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Bl Titus Brandsma's Last Act of Evangelisation - with the Rosary

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The website of the order of Carmelites has a brief life of Blessed Titus Brandsma with this detail from the end of his life:
The nurse, who administered the fatal injection in the “hospital” at Dachau, testified at his beatification process that he had given her his rosary at the end and said “What an unfortunate girl you are. I shall pray for you”. His response, the nurse said, was instrumental in bringing her back to the practice of her faith. For a fuller account, see this pdf of the testimony of the nurse herself. The memoir fleshes out the story with details such as Blessed Titus' generosity in giving the nurse a couple of his (thin and poor) cigarettes, even though she was able to get good cigarettes herself. He defended his brother priests, some of whom had not made a good impression on the nurse.

His cheerfulness in suffering made a deep impression, as well as his charity to the other prisoners. Blessed Titus was already ill before being imprisoned, but spent the last day…

CD 288: Cremation and the Resurrection

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I am now well into my nineties and have been considering my death for some years. I see that the Church now allows cremation, but since we believe in the resurrection of the body, what worries me is that afterwards, there is no body, only ashes.
The 19th century cremation movement, promoted initially by Italian freemasons involved an explicit denial of the resurrection of the body as well as (largely spurious) hygienic and public health concerns. In response, the Church insisted on the ancient custom of burial until 1966, by which time cremation had become more common and was less likely to be promoted for reasons contrary to the faith. The Code of Canon Law puts the present law simply: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.” (Canon 1176.3)

In ancient Rome, the bodies of Christians were often recovered a…

Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary

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There has been quite a bit of discussion about Cardinal Sarah’s article in La Nef recommending liturgical reconciliation and suggesting ways in which the mutual enrichment which Pope Benedict called for, could be implemented practically. His Eminence suggested that there might be a shared calendar and a shared lectionary so that the two “forms” of the Roman rite could celebrate more feasts together and have the same Scripture readings at Mass.

Fr Raymond de Souza, in the Catholic Herald’s blog, wrote approvingly of the proposals (see: Cardinal Sarah’s challenge to traditionalists), and he was followed the next day by Joseph Shaw, pointing out that the proposals would be unworkable. (See: Why Cardinal Sarah’s liturgical ‘reconciliation’ plan won’t work - see also on Rorate Caeli: A reply to Cardinal Sarah on 'liturgical reconciliation'). Fr Zuhlsdorf picked up on the discussion and added his own observations. (Wherein Fr. Z rants: Card. Sarah’s proposals for “mutual enrichment…

Sunday book notices

Three books I have read recently and can recommend, in case you are looking for something to load up on your Kindle or arrange on your shelves.

Walking the Road to God: Why I left everything behind and took to the streets to save souls by Lawrence Carney
Father Carney just spends hours walking around town. What makes the difference is that he does so wearing his cassock and soup plate hat, and carrying a rosary and a crucifix. His book is a simple account of some of the meetings that has experienced and some of the conversations that have arisen with people who see him and start talking.

The result is a charming and sometimes quite moving witness to the power of basic evangelisation. Fr Carney certainly gives the lie to anyone who thinks that traditional clerical dress is a barrier to dialogue and encounter, to use the fashionable terms. The secret of Father Carney's apostolate is his own happiness in his experience of Our Lord, particularly in the Holy Mass (which he celebrates in…

High Mass for the feast of St Philomena - and other sung Masses in Margate

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There will be High Mass (usus antiquior) at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate on the feast of St Philomena, Friday 11 August, at 7.30pm. The schola Cantabo Domino, directed by Gregory Treloar, will sing the Mass setting by Johannes Bernardus van Bree (arr. R.R. Terry), and Edward Elgar's Ave Maria and O Salutaris Hostia.

We also have A Day With Mary at St Anne's, Cliftonville on Saturday 5 August, starting at 10am, with Missa Cantata at 11am. We have Missa Cantata every Sunday at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate every Sunday at 11.30am.

(In the modern rite, we have English sung Mass every Sunday at 9.30am with the propers and the ordinary of the Mass sung, and hymns as appropriate at the Offertory and Holy Communion.)

If you are planning a day trip or short break to Margate, the parish website margatecatholic.org has links to google maps for both Churches. There are some great places to eat in and around Margate, but it is advisable to book in advance at the weekends, especi…

Fundamentalist integralism or sensible co-operation?

