Friday, 31 August 2007

Abortion; some good news for a change

This, from Zenit:

According to new statistics, the number of Irish women seeking abortions in Britain has fallen by almost 25% in the last six years.

The U.K. Department of Health released figures revealing the number of women allegedly giving Irish addresses in British abortion clinics had decreased by 540 between 2005 and 2006, the Irish Catholic reported.

The abortion rate, that is the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44 in the population, is also down from 7.5% per 1,000 women in 2001 to 5.2% in 2006.

Ruth Cullen of the Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) said that the numbers indicate that "the tide is moving in the right direction and that a trend toward abortion is not inevitable."

She explained that "while any reduction in the abortion rate is go! od news, nonetheless the figures remain extremely high and leave no room for complacency."

Regarding claims that women are traveling elsewhere, John Smyth of the PLC said that "figures from the Netherlands clearly show that the number of foreign women seeking abortions there is in sharp decline," thus undermining "any claim that the fall in British figures means that women are traveling to the Netherlands or other European jurisdictions."

Thursday, 30 August 2007

O si sic omnes

The Extraordinary use of the Roman Liturgy is certainly gathering momentum in the US. The Cafeteria is Closed draws attention to the fact that even Notre Dame University—scarcely a bastion of traditional Catholicism—has resolved to introduce a weekly Old Rite Mass on Sundays, which will be sung twice a semester.
The whole issue is more open in the US, of course. For a start, they have got some bishops who are more than half way Catholic—in the sense that they understand the importance of tradition, being in communion with the Church through the ages, and do not see "Catholic" as referring simply to communion with those alive today.
There is also, I suspect, a rather more independent spirit on the other side of the Atlantic, that is willing to give things a try, rather than simply yawning and saying 'well, that won't work, so the answer's 'no''.
There has always been a good groundswell of support for religion generally; religious people are not on the back foot all the time, and it is still possible to bring up a large, loving, pious
family without ones' neighbours thinking one is weird. This has led to a lot of people simply finding in the usus antiquior a better expression of what they have always believed.
There's probably a lot more.

Ecumenism — getting it right!

This, from Zenit:
Benedict XVI's move to allow for wider celebration of the Roman Missal of 1962 has received a positive reaction from the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.

"The recovery and valuing of the ancient liturgical tradition is a fact that we greet positively," Alexy II told the Italian daily Il Giornale.

Benedict XVI's apostolic letter "Summorum Pontificum," published in July, explains new norms allowing for the use of the 1962 missal as an extraordinary form of the liturgical celebration.

"We hold very strongly to tradition," he continued. "Without the faithful guardianship of liturgical tradition, the Russian Orthodox Church would not have been able to resist the period of persecution."

When asked about the relationship between Rome and Moscow, the patriarch said: "It seems to me that Benedict XVI has repeated many times that he desires to work in favor of dialogue and collaboration with the Orthodox Churches. And this is positive."

Regarding a possible meeting between Alexy II and Benedict XVI, the patriarch said it must be well-prepared, and "be an encounter that truly helps to consolidate relations between our two Churches."

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Unusual Saturday with Natalie Portman and Agatha Christie

Scarlett Johanson as Mary Boleyn and Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn
Strange things sometimes come the way of a priest. One of my sideline interests is in the liturgy of the pre-Reformation English church. Through the good offices of Fr Nicholas, the Roman Miscellanist, I was approached by a film company who wanted to know how one would conduct a marriage in the 1520s. You may have seen what I dug up for them, a few posts ago. for a film, now in post-production, called The Other Boleyn Girl, a historical novel of the same name by Philippa Gregory. Well, I was contacted again, and actually asked to go 'on camera'. Well, what a laugh!

So on Saturday, I duly turned up at 7.30am at Pinewood Studios, and by 9, I was in costume, with a ridiculous chestnut wig on my head and a 'Canterbury cap'. There was a cassock, a sort of surplice (it looked like one, anyway, but fastened weirdly) and a gown. All fine. But very hot, and it was the hottest day of the year.

And then I waited.
And waited.
And roasted.
And waited.

But I didn't mind, really. It was actually rather nice to be free from thinking I ought to be doing something and worrying about it. Other people were doing all the worrying instead. So I listened to an Agatha Christie story on my iPod (mediaeval clerical gowns are conveniently provided with an iPod pocket) as I walked up and down the car-park in the sun.

