as many Protestants as Catholics in the church. We started with exposition and Benediction, and then had the slow-motion Mass. No music, just solid Catholic doctrine. Twice I reminded them that only Catholics could receive Communion, and only two tried to do so. I gather afterwards that they were deaf and genuinely thought I was inviting them to Communion!
But it was the reaction that most interested me. Some Catholics were pretty opposed to the idea of the Mass, on ecumenical grounds. But in fact, the feedback from the non-Catholics was unanimously positive. What they said was that it explained the eucharist for them.
How things have changed! I didn't hold back on any Catholic doctrine; they got bloody sacrifice re-presented in an unbloody manner; body, blood soul, divinity—the works. It should have sent at least some of them shrieking from the church. But they smiled gently and said how interesting they found it; how much they enjoyed it, and went home as much Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists as they arrived. They just think that their ministers do the same thing, only with fewer vestments.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can't make up my mind.

New things and old

Cui dono lepidum novum libellum arida modo pumice expolitum?
Ad te, Domine!

Well, perhaps not polished with pumice, but punched with fingers, perhaps.