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.