There was also a group of 'extras' who had to do some dancing in heavy costumes. I really felt for them. The women looked amazing, with their gabled coifs and brocaded, hooped dresses. They sat and waited, and roasted, too, in a modern office room, where they phoned and texted their friends, contrasting strangely with the fabulous costumes. The men, too, were in heavy furs and brocades. They took off the enormous coats when the heat got too much, and you can see just what a really obscene garment the codpiece is, especially when worn without a coat.

One of the female dancers came out with what I can only describe as the shallow quotation of the millennium.
She: You know, I really hate this Iraq war. It's really terrible!
Me: Mm. Yes.
She: Yes, television is completely ruined; there's nothing else to watch any more!

There was a brief flurry of activity as I was called on to coach the bridegroom (Henry Percy, played by the charming Oliver Coleman) in his brief bit of Latin (In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti—it didn't take long) and then it was back to pacing the car park with Agatha Christie until 4.30, when I was called to the set. And there I met Natalie Portman, who is charming and unassuming. Those of you who aren't film buffs might know her as Queen/Senator Amidala from the Star Wars movies. And there we did the wedding. Or at least, just the exchange of rings. The 'bride' and 'groom' expressed a certain anxiety when they learnt that I was a real priest, that their marriage might also be a 'real' one.

Now, what struck me was that this fillum company went to all the trouble and (some) expense of importing me as consultant on the liturgy. And yet this actual marriage is itself utterly unhistorical. Anne Boleyn never married Henry Percy. Anne Boleyn was not a very nice woman, granted, but she was no bigamist (unlike Henry VIII). She and Percy certainly fancied each other, and possibly even attempted engagement, but Cardinal Wolsey scotched that, thus earning Boleyn's undying hatred. There is no suggestion, as far as I know, that they had a secret marriage. I did mention this on the phone to the company, but by then it was all in train, and, you know the way things are……

And then, in the filming, they simply pushed artefacts and people around to 'look good' without any worry about authenticity. Why bother having a consultant, I wondered.
But I was enjoying the whole thing so much, I didn't want to argue.
Perhaps in the end they'll decide to go for accuracy, and I'll hit the cutting room floor.

But no regrets: it was a fascinating day.

The Other Boleyn Girl should hit British Cinemas in February. And so, if you sit through all the credits, and are sharp-eyed, you might even discover who Fr Justin really is! And you'll know that this Tudor-looking priest is actually carrying an iPod in his pocket.

Cardinal Gagnon and Wigratzbad

Cardinal Gagnon has died: God rest his soul. During those long years when a desire for the traditional rite of Mass was considered almost a mortal sin, he was one of the just who was prepared to stick his neck out for reconciliation. He visited Ecône and Archbishop Lefebvre more than once, and was viewed by them as a friend. Once the Episcopal consecrations had taken place and the Fraternity of St Peter been formed, he was naturally one of the first to be involved there. I remember my first visit to Wigratzbad, for the first (or possibly second) set of priestly ordinations, at which Cardinal Gagnon presided. As a guest, I was seated at the top table, I remember, with His Eminence and with Dom Gérard from Le Barroux and some other dignitaries whose names I have forgotten and who never knew mine, of course. Cardinal Gagnon was nervous at breakfast (breakfast before an ordination!—not very traditional!) and replied in grunts and monosyllables. Later on, after the ceremony, he was effusively friendly. Clearly he had learnt the rite carefully: I remember that he remembered that the Canon should be silent at the old Mass, and was determined to do it, without remembering that an ordination is the one occasion when the canon needed to be said out loud enough for the concelebrating ordinati to participate from their prie-dieux.
Another memory from that ordination was the nervous appearance of birettas and lace albs and cottas. All were rigorously eschewed at Ecône (I suppose to avoid the charge of poofiness) and, presumably, at the SPX seminary at Zaitzkofen too. But one or two bits and pieces were worn then — Bavarian priests have various traditional frilly bits they add to choir dress — you may remember those pics of Pope Benedict and his brother after his ordination. A year or two later I was back again for another set of ordinations, this time of a University contemporary of mine, and there was no embarrassment at all about birettas and lace.
Sorry, I can't stop the reminiscences flowing now. On my first visit, there was still something, well, furtive, about the new seminary. A whiff of the ghetto, perhaps. A stiffness, an unease, an over-anxiety to please, almost. I was only a newly-ordained diocesan priest and my welcome was very warm and kind indeed. The new FSSP were very, very anxious to find their place in the Church, fearing abrupt rejection, I suppose, from embittered modernists, and were touched by any gestures of support. On my second visit, all this had gone, too. There was a real feeling of normality about the place. Everyone was more relaxed: seminarians felt more able to moan about the food, the rigorism, without feeling that they were giving a hostage to fortune. The staff were less guarded and greeted one simply as a colleague, which was nice.
That's a long way from Cardinal Gagnon, but it's nice to also record the other stuff. In any event, may he rest in peace.