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Like the French with Gallicanism, the Americans have been unfortunate enough to have a heresy named after them. Americanism was the name given to a loose collection of erroneous opinions related to minimising authority, in teaching, spiritual direction and religious life, and in cultivating a too radical separation of Church and State. In his encyclical letter Longinqua Oceani of 1895, Pope Leo XIII condemned the view “that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.” (n.6) and went on to say that “[the Church] would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority.”

Recently, in La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa have criticised American Catholics in a way very different from Pope Leo XIII's: Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism.

There have been many…

CD 287: Blessing after civil marriage?

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My partner and I have planned our wedding at a seaside hotel. Can the priest give us a blessing afterwards?
A Catholic must marry before a priest and two witnesses according to the form prescribed by the Church. A marriage entered into by a Catholic according to a civil ceremony is not considered valid by the Church. A priest cannot “bless” such an attempted marriage, though he can arrange for the marriage to be convalidated. This is essentially a ceremony in which the couple take the vows of marriage anew in the canonical form. This is not something that should be planned in advance but a remedy for a situation entered into perhaps through ignorance.

If you have made some preparations already, the best thing to do would be to ask the priest to arrange for the celebration of your marriage quietly in the Church. He can also arrange for your marriage to be registered civilly, either by the presence of an authorised person (himself or another person who holds this office) or, if the Chur…

Interesting parallels in Jewish customs

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Some time ago, at an academic conference on Liturgy that featured contributions from people of various different faiths, I was interested to chat to a Reformed (or Liberal) Rabbi who was frank about some similarities between the controversy within Judaism over liturgy and some of the things he had heard about the reaction to traditional Catholic liturgy. He also lamented wistfully that it was his younger worshippers who wanted him to offer the prayers in Hebrew and face the same way as them when praying.

More recently, I found this guide on Judaism 101: Jewish Liturgy setting out the differences in worship that a visitor might find between the various movements within Judaism
In Orthodox synagogues, women and men are seated separately; in Reform and Conservative, all sit together. See The Role of Women in the Synagogue.In Orthodox and usually Conservative, everything is in Hebrew. In Reform, most is done in English, though they are increasingly using Hebrew.In Orthodox, the person lea…

Back in the saddle and a redesigned blog

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The great Fr Z has posted a kind article referring to me being "back in the saddle again" with an appropriately amusing video which I have put at the foot of this post. I am also very grateful for personal messages that I have received over the past couple of years encouraging me to get going with the blog again, and recent ones thanking me for doing so.

Things change rapidly in the online world and we have to respond; yet nothing is lost, as Ovid said: omnia mutantur, nihil interit. (Metamorphoses 15.165) One massive development over the past few years is that a lot more people have smart mobile devices and access the internet more from them than from anything with a screen and keyboard: over 40% of my pageviews are from mobile devices. That makes it essential for blogs to be "responsive", that is, to rearrange the page elements according to the device that they are viewed on.

Fortunately, Blogger is helpful in this regard, having issued some new standard themes …

Sunday book notices

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Three books I have read recently and can recommend, in case you are looking for something to load up on your Kindle or arrange on your shelves.

Reformation Divided by Eamon Duffy
Our Cambridge historian, Eamon Duffy, must be credited with the greatest influence in turning around the historical consensus on the reformation. In Reformation Divided, he has edited and put together a collection of articles and themed them quite successfully into a book whose principal point is to explore two reformations that were going on side-by-side.

That is to say that what is usually called the Catholic counter-reformation did not follow breathlessly in the footsteps of a supposedly longed-for protestant reformation after it had happened. The reform of the Church was already underway and the two reforms competed for the loyalty of Christians.

The book has a balanced look at the life and work of St Thomas More, and has already helped to restore the saint's reputation after his popular vilification …

How to listen to the sermon tomorrow

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There are plenty of criticisms you could make of the sermons that you hear at Mass. Moving on from "boring", you might say that the priest did not prepare well, or that he read out an essay, that he was too serious, or too light-hearted, that he ignored current events, or talked about news items, that he was too theatrical, or lacked rhetorical skill.

You may well be right: priests are not always great communicators, but did you know that a sermon is a sacramental? That is to say that a sermon signifies spiritual effects which may be obtained through the intercession of the Church. By sacramentals, we are disposed to receive the grace of the sacraments.

So we can use a sermon, as a sacramental, to increase in grace - but we have to use it properly. Simply finding fault with the delivery, the rhetorical skill or the erudition of the priest isn't going to get us nearer heaven. What we need to do is to ask the Holy Spirit what He wishes to give us here and now through this…

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