Monday, 31 December 2007

Noble Simplicity

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

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

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

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Strange things

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

Friday, 28 December 2007

More Asses

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

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

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

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Liturgy reform: No going back

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The Ox and the Ass and the Manger Stall

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

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

Monday, 24 December 2007

A good argument

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

Saturday, 22 December 2007


More on St Vibiana's here.
And here.

Cathedrals in LA

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

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

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

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

Live Simply

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

Christmas is coming…

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

Friday, 21 December 2007

And now for something completely different.

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

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Another Papal Restoration?

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

Friday, 14 December 2007


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

Fun-sized Cardinal goes to his (big) reward

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

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The Golden Flop

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

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

Read more about it here.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Christmas Meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westminster again

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Westminster — more speculation

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

Thursday, 6 December 2007


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Irish Lover — a true story

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

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

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

For the sake of Josephus' Digestion

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

And while we're about it……

One of the better arguments against women's ordination:

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

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

And one to make the fuller figure look positively mountainous.

His Daft Materials

Versus populum:

Arsus populum:

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

Welcome back, Paulinus

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


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

Monday, 3 December 2007

Vespers: a little more

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

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

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

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

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