Italian love for children — up to a point

We all know how extravagantly Italians love their children. You need only go into a restaurant to see the kids passed around, cuddled, indulged, adored. You'd think they would want lots of them, then. But any priest will tell you how hard it is to persuade young Italian adults to consider having more than one child. I was once passionately told that it would be cruel to have more than one child, because the parents (in this case about to wed—any children were still in the future) would have to divide their love, and any child would only get a portion instead of it all. It was vain for me to assure the couple that in fact single children usually get a pretty rough deal (that's something I know rather a lot about), and that whatever the childhood battles, children with siblings usually (I know, not always) grow up into happier, better-adjusted adults than their 'only' cousins.
And there is a darker side, too. The willingness, even eagerness, that some Italian parents show for the abortionist's knife. Here are three horror stories; one where parents decided to abort a twin with Downs Syndrome, the abortionists got the wrong one, for which they are now being investigated by the police, so the parents had another go and killed the other twin. The second story tells of a child wrongly diagnosed with a faulty oesophagus. The diagnosis was corrected (=perfectly healthy baby) as the poor child gasped for life on the abortionist's table, and finally expired. In the third story, a 13 year old girl was ordered to the abortionist by a judge and her parents, while she wept and begged for the life of her child.
Consolatrix afflictorum, ora pro nobis.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Dog and Cat Diaries

H/T to Cate who found it in an email

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with my people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Drats!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now...

Ma Beck's Quiz

H/T to Fr Ray and, in the first place, Ma Beck

A.) What was the profession of the man science calls the "father of Egyptology?"
B.) What did the "father of geology" do for a living?
C.) What about the "father of modern atomic theory?"
D.) What about the first person to measure the rate of a freely-falling body?
E.) Who gave rise to the science of seismology, the study of earthquakes?
F.) What occupation did the "father of international law" have?
G.) What was the first modern legal system in Europe?
H.) Where does the idea of "human rights" come from?

The answers:

A.) Roman Catholic Priest. B.) Roman Catholic Priest. C.) Roman Catholic Priest. D.) Roman Catholic Priest. E.) A group of Roman Catholic priests (the Jesuits). F.) Roman Catholic Priest.
G.) Canon Law. H.) Canon Law.

To which should be added,
I) What occupation did the "father of the study of genetics" have?
J) What occupation did the "father of the modern historical method" have?
K) What occupation did the "father of astronomy" have?

All Catholic priests, of course. The first was Gregor Mendel, the second Caesar Baronius, the third Nicolaus Copernicus.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Pregnancy is an illness.

Having signed a petition, I received this back from 10 Downing Street:
We received a petition asking:
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Revoke the 1967 Abortion Act."
Details of Petition:
"We the undersigned petition that the 1967 Abortion Act be revoked. The act of abortion destroys the lives of thousands of women every day, not to mention the innocent children, and is reprehensible in all circumstances."

Read the Government's response
Abortion is a subject on which many people hold very strong and widely differing views. It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion have come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes. The Government has no plans to change the law on abortion.

As Parliament has decided that abortions may lawfully be carried out in the circumstances specified in the Abortion Act 1967 (as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990), we believe that facilities for abortion treatment should be available. We also have a responsibility to monitor the provisions of the Act as they are, unless Parliament chooses to amend the law further.
Women seeking a termination for whatever reason must have grounds under the Abortion Act. A pregnancy may be terminated only if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion that an abortion is justified within the terms of the Act, in the light of their clinical judgement of all the particular circumstances of the individual case.

Abortion 'treatment'!!!!

Pregnancy is now an illness. Officially.

Ye of little faith

For those of you who doubted my August primroses, here's the photographic evidence showing primroses, grapes and garden (though I have to admit that the slugs have been enjoying the primroses as much as, or more than, I have).

ITV on Isa

You may care to look at the comments box on the post concerning ITV's programme on our Lord from a Moslem perspective. 'Auricularius' has some very interesting observations.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Saint Nicole Kidman

Good Catholic girl Nicole Kidman (formerly good Scientologist girl Nicole Cruise, formerly good Catholic girl Nicole Kidman) is to star in a film of Philip Pullman's book Northern Lights. In the story, a group called the 'Magisterium' kidnaps children to remove their souls. Subtle, eh? Ms Kidman comments:
"I was raised Catholic, the Catholic Church is part of my essence."
"I wouldn't be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic."
Bless! You can see how pious she is from the picture.

Amnesty and abortion

I was taught by Bishop Michael Evans, many years ago. I am rather proud of his stand over Amnesty Internation and abortion—after many years of passionate support for the organization, he has resigned from Amnesty over their recent decision to give support to abortion under certain circumstances.
This is all a great shame. Amnesty International have done some very fine work over the years, highlighting human rights abuses throughout the world, and it has been good that the Catholic Church has provided both its foundation and a large base of supporters.
One parishioner commented how sad she found it;
I think it sad that Amnesty should get involved with something that simply isn't in its remit; it will inevitably compromise the good work it does.
Another parishioner has decided to continue his membership, thinking that the good Amnesty does still outweighs the negative implications of this recent vote. I have asked him to consider whether this simply sends a signal to the organization that their decision doesn't matter; will other charitable organizations get the message that they can with impunity impose a pro-choice agenda and continue to collect subscription money from Catholics?
I have asked the Amnesty members in my parish to look into possibly affiliating to Irish Amnesty, who have distanced themselves from this decision.

Isa on ITV

ITV is about to make a television programme about our Lord; but from the Moslem point of view.
There was no manger, Christ is not the Messiah, and the crucifixion never happened. A forthcoming ITV documentary will portray Jesus as Muslims see him.
With the Koran as a main source and drawing on interviews with scholars and historians, the Muslim Jesus explores how Islam honours Christ as a prophet but not as the son of God. According to the Koran the crucifixion was a divine illusion. Instead of dying on the cross, Jesus was rescued by angels and raised to heaven.
The one-hour special, commissioned and narrated by Melvyn Bragg, is thought to be the first time the subject has been dealt with on British television. Lord Bragg said: "I was fascinated by the idea ... Jesus was such a prominent figure in Islam but most people don't know that."
He denies the programme will divide communities. Raised as an Anglican, he describes the documentary as thoughtful and well researched. "I hope it will provoke among Muslims the feeling they are included in television."

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

On washing one's pet…

Thanks to Mac for this glorious post:
Dear Pet Owner,

Cats and Dogs need different handling techniques...

Dog Washing Instructions

1. Wait for a hot Summer day. (Do not wash in Winter.)
2. Outside, turn on grass sprinkler.
3. When dog finishes playing with sprinkler, give dog big juicy bone to chew on until dog is done drying.

The 12 Step Cat Washing Program

1. First, thoroughly clean the toilet, remove the topmost lid covering the tank of water, and turn off the cold-water hose to the toilet.

2. Next, warm up 4 gallons of water to bath temperature. Flush, and add half the water to the tank.

3. Then, raise both lids, add the rest of the water directly to the toilet bowl, and add an ample amount of shampoo to the water.

4. Find a ball of string and entice the cat into the bathroom.

5. Close the bathroom door, and continue petting the cat.

6. In one swift move, pick up the cat, and drop the cat into the toilet bowl, closing both lids.

7. Jump on top of the toilet lid to prevent the cat from escaping.

8. CAUTION: Avoid placing any of your body parts near the edge of the toilet to avoid flailing claws reaching between the toilet and lid.

9. The cat will self-agitate and generate ample sudsing action. (Ignore ruckus from inside toilet, cat is enjoying this.)

10. Flush the toilet twice for a quick rinse or 4 times for an effective power rinse cycle, depending on the cat's fur cleaning needs.

11. Clear a path of open doors from the toilet to outside, and then jump off of the lid. CAUTION: Jump away from the bathroom door.

12. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet to the outside. Air dry time: about 20 minutes.

Yours sincerely,
The Dog

Garden update

Despite the uncertain summer, my garden continues to flourish. And I still have primroses! Yes, in the middle/late August, as the abundant grapes are filling out nicely, and the olive blossoms are forming into tiny fruit, the primroses continue to flower in the shade of the shed. I'll try and supply a photo some time.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Holy Smoke

I chanced yesterday to preside at a cremation, following a Requiem Mass. And, yes, on the door of the crematorium…

Friday, 17 August 2007


h/t to Mulier Fortis

Successors of the Apostles

Makes you proud to be Catholic, doesn't it?
Here we see the three hand-in-episcopal-glove bishops from the West Country Catholic-Free Zone in England.
Left to right:
Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth,
Christopher 'I hate Pope Benedict' Budd of Plymouth
Declan Lang of Clifton.

Catechism question:
Q. Who made you, Declan?
A. Hollis made me.
Q. In whose image and likeness did Hollis make you?
A. Hollis made me in his own image and likeness.
Q. Why did Hollis make you?
A. Hollis made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him for ever in the next.

h/t to the Northern Cleric.

The White Stone at Mecca

The White Stone Name Seeker (does she remember where she last left it?) has got a very interesting post about her studies into Islam. I recommend you take a look here.
The white stone in the picture, however, is called Dave.

Motu Mania

The latest in a series of publications aimed at helping priests learn to celebrate the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite is called A Guide to the Celebration of Low Mass, by Lee Bradshaw. You can order it here, for $19.95.
It uses those remarkable drawings of the celebration of low Mass by the late Martin Travers, himself, I think, an atheist, but somebody who, with Ninian Comper, was the guiding spirit of the aesthetics of the Anglo Catholic movement in the first half of the twentieth century. The book functions as both a missal and guide while learning; I suppose along the lines of a book I produced myself (but never published), with the text of the ordinary of the Missal, laid out just as in the missal itself, and with guidelines, explanations and hints in English in the margins. Thanks to Alcuin Reid for alerting me to this. I imagine he had more than a little to do with it, and seems to have written the introduction.

There really seems to be more interest in the traditional rite now that it is permitted. I laid a celebration on in my parish for the Assumption, and the church was nearly full, including a couple of families. One 14-year-old lad, whose grandfather served the Mass described it as 'cool'. Whether everyone else was equally impressed, I don't know. By the time I'd taken off my vestments, most people had departed, as they usually do. Normally I'd go straight to the door to say goodbye, but that's harder to do if you're still holding a chalice.

The Silly Season 2

Dear old Dan Brown has been given a new lease of life by yet another 'discovery' about Leonardo da Vinci. Read all about it here. H/T to Zenit.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Variety is the spice of (eternal) life

Do you feel that our tired old Christian religion needs freshening up? Bishop 'Tinybrain" Muskens of Holland thinks so.
He suggests praying to Allah for a change.

Here's the gen, from Catholic World News:
A Dutch Catholic bishop has suggested that Christians should refer to God as "Allah" to promote better relations with Muslims.
Bishop Martinus "Tiny" Muskens of Breda told the "Network" television show that "God doesn't really care how we address Him."
Pointing out that "Allah" is a term already used by Christians who speak Arabic, Bishop Muskens said that humans are needlessly divided over such terminology. God, the bishop said, is above such "bickering."
The Dutch bishop admitted that his suggestion was not likely to gain widespread acceptance. But he predicted that within a century or two, Dutch Catholics would be addressing prayers to "Allah."

So this will result in promoting better relations with Muslims? Shame the New Yorkers in St Patrick's Cathedral didn't know that on 8/11.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The religion of peace

'Islam is in fact a religion that promotes peace and understanding among people of all faiths, and it strongly prohibits all forms of violence and aggression against all people regardless of their faith or race'. Read more here.

Here are a couple of examples of how some Moslems promote peace and harmony; by simply dealing with all those who would disagree.
Result? Nobody disagrees any more. Peace. Harmony.

Death Threats and intimidation:
And lots more.

I am not, of course, suggesting that all, even most, Moslems condone this behaviour. But they need to acknowledge that this strand exists among them and address it. Or are they afraid of their brothers in the faith, too? Or do they feel that it is disloyal to Islam to speak out, even if they are genuinely uncomfortable with the violence?

Friday, 10 August 2007

Interfaith corner

China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate!

Tibet’s living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission from China’s atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to assert Beijing’s authority over Tibet’s restive and deeply Buddhist people.

“The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid,” according to the order, which comes into effect on September 1.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Beyond belief

Please see Damian Thompson's blog; the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales have sponsored, it seems, a despicable attack on Pope Benedict. This is getting beyond a joke. When is Rome going to send us one good bishop we can be proud of?

Unfrocked priest

A priest faces disciplinary action for, er, jogging in the nude. Read about it here (if you've nothing better to do).

Monday, 6 August 2007

Cardinal Lustiger RIP 1926-2007

I didn't always agree with the former Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who died yesterday, but his tenure of that see brought a great deal more good than harm, I think. On his watch, the Catholic life of the city gained a huge boost; the new movements revitalized many parishes, and vocations to the priesthood soared. I remember that he habitually celebrated Mass in Notre Dame almost every Sunday evening for the young people who came to that Mass; a great example to the other bishops of France, many of whom are facing the priestly extinction of their dioceses.
I heard a story attributed to him—maybe it is one he told rather than a story about himself (since he himself was a Jewish convert). I was given to understand that the story is a true one.
Two boys were, out of mischief, determined to tease their parish priest, so they went to confession and made up outrageous sins, just to see what the priest would say. The priest, listening to the second boy, realizing that he was being 'had', and hurt by the mockery of the sacrament, asked the second lad as a 'penance' to go to the crucifix over the tabernacle and shout out loud, three times 'you died for me, and I don't give a damn'. The lad did as he was asked; by the third time he was in tears. Some years later, he was ordained a priest.
May Jean-Marie Lustiger rest in peace.

May you live in interesting times

It isn't just weddings, actually. I've had quite a lot to do with the Tudors recently, and I have been struck once again, that whereas the period of the Tudors is one of the most interesting periods in English history, it was also one of the nastiest and bloodiest.
It recalls the words of that Chinese curse: 'May you live in interesting times'.
And really though there is lots of fascination in the Tudor kings and queens themselves, you wouldn't really want to go on holiday with any of them; they were a pretty horrid lot.
Henry VII: no historian has yet had a real go at him, but he usurped the crown (having blood ties to the royal family that were very thin indeed); he extorted taxes to an extreme level, he bullied the Church outrageously, using bishops as unpaid civil servants and refusing to permit them to perform their required spiritual duties, sometimes even fining them if they tried to visit their own dioceses when they should have been doing his bidding, running a castle in Wales or something. He treated Catherine of Aragon abominably, all but refusing to feed her when she was widowed after Prince Arthur's death.
Henry VIII: well, we know more about him now. The image of 'bluff King Hal', the 'glorious cad' has begun to finally disappear, and we see him in his true colours as 'a real scumbag' (as an American student recently said to me). Since Scarisbrick, Haigh and Duffy set to work on uncovering the real facts of his reign, it become harder and harder to make excuses for his towering ego and sadistic self-centred bloodthirstiness.
Edward VI; well, he were nobbut a lad when he died, and never actually took the reins of power himself, so it's hard to say what he would have become. But he did make things difficult for his sister Mary when she wanted to go on attending Mass in private, and lots of pretty bloodthirsty things were done in his reign.
Mary: Well, she tends to come off best in Catholic eyes, which, I suppose, is understandable. And unquestionably she could not but have inherited some good traits from her saintly mother. However, the excuses that one makes for her—that she had had a most horrible time in her youth, that she never was happy with some of the more extreme measures taken in her reign &c—cannot quite extinguish the stench of the fires of Smithfield which have fuelled Protestant rhetoric and Catholic embarrassment for hundreds of years now. Were those fires really necessary, even granted the bloodiness of that age? At any rate, as things turned out, I think they did more harm than good.
Elizabeth: in many ways the worst of the bunch. She, too, has not had a revisionist historian look at her career, but when they do, I think that they will have a lot to say. I think she was a brilliant Machiavellian politician, but I get quite cross when people (mostly Anglicans) try to hold her (and her 'Settlement') up as examples of tolerance. She may indeed have said that she 'wanted no windows into mens' souls', meaning, I suppose that she didn't mind what religious opinions people held, but only let them try to live according to those opinions, and the full might of the law was down on them. And it is no use blaming Pius V for this, since he excommunicated her; Black Betty was already persecuting busily within a year of her accession; the excommunication simply persuaded her to turn the heat up.
My bile against the Gloriana/Virgin Queen /Paragon of Tolerance view of Elizabeth was particularly accentuated by the production of the film Elizabeth, where Cate Blanchett plays the eponymous heroine. The Dean and chapter of Durham Cathedral lent their beautiful building for the filming of this atrocious, biased and unhistorical farrago (go on, Justin, tell us what you really think; don't hold back), where, amongst other libels, a Jesuit (presumably intended to be Edmund Campion) as his first act on English soil commits a murder, and then goes on to try to assassinate Elizabeth herself, on the direct orders of the Pope. Mary is presented as a horrible old hag (naturally filmed in the crypt) played by the comedienne Kathy Burke (whom I love in some of her other roles).
Oh that's enough! You know what I think of the Tudors now.

Wedding, Sarum-style.

I had an inquiry from a film company about how marriages were celebrated in Tudor times. Having only lots else to do, I pulled down the Sarum Missal (every home should have one) and banged out this rough and ready translation. The bits in blue are in the Missal in English. I have simply modernized the spelling.

How Marriages are to be Solemnized:
The man and woman stand before the church door, or before the church, in the presence of God, priest and people.The man stands to the right of the woman; the woman to the left of the man, for the rib from which she was formed was taken from Adam's left side.The priest inquires whether the banns have been read, and then in the mother tongue says to all listeners: [presumably in his own translation]
Brethren, we are gathered together in the presence of God and his angels and of all the saints, before the church, to join together two bodies, which is to say, of this man and of this woman.
Here the priest looks at the couple.
that they may be but one body and two souls in faith and in the law of God, that together they may come to eternal life. But before we do these things,
Here the priest speaks to the people in the maternal tongue,
I charge you now, by Father, Son and Holy Ghost, that if any of you know any reason why these young people may not legitimately marry, you should say so now.
The same charge is made to the man and woman.…The priest then inquires concerning the woman's dowry.… After this, the priest says to the man in the presence of all the hearers, in the maternal tongue:
N. will you take this woman as your wife, and love and honour her, guard her and keep her in health and sickness, as it befits a husband should do his wife, and, forsaking all others for her sake, stay only with her all the days you both shall live?
The man replies: I will.
The priest inquires the same of the woman:
N. will you take this man as your husband, and obey him and serve him, love him and honour him, guard him and keep him in health and sickness, as it befits a wife should do her husband, and, forsaking all others for his sake, stay only with him all the days you both shall live?
The woman replies: I will.
The woman is now given by her father or a friend; if she be a girl, her hand is bare, if a widow, it is covered, which hand the man takes in God's faith to keep safe, as he has vowed before the priest; so he holds her right hand in his right hand. And the man then plights his troth by the following words, after the priest:
I N., take thee, N., to my wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part, if holy Church will it ordain, and thereto I plight thee my troth.

He withdraws his hand. Then the woman says, after the priest:
I N., take thee, N., to my wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom in bed and at board, till death us do part, if holy Church will it ordain, and thereto I plight thee my troth.
The man then places gold or silver and the ring on a dish or on the book, whereupon the priest should enquire whether the ring be already blessed or not. If not, the priest blesses it like this: Dominus vobiscum.
Et cum spiritu tuo.
Creator et conservator humani generis, dator gratiae spiritualis, largitor aeternae salutis, tu, Domine, mitte benedictionem + tuam super hunc anulum; ut quae illum gestaverit sit armata virtute coelestis defensionis, et proficiat illi ad aeternam salutem. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Benedic, Domine, hunc anulum quem nos in tuo sancto nomine benedicimus; ut quaecumque eum portaverit, in tua pace consistat, et in tua voluntate permaneat, et in amore tuo vivat et crescat et senescat, et multiplicetur in longitudinem dierum. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Then he sprinkles holy water over the ring.
If the ring be already blessed, he places it on the book straight away; the priest takes it and hands it back to the man. The man takes the ring in his right hand with his three main fingers, and holds the bride's right hand in his left hand and, after the priest, says:
With this ring I thee wed, and this gold and silver I thee give; and with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly cattle I thee honour.
And then the groom pushes the ring onto the bride's thumb, saying
In nomine Patris,
on the second finger, saying:
et Filii,
on the third finger, saying,
et Spiritus Sancti,
and onto the fourth finger, saying,
This is done, becauase according to Gratian's Decretals, 'the fourth finger of the woman bears the ring, because from there a vein leads directly to the heart', and the shine of the silver represents love, which should be forever new to them. Then, bowing their heads, the priest pronounces the blessing over them.
Benedicti sitis a Domino, qui fecit mundum ex nihilo.
[Long Latin prayers follow.]

The bride and groom go into the church, to kneel at the step. More Latin prayers. The priest leads the bride and groom into the Quire, where they stand on the south side, between the quire and the altar, the bride standing on the groom's right, which is to say between him and the altar, and the Mass of the Holy Trinity is then celebrated. After the Pater Noster, a canopy is held over the kneeling bride and groom. Long Nuptial blessing.
The canopy is removed, and at the pax, the groom goes to receive it from the priest, and passes it to his wife. After Mass, bread and wine (or something else good to drink) are blessed in a vessel, which they give each other to drink, the priest saying:
Dominus vobiscum.
Et cum spiritu tuo.
Benedic + Domine, istum panem et hunc potum et hoc vasculum. sicut benedixisti quinque panes in deserto, et sex hydrias in Chana Galilaeae, ut sint sani, sobrii, atque immaculati omnes gustantes ex eis, Salvator mundi, qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
That night, the priest with the bride and groom comes to bless the nuptial bed.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

On Latin

I was reading today on Damian Thompson's excellent smoke-filled blog an article about the forthcoming Merton College meeting for young priests wanting to learn to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite. I saw there a comment from one Peter de Rosa. Only towards the end of the comment does one realise that he is a priest, (though actually one who has left the ministry). You might be more familiar with him under his nom-de-plume, Neil Boyd, under which flag he wrote a series of amusing stories about priestly life in the early 1950s, Bless me, Father was one. If my memory serves me correctly, he left the priesthood over some row concerning the less-than-orthodox and rather short-lived Corpus Christi college in the diocese of Westminster. I think he went into writing for the TV after that, and he wrote a rather lively account of the 1916 Easter rising (which I have never seen on sale in the UK) called Rebels.
Anyway, to the point. This is one comment he makes:
When I studied in Rome, all our lectures and exams were in Latin. I even lectured to seminarians in Latin. Not till the day I die will I forget the anxious and bemused look on their faces. Celibacy was bad enough but Latin! But how many priests - or bishops - today know enough Latin to say a Tridentine Mass without taking lessons?
Now, he has a point. Latin is certainly the most severe obstacle for anyone wanting to celebrate according to the Extraordinary form. But I want to blog about his suggestion that Latin is an unsuitable language to teach in.

These days, lectures at the Gregorian University in Rome are conducted in Italian, not Latin. In other words, in a modern language, the language of the country, not a dead language. Good, you might think. But the point is that the lecturer is still going to see anxious and bemused faces in front of him, on all those who do not have Italian fluently, in fact, which will be almost all of the first-year class. Probably a similar proportion, in fact, to those who had not studied Latin seriously in the past. This gives the added problem that the Italians have a significant advantage over the other students, who are reduced to cribbing notes from each other in order to make any sense at all of the course. This would have been less the case when all were at an equal disadvantage.

The second problem was highlighted for me by a chance acquaintance with a Thai bishop some ten years ago. He told me that he no longer sends his students to Rome to study, because for the Thais, learning Italian is a complete waste of time. Latin, Greek; these are useful languages for study, for theology, for—dare we say it?—the liturgy (and the good bishop brandished his own breviary, in Latin). But Italian? For him, the consequence was that he now sends his cleverer students to English-speaking universities to study—at least English is useful, he said, in the modern world.

Some are also disillusioned with the extent to which the Italianization of the Church's administration is creating a sort of Italian hegemony in Rome (which to be fair, was always the case; it's only recently that we've had non-Italian popes), and an increased sense that the Church was the Italian Catholic Church rather than the Roman Catholic Church.

I wonder how the Cardinals communicated in the recent conclave? Did they use Latin, or Italian, or English, or a sort of babel-like combination of them all.